Enter outrage and upset from breastfeeding supporters who feel her article is both an affront to those who breastfeed — let’s call ’em Uberboobers — as well as discouraging to those who want to try. Then look at the other side of the field to those who found Kathryn’s article to be helpful, a breath of fresh air for those who feel criticized for choosing formula in bottles.
The real issue, however, lies elsewhere. The current debate raging on the internet about breastfeeding sets up sides, forms camps and then draws a line between the two. And really, who wants to choose between “putting your teeny, tiny innocent baby…where only a lover has been before” or “being a selfish person who puts her child second to her funbags.”
I searched for the original Mother & Baby article, but only found news items running quotes, most replete with the same us against them language. Kathryn Blundell, says one woman, “completely sums up the minds of us formula feeding moms.” Others reduce women who stop breastfeeding to “quitters,” as if deciding to formula feed represents parenthood failure.
I’m not sure where the dichotomy originates. With moms or with the media. Although I suspect, like most things, it comes from somewhere in between.
My Personal Experience?
I breastfed Lila for two years and three months. At the beginning, I loved it. By the end, I was done. I just couldn’t take it anymore. Keep in mind, too, it was relatively easy for me. This is not the case for all. For many, breastfeeding can be excruciatingly painful on both a physical and emotional level. The last thing anyone needs on top of a post partum lack of sleep is to be told you’re not being a good mom because you’re formula feeding. Nor do you need someone calling you a martyr for braving on when a bottle works just as well. Both sorts of advice produce a level of guilt that keeps you from making clear choices.
I, myself, continued far longer than I wanted because of pressure I felt from outside myself. Instead of supplementing with formula, so Noah or someone else could take up some feeding times, I decided I had to do it all myself. This meant I couldn’t be away from Lila for more than a few hours and didn’t sleep through the night for almost a year. Being a parent is a commitment, yes, but that is not necessarily the one we intend to make when having children. Nor should it have to be.
If and when there’s a next time for me, I will most definitely supplement with formula. I will not make parenting choices based on guilt and pressure and will instead figure out what is best for me and baby together.
But it doesn’t stop with breastfeeding
Not by a long shot.
There are tens of polarized debates relating to motherhood. Working Out Of Home Mom versus Stay-At-Home-Mom. Do you allow your child to learn to fall asleep on his own by crying himself to sleep? Or do you lie in bed with your child to soothe her to sleep? Do you hire a nanny or send your little one to day care? Do you have your baby in a hospital with a doctor or with a midwife at home?
It is exhausting and turns every parenting decision into one of right and wrong, moral or immoral. In reality, though, choices of this sort are not a black and white, thus, no matter what you choose, you will be wrong on some account. How’s that for banging your head against a wall?
The bottom line is if you are lucky enough to have the choice between all these options, rejoice. Please yourself first. Take care of yourself first.
The Ubiquitous Feminism Tie-In
Nancy Harder recently questioned if these days feminism is perhaps worse off than ever. As a partial answer, I’ll repeat here the words of Linsey Abrams, a feminist writer, fiction author and also my grad school adviser. “Leigh, ” she said. “Feminism is simple. It’s not a whole big argument with theory and miles of discussion. Feminism comes down to one thing. The ability to be able to make the choice to do what you want.”
What are your experiences with breastfeeding or formula feeding? Share your thoughts in the comments. For a male view of breastfeeding, check out Adventures in Weaning: Cold Turkey in the Great American Desert.
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