I posted this on my Facebook page today, and would like to post it here on my blog too, for the benefit of the mummies-to-be who read it.
Was at the baby fair again at the Expo today, and when we tried to buy 0-6 month infant formula for Sophie, we were told by all the vendors that they were not allowed to sell infant formula below 6 months as they had to promote breastfeeding.
I totally understand that breast is best, but I also know that every mother wishes she could give her baby the absolute best too – and not every mother can produce enough, if at all, for her child !
What message does this send to these mothers, who are already struggling to do their best breastfeeding? That they are doing something unthinkable, something that should be “banned”?
Please consider how they must already blame themselves for their lack of breast milk and how hard it was for them to take the step to formula – encourage, but don’t shut out those mothers who are frantically trying to supplement and already feeling low !
I speak for myself only in my experience, but I believe that many first-time mothers feel the same way – extreme uncertainty, low self confidence in your parenting abilities and above all, anxiety. Just the smallest thing can set us off into a downward spiral of self blame, helplessness and despair. Whether it is a fussy baby who doesn’t want to latch or feed properly, a bad bout of diarrhea, or baby refusing to go to sleep, I know the intense maelstrom of feelings it can set off in me.
Every time someone asked me why I “did not have enough milk” it was enough for me to burst into tears and start rocking Sophie and thinking of myself as a bad mother. In the beginning, I was so exhausted during the day when Sophie was jaundiced that at night I would be unable to wake up to latch her or pump, causing my supply to drop. When this happened, I was overcome with shame – I felt “selfish” for sleeping those extra two hours and causing her to be “deprived” of my milk.
No new mother needs to be judged – I can say very confidently that her biggest enemy is herself and she has already judged herself every which way when it comes to looking after her own baby.
So now, when I’m a bit more stable, and I see all these self righteous posts by breastfeeding warrior mothers saying “THERE IS NO MUM WHO DOES NOT HAVE ENOUGH BREAST MILK, ONLY LAZY MUMS” or “I DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW SOME MUMMIES CAN BE SELFISH ENOUGH NOT TO GIVE BABY BREAST MILK” I feel like punching them.
Just because they are lucky enough to have enough milk to feed an army or their milk came in strong and early doesn’t mean they have become the authority on human lactation.
It does not help when all the literature available online very sternly “recommends” that you breastfeed until the baby is 6 months old or that the best thing for their development is breast milk – not to mention that every single tin of 0-6 month infant formula has a “WHO recommends that mothers breastfeed until 6 months” label. Way to go to make a milk-less mommy feel even shittier !
So be extra supportive and extra affirmative to your new mom friend, she will deeply appreciate it !
I do love breastfeeding Sophie because she is so easily comforted by it and I feel much closer to her when she is drinking happily, smiling at me from my chest, but I know that while I will be sad when my milk runs out, I will accept it with grace.
Right now, Sophie is on about 500 ml of formula a day which I supplement with another 350-400 ml of breast milk when I have it pumped, or I try latching directly when its convenient to.
She is a fat, happy healthy baby and full of laughter, but most importantly, she is happy because she has a Mummy who has taught her to smile through her own wide grin, and who can sing, laugh and play with her whenever she wants to and is not crying in the toilet.
That is the most important thing – your baby will grow strong and love you no matter what you feed her, and your joy is her joy!