A few days ago, one of my blogger friends posted a facebook update very angry about a comment she’d received on a giveaway she was running. The prize was for a machine that perfectly prepares a bottle for a baby. The entrants were all very excited at the possibility of making night time feeds easier and quicker, but one lady felt the need to passive-aggressively comment something along the lines of “My boobs are amazing. They are the perfect temperature, take no time at all and they’re FREE! Ha ha ha ha.”
I mean… what?
As a mom who has happily breastfed three little boys, I will admit that the convenience of it is one of the biggest reasons I fed them for so long. I’m incredibly lazy and enjoy my sleep, so waking in the night to make a bottle just isn’t something I relished the thought of. Better to simply whip out my boob and go back to sleep. And I was lucky – there was no issue inhibiting me from doing just that. I made plenty of milk, my babies latched normally, and they grew like weeds.
Of course, socially it seems like whatever way you choose to feed your baby is wrong. When I’d breastfeed in public, I was called indecent or given funny looks. Yet, when I’d formula feed, I’d get comments about how I was “poisoning” my child or that I obviously didn’t care about them if I didn’t nurse them.
I’ll admit that it took me a LONG time (about 4 months) with my first child to finally give myself permission to supplement with formula. I was SO scared of being judged as a bad mother for not breastfeeding that I refused all attempts by my husband to allow HIM to feed our son. When I finally gave in, I was constantly looking over my shoulder, afraid of the judgement I’d receive. It was a horrible situation that left me feeling terrible. I breastfed him for 16 months, only stopping when I got pregnant with our second.
Our second son went straight for the boobs, as well. He was completely and utterly addicted to nursing. Having been through it before, I wasn’t as concerned about being judged for formula feeding, so we tried him on a bottle after just a few weeks. But he wouldn’t take it. For 18 months (well into my third pregnancy!), he completely refused formula or anything that wasn’t mama. It was a strange situation, and I was shocked when we started getting nasty comments for NOT giving him a bottle. Many women who can’t breastfeed will be made to feel guilty about it – and here I was being made to feel inadequate for not being able to get my son to accept a bottle! I was given all sorts of advice – try a different formula, add sugar to it, make your own with karo syrup! – but in the end, I shrugged it off and simply waited until he was ready to take a cup.
Thankfully my youngest son was easier. He took to the breast without issue, but he was just as happy to receive a bottle whenever I needed a break. Wherever I took him, I simply judged my situation and either bottle or breastfed him as I thought best at the time. No one made a peep about it. Until now…
Last month, I finally made a decision I’ve been putting off for many many years. After years of pain and discomfort, I went in to discuss the possibility of getting a breast reduction. I thought it would take several months, but I was immediately approved by the doctor and my insurance company and booked in for the surgery within two weeks. It meant an immediate cessation of breastfeeding. My son was only 10 and a half months old.
Amazingly, when I announced what I was having done, SEVERAL mothers got in touch with me to try and change my mind. I was told I was being selfish and a bad mother and that my son would suffer if I didn’t nurse him for at LEAST a year. I couldn’t believe the feedback I was getting. Here I was not able to keep up with my children because I was in so much pain. My breasts were keeping me from exercise, and I was tired and in pain ALL THE TIME. Yet, women were judging me for choosing to put myself first for once and making sure that I fixed an issue that kept me from properly caring for my kids. I couldn’t understand that attitude.
In the end, I knew I was making the right decision. Our son is absolutely thriving on formula, and he is happy as anything. Yesterday was his first birthday, and he celebrated with a big cup of cow’s milk for the first time. He’s doing just fine, as am I.
What really got me about my friend’s facebook post is the comments she received from outraged moms who were just as angry as she was about it – it seemed that most of the women were trying so hard to defend bottle-feeding moms by reminding everyone that “not all women can breastfeed.” All the formula moms prefaced their choice by saying, “I tried to breastfeed… I really did… but…” That they felt the need to prove themselves as good moms by swearing that they couldn’t breastfeed and were forced to formula feed really and truly broke my heart.
So I was over the moon when one woman broke in and said, “I didn’t even try to breastfeed. I didn’t want to. I chose formula because it’s healthy and nutritious and was the best choice for me to give my child. It’s what worked best for my life, and I’m not ashamed of it.” It seems that her comment relieved many of the women there. It freed them from the shame they were feeling. It reminded them that we’re all doing the best we can for our children, and sometimes that means putting less pressure on ourselves.
For the past ten months, I’ve been part of the Similac Sisterhood of Motherhood movement, which is aimed at helping to End Mommy Wars. The program was launched in January to encourage parents to support each other’s parenting choices and to unite around the idea that we’re all working toward the same goal—to raise happy and healthy babies. We want to transform the conversation from mommy wars to mommy support. Findings from The National Motherhood Decisions Survey conducted by Mom Central and Similac found that 9 out of 10 moms feel negatively judged on their parenting decisions.
What we need to remember is that parenting is HARD. We all make tough choices and only want what’s best for our babies. Yet 95% of moms have experienced judgment. It’s a growing problem that needs to stop. The End Mommy Wars documentary follows seven new moms with different parenting styles who have judged and been judged. The goal of the film is to show that there is more than one right way to raise a baby and that we need to support each other’s decisions.
We encourage everyone to watch the documentary and share their thoughts at endmommywars.com.
To me, the solution is simple. Reach out. Look around you and find the mamas who are struggling – help them. Find the dads who are overwhelmed – smile and tell them they’re doing great. Find the kids who look happy and let their parents know how great it is to see such well-adjusted children.
Be kind to one another. Embrace the parents around you and remember that we’re all in this together. When you find yourself judging someone else’s parenting choices, maybe stop and remind yourself that you don’t know their story. It’s up to us to watch out for each other – not to suggest that someone else is doing it wrong. Your way isn’t always the right way for everyone. Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.