I’m always amazed at the response breastfeeding can conjure up in people. People on any part of the spectrum of preferring bottle or breast can get pretty militant.
Here’s the thing:
People don’t have to agree with the way you chose to feed your baby for it to be absolutely fine. And it is not yours, nor is it my place to have or share opinions with or about mothers on the choices they make for themselves and their children (provided the children’s safety is not in danger).
I breastfeed. It fits in well with my hectic lifestyle. Good friends have even nicknamed me “daisy the dairy cow” in jest because I have enormous and productive boobs. I don’t find that offensive, I find it funny, but I wouldn’t suggest anyone take a crack at referring to a less than dear friend this way.
We know people all over the bottle or breast-feeding spectrum. The only things that makes me sad or upset are if women are made to feel any sort of shame or failure because of the choices they make/made when it comes to feeding their children from birth.
Some people we know breastfed or continue to feed well into toddler years. Does this affect me in any way? Nope. Are their kids healthy and happy? Yes. Am I an advocate for breastfeeding as long as you please or letting children self wean? Sure I am. Do I breastfeed my toddlers? Nope. Why not? Just cause I choose not to. My choice, and even breastfeeding to 12 months or so gains me critics in the family and beyond. Whatevs.
As much as I feel obliged to defend women who extend breastfeeding, I also feel obligated to remind everyone to lay off women who bottle-feed.
I know women who are AMAZING mothers who either made a pre-emptive decision to bottle or mix feed. I also know women who attempted to breastfeed, and it was so difficult that they opted for the bottle rather than the pain, frustration, and complications they were subjected to. Some of these women felt like they had failed. Some of these women’s partners and friends made off-handed comments that augmented those fears and feelings. I find that a very tough pill to swallow indeed.
So how can I share a message that clearly delineates just how much I wish we could all just get along and encourage each other? It is great that people have opinions about breastfeeding. Advocates of attachment parenting and breastfeeding have done wonderful things for mothers in our society. But the other side of that is the ugliness of pushing one’s beliefs onto someone else unsolicited, and doing some serious damage.
Motherhood is hard. Really hard. I’m struggling with my post baby body, and my post partum emotions and most days I do not feel like it is a battle I am winning.
So here’s the mantra I want to share:
Bottle or breast – being a kind and Loving mother is best.
No more complicated than that.
I’ll wrap this up with a couple of quick stories of mothering wins.
Last weekend I travelled down to Wellington for a much needed and overdue catch up with a friend who I admire in Wellington. It was her husband’s 50th birthday, and it gave me an opportunity to be alone with my son for three days and catch up with her alone for the first time in absolutely ages. It was nice.
In the lounge on the way home, I sat staring out the window while feeding my son with a blanket over us. This is how I chose to feed. Sometimes I don’t have a blanket, so I feed as discreetly as I can for my own modesty, not because I owe it to anyone else.
While I was feeding, a lovely and gorgeous middle aged woman sitting next to me put down her wine, got my attention, looked me in the eye and said:
“Would you like me to get you something? Like a muffin or a drink or something?”
I was so chuffed with this kind gesture! Needeless to say, we spent the rest of the time before her flight chatting. When I was done feeding she watched the wee man for a spell while I went and got some sandwiches and a nice cup of tea. I have thought back on this seemingly insignificant meeting and felt so blessed to be living in a country where this kind of thing can happen.
There are still places, even in the Western world, where breastfeeding mother’s are made to feel ashamed or told to feed in the toilet! This is mind-boggling.
The second story involves a lovely and stroppy mother I’ve met through her husband. I saw her posts and that she had been struggling with her son’s health and he had to have several operations as his insides grew on his outsides in utero. I went to visit them at the hospital to finally meet this lovely woman in person. She had a second brand new infant son and I was pregnant at the time.
The dad mentioned to his beautiful wife that their younger son looked hungry. I made the instant assumption she was going to pull out a boob. Nope. He got up, made a bottle and fed him and they both looked so happy and attached, and the mother and I carried on our conversation and got along brilliantly.
She told me briefly about her run-ins with a few breastfeeding advocates who tried to shame her about bottle feeding. She pointed out that bottle feeding was the best option because of the operations and being able to monitor her son’s intake. It also meant that the boys and their father were absolutely gorgeously attached in a way that is perhaps lacking a bit between my babies and their father. He bottle feeds them from expressed stores in our fridge or freezer if I choose to have more than one drink, but he doesn’t relish the experience the way this dad seemed to relish feeding his son. But neither one of our families is doing it right or wrong, we are just doing it our way.
I wish you all the strength and confidence to do it your way – bottle or breast. And for those of you who don’t have children, please encourage those around you to confidently do it their way as well. Breastfeeding is natural and bottle feeding is a very good option for some people.
And that is only just the tip of the iceberg regarding all I have to say about that… And I’m happy to do a part two or continue talking about this subject if enough people are interested in reading it.
Have a great day.
Thanks for taking the time to read!