I love my readers and I know you read my blog partly because you are looking for an encouraging environment. I’ve experienced the love and support I speak of from many of my readers who I also know in person. I feel it safe to assume that most, if not all, of you are the same way. I’m going to rant a little and hope that this post encourages you to uplift mothers even more than you already do. I apologize for the long post. I hope you’ll read it.
I often linger on parenting websites, because I’m an information junkie. Yesterday, I stumbled across an article that had an eye-catching title, but seemed to lack reliability. In the end, it wasn’t the topic that necessarily bugged me; it was the response from the readers. Being a mother is a hard job – probably the hardest. We are all trying our hardest to be the best mothers we know how to be (there are always exceptions to the rules). Not one of us will do a perfect job. We may hit the mark in one area and then slide in another, but in the end we all love our children and attempt to do what is best for them. My issue is with the competitiveness between mothers and how mothers can be so judgmental and mean to one another. It amazes me how judgmental mothers can be when they themselves feel the pressure and even experience judgment. Why do we tear each other down when we should be encouraging one another?
The article I read discussed breastfeeding and the workplace. Instantly, mothers started going at one another. I couldn’t believe the lashing I was reading – comments that didn’t even relate to the article. I just wanted to scream, “Why do you do this to one another?” Yes, it has been proven that “breast is best,” and I personally think that mothers should try to breastfeed if they can and for as long as they can. HOWEVER, it doesn’t always work out and it isn’t always an option for some.
So, what causes this back-and-forth? I think that we are all a little defensive. If you are feeding your baby (with bottle or breast) and someone looks at you, you automatically think the worst; when, in reality, they could be admiring your little cutie (the baby, not your breast!). We try so hard and we torture ourselves to no end because we feel this incredible responsibility to our children. We feel this way because we love our children with our entire selves and feel that everything is a reflection on us as mothers. I admit, it is a heavy load and I’m no exception to the feelings I’m describing here.
To breastfeeding mothers:
- I commend you on the incredible job you’ve done sticking with it! It is hard, difficult, and often trying. You have pressed on when others have given up and you have done a wonderful job.
- It is important to remember; others who don’t breastfeed or don’t stick with it as long as you have don’t make those decisions because they don’t care about their children or because they care about themselves more (for the most part, remember there are always exceptions). Walk into the NICU and talk to the premie moms who never had the chance to breastfeed because their milk never came in. There are many, many situations that cause mothers to use formula. After all, there was a reason why formula was created.
To formula feeding moms:
- I commend you for trying and for sticking with it as long as you could. If you weren’t able to breast feed, then it isn’t the end of the world. There is no doubt that you love your children….even more than you love yourself. You will do so much for your children, beyond nutrition, that will shape a happy, healthy child.
- Remember to support breastfeeding moms. Imagine what they go through to breastfeed their children for the first year. It isn’t an easy job, and they do deserve some credit. Acknowledging their efforts does not mean you are admitting you did anything wrong.
We make choices every day that impact and shape our children. From what they eat – to how they are raised – to the love and affection they receive. It is a combination of factors that creates well-rounded, healthy, smart children. There is a laundry list of things you should and shouldn’t do. You will drive yourself crazy if you stress over every little thing. Do the best you can. That is all I can do for my son – the best I can. I bet our children will turn out to be lovely!
I’ll end with an enlightening story and then share my experience with breastfeeding.
My husband and I had just finished eating dinner at Leong’s, a local Chinese restaurant, and I was walking Kaden around to distract him (it was getting close to bedtime and I wouldn’t let him eat my general chicken, remember he is only 7 months). He starts smiling at this little baby, so I walk him over to meet her. Both babies were being very social with their social smiles. I asked the dad how old the baby was. I was very surprised when he said, “11 months.” I would have guessed 11 WEEKS. He immediately started defending her size….we are her foster parents and are in the process of adopting. She was 5 lbs when she was born and was extremely malnourished when we got her. She has grown so much since then, but still can’t sit up or crawl…. I just smiled, because I knew he thought he needed to make his case (as we all do sometimes). I just smiled and said, “She is perfect and I can tell that you have so much love for her. She is lucky to have you as a dad. She’ll catch up before you know it.” He replied, “You have no idea what it means to hear someone say that.” I could tell they were feeling the, unnecessary, pressure.
My breastfeeding journey
Some moms (me included) really try everything they can to make breastfeeding work, and it is heartbreaking to us when it doesn’t work out. I did everything I could to breastfeed my son and it was successful for the first 3 months. My son latched on, my milk supply was high, and everything was good. Then, as my son’s digestive system began to develop, he had incredible gas issues. He would cry every night. I would try to play with him and he would just cry. Sometimes he didn’t make a sound. He’d just sit while tears streamed down his face. I spoke to his doctor and a lactation consultant. It broke my heart to watch him suffer so much. My doctor finally told me something that helped. She said, “Yes, breast is best, but if your son can’t play, or interact or bond with you, then the benefits may not outweigh his suffering.” She explained that he needs to play and interact to develop and learn properly. After consulting with his pediatrician, I decided that I would try formula for one week (while continuing to pump so my supply didn’t go down – I was determined to breast feed). Within 24 hours of him being on formula, his tummy troubles went away and he was back to his happy self. I was able to kiss those cute dimples that only surfaced when he smiled. He even laughed for the first time during that week. Still, I kept pumping. I couldn’t allow myself to stop. A week later, I convinced my husband to let me try the breast milk again. I thought that maybe we’d have a different result. Within 24 hours my son was back to crying constantly. I even tried half milk and half formula…I was determined, but that didn’t work either. My husband finally asked me, “is it better to give him breast milk and have him be in that much pain?” He went on to say, “We do have a responsibility to our son, but that goes beyond nutrition. He deserves to be happy.” He also asked, “Don’t you think he’ll develop better if he can actually play and interact with us?” All good points. After a lot of tears, I finally quit pumping. My son is a very happy and healthy 7 month old. His development is advanced (which is another debate b/c I know it is all averages, so let’s say….above the average). He and I also have an incredible bond. I couldn’t imagine a stronger bond between me and my son, but I did put in a lot of Kaden and mommy time to make up for not breastfeeding.
When I first started my son on formula, I’d get a lot of dirty looks (we all get dirty looks, it doesn’t matter what choices you make), and moms would ask, “you aren’t breastfeeding?” in a very judgmental tone. At first, I’d go into my whole explanation as if I had to defend my decisions. After time, I began to examine these judgmental women. One mom (who didn’t even know me) was talking to me about breastfeeding; her young daughter came up and tugged on her shirt. The mom turned around and snapped, “get away from me, can’t you see I’m talking, God, you are so annoying today.” The girl walked away with tears in her eyes. At that moment I realized, yes, breast is best, but it doesn’t, in any way, determine your child’s future. I walked away from that conversation thinking, “I am a great mom and my son doesn’t know how blessed he is.” After that day, I never questioned my decision. He is so incredibly happy and I love seeing those dimples as opposed to tears.
Let’s focus on uplifting and encouraging one another. We all have hard jobs! Feel free to share your stories with the group, but remember….this is a place designated for encouragement!
My little cutie with "kiss me" dimples (2 months)