Like so many new moms, my friend Sarah struggled with breast feeding. She felt tremendous pressure to be the sole provider of nourishment for her firstborn child, and she always worried about her daughter getting enough. And, if she broke down and gave her a bottle, she felt like a failure. Sarah is not alone.
Breastfeeding can be a very emotional issue for new mothers. It can be immensely pleasurable, excruciatingly painful, extraordinarily frustrating, fulfilling, exhausting, joyful, etc. When a new mom successfully feeds her baby with her own body there is a sense of mastery that is created at a time when everything else in the mother’s life is trial and error. On the other hand, when breastfeeding does not go well the mother can be left feeling like a failure.
From the beginning, many new moms are flooded with information about the benefits of breastfeeding. There is tons of research showing that breastfeeding is very beneficial for the child. But here’s what I know, my grandmother and many of yours did not breastfeed. In the 1950s, formula was the state-of-the-art so doctors recommended it. My father, aunts and uncle never had a drop of breast-milk, and they became healthy, successful adults. In the 1970s my mother-in-law shocked her family when she decided to breastfeed her children. Both women made a choice that was right for her at the time, and their babies were non the worse for those decisions.
New moms encounter so many opinions from friends, family, books, doctors and society. The bottom line is that there is no right or wrong answer. Breast feeding is fabulous, but it is not essential. Every woman must weigh the pros and cons and come up with a decision that makes sense for her life.
As for Sarah, by the time her second baby came along she had learned to be much more forgiving herself.