I have seen a lot of moms on Instagram reach out in times of stress because something was “wrong” with their breastfeeding efforts. I reached out on there as well when I was facing nipple preference. I had already called one of the lactation consultants from the hospital where my babies were born and, while I am sure she was trying to be supportive of my efforts, it felt more dismissive. So I reached out. I found help. I made friends. I got GOOD advice and I took it.
But sometimes moms get good advice and don’t take it. I struggle with that. I know that I can’t feed all the babies. I know that moms have to make their own choices and that those choices aren’t mine to make. However, when I hear a cry for help, I can’t help but become emotionally invested. I feel like so many of those cries for help are hollow. Moms want to know that whatever they end up doing is okay. And it is okay. Feed your baby. Do it however you feel like you need to.
But I root for breastfeeding above all else. I know that not all moms will choose to breastfeed and that a small number of moms can’t for medical or other reasons, but when you cry for help and I hear you, I root for breastfeeding.
I have been there. I have been in a hard place. I wanted to breastfeed from the beginning. I make it, it’s free, I’m a woman, it’s empowering, it has antibodies, so I decided to breastfeed. Even twins. I had zero doubts in my body’s abillity and refused to anticipate lengthy NICU stays or caesarean sections. So when I was pumping and bottle feeding and had nipple preference and couldn’t make the transition to breastfeeding, I panicked. It was SO HARD. I gave up. I reached the point where I would have driven to the store and bought the damn formula myself if I didn’t have support.
Determination got me really far. Support got me further. The IBCLCs at Presbyterian Women’s Center in Abq were amazing. I bonded with some more than others, but that’s totally normal and a human thing. Mandy (who answered my cry for help on Instagram) saw my panic and offered me the possibility of exclusively pumping with a nursing session daily in case we wanted to try to transition at a later date. She helped me to feed my babies breast milk for as long as I possibly could, because that was my priority–especially after I had preemies. Jed was my rock. When I cried and said that we had to buy formula because I couldn’t handle this anymore, he said, “No, we do not.” He was never demanding or pushy, but he reminded me of my goals, of how important this was to me, to him, and to the health of our babies. If he said, “Sure, whatever you need, honey,” this would be a completely different blog post.
I needed them. I didn’t need people telling me that supplementing was okay and that formula feeding doesn’t make you a failure. Those things are true, but they would not have helped me to reach my goals. I don’t tell moms those things, because I know that in my darkest moments that’s not at all what I needed to hear. We talk about hospitals and nurses pushing formula on unsuspecting moms, but in all honesty, when you tell a mom who is trying to breastfeed that formula doesn’t make her a failure, you are telling her that it’s okay to give up. If she gives up, then you should tell her that it doesn’t make her a failure. Not before. When she’s fighting to make it work, all she needs to hear is that she can do it, that it’s worth it, and other helpful advice.
One of my friends told me recently (when we were confessing the unfair judgments that we pass on others and how we can get over them) that it bothers her when moms say, “You’re the best mom ever!” on pictures of breastfeeding babies. Like moms who don’t breastfeed aren’t as good. They can be good moms, just not the best ones ever. That’s unfair, but in all honesty, I had never even seen it from that perspective. When I get praise on breastfeeding pictures, it makes me feel good. This was hard. It’s not the easy choice. It was a ton of work. Praise isn’t the reason I breastfeed, but it certainly feels nice to hear it.
I suppose that when we open ourselves for comment (which is entirely the point of social media), we run the risk of hearing things that hurt us, that enlighten us, or that piss us off. The thing is, those people are all just people. Flawed, incorrect, brilliant, human beings just like you. They give good advice and bad advice. Take it all with a grain of salt. Surround yourself with positive influences and find a support group in case of dark times (for breastfeeding, IBCLCs and La Leche League are great choices).
Also, be aware that if you cry out for help on Instagram and I see it, I become emotionally invested. So pretty please, don’t cry wolf. It breaks my heart.