Breastfeeding Shaming

Madi finally turned 1 and I can start weaning her. Breastfeeding has been both a blessing and a pain. Literal pain. I will not miss the heavy boobs, the painful latching, or the late night/buttcrack of dawn early morning feedings.

On the other hand, I will miss seeing her little face so close to my heart all bundled up in my arms. Some of my favorites memories from this first year are of tender moments spent feeding her.

Breastfeeding Madeline has been one of the most worthwhile things I have ever down in my life. I am immensely proud that we have been able to come this far. It wasn’t easy. Having to pump at work and having a wishy washy supply was extremely stressful. The Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump with On the Go Tote saved my life while pumping at work. Having a fashionable, discreet bag that could fit my pump and supplies with a matching bag that kept the milk cold was a godsend.

I expected the baby weight to just fall off, like so many of the other breastfeeding mothers told me it would, but my body didn’t get with the program (Another post about that will up soon).

When I diet my supply suffers. I even tried to limit myself to 2000 calories a day, which I found was suggested for breastfeeding mamas. I could barely fill one 5 oz bottle a day. So I upped it to 2500 a day and can’t keep the weight off.

Breastfeeding is a definite sacrifice but it’s what’s best for Madi and for our family. We have saved hundreds of dollars, Madi and I have an amazing bond, and she is one of the brightest, healthiest babies I have ever seen.

So how have I been shamed you ask? You’re probably assuming that I tried to feed her in public and got yelled at by some modesty police lunatic. Luckily, I have never had that happen. Instead, I had to deal with someone pretty close to me who tried their best to get me to switch to formula.

I did not realize that there were such strong feelings on breastfeeding vs. formula feeding until after I was pregnant. Breastfeeding has always been ideal for me, it never even dawned on me to try formula. The health benefits for mother and baby from breastfeeding are common knowledge but it was always the idea that breastfeeding helps create a stronger bond with your child that intrigued me.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am most definitely not belittling formula feeding babies. Breastfeeding is not for everyone. As mentioned earlier, it is a huge sacrifice. It takes its toll on your body and mental health in a way I never expected. If you do not wholeheartedly believe that breastfeeding is what’s best for you and your little one, it’s just not worth it to try.

Women on both sides of the field have to do with unwarranted shaming. I have heard stories of women who were treated differently by their doctors and nurses after they admitted they did not want to breastfeed their newborn. So I get it. To breastfeed or use formula is a very personal decision. One that should be made by the immediate family and immediate family only. I wish more people understood this.

I was lucky enough to be able to take 8 weeks off for maternity leave. Before returning to work I made it known that I was planning to breastfeed and would need a place to pump at work. Under the Affordable Care Act, employers of breastfeeding mothers are required to have a clean, private space for a mother to pump for at least an hour a day.

I understand that this can be quite the obstacle for some employers. Luckily, I was truly blessed. The branch where I worked had a conference room that was rarely used with a door and blinds on the windows. Instead of taking the full hour I was allotted, I pumped for 15 minutes at 1030 and at 330 every day and during my lunch hour.

Our office wasn’t very busy and my coworkers were phenomenal at covering for me. I did make it known that I would come rushing out if they ever needed me though. There was one time where a favorite customer almost walked in on me mid pump and a colleague told him “oh no, you don’t want to see that”. But that’s a story for another post.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that my employer handled my pumping needs beautifully. Except for one person.

This higher up was a pretty blunt lady to begin with. Always kind and well meaning but she could really put her foot in her mouth when she wasn’t careful. She was a mother and had formula her children from day one. She was a huge advocate for formula. That was her personal choice and her kids have grownup to be healthy and strong. I am totally not knocking her preference.

She definitely knocked mine however. One day, when it was just us two in the office, we got to talking and she told me (out of the blue, by the way) she felt that it was “unnatural to have a baby hanging from that part of your body at all times.” She mentioned that she didn’t know how I could stand it but she did not need to hear any details.

To me, breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world. I could not believe she said that to me but being my superior at work I felt like I couldn’t really voice my opinion on the matter. So I let it slide. To be honest, I think this was her not so subtle way of trying to get me to stop pumping during work hours. It worked. I tried my best to pump only during my lunch break from then on.

Then there was another day, a few months later when Madi was 9 months old, when she told me that she thought I was crazy for still pumping during my lunch break. It was unnecessary and more than a little weird, she said. She referred to me as a hippie and laughed when I told her my goal was to breastfeed until Madi turns 1.

This poor woman had been ridiculed for formula feeding and she has my deepest sympathies, but her disapproval of my choices were working my last nerve! I think she expected me to judge her since I was so serious about my breastfeeding/pumping beliefs, even though I wasn’t preachy. I did not even talk about it at work but for some reason she seemed to bring it up constantly.

It seems that she felt insecure and was expecting me to think less of her, so her defense was to have an aggressive offense and attack me first. If anything, this made me feel sad for women like her who were ridiculed because of their parenting choices. But most of all it made me see that what’s best for me and my child might not be what’s best for someone else.

Have you ever had anyone ridicule your choices, whether it was to breastfeed or to use formula? I’m interested to hear how others have handled these microaggressions. If you haven’t I hope it stays that way. It isn’t a very good feeling to know that someone thinks you aren’t making the best decision for your child.