Often the most negative voice in our lives is the one between our ears. But not always. A few days ago, I listened to a group of moms at a playground talking about the mothers who don’t put in the hard work of breastfeeding. Those who throw in the towel too early. How selfish, they said. How not best for the baby. Here’s my answer to that.
If your baby/toddler/preschooler/big kid/adolescent is thriving, you did something right. If they are healthy and happy whether on formula or breast milk, you are a rockstar mom. If you are giving them your time and attention on a daily basis, you aren’t selfish. If you are raising good human beings, teaching them to be brave and kind, you are putting in “the hard work.”
I breastfed my babies. Every single one. I also supplemented with formula from the time they were two days old. Every single one. I am no less and no more than any other mama trying to do her best. Neither are you.
Recently, I talked to my mom about the breastfeeding movement and how it’s changed over time. When I was born, my mom nursed me exclusively for three months. Then, as so many mothers who return to work from maternity leave, she had to give up breastfeeding. No Medela electric pumps back then, gals. Did I sip top-of-the-line baby formula out of milky glass bottles? Nope. Mom says she blended up whatever the fam was eating for dinner and fed me, then supplemented PET evaporated milk and water for my bottles.
Somehow I made it and am still able to string two sentences together.
Let’s celebrate breastfeeding, gang. Let’s normalize it and let’s feed our babies in public without overheating while staying covered by whatever nursing cape Grandma stitched together for us. (Or not if that makes you uncomfortable. You do you, girl.) But let’s also put it out there that breastfeeding may not come naturally, that we may not like it, or that our babies may be resistant to it.
For working moms, breastfeeding exclusively for six months as the AAP recommends may not be feasible. For stay-at-home moms of more than one child, breastfeeding exclusively for six months may not be feasible. For the sweet new mama of her first precious babe, breastfeeding exclusively for six months may not be feasible. For any number of reasons that are none of our business.
The ladies at the playground made me question my choices for a moment. Should I have not listened to the pediatrician who recommended supplementing when my first baby’s weight dropped out of normal range at her one-week check? Should I have tried harder to rock that tandem feeding technique with the twins? Should I have been less lazy with my last baby, and not stopped at eight months even though her interest had waned? That voice between my ears became accusatory. But then I did what I do to my children when they get out of line: I told it in no uncertain terms to quiet down or suffer the consequences.
Photos of a nursing six-month-old Harper were taken by Tracy Graham during my final day of breastfeeding her (her twin brother had stopped two months before). Photos of a nine-month-old bottle feeding Winnie were taken by Signe Clayton.