When I got pregnant with my son, I had made specific plans when it came to how I wanted to experience motherhood. I wanted to cloth diaper; I wanted to join "mommy groups" and set up multiple playdates for my son; I wanted to exclusively breastfeed for at least the first six months. Yeah, none of that happened. I didn't join mommy groups or set up playdates and I breastfed for what many would consider a "short" amount of time, which means I heard all the things moms who breastfeed for a short period of time are tired of hearing. Just like life itself, no one cared about what I had planned, just about what I was able to do (apparently), and that made my previously perfect plans all the more difficult to ditch.
My son experienced complications at birth and by the time we brought him home from the NICU, I was too drained (both physically and emotionally) to be bothered with washing diapers or making small talk with local moms. I was also incapable of breastfeeding. I tried desperately to breastfeed my son but my body couldn't produce enough milk and that, well, left me at a disadvantage. I already felt guilty and like I had "failed," so hearing other mothers tell me that I didn't do the "one thing" I should do for my son, and for as long as I was apparently supposed to do it, made the entire experience all the more heartbreaking. How long I was able to breastfeed was completely out of my control, but I was still being forced to listen to people talk to me as if I had made the decision (and honestly, even if it was my decision to stop breastfeeding, it definitely wasn't anyone's business to comment on it).
As a new mom, you have to be prepared to contend with an endless barrage of unsolicited advice and straight bad advice and, sadly, judgement from damn near everyone, regardless of what you do or the decisions you make. However, this is especially true when ti comes to breastfeeding. If you don't breastfeed or hated breastfeeding or only breastfed for an amount of time that someone else doesn't consider acceptable, there's no doubt that you will have heard the following:
“Do You Even Know What's In Formula?!”
Formula feeding does not make you a bad mom. I repeat, formula feeding does not make you a bad mom. People need to stop using scare tactics to force moms to do what they want them to do, all in an attempt to validate themselves and their own parenting decisions. Formulas are specifically created to help supplement babies, and while they all contain different ingredients, no one is out to harm babies via formula.
“Did You Try (Insert Position Or Supplement Here)?”
There are plenty of tips on breastfeeding out there, including the use of galactogogues, and you can bet that most non-breastfeeding moms have already researched said tips and tried the latest (not to mention, expensive) supplements and tried their hardest to extend their breastfeeding experience for as long as possible. If a mama is already telling you she’s done with breastfeeding, why bring up all these other things that could have worked for her, but didn't. That's pouring salt on an already painful wound, my friend.
“Well, I Breastfed My Kids Until They Were In Kindergarten!”
Good for you. Would you like a standing ovation? A golden plaque with a picture of your boobs on it? A parade? If you need ideas on other ways to humblebrag about motherhood, I’m sure the internet is full of ideas.
“How Many Lactation Consultants Did You Go To?”
Respond with, “Nunya, that’s how many.” “Wait, what?” your confused, busybody friend will say. “Yeah, nunya business!” Alright, maybe a bit childish, but seriously, after endless questions my patience can't help but be somewhat diminished. Personally, I saw three different lactation consultants and none could help me. It upsets me typing that sentence now, so having to regurgitate it to judgmental people wasn't the best feeling in the world.
“Did You Ask Your Pediatrician To Check For Lip/Tongue Ties?”
Yes, it’s true. Many moms have their babies lip and tongue ties removed to breastfeed properly, but not everyone is willing to go to those lengths. It is good information to mention to a mom who is struggling to breastfeed, but only if she explicitly asks you for your opinion. If she's already done breastfeeding? Well, there's really no reason to ask, is there?
“Maybe You Should’ve Tried Harder”
File this under very obvious things you shouldn’t say to a mom who quit breastfeeding. If a mom is done with breastfeeding, she tried as hard as she was willing to (or she simply made a decision that was best for her and her baby). It’s no one’s decision to judge.
“I Would Never Use Formula”
Never say never. There are plenty of benefits to using formula and for moms who can’t or don’t want to breastfeed, it is a godsend. You never know what your next breastfeeding experience will be like, so it's probably not the best decision to say "no" to something you may be forced to rely on.
“But Don’t You Miss The Special Bond?”
Remember that scene in the Wedding Singer where a guest starts asking Adam Sandler's character about the woman who left him at the altar and Sandler's character snaps back, “My parents died when I was 10. Want to talk about that?” This is basically the same thing. Aside the fact that not every mom feels a bond right away (regardless of whether or not she was breastfeeding), if she did feel it, of course she misses it, so quit saying mean stuff.
“Did You See (Insert Celeb Here)’s Breastfeeding Pictures? She’s Such An Inspiration!”
Yes, we’ve already seen Olivia Wilde and Alyssa Milano all the other celebrities who aren’t afraid to breastfeed in public scattered throughout Instagram. Yes, it’s beautiful and beautiful people doing beautiful things is, in itself, a beautiful thing. However, unless we brought it up, we probably don’t care to hear about it. Those days are behind us, just like prenatal classes and ultrasounds.
“Isn’t That Kind Of Selfish?”
Some folks might call us over-privileged bitches for not breastfeeding (in seriousness and in jest, like in this piece by Debra Dickerson), perhaps thinking that ending breastfeeding early was a selfish act in order to keep our breasts to ourselves, have more time to ourselves while others feed our babies, or because we don’t feel “maternal” enough. Whatever. Call us what you will, as it doesn't change the fact that this choice (or lack thereof) was the best thing for us and our baby. (Or better yet, keep it to yourselves.)
“Don’t You Feel Guilty About That?”
Letting go of mom guilt when you give up breastfeeding is tough. I have a friend who cried frequently after she decided to stop breastfeeding just days after her daughter was born. Why anyone would want to make someone like her feel worse is incomprehensible.
“I Wish I Had An Excuse Not To Breastfeed”
Some breastfeeding moms see non-breastfeeding moms and actually get a bit envious of the freedom you gain once you switch to formula. That's perfectly alright and definitely normal. Still, no one should make this insensitive remark because you don’t really know why a mom had to or chose to give up breastfeeding. Maybe she wanted to breastfeeding but couldn't, and having someone say that it was a "good" thing only hurts her.
“Yeah, Okay, But Breast Is Still Best”
By now, pretty much everyone understand the benefits of breastfeeding. No one is denying them or claiming that breastfeeding is hurtful and that we should have laws that ban it. So, why bring up all the benefits (again) of breastfeeding, when someone is telling you that they had to stop breastfeeding? It's hurtful, not helpful, and only continues to feed the guilt that mom is probably feeling.