Posts tagged ‘group hug’

Would You Like to Come In For a Cuppa?

I am thrilled to see breastfeeding getting more and more “press,” whether it be bad, good, or nonsensical. The fact is that people are saying it, and our kids need us to hear it. But I am not happy by the comments. It’s really getting old. I keep waiting for a moment of enlightenment, but it’s not happening. So this is my call, my plea, my mom-cry.

Last week, an informational poster was on Facebook highlighting the benefits of nursing a toddler, for both child and mom. Though it is now accepted that such posts will irate at least a few parents, I was surprised. Will I ever learn?

Something is wrong when an informational piece of material angers any person, and I don’t mean because the information is blatantly false (example: one pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream a day is good for you. Fine print: if you’re starving on a desert island). Yes, there is definitely some mud slinging involved between breastfeeding moms and bottle-feeding moms, and sometimes what is in the bottle doesn’t even matter. But to react impulsively to information with vitriol for anybody who chooses to approve of the information is silly at best, quickly followed by rude.

It is a fact that in our country more babies are bottle fed with formula. We will leave the reasons at the door. Due to this, magazines for parents are run amok with advertisements for formula and those advertisements will highlight the benefits afforded to the most precious being in a parent’s life. That’s advertising. Sometimes, in advertising, information is skewed, whether it be shape-up sneakers purporting to make your ass look like J-Lo’s, or eating two packs of Snackwell cookies tastes just as great as a Twinkie with half the calories (neither snacks are very tantalizing, in my opinion). The fact is: it is advertising. You don’t see too many advertisements for nursing since, you know, it’s free and all. So blog posts by nursing moms and informational posters on Facebook are often considered as ads.

As a breastfeeding mother, I read these ads, both types. I understand that there are mothers out there who simply cannot nurse their babies (again, I will leave the reasons for this at the door) and use formula. When I see those ads, I only want them to be accurate. But sometimes, they aren’t and therein lies my problem.

A misconception exists that I don’t think people are even realizing, and it is that formula is a direct and equal replacement for breast milk. Again, let me reiterate: many, many parents need to have formula for their babies. There is no choice. A baby must eat. And scientists (I hope!) and nutritionists (I hope!) worked hard to provide alternate nutrition for babes that needed nourishment where none other could be found. The day of wet nurses has nearly diminished, and so few people know about milk banks or that asking forĀ  donations is available, so they turn to what is most offered, readily available and often suggested and encouraged as a replacement for the breast milk they are unable (hopefully) to supply. That is formula. Get used to it.

BUT – and this is the big “this gets my panties in a bunch” statement – many people believe that babies get from formula exactly what they would get from breast milk. This is through no fault of their own! Our society has come to rely on advertising for information and that is the problem. Throw into the mix the heated discussions between nursing moms and bottle moms and all hell breaks loose on Facebook. Nobody is learning anything: advertising wins.

When I see a poster that displays all the benefits a toddler is still afforded by nursing, I see it as educational material provided the source is displayed and verifiable, or if I have already come across this information myself (using verifiable and reliable sources) and know them to be true. I can understand how some see it as just another advertisement. What I don’t see, however, is the part that induces women and men to fits of anger because that information was “supposed to” make them feel guilty.No parent should ever feel guilty for how they are choosing to care for their children – within parameters of course (here, one should feel guilty about abuse, abandonment and variations thereof. I hope that goes without saying). If you are a parent then you know that the baby you brought in the world is a piece of your soul with arms, legs and a desire to be fed. You know that you care more about that baby than any person in the world; more than the hippie moms who offer you goat’s milk or those who offer recipes for making cheese out of your breast milk or the doctor who carefully weighs a diaper or the midwife who listens to his heart or the daycare provider who rocks him to sleep or even the spouse beside you who wants to hold him but you are holding him instead. You love that child more than anybody in the universe. So stop being angry.

I have seen those moms who are snobs about nursing. I have seen those moms who are snobs about formula. I have seen those moms who doubt the other’s motives. But we are all moms. We are here, lost in a world of self-containment, where knocking on a neighbor’s door without texting first feels rude. Rude to check in, to stop by randomly, to expect a conversation and a cup of tea. Rude! We have lost what made women thrive and learn and grow and our only outlets are these forums and social networks and blogs and comment threads on other blogs! We have become knee-jerkers, ready to pounce when an opinion is spoken, prepared to agree or disagree. Do we have to do either? Really?

Can you help me? Can you help me build a community of women that thrive by teaching and learning? Can we show the world that kindness and thoughtfulness and listening to another’s experience is not loss, but is, indeed, an opportunity we relish? Yes, there are some women who will have an attitude that goes nowhere beyond “scoff” and they are gone. Yes, some people will feel that you want to rule over them, tell them what to do, and think that you’re saying you Know and they Don’t Know and you are Right and they are Not Right. Those people will always exist. And those who responded to that informational poster about nursing toddlers, they experienced something in their lives that did, at one point, encourage them to feel badly about their choices. And there are many moms for whom nursing was easy, a success, and they doubt it was really a struggle for anybody. There are still those moms who wanted to do it one way and changed their minds and tried another, and said “Well, shit. This sucks.” And neither option is easy. Getting up to prepare bottles is not easy. Nursing, as awesome as my experience has been, is not easy. It’s damn freakin’ hard! We all have it hard, guys. All of us.

The point is: you don’t have to know the truth of their experience in order to change their experiences, or those of the people who will follow. You don’t – so let that go. Be mindful when you comment and respond. Check your feelings and your emotions. You can feel passionate, but can you express it through thoughtful information?

Pander if you must, but teach. We all have stuff to learn, we all have stuff to teach – but more importantly, we all have children we need to care for. Let’s help each other out a little, huh? When you see a post, a blog, a comment, consider it a knock on the door, a mom who stopped by to say hi, and respect her opinions. Just do it.

April 6, 2012 at 12:22 am Leave a comment


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