A few weeks ago, at my MOMs Club meeting, one of the new second time moms was talking about breastfeeding. She was agitated, flustered, exhausted - everything I would expect from a mom of a newborn. But this was more than that. When she talked about breastfeeding, she said "I have to do it for a year. Because that's what I did with my oldest. It wouldn't be fair to her if I don't. I have to."
That makes me so sad.
Sometimes, when I read about breastfeeding - even and especially from breastfeeding advocates - it feels like they're talking about an obligation. You owe it to your baby. You owe it to the national health debate. It's the right thing to do, and you should should should.
I breastfed. For 19 months. And I intend to again with #2. Truthfully, I will be very sad and disappointed if something prevents me from doing it.
But not because it's the "right" thing to do. Not because I have to or because I owe it to anyone else. Because I really, really want to.
So, here's my breastfeeding manifesto. Consider this my letter of advice to my best friend (ahem, are you reading, ET? ;)):
In my heart, I want you to breastfeed. I want you to try.
Because I don't want you to have to pay for formula. It's exorbitant, and I know there are things you'd rather do with that money - time and experiences and security you would rather buy.
Because I want your baby to have all possible health benefits. It really is the best source of nutrition and improves immunity. Formula is fine, really, but there's nothing that can compare to liquid gold.
Because in truth once you get the hang of it, it's so EASY. Because you don't have to carry formula. You don't have to warm bottles at 2 AM. You have an almost foolproof tantrum stopper.
And mostly because there is no other experience in the world like it, in terms of bonding and connection. I know you can bond with your baby without doing it. I have no doubt that you can raise a happy, brilliant, securely attached child on formula. I've seen it, many times. But for me, breastfeeding was such a moment of joy and peace. I want you to have that. For your baby, yes, but for you mostly.
But here's the thing.
I don't want you to ever feel bullied. By anyone on either side. Bullied into supplementing when you don't want to, bullied into breastfeeding when you don't want to.
I don't want you to feel guilty, or think there's something wrong with you, if for some reason you can't. If it's really hard. If it doesn't work out the way I'm describing, or the way other people tell you it "should."
I don't want you to feel like you HAVE TO love it. Like there's something wrong with you if it doesn't make you happy.
And if, for any reason, you start to resent it, to hate it, to feel like you're only doing it because you owe it to someone, that you're doing it for any reason other than you're own, like it is doing more harm than good to you or your relationships, then I want you to consider stopping. I'm not telling you what to do. You have to make that choice yourself. But I want you to know that it's okay.
Because what you and your family deserve most is love and happiness.
And I will fight until I'm bloody to protect your right to that, whatever choices that means you have to make.