I got all riled up after reading a news article about breast feeding. Here’s a link to an article about the horrors of a man bottle feeding his baby girl. http://moms.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/02/28/10520642-sweet-photo-of-dad-feeding-baby-turns-controversial
I keep having to delete and start over. I is riled up. Consider my hide chapped. Breathe, Lindsey… Men, if you do not want to read about nursing infants and the gory details, than you should leave my blog now.
I am writing this as a breastfeeding mom. I nursed 4 kids. The shortest length was 7 months. That means I’ve lactated for over 28 months. I have experience. I’m almost an expert! Or something…
What I’m about to say is going to shock some people, but I don’t care… Ready???
You can be a good mom. No, you can be a great mom and never breast feed your child.
Shocking, right? Gird yourself for TMI zone….
When I had my first baby at the advanced age of 22, I was going to nurse. For lots of reasons. And for lots of reasons nursing my baby ended up damaging me and hurting me. We worked with the Lactation Consultant and she threw her hands in the air and said, “I have no idea how to get this kid to nurse.” My body was so damaged from nursing that after less than 2 weeks, we had to quit nursing and pump. Pumping allowed me to enjoy 4 mastitis infections in less than 2 months. After 2 months of pumping, I tried to get my son to nurse. He finally did. Well sort of. He never nursed right. It hurt physically every time he nursed. Which with a 2 month old is every 3 hours. That’s a lot of pain and stress and dread. I really, really, really did not want to do formula. Big bad evil formula. I looked into switching him to goat’s milk. I talked to 5 different people and got 5 different answers about cautions, or concerns about goat’s milk. So with no viable alternative, at least in my crazy brain, I just kept on nursing.
What I had been expecting to be a beautiful, bonding, healthy experience with my sweet baby was instead painful, stressful and depressing. I would tense when I heard him cry, or when I knew he was hungry. Our first night home from the hospital, my milk came in. No one warned me about how bad it could be, how I should have a pump to relieve the pressure. Noel ended up driving across town to Wal Mart in the middle of the night to buy a pump. I was crying, the baby was crying, and when Noel got home and opened the pump only to discover that it was MISSING A PIECE!!!! AND WOULDN’T WORK!!!!! He started crying too. One of us threw that useless thing against the wall. One of the worst nights of our lives! Still is 12 years into our marriage! I finally got a pump from a good friend and thought things would work better. I was wrong.
My baby was fussy, so fussy. He would never stay awake to eat. I called the hospital late one night to ask a question and the nurse I was talking to asked what I was doing with the milk I was pumping to relieve the pressure(which had nothing to do with why I called). I was just dumping it because I was too exhausted and overwhelmed to deal with keeping it in a clean way. She yelled at me, “That is liquid gold you are dumping down the drain!” I hung up on her and cried. Thanks for the help, lady. I heard from women, “I’ve never heard of a baby not nursing.” And other really helpful comments. Not everyone was horrible, but in my crazy, the horrible is what I remembered and believed. Some of the horrible was accidental; people just trying to be helpful. I realized that some of the horrible was purposeful. It was that competition/knock-others-down-so-I-can-feel-better-about-myself-thing that women do so well.
Newborn babies don’t have many needs: clean diaper, sleep and food. Here I was failing at the simplest of things, what on earth was I going to do when the baby got bigger and had more difficult and complex needs? The challenges of nursing and insensitivity of others made me think I was a horrible mom. I felt like a failure constantly. I was depressed and scared. What on earth was I thinking becoming a mom? I couldn’t even feed my baby right!
Just to be clear, most of the pressure was coming from myself. I don’t even know if anyone could have forced me to switch to formula. I can be
crazy, stubborn, determined. I nursed that kid for 7 painful, stressful, depressing months. And he thrived. He was huge! The only problem he had was he was a projectile spitter-upper. Yuck. At 7 months, he was eating a lot of foods, so I weaned him(my milk supply was waning) and switched him to goat milk. Guess what happened. He quit spitting up. Totally. I laughed and cried about that one. If I’d have known he’d quit spitting up I’d have switched him earlier!
Months after weaning him I realized how insane I had been. How depressed I had been. How digging my heels in about nursing had been a mistake. Me breast feeding my baby had made me a worse mom. It stressed my relationship with my baby. It wasn’t worth it. Nursing my first born was not worth what it cost me physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. I would have been a better mom if I’d just given the kid some formula. But it was too hard to give up my dreams and expectations. Too hard to accept that I wasn’t in control, and never had been. I promised my husband that if nursing was that hard with any more kids we had that I’d quit after a month and just give the kid formula. An emotionally healthy mom trumps the physical benefits of breast milk.
I over-share to make a few points. In my situation with my first born, people looking in didn’t know all the details. Some people assumed I was just clueless or stupid or a drama queen. How helpful would “Breast is best!” be to someone like me? Not helpful at all, in fact more harmful than helpful. Another point is that I tend to have to learn things the hard way. But once I figure something out, I’ll never forget it, and I’ll share it with other people so they don’t have to struggle as much as I did. I also share so that people don’t think they’re alone, or that they’re crazy or a failure. I learned so much from the challenging experiences I’ve had with pregnancies and labor and babies. I was such a black and white person! Black/White. Right/Wrong. Up/Down. It took these really, really hard experiences for me to see grey. To learn that grey is acceptable. Life doesn’t have to be so extreme.
One of the important things I learned was that it’s great to have ideals and standards (especially regarding pregnancy, birth and parenting), but sometimes we have to let them go. Letting go of an ideal or expectation doesn’t mean that you quit or compromised or failed. It means you’re mature enough to not be in control. You’re mature enough to not turn molehills into mountains. Just let it go.The definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. How many of us are insane in more than one area of our life?
I also learned that there are different stages in your life. Different seasons. Same for other moms and families. What works for you now may not work for you in 1 or 3 years. What works for your friend now may not be right for your family now. It all comes back to not beating each other (or ourselves) up. I used to roll my eyes at statements like those, but I’ve lived it and I know it to be truth. You need to do what’s right and best for your family in the season you’re in and those seasons are going to change. So if you are wise, you will make changes also!
For moms to criticize other moms for nursing or not nursing (or a million other areas that moms differ) is totally inappropriate, judgmental and wrong. I’m not going to be a part of that! Yes, there are some moms out there who really are horrible, but they’re few and far between. Instead of turning our noses up and whispering about other moms and their horrible decisions and how their children are going to end up stupid, crazy and criminal because they were formula fed or went to public schools or were from a broken family!!! THE HORROR!!! (by the way I am all three of those things The latter, not the stupid, dirty and criminal.. At least not most days… ) Or patting ourselves on the back for not being like so-and-so. Instead of that, let’s encourage, help, exhort and love each other! Let’s accept our differences instead of condemning everyone different than us! Radical, I know, but imagine what our world would be like without the criticism and insecurities!
Some of you may read this and start to feel defensive. Please don’t. I am not judging you if you made the same decisions I did and would choose to make them again. I’m also not judging if you totally and completely disagree with everything I’ve said. I’m responsible for me. You are responsible for you. I just want for women(including myself) to make good decisions for their families and themselves in their season. Decisions based on health and love and abundance and truth, not out of fear. Fear of failure, fear of not measuring up, fear of not fitting in, just plain old fear. That is a horrible way to live. I know. I lived it and it was a miserable experience!
I want you and me and our daughters to be free from the inner and outer critic. To accept Grace from God and each other. To give grace to ourselves and to each other. To be free to be who we were created to be. To believe we really are fearfully and wonderfully made. If we’re so caught up in criticizing and condemning and reveling in self righteousness, we’re missing it.
I don’t want to miss it!