Friday, October 18, 2019

Normalizing All Feeding, Not Just Breastfeeding

Does it really matter how you choose to feed your baby? Or is it more important to ensure your baby is happy, healthy and growing? Although the answer seems very obvious, it was easier said then done when I feared not being able to breastfeed.

I have previously written about my struggles with breastfeeding. It certainly was one of the most difficult things I have had to face in my entire life. The moment I realized that my milk supply was not increasing regardless of all efforts made, and that it would actually cause my daughter to throw it up, I knew a change needed to come about but in a lot of ways I was feeling guilty, embarrassed and as though I was failing my daughter. 

Seems silly I know, but the truth is this. There is an amazing movement to encourage more women to breastfeed and to not be ashamed of breastfeeding especially in public. This is amazing, and I am so amazed and admire women for taking the stand and breastfeeding whenever, wherever. I have to say that for me when I first started off I was a little self-conscious but I think it was because I wasn't confident in what I was doing. After a little bit of help, I literally 'whipped' it out wherever and whenever my daughter needed to eat. I had little care or time to worry about what everyone else was thinking because truthfully all that mattered was that my daughter was being fed. I am all for breastfeeding and at times can get a little jealous of women who are still breastfeeding or have so much supply because of how difficult it was for me. But why? Why do I feel defeated, why do I feel embarrassed, guilty, ashamed...these words should never exist in the vocabulary of a mom because to your child, you are the best thing that has ever happened to them and everything you do for them is perfect and exactly what they need.

As I got thinking I figured out why those words were highlighted and associated with my experience of motherhood. With the changes in society pushing breastfeeding as being the best for babies, it really does place this pressure on mothers to breastfeed. I think every woman should definitely strive for this, but there has been lack of conversation around not being able to. 

During my entire pregnancy, when I spoke to mom's breastfeeding seemed to never be a topic. If it ever did come up, it was more of a "you definitely should breastfeed" or "breastfeeding could be hard but so worth it". I never had a conversation with anyone who told me "breastfeeding was hard" or "I struggled with breastfeeding" or "my milk supply never came in and it was devastating". Anytime there was talk about not breastfeeding however, it was always "it was a choice" or "I tried it and it just wasn't for me". It is great that women feel confident enough to share what they did, what worked, etc. or simply share that it wasn't something they were interested in doing - because we all know that making a comment like that could ALSO be very detrimental in the sense that you could possibly be chewed apart for it by pro breastfeeding women. 


When I realized that breastfeeding wasn't working, and my milk supply just was never going to be there, I instantly felt like I needed to hide what was going on. I would go out and continue about breastfeeding and play it off like no big deal and things are going great, or at least were getting better. It took me a while to admit and speak out loud about my difficulties and struggles. I was too ashamed to admit or share that I might have to stop breastfeeding altogether, that it was making my daughter throw up and that I never have been able to get enough supply.

Women do not admit and have a hard time admitting to the struggles around breastfeeding because there has been such a push to breastfeed. Women are ashamed and worried to talk about how hard it is, or that they simply couldn't do it because it might make them seem as though they didn't try hard enough, or do enough, or that they are not good moms because they aren't able to breastfeed. I know this is nothing that has ever been said out loud - although some women may have experienced it - but it is surely something I felt during my entire process. Again, there weren't ever any moms that I met who made me feel this way, but I think the societal pressure got to me which led to this insecurity.

 With the push for breastfeeding, it made me feel like I didn't have a choice. I simply had to get it figured out and make it work because nothing else would do. I just wish someone would have stepped up to say "hey listen, of course there are a lot of benefits to breastfeeding, but you should know that it isn't easy, you have to be calm and relaxed and not stress if it doesn't workout because it doesn't always workout for everyone". I think it would have also been helpful to be told that yes there are some women who straight up just don't want to breastfeed for their own reasons, but that there are actually more women who can't breastfeed, or had a difficult time breastfeeding and it just didn't work out. These are the things pregnant women and new moms need to hear because without this information and this reassurance, there is this added pressure before the baby is even here. How could you feel confident in supporting milk supply when you're already exhausted from the new baby and then trying to try and do different things to actually encourage milk supply? Women already have so much going on, so many changes, breastfeeding shouldn't be another thing they feel pressured about. 

I want to make it clear that by any means am I bashing or shaming the fact that there is a push towards breastfeeding because that is not the case. All I am preaching here is that, although there is this push, there also needs to be an open-mind about the inability or struggles of breastfeeding. So while we can be encouraging and pushing for breastfeeding, I think the wording needs to be changed from "breast is best" to "fed is best". While encouraging women to TRY breastfeeding instead of, DEFINITELY should do it. Simply changing these words I think would help alleviate the pressure from a lot of women who are unable to breastfeed, or struggled to breastfeed. I know for me, something as simple as changing the wording would make me feel better about the journey I went through for sure.

Be sure always speak up about your struggles, and know that whatever the circumstance, your choices and what you think works best, WILL in fact be ENOUGH, it will in fact be the BEST choice for you and your babe! At the end of the day all that matters is that you have a happy, healthy baby!