Thursday, February 2, 2012

Nazis and their Breastfeeding Agenda?

Breastfeeding Nazi. What a hurtful, offensive statement that is cruelly thrown around, usually behind the anonymity of an online posting. It's a whole other level of hurtful to receive this kind of insult AFTER somebody has repeatedly come to you for breastfeeding advice, telling you that they are committed to making it work and they NEED your help. The internet - it offers us so many wonderful opportunities for growth and learning, and also offers us this wonderful platform where you can hide behind your online identity and say cruel things that you'd never say to someones face.

Look, there are PLENTY of resources out there for formula feeding. The sad truth is, breastfeeding women just drop like flies. Even though it's the natural, normal way to feed a human baby, of course there are plenty of things that make it very hard, especially if you've had complications with pregnancy or birth. Many women stick it out, even if they use a little formula in the meantime, and have a very successful breastfeeding relationship. Many women never touch a drop of formula at all. Many, many, many women simply give up though. There are so many different factors that go into this decision, and I don't judge someone's decision to stop breastfeeding (or to alternate it with formula) unless it's accompanied by ignorant statements like "My breasts are for my husband's enjoyment only" or "Breasts are sexual and it's disgusting to feed a baby with them." Yes, I'll admit I get judgmental about statements like that. But having been a mom who has struggled with breastfeeding, I won't judge another mom for her struggle.

Bug had formula, along with breast milk, for almost the first two weeks of his life, although the amounts were less and less each time. I still clearly remember what an agonizing time that was, crying and feeling so guilty and absolutely sick every time I put my breast away and put that bottle into his mouth. The formula made his belly ache, and he was a fussy, cranky baby to begin with. I saw my body as a failure. First my cervix had "failed me" by not opening enough to let him through. I had a c-section and was told that I was "unable" to give birth vaginally, to him and to any future babies. Then my breasts were failing me by being unable to provide enough milk for him. I researched, though, and reached out to breastfeeding-educated women and professionals. Eventually we went an entire day without ANY formula bottles. Then we had a day when there was one bottle, then the next day there were no bottles again. Eventually I stopped counting the days since his last formula bottle. We had persevered, we had struggled immensely but we were now a 100% breastfeeding family. I threw away all of the remaining formula.

After having been through that struggle, it seemed natural for me to offer advice and encouragement to other women who are struggling in the same way, when they ask for it. I don't walk up to strangers on the street and ask why they're feeding their baby a bottle. I don't troll online forums telling parents of formula-fed babies that they should have breastfed. But when a person I know and care about approaches me and, after months of talking about her determination to breastfeed, starts telling me about how guilty and awful she feels about supplementing with formula and how sick it makes her baby and how her supply is dropping, I offer hugs and love and some suggestions for increasing supply and getting baby back-to-breast. If you want someone to cheer your decision for using formula despite the fact that it's making your baby throw up and your supply is dropping steadily, then tell me so, and OWN your decision. Don't hide behind a passive-aggressive online posting about how Breastfeeding Nazis and Hippie Super Moms are extreme and have standards that can't be met. Don't try to pawn your guilt off on me.

I've been active on mom forums for as long as I've been a mom, so the terms "Breastfeeding Nazi" or "Nipple Nazi" or "Breastapo" are not unfamiliar to me, I've seen those terms being thrown around. It's still shocking to me, though, to have that kind of label directed at me after being approached and asked for help with breastfeeding. I can't even imagine a person visiting a library to borrow a book and then calling the librarian a Book Nazi, or going to a dance class to learn a new dance step and then calling the instructor a Dance Nazi. If you find information and resources to help you in what you're learning to do, and then you decide that you don't want to do it anymore, it's ridiculous and just plain mean to lash out at the person you approached for help and call them a "Nazi." Honestly, I don't have room in my life for that kind of passive-aggressive bullshit.

When I decide to do something in my life, I learn what I need to know about it, and then I go ahead and do it to the best of my ability. Sometimes, whatever it is, it's not the right decision and I don't pursue it any farther. Sometimes I go "all the way" with it. The ownership for that decision lies with ME. Your decision to breastfeed (or not) lies with YOU. It's selfish and immature, and extremely hurtful to the person who tried to help you, to lash out and say that the reason you can't succeed at breastfeeding is because Hippie Super Moms set such a high standard that nobody could possibly match that. There are plenty of women, now and throughout history, who have managed to breastfeed successfully, even overcoming enormous obstacles to do so. None of those women, myself included, need to carry the guilt of women who either don't want to do what it takes in the first few weeks to make it work, or who are unable to for whatever reason. Own your OWN decision about how you choose to feed your baby, and you'll be taking an important first step towards being personally responsible for your parenting choices and for your entire life.

1 comment:

  1. I completely feel your angst... Take comfort angel.. Most of us love your words and thrive as a result of them.