Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Enthusiasm Does Not Equal Judgment

I sometimes feel that I'm treading a fine line between expressing enthusiasm about my chosen interests and the risk of offending friends who may feel I'm not being sensitive enough to their choices. Let me say this straight out, right now: I do not think you are less of a mother if you do not breastfeed. I do not think you are a bad mother if you use formula. I do not think you are abusing or poisoning your child with formula. And, finally, I would never judge you for making a parenting decision different from mine (unless there was clear child abuse involved, of course).

I consider breastfeeding another parenting choice we all have to make, just like we have to decide where the baby is going to sleep, live, go to school. Just like we have to choose a car seat and meals and whether we'll ever set foot in McDonald's with our kids. Just like we have to choose whether to cosleep until four years old or nightwean and cry-it-out at six months of age. Just like we choose whether to mostly use a baby carrier or a stroller, or to go 50/50 with it. Just like we choose whether our kids watch TV, and how much, and what. Just like we have to decide how to discipline our kids.

I happen to be very enthusiastic about breastfeeding and car seats. You may have noticed. I've also recently gotten very interested in birth practices (c-section versus vaginal, use of medications, etc.). Everyone has their "things." These are mine.

What it boils down to is, I just want to help. I'll never impose. I'll never jump into a Facebook discussion and tell you that I think you're doing something wrong. (I might jump in to defend you if I think you're doing something right, though!) But I do want you to know that I'm here with a sympathetic ear and a reasonable amount of information if you do want my help, and I'm very happy to help if asked.

I admit, it makes me sad when I see a kid buckled incorrectly in a car seat, or in a car seat that is too mature for his size or age. I'm sad because I know that child's life is at risk, when making him safer would be so simple, if only the parents would ask someone who knows how to do it properly. I'm not judging the parents' choice not to do it "right." I'm not labeling them bad parents. I'm not calling the police. It's their decision whether to properly educate themselves in car seat usage, and it's their prerogative as the parent to balance the risks and benefits to their child in using their car seat how they see fit, either for convenience or safety or somewhere in between. I know how I use my car seats, but I also know that I do things that other parents probably think are terribly unsafe, even if I think the risk is negligible. A lot of risk perception also depends on your own experiences.

It also makes me sad when I see a mother preparing a bottle of formula for her baby, but not for the same reasons as above. It makes me sad for the mother, because if she's using formula, it's likely because of a medical, psychological, or physical condition in her that makes her unable or unwilling to breastfeed, a medical or physical condition in the baby that makes breastfeeding difficult or impossible, or a case of the mother not having the support or information that she needed to initiate or continue to breastfeed. (In my case, it was that last reason.) Granted, there are women who decide, even when given all the information, that they simply do not want to breastfeed and start formula immediately after birth. That, too, is entirely their choice to make.

All I can do is provide information and support, give more "hands-on" help when asked, and offer advice when solicited. I certainly would not walk up to someone feeding her baby formula and confront her about it. But if I were sitting somewhere nursing my baby and someone asked me about breastfeeding, I would certainly be thrilled to offer any information she wanted, or even demonstrate if she were curious.

That's not to say I don't observe and wonder. If I see a baby being bottle-fed in a picture on Facebook, I may think to myself, "I wonder what the story is there." I don't ask. If she wants to tell me, she will. She knows I'm here to help if she wants help. If she's interested.

In the end, I just want my friends to take as much joy and love out of motherhood as possible, however that can be accomplished.

So, to make a long story short, I'm here with advice and assistance if you want it. That's all.


Also, don't forget about my book! This book is targeted toward pregnant women and mothers with babies under three months old who have decided to breastfeed and want quick answers and support. It makes a great new-mom gift, and it's an excellent addition to your parenting library!

No comments:

Post a Comment