I did not breast feed my child.
I was actually shocked by this, because a few years ago I miscarried at the beginning of the second trimester. While still pregnant, my boobs got huge and heavy and after I miscarried I had a lot of milk. Lots of it. Tons. It was kind of a hassle because, you know, I didn’t have a baby and I had all this milk oozing and streaming and sometimes squirting out in arcs across the room. So when I had a pregnancy that had a successful outcome (living baby) I assumed that I’d be able to breastfeed despite the fact that my boobs didn’t really get any bigger or fuller, I never felt any milk coming in/engorgement, etc.
I never actually produced much in the way of milk or colostrum. Niko would latch on, suck a bit, then become OMGENRAAAAAAAAGED. I’d pump, and after half an hour to an hour of pumping both breasts I’d have less than 2 ounces.
I have PCOS, an endocrine disorder which can prevent a woman from getting pregnant, prevent a woman from sustaining a pregnancy (and yes, I’ve had a bunch of miscarriages, most of them very very early), and also prevent a woman from breast feeding. (It does a bunch of other stuff too– a BUNCH– but I’m talking about tits here, so I’m running with that)
My body did not produce milk. I suppose it’s possible that if I bought and consumed special teas and cookies and supplements that can boost milk production I might have increased production… but frankly, I don’t have the money for that. Breast feeding was not something I was in a position to do. Hopefully if I have another child things will go differently, I’m not discounting ever being able to breast feed. But it’s something that didn’t work for me, and was frustrating, and made me feel broken at times, like my body was defective. AND LET ME TELL YOU INTERNETS OTHER BREAST FEEDING PARENTS ARE QUICK TO JUMP ON THE SHAME TRAIN.
It doesn’t help that most of the female parents online, on forums and writing blogs, tend toward all-consuming attachment parenting which OF COURSE involves breastfeeding, possibly extended breastfeeding. And baby wearing. And organic food. And hand made wooden toys. And magical sparkle dust. And essentially assumes that the parent is a stay at home parent with a pretty big expendable income and an extensive support network of family and friends. Which, again, not so much in my case. That doesn’t make these parents bad people, but they tend to have Opinions about How Things Should Be, and be really judgmental about other parents (usually moms) who don’t do things according to writ.
I don’t think ANYBODY is arguing that human breast milk is NOT ideal for human babies. However, there are a lot of reasons for a parent to not breastfeed a child. I’m going to outline some of them here for you. Note that a lot of them are kind of rude and invasive to ask about.
The parent has an illness that can be transmitted through breast milk
The parent is taking medication that can be transmitted through breast milk
The parent does not have milk ducts
The parent has damaged milk ducts
The parent is an adoptive parent who has not been pregnant and cannot produce breast milk
The parent is male/lacks breasts
The parent has a physical condition preventing or limiting production of breast milk
The parent has a history of physical/sexual abuse and breast feeding is triggering/stressful
The parent is in a work situation that does not provide time/space/facilities for pumping breast milk
The parent is in a work situation that provides time/space/facilities for pumping breast milk, but cannot afford to purchase or rent a pump
The parent does not have a cultural/social tradition of breast feeding
The parent does not have education/support with regards to breast feeding
The parent cannot afford milk bank milk
The parent cannot afford a wet nurse/does not know anyone who can cross nurse/wet nurse
It’s hard enough parenting without other parents turning on you for the choices you make in trying to keep your kid fed and alive. A lot of the “lactivism” I see online is really stomach churning; finger pointing at terrible moms who use ~gasp~ a bottle while patting themselves on the back for the sole achievement of having a functioning biologically female body. This is especially, and terribly, true right now during the recent Similac recall. You know what’s utterly hilarious? Shaming and guilt tripping women trying to keep their kids alive! It’s a totally fun game! Let’s all play. Or not.
Breast feeding is often accompanied by comparisons to racism.
Here are some ways breast feeding is not like racism:
Nobody will chase you down and hang you from a tree until dead for breast feeding/having been breast fed
Nobody will vandalize your home/car for breast feeding/having been breast fed
Nobody will refuse to sell you a house because you breast feed your child/were breast fed as a child
Nobody will refuse to seat you in a restaurant because they heard you breast fed your child/were breast fed as a child
Nobody will force you to give up your seat on public transit to allow a non breast feeding parent/breast fed child/person to sit
People who breast feed/were breast fed as children aren’t targeted by the police and ticketed/arrested in greater numbers than non breast feeding/breast fed people
Most of the actual lactivism actions I’ve seen recommended are also incredibly passive. Writing letters about negative portrayals of breast feeding/positive portrayals of formula feeding, for instance, really doesn’t help women who work 9 hour factory shifts with no chance or facilities to pump, you know? Going to a nurse-in in the middle of the day because you don’t have “a real job” (note the scare quotes) does absolutely nothing to help women who are forced by monetary concerns to go back to work mere days after their babies are born, and never have a chance to establish a nursing relationship. Nursing in public as a visible breast feeding parent is cool and all, but doesn’t do much to assist women who generally are low-income and not White in connecting with lactation consultants or breast pumps, both of which are expensive. Boycotting Nestle (except for Butterfinger bars man they are just so good, you know?) doesn’t help parents who are physically unable to breast feed and are unable to afford banked breast milk.
In other words, there’s a lot of self-congratulatory talk about Sticking It To The Man and how EEEEEEVIL formula companies are (Yeah, ok, they are evil but so are most big corporations) and very little actual helping of other moms. You successfully nursed for three years? That’s awesome that you were able to make that choice and stick with it, but a lot of parents don’t have the option of making that choice and stating that you are a better parent for being able to lactate (or being in the position to chose to lactate) is a slap in the face to parents who don’t have that choice, that option.
Modern Feminism was built on the backs of Women of Color (and poor/low class White women) who did a lot of the heavy lifting (child care, home care, elder care, etc all for very low wages and no job security) that enabled affluent White women to lobby for social justice for other affluent White women while leaving non-affluent non-White women behind. Lactivism and Attachment Parenting are more of the same. I really wish more people who called themselves lactivists did actual work for other parents, lobbying for more rights for parents like guaranteed access to breaks and facilities to pump; paid maternity/paternity leave; funding especially for low income neighborhoods for lactation consultants and inexpensive breast pump rentals. There’s some really great, influential lactivists out there who ARE working in this direction. But most of them? (or at least a lot of smug vocal ones) View having productive tits as an excuse to slag off on other parents and declare themselves winners of the Parenting Olympics.
I did not breast feed my child.
I did feed him the best I could, and continue to do so. I love him, nurture him, and care for him. And that is what really matters.
And I really wish that other parents would respect that, respect my body, and respect me… and respect all other parents in a similar situation.
Mirrored from Now Showing!.