When I was visibly pregnant, strangers would ask "When are you due?" and then, like a script, "Are you going to breastfeed?" Gulp. Am I? "I will try," I said. This was my own scripted response to the question I heard time and again.
I planned to breastfeed, but my knowledge of such things was very limited: I knew my mom was anemic while pregnant, among other things, and unable to breastfeed after giving birth to me and again to my sister 4 years later. Through it all, my mom was (& still is!) the most incredible mother to us: she is warm, compassionate, stern yet silly, and has unending patience. Lack of breastfeeding never held her back from being the mother she was meant to be.
Then, there was my earth-mother-superwoman Aunt Linda, my father's sister, who breastfed all four of her kids. I think she spent almost 8 years of her life with a kid on the boob. I knew she was proud of this, that it was one of the many ways she showed love for her babies. I have infinite admiration for the kind of mother she is to her children.
Two mothers - two very different experiences with breastfeeding. This pretty much sums up my very narrow understanding of breastfeeding before getting pregnant. Yet suddenly, as I waddled through the classes on birthing, newborn care, and breastfeeding (which were no help, honestly), the topic of how to feed your child -- and shame for those who do not breastfeed -- came front and center to my maternal experience. I'm here to tell you that we need to stop the guilt train before it becomes a #trainwreck.
Now, almost a year and half into my complicated and emotional journey to motherhood, I am sure that there is absolutely no "right way" to mother your baby. In this time, I have endured chronic pain for a separated pelvis, lack of diagnosis, natural childbirth, baby's poor latch, delayed milk supply, postpartum depression, and so much more. Through it all, I evolved as a mother. The most significant understanding that resulted from so much trauma and so little education is that we cannot guilt one another for breastfeeding or formula feeding. We are shaming ourselves and holding ourselves back from being the best mamas and women we can be.
If you know me, you know I was an exclusive pumper for my son Marc's first year. That was the best thing for my family and me at the time. I firmly believe that you should do what you want, breastfeed or formula feed. But, whatever you do, feed that baby and give yourself (& other mamas) some grace. We are all in this together.