There's nothing like a mother feeding her baby to make everyone have a damn opinion. It seems like a breastfeeding mom can't win. Either she's not doing it right or enough, or she shouldn't be doing it so long or in public or at all. From militant proponents of breastfeeding to righteously indignant prudes, nursing moms get it from all sides. Why can't we just give moms the benefit of the doubt and assume they're doing their best for their child? In my opinion, it's high time the breastfeeding police back off.
I am the poster girl of moms who struggle with breastfeeding. I was committed to exclusively breastfeeding, but my body and baby just wouldn't cooperate. Early on, a nurse pressured me to supplement with formula with her own special brand of emotional manipulation, and it ended up damaging my supply. I cobbled together a system of pumping, supplementing, bottles, and boob for the first seven months of my daughter's life. It was stressful as hell. You know what's not encouraging to a mom having trouble nursing? Rude comments, awkward questions, and some serious side-eye.
Even when breastfeeding comes easily to a mother, the last thing she needs is a citation from the breastfeeding police. When it comes to providing nourishment for a child, people need to mind their own business.
When You Breastfeed In Public
"Wouldn't you feel more comfortable in the restroom?" Um, no. Would you? My baby doesn't want to eat on top of a toilet any more than you want to enjoy that bagel with cream cheese in the place where the general public does its business.
Sadly, breastfeeding in public continues to be controversial. The fact is, and according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 49 states have laws that specifically allow mothers to breastfeed in any public or private place. In this particular case, the breastfeeding police have zero legal leg to stand on.
When You Exclusively Breastfeed
As a baby, I went straight from breast to cup and never touched a bottle. These days, however, moms experience all kinds pressure to supplement breast milk with formula. Mama should pump, freeze, dethaw, and sterilize so her partner can share in feeding the baby or so they can enjoy a nice dinner out. Even better, she can take a bottle with her so other people don't have to see her breastfeed. Heaven forbid.
When You Supplement With Formula
That's right. Damned if you do and damned if you don't. You can't exclusively breastfeed, but don't you dare give that baby a bottle of sugar water. You'll cause nipple confusion! Your baby will reject breast milk! I was actually told that formula-fed babies become "fat and stupid." When I dared to suggest that fed was best, a total stranger replied with an always-eloquent, "Ugh."
When You Don't Cover Up
I personally chose to use a nursing cover in public, but not with my family. I had someone tell me it was "weird" that I breastfed in front of my dad. Let's get one thing straight: covering up is about the comfort of the nursing mother and not that of the people around her.
When You Didn't Ask For Advice
Thanks, breastfeeding experts, but I'll ask for help if and/or when I need it. I'm all about tips and tricks, but don't tell me that my cuddle hold is "wrong." Honestly, the only piece of advice that was even remotely helpful was the nugget I got from my pediatrician/certified lactation consultant. He got my baby to latch without a nipple shield by having me make a U shape (instead of a C) with my hand.
When You Have Low Supply
I've seen that "helpful" graphic that asks, "Do you really have low supply?" It insists that small breasts, stopping leaking, no longer feeling the letdown reflex, etc. are not indicators of low supply. I'm sure this is helpful for some women, but it completely invalidates women who actually have undersupply.
I took galactagogues, ate lactation cookies, tried a supplemental nursing system, pumped until my breasts were sore, and I still had a problem. Say it with me: low supply is a thing.
When They See A (Gasp!) Nipple
We were at a hot dog joint with friends one day, and my husband got kind of upset with me because I accidentally flashed them. I'm sorry, but it's hard to manage a baby, a boob, a nipple shield, a nursing cover, and a chili dog without a third hand. I'm pretty sure everyone has seen a nipple before, so how about we all calm the f*ck down.
When You Have A Drink
People definitely freak out when you eat something "forbidden" during pregnancy, and, unfortunately, that can still happen when you're breastfeeding. Although the restrictions aren't as strict as they were when you were pregnant, you are still supposed to limit alcohol and fish when you're breastfeeding. That doesn't mean you can't have it at all, though, but try telling that to the self-appointed breastfeeding cops that are monitoring your wine intake and timing your next feeding.
When They Sexualize Your Breasts
What if I told you there's nothing sexual about breastfeeding? Boobs are all over the place (on billboards, in commercials, flashed on television shows), but the minute a mom whips one out to feed a baby they somehow becomes "indecent." Double standard much?
I had somebody ask me if my husband still found my breasts sexy while I was nursing. It's a totally inappropriate question, but it also promotes the idea that sex and breastfeeding are mutually exclusive, which they're not. They're just not related.
When You're Extended Breastfeeding
Nothing gets the breastfeeding police quite so worked up as doing it longer than they arbitrarily deem socially acceptable. Kid has teeth? Time to quit. Child can verbally request to nurse? Wean them. The World Health Organization (WHO) actually recommends nursing up to age 2 and beyond, but at the end of the day it's a personal decision. Just like pretty much everything else about breastfeeding, everyone else can butt out.