I know Uppymama is a baby wearing company and this is a post about World Breastfeeding Week. What are we thinking?
Wherever there are babies, there are babies who need to be fed. So even though we are all about baby wearing, the topic of breastfeeding comes up a lot around here. Every year when world breastfeeding week rolls around I think “oh ya, breastfeeding, I should write about my own breastfeeding story”. I have been saying this for the past eight years.
Today during World Breastfeeding Week I opened Facebook to see a post that read: “When is World Formula Feeding Week?”. I wanted to answer this question in a thoughtful and productive way.
I know it is not helpful for mothers to engage in a bottle vs. breast debate, so I really hope nobody feels like I am fuelling the fire with this post. I do think I have some important perspectives about breastfeeding week that might be helpful both to breastfeeding mothers and to mothers who are not breastfeeding and who may feel hurt or upset about all the breastfeeding posts on the internet this week.
I love breastfeeding and thus I love breastfeeding week. However, I do think about the emotional charge that the breast/bottle debate has and I want to be sensitive to the feelings of all mothers when I personally celebrate breastfeeding.
As a mother I really struggled to establish breastfeeding. My baby didn’t learn to breastfeed effectively until he was ten months old. I often feel like our breastfeeding story should just read: Attempt to latch baby at least thirty five times. Pump breast milk for forty minutes. Feed baby donor breast milk through a tube taped to my finger. Clean up. Change baby. Repeat 3060 times. (Seriously. I did the math.)
I pumped breast milk every two hours around the clock for ten months and eventually, small gain by small gain, I succeeded at feeding my baby as he slowly became strong enough to breastfeed effectively. I still cry every single time I think about this. I cry partly because it was so hard I still can’t believe I did it. I cry thinking of the memories of watching my baby sleep peacefully in our bed at two in the morning while I got up to pump. I cry about going to sleep with bags of donated breast milk tucked in my armpits so I wouldn’t have to go downstairs to get the warm water to heat milk when I needed to feed my baby in another hour. I also cry because I did it. I did it! I breastfed my baby. I can say that I had a breastfed baby after ten months of struggle. Actually, I am even more proud of that than almost anything else!
I don’t celebrate breastfeeding week to hurt anyone, or to point a finger at mothers who didn’t breastfeed. I celebrate breastfeeding week because it is one of my proudest accomplishments; breastfeeding is a huge commitment. Nobody else can do it for us. If we choose to exclusively breastfeed, then we will be feeding a baby from our own body as often as needed for months and maybe years.
Breastfeeding is worth celebrating!!!
I personally felt uncomfortable feeding my infant with a supplemental system, a cup or bottle in public because I felt I might be judged if someone thought I wasn’t breastfeeding, or assumed that my baby’s bottle wasn’t breast milk. I agree that it didn’t feel good, and I don’t want any woman to feel judged about how she feeds her baby.
I was doing my very best so I feel like I have some perspective on both sides of the fence. I was a breastfeeding mother and a mother who also fed her baby not at the breast.
There are a few reason that breastfeeding week is important and needs to be supported.
I desperately wish that we could eliminate feelings of judgement from infant feeding. I wish there was a way to have education about breastfeeding but never have it feel like judgement to mothers who are unable to breastfeed or choose not to. It is just really important that mothers who do want to breastfeed get support. Breastfeeding can be really easy but, in reality, is often really really hard. Women who want to breastfeed so often need a lot of help and support.
I understand that breastfeeding mothers banding together for support may feel like the biggest clique of all to mothers who feel they don’t belong.
I suppose I can only speak for myself, but I want every mom to feel supported. I want every mother who chooses to feed her baby formula for whatever reason to feel loved, accepted and supported. Feeding my baby was the hardest thing I have ever done. I still feel emotional when I think about pumping every two hours for ten months, gathering donated breast milk from other mothers, and worrying about how I was going to feed my baby who couldn’t latch and couldn’t suck. I was never able to pump as much milk as he needed to grow. It was not a good feeling! The most important thing that happened for me in my breastfeeding journey was gaining compassion and acceptance. Mothers are doing their best.
Breastfeeding week is not meant to be hurtful to mothers who don’t breastfeed.
We need to talk about breastfeeding and see other women breastfeeding. This way mothers who want to breastfeed can find support and learn how to feed their babies. Keep celebrating Breastfeeding because it matters!