“Don’t concern yourself with the opinions of those who judge you. That is placing on them an importance they do not have.” – Donna Lynn Hope
I remember when I became a mom for the very first time. I was not only young….but totally oblivious to the fact that parenting doesn’t always work the way you have planned. I had done the classes…I had read some books…..I had it all planned out. Breastfeeding was beautiful. Breastfeeding was what everyone did. I was going to breastfeed. Done deal. End of story.
But that wasn’t the end…
My daughter was born…. and after six weeks of her crying, me crying, and repeated weight loss, I was encouraged to supplement. A bottle? What do you mean? Why could my body not nourish my child the way it was made to do? In ways I felt like a failure, inadequate even….. and later that day as I walked through the store to purchase infant formula, embarrassment kicked in as I quickly picked up the case and practically ran to cash to avoid being seen.
When my second, and now fifth child came along..I once again found myself determined to breastfeed. Each time I chalked up my previous “failure” to being young and inexperienced…but this time, this time I was an experienced mom. This time I surely would be able to nurse my baby without the help of added formula…but each time ended with the same results. Each time a new sense of embarrassment crept in as I found myself once again walking in shame down the formula aisle.
Why did I spend the first year of my childrens lives trying so desperately to hide their bottle from the public eye? Why did I feel proud to nurse my baby in public, yet once they had finished and were left unsatisfied was when I brought them to the car to give them their bottle? Why did I panic whenever someone asked me if I breastfed or if I saw some breast is best article on my news feed? Why did I feel that feeding my baby no matter what way was something to be shamed for?
Recently as a nursing session with my son ended with an unsatisfied child as it normally does, I walked to the kitchen to prepare one of those plastic dreadful things that taunted me each time I walked by. As I sat down on the couch and cradled my baby in my arms to finish his feeding….. I looked back down at the same little boy who had just nursed at my breast and in that moment I realized something. HE didn’t look at me in shame. In fact… he looked up lovingly at me with the same big blue eyes with a bottle in his mouth, just as he had done on my breast.
Wasn’t he who mattered?
Wasn’t his happiness, his contentment, and his health my priority…not the people at the grocery store. Wasn’t my success, my pride as a mother based on my love and my ability to raise a happy, healthy child…..not to impress the women at my playgroup. He accepted each nipple whether made from skin or plastic the exact same way……not to make me feel better…..not to prove to the world that I wasn’t a failure……but because he needed it and it nourished him. But because whether you can breastfeed or not….or whether you choose to breastfeed or not…your child has to eat to grow.
As I continue to look into those very same eyes feeding after feeding and day after day, as I have continued to watch my son not only grow but thrive over the last amazing eight weeks, the stress…the hiding…..and the feelings of inadequacy has melted away. I am a mom. A mom that loves her children. I am no different, no less because of how my child receives his food needed to live. He loves me the same.
Breastfeeding is beautiful……bottle feeding is beautiful.
But being a happy, healthy, and confident mother…..is the most beautiful of all.