World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is upon us again. And I have some thoughts to share.
I'm relieved that I had no knowledge, two years ago, that this even existed. As I was struggling (to no avail) to make breastfeeding successful with my newborn daughter, hearing about an event that celebrated the very thing I could not do would have only served to heighten my sense of disappointment and feelings of failure. At the time, when those who shared their successes in this "natural" thing that I could not do, I did not delight with them--it only caused me to resent them and wallow in my shortcomings.
For last year's WBW, I was in a good enough frame of mind (just a few weeks after I ended my year-long relationship with the electric breast pump) to share a little about my more uncommon approach to "breastfeeding" http://217designs.blogspot.com/2013/08/how-to-feed-baby-year-one.html . It was my goal to make people more aware that breastfeeding doesn't always look like we think it does and it's ok to struggle. It's ok to ask for help. It's ok to shift your parenting plans and expectations. And it's ok, even when you can't "cherish every moment."
This year, I'm a little further removed from my own emotions relating to breastfeeding, and I'm noticing that moms continue to struggle as they try to nourish their newborn children. One-by-one I try to support, empathize and encourage these moms as it is appropriate, because I have experienced something similar to what they are going through. Although I wholeheartedly support breastfeeding and breastfeeding rights, and plan to make every effort to create a successful breastfeeding relationship with my next child, I find that the "breast is best" tagline (among other comments and sentiments) can cause formula feeding mothers to feel ostracized and harshly judged for how they feed their children. Whether by choice or by necessity, formula feeding moms deserve to be empowered to nourish their children without judgement. They, too, need to know that they are doing a great job.
As my own daughter struggled to gain weight, in her infancy, I was told by her pediatrician and my lactation consultant (and confirmed by my mom and sisters) that the most important thing was to get her fed. This didn't immediately change my view of formula (I cried when I had to supplement her), but as time has progressed, I see that feeding your child (no matter the method) is an act of love.
Breastfeeding mamas work hard. Pumping mamas work hard. Donor Milk mamas work hard. And formula feeding mamas work hard. Let's celebrate and support all mamas (and dads too) who feed their children. Well done, parents!
(I loved what Jessica, from The Leaky Boob, had to share about this same topic. http://theleakyboob.com/2014/07/oh-the-places-you-go-world-breastfeeding-weekworld-breastfeeding-month-2014/ )