The title is meant to be a joke and not to be taken seriously. I hope you can appreciate the irony. BUT I am angry.
First, a quick recap of what has been going on in the world of Breastfeeding advocacy.
The NY Times published an opinion piece on breastfeeding in October which to sum up basically implied breastfeeding benefits are “modest at best” and breastfeeding advocates need to stop all the “moral fervor” by pressuring women into breastfeeding, because really it’s not that big of a deal anyway and only shaming formula feeding mothers. (Excuse me while I roll my eyes).
Well, let’s just say, this piece did not sit well within the breastfeeding advocacy community. There were dozens of response pieces, my favorite being this one, which really tears this piece apart.
I’m not going to delve into why the NY Times piece was absolutely ridiculous and factually false because many authors have already accomplished this, and if you are interested in seeing some of the responses, I posted many of them on the blog’s Facebook page here.
What I do want to talk about however, is the other topic this media frenzy re-energized. The “Mommy wars” trend (which was actually termed by a formula company advertisement- can we say unethical marketing?). Specifically, the idea that breastfeeding advocates are shaming formula feeding mothers, and that as women we should all “support” each other and not criticize and judge each other’s parenting choices. The hashtag “Fed is Best” started to circulate social media by mothers in agreeance with the NY times piece. Umm, wait a second… Isn’t Fed the absolute minimum….? Wouldn’t our children die if they weren’t fed…..? How is this “best”? Way to aim low America. I understand what the hashtag is trying to imply and even agree, but in my opinion- they missed the mark.
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Can we look at what “judgement” really means?
1. The ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action; good sense; discretion:
2. the forming of an opinion, estimate, notion, or conclusion, as from circumstances presented to the mind:
To judge or to form opinions is to be human. It is to have a functioning brain. We form 123988923745 opinions a day, some trivial, some not so trivial. Yes, we are all equal as human beings, but we are not all the same. And thank god for that, because it would be one boring place to live if we were. To notice differences between each other and to form opinions on those differences is normal, natural, and healthy. To discuss, debate and share conflicting information and experiences is a privilege of being human, and how progress and growth is achieved. Imagine if we all walked around agreeing with everything happening around us; never sharing an opposing view. I can’t help but wonder if Hitler would have successfully eradicated the entire Jewish culture if America hadn’t stopped playing the “neutral” card.Should I not judge the parents who were just recently on the news for starving and neglecting their newborn baby for weeks until they had a party and a friend discovered the child? Should I form no opinion on how that baby was treated? I know it is an extreme example, but where does this “judgement” line stop and end? At which point is it “okay” to pass judgement?
I’m not saying that we should all go around saying whatever we damn well please. How we choose to communicate our opinions is a different issue. Our delivery is where we can get into trouble. Words can hurt, and how they are said is important but it is possible to have an opposing view, and share this view, without hurting others. I work with a lot of women, and I’d like to think I have a decent amount of mommy friends. We do not all parent the same. Most know how strongly I feel about issues like breastfeeding, and how against “cry-it-out” I am (I mean I post it for the world to see) when they chose to formula feed and sleep train- but guess what?!?! We still like and respect each other! We still talk about our kids together! There is no “warring” between us. Because although I may feel strongly about certain issues, and disagree with some parenting choices – sometimes openly, I do not go out of my way to bash them or shame them or hurt their feelings nor do they do the same to me. Because to hurt each other is not our goal. And honestly, when you are secure in your choices, outside opinions rarely affect you. But I will say, on the occasion that I have gotten into serious conversations about differing parenting choices with other mothers, I always leave with a deeper understanding of why the choices were made and where the choice came from. I still may not agree and may offer tactfully why I oppose, but I can empathize and see them for the loving mothers we all are.
However, I refuse to say that I do not form opinions or judge my encounters with other mothers, because I would be lying. It is human nature to do so. I am on so many Facebook mom groups that I see enough women posting about parenting style and choices to last me a life time. Some truly break my heart and make me weep. For instance, a mother posted a Facebook status of a photo of her baby screaming alone in his crib on the video monitor with the hashtags “#babyandmommytorture #cryitout #toughmama.” W.T.F.??? Yes I am forming opinions. I’m thinking about the baby and how he must feel while thinking how in the world the mother came to the conclusion that this was good for her child or that “tough” was something that she needed to be. If I feel some issues like sleep training, can be somehow damaging to the child (which has been supported in research), I am going to have an opinion because I care about the child’s well-being. I will not be apathetic for the sake of being likable. But I will try to be tactful and know my place and time if I decide to share my thoughts on the issue. Which would be from a place of empathy and understanding first.
Being supportive is not agreeing with every decision a mother makes, being supportive is giving a mother up to date information so she can make well informed choices for her family. Being supportive is not telling a mother “formula is just as good”, but rather “keep going, you’re doing great” when she is struggling with breastfeeding and really wants to be successful. I’m not supporting the baby if I say, “sleep training is right for your family because it works for you” when research has shown its detrimental to the child (not to mention my moral stance on the issue). But, once I share information and facts, and a mother makes a differing choice then it is no longer my business and really out of my hands. I do not sit in my room at night and stew and think “OMG, I can’t believe she chose to formula feed”, but what I will wonder to myself is “Did she have enough support to breastfeed?”, “Did she have the right information?” , “Were there too many societal obstacles in her way?”, “Was she too afraid to breastfeed in public?”. Those are my thoughts.
Why do I care so much about breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, and birth among other issues? Because I believe all of these things lead the mother and child into a rightful harmony that someone, somewhere divine designed and intended for us. Because I believe in the biological and spiritual importance of mothering through breastfeeding. Because I want mothers to feel the overwhelming fulfillment that comes when you pick up your crying baby in the middle of the night who wants nothing more than to be close to you. Because I had personal experiences that led me to this perspective. Forget the “health benefits”, forget what the research shows; I do not need science to tell me what I already see in my daughters eyes when she wakes up and finds me next to her in the middle of the night or the warmth that I felt in my soul when I saw baby Mia fit perfectly around her mother’s breast hours after being born. These “issues” are a way of life for me, one I will continue to be proud of, one I can only hope to share.
“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson