After nine months of having a small human almost permanently attached to my breast (a feat I haven’t accomplished since college,) I am finally weaning my daughter from the boob. Now I am going to work on weaning my husband back ON the boob, since I think he has come to fear my milk torpedoes… but that’s a story for a whole different blog. Aaaaaanyway, while moving from the breast to the bottle is freeing in many ways – no more worrying about which medicines I can take or how many glasses of wine I can drink, or trying to discreetly cover up my moneymakers while nursing in public with a daughter who seems intent on giving the world a free show (you’re welcome Los Angeles)– I also feel a little sad about it.
Breastfeeding is truly an incredible thing. It is amazing that a woman’s body can produce the only real sustenance that a growing baby needs for her first year. It is also a very intimate bonding time between a mother and child, and selfishly, a role that only a mother can provide. And it makes me a bit sad to give all this up. But not only do I feel sad about ending my adventures in breastfeeding, I feel guilty. When my husband politely asked what exactly is in the formula we are feeding our daughter (a valid question,) I snapped back, “Idunnoandstopmakingmefeelguilty.Whydon’tyoubreastfeedherifyouaresoworriedabout it??!!” Over-sensitive much?
But it’s not entirely my hyperactive hormones’ fault. Doctors, nurses, parents, friends and most of society make you feel like you are a horrible person, akin to a mass murder of baby kittens, if you don’t breastfeed your baby. Now, I know that “Breast is Best.” I know that breast milk builds your babies immune system and fights off illness and guarantees them either a Nobel prize or an Oscar. I know that there are about 8 million, 42 hundred thousand ingredients in breast milk and only 5 in formula. I know all of this, and it’s why I chose to breastfeed my daughter. But I also know that every person is different. Some women cannot breastfeed – they don’t make enough milk or they get mastitis or have a variety of other reasons why their bodies simply say no. Some women have multiple babies at once or their bodies stop producing when they go back to work. For some, breastfeeding simply doesn’t work with their lifestyles.
I know that this is a very sensitive subject, and I am not in way encouraging women to NOT breastfeed their babies. It is a remarkable and beautiful thing, if you can do it. What I am encouraging women to do is to support one another, no matter what our choices are. Parenthood is hard enough, and mothers do enough self-flagellating without having to bear the judgment of everyone else. Offer other mothers your support, help, and advice…not criticism. And most of all, tell them if they’ve forgotten to put their boob away after nursing. (It happens)