Advocacy

Respecting moms goes both ways

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.

6 comments

  1. I successfully breastfed my twins. It is hard, but it is possible. You have to have support to feed them, to be able to fed them. I did not supplement with formula and luckily the twins Dad was supportive and would bring the boys to me when they were hungry. I was finally able to get ahead on pumping breast milk, so he could feed the boys which helped a lot. He felt he could satisfy their needs as well as I could. I think that was an important turning point for him. You don't just get ahead on pumping breast milk however! It takes work, and planning, especially with twins. It will happen, it will just take time. You cannot rush it. Take it one day at a time. Get lots of rest. It will happen!

  2. I'm pregnant with twin boys. I already have a 2yo I successfully breastfed for 19 months (had to quit when I got pregnant again :(), so in my own mind it's not too far off the mark to plan to breastfeed my twins, too.

    But I kid you not, any time I have ever mentioned this in passing to friends, acquaintances, even the nurses at my OB office, the standard response is "…but there's nothing wrong with formula." Formula is a viable option, yes. But why is it so hard for one woman to let another woman plan for her life and be ambitious (because BF two babies can't be easy if BF one has its challenges) about it? We don't do this to each other with anything else — not about college plans, career goals, finding the right guy (we all know that one girl that could never find a successful relationship because she only wanted guys out of her league but nobody actually tells her to dial back her expectations), anything. It's always 'you go girl! Go get it!' …until motherhood happens. Then suddenly it's, 'natural birth? Oh ok. Well don't beat yourself up if you end up with an epidural. We do have modern technology for a reason, you know.' 'Epidural? Good luck with that, and I wish you the best as you spend the rest of your life managing your child's ADHD.' On and on and on. Very little 'you go girl', just negativity and 'stop trying so hard'.

  3. Sadly it seems with motherhood it seems everyone has an opinion and no matter what you do someone will think (and tell you) that what you're doing is wrong and will cause irreversible damage to your children. I am Mum to 6 1/2 month twin girls. I breastfeed them. It was HUGELY important to me that I did. It was REALLY hard work early on and took a tremendous amount of work, but we got there!

    Some things did not go according to plan. I ended up delivering my beautiful girls via emergency caesarean section. I had an epidural. To The Twins Mom, the reality is that me and/or one or both of my daughters might not be here without that epidural. I don't need you implying I have failed my children and they are doomed to ADHD. They are too young for me to know yet but not only is it wrong to suggest that this is a guaranteed outcome but how about extending some of that positive attitude my way? Like the original post says, respect goes both ways.

  4. You're so right. Rule #1 is feed the baby. Too bad it seems a that a few people on both sides of the coin forget that. Like one of the previous posters, I, too, received some "there, there" patronizing replies about BF. By the time the girls and I left the hospital, their nurses were so proud of the fact that we were breastfeeding and how good it was for the baby (not many people BF here, so the LC and other nurses were heartened to have a mom of multiples nursing). My husband was and is amazingly supportive of BF, so I feel very fortunate in that respect.

  5. M & Ms mum, I think you may have misconstrued the post above you….I'm quite sure she was citing that as an *example* of things that some mothers might say to other mothers, as shown by the inverted commas around each statement 🙂

  6. […] that respecting moms goes both ways. The idea that mothers matter applies, too, to those who genuinely feel that breastfeeding is a […]

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