January 5, 2013

I finally figured it out...

Today during nap time (Sienna's not mine) I was reading one of my fav blogs, Modgblog. This post got slayed by readers. People telling this new mama, well second time mama to new baby, to stop breastfeeding because it's easier/more convenient/healthier to formula feed when baby is having a bad reaction to mama's milk. Her response was pretty brilliant- if you formula fed, would you switch to breastfeeding if your baby had an issue or would you just switch formulas? So why on earth, if a mom wants to breastfeed would someone tell her to "just switch to formula" when instead she could change her diet and keep up with her choice?

And in reading her responses, I finally figured it out. I figured out why I sometimes feel like I have a small chip on my shoulder about nursing or feel like breastfeeding moms have it more difficult.

Here's why. Breastfeeding is HARD. Hard hard work. And if you complain, people say "just formula feed". If you say it's hard people say it's your choice. If you so much as peep that your body hurts, you're tired, and your husband can't feed at night because you nurse, people eye roll and say that's what you chose to do. No one high fives you (except fellow bf-ers or bf advocates). No one says "you are a superhero for supplying nutrients to your child for an entire year". So the secret is to keep quiet? That's just bs if you ask me.

When you speak the hardships, people tell you to quit. WHY? Why is it that breastfeeding is one of the only choices that is related to health that you are told to quit? Why do pediatricians tell you to give up if your milk is taking awhile to come in? Why do well-meaning friends and relatives always want to give you an out? Research says breastfeeding is the healthiest choice. And most healthy choices in life ARE hard.

We don't tell people to give up on other healthy choices. We support exercise, healthy eating for children and adults, safe environments. But we get it, we know those things are hard. It's why there are weight loss programs and tons of money poured into motivating people to stick with it each year. It's why we fight to have healthy food available. And what do we do most of all? We empathize. Yes, it is hard to work on losing weight and exercising. Yes, it's horribly difficult to choose veggies over sweets some days. Let's help you with that, let's support you so you can be healthier.

And guess what? At 3 am when you're dead tired and the baby is crying again, of course it is also really difficult to drag yourself out of bed and sit in the glider for 45 minutes while you try to keep your newborn awake to nurse instead of snoozing. But that doesn't mean you have to quit.

To me, it's worth it. It's the beauty of being able to hold my sweet 10 month old on my lap to cuddle up together under a blanket on the couch while we nurse. It's the way that it goes from time consuming and painful to really meaningful and a welcomed break on a busy day.

But it is hard. So stop telling moms to give up because it's hard or because it's "hurting the baby" if they are intolerant to a food. Some women are willing to change a diet, drink more water, build supply, cut down on oversupply. It's not easy, but many times it is possible. And for those of us who are determined to breastfeed, it's a choice we stick to even on the bad days. We don't tell people to give up on anything else that's healthy but hard. If someone didn't want to go to the gym one day, you wouldn't tell them to give up working out forever. Instead, next time you see or hear of a mom who is breastfeeding (especially in the early days) give her a hug, send her a sweet note, or bring her a meal. Even better? Let her complain a little. It's not an easy job, but she's chosen it for her child.  Instead of judging her or telling her she could switch to formula which is only frustrating, give her a pat on the back.

{PS this is about the choice and determination to breastfeed, if it's not for you and formula feeding is your thing that's fine with me; this post is about moms who do make the choice to bf.}


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