Today I read a heart-wrenching piece on Kveller.com written by a mom of new baby twins who is trying very, very hard to breastfeed her little babies and has been successful, despite hurdles that could throw anyone for a loop. She has a supportive husband who obviously cares about her, but she caught him making bottles of formula for their babies, despite an agreement that they would be breastfed. She was, and still is, hurt, which is totally, absolutely understandable. Even if her husband had the best intentions (and I’m pretty sure he did), trying to sneak formula underneath her nose isn’t exactly a great move on his part.
But what really struck me, and really made me sad, were some of the comments. (I know, I know. Don’t read the comments of anything on the internet!) To paraphrase a few of the themes:
- Saying that you’re upset about this situation further stigmatizes mothers who have to or choose to use formula.
- Formula is not poison!
- You obviously weren’t making enough milk to satisfy them, and babies need to be fed.
- I wish I hadn’t been so adamant about breastfeeding because I could have given formula and enjoyed my babies more.
If the goal is to support moms, and to do away with the Mommy Wars, we have to respect moms who don’t want to breastfeed, or can’t, or decide not to. But we also need to support moms who DO want to breastfeed, and you cannot do that if you minimize their desires and goals.
This particular mom described how fat and healthy her babies were growing on her own milk; obviously, she did not have a milk supply problem. Her babies were far from starving; not to mention, babies cry for more reasons than a desire for food alone. Wanting to not use formula is not the same as saying formula is poison, and the mere existence of women who breastfeed does not serve to stigmatize those women who cannot or do not. And as far as enjoying twins goes—I’m not so sure it’s an enjoyable experience in the first year, except in small spurts, regardless of your feeding method. (I wrote earlier about how to maintain sanity while breastfeeding; those tips can help you carve out more happy moments, too.)
So very few of the comments on the Kveller website and Facebook page seemed to acknowledge that this is a mom who wants to breastfeed. Breastfeeding moms, generally speaking, don’t want their babies to have bottles of formula. This should not be hard to understand or difficult to honor.
Respecting moms goes both ways, and it just isn’t respectful to tell a mom who is breastfeeding that she obviously isn’t doing a good enough job, and one bottle (or several) doesn’t matter, anyway. Breastfeeding matters to her; if you can’t figure out something to say that honors that, don’t say anything at all.