Recently two pregnant friends of mine took a lactation class. I was absolutely appalled by what they said they were told. They took the same class at the same hospital with different instructors, but it sounded like the highlights were the same for both.
· If it hurts you are doing it wrong
· The answer to everything is to breastfeed more
· No info for moms planning on going back to work who were going to pump
· Breast is Best!!!!!
Are you fucking kidding me?
Every new breastfeeding mom I’ve spoken to has said it hurts at first. Every single one. And it is the most unhelpful thing in the world to be told if your kid latched on correctly it wouldn’t hurt at all. It gets you thinking “This should be easy. I’m doing this wrong. There is something wrong with me. I should just give up.” Etc. etc. etc.
Breastfeeding hurt, actively hurt every single time until T was about 2 months. Now, in large part that was because we got thrush really early on and boy-o that shit is stubborn! My sister screamed in pain the first time she fed Gabe. He had a vigorous latch and it was unbearable for her. She pumped and gave him bottles for weeks until she got used to it. Another friend of mine who is a mother of three said that your nipples have to toughen up with every kid, yup it hurt with all three.
Now call me crazy, but wouldn’t it be more helpful to tell mothers to be that breastfeeding is the perfect food for your child, there is potential for some fantastic hardcore bonding, it contains antibodies that protect your baby against illness, it is free, it might help you lose pregnancy weight BUT it is really difficult and it does hurt. Not forever, but there is a learning curve. You might assume it would be completely intuitive but it is actually hard and frustrating work. Your baby might even lose some weight while you are both figuring it out but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have a low milk supply. Don’t you think if more moms knew these things there would be a higher breastfeeding success rate?
If I was developing these classes I would make sure that there was always a new mom there to demonstrate feeding and to do a question and answer session. I bet moms would be thrilled to do it. We new moms are so excited when we actually figure something out about the whole parenting thing that we are more than happy to help others and share that knowledge.
But to stand there and repeat over and over “breast is best” and to say if it hurts you are doing it WRONG? That is a ridiculous waste of time and money. And an insult to all women’s intelligence.
Clearly I am breastfeeding. And after working through the initial difficulties, including having a precancerous mole that abutted my nipple removed and biopsied when T was 3 months, I am way into it. Part of the reason is that I tend to be a selfish person who avoids pain at all costs and I was ridiculously proud of myself for sticking with it even though I wanted to quit. I mean it was really hard for me, but I still did it for him. Also I’m a stay at home mom (and that my friends, is a whole other post) so I have the time to do it. So yes, I am proud of myself. Which is a pretty huge thing for someone with chronic self esteem issues.
But breastfeeding is a personal choice. The fact that I’m proud of my choice has nothing to do with what I think of the choices other women make. Everyone deals with a different set of circumstances. And yet it is impossible to be online as a new mom and not be aware of those breastfeeding moms who make those who are unable to breastfeed or who chose not to do it feel bad about their decision.
The crappiest mom in the world could breastfeed. The mechanics of feeding your child do not make you a good mother or a good person. And breastfeeding is just the tip of the iceberg. If you sleep train, if you circumcise, if you co-sleep, when you introduce solid food, all of these things are choices that need to be made for the individual child, but they seem to be fertile ground for passing judgment on moms by moms.
Yes, the superior breastfeeding moms drive me crazy, but when it comes to some of the other controversial parenthood issues suddenly the shoe is on the other foot.
Before I was a mom I remember being told that someone waited X amount of time before introducing solid food to her baby. And I was all “That is too long!” I knew absolutely nothing about babies or solid food. But I wielded that judgment like a pro. Life has a funny way of making a fool out of you and I remembered my mean and uneducated remarks when I decided to wait until T was 6 months to introduce solid food. And this little story is the tamest example of the many times I've been a judgey jerk about someone else's parenting choices.
A while ago I wrote a note for Facebook about sleep training and showed to Z. He pointed out that it seemed like I was apologizing for our choice and he asked if that is what I wanted to do. It most certainly was not.
[side note—Facebook, Facebook, oh wonderful Facebook. I know lots of people are ambivalent about it, but I unabashedly love it. Yes, there are sometimes awkward or mean interactions, but you know what? Those happen in real life as well. For someone who’s loved ones are spread all over the place and who is living in a new town it is a lifeline. I get that it isn’t all positive. I mean, constant social interaction without actually having to be in a social situation is a dream come true to an insecure agoraphobic, and I rely on it too much. But I can’t help it. I love it.]
The impetus for writing the note was my reaction to the responses to a status update Z posted about sleep training. Some women he was friends with begged him to stop torturing our son by letting him cry it out. Clearly these ladies had T’s best interest at heart, but I couldn’t believe they thought they knew what was best for a kid they had never met. I did not post the note.
I wish T was a good sleeper, really I do. If he was there is no way I would have resorted to cry it out. But he would cry for hours as we rocked him. Or walked around the house with him in the Ergo. Or had him in bed with us. He was miserable, Z was miserable, I was miserable. He just couldn’t figure sleeping out. And finally I realized that someone needed to take the bull by the horns and be in charge. So we got on a schedule for naps and bedtime. It took several weeks, it still isn’t perfect, and that first night that he cried for 2 ½ hours was terrible for all of us, but I truly don’t believe he was scarred for life. He now wakes up from the night and his naps with a smile on his face, and before cry it out that never happened. And here I am justifying again. I guess the reason I’m doing it is to demonstrate that we tried other options and that we are caring parents.
In our peer group I think it is safe to say we all are making tough and nuanced parenting choices. It might be right for one family to switch to formula at 6 months while another family chooses to continue with breast feeding until the baby is 2. Why does either choice need to be wrong? And why do we think we know what is best for other families?
I know I’m sounding all self righteous here, but I’m actually asking these questions of myself as well. Because I’m as guilty as anyone of judging other moms. I wonder why we do it. Do we really think we are all knowing? Or is tearing others down a way for us to feel better about ourselves? Isn’t this the time in life when we should be most supportive of each other? I’m really grappling with these questions and don’t have any answers.
What do the parents out there think?