Sunday, August 4, 2013

I Support You

World Breastfeeding Week is upon us and for those who are not raising babies, are done raising babies,  or are not in the business of caring for babies, this probably doesn't mean much. For those of us in the thick of it, it means quite a bit.

Since entering into the world of formula feeding, I've seen little support online. If I wanted to check to see if a certain mixing method was safe, I'd be faced with online opinions about how formula is poison, or how formula-fed babies only survive and not thrive, how breast is best. Not helpful. And hurtful, besides. Even my can of formula sometimes makes me feel bad.

I'm buying something I need to feed my baby
that tells me I'm making a lesser choice by buying it.
I've agonized over the way I feed Jack, slowly, very slowly letting go of breastfeeding and giving into my body's decisive stance that I would not be a source of food. I've quit the morning feedings entirely and I've stopped checking to see if I still have any milk trickling out. As far as I'm concerned, I've dried up.

Awhile ago I wrote the hospital and made a complaint about the care I received post-partum, about the stressful and too-long induction and the separation they forced on me from Jack when I had my infection, how I felt these things really damaged my ability to breastfeed. I got a response and really was able to get some of my pain out. It felt soothing.

And now there is a movement to support all mothers in how they feed their child. Breastfeeding moms who feed in public can face hardships from people who don't respect a baby's right to eat and a mom's choice to feed in a natural way ("Go to the bathroom or something. That's gross! I don't want to see that! You wouldn't poop in public, would you? So why would you breastfeed?") Formula feeding moms face criticism from people who believe everyone can and should breastfeed and feel this method is lazy and harmful to babies ("Breast is best. Breast milk is a baby's birthright. Motherhood means making sacrifices. You gave up too soon.")

The movement is I Support You. The rhetoric behind Breast Is Best has gone too far in that women who can't or don't breastfeed are being made to feel inferior. What is needed is not more promotion of breast milk, but rather support for it, real support. Where women can feel free to nurse wherever they and their babies themselves are authorized to be. Where in the hospital there are nurses and consultants who truly understand breastfeeding difficulties and how to overcome them. Where women receiving care aren't set up to fail.

But there's more. The professionals need to be able to recognize the times a mom would be better off throwing in the towel, whether she is developing postpartum depression from breastfeeding, or has insufficient glandular tissue (IGF), or a thyroid condition, or some other medical issue. These women need to feel like they have not failed. They deserve to know they are not at fault for problems beyond their control, that no amount of trying would work.

And for women who choose formula, because they understand their lives and obstacles better than outsiders do, because they've suffered sexual trauma, because they're struggling with their own concerns that are incompatible with breastfeeding, or who just cannot bear any further time spent with their bodies not being their own again.

This blanket approach to breastfeeding, that it's 100% natural and possible for all and every woman can do it is not just wrong, but getting in the way of women truly enjoying motherhood, because they're measuring their worth by their breast function. Fathers aren't treated this way. We understand they love their babies by how they care for them, that they can bond without breastfeeding, that their sacrifices don't have to include loss of bodily autonomy or perfect bodily function.

To the lactation "expert" at my hospital who said all women can breastfeed, while I was sitting there covered in hives and unable to carry my own baby post surgery: nuts to you, lady.

To the public health nurse who shamed my formula choices, feeding methods and suggested I pump every 90 minutes on top of nursing with a tube, despite healing from surgery and complications: nuts to you, lady.

To the perfect mothers out there who breastfeed with ease and can't understand why everyone else can't do the same: Nuts to you, too, though I support you in your breastfeeding and will always do so.

To the women who struggled with breastfeeding, overcame their issues and think all women should soldier through their own problems as well: Nuts to you, though I congratulate you on your success and support your right to breastfeed with pride anywhere you go.

To the women who are breastfeeding and are comfortable with their choice and the choices of others: I support you.

To the women who are pumping because their babies wouldn't latch, or their nipples needed a break, or their husbands wanted to feed the baby too, or because they're going back to work: I support you.

To the women combination feeding their babies with formula, nursing and pumped milk: Not only do I support you, but I understand you're living in the worst of both worlds. For as long as you keep this gruelling pace up, I support you. If you need to quit, I support you.

To my fellow formula feeders, for all the reasons we arrive at this place, without hesitation, I support you.

Happy World Breastfeeding Week


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