A self-employed friend of mine recently had her second child. One day, sometime in her third trimester, I casually asked her if she intended to breastfeed her baby. She had tried with her first child unsuccessfully, and shared her intention to “try harder” this time round.
Two weeks after her baby boy arrived, I gave her a congratulatory call. When the topic of breastfeeding popped up, she gave a sigh and said: “I really tried, but it’s so hard when I still have to work. I’m so sorry.”
After the call ended, I spent some time wondering why she had felt compelled to apologise to me for not nursing her newborn. Has society really impacted us so strongly over the decisions that we make as parents, that we feel the need to apologise to the people around us for what we do or the choices we make?
While it is true that “breast is best”, there is nothing wrong with formula milk as well. Most of us reading this now would have been raised on powdered milk, and we came out just fine. Why should mothers in this generation get flak from others when they choose not to breastfeed?
Ignoring the naysayers
For starters, every parent should learn to ignore the judgmental comments that will definitely come your way at some point or another. If you have tried breastfeeding, and you really couldn’t, don’t beat yourself up over it. There is no need to apologise to the people around you who may be wagging their accusatory fingers at you. Nursing can be a very tiring task. You have to watch the balance of pumping and latching your baby on, because your milk supply depends on that. You have to be up at odd hours to feed your baby because YOU are the milk source. If you happen to be working, I’m sure you don’t need me to explain to you the logistics that has to go on in order to continue nursing your child. It is not as simple as some people make it out to be. Quite honestly, I stopped nursing because the late night leaking finally took its toll on me! My son had started sleeping through the night from four months on, and each night I would have to wake to pump my milk, or sleep until I get woken by overflowed milk that had turned my shirt all cold and wet.
You may also receive flak for the way your chose to deliver your child. Some people insist that epidural affects your child in a negative way, and one should always avoid having painkillers during labour. If you admitted to having an epidural, some will snidely remark about how it is because you “cannot take the pain”.
If you had gone through a C-Section to deliver, there may be comments like how you took “the easy route” instead of giving birth naturally. Let me tell you that there is nothing “easy” about going through surgery to deliver your child. I had suffered the after-pains and bleeding just like any other new mother, except instead of a possible episiotomy, I had a much larger wound that affected my mobility whenever I changed positions. The procedure was more costly than standard vaginal birth and my wound had continued to hurt until my baby was three-months-old. How could that possibly be easier when my friends who gave birth naturally – with episiotomy – had already fully recovered by the time their babies were celebrating their first months?
Parenting with common sense
The rule of parenting is actually very simple: Follow your heart, do it with love, and apply some common sense.
If your foetus does not descend down the birth canal, and induction fails to work – just like what happened with my baby – it is only common sense that a caesarean would be the best alternative. If you are unable to breastfeed for any reason, then it is common sense to use formula milk to either supplement or replace breast milk. There are a million other things you have to learn with a new baby, and there is no reason to persist on something you personally feel compelled against, just because of passing remarks. If your baby can only stomach half the amount of milk that is recommend for his age, there is no need to force him to finish the rest if he is generally happy and has regular bowel movements.
It is often easy to be affected by others’ judgment because they may not know the full reason behind everything that happens. An acquaintance of mine, for example, gave up breastfeeding because her confinement nanny insisted that the baby was crying constantly because the “yellow liquid” was not milk and was not satisfying the baby’s hunger. The new mother did not know that colostrum was very normal and highly nutritious for her newborn, and believed her nanny’s words.
When the baby girl turned two-weeks-old, the milk came in, but she had already developed a preference for formula milk. It took a lot of consolation for the mother to accept the fact that she had lost the chance to give her child the best because of the nanny’s ill-informed remarks during each feeding.
What I have to advise is this: know all that there is to know about your tasks as parents so you won’t be caught off your guard when things don’t go “as normal”. Make well-informed decisions instead of taking in every piece of advice that others may provide in the early days as a new parent. Most importantly, know that any decision you make as a parent, you do it with love and in the best interests for your child. This way, you will never have to feel sorry for what others have to say about the your choices, and to feel free in being the proud new parent that every new parent should be!
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