BY OWNER AND SEASONED MOTHER: Elisabeth Parsons, Women’s Health & Self-care Coach
It was World Breastfeeding Week this past week and it has been wonderful to watch all the pictures and read the stories. My hope and wish are that it has raised awareness of the benefits, but also of the challenges surrounding this emotionally loaded topic.
When I was born – 52 years ago – my mother was told that formula was better than breastmilk, so she tried breastfeeding me, but soon gave up to what was recommended then. My sister was never breastfed. When I had my children in the 90’s breastmilk was considered “best” again and we were encouraged to breastfeed for the first 6 months, possibly 9 months. That was considered a long time back then. How things have changed! In good and not so good ways.
Good: I love how women are encouraged to breastfeed as long as they want and also that it is (increasingly) acceptable to nurse anywhere (we still have a way to go here). I love that beautiful and lacy nursing bras now exist so women can feel like – women – instead of how we felt wearing nursing bras back in the day…. Let me put it this way, we weren’t just hiding our naked breast behind the blanket.
Not so good: Due to relative anonymity on social media sites, women are unfortunately sometimes judged and shamed if they don’t breastfeed. I see post after post by women, who were unable to, feel compelled to justify and explain why they don’t. I am glad if these posts help and support other women in the same position. I have gone into client’s homes and watched her fall apart because she is in pain, exhausted and has miserable babies because it isn’t working for them. But she is being pressured by everyone around her to persevere. WHY??
Ultimately only two things matter here – baby’s health and mom’s health. Babies are perfectly healthy and thrive when fed formula by bottle, just like they are when breastfed. Mom’s health is equally important. And by that I am including her emotional health. Let’s make this week about emphasizing happiness and feelings of success and full baby bellies.
Like I said earlier expectations were different back when I had my kids a couple of decades ago. I nursed my first for close to 4 months. Pretty normal timeframe then. It was generally suggested by many around me that maybe it was time to stop and also that it would be so much better for me to stop and he would sleep better etc etc…. Not true, but I was only 23 so I listened to all the advice and stopped. My second I stopped around 3 months because of pressure from my husband to go back on the pill as he hated using condoms… I weaned my baby and sat and cried when I knew I was feeding him for the last time. I still regret this.
My twins were a different story altogether. One latched beautifully right away, the other not at all. One was
gaining and thriving from day one, the other not to the point where we ended up back in the hospital. The thing was because I was tandem feeding them I didn’t realize my little baby wasn’t really taking much because he would stay on and drink what literally dripped in his mouth as a result of what the other twin was doing. Long story short – after 5 weeks of trying everything – I pumped for my little Thomas while I breastfed Jackson. And the guilt I felt was huge. I insisted that Thomas always be held when he was being fed. No propping of the bottle. When I was alone with them I would nurse Jack and lay his twin brother resting alongside him on my lap so he got the cuddle and eye contact as well. I kept breastfeeding and pumping for close to 8 months. With 4 very young children, I was ready to stop then. Thomas started receiving supplemental formula at 3 months.
4 children. 4 different stories. All are now intelligent, thriving, healthy and trusting young men. All were loved equally and held and connected with lots.
So, in honour of this week – I salute you for figuring out what works for you and your baby. If that is breastfeeding, I encourage you to be uninfluenced by all prejudiced opinions. Because they are just that – opinions. YOU know what is best for your baby and you. Breastfeeding can be wonderful, easy, natural and a very special time for you and your babe, and I truly hope it works for you. It can also be painful, difficult, frustrating and may simply not work out at all. And if it doesn’t so be it! YOU are still an amazing mom and your baby will be everything he/she is meant and destined to be.
Love from one mom to another xo
PS: Had to use stock photography because “back then” you didn’t take nursing pictures, unfortunately.