…At my local parkday, one of the women had her niece, a few weeks old, at the park so that the mama could ‘rest’ at home. The mama, desperate, when breastfeeding wasn’t working very well (yet!) was told by the lactation consultant that she should give the baby a bottle of formula first, before every nursing. Voila! She now suspects that her baby doesn’t ‘like’ to breastfeed. The mother is pretty sure that she was wrong about staying home with the baby and would like to go back to work, as soon as possible. The mother is overwhelmed, distraught, exhausted, weaning, and it dawns on me, detaching, when her baby is just a few weeks old. It feels like this is a moment in which she needs help and advice and support, but as so many women have pointed out (constantly, on every on-line forum), she’s not asking for it. So, best not be a bully, keep your thoughts to yourself.
It seems to me that the moment to intervene (in a helpful way) is gone. And in the subject at large I wonder if the moment is gone, also. The numbers of breastfeeding rates have risen, but what of satisfaction with breastfeeding? I wonder if the breastfeeding that the mainstream culture has co-opted, breastfeeding where it’s all about the milk, and the pump, and supplementation is necessary, and mother is optional, I wonder if that breastfeeding is meeting anyone’s needs, completely. We come along and say, “Breastfeeding is Awesome.” And more and more women who have tried a version of breastfeeding that isn’t even really what we’re talking about reply, “you know, it really kind of sucks.” Trouble is we’re talking about two totally different things.
It’s like the hospital birth, with the epidural and pitocin, and seven strangers with their strange hands up your wazoo, and blinky lights and beeping noises, compared to the homebirth. It’s hard to compare, because we each of us know what we know. I’ve had a natural birth in the hospital and I’ve had a natural birth at home. I KNOW there is a difference, but still, the ultimate goal is a baby, right? right?
I think satisfaction must count for something though too. When someone gives birth in the hospital and the best they can say is, “my baby survived!” compare that to the mother who gives birth at home and says, “I feel so empowered, like I can do anything!” That must be worth something, no?
Same with breastfeeding. Story after story is being told that goes like this, I had a baby, I tried everything, I didn’t make enough milk, so I supplement with formula. What’s it to you, there’s no one right way.
But listen to the exclusively breastfeeding mother, the one feeding on demand, who will practice child-led weaning. Her story is different, her experience with mothering is better, satisfaction with self is high.
The trouble is, she’s getting harder and harder to find, where’d her story go?