An Open Letter To (Overzealous) Breastfeeding LactivistsSelena Mills
Let me begin by stating some things that some of you may already know. I am a huge fan of breastfeeding, in general; over formula, when one can, and in public when one needs to. I think it’s beautiful and every mother and child’s natural right. I breastfed both of my babies. Past tense. Both ended their tour of sustaining themselves with the great and nurturing milk bags before turning one. All of it was hard and all of it was worth it. I have conflicting feelings about it all, too. Made none the easier by a large amount of breastfeeding ‘lactivists.’
I did it all. Quite possibly, every single recommendation a lactivist could make. I won’t go through listing everything I tried, that’s not what this post is a about. If you’d like the full back story, you can read this, this and/or this.
Those recommendations, however helpful their intentions … were like a thud in the chest. Right in the heart and the gut. In the soft, sensitive places that most mothers have regarding their ability to care for their children the best way they can. Which for me, was naturally; using what the Creator gave me. The beautiful gift of my very own body being able to produce a miracle food. Or so I thought.
The problem was that my production was simply not up to par. There was a brief stint, during Abby’s first three months as a newborn, that things went beautifully. No cracking, no bleeding. Latch = #winning. Diet: elimination, but do-able. Supplementing like I had to with my first, not a once. Then she started growing (dang babies and their growing!) and needing more milk, only my production did not increase with her demand. It did a bit after finally starting Domperidone, after everything else I tried, but still not enough. So begrudgingly I began to supplement. I eventually began to get over the weighty feelings of inadequacy and heartbreak over something I so badly wanted to provide for my daughter, and could not.
How I wished for leaky, full and always ready to fill up her tummy: boobs.
So, What’s My Issue?
Breastfeeding lactivists? You, you and you? While I know your heart may be in the right place (I’m trying to be graceful here), and not an ounce of judgement or ego do you let alter your choice of approach (ahem) and wording with a mother who struggles with breastfeeding … PLEASE. Think before you speak. Not only about your cause and what you feel so passionately about (agreeably so). But your subject, too.
Take the time to know the history of the mother with whom you are speaking. Ask them to share what they’ve tried before you automatically assume they are a complete dolt who didn’t try a thing before you came along. Because that’s what it comes off as to the sensitive receiver of your sage advice. Understand that not all mothers can quit their jobs, which sometimes involve travel (which is SO not a breastfeeding momma’s friend, especially one with low flow). Breastfeeding on demand; as often and as much as it takes, skin-to-skin, to foster increased production can’t happen for mommas who work out of the home.
Don’t continue to suggest that often a mother’s failure to breastfeed is due to her lack of trying this, that and the other thing. PLEASE. Save it for those who really need your help, who really don’t have a clue — if that’s your bag. If that’s what you feel will make a difference. Sometimes it does.
When the end of breastfeeding with Lil’ Abner came and I shared it on the internets, I received some such replies. E-mails! Even Facebook messages to my business’ fan page! (I also received ones of support). And honestly? It pissed me off. Suggestions that I didn’t stick with it long enough were like big dirty kicks to my ribs. Argh. Enough of the pompous ignorance. If you (the judgemental lactivist), aren’t going to take the time to read or listen to a mother’s story and acknowledge their hard work? Then keep your all-knowing answers to yourself, because you don’t really know much if you are still talking without listening.
Perhaps this shall be seen as a rant, and perhaps it is. Sometimes rants are necessary. I say these things to honour and with respect for all of the hardworking mothers out there who have tried their darndest at breastfeeding and ended up feeling like a failure because they could not do it exclusively or at all. Guilty and inadequate — in part due to other mothers.
More on the Babbles …