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Monday, April 20, 2009

Division and judgement

One thing I have learnt since being a mom is that there is always someone around to tell you what you are doing is wrong and how you should do it instead. You would think that two women with babies/ kids could use that to bond and create a shared understanding of each other. But no. Well, not always. Instead, becoming a mom seems to lead to division and judgment. Do you breastfeed or bottle feed, co-sleep or let the baby "cry-it-out", use cloth diapers or disposables, let your kid eat sugar or follow an all organic, gluten free diet. Etc, etc.

I came across an interesting post at the blog Girl's Gone Child where Rebecca talks about the stigma towards young moms. I am sure that I have looked at young moms and thought, "Wow, what a choice you have made. What were you thinking?". I would never have been ready to be a mom any earlier than I did and so I project my own thoughts and feeling onto other moms. Let's be honest though, we all do it. It is human nature to judge others. The problem arises when we hold onto those judgements, instead of letting them go, and begin to attack each other.

What I really want to touch on is this whole debate I have seen emerge in the media about breastfeeding versus bottle feeding. Two articles I have come across, The Breastfeeding Conspiracy and The Case Against Breastfeeding, both cry out against the pressures put on women to confirm to society's demands and breastfeed. Here is the lead-in to The Case Against Breastfeeding:

In certain overachieving circles, breast-feeding is no longer a choice—it’s a no-exceptions requirement, the ultimate badge of responsible parenting. Yet the actual health benefits of breast-feeding are surprisingly thin, far thinner than most popular literature indicates. Is breast-feeding right for every family? Or is it this generation’s vacuum cleaner—an instrument of misery that mostly just keeps women down?

Really? I mean, come on? An instrument of misery? I could go on and on about the article but you should read it for yourself. What I don't understand is why these authors are trying to stir the pot. Do bottle feeding mothers really need to be defended and championed? Or, are they being divisive just for fun and readership? If they are, they should consider themselves successes because there are lots of comments to both articles that include charges of "breastfeeding Nazis" and "selfish mothers".

Of coarse I have my own opinions. I have/ am breastfeeding both kids. I think it is the best thing you can do for your child. It is also damn hard, but no one tells you that before you become a mom. I had only seen a few women breastfeeding before becoming a mother and never paid any attention to how they did it so I was learning as I went along. Did I want to give up everyday for the first six weeks? YES! Without the support of the husband and my midwife I probably would have. Having said that, I still don't understand women who choose not to breastfeed. I chose to do it even though it was hard and makes me angry at my husband sometime (see post below). For me the struggle with breastfeeding was the first realization that this is what being a parent would be about sometimes. Struggling. Learning as you go. Feeling like a failure but doing it anyways.

Do I judge moms who choose not to breastfeed? Yes. Do I let it divide us? I try not to. I don't yell at them in the library for feeding their baby a bottle like a woman yelled at me when I went to feed the boy. I let them go their way as I go mine.

I also judge the guy buying Pringles in front of me when everyone knows that Old Dutch is far superior. But I let him have his Pringles.


  1. Ah, breastfeeding. In one sense I am a strong breastfeeding advocate - I believe women have the right to nurse however and wherever they want and that accomodations should be made for that. I think breastfeeding can be a beautiful thing between mother and child, and I will vocally defend the right of a woman to nurse her child and keep nursing it if she pleases through toddlerhood and beyond.

    On the other hand, I personally have a somewhat fraught and resentful relationship with breastfeeding and still feel angry about it. I breastfed my son exclusively for five and a half months and largely... it was hell. Some of the reasons for that documented here and here.

    I was glad I could feed. But I'm sorry I didn't stop when I first noticed my milk supply diminishing and my son losing weight. I am sorry I hung in there out of guilt and fear and stubborness until his weight plummetted from the 75th centile to the 3rd because I kept being told that if "you just keep feeding the supply will perk up" and breastfeeding wasn't being presented as 'a choice' so much as 'the only choice which won't make other people think less of you'.

    Genuinely, the first day I gave my son formula was one of the happiest days of his life. Normally in the evening he'd be cranky and fussy, but after he drank that first bottle he just sat in his bouncer for two hours gently grunting to himself as though he was too full to move and couldn't believe how full he was. And from that day, neither of us looked back and formula for me has been nothing but salvation (he gained weight, I gained sanity, my husband gained baby bonding time).

    Anyway. 'waves hi' Thanks for stopping by my journal, it's always nice to meet new people.

  2. Thanks so much for the comment!
    I have thought about it and what I mean when I say I don't understand not choosing to breastfeed is that I don't understand not choosing to try. It must be very difficult to try and not to be able to. My mom tried to breastfeed both my sister and I and couldn't. At that point you have to do what is best for both the baby and the mom.