Guest Blogger: Megan Hartless
I always knew I would breastfeed. It never occurred to me not to. It never occurred to me that there was some question, because everyone I knew did it. My mom did it. My sister did it. My friends did it. It made perfect sense to me that my body made perfectly good, free food for my babies, and that I would give it to them.
I remember in my early 20’s, though, seeing that mom. The mom with a baby nursing in a sling and a toddler strapped on her back, her broomstick skirt swishing through the organic foods aisle at the grocery store, her hemp sandals flip-flopping with each step, her bangle bracelets tinkling beautifully with each graceful. As she swept her pile of reusable bags aside to make room for her Pirate’s Booty snack and variety of Yogi Teas, she absentmindedly nuzzled her baby’s cheek, her patchouli scent wafting my way as I pushed the mini-cart containing bagged salad and chips and salsa.
It never occurred to me until years later that that mom was the picture of breastfeeding in America.
Apparently, breastfeeding is viewed as something engaged in by a certain type of woman. Moms who stay at home and espouse themselves to ideals very far outside the mainstream – those are the breastfeeders. Moms who work, who watch TV, who let their kids listen to rock and roll, eat gluten, drink pasteurized milk, moms who buy Gerber baby food…those moms don’t breastfeed. And if they do, they don’t do it for long. So society tells me.
WHAT THE HELL?
I started to hear one horror story after another about moms who tried to breastfeed and failed because they
“couldn’t make milk” or whose “baby didn’t like their milk” or whose “baby had reflux on breastmilk and could only drink soy formula” or any number of other horrific stories.
I’m not saying they aren’t true, but we as a society stacked the deck against them. Chances are situation was a bigger factor than biology in mom’s low production or fussy child. If you took just the stories I heard about breastfeeding when I was pregnant, and nothing else, you would that no mom ever successfully breastfed.
So social media, and parenting sites, and just the world, created this crunchy mother earth image of breastfeeding moms that made them seem to do nothing but breastfeed and eat an occasional organic snack, dedicating their lives solely to nursing their children, all their other desires and ambitions going unfulfilled.
For a long time, I thought I was a crunchy person. If you don’t know what that means, you probably are not
one. A “CRUNCHY” person is defined by urbandictionary as follows:
Adjective. Used to describe persons who have adjusted or altered their lifestyle for environmental reasons. Crunchy persons tend to be politically strongly left-leaning and may be additionally but not exclusively categorized as vegetarians, vegans, eco-tarians, conservationists, environmentalists, neo-hippies, tree huggers, nature enthusiasts, etc.
Modified derivative of granola.
Nothing about that definition seems absurd to me, and for a long time, I thought I was pretty crunchy. I
make an above average effort to recycle. I think hybrid cars are awesome. I once used tea tree oil. I take probiotics. I don’t litter. I think that the preservation of our natural resources is our responsibility. Crunchy, right?
So I had a baby. There I was thinking I was this crunchy mama. And then… I met that mom in person (that
mom being a collection of those moms who truly do embody crunchiness). That Mom was so much crunchier than I was. I worked full-time after my maternity leave. I didn’t make baby food. Or clothes. I don’t buy organic anything. I believe that the market for supplements is a bit of a racket by the supplement makers that convince people that putting more things into their body is somehow more helpful than a healthy diet and exercise. I take a variety of prescriptions. I think homeopathic medicine can be hokey. I let my children watch TV. Before they were two. Kind of a lot. We eat chicken nuggets and pizza. And chocolate. Kind of a lot. My kids go to day care.
Compared to that mom, I was something I never would have described myself as before meeting that mom.
I was mainstream. Absolutely, positively mainstream.
You may wonder what I am getting at here. And, in fact, I have labored over how to phrase this writing so as to be inoffensive to both the crunchy moms and the mainstream moms (and those who fall somewhere in the middle).
I am not only a mom who breastfed, but a breastfeeding advocate. And it’s not because I think that formula
feeding is bad (GASP! The breastfeeding counselor just said formula isn’t bad!). I don’t honestly believe it is scientifically the better choice, but I also know plenty of awesome kids who had formula and are just fine.
But I also know that our mainstream world wants us to believe that breastfeeding is really hard and inconvenient. Especially for working moms. Especially for moms who aren’t that mom. That moms who work are doomed to fail, so why not just go ahead and use the “easier” choice?
Oh by the way, the formula companies (who sponsor the mainstream world) want you to believe that breastfeeding is harder than formula feeding.
But you don’t have to be crunchy to breastfeed. You don’t have to be a stay-at-home mom to breastfeed. You don’t have to eschew television and synthetic fabrics and meat and social acceptance. You do have to want to do it. You do have to commit to doing it, find a support system, and believe that it’s possible. And there are lots of people who are willing to help. Pretty much any breastfeeding mom I know would help you. And Breastfeeding USA has trained volunteer counselors , who are chomping at the bit to get your call and help you. And lactation consultants, midwives, OB’s, and maybe even your mom. And I assure you… none of them will tell you to wear hemp or eat tofu if you want to breastfeed.
So get it out of your mind that you have to fit some kind of mold to be a successful breastfeeder, because you just don’t. I don’t and didn’t. Breastfeeding moms are moms whose breasts make milk… so pretty much any mom who wants to.
Megan Hartless is a mom of two sons and one stepson. When the boys aren’t keeping her on her toes, she is volunteering as a Breastfeeding USA Counselor in Virginia’s Staunton-Augusta area, blogging about breastfeeding, and running a monthly support group for nursing moms. In her “spare time,” she has a full-time job as the Associate Director of Financial Aid at Mary Baldwin College.