By Tracy G. Cassels
Breastmilk is better than formula. Babies aren’t getting nearly as much touch as they need. Co-sleeping can help your baby stay safe if done safely. Scheduled-feeding decreases your child’s intelligence. Not responding to your infant’s distress cries has deleterious effects on their neural development and sense of security. Not breastfeeding can increase your child’s risk of developing certain types of childhood cancer. Children whose parents are responsive to them grow to be more secure and independent than children who are left to be independent at a younger age. Are you offended yet? Because I could go on as there’s so much more we know about ways to parent and the outcomes associated with them. I don’t say these things to hurt you or to make you feel “guilty”, I say them because they’re true.
So I have to ask myself – why are you so offended? Why are you saying I’m trying to guilt you? That I’m a breastfeeding nazi or some other ridiculous moniker? Why do you need to mount a campaign claiming you’ve been “made” to feel like a bad parent because I simply tell it like it is? What you forget is that only you can allow yourself to feel guilt, and if you know in your heart of hearts that what you’re doing is good, then the guilt won’t follow. You may feel annoyance when others try to tell you that you’re doing a disservice to your child, but guilt won’t be an emotion mixed in there because you know what the outcomes are for the way in which you’re parenting. But to try and shame me, you rally around “special” cases as if it is they who I might be offending when in reality it is yourself because you have a choice and I bet you’re questioning that choice with every word I utter. I know parents who couldn’t breastfeed and they aren’t offended when people talk about the benefits of breastmilk; they acknowledge them and acknowledge that it was unfortunately they couldn’t do it. You don’t want to hear it not because you’re thinking of them but because it makes you feel bad. So you say I’m trying to make you feel bad, but I’m not.
You, on the other hand, seem to be judging yourself. Do you think it’s because deep down you realize that what you’re doing doesn’t seem to be quite right? That listening to your child cry endlessly for you while you wait in the hall strikes something inside you that says ‘This isn’t good’? That when you open up that can of formula and look at the processed powder that smells like something from a factory, you realize this isn’t what your child was meant to eat and you know that in your case, you have other options? You so want to believe that what you’re doing is right that you decide to blame others for making you feel bad when you start to feel the hint that it may be wrong and so you crusade against mommy judgments and tell me I’m wrong for stating what’s known.
I have to wonder, though, are you also going to rally against the person that tells me I’m doing my child a disservice by co-sleeping with her until she’s ready to leave the bed? Or what about the advice columnists or doctors who claim it’s akin to child abuse to breastfeed a child past the age of one? What about the people who say that my children won’t learn to be independent if I keep comforting them when they’re upset? Are you jumping down their throats for making judgments? I didn’t think so. And yet, these comments are far more common and filled with far more vitriol than anything I could say. But you don’t care about their comments because they don’t make you rethink your choices. And yes, I say choices because it’s when we have choices that we can feel guilt. We can feel sad about our situation when there’s no choice, but not guilt.
So I ask of you to please stop this crazy judgment business. No one can judge you and make you feel guilty unless you let them. If you used formula and know that was your only choice, why are you trying to stop people from talking about the benefits of breastfeeding? Why aren’t you fighting to ensure that other kids have more choices than just formula? Or at least allow those of us who want to fight for that have a chance to do so without being called names? It’s time to stop trying to prevent the truth from coming out because you don’t want to hear it because that’s a type of judgment that does no one any good.