Breastfeed: The dilemma
To breastfeed or not to breastfeed
This subject came to me, because not long ago I was confronted with this very question and because not long ago I read somewhere a certain entertainment business person or the likes claimed that all women should be forced to breastfeed - well, I don’t remember the exact words, but that was the basic punch line. And that goes to show the fundamentalism one faces today on breastfeeding.
To Breastfeed or not
The breastfeeding speech
Nowadays, if you already are or are about to become a mom it is only natural to hear about breastfeeding: how important it is for the baby, how wonderful it is. And arguments go on and on. I agree with all these arguments and many others, but most times they come hand in hand with a certain fundamentalism. We’ve gone from baby formula all the way to what’s baby formula anyway. And the main idea, what you can read between the lines often borderlines rudeness, as if that mother that does not breastfeed is selfish, doesn’t care enough for her child and certainly isn’t trying enough.
No good ever came of taking anything to extremes.
Not only soon to be or new moms are lead to believe that breastfeeding is wonderful and the best thing for the baby ( which is at least half true), but, also, if you don’t breastfeed… Well, what sort of mom are you? But this is only one side of it.
Basically, I feel breastfeeding is about a huge amount of things, which sometimes have little to do with actual breastfeeding and it’s sure nothing to do with what others think it’s best.
What other moms need to realize is that because their experience was so good that doesn’t make it true for everybody and in some cases it can even turn into a nightmare. Insisting on their side of the story may not benefit another mother who cannot act the same way. The operative word here is cannot, because, although it is a personal choice, most times nowadays if a woman is not breastfeeding it’s because there is something keeping her from it, since not a second goes by that she doesn’t beat herself up for not doing the best she can for her baby.
Now, if this is true for judgment by other women, I won’t even get into what men think about it, although the vast majority is usually much kinder than women.
Passing judgment on this matter plus all the campaigns around breastfeeding puts a pressure on new moms to act a certain way or else… And this can be a very bad thing when it comes to the emotional balance of a new mom and trust me when I say that this emotional balance is very, very important for the baby.
Looking at it on a different angle
Now, analyze this:
Some babies are very difficult when it comes to eating and before that to breastfeed or to take the bottle (it doesn’t really matter what you put in front of them). No one will understand exactly what this means, unless one had a baby like that. A mom that is happy because her baby ate six full spoons of soup knows what I’m talking about. The rest will probably laugh at the six spoons count.
Some babies sleep 15 minutes and then cry for two hours. Why? Nobody knows. Again, only if you have one of these you can understand what I’m talking about, all the lack of rest, lack of sleep and the amount of despair for not knowing what to do.
Some moms have twins. Some have more. Now imagine (here I’m going with just two, I won’t even get into all the rest) you, all alone , just with the babies, trying to have that wonderful moment just looking at your lovely baby and breastfeeding him/her and the other one… looking at you screaming, crying his/her eyes out… how wonderful and relaxing that is.
These are just a few examples, one should try to imagine what this may be like, try to walk in that person’s shoes before passing any kind of judgment. Imagine a baby that does not want to breastfeed. The mother wonders: is it my milk? Maybe it’s no good? Maybe I’m not doing it properly. What am I doing wrong? On top of this, one is not getting proper sleep. Your reasoning starts to fail. Then, is there anybody to help? Maybe not. A lot of times, actually. And if there is more than one baby. Well, that’s really quite the job.
Often we hear breastfeeding is the best for the baby. I ask, what is best: a baby that is breastfed, but the mother is a nervous wreck, because she doesn’t rest enough, because she is stressed from the situations listed above and others? Or a baby who is given the bottle and the mother is calm and relaxed and rested and that is able to attend properly to the baby’s needs?
At the end of the day…
Each woman alone must weigh all pros and cons and make a decision, a conscious decision, that cannot have anything to do with the guilt today’s fundamentalist speech on breastfeeding puts on us. The ultimate decision must consider only the specific situation of that mother and that child and no one has the right to pass judgment, no matter the choice. Strangely as it may seem, I’ve heard of stories of women that were told by other women (some of which they didn’t even know that well ) how terrible they were being to their babies for giving them the bottle, how the babies would suffer, because of their selfishness, in the future. Well, how about that?
I think that women and moms, specially, should stand together, not pass judgment on each other, they should rely on each other and be sensible and true, because it is such a hard job, that to have someone who really understands what it is all about – though a bit different in each case - counts a lot, but what I see and hear, shows me the opposite happens.
So, decide, decide yourself based on your experience alone, decide with an open heart, with all your love and, no matter what you decide, trust that is best for your child and don’t dwell in guilt, that will most certainly not help and, finally, never mind what some people may say.
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© 2011 Joana e Bruno
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