Don’t judge a book by its cover…or better yet, not at all!

I had an interaction recently that made me so sad. I met with a woman who wanted to get her baby weighed. I started with my standard questions – how often is he feeding, for how long, etc. She then brought up how she wanted to get baby back to direct breastfeeding, as she’d been pumping and bottle-feeding expressed milk. She said she was tired of getting dirty looks when bottle-feeding out in public and felt like she was short-changing her baby by not direct breastfeeding. My heart almost broke as I watched this woman break down in tears and say she thought she was a terrible mom. The saddest part is that this isn’t the first time I’ve heard something like this. Lots of moms pump and offer expressed milk in a bottle in public – some aren’t comfortable nursing in public. However, I don’t think anyone should be glaring at anyone who is feeding a baby in public, whether it’s from a bottle or a boob. This is another example of how judgment hurts. Pumping and bottle-feeding worked for this mom and her family; yet here she was, in tears because of some judgmental people who were probably thinking, You should be breastfeeding that baby! This mom said sometimes she just wanted to scream, it’s expressed milk!! But still, even if it was formula in the bottle, no mother who is feeding her baby deserves dirty looks. It’s the mothers who just plain DON’T feed their babies who need dirty looks (and then some).

Since I am a lactation consultant, infant feeding is near and dear to my heart. Obviously I support breastfeeding. However, I don’t think the definition of supporting breastfeeding includes demonizing moms who formula feed. How does that benefit anyone? If I were to make a mom who formula feeds her baby feel guilty, all I would do is make myself (and breastfeeding advocates) look like a jerk and make her angry/frustrated/upset/sad. To me, that’s a lose-lose situation. All moms are just trying to do the best they can for their babies. Maybe that sounds a bit naïve and Pollyannaish, but I truly believe it. Infant feeding is a very emotionally-charged topic for most women; it’s hard to not take things personally when you hear/read things that are different from what you do or believe. What I find interesting is I hear a lot of the same things from both “sides.” Formula-feeding moms talk about the dirty looks and scathing remarks they get when they bottle-feed in public, while breastfeeding moms discuss being asked to leave public places and enduring nasty looks when they breastfeed in public (with or without a cover). Both types of infant feeding are being judged, when in reality it’s nobody’s place to judge either one.

I don’t have a lot of experience with formula; I am still breastfeeding my 2 year old and he never had a drop of formula. However, I don’t want this to just be a blog about my experiences as a mother; what I want is to provide a forum for women to share their stories of how they are great mamas. If anyone has a story they’d like to share, please send it to me at youareagoodmama@gmail.com! I ask that the posts stay positive – no “bashing” of one group or another. I’m especially interested in how mamas have overcome their own feelings of guilt or resolved internal conflicts about what makes a good mama. I think hearing everyone else’s stories can help us identify areas where we judge (consciously or unconsciously) and perhaps approach other mothers with more empathy and less distaste. I have one mother’s experience with formula almost ready to go, so look for that in the near future!

From insecure to mom enough

Motherhood means something different to each woman. When I became a mother, the depth of my love for my son astonished me. I had no idea I could love someone that deeply; to this day, I treasure and marvel at that love.

Perhaps it was this deep love that also helped trigger something else: incredible self-doubt and insecurity in my new role of mother. I desperately wanted to do the best I could for my son, so in the early days I constantly second-guessed myself. Was he stimulated enough? Was he getting enough sleep? Was he eating enough? Should I have pushed harder for cloth diapers? Did it hurt him that I went back to work when he was 4 months? Was I poisoning him by giving him rice cereal at 5 months? Did I delay him by not starting sign language until 12 months? These questions and more sped through my head every time I made a decision about how to care for my son. Some things I do regret (starting rice cereal at 5 months as recommended by the pediatrician, rather than waiting until after 6 months), while others I’ve never looked back on (breastfeeding past one year is something I’d always hoped to do).

Feeding into my insecurities was this sudden feeling of being judged. Anytime I read something that differed from what I was doing, I felt bad. Whether people were being self-righteous and judgmental or I was just taking things too personally, the result was the same: I felt more unsure about my competence as a mother.

Two years into it, I’m definitely no expert in mothering. The learning curve in this job is breathtaking! However, I’ve come to realize that all my son needs is ME. It doesn’t matter how he’s fed, what diapers he wears, what toys he has, how much I wore him…all that matters is I love him and I know in my heart of hearts that I have done the best I could for him. This is the message I want to bring to all moms. You are good enough for your child, no matter what anyone says, what you read, what you see. You are “mom enough” for your child. You are a good mama.