“You know you can always just give formula. You don’t have to breastfeed.” If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that over the past two and a half years of breastfeeding two children…
They aren’t wrong—I could just give formula. But what I really want is for someone to listen to me as I weep and confide in how difficult of a time I am having during my breastfeeding years. What I need is someone to normalize talking about how hard breastfeeding is and not just about how natural it is, how beneficial it is, how it is the best choice for me and my baby or how I could just give them formula.
And even when everything is right, it is still hard—and demanding.
I need someone to listen to me when I tell them how hard it is being up every two hours and respond with, “That sounds hard and you’re doing a great job." I need someone to reassure me that just because it's hard doesn’t mean I am doing it wrong. I need someone to reassure me that it is normal for my baby to cluster feed and that it doesn’t mean I’m not making enough milk.
I need someone to ask me “What are your breastfeeding goals?" when I am having a hard day instead of saying “Just give them formula." I need someone to normalize talking about how hard breastfeeding is instead of making me feel like I am choosing to do things the hard way.
I took the classes. I read books. And even when everything is right, it is still hard—and demanding. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, or somewhere in between. We live in a culture far separated from that of our early ancestors; we are fast moving, always expected to be on and productive and rest is for the lazy. There’s no time for slip-ups and there are an endless number of roles to play and shoes to fill. However, the base of the breastfeeding relationship is fostered through connection, patience, trial and error, self-nurturing, slowness and stillness.
Giving formula isn’t wrong. But it also isn’t always the right answer when someone is having a hard time with breastfeeding. Let’s normalize talking about how hard breastfeeding is.
Let’s normalize asking a mom what her goals are and doing what we can to support her goals.
Let’s stop calling moms who give formula lazy or assuming they didn’t try hard enough.
Let’s stop calling moms who breastfeed martyrs.
An informed and supported choice is best—and mother's should be supported in every way.