Breastfeeding: Is it really the only measure of a good mom?

I was about eleven when I sat in my little brother’s room watching my mom struggle to breastfeed him.  She was crying in pain and was frustrated.  The pump that my father had rented out, was loud and awful and she hated using it, because it hurt!

I watched her and saw how disappointed she was in herself for being unable to enjoy these moments of feeding her baby.  He was three months old when she finally weaned him off.  Enough was enough.  She did her best, and it just wasn’t working out. Considering the fact that my brother was spitting up blood instead of milk was probably the biggest indicator that it was time to call it quits.

Breastfeeding is considered to be best.  I am a breastfeeding mom and I support it completely.  I love the bond and closeness that I share with my baby girl, and wouldn’t trade it for the world.  However, I don’t think I am a better mom because of it.

Is breastfeeding really the only measure of a good mom? My mom is a strong and wonderful person.  She had breastfed both myself and my older brother for over a year each.  It was so heartbreaking for her to stop feeding my younger brother at three months. However, I don’t think she is any less of a mom to my younger brother than she is to my older brother or me.

Our society is so fixated on the idea that there is a “right way”, a “normal way” of doing things.  Nevermind how women are put down by men, women put down each other.  We are too quick to judge each other for anything and everything, and breastfeeding is no exception.

It is wrong to assume that women who don’t breastfeed are bad moms.  Often they are put down for it because they are considered lazy, selfish, or stubborn.  It is unfair.  Breastfeeding is a choice that a mom makes, but sometimes despite how desperately she wants to do it, it just doesnt go according to plan.  The judgement that people place on these moms is horrible.  Comments such as “if only you were breastfeeding” or “what kind of a mother refuses to give her child the breast?” only breaks a woman down.  What about moms who become overwhelmed or stressed, or are on medication or moms who just don’t produce any milk?  Breastfeeding is very complex, and does not come naturally to everyone.  It may even be challenging for moms who have already done it and were great at it, like my mom.

When my mom came to see her doctor in full depression because she could no longer breastfeed, he smiled at her and said “just because you can’t breastfeed, doesn’t mean your baby will starve ”.  The fact that we live in a society where we have other resources to turn to, to feed our babies, is incredible. Therefore, even if breastfeeding may not work out, does not mean that a woman cannot feed her baby and be an amazing mom.  And although breastfeeding does bond a mom to her baby, there are many other ways to bond besides breastfeeding that can be just as special. Just look at how babies bond to their siblings, fathers, grandparents, all people who will never breastfeed the baby, but will find special ways to connect with them.

The fact that my mother managed to breastfeed for three months is amazing.  She did all she could, and I am so proud of her, but I am just as much proud of her for choosing to stop when she had to, and turn to formula feeding, because in the end that was a right choice to make, and she shouldn’t feel guilty about it.  Breastfeeding is really an incredible experience and I do feel that I am very lucky to be able to breastfeed.  I don’t take it for granted that I can, but I know that one day soon I will have to stop too, for no one breastfeeds forever.  The main thing to take away is, just because breastfeeding ends or doesn’t happen, doesn’t mean mothering should.  In the end, being a great mom and raising a wonderful person is what really matters, regardless if the baby is breastfed, formula fed, or both.  Hurray to all the fabulous moms who do their best to give the best to their babies!

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About Malvina Beker

Malvina Beker is a Mom, a teacher, a writer, and a sociologist. She has a Masters degree in Sociology, a Bachelor of Education, and a background in child psychology and development. She has taught high school Family Studies, Parenting and Music courses, and has research experience through interviewing as well as surveys. She is a mother of two little girls that inspire her the most, and is always excited to share and exchange experiences and opinions with others.
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11 Responses to Breastfeeding: Is it really the only measure of a good mom?

  1. Masha says:

    I couldn’t agree more. My mother had to formula feed both my sister and myself because she just didn’t have milk. She tried very hard but it just wasn’t happening. She is an awesome mom and she did and does what is best for us. As a mom you need to keep your children fed – if you have breastmilk, great, if not, then you need to use other means like formula to ensure that they are fed. To me that is what a great mom is – one that takes care of her kids, even if she is dissapointed at her innability to breastfeed.

    • Malvina says:

      Thanks so much for sharing. It is so common that people have trouble with breastfeeding that most don’t even know about it, and absolutely, first priority should be to feed your child and not have to deal with how society views your struggles!

  2. I completely agree and am always disappointed by the “mommy wars” approach to dealing with these issues. One thing I would note though, is that in cases where moms do want to breastfeed, but are having difficulty with issues such as nipple pain or low supply (to cite only two very common reasons for weaning early), giving up on the breast should *not* be the recommended course of action by health professionals or others. If these women are given good support (both of a practical nature and an emotional nature), these sorts of problems can almost always be overcome. Lactation consultants should be available to all women, regardless of income, and women should be encouraged to seek support from peer-run groups, such as the La Leche League. The notion that many women “can’t breastfeed” is inaccurate and does a disservice to those women who wish to breastfeed but who may have some challenges to overcome. It is very understandable that many women give up on BFing – it can be very frustrating and stressful to feel that you aren’t able to feed your baby – everyone needs to recognize that it is not the fault of the women themselves, but the fault of a system that lacks adequate support systems for new moms. If every woman was given access to a certified Lactation Consultant, instead of a bag full of free formula, a lot more women would be meeting their goals, as well as the recommendations being made by every leading health organization in the world.

    • Malvina says:

      Thank you so much Heather for posting this. I completely agree with you. I just find that BF has become such a touchy subject because of the lack of support, and it really stresses lots of women out. It is a much more complex conversation and some women really don`t give up and work very hard to overcome obsticals, while others simply do not have the resources or the support. It is definitely the system that is at fault. Perhaps in the future things will shift and change.

    • Luty says:

      Kinda of along the lines of what coastinganon was sainyg… I think the whole “to breastfeed or not to breastfeed” issue is, for most moms, the first time when you really have to pick your battles re: your LO.No parent is able to do everything they’d like to/for/with their child. It’s just not possible. And I think that as your kid gets older, you probably get more accustomed to the fact that you have limited time, money, energy, sanity… and therefore you sometimes have to say “Well, while it would probably be great for little Billy’s cognitive development if I were to sit here and show him stimulating high-contrast flash cards while singing nursery rhymes in Mandarin, I think that instead I will stick him in his swing while I take a shower and check Facebook for thirty minutes, after which I will be a much more excited mother and all-around pleasant person.”And I don’t know about you other first-time moms, but I was a crazy person those first few weeks post-partum, and it was really easy to get caught up in the idea that I still could do anything and everything that I’d ever wanted for my child! It wasn’t too late! I could breastfeed and cloth diaper and do EC and make him bilingual and engender a love of vegetables and classical music!And while I can still catch up on the vegetables and Mozart, breastfeeding is a “do it now or forever hold your peace (at least with this child)” kind of thing. And it really sucks to want to breastfeed and then face all kinds of challenges and think “really? I’m failing at something ALREADY?” And I really, really, really do not believe that choosing to formula feed is “failing”, but I do think that it’s easy to feel like it is in those first couple weeks if it’s something that you’d really wanted to do.

  3. Erin says:

    This is wonderful! Breastfeeding mothers like myself worry about being harrassed or judged when nursing in public. But when I had to pump for the first few weeks and bottle feed, I was so anxious feeding my baby in public, for fear I was being judged.

    • Malvina says:

      I feel like as women we are constantly being judged, and I`m not entirely sure why it is so significant to judge women about how they choose to or have to feed their babies. Clearly bottlefeeding or even formula feeding isn`t like taking your baby out to McDonalds, nor is breastfeeding like a sexual exposure, and yet, for some reason our society seems to treat women in such a way that they start feeling this way. In general, the fact is women are taking care of their babies and doing their very best, and you are right, its unfair to have the public eye focusing so closely on them and judgin them as if they all know better.

    • Ariel says:

      i would just pump a few bottles and then feed baby boltetd breastmilk at night. formula will keep your baby alive but it is not healthy for a baby, so if you can breastfeed and get away from it stay away from it, besides your milk tastes good and formula is gross so the chances your baby will take formula at night aren’t very good. I will tell you though that it is really easy to snuggle baby in bed and lay your boob out and the baby will learn to latch on by itself and you can just roll over and switch when your other breast gets heavy. It is so easy. I have done this with 4 children and no one has ever had to get up with the baby. Once the baby doesnt need to eat at night, we put the baby to bed it his/her own crib. Daddy can take his turn feeding breastmilk out of a bottle during the day and I think that you will find that if you do NOT supplement with a bottle that you will have plenty of milk, however, if you supplement you will start having problems keeping up, especially in the beginning. Dr.s and WIC dont suggest you pump until baby is 6weeks old and your milk supply have been established. If you need more information, check out, Lalecheleague.org. Goodluck and Congratulations on choosing the best for your baby!

  4. Kelly says:

    Honestly I find the whole “baby feeding” thing completely insane, on both sides. First, “they” tell you to breastfeed, because it’s best for everyone. But then “they” throw a million obstacles in the way of success: poorly educated doctors and nurses who give bad advice, horrific maternity leave standards, oodles of employers who don’t support pumping mothers adequately, if at all, and public shaming if you dare try to feed your child out of doors. When all these conspire against a woman, and she throws her hands up and switches to formula, then “they” say she’s feeding her baby poison, that she “just didn’t try hard enough” and if she’s lucky someone pats her on the head and says “poor you.”

    It’s a complete mystery to me how so many women manage motherhood without a total mental breakdown in the face of all this bizarre pressure.

    • Kelly, I couldn’t agree more. I think BF is another place to stick a woman between a rock and a hard spot. With my older daughter I stopped at 9 months, and had some ask me why I didn’t stick to it for the whole year, and now, as my younger daughter is approaching 11 months, I’m finding all this pressure to stop BF, as if I’m on a timer. It is definitely a very bizarre pressure. Every mother wants to do what’s best for her child, and is entiteld to make her decision as best as she can, without having to be criticized.

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