A Mother’s Guilt

After completely disappearing once again from the Blogosphere, I’m making a come back with a little help from my husband — he offered me scheduled time every Saturday morning to work on my blog where I will be completely uninterrupted by babies, laundry piles, phones ringing, dishes in the sink, etc. etc.  We’ll see how it goes!

I wanted to begin my triumphant return with a discussion close to my heart – unnecessary mommy guilt.  As new mothers we tend to face pressures and guilt from almost every corner of our lives; an unrelenting source of, “I’m not good enough,” mixed into an already turbulent, hormonal, sleep deprived period of time.  Some days it’s easier to shake it off, stare lovingly into the round, adoring faces of our offspring, and feel for a moment what true love really means.  Other days, the load is just to heavy, and even the slightest comment or criticism can send us running for a private corner to cry our eyes out, secluding our sobs of deeply felt inadequacy.

In truth, new mothers need a lot of love, support and time in order to find their way, and in many cases one or all three of those things can be extremely lacking.  I’ve been pretty lucky to have a lot of the first two, if not always a lot of the third –  though I don’t really expect to have time and am generally surprised when a moment of quiet and relaxation sneaks up on me.

That having been said, I was truly hurt/saddened/pissed off by a recent blog post I read accusing mothers who stopped breastfeeding for one reason or another, of being lazy and neglectful towards their children.  I hate to link to the article here (even though I am using quotes from the site), less I give this particular blogger more of what she was obviously seeking – ATTENTION and increased readership – so I will instead just say that you are welcome to email me at uncommonnonsense1 at gmail dot com if you would like a link to her post.

It suffices to say, the article is basically one woman’s ignorant and self-righteous rantings on what she sees as a plague on society as a whole — not enough women breastfeeding their babies.  Though I would admit that formula producing companies have a long history of distorting the truth about breast milk versus formula, and that we have not had a culture of breast feeding in the US or many other countries for many generations, that is NO REASON to publish such a nasty, hate-filled, mean-spirited bit of jargon pinning mother against mother and making a whole generation of mommies feel like crap!

The blogger in question refers to mothers who don’t breastfeed as “excuse makers,” and basically women who selfishly chose to prioritize other things over the health and well being of their babies.

“and the reasons they give are mere excuses used to mask their laziness.”

…apparently we are all making excuses to hide the fact that we know deep down that we’re really just selfish quitters.

“How can you tell an excuse-maker from a mother who genuinely couldn’t breastfeed? This is a tough question, as both use anatomy in their dialogue. One way of differentiating between them is by the level of defensiveness…Mothers who genuinely couldn’t breastfeed however, know that they truly couldn’t and have a valid reason, so are less racked with guilt.”

I can not express the level to which this assumption makes me want to hurl something heavy at this woman’s head.  In my own little Bostonian community of new moms, it is for sure the en vogue thing to nurse your baby.  At any given meetup, that one mom who pulls out a bottle from her bag must immediately express some kind of heartache over the reasons she mush turn to a bottle and not her boob, and the level of justification necessary for her to avoid feeling the outcast is as irritating as it is ridiculous.

(This is meant in no way as anything against moms who chose to formula feed without a medical reason – I just don’t really know any of those moms at this time) Of the few moms I know who do not breastfeed, ALL started out nursing and wished to continue nursing with all their hearts.  ALL were not only racked by guilt over not being able to continue (guilt that came regardless of how medically, emotionally or otherwise necessary it was to stop) and ALL were to varying extents heart broken over missing out on something they felt was special and important.  Each one tried all kinds of things to continue breast feeding, and each one suffered some kind of post-par tum depression related directly to their breastfeeding struggles.  For each, stopping the struggle and embracing the situation as best they could, was the best decision for them and their babies…but we are all still defensive.

Why are we defensive?

Because we feel let down by our bodies, because we put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect mothers and we see this as a failure, because society is telling us we should be nursing and so we feel we’ve let everyone down – not just our babies – because we feel somehow faulty as women and as mothers not to be able to perform this most basic and natural “womanly art”, because we believe breast is best and yet our children are not getting the breast, because we worry we are somehow harming our children forever by not being able to supply this perfect start super food…the list goes on and on.

For my own part, I feed my daughter mainly expressed breast milk that I pump out pretty much round the clock.  For the story about why, you can read my posts on breastfeeding here and here.  Even so, I still feel the eyes of the community upon me when I pull out a bottle from my bag.  I’m often questioned about my situation by other moms – and random strangers at the table next to me – and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked whether I’ve tried (insert useless, cliched advice which I already tried for months here), whether or not I’ve seen a lactation specialist (as a matter of fact I saw four of them, at a cost of over $100 per visit, and one actually told me to stop nursing), and/or been offered the comment, “well at least it’s still breast milk.”

Hmm, and if it wasn’t breast milk?  Does my worth as a good parent actually rest on this one question?  Does the fact that I have prioritized pumping over other things in my life, and have the time, finances, milk supply, health and support to do so, actually make me a better mom than one who gives her child formula? I should think not.  There is so much more that goes into be a good mommy, and I truly don’t believe much of it hinges on whether my daughter is getting breast milk or formula.  I like providing breast milk, I can provide breast milk, my daughter prefers breast milk, and I believe it is better for her health overall, so for me, despite the inconvenience of pumping and the discomfort I still experience, it’s what I continue to do.  That is my choice, and I would not push it on anyone else.

This brings me to my next complaint about this article…

“if you’re a formula feeder reading this and you’re angry because you had a genuine medical reason for your inability to breastfeed (insufficient glandular tissue, mastectomy, incompatible medication for example), perhaps redirect some of your anger onto the women that had the functioning breasts yet lacked the effort.”

I have to say that this comment makes my blood boil in a particularly aggressive and explosive way.  Wild assumptions are being made about the choice to stop breast feeding vs. the need to stop breast feeding, and the harsh judgement of this one blogger towards anyone who in her eyes doesn’t fit the bill.  Furthermore, it pains me when I hear someone who spouts anti-formula comments on a regular basis (either in blogs or IRL) – comparing formula to poisoning your child – saying something like, “but if you are someone who truly has to formula feed your babies, no worries, that’s okay.”  Admittedly, that isn’t really what this blogger is saying here, but this seemed the right forum to add that comment.

“Just admit that breastfeeding success, rather than being a biological certainty, is for the most part, a result of good ol’ fashioned effort.”

You know what Miss Blogger…regardless of your degrees or your passion for breast feeding, you are not the ultimate decider of what constitutes a valid decision to stop breast feeding, or what it means to give it your best effort but just not have it work out for you and your family.  You do not walk in the shoes of every nursing mother, and your experiences and successes/failures are not the be all end all of what each woman faces or is capable of overcoming.  Any nursing mother who stops nursing has her own reasons for doing so, and your judgmental attitude does not help in any way in creating a supportive environment for a new mom to trust in the safety net of a support group or friend circle or to find her way as a confident provider and caregiver.  Considering the popularity of your blog, and the number of women it reaches, try having a little more compassion, a little more understanding, and maybe putting a little more care into the things you publish on your site.


About uncommonnonsense1

Stay at home mom of two.
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5 Responses to A Mother’s Guilt

  1. Alissa says:

    Amen on all counts. No one has the right to judge what another mom does or doesn’t do with their own body and child. If breastfeeding is a true hardship to a new mom and is causing her to be unhappy, it will only cause unhappiness in the family and the baby. Each parent should decide what it right for them on an individual basis. It doesn’t mean they love their child any less or are lazy. Why is it everyone’s business anyway? Mind your own.

  2. Cathy says:

    I know the post of which you speak.

    The thing is – I don’t disagree with ONE point that she made – that instead of whining and giving excuses, we should just own that other things are sometimes prioritized over breastmilk. But the rest of the post, the tone, the implication that somehow prioritizing something over breastmilk makes you a worse mother … it was horrible. Utter trash. I swear. If someone thinks I’m lazy for using formula, they need to come live here for a week.

    I didn’t even ATTEMPT to nurse this baby. And you know, it felt really good to not explain myself. I don’t breastfeed. I have my reasons. In all the many factors that are my life, breastmilk just does not rank high enough to bother with. It makes me a BETTER mother than if I was all “oh I couldn’t breastfeed, this is awful”. Nope. No guilt, no doubt, I made the right choice for me and my family and my baby is utterly perfect and developing ahead of the curve. It’s all good.

  3. LisaB says:

    Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry you are dealing with this. It is completely unfair for people to make statements like that 😦 You are a great mother, I know you are. Everyone is different and has different styles. As long as you love your child, that’s all that matters. I would hope no one who is so close minded and set on one idea would pass that on to their child….what a shame. People need to be more supportive and accepting. Big hugs to you! I’m so glad you’ll be blogging more! Thanks for all your support on my blog xoxox

  4. Julia says:

    How frustrating that article was!! Ethan is a formula baby, (not my first choice) and is doing amazingly well… and it doesn’t make me less of a great mom! Oy! Mom can be so judgy!

    • Agreed. I get so irritated at this particular blogger, because regardless of her arguments on the subject, which she is welcome to make – hey it’s her blog – she uses this horribly self-righteous, nasty and judgmental tone which is picked up and echoed by many of her readers. With such a popular blog, I would hope she would feel a bit more responsibility towards her readership for the kinds of messages she is putting out there.

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