My late grandmother frequently said, “A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.” She meant that knowing a little about something, just enough to fool yourself into thinking you know more about something than you actually do, can lead people to feel unjustifiably confident in understanding of something — or worse, unreasonably justified in judging other people based on what they are or aren't doing. That’s always my first thought when I hear the things moms need to stop saying about moms who breastfeed, mostly because their assumptions about those other moms are misguided.
Breastfeeding, like other parenting choices, is highly personal and a slightly different experience for each mom and child who choose (and are able) to do it. For some, it's relatively easy. For others, it's really hard or even impossible. For some, it's something to do for a short time. For others, it's something to do as long as the child wants to. Regardless of what our own experiences are like, we shouldn't assume that just because we are moms, we know what other moms “should” decide when it comes to breastfeeding (or any other aspect of parenting, for that matter).
Whether they come from moms who chose to formula-feed and look down on moms who breastfeed, or moms who chose to breastfeed but think everyone else should breastfeed exactly like they did; the following kinds of comments need to stop. Just because we're moms doesn't mean we know enough about any other mom’s life to tell her how she should present herself while nursing in public, or how she should approach feeding her kid(s) while she's working, or anything else. “Not your body, not your baby, not your business” applies to other moms, too.
“Do They Have To Do That In Public?”
“That's Going To Mess Up Her Physical Relationship With Her Partner”
First and foremost, other people outside of a relationship can't know with any certainty what non-relationship choices will and won't affect them. Two, why on Earth do people feel empowered to say things like this? I will never, ever understand the "Co-Parenting Relationship Police," who go around bugging breastfeeders and co-sleepers about our sex lives. So, so far from being anyone else's business.
Literally Anything That Centers On What Someone Else’s Breasts Might Look Like After Breastfeeding
Just, 100% hard pass on any conversation about how moms should not breastfeed because it might affect their breasts’ appearance. As women, the very last thing we need to be doing is upholding the oppressive idea that what our bodies look like is more important than what they can do. That hurts all of us, no matter what parenting choices we do or don't make.
“They're So Smug”
Smug people are smug, regardless of what their specific parenting choices are. There are smug formula-feeders and smug breastfeeders, alike. Neither are smug because of how they choose to feed their kids. They’re smug because they choose to conduct themselves in a smug way.
“She Should Be More Discreet/Cover Up Like I Did”
Each mom gets to decide her comfort level with how she nurses, period. Also, some babies don't tolerate a nursing cover (and they shouldn't have to). Some women have bigger chests, or twins instead of single babies, and have a harder time covering themselves while nursing. They shouldn't be forced to stay inside or change their feeding choices because it's harder for them to conform to someone else's (often absurdly restrictive) notion of modesty. “Mind your own business” still applies, no matter what.
“She Should Just Pump/Never Pump/Whatever Else, Like I Did”
Again, our experiences aren't universal. If someone isn't doing things the way we did, they have their reasons. Those reasons are perfectly valid, as long as they're not hurting anyone else.
“She Shouldn't Cover Her Baby Up Like That”
Unless we know for a fact that a child is suffocating, it's not our business if their mom chooses to use a nursing cover. Just like moms shouldn't feel forced to cover, moms shouldn't feel like they have to not use a cover, for any reason.
“That's A Waste Of Time”
As grown women who are capable of deciding the best ways to use our own time and bodies, we should assume that other women are perfectly capable of making equally rational choices about their own bodies and time, too.
“She Shouldn't Be Drinking That [Adult Beverage]/Staying Out Late If She's Still Breastfeeding”
It is not necessary to become a teetotaler to nurse safely. There's no scientific justification for that stance, and random moms don't have the right to appoint themselves the "Breastfeeding Police," who stop other moms from having even a single glass of wine or beer, or going out for a night with their friends while their children are accounted for and cared for by another responsible caregiver.
“Breastfeeding Doesn't Work”
I cringe every time I hear a mom say something like this. It's true that there are some situations in which breastfeeding isn't possible for some families, and no one should feel like they have to do it, regardless. However, it's untrue and misleading and discouraging to other moms, to say that breastfeeding itself “doesn't work,” across the board. Just because a certain mom had a certain problem that prevented her from breastfeeding, doesn't mean that everyone else will.
“Breastfeeding Is Anti-Feminist”
One, no single parenting choice is inherently pro- or anti-feminist. Our ability to make our own free choices is what matters most. Two, it's not incumbent on any individual parents to base their parenting choices on whether it meets some external political standard of being "good enough." Feminists should be concerned about parents’ freedom to actually make the choices that are right for our families, not telling each other what those choices “should” be. Three, there's nothing feminist about appointing oneself the arbiter of what choices other women are and aren't considered politically empowered to make. Just, no.