Attention Moms: It’s Okay to be Proud of Breastfeeding
Recently, a friend of mine on Facebook trained for and completed a marathon. One the day of the big event she posted a few pictures of her crossing the finish line and wrote a long post about how hard she’d trained and worked, the obstacles she’d overcome, and the pride she felt at accomplishing something so big. Completing a marathon is a big deal, and in her post she detailed the hours each day she’d spent training, the changes she’d made to her life, and the obstacles she’s overcome to reach her goal. Her post was met with likes and loves and all sorts of positive and encouraging comments and I was happy to see all the virtual support she received for reaching her big goal.
A few weeks ago I crossed a finish line of my own. My accomplishment is something I worked really hard for. It took hours out of every day and caused me to change every major aspect of my life. I overcame huge obstacles and, when I reached my goal I was filled with a huge sense of pride and accomplishment. Unlike my friend, though, the one who ran a marathon, I won’t post about my accomplishment. Not because I’m not excited or proud but because my accomplishment is that I breastfeed my baby, without the aid of a drop of formula from birth through his fifteenth month, and if I post about it I know I’ll be accused of mom-shaming or formula shaming.
Right now, it’s tough to be a proud breastfeeding mother. Breastfeeding is a huge undertaking and moms who do it should be proud of the work and love they put into. Because some moms don’t breastfeed though, we expect nursing moms to keep quiet about their accomplishments. Whether it’s offering support to other nursing moms, sharing pride in accomplishments, or passing on research and information, it seems that sharing anything but a “fed is best” mantra incites immediate claims of mommy shaming.
Check out any public post on breastfeeding, even posts detailing new research about its benefits and you’re likely to see comments like:
“Not everyone can breastfeed, posts like this just make people who can’t feel bad about themselves.”
“I tried breastfeeding but it didn’t work out for me – seeing stuff like this makes me feel so bad – I wish people would stop posting it.”
“I didn’t produce enough milk for my baby, not everyone can you know.”
“There’s really no difference between breastfeeding and formula feeding.”
These comments might seem okay when they’re targeted at breastfeeding moms but how ridiculous do they sound when we rephrase them to be about marathon running:
“Not everyone can run a marathon you know, posts like this just make people who can’t run that far feel bad.”
“I tried to do a marathon but it didn’t work out for me – Seeing stuff like this makes me feel so bad- I wish people would stop posting about it”
“My legs aren’t able to run for so long.”
“There’s really no difference between running and hanging out at home anyway”
When I saw my friends post about her marathon I was able to recognize it for what it was, her sharing her joy in a big moment. I didn’t take it as a personal attack on my fitness level (which is woefully low) or a snub to the fact that I can’t seem to get my butt in gear to train for a 5k. Her post, in short, was not about me. She wasn’t shaming me for my non-running just as any post I make about breastfeeding is not designed to shame moms who’ve chosen another path.
I hope that as time goes on we can all learn to step back, recognize when something isn’t about us, and simply be proud of our fellow moms and people.