Motherhood can be a lonely job, made worse by doubts a mom has about her parenting skills. What has helped many of our moms is having a community who listens and who gives voice to her joy AND her fears and pain. She isn't always looking for answers — she just wants to say her piece without judgment. Here's one mom who wants to share her breastfeeding story.
My first breastfeeding experience was a really bumpy one, so much so that as soon as I found out that I was pregnant the second time around, I panicked, hyperventilated, and I was not sure I could go through it all over again.
It was the year 2010 when I got pregnant the first time, and I wanted to breastfeed my little one when I gave birth. The campaign to breastfeed babies was on the rise. Breast pumps were sold online, breastfeeding talks were offered every month or so, doula and breastfeeding coaches appeared here and there.
On the day I was discharged from the hospital after giving birth, which happened the following year, my son did not stop crying that first entire night — and then the night after that, and then the next. So many questions ran through my mind and not even the What to Expect When You’re Expecting book could answer them.
Was I producing enough milk? Is my baby colicky? Am I doing this right? Is there something wrong with my baby?
The worst part was I was a first-time mom with zero experience and no yaya to help me. I was on my own! I never felt so disappointed, so helpless, so insecure, and so low in my life. My baby wasn't sleeping through the night, fed every hour or less, slept only for 30 minutes and didn't want to sleep on the crib. He wanted to co-sleep and preferred to be carried over the shoulder while sleeping. This went on for seven months.
Sleep eluded me for so long that I felt my brain wasn't functioning anymore. I felt like I need to be rebooted like a computer that hangs. My speech slurred sometimes, and my eyes stared into the great abyss probably because my soul was trying to escape from my body. I truly felt like a zombie!
My child grew up to be a healthy boy, the credit attributed to breastfeeding, of course. But it does make me wonder.
Every time I encounter friends, strangers, other mothers, they would ask of my firstborn “Breastfed?” I probably and proudly replied, “Yes, purely!” But what if I said “no” — does that make me a bad parent?
Is breastfeeding the only gauge of measuring the greatness of a mother? I know non-breastfeeding moms who are great moms and vice versa. I remember having attended talks saying that everyone can breastfeed even if they are twins, even triplets. But I have met a mother who only produces blood instead of milk and even the doctors said to explore other options like milk powder.
When my sister gave birth to her third daughter, I asked her how her milk supply was going. She answered, “Well, the first night I gave her milk powder because I wanted to rest.”
Mind you, this was the same person who encouraged me to purely breastfeed my kids and who would not even allow me to keep a can of milk powder for an emergency. So my eyes stared at her with an absolute judgment, and she reacted with: “So shoot me!”
Does that make my sister a bad mom to put her welfare first before the child? Did she just make a big mistake or was she actually clever that she did what she did?
I say to you are not a bad mom if you don’t breastfeed. You are just keeping your sanity and why should you be ashamed about it.
The second time I went on my breastfeeding journey was in 2013. I had it easy — I slept well, I ate on time, I drank lots of soup, and I produced a whole lot of milk, well, probably because I already knew what to expect.
But the secret is I didn't give a fudge about what other people think anymore! I am free from expectations, free from judgment, free from self-doubt. Hence, the boobs are freed! The boobs are liberated!
Harsh as it may sound, with all the breastfeeding advocates, friends and experienced moms out there, I felt that I have been bullied into believing that breastfeeding is the only choice, and you are damned for eternity if you don’t breastfeed. It is truly disheartening to first-time moms or moms who cannot feed naturally.
Great moms are measured by the capacity of their hearts in loving their children and not by the amount of milk supply they have in the refrigerator. Moms should support one another, encourage each other in whatever decisions they make.
Follow your instincts instead of following the book. Follow your instincts instead of following contradicting advice from aunties, and ah-mas, and other moms. Do what feels right. You know what’s best for your baby and don’t let other people tell you otherwise.
This piece was submitted by Smart Parenting reader Lynne Chan, a mom of two kids, a 7-year-old boy, and a 5-year-old girl who blogs at The Perfect Mommy Project.
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