Though we’re still working towards a time when every parent truly does have all the knowledge, support, and freedom they need to make an informed choice about whether or not to breastfeed their babies, we live in a time where people do have more choices in the matter than ever before. As a result, moms have lots of reasons for making the feeding choices they inevitably make, and if the number of comments on posts about breastfeeding are any indication, there is quite a lot of things that other moms want you to know about their breastfeeding choices.
If I had to name the main reasons for my choices, I’d have to say that I choose to breastfeed because it makes my life easier, and because my son and I both enjoy it. Breastfeeding was challenging for us in the beginning, like anything that’s brand new. However, once we got the hang of it I was so grateful to be able to do it. It helps us both relax, and we often play little games or make each other giggle while he nurses. For me, nursing is like having two magic wands that shut down close to 80% of my parenting woes. If my son wakes up really early and I’m still tired, I can offer him some milk and get him back to sleep for an extra hour or two. When he gets hurt or sick, or is upset about something (usually, it’s having to get in his car seat), he asks to nurse and I can comfort him fairly quickly. For us, nursing means a lot less crying, and I am absolutely about that life. Right now, I’m planning to nurse full-term and let him self-wean, but I’m also open to weaning him if I decide I need to be done before he does.
The biggest thing I’d want other moms to know about my breastfeeding choices, is that just because this is my choice, doesn’t mean that I am judging their choices or feeling superior or thinking less of them if their choices are different. I really want everyone to know what they need to know to make the best choice for themselves, but beyond that, I am far too busy trying to keep up with my own life to even have much of an opinion about how other people live their lives. I am proud of my body, and of what it’s capable of, but my pride in myself costs other mothers nothing. Worthiness isn’t a zero sum game, and we’re not in competition with each other for respect or self-esteem. That’s a common thread in all the things I hear from other moms about their breastfeeding choices, as are the following:
“I’m Just Doing What Makes Sense For Me And My Family”
Yeah, there are definitely judgmental folks out there who have a lot to say about other people’s choices, largely venting all the things they don’t dare say to anyone’s face on Facebook or in blog comments. However, most people are just going about their lives, making the feeding choices that work for them and their kids, and they really aren’t reading much into your choices.
“I Have Good Reasons For Choosing To Breastfeed”
There are a lot of stereotypes and criticisms out there about nursing moms. Sadly, that's why it's important to highlight that most moms who nurse aren’t necessarily doing so to try to feel better than other moms, or because we feel pressured by public health campaigns or because we're brainwashed and think breastmilk is magic, or anything else someone might assume. Many of us know or appreciate the commonly-touted benefits, but we also have our own reasons, whether it’s not wanting to (or not being able to) spend money on formula, or because our children prefer it, or because it’s just what we want to do.
“I Have Good Reasons For Choosing Not To Breastfeed”
Likewise, there are a lot of stereotypes and criticisms out there about moms who partially or exclusively formula feed their babies. However, moms who don’t exclusively nurse aren’t necessarily uninformed, or selfish, or any of the other nonsense that often comes up in flame wars on the topic. Many formula-feeding moms have difficult histories of trauma, or they or their children have health constraints that make nursing impractical, unduly challenging, or even impossible, or they just plain don’t want to nurse. All of those are totally valid reasons not to.
“Sometimes, I’m Just Making The Best Of A Hard Situation”
Whether we choose to nurse or not, many times moms are just trying to optimize a less-than-optimal situation. Let's be real: American society lacks a meaningful safety net and is usually pretty awful to working families, whether it’s not paying us a living wage, not offering universal paid leave, not offering affordable, high-quality child care, and many other structural problems. The truth is, many of our feeding “choices” aren’t purely our own, but are at least partially made for us by what we and our families can afford, and what our employers and other people in our lives are willing to accommodate.
“Sometimes, I’m Really Relieved With How Things Turned Out”
Though the news and "think pieces" about breastfeeding choices can often make the situation for moms seem pretty grim no matter what we choose, a lot of us are pretty OK with how our particular situations have played out. If our ultimate choice is different from what we originally imagined, we might have moments of ambivalence, or even grief. Once that passes, though, we’re often really relieved to find that life goes on, and can even be great in ways we didn’t imagine.
“Sometimes, I Wonder What Things Would Be Like If I’d Chosen Differently”
I’ve definitely wondered sometimes what my postpartum life would be like if I hadn’t been the main one responsible for his food in his earliest months, and I have plenty of mom friends who wonder what things might be like for them if they had nursed instead of bottle-fed their kids. Sometimes, when we’re looking over at each other doing our feeding thing, or asking each other questions, it’s because we’re curious, not because we’re trying to judge.
“Sometimes, I Feel Really Empowered By My Choice”
There are definitely advantages to any of the choices a mom can make when it comes to feeding a new child. For example, formula-feeding moms can share or even totally delegate the load of feeding to other caregivers. Combination-feeding moms can nurse when they want to, and delegate feeding when they need to, without having to pump. Exclusively breastfeeding moms can travel with their babies and always have a safe, convenient food option without carrying extra stuff, preparing, or cleaning bottles. Fortunately, we all have moments where we get to feel pretty great about with the choices we’ve made.
“I’m Always Doing My Best”
We love our children, and we take every choice we make on their behalf seriously. Even if we don’t always have the information we wish we’d had, and even if there are things we might do differently if we had it to do over, we really are all doing our best with the time, energy, and resources we've got.