As we close out another Breastfeeding Awareness Month, I had a few thoughts about advocacy and the stigma often attached which goes something like this; “I can’t tell this person I’ve chosen something else, they’re fanatics about this thing that I’m no longer doing, they’ll judge me and I already feel bad enough”. I’ve heard it many times… a mama asks for tons of help before the baby is born and in the first few weeks of parenthood, but then suddenly, they stop asking, stop texting, stop communication altogether. This is usually when I know they’ve gone another route” with their feeding options. I often sit here wondering if I did anything wrong or said anything that would have made them stop talking to me, but more often than not, it’s simply this idea that because I am an advocate, I’ll be upset or disappointed with them somehow. Sometimes I hear “I’ve already done everything I can, I’m exhausted and I just don’t want to her any more suggestions about what I could do differently”. Another is, “I already feel terrible because I can’t do this, it won’t help to have someone who COULD do it telling me what to do”.
Okay now, listen.
I am not a crazy person and most of the feelings people have are exactly why I try to get this information out there BEFORE it happens in the first place. I want you to know I’m here when things get rough. Not just when things are easy.
I am not a militant, heartless, “my way or the highway” kind of individual. It’s really not in my nature to force others to do what I want them to do. As much as I believe in what I say and I stand behind the truth that I have discovered, I could never get past my empathy for others to demand someone live their lives as I saw fit.
I’m just a mom.
I’m a mom of two children who flipped a switch in my brain when they came out of me that changed my entire world and rewrote everything about the person I was.
I am passionate about what I believe to be true based on the discoveries that I admit to have made through hours of research online and in actual books, medical/research journals and I’m not ashamed of this. Y’know, mothers make powerful discoveries every day but we’re often scoffed at because we don’t have degrees in the subjects we’re passionate about. Sometimes our discoveries conflict, but at the heart of all our research is one, singular truth:
We love our children and that we will go to the ends of the Earth for them.
An advocate knows the end of their Earth may look different than the end of another’s while remembering the motivation is the same for all:
The rest is just the details that create our life story and each story is unique, full of hills and valleys, mistakes, perfect wins and every degree of disappointment and exaltation in between.
I am not a crazy person. I’m not a hateful person. I’m not a judgmental person.
I am an advocate.
I am a committed, passionate believer in the power of Mother. Not just in my own life, but in your life and across the world.
I am passionate about breastfeeding because it’s what we were designed to do. It’s the reason our breasts exist. The ultimate of feminist choice, in my opinion, is being given the right and the power to be a mother if we choose to be and exclusively breastfeed our children as long as we are able.
Now, if something happens medically or psychologically that makes it difficult for a mother to breastfeed, do I think less of them as a person? Do I think less of them as a mother? Do I think they are less equipped to be a mother?
OF COURSE NOT!!
But for those who could have but are denied the right to try because they are told out the gate they can’t, shouldn’t, don’t need to… those are the mothers I fight for.
When you have tried but it’s not happening, I want to make sure you’ve been given every possible resource out there to help you.
If you do that and still, your body just says no? If donor milk is unavailable, well, then use the formula. That’s what it’s there for. That’s when it’s more precious than gold and I will be first in line to champion you on, to help you choose your formula, helping you know how to use it, helping you know how to make the most out of it… Hell, I’ll even buy it for you! When all has been tried and nothing is working, formula is LIFE.
I’m not a crazy person. You can talk to me, even if you don’t agree with what I say.
I just want you to have the right to make a choice, even if it’s not the choice I’d make.
I want you to know that it was men in lab coats who created what we consider the “modern formula industry”. It was not to help the baby, not to help the mother, but to allow the mother to go back to her wifely duties more easily. It was designed to take your right of choice away so that you could get back to what was “really important”. Which to them, was not the total body/mind wellbeing of yourself and your baby, but your husband’s comfort in the home.
So, when I see mother being told in her hospital bed with her newborn baby whose milk simply hasn’t come in yet “you can’t do this by yourself, you need to supplement“, when I see a doctor immediately opt for formula above lactation consultations, diet change, emotional support or any other resource that would assist her in producing her own supply, it makes me angry.
Not angry that someone is doing something opposite of what I would like, it makes me angry for that mother because someone just stole her power. Someone stole that power of motherhood and gave it to a bottle instead before exhausting all other resources. And as someone who believes in the power of woman and the power of motherhood, it breaks my heart for those mothers, those beautiful, powerful, outstanding women who could be fully capable of supplying every possible need for their baby but their power is stolen by someone who is not invested in their best interest in the long term, just the “right now”.
When I see a woman giving in to allowing her baby use a bottle, instead of the breast – not because she wanted to- but out of guilt because family members demanded the right to feed her baby, it burns me inside. It literally raises my blood pressure and the temperature behind my eyes to the point where I can barely see straight.
It is no one’s right to feed your baby but yours, Mother.
No one gets to push Mother into a corner, no one gets to guilt the matriarch of her family into giving up the one thing only she can do… the singular responsibility that she has been given as a parent, the one part of parenthood that can truly belong to no one else.
No one has that right to take your power.
Everyone else can hold the baby, comfort the baby, sleep next to the baby, play with the baby, love the baby, be recognized by the baby, teach, change, dress, rock, bond with the baby… everyone else in that child’s life can do literally everything else for that baby.
The one task that belongs only to Mother is breast-feeding.
If you want to gift that right to others because you need a break, that’s your right. If you must gift that right to another because in spite of all efforts, the production is too low, too slow, simply not happening, etc., that’s your right to choose another option. If you want to share because you need a break, if you want to because it will make someone happy and you are happy to allow them to, if you want to because you just want to… fine. I genuinely mean that. But if you don’t want to, I want to fight for your right to say NO. I want you to also be aware of the potential negative consequences of doing this and how it can diminish your supply or change the dynamic of your breastfeeding journey. I want you to be armed with the truth. I want you to make educated choices based on facts, not fancy.
I think sometimes people shy away from talking to advocates of any cause because they are afraid of the judgment that they will get if they say “well, that’s great, but I’m not doing what you advocate”. And for some, that fear may be justified. For me, it isn’t.
That’s the thing about respecting others’ choices. I may be a staunch advocate for breastfeeding, but I also know that I can’t possibly tell you how to experience your life.
All I can do is encourage you to be empowered to experience the life you want with every possible bit of information to make that choice fully educated. What choices you make on your own are yours to make and not mine to judge.
I’m here to provide you knowledge, tips and to tell you that I will be your back up when you need to go to war for any of your rights as a mother. I will be here if you need solidarity in numbers when you begin to carve your own path for your family. My hope is that in doing so, it will make your job easier and help you gain your footing as you begin advocate for yourself.
My job is not to make your life harder by making you feel badly about the choices you make. I want you to thrive within motherhood and to fully actualize your power. I want you to trust your own strength and to stand firm within it. I want you to remember that only you have that power because only you are Mother.
That responsibility may feel overwhelming and terrible and too much to bear on your own. That’s why this network is here. You are not alone. You are never, ever alone. You have a community, a support system, 100+ pillars of strength behind you, all cheering, all with you as you navigate these uncharted waters of Motherhood.
None of us can know what it means to make the decisions you make as a parent.
None of us can know the whole story but you and it’s not our right to do anything but whatever we can to add as much joy and strength and fulfillment as possible to your journey.