A few weeks back, I wrote a post on this blog about growing out of Parents magazine. And it's true, I'm at the point in my parenting life where I'm more confident and more interested in reading about anti-aging creams than "Ten ways to get your toddler to try broccoli". That said, I'll be receiving copies in the mail for another year, so why not read them on my lunch break. That is exactly what I was doing when I came across an article about breast feeding.
If you have read this blog for any length of time, then you know that breast feeding is a hot button issue for me. I wasn't able to breast feed either child, and today, I'm okay with that. I should say, today I'm finally okay with that, because for years I was a wreck about it. Not being able to breast feed my oldest daughter completely sidelined me. It set in motion a full year of self loathing and a loss of confidence I hadn't seen since middle school. Fast forward to a much better place in my life as a mother, and know that every time I see an article or blog post referencing breast feeding I stop to read. Just to make sure all points of view are represented. Sadly, in last months Parents Magazine, this was not the case.
I do have to point out that the article was very informative. It was also very encouraging. It was a cheerleaders point of view of breastfeeding and how to make it one of the most successful things you will do as a mother. Fine. Fantastic even. I realize that there are more mothers who can breast feed than mothers who can't. LeLeche League was mentioned. Doulas and Lactation Specialists were mentioned. All the things you would want in an article to help you become a breast feeder were written in the article. And I know that eight years ago, first time pregnant Megan would have read the article three times, used a high lighter and post it notes, and then read it all over again. This article was perfect for a woman who had never had a baby before, because it was written with a perfect world in mind.
Which is unfortunate because nothing about motherhood happens in a perfect world.
While there was no mention of what happens when you have inverted nipples (anyone else?), there were plenty of tips on what to do when your milk supply is dwindling. Also plenty of tips to get your baby to latch. And lots of mention of nipple confusion. Which eight years ago was my biggest fear, not whether my baby had ten fingers and ten toes, but whether she would suffer from nipple confusion. Which I can now admit and reflect, is all sorts of bat shit crazy.
I wanted to scream and yell that this article was doing a huge disservice to mothers everywhere. This was setting many moms out there for utter failure because their experience is not going to be black and white, like an article in a magazine or a chapter in a book. I wanted a side bar or a little highlighted box to mention things like formula and bottle feeding. I wanted there to be a note that said that it is understood that even with the best of efforts, breast feeding may not be part of your mothering story. I wanted someone to say, "Look, even if you do all of this and none of it works, giving your kid a bottle will not make you a bad mother. It will not make you a failure. It will not make you unworthy". I wanted just one line to say, "It's your choice. And your choice is always the right choice". I just wanted it to have one encouraging word for someone who will be at a crossroads with a screaming baby, sore nipples, and a can of formula.
But no one said that, so I'm saying it here. To quote someone in a Redbook years ago, "Formula is not an F word". Nipple confusion isn't the worst thing that will ever happen to your child, and it certainly won't kill them. The "latch" may never happen. Your milk may dry up in a week. Your kid might be allergic to everything you eat, and cutting out cheese may not be what you want to do. So the hell what? Formula is not the enemy. Motherhood isn't perfect and breast feeding isn't either. Maybe you can and you just don't want to. Maybe you do it for a few months and it's killing you. Maybe, we should all collectively wise up and just let you decide what is best. That's good too.
My only fear is that somewhere there is a first time mother reading last months article, finding comfort in the facts and the tips on how to properly breast feed. Possibly she is taking notes and writing a birth plan. My hope is that it all goes swimmingly for her. I hope that her journey is as picture perfect as the article. I hope that she finds the latching process with ease. That she has an over abundance of milk, and never has to use a bottle. I hope that it's everything that she planned and everything she wanted.
And I pray that if it all goes to shit, she has a best friend like mine that will lay down the law and exclaim,
"If Jesus didn't want you to bottle feed, he wouldn't have invented
formula or the Walmarts to buy it in".