On our retail store Facebook page, we have been having tons of discussions these days about breastfeeding and formula feeding! And it has brought up a lot of emotions from moms – both negative and positive. It makes me think about how even though we give lip service to the idea that a mom should not feel guilty about the choices she makes – do we really give moms the benefit of the doubt enough? Do we realize how complex the issues are sometimes around the choices women make? Sometimes a mom who doesn’t breastfeed is choosing not to because it would make her angry and resentful and bitter – for whatever reason. And she is choosing to do what she needs to do in order to be a good parent.
When my first baby was 15 months old, I became pregnant with the second. I was still nursing and didn’t really want to stop – but didn’t know anything about anything…. So I went to see a La Leche League leader who was tandem nursing her first 2 babies. After an hour with her I decided firmly NOT to tandem nurse unless I found it to be a divinely pleasant experience. She kept saying how important it was to do it for her children, and even though she didn’t enjoy it she did it anyway because it was good for them. At that point I realized that what’s good for me is good for my babies, and if I force myself to do anything I am uncomfortable with then it is an obligation and not a joy and they will GET that, even if I never allow them to see me complain – they will know that I am unhappy. And unhappy moms make for unhappy babies and children and grown-ups, and so the whole circus continues for generations. And it is especially loaded BECAUSE we are women and our bodies and boundaries may have already been compromised at some point in our lives, and thus the issue becomes a feminist and political one as well.
From that point on, a metaphor that I have gone back to over and over in my mind as a parent is the image of being on a plane with your child when all of a sudden the pressure drops and you need oxygen. The masks drop in front of you, and your instinct as a parent is to put that mask on your child FIRST. But in fact, you must put it on yourself first – because if you are unconscious you can’t help your child and then maybe neither of you will survive! So save yourself first. In applying this to parenting, I think it is REALLY important that we take care of mothers, and that mothers feel empowered – because if they are strong and joyful, they will pass that on to their children. I believe strongly that in this way you can actually interfere with if not break the cycles of abuse and exploitation and disempowerment that make people so cruel and unconscious! And honestly, I KNOW from experience (mine and many others) that un-interfered with birth and breastfeeding and the whole entire path of intuitive parenting can be such empowering and joyful experiences that they can help us heal our lives and families.
So I stopped nursing my first baby when my breasts became really sensitive during my pregnancy and it felt bad to have him nursing – and I didn’t tandem nurse after all. I re-started with my second son and nursed him until I was pregnant with my next and it started to bother me. Then later when I had my third baby I nursed him until he was 3 years old – not all day long – but in the morning, at naptime, to go to sleep, etc. I was working hard at starting up the business and gone sometimes, and the connection of breastfeeding was important to both of us. But when I stopped, it was because I simply did not like the sensation of it anymore – I felt like a mother cat getting up, shaking off her kittens and walking away. My husband was sad for my son – he said “But Bets, he’s so young!” which in retrospect we both find funny! But I knew that if I continued I would resent doing it, and that feeling would be transmitted to my son and become part of his emotional DNA and I didn’t want that. I prefer that he feel guilty about all the trouble he caused us as a teenager instead…. But hey - THAT’S another story