I Would If I Could.
I read an article earlier about a new mom who had a very difficult experience with breastfeeding. She planned to breastfeed exclusively, she wanted to breastfeed so she could bond with her baby and also because ‘breast milk is best’. Unfortunately breast milk was not best for her baby. It was a terrible experience, filled with pain, cries, hours and hours of pure torture. Her baby lost 11% of her birth weight in no time. After visits to the Doctor, Pediatrician and Nutritionist, she was advised on a special diet to help her baby digest the breast milk better. It didn’t work.
Eventually she gave up breastfeeding and found a hypoallergenic formula that was perfect for her baby.
At a store one day while picking up the formula, a lady tells her smugly ‘breast milk is best’. This lady had no idea what the mom’s story was, she didn’t know her struggles one tiny bit, yet felt comfortable enough to judge her.
There are women who dream of nursing their babies. Women who had it all planned out but life happened. Some had their dreams shattered by their inability to lactate, some did lactate but not enough to sustain breast feeding at all or exclusively. For some, inverted nipples were the bane of their plans and for some others, nipples are too big. In rare cases like that of the mom mentioned above, baby is allergic to the breast milk.
The frustration, that comes along with the inability to nurse is not something anyone who has never had to deal with this problem can understand. It hurts and sometimes the mother in question feels like a failure. Top that with judgement and it is sufficient catalyst for depression.
When I had my son, the first few days we were good(or so I thought). Then I realized he always seemed more hungry than normal. He would make a fuss and smack his lips. Turned out I was not lactating enough to satisfy him. I wanted to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months at the very least. I had read everything! The health benefits for both baby and I, the recommendations, the good, bad and ugly life experiences. Everything. i was sooo ready.
I decided to add formula to the mix while I continued nursing, because I had read that sometimes it takes a little time for the mother to produce sufficient milk for the baby. It was painful nursing at first to be honest. You bruise, bleed and then you heal. I didn’t let the pain stop me, I was determined to nurse. I would flinch, grit my teeth and nurse(thank God for cold cabbage and Lanolin Nipple Cream). It paid off after two weeks and my body started producing enough milk to sustain exclusive breastfeeding. This lasted for over a year (story for another day)
In the middle of all I was dealing with, I told a certain someone that I was adding formula because baby wasn’t getting enough milk from just breastfeeding at the time. The person told me I was selfish, i was only thinking about myself and that I just didn’t want to breastfeed because….modern mother(among other things). Person said they asked a few doctor friends of their’s who further confirmed that (exclusive) breast milk is best in the first 6 months and then listed all the benefits like I didn’t have enough sense to know all these in the first place.
I was so hurt. I remember that day I wept. Here I was a new mom dealing with something I had never done before, the birth of a baby. I was exhausted from lack of sleep, healing and just trying to survive a day at a time and to top that up, being told I was failing even before I begun. At that moment I did feel like a failure. I got past that of course but it hurt really bad. I would never hurt anyone that way ever.
Motherhood is a tough journey. Any decent parent wants the best for their child. They want to do right, they aspire to a level of perfection that they will constantly fall short of. Guess what? They are already doing a good job of beating themselves up about that. They don’t need your help.
As with the controversy concerning natural birth versus Cesarean Section, can we learn to do away with the judgement? Live and let live? Can we learn a little empathy? Sensitivity? Can we just be kind?