A Little Less Lost and Alone

I attended a conference called Project Mom today. It was a day for moms to get out sans kids, get some swag and hear speakers on relevant topics. You know, typical conference stuff. I skipped the breakout sessions, but caught the beginning and ending keynote speakers. The message I got from them was “you are the perfect mom for your child” and “get connected so you don’t feel so alone.”

The first one is good, because I do need the reminder that I’m not royally screwing up my kid. There is a reason he, with all his endearing-yet-maddening personality traits, was given to me. I’m not a perfect parent, but I am the perfect parent for him. Helps keep the suicidal thoughts away (only joking here, right?).

The second message brought into sharp focus just how alone I feel. I’ve never been good at connecting with people. I forced myself to learn how to do it superficially (alcohol helped; relearning it in sobriety was even harder), but really letting people IN has always been hard. I lost some close friendships in the past year, which has made it even harder. Though I know the loss was partly my fault, and we’re mending the friendships slowly, the pain of losing women I considered sisters makes me not want to get close to anyone else. I don’t want to get hurt again.

So, I’ve lost my two closest friends. I’m in a new town and don’t know many people. Family and other friends are far away. When I’m in those low moments that seem to happen all-too-often with this pregnancy, I feel completely and utterly alone. I laid on my bed sobbing last week, wanting to reach out to someone but not coming up with any names. And it’s frightening. I guess I just haven’t figured out what is more frightening – opening up and telling someone I need help, or continuing on with these overwhelming feelings on my own.

Luckily, I went to Project Mom with a friend. She’s in a similar situation, and I feel like our friendship deepened a little with our shared experience today. I don’t feel quite so lost and alone, knowing there’s at least one other mom out there who shares my fears.

I support breastfeeding, but… [you actually don’t]

I support breastfeeding, but… [you actually don’t]

Booby Tuesday

One thing that drives me nuts is when I see stuff like this:

“I support breastfeeding, but not past a certain age.”
“I support breastfeeding, but women need to cover up in public.”
“I support breastfeeding, but it has to be exclusive.  No formula here!”
“I support breastfeeding, but ONLY IF IT FITS WITH MY PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS ABOUT WHAT IS RIGHT.”

Call me crazy, but I feel that if you truly support something or someone, there is no need to qualify it. I support my husband. I may not agree with everything he chooses to do, but I still support him. Likewise with breastfeeding. I may not choose to nurse to age 7 or supplement with formula or use a cover in public, but I still support women who do make those choices. Because it’s not about what I think is right. The only thing that I am right about, are the choices I make for my family.

If you feel the need to throw in a ‘but’ after the statement “I support breastfeeding,” then I say you don’t really support breastfeeding. Instead, you support your own beliefs. Which is great, but it’s kind of not necessary, since the general assumption would be that if you had an idea, you’d support it.

I’m not saying you have to love every aspect about breastfeeding to support it. I was ready to wean my son a few months after he turned two. Some people would say I should have let him go longer, let him decide when he was done. Welp, I wasn’t comfortable going longer. Not sure I’ll go much past two years with the next baby; we’ll just have to see. But I know there are mothers who nurse until 3, 4, 5 years and older. You know what? I support them. Period. I respect their ability to make the best decisions for their families.  Nursing for that long may not be my cup of tea, but I can still support the moms who do it.

Do you see what I’m getting at? Another example. Maybe you don’t like how moms feed uncovered in public. That’s fine. You can still support those mothers by realizing it’s not about you. Those moms are not trying to make you uncomfortable; they’re simply feeding their baby in the easiest way they know. Maybe they wanted to use a cover, but a thrashing baby said no. Maybe they wanted to use a private room, but one wasn’t available. Maybe they are just as uncomfortable as you are, especially when they feel your disapproving stare. And maybe, they want people to see them feeding because they want to help normalize breastfeeding in our culture. Whatever. The reasons don’t matter. What matters is being able to support those moms even if you wouldn’t personally make the same choice.

It comes down to support. If you want to see breastfeeding moms succeed, give them your full, unconditional support. Don’t try to hold them to your own standards, because that’s not fair. We’re all in different situations, with different babies, just trying to make it work. We need support, not buts.

 

I Support You: Dana’s story

This series was inspired by the I Support You campaign, which was created by three amazing bloggers: I Am Not the Babysitter, Mama by the Bay and The Fearless Formula Feeder. I want to provide a place where moms can feel free to share their experiences and find encouragement, love and acceptance – regardless of feeding choices. All moms deserve to feel supported. 

ISupportYouSeriesbyYouAreAGoodMamadotcom

Dana is the mother of a beautiful little girl. Read her story below and give her some love in the comments!

Please share a brief summary of your feeding experience.

I had a great experience with breastfeeding. I had a fairly easy time with it and after the the first 4 or so months I began to really enjoy it myself. I breastfed my daughter until almost 9 months. She stopped showing interest in it so I stopped and started her on formula.

Formula feeding was good too. Although I felt sad to stop and as though she didn’t need me anymore, I also felt a bit of freedom again. Like I had my own body back and I felt as though my schedule wasn’t so restricted. I remember though actually feeling guilty for giving her formula and felt as though I needed to explain as to why with those who I knew breastfed and then I felt a sense of relief not having to breastfeed in front of those who formula fed.

What was your original plan for feeding your child, and how did that compare to what you ultimately ended up doing?

When I first was pregnant, the thought of breastfeeding never even crossed my mind. I never knew anyone who breastfed and I knew nothing about it. It has always been you just formula feed. However, once my friend who was 6 months farther then I had her baby and breastfed, it made me start thinking about breastfeeding. I then decided that this is what was best for me and my baby and I exclusively breastfed for 9 months.

What kind of support did you have for your feeding choice?

I really didn’t have much support. I had my husband, a helpful lactation consultant , and a couple of friends. That was pretty much it. Everyone else just didn’t understand it so therefore they didn’t know how to support.

What was the best part about how you fed your child?

Well, besides the fact that it saved us money, I got to cuddle with her and develop a closeness that I don’t believe I would have other wise.

What was the worst?

The worst part would have to be just feeling as though my body wasn’t MY body. I felt like I was always feeding as well as dealing with my family who didn’t really understand.

What myths about how you fed your child were the most hurtful?

I was called a hippy by my brother and told that I lived in America and not a 3rd world country so I should act like it! That hurt pretty bad!

What would help you (or would have helped you) to feel supported/understood in your choices?

I think it would help everyone if we didn’t put the pressure on each other. Who cares if you breastfeed or formula feed…at least you are FEEDING your baby! I was always feeling self conscious  and worrying what the next person was thinking. I just wanted to be told I was doing a good job because I was caring for my baby…however I may have chose to do that.

Think ten, twenty years into the future. If you could give your grown child(ren) one message about how they choose to feed their child what would it be?

Do what is best for YOU and for your family and for your baby! Don’t worry about ANYONE else and what they THINK is best! They don’t know!!! Because what was best for THEM may not be best for YOU! Trust yourself!

Thank you for sharing your story, Dana! You are a good mama.

Tell us in the comments how support from family helped or hurt your feeding experience!

I Support You: Jade’s story

This series was inspired by the I Support You campaign, which was created by three amazing bloggers: I Am Not the Babysitter, Mama by the Bay and The Fearless Formula Feeder. The questions I used came from Jessica Smock’s interview of her “feeding opposite” at School of Smock. I want to provide a place where moms can feel free to share their experiences and find encouragement, love and acceptance – regardless of feeding choices. All moms deserve to feel supported. 

ISupportYouSeriesbyYouAreAGoodMamadotcom

Jade is the mother of a beautiful boy. Read her story below and give her some love in the comments!

Please share a brief summary of your feeding experience.

Jade: My mom formula fed both my brother and I. I didn’t have her support when it came to breastfeeding. I was really hesitant and uncomfortable about the whole latching on idea, but I knew it was best for the baby. My husband (who was very supportive and pro-breastfeeding) and I decided that we were going to try to at least pump and possibly try latch.

I went to my very first MOMS appointment at the hospital while I was still pregnant. I told them my plan as well as my medical history. I have PCOS and a small tumor on my pituitary gland. With that information, the nurse told me that I would be very lucky if I can breastfeed.

After my son was born, he was transported to Doernbecher Hospital in Portland for a week. I pumped every chance I got. He was born on a Monday and I didn’t get any milk until the following Sunday. I produced very little and by the next Sunday I was getting nothing.

What was your original plan for feeding your child, and how did that compare to what you ultimately ended up doing?

I was really confused and didn’t really know what to expect. I wish I could have produced milk to meet my son’s needs.

What kind of support did you have for your feeding choice?

People would ask me all the time if I breastfed or formula fed. Nobody really gave me a hard time about formula feeding.

What was the best part about how you fed your child?

I could sleep and daddy could get up and feed baby.

What was the worst?

I felt like I was failing as a mom and not giving my son the nutrients that he needs.

What myths about how you fed your child were the most hurtful?

That formula fed babies are more prone to ear infections, obesity, and overall worse health than breast fed babies.

What is your “truth” that counteracts those myths?

My son is perfectly healthy. Has never been sick other than the common cold, he is very active and I think he is developing fine.

What would help you (or would have helped you) to feel supported/understood in your choices?

I’m not sure; I think more exposure and open-minded family members. I definitely want to try again with my second child.

Think ten, twenty years into the future. If you could give your grown child(ren) one message about how they choose to feed their child what would it be?

I would be supportive of whatever their choices are. My mom wasn’t supportive of me wanting to try to breastfeed.

Please share any additional thoughts you have about infant feeding and how it affects motherhood.

People need to be supportive of new moms. Not everyone can breastfeed and some do not want to. As long as the baby is getting what it needs that’s all that matters.

Thank you for sharing your story, Jade! You are a good mama.

Tell us in the comments how support from family helped or hurt your feeding experience!

I Support You

I’ve been feeling a little lost lately, blog-wise. I know I can write, and I have things I can write about. But when it comes to actually doing it, I freeze. I’ve been frozen for a while.

I can’t put my finger on what’s going on. Depression isn’t really flaring (although this morning’s 0330 wake-up time begs to differ), things are finally settling down here in Texas, I’m working on my Step 8 and I’m enjoying my stay-at-home mom life. But still…it feels like something is missing.

I’m hoping that I’ll get back into the swing of things with a series I’m planning to launch soon. It’s directly inspired by the “I Support You” Campaign launched by three amazing bloggers:

Mama by the Bay

Fearless Formula Feeder

I Am Not the Babysitter

These amazing ladies are trying to truly bring mothers together and help them realize that there is room for everyone at the table. Specifically, the campaign aims to:

  1. Bridge the gap between formula-feeding and breastfeeding parents by fostering friendships and interactions.
  2. Dispel common myths and misperceptions about formula feeding and breastfeeding, by asking parents to share their stories, and by really listening to the truth of their experiences.
  3. Provide information and support to parents as they make decisions about how to feed their children.
  4. Connect parents with local resources, mentors, and friends who are feeding their children in similar ways.

I’ve come a long way in how I view infant feeding. I started at the self-righteous, judgmental end of breastfeeding “support” (All or nothing, and if you don’t breastfeed you’re hurting your child). I cringe just thinking about it. Today, I believe that breastfeeding is the biological norm for our species and that human milk is nutritionally superior to man-made formula. However! I no longer think I have all the answers for every mom. Breastfeeding doesn’t work for everyone. And that’s ok.

One of the calls for action put out by these women was to have bloggers interview their feeding “opposite.” I put out a call on my Facebook page, asking women who used formula if they’d be willing to share their story with me. Within minutes I had several offers, and knew I had to do more. I opened it up to any mama who wanted to share her story – no matter how she fed her baby. I’ve always wanted this blog to be a forum to celebrate all the different ways we are good mamas; here was my chance!

So each week, I will feature a different mother’s infant feeding story. My hope is that we can look beyond infant feeding choice and focus on what’s really important: supporting women as they travel the most rewarding yet challenging path of all, motherhood.

ISupportYouByYouAreAGoodMamadotcom

I can already feel my blog ennui ebbing away. Look for the first post in this series on Friday!

Infant formula is not poison

Infant formula is not poison

I haven’t written about breastfeeding in quite some time. It hasn’t been a big factor in my life recently, as we weaned in December and I quit my job as lactation consultant in January. I’ve kept a small presence in the online portion of a breastfeeding support group I helped found (just can’t quite let go) and when someone recently equated formula to poison, it ruffled my feathers.

Wait, a lactation consultant who doesn’t think formula is the devil?  (Trust me, we’re out there).

The short answer is no. I do think that formula-feeding moms deserve a product with better ingredients (lose the GMO’s, guys, or at least label that you use them so parents can make informed decisions about what they feed their babies!!). However, infant formula is not a substance that, when introduced into or absorbed by a living organism, causes death or injury, esp. one that kills by rapid action. Nor is it an American butt rock band that gave us such classics as “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and “Nothin’ But a Good Time.”

Well, why would it bother me if someone else bad-mouths formula?

Because I used to be one of those judgmental assholes and I feel ashamed of my past.

When I was pregnant, I was determined to breastfeed. I knew it was the best option for my baby and I couldn’t believe that everyone else didn’t think the same as me! I railed on and on to my friend who was pregnant at the same time about how I couldn’t imagine mothers not wanting to breastfeed, what’s wrong with them, how could they harm their babies that way. My friend admitted that she might have to formula feed because of a previous breast reduction surgery, and I pitied her. I embodied the stereotype of the militant lactivist.

Then, I had my baby and got to experience the reality of breastfeeding. It’s not easy, and sometimes it’s downright hellish. I started to see why some moms not want to do it, or might not be able to do it, and my rock-solid belief of “breast is best” started to crack a little (along with my nipples). I began to realize I may have been wrong to be so judgmental.

My friend had her baby and told me that she had never planned to breastfeed; she just used the excuse of her breast reduction surgery to placate me. She told me that she felt uncomfortable with so much attention on her breasts and didn’t want to do it, but was worried how I would judge her if she admitted that. I felt like a world class scumbag. Back then, she was one of my best friends. During a time that was so special to both of us (how many people are lucky enough to experience their first pregnancies alongside their best friend?), I ruined some of the excitement with my narrow-minded views. This took those small cracks in my “breast is best” belief and shattered it.

What little pieces of my judgmental self remained were obliterated when I started working as a lactation consultant. I worked in a hospital with around 500 births a year. In the beginning, I know there were a few moms I upset with my reaction to them using formula. This was in part due to the pressure being put on me to produce higher breastfeeding rates, and every mom that used formula cut into that. Thankfully, I quickly realized that numbers were not as important as the moms and babies who represented them. I also realized that it was not my job to shame a mom into breastfeeding, and being disappointed in a mom for using formula was extremely arrogant and inappropriate. To those moms, I apologize.

Though I did help our hospital achieve amazing breastfeeding rates, I feel my most important job was building up moms – especially those for whom breastfeeding was not working out. Moms would show up in my office, exhausted and worn out from a constant merry-go-round of feeding, pumping, supplementing and tearfully admit that they couldn’t do it anymore. They would then break down and sob, proclaiming themselves failures for not being able to breastfeed and for having to use formula. This is usually the part where my heart broke, and I’d often tear up with them. I looked those moms straight in the eye and told them they were good mothers. I told them that the bond between mom and baby was more important than how baby was fed. I told them their babies were going to thrive and be happy, no matter how baby was fed. I told them they were amazing, strong mamas for loving their babies so much. They would look at me in disbelief, with tears in their eyes, and I would keep repeating it until I saw a glimmer of acceptance. I believed it was my job to be one of the lone breastfeeding supporters who could also (gasp!) support moms who didn’t breastfeed.

It’s because of those moms that I bristle when I see someone call formula poison or insinuate that formula-feeding moms are somehow less than breastfeeding moms. Seeing crap like that only rubs salt in those mothers’ wounds. They beat themselves up enough as it is; they don’t need random people spewing garbage like that. I wish I could go back in time and smack my judgmental self on the forehead. If I could, I would then tell her this:

breast or bottle

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day

Just a quick shout out to all the good mamas out there: Enjoy your day!

If you’re wondering if you are a good mama, take this short quiz:

1. Do you love your child/children?
2. Do you try to do your best as a mother?

If you answered yes to the questions above, Congratulations! You are a good mama. 🙂

I’ll be spending my day with this awesome guy:

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