I’m tired of censoring myself. But I’ll probably keep doing it – most of the time. Why, you ask, have I been doing this? Simply put, because it was brought to my attention in various ways that my “Rah-Rah! Breastfeeding, Bed Sharing/Co-Sleeping, Babywearing Power!” was stepping on toes, causing wonderful people to feel judged, uncomfortable or just plain offended. So let me say this, before I go any further – although I really, truly believe in they way FireDaddy and I are choosing to raise our son, it does not in any way mean that I walk around and judge other people who have made a different decision for their family. IT’S A CHOICE. I get to choose, YOU get to choose! I write and say what I do because I think everyone should know what options and ways of raising a child are out there before they make those choices. If I make you feel guilty or judged, it is not because I am trying to shame you, perhaps it is because you, like me, are struggling, or have struggled, to do the best you can to provide the precious, amazing little person in your life the best of everything, and the sheer weight of this responsibility causes all of us to question our choices at times. I do – I wonder every day if I’m setting my son up to be a “clingy, spoiled Mama’s boy” or a “brat” who can’t function in the real world, like certain people believe. What stops me in my tracks though, is a very simple thought. If I were a helpless, dependent creature, completely new to the world, what would I want to eat, where would I want to sleep, and where would I like to spend my days? I like to eat healthy food, I hate sleeping alone, I get very lonely and bored when I have to stay by myself while everyone else is in another room, and I get really, really upset when I feel ignored or left out. How can I expect my son to be any different? That said, I can no longer stifle my thoughts and feelings on this matter. I love the “natural” attachment theories I’m learning, there’s solid science to back them up, and I want to share! Breastfeeding is not only the “best” food for baby- but the NORMAL way to feed a baby. Weaning when baby is ready to wean is not crazy, not “gross”, and most certainly NOT child abuse. Whether he’s 12 months or 24 months or 36 months. Period. This seems to be a BIIG issue for a lot of non-breastfeeding families who see older babies or toddlers being breastfed. I can argue until my face is blue about how it’s NOT “creepy” or “weird”, but I think the World Health Organization says it best when it says that ”On a population basis, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life is the recommended way of feeding infants, followed by continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary foods for up to two years or beyond.” If an organization that devotes itself to protecting the health and well-being of children worldwide is saying this, then all culturally motivated prejudices aside, it is obviously NOT going to traumatize or damage my child to breastfeed until he’s ready to stop. To read the whole article from WHO, click here. I also belive that sleeping with your child is natural and SAFE when proper precautions are taken, and that using slings and carriers to keep your baby and toddler close is not “spoiling” your child, but preparing them to be independent and trusting adults with healthy relationships. If any of this offends or disgusts you, I apologize. I blame the culture we live in. But that’s another post for another day. Suffice it to say that I am sure that all of us, in our own way, do the best we can for our children. I respect the choices other parents have made, and I ask to be respected in turn. I will however, continue to write, talk and post about my parenting beliefs and choices. It’s a part of who I am as a person, and who my son is, as well. People post completely moronic, obnoxious things on a daily basis on the stream of consciousness time suck that is Facebook – why are my positive, natural child rearing comments and posts so controversial? And why is there SO MUCH FEAR surrounding childbirth, breastfeeding and just simply listening to our instincts as parents? I have had so many people share their breastfeeding horror stories with me – before my son was born, they, along with the birth horror stories, only served to send my hormonal anxiety levels through the roof as I envisioned every scenario happening to me. But now, I realize what these stories really are. They are a way of telling each other that it’s okay – we all try to do our best as parents, and sometimes we can’t do what we want. The milk doesn’t come. Or it does but the baby won’t latch, or it really, really hurts, or we just simply do not have enough support or knowledge or time to make it work, and then there stands a nurse or relative or doctor with a bottle of formula, and that’s it. Breastfeeding wasn’t possible, we “couldn’t” do it. We failed. So we reach out to other Mothers to tell them it’s okay too – even if you “fail” sometimes, you’re still a Mommy. They don’t revoke the membership. And as positive as this message is, this concept that even when we can’t do everything exactly like we should or think we should, we’re still good parents – it can have quite a detrimental effect as well. In our zeal to protect ourselves and other Mothers from the pain and grief of being a “failure”, we lose sight of one thing. Sometimes, being a Mama is really, really freakin’ hard. It hurts, and it’s messy, and you get really, really tired. And frustrated, and yes, even angry. AND THAT’S OKAY. It’s okay to be at the end of your rope sometimes – as long as you don’t let go. Don’t give up. Okay – so breastfeeding tanked, or it wasn’t possible or “right” for you. Bottle feed that precious little baby like you’re nursing him, don’t just stick a bottle in his mouth and walk off. Maybe look into finding a donor or a milk bank in your area and feed that human baby human milk! Cuddle him skin to skin, look him in his eyes and ”nurse” him. Carve out a piece of time to bond with him, whenever and however it works for you, and for heaven’s sake, don’t give all new mothers “permission” to not even TRY to breastfeed, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my obsessive reading and class taking, it’s this – most breastfeeding problems have a solution. It might not be an easy solution, or one you’ll like very much, but it’s probably there. That solution may not have been available or possible for you – but it’s not too late for that scared, quaking, 8 month along Mama – in – training standing in front of you. So instead of just sharing your scary birth and breastfeeding stories, share one (or all) of the following suggestions, before you move on to names and nursery colors. That way, if something goes “wrong”, the Mama will have some resources to get her through those hard times. And please – before you pass along little tidbits like “breastfeeding makes your breasts sag” , ”you have to eat nothing but bland food”, “It always hurts” or “formula’s better because it’s sterile and they put extra vitamins in it” – DO SOME RESEARCH. There’s enough mis-information going around as it is. Don’t add to it!
Skye’s Breastfeeding Tips
- Take a lactation class. No, seriously – TAKE A CLASS. There’s usually one offered at your local hospital. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll just “know” how to breastfeed. While it IS a natural behavior, you still have to learn how to do it, and so does your baby. My class was amazing, and taught by my lactation consultant Amy, who literally saved my sanity – breastfeeding wise, anyway! She’s my hero.
- Find a lactation consultant or a La Leche League in your town – or both! We don’t have an active La Leche League in our area, but I continue to hope and pray that that will change soon. If you don’t have a local La Leche League in your area either, do what I did and seek out like minded Mamas wherever and however you can. Having a supportive group to help and encourage you is VITAL.
- Buy a good breast pump – it doesn’t have to be expensive, but be sure to have one on hand.
- Read “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” – seriously. READ IT! It kept me going those first few weeks when I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make it.
- Consider hiring a Doula to assist in your birth and to maybe even help you out postpartum. Doulas are wonderful resources – not just during childbirth, but before and after as well.
- Look up the ”Human Milk for Human Babies” Facebook page in your area in case you do hit a snag and need breastmilk pronto. I know this is going to bother a few of you, BUT, before you say “gross” and condemn me as a weirdo, do some research. (again, with the research….) Expressed human milk is actually safe, has helped extremely fragile children beat incredible odds (as in the case of beautiful little Anaya, who just celebrated her second birthday, despite having Infantile Krabbe Leukodystrophy – a brain disease which carries a life expectancy of less than two years). In many, many less extreme cases, donor milk has helped children with “failure to thrive” or trouble digesting formulas grow and blossom, supported Mamas with supply issues until their milk could be built up, and allowed Mamas who are completely unable to nurse for various reasons provide a healthy nutritional start for their baby. The World Health Organization’s recommendation for feeding babies is this:
- The child should be breastfed exclusively (no formula, and no baby food or cereal until 6 months of age) by the child’s Mother.
- In cases where the Mother cannot breastfeed, milk from another healthy, lactating woman should be provided.
- Breastmilk obtained from a donor milk bank. It’s pasteurized, which has been shown to decrease the nutrients the child receives, but is still nutritionally superior to formula.
- If NONE of the above options are available or possible, THEN they recommend formula feeding as a last resort.
Nuff’ said. I love all of you, and if any of you have made it to the end of this ramble, I thank you for listening. Love and Peace Ya’ll!