Dear Breast Feeding Mafia,
There are millions of women who don’t breast feed their children until they are in college and guess what? Their moms are not rotting in hell and apocalypse is not now.
You mafia folks owe my husband some Fathers’ Day pancakes and me, some sleep and peace of mind. I’m stronger now and I’m sharing my story so women out there can work to not have their love measured one ounce at a time.
My story: A Lightbulb on a Soggy Father’s Day
On my husband’s first Father’s Day morning, he came down stairs to quite the scene.
I was sobbing.
I had on blood and grease stained t-shirt.
Snot ran from my nose in-between sobs.
My four month old had not slept more than 90 minutes straight for that whole night. He was small. He was fussing. I was tired, scared and feeling like a complete failure. After he had spoiled me so well for Mothers’ day, I could barely pull myself together to make my husband pancakes on Fathers’ Day morning.
The sobbing started when I stupidly started another sleep deprived morning reaching out to a family member for help. “I don’t think (my son) is satisfied with breast milk. Granny said it would be ok to start supplementing with cerea…” I said before I was cut off. “Don’t be crazy! Breast is best! Suck it up. You’re a mom now – don’t be selfish!”
These words are the mantra of the group of women I call the breast feeding mafia. Women who take breast feeding advocacy just a mile past too far. They are the terrorists of motherhood. Judgmental more than supportive, and barking rather than conversational in their advice about, in this instance, breastfeeding but there are also mafias about education, sleep patterns, TV/ electronic consumption but more on that in later posts.
Now, harsh tone and “bouff” (is that how you spell reprimand in creole?) aside, their message is not incorrect. Breast milk is indeed the best for your baby.
Having read just about every article on the internet, and spoken to everyone that had done more than biology 101 to get their input, I knew that breast feeding was best for my child. Everyone, with good intentions, shared the importance of breast feeding.
“Just remember you are MADE for this,” they would say.
“You have to bond with your baby. Breastfeeding is the only way,” they would share.
“It’s more discomfort than pain,’ they indicated.
And though my closest friends indicated (usually in hushed whispers) that I should do only as much breastfeeding as I could, I ignored them (never ever a good plan by the way) and, breast pump in hand, set out to indeed seek to breast feed for a year – minimum. This was stupid. My two closest friends, two amazing strong women with awesome kids, are some of the best moms I know – surely they knew more than I did on this whole breast feeding stuff but, they don’t call me young grasshopper for nothing. I decided they were underestimating me. I was, after all, made for this right? A year it would be!
Insert blistered and bleeding nipples.
Insert baby blues.
Insert a fretful (but ever so cute) baby and indeed, I knew I was not getting my son the nutrients he needed. Maybe I was not made for this? But didn’t everyone say it was possible? I’d never failed at anything and I was not about to be a parent that failed their child so…after a couple calls to the doctor and my 2nd post-partum doc visit, I had new resolve…
However, after drinking copious amounts of vervine tea (I really want to thank Mark, my guardian angel for getting those leaves to me and to my aunt in Tobago that got me an actual vervine plant), after trying herbal supplements to help boost production that hurt my stomach and after drinking up to four liters of water a day, after that I knew I was over my head but I was scared to admit it.
You see, I’m a real “type A” kinda chick. I know women who got back to work with not only chunky babies, but with bags upon bags of breast milk for their wee one.
My most successful pump was 8 ounces. 8 ounces in one day. 8 ounces in addition to 9 feedings…. I never felt more proud. I never felt weaker. I did my best to hide the weakness. I figured, if I could suffer through stilettos at fetes in the name of beauty, I could definitely suck it up to nourish my child. No one would know. I’d make it look good – I was good at that. I know how to look good to feel good.
Sadly, exhaustion can’t be covered in hair and makeup.
One night on the way to the bathroom after feeding my son and putting him down to sleep I slipped and fell. I brushed it off as just a moment of clumsiness. My husband knew better. He knew I was “fronting”. He knew I had feinted. I ignored his countless questions if I was ok. I covered it up with what I did best, I smile and a wave (off).
I cried in the shower. I cried in the dark. I cried when walking in the garden. I was no longer crying from baby blues, I was crying because I knew that this was it. I was producing the maximum amount of milk my healthy (or once healthy) body could.
Needing advice, I sought the sage thoughts of my grandmother. She had 10 children of her own so I figured she must know all about this stuff. She asked, “how old is he again?” I answered that he was four months old. Her answer was swift – “He should have been on cereal long time!”
Then Father’s Day happened. The call from a different family member helped the tears rain down in the open. Sobs that sent me down to the floor, hugging my son on a blood, milk and Lanosah stained shirt. Sobs from taking on the words of the mafia.
From the floor of my kitchen I begged my husband to let our son try bottle feeding. He looked at me sad and confused. “I never said we couldn’t”. He held me. He held my son. He wiped my tears.
A light bulb went off.
I was in my own way. In my way, and that of my child and husband. Miles was hungry. All I needed to do was feed him. If breast milk was not enough, I sure could supplement. My grandmother, doctor and now loving husband had said that.
Screw you Mafioso!
I had let the opinions of the breast feeding mafia somehow make me feel like I was inadequate if I “could not make” with breast feeding.
That day my son had his first 4 bottles. He slept longer. He smiled more and in the weeks that followed, suddenly he was really much happier. So were we. My nipples healed. My heart did too. I felt better and looked better not because of makeup but because I actually was.
So my lesson: The breast feeding mafia isn’t raising your child. You are. Make decisions that are good for you and your family. Breast feed as much as you can, but don’t be afraid to explore other options if you are exhausted. Also, you never know when starting a bottle can really be a great thing. A couple weeks after Father’s Day, my appendix ruptured. For those 4 nights in the hospital, I knew my son would be ok. He had his dad and he had his formula.
So when next a person tries to throw shade because you are not or did not breast feed your child through to the second week of his first marriage, you don’t have to be rude…just smile, wave and stick your ass out in case they actually do pucker up.