For the past century, a quiet but difficult war appears to have been fought between mothers about how to feed their babies. Because the concept of "mom-shaming" is unfortunately nothing new, and there have always been people who have felt the need to tear other mothers down to raise themselves up. But here's the thing; we're all doing our best, aren't we? As this viral photo of a mom breastfeeding and bottle-feeding her kids proves, you can do both. And neither makes you a "bad" or a "better" mother.
Maya Vorderstrasse has two children, daughters Zoey and Hazel (born less than a year apart), both of whom she cherishes equally. One of her children is bottle-fed, and the other is breastfed. Because that's where her motherhood journey lead her. As Vorderstrasse wrote on Instagram, it's not how she expected things to turn out:
I always dreamed I would breastfeed my child as long as I could. I've seen so many beautiful and amazing journeys through the bonding and comfortIng experience that it is. I breastfed my first daughter until she was 6 months old, and I loved all of it. It was our time together, so special...and no one could take that from me. I got pregnant when she was 2 months old and by the time she was almost 6 months old, my milk was gone, dried up, like, it disappeared.
According to Breastfeeding Basics, breast milk will frequently dry up during pregnancy. By the second trimester, the milk can change in consistency as well, to a thinner Colostrum that isn't as sweet as mature milk, according to the website. Older children will often lose interest in breastfeeding because of the reduced flow and the taste, but it can be an emotional time for mothers and children. Particularly if neither was quite ready to begin weaning.
And so it was with Vorderstrasse, until her daughter surprised her. As she wrote in her moving Instagram post:
I felt my heart shatter, and the guilt consumed me. We had to start bottle feeding and I thought our bond would disappear and that she would think I was not providing for her, until it hit me: nothing had changed. It was still our time, she'd still grab my hair and smile at me with her eyes. She was so happy. Fed. Loved.
It was an eye-opening lesson for Vorderstrasse. While she went on to breastfeed her second daughter and thoroughly enjoy the process, she realized that "if life throws her a curve ball or even if she decides to stop, she will be ok."
It's no wonder her Instagram post went viral, with over 10,000 likes in four days. Mothers of all kinds (some who chose to bottle-feed, some who breastfed, some whose milk dried up and had the choice taken out of their hands) wrote messages of gratitude to Vorderstrasse on Instagram.
One comment on the viral photo summed it up best: "Thank you for this. We are not alone. Fed is best."
For her part, Vorderstrasse (who made national news in August with a brilliant letter board message series chronicling the realities of motherhood), had an excellent reason for her photo. As Vorderstrasse told Romper via email:
Feeding your child is an act of love. Breastfed, formula fed, bottle fed. They'll always admire, love and bond with you no matter how you choose to feed them. Strangers don't know your story, and have no say on how you choose to parent and care for your child. Motherhood is wonderful and challenging as it is, so put aside the pressure and guilt and simply do your best to love and care for them!
Amen to that.
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