A few days ago, I stumbled across some articles about breastfeeding. They weren’t the usual uber-positive articles I was used to encountering. The first article purported to be a no-holds-barred account of the difficulties one can encounter when breastfeeding. The second article, while a few months older, was more extreme about the pain a mother can encounter while breastfeeding.
OK. True confession time. I didn’t breastfeed my son. Hell, I didn’t even carry him. He came to us via gestational surrogacy, and I decided not to attempt to induce lactation. Our awesome gestational carrier did pump breast milk for him for almost 6 months.
It may seem like I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I do because I’m a woman and a mother. The prevailing message about breastfeeding is that it is best and if you don’t do it, you’re denying your baby his/her natural food. It’s also irreplaceable bonding time. Not breastfeeding might damage maternal-child attachment. Not breastfeeding might doom your child to a variety of poor outcomes. Not breastfeeding may even doom you, the mother, to serious breast or ovarian cancer.
I’ve watched what the pressure to breastfeed has instigated. I’ve had too many friends both offline and online berate themselves if breastfeeding doesn’t work out or even when they decide to stop pumping. Wondering what is wrong with them if their breastfeeding journey is more of a struggle than they thought it would be. They feel as if they’ve failed their child and failed as a woman. At the very least, they feel disappointed in themselves and their experience with breastfeeding. Add in infertility, and a failure to breastfeed or less time breastfeeding than one wishes becomes yet another way in which our body has betrayed us.
And I don’t want any woman to feel that way about herself and her body ever. Ever. I’m not trying to start a debate about breastfeeding. Truly. But I am adamant about the power of mommy blogging. I credit mothers blogging with helping to pull back the curtain on motherhood and demonstrate the reality of what motherhood is like. It has major highs and lows, and mothers are not one-dimensional characters. It can be both awesome and suck at the same time. These are messages society has not been used to seeing, but they are necessary.
I’d like to see the same attention given to how we feed our babies. How you fed your baby is part of the lingua franca of motherhood, meaning that you can’t join a mommy’s group or meet a group of mothers without method of sustenance becoming practically an ice breaker. And source of judgment.
I’m not against breastfeeding. Far from it. What I appreciate about these articles is that they bring scrutiny and awareness to the reality of breastfeeding. For some women, it is hard. For some women, it doesn’t work. It isn’t a bed of roses for every woman, and while breastfeeding is laudable, it should not be held up as the only acceptable way and only positive, easy stories portrayed. If your nipples are falling off, for God’s sake, find a different way to feed your baby!
I support every woman and whatever choices she makes, but I don’t want any woman to feel compelled to pursue a certain direction because of peer pressure and one-sided media representations.
What do you think? Do you think articles like these provoke fear or do you think they are a needed reality check?
What kinds of articles about feeding your baby would you like to see the media and blogs tackle?
Keanne of Family Building With a Twist in her own words: I’m KeAnne (like LeeAnne w/ a “K”). Mommy to 1. Wife to someone who knows how my mind works. Scary (you should see what goes on in my mind). Owned by 3 cats. I work full time and don’t craft or DIY (you’re welcome). I like books, conspiracy theories, Downton Abbey and cooking. I dislike chocolate, zinfandel, carpet beetles and experts. Expect over-thinking, the occasional rant, strong opinions and the occasional (OK, often) piece of useless knowledge.