I’ve only been a mom for about 4 months now, and I recognize that I’m definitely still in the newb phase of parenting. But these 4 months have felt like a crash course, full of guilty, stressed and confused feelings over what I should or shouldn’t be doing. In an effort to normalize these guilty new mom experiences, I’ve compiled a “Bad Mom” list. At the top of my list, due to the number of headaches it has caused, is breastfeeding.
You’re not a “Bad Mom” if you don’t breastfeed.
Yes, I know that breast milk is the “liquid gold” of nourishment, and that it’s best for babies because it’s designed especially for each individual child. However, your child will not lose all his IQ points, become a social pariah, be rejected from Harvard and ultimately fail at life just because you gave him formula.
If you are blessed enough to breastfeed your baby, that’s awesome – keep it up! It’s hard work, to say the least. But remember that some of us – for many valid reasons – are unable to breastfeed, and we feel guilty about it (or at least I do, and I like to think I have company).
I realize that my guilty feelings are not your responsibility – my feelings are all mine, and cause me to justify my situation to ease my anxiety. Which I am about to show you in the next sentence… My baby was premature and separated from me for 36 hours after birth because I was so sick. They had no choice but to give her a bottle in NICU, and by the time we got home she preferred the bottle. And why not? Bottles were less work and more familiar to her. Plus, little nugget had some serious weight to gain, and I couldn’t keep up with her needs. I’m sure if I worked harder at it (if possible), or stuck with it longer, or sacrificed my few scraps of sleep and sanity, I could have made it work. But I didn’t. While I know that I’m not a bad mom for switching to formula, I certainly have no trouble feeling guilty about it anyway, especially when random people keep asking me about it.
I can’t count how many times random strangers have asked me whether or not I’m breastfeeding my 4 month old. I have been approached in the cry room at church, in the grocery store, and at a restaurant by people who don’t even know my name, who see my baby and say, “Oh, how cute! How old is she? Are you breastfeeding?”
I don’t know why toting around a baby makes strangers think it’s okay to ask intimate questions about my body parts. I’m sure they mean well. Motherhood is crazy hard, and it helps to share in its struggles and triumphs with other moms, like swapping war stories. So maybe they ask because it helps them to normalize their experience. Or perhaps they want to offer their advice so I can learn from their experience.
In any case, it makes me feel super guilty and floundering to explain why I don’t breastfeed. In each scenario where I’ve done that, I get the same deflated response of, “Oh.” And then we change the subject, but it feels uber awkward.
So for those momma warriors out there who have lived and thrived through the infancy of their kids, you are remarkable and brave and beautiful. Just one tiny request: please don’t ask me if I’m breastfeeding, unless we’re good friends and/or I ask for your advice. It will help this new mom out a lot.
The bottom line is that I need to let go of my guilt, because at the end of the day, my baby is well-fed, warm, snugly and happy. We are blessed beyond the stars to have her in our life, and I can’t imagine my life before she graced us with her little milk-face. Even though I can’t give her the breastfeeding experience I wish I could, I’m giving her everything I can. And I *trust God will do the rest.
*I’m sort of trusting. Well, trying to trust. Okay, I’m thinking about trying to trust… That’s an issue for another post.
Want more “Bad Mom”? See “You’re Not a Bad Mom If You Give Time to People Who Are Not Your Baby”.