Friday, February 22, 2013

Can We Please Give the Mommies a Break?

Even Daleks approve of baby-wearing.

When Squid was about 10 months old, I took her into a convenience store to grab a drink and a snack. At the time, she wasn't walking, so she would still allow me to wear her in a sling. The cashier oohed and aahed over my adorable baby girl and complimented me on baby-wearing. I smiled and said thank you and tried to pay for my items. But the cashier went on....

"I'll bet you breastfeed, too. All the people I know who wear their babies breastfeed for a long time."

I was a bit shocked. Not really used to having strangers ask what I do with my breasts. Not sober, at least. I stumbled a bit, then replied, "Ummm... No. We tried, but it didn't work out too well for us, so we had to switch to formula." And, once again, I believed that would be the end of the discussion. I would pay for my frickin' Powerade and be on my merry way.

The cashier had other ideas. She was appalled that I wasn't breastfeeding. Didn't I know that it was best for baby (you know, in case I missed all that at the hospital and doctor's offices)? Did I really try hard enough? You know, everyone can breastfeed if they try hard enough. Aren't I worried about the long-term consequences of not breastfeeding?

Looking back, I wish I had not been so polite. I wish I would have told the lady that it was none of her fucking business and to let me raise my child as best as I could. My only defense is that I was shocked that a complete stranger had the gall to ask me such personal questions. I clumsily answered as best as I could, paid for my stuff, and walked home and cried.

Mommies can't win. If we don't breastfeed, we're jeopardizing their health. If we breastfeed longer than society feels is appropriate, we are causing irreparable mental damage. If we wear our baby in a sling, we are spoiling her. If we put her in a stroller, we are inattentive. We receive judgment and criticism for everything we do and are quickly taught not to trust our own instincts in raising our own children.

Last year, Time ran an article about attachment parenting with a mother breastfeeding a 3-year-old on the cover and it started a major brouhaha. People on all sides suddenly had serious opinions on the issue and most were brutal. There was a lot of criticism over extended breastfeeding. Many women felt even more pressure to do things exactly right, or risk ruining their child forever.

Some women on Facebook cut through all the BS.

Greg and I practice our own modified version of attachment parenting. Squid slept in our room until she was too big for the co-sleeper. We considered letting her sleep in the bed, but Greg has sleep apnea and uses a CPAP at night. Plus, Squirmy Baby giggles every time the bed bounces. Even in her sleep.

I wore her nearly everywhere for the first year. Once she outgrew the Moby, we switched to a sling. And once she started walking.... well, Squirmy Baby won't stay in the sling for long, unless she's sleepy.

I received criticism from well-meaning people for both choices. And for picking her up every time she cried for the first several months. I was spoiling her. I was going to make her clingy. She would never learn to walk if I carried her (because babies in strollers learn so much about walking). I kept doing what I was doing because it felt right to me. I never judged those who did things differently, although I was happy to tell people why I did what I did. I even had one friend who said he and his wife would most likely get a bassinette with the next baby, since his wife had trouble sleeping with the baby in another room for the first couple of months. Co-sleeping seemed to hippy-like to him until I explained the benefits.

Now I have a very social, extremely active toddler. I like to think it's because of what I have done, but the fact is that she might have turned out this way regardless of what parenting style we chose. I think, in the end, she is generally friendly and happy because she has two parents who love her immensely and who want her to be happy, healthy, and well-adjusted. We do our best. We are generally flying blind. We are blessed with a variety of friends who are raising/have raised great kids using a all sorts of techniques.

And that's all any mommy or daddy can do. We do what we can. We screw up. We try to fix it. We screw up again. And at the end of the day, we hope for the best. I'm not screwing up my child because I carried her everywhere, but still fed her formula. I'm pretty sure pics like these are what's going to screw her up later on:

Mommy played The Dead Milkmen to me in utero.


  1. I'm curious. You said breast feeding was personal, but is it really? As we are maturing and realizing that breastfeeding in public isn't a bad thing, doesn't that come with it a move to openness and not intimacy. Not that the rest of her questions were in the realm of openness or politeness, but the breastfeeding question itself is asked about something most women do publicly. Generally, and I only say this from recalling what that book on etiquette says, a stranger should only asks questions regarding things one does or sees in public. I'm curious why breast feeding is polite but asking about breastfeeding isn't.

  2. The act may be public on occasion, for those who choose to. But the choices I make in raising my child are personal. I most likely would not have had the reaction I did if it had stopped after I said I bottle-fed. But to continue to question my choices, not knowing me or my life is unacceptable.

  3. Good for you Kele! I choose to stop breastfeeding very early with my daughter, and I never did with my son. I have not regretted that. My son was 10 and a half pounds at birth and per doctors orders started eating cereal and fruits and veggies at two weeks old! He ate all the time!

    The Time magazine thing bothered me from the social standpoint of the child. He was 2 weeks out from his 4th birthday when they did that cover. He didn't know about or understand the public outcry about his mother's choice, but he will have to LIVE with that photo being out there. Don't tell me that won't scar the kid. It was the public display of a very personal choice that the child doesn't have the ability to understand that bothered me.

  4. Hey Kele. You're the Mom. You know your child. Outsiders, well meaning or just cranky know-it-alls, do not know your child. You know when she needs to feel snuggled and safe. Breastfeeding stopped in my house after three months due to my drying up. I still got flack for it. People just don't understand. You do what is right for you and the baby.