The Pressure To Breastfeed Is So Damn Ridiculous
I can still recall the very second that I gave up breastfeeding. I was about five weeks postpartum and doing everything I could still to make breastfeeding work. I had a breast reduction when I was 17, making breastfeeding extra difficult for me since my milk ducts were removed during the procedure and it takes time to grow them back. All throughout my whole pregnancy I was confident that I could make breastfeeding work and supplement when I couldn’t, but that truly didn’t prepare me for how I'd feel when the time came for me to introduce the bottle full-time. The pressure on moms to breastfeed and the expectation that you'll do it, no questions asked, is not unique to me. It's something all moms feel, no matter if this is their first delivery or their third.
After my baby was born, I sat on the edge of the bed with my husband, exhausted. I was struggling to do the simplest things everyday because I lived in complete fear that stepping outside of my breastfeeding, pumping, and then supplementing routine would somehow throw my milk supply off course and lead me to stop producing. I lived in fear of what would happen if I didn’t drink obscene amounts of water every day, terrified of what would happen if I missed a serving of one of my three lactogenic meals a day. Or even worse — what if I missed a dose of my fenugreek supplement in the morning? Anything that messed with my breastfeeding routine was cast out of my life during those early weeks of new motherhood.
Every single time either my husband or I mixed her formula, it was like a piece of me disappeared.
But my body stopped producing all on its own no matter how hard I tried. Breastfeeding just wasn’t working for me. Each day I produced less and less. My daughter became more and more hungry, and contrary to what I wanted in the beginning, she got more and more bottles. And every single time either my husband or I mixed her formula, it was like a piece of me disappeared.
So we made the decision together, my husband and I, to break up with breastfeeding, and I knew with every bone in my body that it wasn't only time, but that it was also right choice for us. But, society, TV, and social media all stared back at me, shaming me, and making me feel that I was doing something bad and very wrong for my child. I cried. I cried big, long sobs of defeat and relief. On one hand, I was so thankful my baby was thriving and happy, and on the other I was horrified that she'd been able to do so without my help.
It was a hard decision, mostly made so tough because we live in a world where women are made to believe that we’re doing something wrong or harmful for our child if we introduce formula. We're taught to feel incredible shame if we can't, decide not to, or just don't want to breastfeed, as if our "selfishness" is somehow costing our children in all the wrong ways. I was trapped in a postpartum coma feeling like, if my new little baby girl wasn’t being fed mostly breast milk then I was doing something wrong. And to be honest, I’m pretty sick of it.
I’m calling bullsh*t on the fact that we've become a society so obsessed with making sure that everyone knows how amazing and perfect breastfeeding is that we're neglecting the real truth: fed is best.
And not only am I sick of sick of it, but I’m calling bullsh*t.
Yes, breastfeeding creates a magical bond between mom and baby and the nourishment that it provides is absolutely incredible, we all know this. But, I’m calling bullsh*t on the fact that we've become a society so obsessed with making sure that everyone knows how amazing and perfect breastfeeding is that we're neglecting the real truth: fed is best. If health truly is what people are so concerned about whenever they're out, enforcing their breastfeeding agenda on every mom who will turn and lend an ear, then what about the health of new moms everywhere? Doesn't that matter too?
The beginning of your child’s life should be filled with connecting, nurturing, loving, and bonding, but that all doesn’t need to happen through breastfeeding. Moms feel so pressured to make sure that they live up to society's breastfeeding standards that we're stressing themselves out to meet some arbitrary goal that says next to nothing about the type of parent we are, and only what we've chosen to feed our children with. Honestly, the pressured to breastfeed turns one of the happiest times in person's life into a complete nightmare.
Imagine the pressure news moms feel every single day, every single time they scroll through their Facebook feeds, every single time they look at their new children, every single time we think about feeding them. We're told, from every possible soapbox on earth, that no matter what, we're doing it wrong. We don't sleep enough, we sleep too much; we don't take care of ourselves enough, we spend too much time taking care of ourselves. Now couple that with the pressure to breastfeed and tell me how you feel.
But the pressure to breastfeed isn't the only thing moms face. According to the Postpartum Progress Organization, 600,000 women suffer each year with postpartum depression in the United States alone. In fact, “more women will suffer from postpartum depression and related illnesses in a year than the combined number of new cases for men and women of tuberculosis, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, lupus, and epilepsy.” SELF.com added that, “extreme sleep deprivation can trigger postpartum depression." So imagine the pressure news moms feel every single day, every single time they scroll through their Facebook feeds, every single time they look at their new children, every single time we think about feeding them. We're told, from every possible soapbox on earth, that no matter what, we're doing it wrong. We don't sleep enough, we sleep too much; we don't take care of ourselves enough, we spend too much time taking care of ourselves. Now couple that with the pressure to breastfeed and tell me how you feel.
At the end of the day, the feeding decision a family makes is one made because it works for them. It's no one’s decision but their own, and frankly, it's no one else’s business. Instead of judging a new mom, how about we applaud them for what their body just went through? How about we give them three cheers for getting to their kids to the many, many doctors appointments while surviving on very little sleep? And most importantly, how about we give them the deserve a trophy for making sure that, no matter what, their babies are fed? Because that's a victory if I've ever seen one.