As part of the Suzanne Bartson et al “I Support You” campaign, I have taken part in a little interviewette (made up word by a very good friend) with a fellow blogger on her feeding experience. (You can read my replies to Jessica’s questions here – please excuse the ridiculous amount of typos. It’s been a busy week!) Some answers are amazingly similar despite our different feeding methods and choices.
This is my personal two pennies worth. There is a fear amongst the breastfeeding fraternity that if we embrace all feeding choices, that breastfeeding will die a slow, pathetic death. But whatever is going on now to promote breastfeeding still isn’t really working. That’s because it not only runs on an element of pressure but also to breastfeed is the PERFECT way of feeding. Perfection is impossible. The best we can aim for is good enough. So let’s stop trying to be perfect. Breastfeed because it’s normal and good enough. It’s convenient and can be incredibly satisfying. However, if it doesn’t work out, you won’t love your child any less – we’re all struggling under a tsunami of maternal guilt – we don’t need everyone else’s judgement adding to it. And by having a little more love and understanding, we might just build enough bridges to enable breastfeeding to become a normal transition into motherhood and not let it define who we are as mothers.
Jessica is a freelance writer and blogger in Buffalo, New York. She has a doctorate in educational policy and development and writes about parenting and education for her blog, School of Smock (www.schoolofsmock.com). She can be found on Twitter (@schoolofsmock) and on facebook (www.facebook.com/schoolofsmock).
Please share a brief summary of your feeding experience.
I breastfed until my son was about six or seven weeks old. I exclusively pumped for another week or so. My son starting refusing to breastfeed when he was about six weeks old and developed very severe acid reflux. We also discovered that he had a milk protein allergy. Our doctor recommended putting him on an elemental (prescription) formula while I pumped and waited for the dairy to be eliminated from my milk. Or she said I could stop breastfeeding. I chose to stop.
What was your original plan for feeding your child, and how did that compare to what you ultimately ended up doing?
My original plan was to breastfeed exclusively for at least several months. I didn’t have a firm time frame in mind. I wanted to keep doing it as long as it was working out well for our family. I was disappointed that I felt that the best choice for us was to stop after less than two months; I really wanted to breastfeed longer. But ultimately I have no regrets at all that this was the right decision for me and for my son.
What was the best part about how you fed your child? What was the worst?
I did love breastfeeding at first. The first few weeks had expected difficulties (problems with latching, yeast infections, etc.) but overall I enjoyed the physical and emotional closeness. The worst part was the pain. My son developed a very poor latch over the course of several weeks, and it hurt terribly. I kept waiting for breastfeeding not to hurt, and it always did, despite repeated help from lactation consultants, postpartum doulas, and my ob/gyn.
What myths about how you fed your child were the most hurtful? What is your “truth” that counteracts those myths?
The myth that I found to be most hurtful was you might not be a good mom if you don’t sacrifice your mental sanity to keep breastfeeding. Despite my son’s allergy, I could’ve eliminated dairy and soy from my diet and kept trying to get him to breastfeed, despite the pain and despite the bad latch. The pediatrician said that if I went this route, I could have worked with a nutritionist to come up with a diet that eliminated all allergens. I could’ve done that, but I know that this would have been too much for me. I heard a few remarks from other mothers that I found very hurtful about how women who are truly committed to breastfeeding stick with it, even when their children have allergies. My “truth” is that I know that combining breastfeeding with colic, reflux, lack of sleep, moving to a new city (all of the challenges that I had during my son’s first couple months) and dealing with my son’s medications and specialists would have been too much for me. I know that, and I don’t feel bad about it, despite others’ potential judgment.
What would help you (or would have helped you) to feel supported/understood in your choices?
An acknowledgement that feeding choices are such a personal thing and that you can’t compare your own experience (or someone else that you know) with another person’s. I felt immensely supported during my first weeks of breastfeeding: from my doctors, the nurses, lactation consultants, the pediatricians. But I felt like I needed more intensive support later (about a month into breastfeeding) and not as much during the beginning weeks.
What advice would you give to your son when the time comes to feed his child?
There is no wrong decision. Research all of your options. Support your partner/wife and participate in all of the decisions, even the littlest ones. It’s truly a family decision. But ultimately support your partner’s gut instinct about what’s best for her body.
Thank you, Jessica – I support you.
If you would like to be part of the ongoing Happy Medium Monday blog posts which are stories from all mothers with all different feeding stories, then write to firstname.lastname@example.org – you can look at the Happy Medium Monday archive for inspiration!