the case against breastfeeding

i recently read an article titled “the case against breastfeeding” which, incidentally, is not at all a case against breasfeeding, but more of a list of (valid, i thought) complaints about parents oppression, sexisim, and patriarchy. but the title made me mad (i’m pretty sure it was meant to). the tone reminded me of pretty much everything i’ve been reading these days. like the recent time magazine article which talked of “mothers driven to extremes” (sleeping with your baby and breastfeeding past age 1). i’ve been noticing that pretty much everything i read about parenting takes a very polarizing “we are right, they are wrong” sort of a view. even the sweet books about waldorf inspired childhood and attachment parenting imply that other philosophies are misguided at best and cruel abuse at worst. and it’s not just the literature. at play dates and la leche league meetings i hear moms speaking defensively about their views and casting harsh judgment on parents who do things differently. i hear almost nothing but blanket statements condoning or condemning everything. bottle feeding is horrible, breastfeeding past infancy is twisted. sleeping with your baby is dangerous (you could roll over and smother them), putting your baby in a crib is dangerous (they could stop breathing and die). disposable diapers? you hate mother earth, cloth diapers? you’re a fanatical hippie. diapers of any kind? you’re forcing your child to sit in his own excrement, how horrible. diaper free? now that’s just crazy. sending your kids to daycare means you don’t love them, but if you stay home you better not try calling yourself a feminist. and on and on and on.

it’s just too bad that all this judgement leads to more parents feeling more insecure and defensive, which leads to more seeking of the one right way, which leads to more judgment of ourselves and other parents.

so here’s a thought. what if we all just do like mayim bialik suggests and “reserve judgment for people who beat their children, sell their daughters into prostitution, or deny women the right to make decisions about their bodies and their lives.” we could channel all the energy it takes to give advice into actually supporting parents. it seems one thing that all sides of the “mommy wars” agree on is that our culture does not adequately value caring for children, and whether it’s a stack of dr sears or babywise books on your shelf, it’s a heck of a lot of work.

i’m trying to catch myself when i judge other parents. when i find myself thinking how they should be doing it differently, i want to ask myself instead what i could do to support them as a parent. that could be actual physical support -doing some cleaning or running errands together, or it could be emotional support- listening to the complaints without giving advice. i’ve found that for me, exercising just a little empathy -putting myself in their shoes and seeing what’s hard about it, goes a long way in quelling my urge to judge. and when i judge less, i find i feel less judged. i’m probably being judged the same amount either way, but it feels a lot better.

care to join me?

8 thoughts on “the case against breastfeeding

  1. although i’m an aunt and not a mom yet, i would love to join you. seems like a nice viewpoint for most all areas of life too.

    • thanks jennifer! i think it’s even easier to judge when you haven’t been there yourself (true for anything). i’ve had to eat a lot of my words about parenting once i got here. and people without kids are often in a better position to offer support, so yay!

  2. Maya, What a beautiful piece! I’m with you. I don’t think it’s gonna be an easy journey, but more compassion and less judgement sounds like a really good, useful idea. As a future parent (hopefully, someday….), who admittedly has her share of judgements about the whole, “how to raise a kid right” thing, your words are so refreshing and give me a sense of freedom. They’re a call to kindness. Regardless of what I’m talking about, I notice I’m more articulate when it comes to what I care about when I’m not attaching what I’m saying to being the “right” thing, even if only in head. The pressure to share my deeply held (but often changing) beliefs about food, parenting, health, etc, because I think they are so “right” and people need to hear them, often has me end up being more tongue tied and less able to really say what’s meaningful to me. Here’s to increased sharing and caring, unburdened by the idea of judgement!

  3. Beautifully said Maya. I too had noticed excessive absurd judgment recently when I attended an unschooling conference as a speaker, and was shocked even by other speakers apart from the conference attendees. Seemed like there was some kind of competition going on but I couldn’t see how anyone could be a winner! I guess most are coming from an insecurity, a feeling of not getting it right, whatever “right” might be. I loved your solution of helping in someway because that builds the community I think we all so desperately need. Everyone has their own path and sometimes we all forget that. Your blog is a great reminder. Thanks.

  4. Very well said. I feel the same way. I’m a mother of five ranging in age from twenty-three to three. One thing I’ve learned over the course of twenty-three + years is that each child elicits a different response depending on the situation. One of my children breastfed exclusively for three years while another refused my breast at six months no matter what I tried! Two of my children always found their way into my bed, while the others have never really been interested in more than a morning snuggle. Because circumstances and children are all different, I’ve found the real strength in parenting is in the ability to be flexible and adapt to what works for the entire family. That said, I know plenty of mothers who simply have to do things a certain way to function their best as parents. Fine. Trying to conform to an idea (or ideal) that doesn’t work for you as a parent will not yield the benefit it’s supposed to. Sometimes you just have to do what yields the maximum benefit for all parties.–Yes, even if that means working or sharing your bed, or bottle feeding or breastfeeding your three year old. I agree with Mayim Bialik’s quote and your post completely. There is no single “right way” for everyone. One of the great strengths of our young species is its superb ability to adapt. I think we should put that strength into practice with our thinking by accepting and supporting other moms as well.

  5. brilliantly put! i often feel sad that we as mothers (and in my case, a mother-to-be) judge each other so harshly and so often. there can be no single “right way” to do things, as each family, each woman and each child, are different.

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