Mother’s Milk

We mothers don’t do each other any favours.

The last thing, the very last thing mothering in the 21st Century needs is criticism, competition, comparison, condemnation, covering up or outright lies. And worst of all, worse than all of these combined, is simple silence.

Today, I talked my friend New Mom back from the brink, from that OMG-I-can’t-do-this brink, over the bane of all new moms the world over: breastfeeding. For most, it’s exhausting, painful, uncomfortable, inconvenient, complicated, embarrassing and all-consuming. For some, it’s miraculous. And for a few, it’s impossible. Whether due to poor letdown, poor latch, poor supply or any other number of challenges, for some of us, breastfeeding just doesn’t work, no matter how hard or how long we try.

With me, it took until Bonhomme was three weeks old and had lost a significant amount of weight and some mightily worried medical personnel before we broached the topic of looking beyond 100% breastmilk. It took another three weeks of me getting twenty minutes of sleep every three hours (that’s three weeks straight of twenty minutes of sleep every three hours) while I breastfed, pumped AND bottlefed (and changed diapers and sterilized bottles and bathed and soothed and cleaned and occasionally went to the bathroom) before we broached the topic of looking beyond breast at all. For the next two months, I only pumped and bottlefed (and nurtured an infant), and forwent breast contact. Beyond those first few weeks when he was literally starving, Bonhomme was never wholly fed on breastmilk, for the logical reason that it wasn’t feeding him enough. I never produced enough milk for him, even after we’d dealt with the latch, letdown and supply challenges. You’ve heard of cluster feeding? Try cluster pumping.

Only now, three years later, am I letting go of the guilt, of the shame, of feeling like a failure.

If there are any words, any words that I can utter that will save even one woman from feeling that, I will. I will utter them until the day I die.

Let us, we modern mothers, be honest about what our infants need.

They need nutrition.

And they need healthy moms.

They need whatever combination of whatever solution will give them that. Not necessarily only that, but that first. Nutrition, and a mom healthy enough to both deliver it, and deliver every other ounce of mothering that infant needs.

We do NOT need guilt. We do NOT need boob nazis. We need support, comfort, information, and options.

Breast is best. Absolutely. But – thank heavens – it’s not the only. It doesn’t have to be either or. Choosing what and how to feed your infant doesn’t have to be a war. It can be a continuum. And it can be a compassionate one.

As I told New Mom today, and I wish to all that’s holy someone had told me when I’d been going through what she is right now, there’s so much more to mothering than our breasts. Let us not diminish the incredible gift breastfeeding is to our children, nor the cost of it. But let us not reduce our mothering to it either. As Madame Halushki says, being a mom means learning to bike across water. So sustainability is key.


1 comment so far

  1. Moosilaneous on

    Right on.
    I feel outrageously lucky to have had breasts and babies that co-operated with one another.
    But that is all it is. Luck.
    Babies need food and love, and no perscriptions on how or from whom they get them.

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