Quite often we see women sharing stories with one another about who had the worst or most challenging experience either in areas of early parenthood such as childbirth, lack of sleep, or with infant feeding. It is almost like a competition to see who could deal with the most crap and who had it the hardest. In reality, sharing these war stories is a way for women to vent about their negative experiences.
I have a particular interest in breastfeeding and lactivism, so I guess you know where i’m going with this.
I worry when I read things like this:
“I didn’t have enough milk”
“My baby wouldn’t latch so I had no choice but to give up on breastfeeding”
To a new or soon-to-be mother, this kind of information is misleading and often doesn’t come with any context. Many mothers feel that quitting breastfeeding is their only option as they don’t wish to see their babies suffer and they are not aware about the types of support that are available. They make these decisions usually based on the spread of misinformation in mainstream support groups, the absence of well-informed support, or lack of confidence in their own ability. Don’t get me wrong, the mothers that are posting these kinds of comments are not deliberately trying to harm anyone’s breastfeeding relationships, but they are often misinformed.
The fact is all, or most of us reading have embodied the power of mother nourishing her baby. You did so for the duration of your pregnancy – growing and sustaining new life. Sometimes, breastfeeding doesn’t work out. If that’s the case for you, notice how you continued to nourish your child through a different method.
“I felt vulnerable in the early days and put my child on bottles because at the time, I thought it was the right thing to do”
“I had genuine supply issues that were not resolved through countless efforts and medical intervention, so I chose to supplement with bottle-feeding. I wish I could have breastfed for longer, and I carry the guilt for this.”
When you see someone advocate for breastfeeding, be mindful that they are not putting you down for the decisions you made in your own parenting journey.
When someone advocates for breastfeeding, their intention is not to cause upset or shame. Talking about or offering advice on breastfeeding is not saying to onlookers that “you must be a terrible mother because you don’t breastfeed”.
They do this because they want mothers to make informed decisions.
They want mothers to know that yes, it can be hard and sometimes there are issues, but there is support.
They want mothers to know there is a solution other than “You tried, just put him on formula” or “Formula is pretty close to breastfeeding anyway”.
They want to stop misinformation being spread by well-meaning mothers in mainstream Facebook groups.
They want mothers to know that breastfeeding should not be painful. If you are experiencing ongoing nipple pain, it is vital you speak to an IBCLC.
They want to help new mothers understand normal infant behaviour, and know that cluster feeding doesn’t mean they don’t have enough milk.
When we post on Social Media, we have no idea how many vulnerable mothers will see our words, we don’t know who will mull over them, and who will follow them. If we don’t say anything when something is inaccurate, we allow that inaccuracy to grow and be spread as knowledge.
If you see someone reaching out for advice on breastfeeding, the answer is not Karicare, NAN or Aptimal. The answer is contact an IBCLC or speak to a professional.
Say it kindly, say it without fear of judgement, say it from a place of love and empathy. But please, say it.