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My Breastfeeding Journey and Mom Shaming

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I think one of the hardest things for me that I didn’t see coming at ALL was how hard breastfeeding would be. NO one told me or if they did, it wasn’t broken down enough graphically for me to really get the picture. To get to the end first, I did end up breastfeeding my oldest for a year and yes, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. No, I do not regret it. But I am sad with how people around me acted about it.

Mom shaming or mom judgement is certainly a hot topic. Sadly, what was NOT shocking to me was when I asked my audience about their experience, it’s not only people that you know that mom shame you but also acquaintances and strangers.

When I did a poll on Instagram stories asking if my audience had ever experienced mom shaming, 88% said yes. Then when asked if they have felt mom-shamed, whether it came from friends/family or acquaintances/strangers, 71% said family and 29% said acquaintances and I got multiple messages that said both.

I have certainly felt mom shame more often than I would like to admit. Whether it be about breastfeeding, choosing to be a work-at-home mom, keeping Leyton out of Mother’s Day Out or programs to be with a babysitter, ways that I should be making him eat or not eat, and a host of things in between.

(And before you read on, please know that I’m a pretty squeamish person about privacy. So when I say that it grossed me out to do breastfeeding at first, it’s because of me and how I personally first took it all in. I think it’s AWESOME if you didn’t feel that way and in fact, I’m jealous because it would have made my whole experience easier.)

I remember when they first gave my baby to me how excited and warm and fuzzy I felt, but then when they wanted me to get half naked in a room full of people with my boob hanging out to feed him while people told me how to do this far-fetched weird thing (to me at the time) that I literally felt lost. I didn’t feel like “me” and not to mention, it was kind of gross to me. I know, I know, half of you are probably judging me right now. Ha!

Then on top of all that, it hurt…like a MOTHER. I cracked, I bled, it was painful and terrible and not just for days…for weeks and months. Every time Leyton latched, I wanted to cuss or scream. I cried in the middle of the night because he wasn’t getting enough food, and I didn’t know how to tell since you couldn’t see in a bottle what he was taking in and because I was EXHAUSTED and depressed.

The lack of sleep new parents go through on top of the rest of their world being rocked is cruel and unusual punishment. That’s why God gives us hormones that literally help us block out how horrible some of the suffering we go through is, so we’ll sign up for it all over again. HA!

I heard comments about breastfeeding incessantly. “Why, I wouldn’t think about stopping, would I?” And, “It’ll get better. You have to do what’s best for your baby.” and more. Looking back, it makes me a little agitated to say the least. I was suffering from baby blues, literally lost in motherhood, wearing diapers essentially, in pain, unable to walk past the mailbox for 6 weeks from complications and then people had the audacity to tell me on top of that what was “best for me and baby.” Puh-lease.

Through some miracle, I did end up fighting through the cracked skin and horribly awkward feeling creeping inside of me every time I had to get semi-naked to breastfeed and overcame drying up my milk supply (with cabbage leaves -- note to other mamas -- DON’T DO THIS) and my baby blues and was able to breastfeed Leyton for a year.

And you know what, I’m glad I did. I’m proud of it. But would I make someone else feel the way nurses, lactation consultants, friends and others did me about breastfeeding? Heck to the no. And do I think I did breastfeeding entirely for me and Leyton? No, I think others opinions swayed me and made me bitter, angry and probably made me worse off in my depression.

And then, to top it all off once I did FINALLY get comfortable with breastfeeding myself other friends acted awkward about it, or made sure to make their opinions on NOT doing it known. You literally can’t win, people. You can’t win. So you might as well do what is best for YOU and YOUR husband and YOUR baby.

Please know that if you are reading this and you are pregnant that breastfeeding is hard. BUT, your experience may be different than mine. You may not get cracked skin, you may not have to use the shields “that are bad for baby’s nursing instincts --insert eye roll” and you may not feel awkward breastfeeding for the first time, but I want you to have at least heard from someone else who has had these thoughts and feelings so that hopefully it will help you pause if someone else you know isn’t having as easy of a time with it as you.

And, please know that it DOES get easier. After about 5 or 6 months until towards the end it was easy to breastfeed. What stinks is all the time, effort and energy it takes plus the pumping, the washing bottles and pumping parts and storing the milk, measuring it out, spilling it all over your kitchen with many a splash and drip. Half of your day, if not more will be spent breastfeeding, pumping or cleaning parts in the beginning.

At the end of the day, I never thought I’d be one of those women who felt “guilty” for not producing enough milk. Because before pregnancy and child-birthing hormones, that doesn’t seem rational, because it’s not. But then there you are at 4 am, exhausted and crying in bed and your husband has to help you however he can…which sadly in the beginning is minimal because again…he has no boobs. And you feel it, perhaps for the first time…the mom guilt creeping in. How you aren’t good enough to make the milk or whatever it is.

Then the WEIRDEST part is that when it was time to stop breastfeeding, then I was sad about it. Motherhood hormones, you are truly a beast. What is that about?! I’d say things like “Oh my gosh, this is the last week.” or “This is the beginning of the end of his babyhood.” or “We won’t have this same bond.”

I hope that this post frees you to feel however YOU and YOUR FAMILY need to feel about breastfeeding, about pumping or about using formula. Because at the end of the day, that sweet baby is going to be A-OK no matter what you choose. My husband was formula-fed, I was breastfed and guess what? We are both OK.

Bottom line, my hope is that you will do what is right for you as a family and your baby, regardless of what others say. If you feel that it is too much to breastfeed and your body isn’t responding, then take the pressure off of yourself and listen.

Sleep when you can, soak up every moment, get a sitter even for an hour to get a break if needed, and figure out special ways to love on your older babies. Oh, and pro tip - keep dark chocolate close at hand!

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