So you know how I’m training to become a volunteer doula? Well, last night we tackled a topic formerly filled with more-than-mild discomfort.
Why did it used to make me uncomfortable?
Truthfully I’m not entirely sure. Maybe it had to do with the videos of milk exploding from the nipple that I had the ‘priveledge’ of seeing while previously working at a public health unit. Maybe it had to do with the fact that I was not ready to think of my boobs in that kind of a way. Maybe I was just immature – plain and simple. (Probably! … Note the use of the word ‘boobs’… haha!) But whatever the reason, I’m fairly certain it also had to do with the potentially fanatical approach that is sometimes associated with breastfeeding.
Filled with excessive and single-minded zeal.
I’ve personally been present at a ‘sermon’ about breastfeeding. This woman was actually standing at her desk, as though it was a pulpit, preaching about the wonders of breastfeeding. At one point, she stated categorically that doing anything otherwise was not good enough for a child, and that doing so makes you feel ‘whole’ as a mother. Whether or not it was the intended message, the not-so-subtle undertones from that sermon were that breastfeeding = good mommy and formula-feeding = bad mommy.
Breast IS best!
Let’s all agree with the plentiful research out there. Breastfeeding has been proven to be 100% THE BEST option for you baby. A mother’s body was made to do it and breastmilk is a biological medical marvel. Did you know that it changes depending on the season? In the summer it contains more water, in the winter it contains more fat. AMAZING! Breastfeeding actually improves a child’s IQ, it helps them resist infections, it is always sterile (formula isn’t) AND best of all… it is FREE.
If you aren’t aware of all the benefits, you should really check out this list.
BUT what if your baby can’t be breastfed?
a) you physically can’t…
b) you adopted your baby…
c) you tried, and tried, and tried, and tried… and were just too exhausted and frightened each day that passed with your baby is losing weight…
d) you just don’t want to (shhhhh!)
e) other: ________________________.
I’ve seen and heard first-hand stories of women who felt shame and guilt because, for whatever reason, their child wasn’t breastfed. Guilt that they weren’t providing their child with the very best, and shame every time they took out a bottle of formula. Those aren’t feelings that go away quickly. For some, it can be an extremely heavy burden to carry for a very long time. A feeling of failure that hurts deeply every time it’s remembered.
So where’s the balance?
How do we as a society celebrate the miracle of breastfeeding while not excluding the mothers who didn’t breastfeed their children? How do I, as a doula-to-be, promote breastfeeding as being best for baby without making my client feel like a failure if it doesn’t go that way for her?
I really don’t have the answer.
All I know is that I am so thankful for the moms who have bravely shared the guilt & shame they felt (& still feel) from not breastfeeding their baby. I hope they all come to a point where they can be at peace with the way things went and to recognize themselves as strong, wonderful people. All I can do is hope that the knowledge of their private struggles will help me to be a better doula and also… a more open-minded person.