The Most Amazing Thing You Can Do for Your Children
A couple of months ago I was happily browsing around blog-land, reading a few blogs suggested by friends. While visiting one of these blogs, I clicked "About Me." Included in the authors blurb was the statement, "I think [breast feeding] is the most amazing thing you can do for your children!!!" I have been on friendly terms with this blog-author and she is delightful in every way. I am fully aware, she was in no way intending to challenge or offend, however, when I read this my blood began to boil. THE most amazing thing? Really? How about loving your children? How about playing with your children? Reading to your children? Setting good limits? There are so many "amazing" things we do for our children, so many experiences to share with them and so many ways to express our love. I will not argue with the fact that breast feeding is very good for children and also a very special, unique experience, but the statement that breastfeeding is "THE most amazing thing" pushes my buttons. It brings up for me problematic attitudes within some mothering and breastfeeding communities from which similar pronouncements have sprung.
The part about it that most upsets me is this... What if a woman cannot, for any reason breast feed her babies? Should any mother be made to feel that she is not providing her children with the best care and nourishment because her baby cannot latch, because she does not have enough milk, because she is ill, because her baby is adopted? No mother should be made to feel she is harming her children or that she is less of a mother in this way, EVER. This attitude, common within some mothering and breastfeeding communities, is simply not OK. It is harmful.
The morning I was leaving the hospital after the birth of my first son, I was brought to tears by a horrible nurse who wielded this attitude. I will never forget how I was made to feel by this woman on the joyous day I brought my baby home. My first son would not latch on, no matter what we tried. It seemed like I had every lactation consultant in San Francisco marching through my room giving me suggestions and support, but in the end, I was issued a breast pump. I pumped for 5 months, and those of you who are familiar with my story are aware I had a double mastectomy when he was 9 months old (to read more about that you can click here.) During the time I was shamed and pressured into pumping prior to the double mastectomy, I was putting myself at risk... And the day I first went to the store to buy formula, I stood in the grocery aisle, held my baby and sobbed for 20 minutes. I had enough to worry about that day. I did not need to be crying over buying formula.
I stand publicly and say I agree 100% -- breast feeding is beautiful, wonderful, important and healthy. I agree that every mother should try to offer this to her children, but no mother should feel ashamed, EVER, for bearing (and baring) her bottles. I will also stand forward and say that my children are strong, healthy and smart. The bond I share with them is undeniable. For anyone to put forth that my children have been compromised or harmed in any way because I fed them formula is just plain deplorable.
To read more on the topic of breastfeeding you can visit Stephanie at Knitty Gritty Homestead where she has written a wonderful, heart-felt post. Danielle at Most Days I Win also offers humor, wisdom and insight on this topic.