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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Support with Integrity: Judgment Day

This post was written as part of the weekly Breastfeeding Blog Hop hosted by Slacker Mom and cohosted by The Gnome’s Mom and Happiness Redefined. Visit the links below and link up your own story or leave a comment!

Last week's theme was reverse cycling. This week, we're talking about support with integrity: supporting breastfeeding women no matter how they do it, how often, where, with what tools, etc. In fact, you can go sign the pledge saying you will support with integrity too. I signed it. It's important to be unified when it comes to mothering. There can be so many different aspects to parenting, but at the end of the day, we're all doing the same thing, trying to do the best for our kids, and facing similar challenges and triumphs.

Honestly, I'm having trouble writing this post, though, because I have been judgmental when it comes to breastfeeding. I do believe that breastmilk is better than formula, and I believe every baby deserves the right to receive that nutrient-rich colostrum at birth or the antibody-fortified milk that's made especially for them as they grow.

I try to be open minded about ideas that don't fit with what I prefer or believe. I don't want to be judgmental when it comes to parenting matters. In my birth classes, when a woman looks at me earnestly and tells me that she fears she won't be able to have a natural birth, I urge her to do what is best for her. When a friend tells me she eventually let her baby cry it out because she was unable to function due to her exhaustion, I tell her not to feel guilty, because that's what was best for her at the time. When an acquaintance explains that she switched to formula at six months because she needed to have some space, get some sleep, and let someone else feed the baby, I ...

See, right here is where I cringe and falter. I would like to say that I tell her to be confident in her decision because it's what is best for her and her family. And I think I did tell a friend that recently.

But my heart cries out, did you try cosleeping? Isn't it so much more time-intensive to have to make and wash bottles? Didn't your husband try a different way to bond with the baby, like rocking her to sleep or babywearing?

And what I really want to know is are you going to try breastfeeding with your next baby? 

Breastfeeding is my thing. My soapbox. The one thing I would never change about my parenting style. It was the one thing I always knew I would do. I'm actually a little bit scared of formula. Do I fear that it will grow horns and a tail and wield a pitchfork? Possibly. It's irrational, I know.

And even now, as I write this, I remember how it actually did go down when my friend told me she stopped breastfeeding. She was a little hesitant to tell me. But it started a conversation. I wasn't surprised. I knew that it was affecting her sleep, and it was limiting her ability to blossom as a mother. I remember that, at the time, it seemed like the right thing to do. And I supported her. My heart didn't even cry out with the did you's and what if's. Not until much later.

When it comes to parenting issues, I can often see both sides of the coin. I know the pros and cons of the epidural, and I've had the experience to know what it's like to try for a natural birth but fear that it might not be possible. I know the effects letting a baby cry it out could have on the developing brain, and I've had the experience to know what it's like to be at your wit's end in the middle of the night and feel like there is no other option.

I know the benefits of breastfeeding, and I know the challenges that might arise. I've even experienced some. But since breastfeeding is my thing, I have never envisioned another option. So sometimes it's hard for me to empathize with someone who does envision other options.

But I try to keep an open mind. In the end, it always comes down to making an educated decision. If someone knows the options that are available, has weighed the pros and cons, and has made the decision that's right for her and her family--whether it has to do with birth, sleep, breastfeeding, or any other decision that we make every day in our lives--then I wholeheartedly support her. But if the decision is made on ignorance, assumption, or fear, I am more likely to encourage her to question her decision.

Is that the right move? I don't know. I had another friend who used to be adamant that how she feeds her baby is none of my business, no matter how she came to the decision. But I can't help but want the best for my friends and their kids. If my friend was smoking in the car with her child in the backseat, I would want to start a conversation about how we can do our best to promote our kids' health and keep them away from toxic substances. So if a friend decided to quit breastfeeding--or never to breastfeed at all--I would want to start a conversation about how we could promote our kids' health and provide them the immunity and bonding that is so important to a child.

And in the end, it should always be just that: a conversation. Support, encouragement, and education should be offered as one side of a multi-sided conversation. I've learned to then step back and listen to the discourse on the other side, though. My soapbox is perfect for my own family, but everyone has their own thing.


Sarah said... Best Blogger Tips

I'm glad for your honesty. I definitely agree that breastmilk is best for baby. I think it's much easier than formula and bottles, etc. I sometimes find it hard to step back and let parents decide what is best for them and their children, but then I remember their children were not given to me and I'm not the parent. Dialogue and education are good, but it needs to stop there. We can't start arguing or looking down.

Marah Mumma said... Best Blogger Tips

it can be so hard to "support" an alternative when you are so passionate about an issue. thanks for sharing. thanks for signing the pledge. and thanks for linking up with this week's hop!

Jenny K said... Best Blogger Tips

I find it hard to not be judgmental, too. I've signed the pledge and am working on it!

Tmuffin said... Best Blogger Tips

I'm glad we all talked about this! And I'm glad I'm not alone. But I think that we are self aware and honest. And I think that being honest is not always the same as being judgmental. We recognize the need for support, and for open conversation. We are not always going to have the same opinions as other people, but we recognize that everyone is different and entitled to her own opinion and ways of doing things. I think that is important too.

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