Tuesday, August 16, 2011

on feeding...

If you know me in "real life", or if you've read this post that I wrote in March, then you know that I am an advocate of breastfeeding and I am a proud nursing momma.

However, there is a whole lot of Internet Snark that seems to come to the forefront when it comes to the subject of breastfed babies vs. formula fed babies. And I guess that I just got fed up from it all.

My best friend literally went to hell and back in an attempt to nurse her newborn baby and I had to sit by helplessly while I watched her berate herself over and over again when circumstances beyond her control prevented her from being able to breastfeed. She seriously felt like a BAD MOM. A bad mom! This girl who tried so hard to nurse that she almost wound up in the hospital thought she was a bad mom.

And once she became convinced that nursing just wasn't in the cards for her this time, she started pouring her baby's formula into the Medelea bottles, just in case other moms saw her bottle feeding so they would assume she was giving her baby expressed breastmilk. That's how much she couldn't stand the thought of facing all that judgment. She didn't want to be on the receiving end of their side-eyes. And I can't blame her. I don't want her to be on that end either. 

The whole situation broke my heart. Mostly because I know that she's right - that she IS going to be judged for the fact that she is formula feeding. And she is going to be judged by people who honestly have NO FREAKING IDEA what was going on with her and just how much she absolutely had no other choice in the matter. It isn't fair. It really isn't.  

But it's everywhere, isn't it? The word "formula" can barely be typed on the internet without bursting into flames.

And I get it, I really do; nursing is important, breastmilk is unmatched in quality and fabulousness, breastfeeding is definitely ideal if it works out. I understand the need to educate women and to make them feel supported if they are able to breastfeed. But what I have a problem with is the dark side of all of this hurrah and fanfare. I have a problem with the fact that in our endeavor to bolster up the women who nurse, that we have thrown those who don't to the wolves.

Breastfeeding women seem to have taken a Spartan-like attitude about this entire subject and have cast all formula-feeding mothers off of the cliff - never to be thought of again. They've been rendered unfit, illadvised and deserving of both pity and scorn.

I just have such a problem with this attitude. I just have such an issue with turning our backs on each other because of one little subject: what our babies eat.

And the more I think about the situation the more I realize - hello - none of us have the right to judge anyone else. We really, really, really, really don't. We really don't.

I mean, duh, I know that this lesson gets taught to us when we're little: "Don't judge others." and we at least TRY to practice it as children but as we grow older we tend to dismiss the concept as just another song on Sesame Street that's good in theory but isn't practical in practice.

Only, it IS practical.

Since I became a mom, I've learned a whole lot about judgment and to be honest - i judge people WAY less now than I ever did before. Way Less.

The mom carrying a screaming child out of the bookstore? Before I was a mom, I might have said to my shopping companions, "Why can't she control her child??" Now? Now I want to rush to hold the door open for her, I want to buy her a javachip frappachino at the cafe and give her a pat on the back and say, "It's gonna be okay". At the very least I want to smile at her so she knows that I understand and that it's outside of her control. "Kids are kids." I want to say.

Parenting makes us do things we never thought we would. It makes us behave in ways we never could have imagined before.

I always said that when I became a mom I would never have a house overrun with toys and that I would always make sure I put on makeup and got dressed in nice outfits everyday; I wasn't going to get all "mommed out".  *Snort*

Before kids, I thought I knew what tired was. I thought I was right to roll my eyes at the mother walking with two kids in the parking lot and snapping at a third to "just stop it already!!" at whatever he was doing. When kids would run around screaming their heads off and I saw their mother sitting on the couch just staring straight ahead and sipping her coffee, I thought to myself, "what is wrong with her? can't she control her kids?"

Now I know better. Now I understand that sometimes, coffee is a NEED and not a want. Now I know that a house full of toys is a blessing when you have to make dinner or brush the cat or vacuum the stairs. Now I know that when you tell a child to stop something fifty billion times that you are going to snap on that fifty-billion-and-first time and that maybe that tone in your voice when you do snap might actually get the kid to stop.

Now I know that the rarer day is the one where I am able to get dressed and put on makeup.

I know all of these things now because I am a mom. And I don't judge other moms for any of these things either. Because I know what life is like on this side of the coin.

So why do we as moms feel that it's okay to judge other moms for what they feed their children?

Is formula feeding the choice that you would make as an individual who nurses? No. Probably not. But does that mean that you get to hurl insults and disdain towards the women who are in that situation?

No. Definitely not.

Also, realize this: maybe those women didn't make that CHOICE either - maybe, as in the case of my friend, it got made for them and they wish that something different had happened too.

There are dozens of maybes, dozens of real life situations that could step in and prevent someone from being able to nurse! Dozens of things that we don't think of when we stand by and gasp in horror at the sight of a can of formula. Here are a few:

Maybe they have breastcancer, maybe they have breast disease, maybe they are on medication that keeps them alive and well and therefore they cannot nurse their babies. Maybe they SMOKE - ever thought of that one? I'd rather a baby eat formula than nurse from a smoking momma's tap.

There are just so many maybes out there and SO MANY of them are valid that it's just not worth the time and effort it takes to bury these poor women who ultimately just want to be the best mothers they can to their children.

'Cause at the end of the day - THAT is the thing we all have in common. No matter what we feed them, we all just want our kids to be fed. No matter what we're wearing, what we're saying, what we're doing, we all just want our kids to be loved and healthy. We all just want to be good mommies. And THAT is the most important thing of all.

Let's stand together and promote good motherhood. Let's unite with each other as women who want to take care of our children. Let's support education and abolish sexism and all of the other obstacles that stand in the way of females everywhere but let's not contribute to the plight against one another. Let's not hurt one another or hurl insults at each other. We as women who are doing the best we can deserve to be raised up and encouraged, not trampled down for the choices that we have made or that have been made for us.

Work together to support loving, caring motherhood. Because being a good and loving and kind mother is FAR more important than what gets put into their sippy cup. It really is. I swear.


Ashley said...

Such an awesome post, Rhian. Non-nursing mommas get some comments and looks that are entirely uncalled for. We all need to just support one another, regardless of what babies are eating. Being a parent is no easy task, and like you, I've learned to be more tolerant of others, too.

Thanks for your post -- I hope it can help people to support one another, rather than judge.

ashleighR said...

ok, this has me swarmed with different emotions. in the 2+ years that i've been a mom, i've never heard of anyone thinking less of another mom for formula feeding. of course i agree that breast milk is best and would say that all my fellow mommy friends would agree. but to think less of someone for giving formula- even if for no medical reason, just because they didn't want to nurse!- i just think is ridiculous! i nursed my first daughter and it was hard- I struggled with a low milk supply the entire time. with my second, i started out nursing but when you have a busy 2 year old, there just isn't the time to nurse, and pump, nurse, and pump all dang day- the 2 year old needs you more than your baby needs breastmilk. so the thought that anyone would judge me for giving formula just makes me irate. since when is formula equivalent to giving ding-dongs and twinkies??

Rhian said...

Ashley - thanks so much! I hope so too!

Ashleigh R - I couldn't agree with you more. I am SO glad that you haven't experienced any of this. It really and truly upsets me when my friends get crap for formula feeding. People don't understand the situation and don't have the right to judge others based on this!

Scary Mommy said...

"Because being a good and loving and kind mother is FAR more important than what gets put into their sippy cup."


I love this post!

Lindsay said...

I love you, Rhian! <3 Thank you again for this post and for just being YOU. With your voice helping speak for those who are being knocked to the ground, we're so much tougher and stronger and will be able to get back up and dust ourselves off -- and keep our heads held high. You are amazing and this entire message is amazing. I hope that people read this, absorb your words and rethink their own words and way of thinking. Together we can help one another out and stand together as MOMS.

Melissa said...

This is such an incredible post, Rhian. You are such an amazing writer, I hope you know that. Your writing truly inspires me!

I've never personally encountered a woman who made another woman feel like shit for their choice to formula feed. Where I come from, everyone is pretty accepting of the way others choose to feed their kids. And even if they do have a problem with it, at least they keep it to themselves. That's incredibly shitty that ANYONE would make another mother feel that way, especially for something beyond her control, and I'm pretty floored that there are people like that out there that exist. I've never encountered such a person, but if I did, um, yeah. I would likely exchange some words with them. Treating others that way is NOT okay.

The Fearless Formula Feeder said...

I just love this post. It sucks that it takes watching a friend go through something like this - or going through it ourselves - to get this type of sensitive, wise perspective. But however we get here, I think it is SO important to spread the word. It's women like you who will ultimately change the landscape of the breast vs bottle battle.

I love what you write about judging other moms, and then taking it all back when you became one yourself. I laugh at myself constantly for all the judging I used to do... being at a restaurant and seeing a kid acting up and thinking "OMG, can't they control that little hellion?" and now I have two hellions of my own wreaking havoc at Souplantation. (Don't worry, I always leave a jumbo tip for the poor busboys who need to manage the fallout from our visits...)

Anyway. Send your friend my way if she wants some e-love, since my blog is all about supporting those who can't breastfeed. But it sounds like she has plenty of support from you, so I doubt she even needs it. Wish all my readers had friends like you.

Anonymous said...

I love this post. Period. Well said. :)

Jule Ann said...

I mostly agree with you. I agree that we need to support each other as moms, and that it is not our place to judge other moms when we don't know the full story. (Heck, even when we do know the whole story, the loving thing is to support our friends, not judge them.) But there is a lot of misinformation out there. Formula marketing is viciously deceptive and unscrupulous. Medical professionals give patently wrong breastfeeding advice. I don't judge individuals for choosing to formula feed, but I will rail against the formula feeding trend. Yes, there are valid reasons not to breastfeed (smoking isn't one, but that's another story), but for every woman like your friend, there are 20 who chose to formula feed because of misinformation, bad medical advice, peer pressure, lack of support, or seductive formula marketing. When I rail against formula, it isn't personal. I don't think anyone is a bad mom for feeding formula. But I do think there is something systemically wrong when so many people think that breastfeeding isn't right for them.

Lisa said...

I love this. Thank you.