My first day really back on Twitter (I decided to finally try to get back in the swing of things), and I saw all these tweets about an article on Psychology Today about breastfeeding. [WARNING: I realize that there are moms out there suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) and/or having a difficult time breast-feeding that should not be reading articles that will only cause them further distress and feelings of guilt and inadequacy. So, if you are currently suffering from a postpartum mood disorder, you should probably wait until you are feeling more strong before reading what I call crap that is being shoveled out in a feeble attempt to remind people that breast-feeding is best, no exceptions...which is what this article is trying to lead people to believe, which is dead WRONG.]
As I read the article by Dr. Darcia Narvaez, my mouth dropped farther and farther til it felt like it was going to hit the floor, it was that unbelievable. It’s unbelievable that Psychology Today would allow such an unbalanced piece to be written, let alone be published for all the world to see. The irony is that she’s posting this under the heading of “Moral Landscapes.” I think it’s absolutely immoral what she’s doing in pulling such bullying tactics, trying to guilt mothers into breastfeeding irregardless of circumstances that they may find themselves in. This Dr. Narvaez needs to walk the shoes of a mother who has suffered from childbirth complications and PPD. It is obvious she has no experience or knowledge whatsoever of maternal mental health issues, PPD being a serious one, with one out of eight new mothers suffering from it.
Practically every single point she makes is filled with inaccuracies and lack of research to back them up due to a pure bias toward breast-feeding. It’s almost like she deliberately set out to target mothers and try to bully them into following her preachings, but with no research/statistics to back any of her assertions up. Well, this preachy article should be pulled, in my honest opinion. Thankfully, many comments opposing this article immediately started to appear on the site, and Karen Kleiman wrote a post on Psychology Today, which I applaud wholeheartedly. Please check it out. I wasn’t going to post a comment because what I would’ve wanted to say has been said in the numerous comments and this Dr. Narvaez wasn’t going to listen anyway. Usually, I love to pull out my favorite lines to criticize here in my blog, but with this article, I would’ve had to quote the ENTIRE thing, it was THAT BAD. I would like to take her first eight points and throw them out with tomorrow’s trash, especially the one where she tries to have you believe that “99% of moms can breastfeed successfully.” Yeah, right. Most women rarely succeed on the first try. Many don’t succeed until several days later. Some never succeed at all. Not succeeding at breast-feeding does not automatically make you a failure at being a mom.
But isn’t breast-feeding as easy as putting a baby’s mouth to your breast and having it suck? Aren’t we like other mammals that possess mammalian glands that produce milk for our offspring? We’ve all seen new piglets, puppies, and kittens lined up in a row doing their thing, all naturally knowing how to suckle after birth. No, for HUMANS breast-feeding is no more instinctive than all other aspects of baby care that are learned from doing or learned by the in-person guidance of experienced individuals. If breast-feeding were instinctive, why would there even be the need for lactation consultants? Why would one of the minimum qualifications of doulas be experience with breast-feeding? For every woman who feels that breast-feeding is natural, fulfilling, a source of contentment, and a great way to bond with the baby, there is a mother who feels that breast-feeding is difficult, painful and physically and mentally exhausting. Getting the baby to latch isn’t as easy as you’d think, and one would never know that a tiny little mouth can cause so much pain while sucking, especially if your nipples are already sore and cracking. And that’s in addition to the round-the-clock feeding schedule (e.g., one hour at a time, every two hours), sleep deprivation, and possibly even mastitis.
There’s this whole to-do about breast-feeding nowadays and how breast is best. Consequently, all too many moms choose to breast-feed with the best of intentions—knowing the benefits to the baby—but with very little concept of what it really entails, faced with a steep learning curve, and not expecting to have to learn or get help from anyone else for something as seemingly simple as putting the baby to breast to let the baby do its thing. As a result, all too many moms end up setting themselves up for a big letdown when they have difficulty breastfeeding and are unable to breastfeed for as many months as they were hoping to be able to do.
What new moms should keep in mind is that breast-feeding is a matter of personal preference. It is not for everyone. It is not a prerequisite to being a good mother. It’s a personal decision that must be made and should not be influenced by what other people say, think, or do. A mother who breast-feeds doesn’t mean she’s a better mother or loves her baby more than a mother who does not breast-feed. Breast-feeding is one method of feeding your baby. Your baby will grow up just fine with one of the formulas available today. There are plenty of people who were fed formula that are healthy and extremely successful in their careers.
A common misconception out there is that you must nurse your baby if you expect to bond properly. Let’s think about this for a moment. What about everyone who’s been bottle-fed? I doubt everyone who’s ever been bottle-fed failed to bond properly with his or her mother. You don’t have to breast-feed to bond. If you do breast-feed without any problems, that’s great. But you can also bond while formula feeding. Not everyone chooses to and/or is able to breast-feed. Dads and adoptive parents can’t breast-feed and are still able to bond successfully with their babies.
If you want to breast-feed, giving it your best shot is all you can ask of yourself. Don’t let anyone else influence you into believing you must breast-feed. You and your significant other are the only ones who should have any say in the manner in which you feed your baby. It’s no one else’s business. You will be making the decision based on what you feel comfortable with and what you think is best for your baby. Feeding your baby formula doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom.
Don’t feel guilty or deficient about not being able to breast-feed, and don’t feel guilty for having to stop breast-feeding if you need to take medication to recover from your PPD. The priority is for you to be well again so you can care for and establish a warm and loving relationship with your baby.
If you haven’t already done so, go on over to these blog posts that have also been written in response to the Dr. Narvaez’s article: My Postpartum Voice’s “My Breasts, My Sanity, My Choice” and Fearless Formula Feeder’s “Good versus ‘Evil': How ignorance can bring out the best in the breastfeeding/formula debate.”