August 14, 2019 at 2:27 pm #203105
hey new mums! sorry in advance, this is gonna be a long one, but i just got back from the doctor for my little one and i want to have a chat about one of the most lingering methods of mommy-shaming that exists in our community: the idea of breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding and what it means to exist in "the natural order of things."
when my son was born, i was unable to breastfeed. but, like any mother, i did what i needed to do make sure that my child, my family, was cared for by seeking to feed him in other ways. he's been a bottle-fed baby his entire life, and the tacit understanding that bottle-feeding mothers can and should be subjected to societally-sanctioned shame as a result of it has been one of the hardest things to accept as i become more confident as a mother.
the belief that "breast is best" is an attitude that's reinforced on every level within motherhood communities: i hear it from physicians; i hear it from other mothers; hell, it's printed on the side of every formula container i buy. ...let that sink in for a moment. i can't buy my child the food he needs to live without being reminded that the way that i feed him is the less preferable alternative to what is deemed as adhering to the natural order of things. because of my inability to breastfeed my child, i've been called ignorant and selfish; i've been told that i don't know my own body, my own mind, and am incapable of making informed decisions on my own. it's been implied that, because of my choice to pursue an alternate method of feeding my child, that my child and i don't have the same connection, that i somehow love him less, or don't deserve to have him. i've been told that, because anyone can buy formula and anyone can feed my baby with it, that he's more likely to grow up less attached to me as a provider, as though being fed by his father through a bottle will give my son some fealty to him that he doesn't have to me. or maybe just to the abstract concept of "mother."
i wonder, sometimes, what these hardline advocates of "breast is best" would have me do. i wonder if, deep down, they would prefer i didn't have a child at all. the fact that my inability to breastfeed my child has meant that i've been denied access to certain circles of motherhood as a result of it suggests that yes, maybe so.
what i would like to see, more than anything, is greater representation of what alternate methods of feeding your child can look like. it's true what they say, that "fed is best," and i believe that in order to see a greater diversity of representation in media, in advertisements, in the world at large, we need to honor a diversity of perspectives, whether they be mothers who bottle feed, those who utilize a wet nurse, or people who take part in the purchase of breastmilk from others. because what these divisions and socially sanctioned hierarchies among mothers fail to take into account is what we have in common: that our existence as mothers, that our children are threatened by outside forces every fucking day, and in order to protect ourselves from those threats, we need to stop treating one another as second-class citizens because we're unable (or choose not to) provide for our families the same way.
this is something i feel especially passionate about. i live in manhattan, but am planning to travel to brooklyn to meet with other like-minded mothers who want to see and make change. i won't be ashamed anymore, and i'm unwilling to accept that other mothers like me are made to feel ashamed as well. if this is something you'd be interested in discussing, i hope you'll reach out to me so we can talk.
August 14, 2019 at 6:23 pm #203250
This is all well and good, but I think that something you're failing to take into consideration is the amount of pride some mothers have in their lineage and ability to breastfeed their children. For mothers who breastfeed, it's not just about feeding a child. It's not just means to an end. Feeding a baby the natural way is about a connection to a shared lineage, and a connection to the spiritual forces that are larger than ourselves. For you to come in here and act like that's something that should be so easily dismissed is pretty telling. You simply can't understand why breastfeeding mothers believe breast is best because you've simply never experienced it. You haven't sat with your mother, your mother's mother through those first hard months of anxiety and sadness while you adjusted to your new life as a mother, to your body as a vessel for something powerful and mysterious. You haven't had to learn the proper control over your body, the patience it takes to breastfeed and do it well. And because you never had to work for it, because you haven't had the same generational knowledge handed down to you, you don't have the context, don't know the stories, and simply can't understand the depth and power of that connection.
I wish you all the best luck, but don't be surprised if people are reluctant to take up your way of thinking. There's a way things are done, and the truth of the matter is that not everybody gets to take part in these circles. That doesn't mean you can't find fulfillment in other places, in other ways. But it does mean that some doors may ultimately have to remain closed, or that people in those circles might not trust you the way they trust others. Not all of us like that, but it's just the way it is.
August 14, 2019 at 10:48 pm #217301
hey, so...thank you for this??? there's been soooo much shaming and division going on that it's caused me to put me and my baby in danger because bottle-feeding shamers have been so rampant in my circles. once, i was at a party, and i had to go feed my daughter in a bathroom because another woman there wouldn't stop talking about how our other friend (not present) had her husband bottle feed her baby at night so she could get some more sleep. they wouldn't stop talking about how selfish and unnatural it was, and i was so embarrassed to admit that i supplement with formula that i hid that i even did it. none of my friends know that my supply was low. and it's like...gods, we don't have enough to deal with from people without kids? from friends and family, now it's like "yeah, let's go ahead and rip each other apart from the inside too" lol. anyway i guess i just wanted you to know that this meant a lot to me. i'm in pennsylvania, and i don't really have anyone to talk to about it here. it's so lonely. but i hope you're able to find people! representation matters!!
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