There has been so much talk about breastfeeding among the blogs lately that I thought I should jump on the bandwagon and throw in my two cents.
Healthy Green Mom, in her post North American Moms: What the Heck is Wrong with our Milk? questioned why so many women these days seem to have empty breasts. If only 5% of women truly are medically incapable of producing milk for their babies then why are so many women claiming to not have enough milk? She referred to Parenting Baby to Sleep’s blog post Insufficient Milk who also discussed this.
Then Green and Clean Mom shared a reader’s story called Breastfeeding or Bottlefeeding: A Personal Story which told of her decision to bottle feed after a horrendous struggle with breastfeeding. Then due to a statement she made that if breastfeeding is not working for new moms after two weeks they should just give up and switch to formula, PhD in Parenting was compelled to create a poll questioning moms about whether or not they had breastfeeding problems within the first two weeks of birth and if so, whether they quit breastfeeding or kept trying. Then she posted the results and her interpretation of her findings in When to give up on breastfeeding.
Finally, Her Bad Mother wrote a post called They Shoot Wet Nurses Don’t They? that told about the recent circumstances surrounding her nursing another woman’s child at a conference and her hurt feelings when she found out that another blogging mom blogged her own negative reaction to seeing this activity take place.
I don’t want to rehash everything each one of these bloggers talked about or why they did what they did (That’s why I posted links my friends!). Instead I wanted to share my own thoughts on the common theme running through these posts: moms who make different choices than other moms and the line they create between themselves over these heated subjects.
I have never been a black and white thinker. I took A Philosophy of Ethics class in university and struggled considerably. Abortion. Euthanasia. Death Sentences… I’ve always been able to see that while rules are in place for good reasons, there are exceptions to every rule and some are made to be broken. I believe that people are just living their lives, making choices based on circumstance and what they know. The sum of our life experiences make us who we are.
That being said, sure I have an opinion on things. But I will not force my opinion on someone to the extent that I expect them to adopt it, especially if someone is steadfast in their position. But when I feel strongly about something, like I do about breastfeeding, then I will use my voice to educate. You can’t dispute facts. And if facts hurt your feelings or make you feel guilty about your choices, then that’s an issue you need to work through on your own.
On to my opinion. My opinion on all of the above matters – milk insufficiency, cross-nursing, and breastfeeding vs. bottlefeeding – is simple and based on the answer to one question. Is the mother truly informed?
If not, can she get informed? Living in poverty or with abuse, and speaking a foreign language are but a few barriers to obtaining information. Not everyone has access to the internet or enough money for the bus to the library. Not everyone is free. If this is the case and a woman uses formula or breastfeeds for only a short time, or cross nurses in public, then it is my job to try to understand.
If she can get informed then is she actively working to become informed? If she is informed then is she making a choice based on the correct information? If the information is correct, i.e. scientifically up to date, then is she making a choice based on what is best for her baby? If a woman makes an informed decision based on these outcomes then she is making the best decision based on the best of her ability. If a woman chooses to formula feed or breastfeed for only a short time after going through this process, then she likely has a good reason. Maybe she is one of those 5% of women who really can’t breastfeed. Or maybe she is a victim of bad advice, or subject to family ridicule that is too difficult to bear. I might judge her information source or society, but I will try to understand, and I will support her.
As for cross nursing, I know it is something that La Leche League does not encourage or support. You can read about why here. But I think if both mothers are aware of the risks, discuss them, feel confident that there are no health risks, and make the choice to do it, then they are making an informed decision. As for the psychological risks, a one off runs much less risk than a routine.
But usually when we see a woman doing something that we wouldn’t choose, we don’t know her personal story. And when we don’t know, we might assume the worst, unfortunately as is so common in our society. She just isn’t educated! She just didn’t try hard enough! She just doesn’t care!
I can admit I’ve been guilty of this. I remember meeting another mom who used a bottle and I cringed everytime I saw it. I didn’t ask if she was pumping or using formula, I just assumed it was formula and felt like I was somehow better than her. Then one day in a mother’s group she shared her story. She cried about how she had longed to breastfeed and then couldn’t. I don’t remember the specifics of the story anymore, but my attitude towards her changed dramatically. To this day I remind myself that everyone has a personal story that is not mine to judge.
I still draw lines in the sand between me and bottlefeeding moms. But I catch myself now. As soon as I see the line, I erase it. My experiences are made up of drawn and erased lines over and over again. I do know breast is best and you could never sway me otherwise. I think milk bank milk is the next best thing if a mom can’t breastfeed. But not everyone can afford it. These things aren’t simple. People’s lives aren’t simple. Nothing is black or white.
As I close, for the sake of my introduction, I will say again, that if a woman thinks about what is right for her baby and informs herself to the very best of her ability, and then acts upon what the information tells her is right to the very best of her ability, then we shouldn’t judge her, no matter what the outcome. All we can do is cross our fingers and hope that everything will fall into place so that in the end she will – Think. Act. Breastfeed.
*According to the World Health Organization, the recommendation for babies is to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months, giving the child unrestricted access to the breast, and then introduce complementary foods at six months while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years or beyond.
I welcome and appreciate any and all comments.