Entering Motherhood Unsupported
Let’s face it. Our culture has totally undermined our confidence and security in ourselves as being dearly loved children, created lovingly and capably by a gracious God. What does that have to do with breastfeeding? Many women have bought into the idea that they are not good enough physically, mentally or emotionally just as they are, to be a woman, a wife or a mother. First, we feel the need to mold ourselves to the Victoria Secret models’ shapes and appearances. We feel a need to use whatever femininity we have to attract a mate. Then, when it’s time to have children, instead of being empowered through education to guide us in doing what we were created to do, birth becomes a maze and we are taught we can’t birth without medical technology. Even when this technology is needed, the way it’s administered can leave us feeling more like victims instead of capable mothers. Finally, once the baby has been “delivered” (notice the disempowering language of delivered instead of the mother who partners with God in giving birth!), we are then expected to produce the life-giving, unduplicatable fluid that the baby needs, on demand, in time and in sufficient quantity.
Every new phase of womanhood is just that–new, uncharted territory! Everyone’s experience is unique, so despite the best education possible, or no education at all, we venture into the breastfeeding relationship as rookies.
In today’s world, the internet, social media and television/radio broadcasts have informed us dramatically that breastfeeding can fail us and the baby. But we are also confronted with the growing body of evidence that breastfeeding is essential and necessary. What to do? Many moms are trying to be preemptive in their preparation. They research all the best herbs for increasing milk supply. They search for the best breast pumps. They look into special diets and techniques. When their babies are born, they are quick to assess and intervene for any perceived difficulty. For other moms, however, the possibility of failure is so daunting, that they never even begin the journey. They opt to formula-feed from the beginning. Better safe than sorry!
Imagine a Better Way: Birth, Breastfeeding and Beginning Again
But imagine with me for a moment what the world could be like if we could breach the chasm between flying and the fear of failing. What if moms could find a middle way that empowers women from birth to breastfeeding? That way might include research to identify the best environment for birth for their newborns and themselves. It might include education about the normal progress for mothers and babies during the early time after birth and making plans and contingency plans should unexpected difficulties occur. But, above and beyond all this planning, let’s include trust. Trust in the birth caregivers she has chosen. Trust in her partner to protect and support her desires. Trust in her family to honor her decisions.
What if moms could develop relationships with other mothers who have journeyed and reached the goal desired? What if they could find supportive professionals to answer questions and guide the journey when needed? What if we treated the breastfeeding relationship as normal and necessary, but respected it as so important that we celebrated the RELATIONSHIP part of it as much as we did the milk-making (FOOD PRODUCTION) part of it? Those who have gone before us could celebrate the choices made, whatever they are, for what they are worth, choices made in the best interests of mother and baby? We could stop blaming ourselves and each other for the past mistakes and sins and move forward from here, learning from the stories of life and love that we each bring to the table.
I am so tired of hearing about “mommy wars” and “breastfeeding Nazis” and “need for more research before pushing breastfeeding on mothers.” What would happen if we took out the word “breastfeeding” and replaced it with “sex”? No one would stand for a war on sex to make it only used for reproduction! No one would shame a woman (or man) for seeking professional help if there were issues on either the relationship or reproductive front. Then why is there so much shaming of something just as natural and essential to producing and maintaining life as feeding our children? We need to re-prioritize and support women trying to navigate motherhood and breastfeeding.
Love, Not Fear
Let’s change this paradigm and create an environment that is normal, helpful, supportive and non-shaming to mothers no matter how they feed their babies, while continuing to educate and celebrate what has sustained humanity up until the 20th century.
Let’s start now. If you are reading this and you didn’t breastfeed your child, or you didn’t breastfeed “properly”, let me be the conduit of forgiveness. You operated within the knowledge and barriers of your time. Yes, you had responsibility. It’s OK to own that and say, “I wish I had known better” or “I wish I had had better support” or “I wish I had made better choices.” It’s OK to own it. Then give yourself grace and forgiveness. When you own something, you are then able to use it for good. Perhaps you will help someone by supporting them or offering to find them the support they need. You don’t have to be in denial or defense, you just move forward.
If you are reading this and in the middle of a feeding struggle, then get the help or accept the help you need, but cherish what you already have. If your issue is low milk supply or latch, don’t give up the breastfeeding relationship, the cuddling and skin-to-skin and eye-to-eye language without words. If you have plenty of milk, but a baby who can’t or won’t latch, take off the pressure. Make bottle-feeding as much like breastfeeding as possible with positioning, allowing baby control etc. Take as much of the stress away as possible by taking each day as it comes. Pray blessings over your baby.
In summary, loss of confidence comes when we allow fear to take control of our actions and thoughts. Fear is paralyzing but it can’t be overcome by will. Perfect love casts out fear (1John 4:1) F.E.A.R. equals False Expectations Appearing Real. Let those who love you understand what your desires are and accept acts of love that are truly loving and supportive. Let love be your guide, knowing that love is the antidote to fear. As you make small steps, your confidence will grow and you can then help others along the way.