Part 3. Breastfeeding. This has got to be the worst one of all for attracting the wrath of the all-knowing fellow mum. I don’t propose to go into the breastfeeding debate in any detail. We see it on blogs almost every day. But do people not think it’s about time we just LET IT GO?
Yes, we all know breast is best.
And yes, there are a minority of women out there who are too lazy, too selfish or who love their boobs too much to even put in the effort to give it a try, but no amount of criticising them is going to change that.
Not unless we ban formula milk anyway.
And what about all those other mothers out there who feel so pressurised to try to breastfeed that they make themselves (and their babies) miserable?
I will tell you a personal story. I breastfed Arthur for the first three months, despite the fact he had terrible reflux and would pretty much consistently throw it all back up. But I persevered, because I thought breast milk was best for him.
At three months, my husband and I introduced a couple of formula feeds into the routine, and noticed that he kept them down.
At four months, we introduced solids early, and he flourished. We did this against the “official” advice of the Breastapo, and we never looked back. Now I look at photos of Arthur before he went onto solids and I realise he looked really ill. So I maintain the view that I made the right decision in introducing formula and food earlier than advised. Maybe I have sacrificed a part of his immune system in doing so. Maybe his sinuses will one day be affected. Maybe if I had breastfed exclusively for a full 6 months, Arthur would grow up to be a genius, instead of the averagely clever little boy he is. Well maybe if I hadn’t run into a wall at the age of three and knocked myself out, I’d have a PhD. But the beauty is, no one will ever know for sure.
The examples over the past few weeks have been just three of the many MANY examples of women judging other women.
From sleep training, to toddler discipline, to what toys we buy, we women have an opinion and we all feel the need to share it. And I say “women” deliberately – men tend to stay out of the endless debates, for fear of knowing they will be put firmly back in their box for even voicing a thought. Yet why shouldn’t they? Surely a man with no experience of pregnancy and breastfeeding has almost as much of an expert opinion as a woman with a representative sample of one or two?!
So what should we mothers be doing instead? For one, we should learn to accept that having one, two or more children does not mean we are experts on how children should be raised. We need to learn that not only is every child different, but every mother too.
And above all, we need to learn to be open, to listen as opposed to talk, and to share experiences, rather than attempt to impart our own on others. There’s a reason I am still friends with every member of my NCT group: not a single one of them is judgmental. Between us, we have children that don’t sleep, don’t eat, don’t like sharing and have inexplicable and embarrassing tantrums. And I’m sure we don’t all agree with everyone’s parenting methods.
But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Because just as in any job, we have to recognise that no one is perfect, no one is good at everything and that being supported is so much more comforting than being told what to do.