My nurse looked at me, her dark hair tucked neatly into a bun, and asked whether I was planning to breastfeed. I could feel my heart skip a beat.
“I think so,” I said.
Part of me wanted to say no, because, of course, that was the easy answer. My almost five-year-old sat in peach vinyl hospital chair, looking bored. Her big blue eyes darted back and forth as she kicked her legs anxiously. She probably wished she had a toy or two to keep her occupied. My first daughter wasn’t breastfed, yet she is still smart, perfectly healthy, and happy in every way.
I know you’re wondering why I chose to bottle feed her. Breastfeeding is literally one of the biggest hot-button topics amongst mothers, today. My answer is probably going to disappoint you. It wasn’t lactation problems, latch issues or illness that swayed my decision to bottle feed. No.
I didn’t breastfeed her because I didn’t want to. It never even crossed my mind. I was bottle fed and I was just fine. My husband – also bottle fed. The bottle was what we were comfortable with.
Additionally, I wanted my husband to be able to help with feedings. I wanted have a glass or two of wine without any remorse. I wanted my body back as my own. I didn’t breastfeed her because I needed my sanity to properly care for her. Maybe you think that’s selfish, but at least I’m being honest.
With my second daughter, something convinced me to give it a shot. I don’t know if it was the pressure of my crunchy-granola-mom-friends, the hundreds of ‘breast is best’ articles that I read, or maybe because I was older and wiser, but I wanted to try.
“You think so?” My nurse looked at me wide-eyed with bewilderment.
My face reddened under her gaze. Without knowing anything about me, she was judging me. She assumed that I already knew how to breastfeed and also mistook my unconvincing, wishy-washy reaction as me not really wanting to feed my child with my own boob. I felt awkward, almost embarrassed, and seriously inadequate as a mother for not knowing how to breastfeed my child.
Even though I consciously made the decision not to breastfeed my first child, in that moment I felt bad for not breastfeeding her. Our behavior was all wrong.
“Well,” I paused, “I kind of need help.”
I looked up to my husband, his strong hand placed firmly on my shoulder. He would stand behind any decision I made. Then I gazed at my tiny, brand new baby in my arms. So precious. So reliant on me in every single way. My nurse’s expression softened, then she came over to teach me the basics.
Why did I even feel immoral, at all, about my parenting choice to not breastfeed? I shouldn’t have.
That is where the problem lies, don’t you think? Whether it’s feeding, diapering, or wearing, people can be incredibly judgmental about our choices as mothers. Society is constantly telling us how to parent our children. No matter what we’re doing, we’re definitely doing it wrong.
We are also critical of our peers, both friends and strangers. We decide that there is only one way to do something right. Any other mother that is doing it differently from us must be on the wrong track. What we have to remember is that each family is in their own unique situation and we are all doing the very best we can.
Instead of tearing each other down, we need to start building each other up. We should give those who judge us the middle finger and embrace the fact that we can make our own parenting choices based on our own family’s needs.
Furthermore, we should never feel bad about our parenting, but instead, celebrate our differences and relish in the real gift of parenting, which is the child we are nurturing. That’s the beauty of raising children; it’s not whether we breast or bottle feed, use the cloth diaper or the throw-away kind, wear or not wear, but whether our children are loved, healthy and content.
That is what matters most.
This was originally posted on BLOGHER here.
Image courtesy of Leslie Brewington.