This week I have been on vacation in Atlantic Beach, near Jacksonville. My daughter, Penelope, has received a lot of attention from the other guests. One woman struck up a conversation with me by saying how beautiful Penelope was. She went on to say that the reason she was here at the hotel is because her daughter-in-law had just given birth six days ago and they were visiting their new grandbaby.
Me (being me) responded with, "Congratulations! How are Mama and baby doing? How is breastfeeding going?" To which she replies with: "Oh, breastfeeding has been a nightmare, she can't get the baby to latch and now she is pumping all day and all night, getting no rest and she is having a hard time with her supply."
I say, "I am so sorry to hear that, I know exactly how she feels, I had to pump, and in fact, I still pump 3 times a day for Penelope even though she can comfort nurse now. I remember how tired I was and how I thought, I hate all those people who say sleep when the baby sleeps, because I never could -- I was always pumping."
She replies, "I just don't understand why she is putting herself through all that. My daughter recently had a baby as well, and she is giving her baby formula and her life is so much easier."
And I replied, very casually, without so much as a fanatical vibe in my voice, "Oh, because breastfeeding is so good for the babies. What it does for their health it makes it worth it."
She responds, in a nasty tone, "Yeah, that is what all you breastfeeders say. You all are so fanatical about it. Women in my generation [she was about mid-fifties] didn't breastfeed and our kids turned out just fine."
I didn't really process it all quickly enough. She just called me fanatical for choosing to breastfeed, so I didn't give her the response I should have. I simply switched the subject and started talking about things her daughter-in-law could do to increase her supply and left it at that.
I have thought about this poor mom all day, hoping to run into her mother-in-law again so I could offer her my left over milk stash, since I don't have a freezer here and it will go to waste. I am so mad at myself for not thinking quick enough to offer it right then and there...then she would have really thought I was a fanatical breastfeeder!
While I do consider myself pretty fanatical about my determination and dedication to keep pumping in order to give Penelope my breastmilk, I choose to breastfeed to provide her with the health benefits (and for bonding, but more about that in a future post). All the health benefits of breast feeding - discovered by massive amounts of scientific research. I made an educated and informed decision to breastfeed - i.e. not a fanatical one.
I also don't get in people's faces about it. I like to vent and share my joys about my breastfeeding experience, but I am not wildly waving my hands in the air and yelling on street corners to get people to breastfeed. One of the reasons I was so sad that Penelope couldn't nurse at first, is because I was excited to nurse in public. It was going to be my quiet, peaceful demonstration to the world.
Part of the reason I am who I am today, is because of the positive women/mama role models I have come across in the last 10 years - not fanatics in the least. Before I even became a doula, I was dating a guy in college, whose older sister was a natural parenting, breastfeeding, cosleeping mama. I saw her quietly sling her baby and breastfeed on demand. I saw how peaceful she and her baby were. I made the decision then and there, not even 20 years old at the time, that I was going to mother like that. She was not fanatical. She was just going on about her business and being a mother. And yet she made a huge impact on me.
For more from Stephanie Cornais, visit her blog at Mom and Baby Love or find her on Facebook.
For further information on breastfeeding, see Breastfeeding Resources (some of the best books, websites, articles).