You might know Jillian Harris from her stint as the star of ABC’s The Bachelorette. More recently, she’s been hosting Love It or List It Vancouver (and killing it). She’s the epitome of style, humor, and authenticity — like when she posted the raw postpartum photo of herself in mesh underwear. I mean, that’s the kind of stuff I, as a mother, live for.
I love hearing moms in the media be real about motherhood (who doesn’t?). So when Harris opened up in an Us Weekly interview about the guilt she felt after she stopped breastfeeding her 6-month-old son, Leo, it really struck a chord.
“When I was, like, two months postpartum, I was blogging about milk supply, and I was so proud that I had that much milk,” Harris told Us Weekly. I remember feeling the exact same way.
My daughter was about 3 months old and I was basically the Trevi Fountain of milk supply. Every time I’d pump a full bottle I would get this feeling of, “Yes! Look at me. I did it! I’m a milk machine.” For me, producing a lot of milk somehow equated to being a good mom. And then, life happened. When my daughter was 5 months old, I came down with the flu and my milk supply sputtered and died. I was heartbroken. What was I doing wrong? I did all of the things. I took the pills and had a pumping schedule. I drank the tea, ate the right foods, I said my prayers, etc. None of it worked and I had to start supplementing with formula. Harris shared a similar experience with Us Weekly, saying:
“We were doing lots of traveling, and I had anxiety about the amount [of milk] I was producing … I was beating myself up over the fact that I should be trying harder, I should be taking more of my lactation pills, I should be drinking more water.”
So the question has to be asked, where does this guilt come from? Why, for some of us, does milk supply equal great parenting? For me, part of it was just mom guilt and emotion. It was a given that I would breastfeed my baby, and when I couldn’t anymore, it rocked my perception of how I would take care of her. Another factor was the judgmental looks I’d receive when friends or even random strangers would excitedly ask the question, “Are you breastfeeding?” When I would share my story of how I got the flu and my milk dried up, it would be met with a dozen suggestions on how to get it back (like I hadn’t tried them all!), or a wordless glance that said I just obviously wasn’t trying hard enough. And of course the bazillion articles and forums about the benefits of breast milk and the supposed horrors of formula didn’t help, either.
The result? More stress. And Harris can relate, too. She noted, “I was always stressed, and I was always saying to [my fiancé], Justin, ‘I have to pump, I have to pump. Nothing is coming out! I’ve got to go! Now I’m late! Now the baby is crying!’” At her fiancé’s suggestion, for both her stress level and baby Leo’s health, they ended up switching to formula. Harris stated that it ultimately made life easier for their family, but that she still feels guilty about her choice. “I still struggle with it,” she said. So did I. For a long time, actually.
But at the end of the day I realized it didn’t matter where the milk was coming from. She was getting fed. I was taking care of her, even if the milk wasn’t coming from my body like I wanted it to.
If a mother is unable to produce any breast milk or for another reason chooses not to breast feed at all, that’s her prerogative. It’s not our right to judge another mother for her choices. Parenting is hard enough, there’s simply no reason to add a heaping supply of guilt, whether it’s self-induced or from others.
We do our best and rest in the fact that we’re taking care of our children in the best possible way we know how, while also taking care of ourselves. So if you have any guilt over milk supply or lack thereof, throw it out the window because you just don’t need that kind of negativity in your life!
h/t: US Weekly