December, 19 2013
The Shaming of Non-Breastfeeding Moms

However hard she tried, this contributor couldn't breastfeed her baby. Even more heartbreaking, however, is how friends, neighbors and strangers easily judge her for feeding her baby formula milk.

by Tiara Dushinka
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I had this picture-perfect image in my head when I was pregnant at 30 nearly seven years ago that I would breastfeed my daughter exclusively. I knew it was the best thing that every mother could give to her baby and so on, and so forth.  
But that was before my daughter was born.

My baby only tasted her mother’s milk until she was around 3 months, and then it wasn’t picture-perfect anymore.

I tried everything: pills, herbs, massage—you name it.  Nothing worked.  I was devastated. There were times when I cried and burst into tears while pumping my breast in the middle of the night only to find the mark on the bottle showing 10 ml, sometimes less or even none. It was so frustrating knowing that my daughter was crying for milk, but I was not able to give any.

I went to a lactation clinic, but it stressed me out even more as they made me lose confidence and feel like something was wrong with me.

As hard as it was, I switched to formula because I was afraid that my baby might be starving, as my milk supply continued to decrease.



But it didn’t make the whole thing easier for the new mom on the block. I remembered the time when I posted a picture of my baby holding a bottle on Facebook. Then popped a comment from an old friend: “Mom, I want breast milk. Not the milk from a bottle”.

Even random strangers I barely knew gave me that ‘look’ and hurtful comments when finding out I didn’t breastfeed my baby.
There was another time when a neighbor said, “You are too ambitious. You stop producing milk because you are now back to work. So resign and be a stay-at-home mom because your child needs the best from you”.

Often people I know scolded me, “You didn’t try hard enough to breast milk. Don’t be lazy”.

I cried secretly in my room. I felt like I am not MOM enough for not being able to breastfeed. Sometimes I blamed myself for not trying hard enough to keep my baby on breast milk. It’s the most natural thing on earth. How could I fail?

Overtime I chose to let go of the chattering monkeys inside my head and move on. There are other ways to build your child’s natural immune system. I decided to compensate the lack of breast milk by giving my daughter natural homemade food, as well as lots and lots of fruit and vegetables.  

My daughter is now 6 years old. She likes broccoli, carrot and raw almond milk.  She’s healthy, rarely gets sick and eats plant-based food easily, as she knows that fresh fruit and veggies are the best way to keep her healthy. Junk food is only OK when her friends are having birthday party.

My experience taught me that breast milk is not the ultimate answer to ensure your child’s development and health. Breast milk is still the best, but other factors like nutrition count, as does what the mother eats. 

We all know breastfeeding is the best. No need to argue. Still, I don’t believe we should judge those who can’t or don’t breastfeed. Motherhood should never be a competition to feel superior to others, or to make others feel lesser. Let’s embrace the fact that we did the best we could as mothers, and know that being a mother is so much more than just about providing breast milk.

I still support breast milk as I know it is the best. I would love to give another shot at breastfeeding if I have another child, but I could certainly do without the judging.
 
About Tiara Dushinka
Tiara is a former TV journalist turns media consultant. She also creates a line of women’s bags with a touch of traditional fabric under the brand Nyai.