I breastfed all of my sons. We started wearing them on the day they were born, and we rarely took them out of their wraps. We co-slept and put them in cloth diapers. And when they started teething, we strung amber necklaces around their necks instead of using teething rings.
I realize that from the outside, I must look like an incredibly crunchy mom, and I suppose I am. But I find that I'm constantly being judged for my crunchy parenting decisions.
I nursed my oldest son Blaise whenever he was hungry: at Mass, at the kiddie gym, at babywearing meetings, and at restaurants of all stripes. I continued to tandem nurse him and my younger two sons throughout my pregnancies.
Once, we were at a restaurant, and we had been waiting for our food for nearly an hour. We sat outside on the patio, where I nursed my youngest son for a long time. When he finished, my middle son began to fuss, so I popped him on the breast as well.
At the table next to me, a group of guys’ eyes widened. They began to point and chatter. About me. About my breasts. About my decision to nurse both of my sons at the same time. About my parenting choices. I didn't give a f*ck about what they thought, but it still stung.
Then there was the judgment about my babywearing, which was constant and usually came from total strangers. People would approach me everywhere: at Target, in the grocery store, in the mall. “Won’t he suffocate in that thing?” they’d ask. “You know babies died in those,” one woman told me breathlessly, mistaking my woven wrap for an Infantino Sling Rider, which was recalled following a slew of infant deaths in 2010. I tried to explain that my wrap was perfectly safe, but it was like talking to a brick wall. She insisted I was going to kill my baby, and she even tried to wrest him out of the wrap. I turned around to keep her off him and finally walked away.
“He can’t breathe in there,” a woman snapped at me as I walked into Target. She then actually reached over and fussed with the carrier that held my sleeping baby.
I was told that babywearing was dangerous, because my child would suffocate or I would drop him. I was also told that my child would never learn to walk if I carried him around. (All three of them are perfectly mobile, thank you very much.) When I started backwrapping my kids, that prompted even more concern trolling from strangers. “He can’t breathe in there,” a woman snapped at me as I walked into Target. She then actually reached over and fussed with the carrier that held my sleeping baby.
“Do NOT touch my child,” I yelled, and walked away.
If people saw me in the process of backwrapping my kids, they often ran to help, sometimes even grabbing my son. “I’m fine! I’m fine! I teach people how to do this!” I’d snap at them. “Do NOT touch my child!”
The fact that I put my kids in cloth diapers also caused a ton of drama. “Oh, I could never use cloth diapers,” mothers on the playground would say. “I could never deal with the poop/my husband would never let me put poop in our washer/I couldn’t keep up with the laundry, because you’d have a bag of poop sitting in your house.” Then they’d look up at me, self-righteously smirking. I got so sick of the shaming that I started to tell them that my kids had super-sensitive skin and the pediatrician recommended we not put disposable diapers on their boy parts (this was, of course, a lie).
Many mamas complain they're shamed for using formula, using strollers, or sleep-training their kids. But I assure you that the judgment goes both ways.
In reality, we got shamed most often for our diaper choices at the pediatrician’s office. “Take off his Pamper,” the nurse would always say before goggling at the clth diaper and remarking, "Well, now, isn't that different? Now, how does that even work? Well, I could never manage that." Then she’d sashay out the door to tell the doctor that the hippies were here.
Many mamas complain they're shamed for using formula, using strollers, or sleep-training their kids. But I assure you that the judgment goes both ways. People might pat you on the head for nursing, but they don’t want to see you do it, especially if you're doing tandem nursing or extended breastfeeding. They like babywearing in theory, but in practice, they consider it hazardous to your baby’s health. Cloth diapers are "gross."
The crunchier you are, the most people judge you. Crunchy parents are bad parents, or at least overindulgent parents who engage in dangerous practices. If you’re pregnant and plan to be a crunchy mom, be ready with a thick skin and a good retort. I recommend a loud, “Keep your hands off my baby!”