Talking about breastfeeding sure feels vulnerable. If I didn’t know it already, I would have learned it by the responses I got when I asked friends to help address this topic with me. I wanted to have some friends with various breastfeeding experiences (since I’ve just nursed one child) do posts on their own blogs that I could link my readers to for additional info. Nobody would do it. Nobody would share on their own blogs their own experiences. Thankfully they were willing to share on my blog with an offer of anonymity, but it did remind me that this isn’t an easy topic to address for some of us. Especially if your experience is outside the norm.
So I’m going to take the next couple weeks to share the breastfeeding stories of some friends of mine and also share my own. I’m going to ask that if these experiences are different from yours, you suspend judgement for just a little bit. I know that’s hard for me, but I really want all of us to read these stories and not stop to think, “Well, if she had just. . . ” about whatever difficulties you see presented. The truth is each woman is unique and each child is unique. Our stories and experiences are intensely personal and part of the reason we feel intimidated about sharing is because we know our own tendencies to judge what we haven’t lived through. We may know what worked for us, but we can’t universally apply that to everybody else.
Breastfeeding is intensely personal. It is hard to express our difficulties without feeling personal shame- our bodies didn’t work the way we thought they would or we made choices that seem selfish to others. If we want to create a culture where women feel supported to keep at it, then we need to acknowledge the hard parts and not just how “beautiful” and “natural” it is. If the expectation is this should be a smooth and easy experience, we’ve set women up to fail who run into any number of problems.
And then there are the women who have great experiences with their babies, but feel they are doing something socially unacceptable- breastfeeding beyond the normal timeframe or breastfeeding an adopted child or even *gasp* choosing to bottle-feed. If we’re going to advocate for the “breast is best” mentality, then I think it’s important we see all sides of the story and know how we are contributing to how women see themselves, their bodies, and their role as mothers.
I don’t want to define myself as an advocate for some specific method of feeding (or discipline, or sleep strategy, etc.). I want to be an advocate for healthy moms and kids. Emotionally healthy, physically healthy, spiritually healthy moms and kids. That is going to look very different for each mother/child pair. I want to let this series of posts be a peek into how that has worked out for some persevering mothers so we can know better how to respond when we see women who are struggling.
Now let’s get started!