I thought I had this parenting thing all figured out. My kids will never talk to me like that. My kids will never act like that in public. I’ll never let my kids eat that junk.
It’s ok, go ahead and laugh. I eventually did too.
Then reality hit as I started parenting for real and I couldn’t help but laugh at my naivety. Parenting was so much easier with hypothetical children, right? I think many of you can relate to the moment you began to eat your words and mentally apologize to every parent you silently judged before.
However, even as a new parent, I still held tight to some judgments because I thought what was best for me and my baby were what was best for everyone. I’m ashamed to admit I was close-minded and didn’t really understand the wide variety of different circumstances that played into parenting choices.
As a parent, it’s important to have a support system and my chosen support system was made up of women that supported my choice to breastfeed and parent in a certain manner. I was told I was making the best choice for my baby. I was told formula was not good; poison was even a word some people used. I was applauded for my choice to breastfeed as a young single mother even though I didn’t have a lot of real life examples of breastfeeding prior to becoming a mom.
It led to my desire to support other parents in their breastfeeding journey. I wanted to share my experiences as a mother who was tandem feeding a baby and a toddler. I wanted to help answer questions and encourage parents through the tough stuff. It had been helpful for me and I wanted to pay it forward.
Imagine my surprise and disgust when my desire to do this in a leadership type role was met with a snide comment about how I couldn’t possibly meet all of my baby’s needs because I was a working mother and, because of it, I shouldn’t be in a leadership role amongst this support group.
Talk about rude and shortsighted. If breastfeeding parents who work are only being given advice by parents who are able to stay home and nurse for every feeding, how is that going to help them navigate real life situations when it comes to pumping? How would those parents feel if they knew this comment came from the leader in charge of this support group? Not very supportive, is it?
I was blindly following “breast is best”. I was so anxious about formula that I tried everything possible to avoid giving it when I eventually struggled with supply issues (including trying to make my own substitute - not something I recommend). It led to a severe depression when I ultimately made the choice to give my baby to an adoptive family because I was feeling as though I wasn’t a good enough mom.
So what about when breast isn’t best?
- What if those breasts aren’t able to produce enough milk to sustain a hungry baby?
- What if the parent is in so much pain that they can’t physically go on breastfeeding?
- What if the parent needs medications to keep them healthy that aren’t safe for baby?
- What if the parent absolutely cannot stand the act of breastfeeding and their mental health is suffering?
- What if the stress of supply, pumping, childcare, and work are putting the parent under duress?
- What if a parent simply wants to choose a different method of feeding because that’s what they deem is best for their family?
Who are we to judge?
Fast-forward several years: My husband and I have a baby and I was able to nurse her without issue. That is, until I needed to go back to work full-time. (I know, I know, I’m so horrible for needing to make money so our family is taken care of.) After several months, the pumping schedule was draining me, my supply was dropping, and my stress/anxiety/depression was through the roof.
I was suffering.
My family was suffering too. So, once she turned 6 months and my frozen supply was depleted, I decided I was done. We bought a can of formula and started using it exclusively.
Guess what happened?
My baby didn’t die. My baby didn’t get sick. My baby was happy. My baby was fed. My mind was at ease. My depression and anxiety improved. My health was able to become a priority. I started taking medications for medical issues I’ve been experiencing that were unsafe for breastfeeding and I began to feel like myself again. I was being a good mom by taking care of me.
My babies need me to be OK.
Your babies need you to be OK too. If that means you need to use formula, breastfeed, sleep more, work, stay home, get a haircut, whatever; do what you need to do to be OK! You aren’t poisoning your baby. In fact, the only poison I see here is the judgment so easily cast upon parents just trying to do the best they can.
Little Apple Doulas is proud to support all birth and parenting choices. We trust that you know your family's needs best.