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The Continual Smackdown of Parents With Opinions

What is it about advocating for something, or sharing your personal parenting experience, that makes people decide that you are either:

a) A jerk;

b) An idiot; or

c) A combo-pack uncaring and ignorant human being who has no business opening her mouth about any issue ever?

In the past couple of months I have found myself getting raked over the coals publicly by people who take opposite parenting positions from mine, as though it’s not okay to have a belief and state that belief out loud. As though there aren’t two sides to every story. Let me tell you in case you didn’t know: there are always two sides to every story. It’s okay for you to have your opinion, and it’s okay for me to have mine. It doesn’t make either of us stupid, uncaring idiot-jerks.

Last week I had to defend myself for appearing in a story on ABCNews.com about the method of allowing babies to “cry it out” (CIO) when they’re trying to go to sleep. I never advocated for CIO. Read the story. I simply shared my own personal difficulties with trying to get my daughter to sleep through the night. I talked about the various methods I tried when she still wasn’t sleeping through the night at 11 months, and how upsetting it was to cycle through all of those different methods and wonder whether I was hurting my baby. I said that having an expert pediatrician help me figure out the best way to help my daughter sleep would have been very helpful. That’s it. The end.

And yet, what if I had said I advocated the CIO method? Would that make me a horrible mom with a permanently scarred child? According to some people, yes. Or what if I had said I advocate the co-sleeping method? Would that make me a horrible mom with a child that can’t do anything by herself? According to some people, yes.

I also got quite a talking-to by numerous breastfeeding advocates after I spoke out against certain portions of the Latch On initiative in New York City. I said I AGREED that we need to do more to support breastfeeding and stop all the formula marketing to new moms. Mysteriously, however, some people didn’t hear that. All they heard was that I don’t support breastfeeding. I was told I was wrong, wrong, wrong and that I’m a bad advocate for women. Fact is, I simply wanted to make sure moms who want to use formula have access to it and aren’t stigmatized or made to feel bad when they ask for it.

My job is to advocate for women with postpartum depression. Some moms with postpartum depression do better with formula feeding.

Don’t even start with me … I said some, not all. 

Among those, some may quit or choose not to breastfeed because they’re taking a medication that happens to be contraindicated.

Don’t even start with me … I said a medication. Not all medications. There are many medications that can be taken during breastfeeding. 

Others may quit breastfeeding because it compounds their anxiety. Or because they need more sleep and need a partner to pitch in, which means doing some bottle feeding. In my case, after having so much difficulty breastfeeding, enough difficulty that it contributed to my worsening anxiety …

Don’t even start with me. I didn’t say breastfeeding causes postpartum anxiety.

… I tried pumping, because I wanted my son to get breastmilk. I would pump and dump in the morning to get rid of milk that had the highest amount of my medication, which was a new one that didn’t have enough data on safety in breastfeeding. Then I’d be up in the middle of the night attached to my breast pump. Because one of my symptoms was severe insomnia, I began to get sicker and sicker without any sleep, so I started taking a medication for sleep, didn’t stay up to pump any more, and switched to formula.

That’s my experience and I’m sticking to it. I know other people have different experiences, and I support them fully in whatever happened to them. I just don’t want to get the smackdown for sharing what happened to me and supporting those women who went through the same. Formula feeding was the best decision for me. Not for the whole rest of the entire world. For me. And I’m allowed to say that. And on my blog I’m allowed to defend the moms with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety for whom it was also the right choice, because those moms quite often get SIX TONS OF SH*T for making that choice.

Some of those who felt I was wrong or uninformed about the Latch On initiative were very constructive. We had great debates, they shared information they felt I may have been unaware of, and they talked about where they disagreed with me. They were lively and wonderful conversations, and I have a lot of respect for those people. Others were flat-out mean and demeaning. I don’t think that’s an effective way to advocate your side of any issue.

I realize that people feel very passionate about parenting. I get that. I just don’t want to be called out, treated dismissively or verbally beaten up when I express my opinion. I imagine you feel the same.

Photo credit: © John Takai – Fotolia.com

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