Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mama Knows Best


If you're a mama, know a mama, or know how newborns eat, chances are you know this argument.

Breast is best and formula is poison. Breastfeeding in public should be illegal. You are purposely harming your child. You should be arrested for indecent exposure. Maybe a heated argument has popped up on your Facebook feed, your television screen, or in casual conversation among friends. More often than not {and this is the saddest part}, it's usually between women. Women standing on two different sides of a line drawn defiantly in the sand.

From the time we see a positive test until our children are capable of raising their own, we have daily decisions to make. There is so much information to lead us that it can become overwhelming. What's even more overwhelming is the judgment and stigma that tags along. My best friend Abby and I recently had a deep discussion about this topic {as we often do, we're intellectuals, you know}, and decided to co-author this post. My job was to write my thoughts on breastfeeding from the viewpoint of a mama who chose the bottle, and I asked her to write on the topic of bottle feeding after nursing both of her little ladies. The results may shock you. Read on if you dare:


Dear Mama,

I want to let you know I noticed you and your precious baby in the restaurant earlier. As I was catching up with my husband and passing out crayons while waiting on drinks and appetizers, I saw your eyes shift nervously around the room. You struggled with a heavy blanket over your chest and your bouncing baby was struggling beneath it. You shifted the cover one way, his head shifted the other, you tugged at your shirt's neckline, and you stared more at the people in your vicinity than at your hungry baby. Mama, we have to talk.

I wasn't offended that you were breastfeeding in public, I wasn't praying an errant boob wouldn't pop from the side of the blanket, I wasn't rushing to cover my children's eyes as they took notice. I was proud. From one mama to another, good for you. Coming out of nowhere like this may make me sound like a seasoned pro. Not true in the least, actually. All three of my children were bottle fed by choice and all three are thriving and happy. Much like you, I fed my children by the method I felt best and I'm just here to tell you that no one should make you feel bad for that. Society should not make you feel dirty, or inappropriate, or criminal for using your beautiful body in a way that God intended. I am excited that my sons noticed what you were doing and asked. I am excited to have had an opportunity to explain breastfeeding to these future men who may become fathers one day. I am excited to introduce acceptance rather than shame. Thank you for that opportunity.

Maybe we didn't make identical parenting choices, but you impress the heck out of me. You wake up with your newborn every few hours and give him your own nourishment. You endure pain and discomfort and exhaustion for the benefit of your baby. You are becoming braver every day and learning not to care what other people think about your decisions. As long as your baby is happy, healthy, and fed, you are right. You are doing an amazing job and I'm proud of you.

Love,
Another Mama

{this scene is 100% fictional, but these are 100% my thoughts on breastfeeding}

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Dear Mama,

You know what? I’m really stinking proud of you. You did something incredible. You created a life, sustained it in your womb, and brought it safely into this world. That is an absolute miracle and a blessing. You get up every single day, and probably several times at night, and you feed that beautiful little life. It’s an exhausting, never ending cycle of pour, scoop, measure, wash, and sterilize. You are making your baby grow. You are nourishing her. You are looking into his eyes while he holds on to your finger and gobbles up the contents of that bottle. Maybe making the decision to bottle feed was easy and instant. Maybe it was painstaking and riddled with guilt. Whatever your reasons, guess what? They are your reasons, they aren't wrong and you don’t have to justify them to anyone. You made a good choice and that baby of yours is going to thrive. Not in spite of your choice to bottle feed, but because of it.

You may feel looks of condemnation as you mix up the formula, but I wish you could see what I see. The part that comes right after the bottle is prepared. The part where you and your baby look at each other with the purest of love and you both relax into each other. I delight with you in that moment. It’s incredible to feel that bond with your own child, but it’s also a joy to see that bond between others.

When I became a mother, I found myself watching other mothers. When my oldest daughter was born and I was struggling to master breastfeeding, I looked at you with misguided envy. It seemed so easy. But it didn't take long to see that not one of us has it easy. Neither of us has chosen the better or easier path. I wish I could say that there aren't breastfeeding moms out there judging you. Sadly, there are. I wish there weren't people out there rolling their eyes in disgust as I nurse my baby in public. Sadly, they are there, too. However, I will not let my feelings be hurt by their opinions and I hope you won’t either. I will let them inspire me to teach my children better, though, and I will feel a little honored that my choices affect them so much.

Love,
Another Mama


I don't know about the rest of you FF mamas, but Abby's letter sure made me feel awesome. Beautifully said, friend. As a final note, I'd like to add that neither Abby nor I want to come off as holier than thou here. Between the two of us, we have enough self-doubt to fill a room, and we're both still learning as we go. Our main goal is to encourage women to stop making life harder than it needs to be. I've said it before and I'll say it until I'm blue in the face: we are all in this together. Let's stop tearing each other down, and let's default to support. Different doesn't mean wrong. Whatever you choose is right for your child because you chose it.

If there's one thing we can agree on, it's that being a mother is hard work. Let's help, not hurt.


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