Let’s keep it real: The pressure to breastfeed is intense. Week after week, popular sites publish stories from real moms about the struggles they face regarding nursing or pumping or all of the above.
Whitney Port recently released a tearful and honest account of her own experience and challenges. As I was reading her story, I couldn’t help but notice some of the comments on a Facebook thread. The overwhelming majority of them were supportive and compassionate. But there were some (too many actually) who were judgmental, shortsighted, and downright mean — some directed at her and some directed at the moms commiserating with her.
I believe strongly in everyone having their own opinion, but enough is enough.
There is no excuse to rip someone apart based on their decision to breastfeed or not. It’s their choice, not anyone else’s. Do I believe it’s beneficial to breastfeed? Absolutely. But do I hold it against someone who decides against it? Absolutely not.
Breastfeeding is not only a personal choice, but it’s a freaking full-time job. Whether you are nursing, pumping or doing any combination of the two, you are an on-demand milk machine.
I have two children, and I breastfed both. It wasn’t easy, and there were tears, frustrations, bloody nipples, and physical and mental exhaustion. I lasted three months with my first before my supply dwindled on its own. With my second, I made it six months, and it was entirely different than the first time around.
My supply was high. I was feeding her and still making enough to freeze significant amounts. I would literally look in my freezer and beam with pride, I can’t lie. But I was also reaching my physical and mental limits.
After month three, I began exclusively pumping, hoping that the ability to have others bottlefeed her would maybe relieve some of the pressure. No such luck.
I was trying so hard to hold on. Thankfully everyone in my life was on my side and supportive, telling me that if I stopped I wasn’t doing wrong by my baby. And then recently at her 6-month mark, I was just done.
Done being hooked up to my pump 4–6 times a day.
Done rushing to get the first session in before the sun was up and I had to get both kids dressed and out the door to get into the carpool line.
Done bringing my pump everywhere because I never knew how long I’d be gone and whether I would need it.
Done pumping in the car spilling breast milk on myself in the parking lot in the middle of dance recitals, weddings, and work events.
Done with clogged ducts that were so painful I would cry as the shower water hit my boobs.
Done cleaning pump parts 10 times a day.
Done excusing myself from events early because I had to get home before my boobs quite literally exploded.
Done waking up with soaked bras and T-shirts.
Done with boobs that even on a good day were sensitive to the touch.
Done not being able to wear anything without looking borderline inappropriate because there’s only so much you can do to keep those suckers tame.
Done having wires everywhere while trying to get my kids bathed, fed, and ready for bed.
I just couldn’t stop. I had such milk guilt. It was mostly self-imposed because I felt fortunate to be able to breastfeed successfully. But every time I read a story about someone’s breastfeeding struggles and saw the sanctimommies pour in making the author feel like crap, it would add to my self-inflicted pressure.
Then, one day, I woke up and said (in my head) “Screw them!” They don’t know me. They aren’t in my life, living my day-to-day. These are my boobs and my nipples, and I will do with them what I choose. My child is happy and healthy and has had six solid months of breast milk (not including the frozen supply hiding out in my spare freezer). So yeah, screw those sanctimommies, and the pumps they rode in on.
The mama is milked out.
So I stopped, ended up with mastitis (figures), and once again felt in control of my body and a little more sane. And guess what? My baby didn’t notice. Nothing spontaneously combusted. There was no Armageddon. We are all A-OK and mama is actually getting a little more sleep and rest without having to suit up and turn into a human dairy every few hours.
At the end of the day, a good mommy is a sane mommy. So to those moms who think they can act like the breastfeeding police, just stop! Stop imposing your ridiculous set of standards on moms who can’t or don’t want to breastfeed. Stop being bullies and worry about your own nipples.
Milk guilt is hard enough.