"I can assure you I have seen [the bullying] and so has my daughter. I brought her to this site to help her and encourage her. She was at a point when she was pumping pure blood and had to stop. Someone actually told her that she should get someone else to breastfeed her baby since she did not have the talent. That was on this site. It was 1 person but she felt like such a failure."
The complaint and follow up explanation brought the site to a screeching halt, as various members either expressed disbelief or offered their apologies on behalf of an unknown offender. When I was a member of the group before its multiple suspensions, there were approximately 4,800 Leakies in attendance. Now, the page has swelled to over 11,000 members, and the page owner has had to call in the reserves to try and administer the page and ensure that such bullying does not take place.
Just yesterday, I was skimming through various parenting blogs when I came across Fearless Formula Feeder. The Blog is maintained by a "Mom and 'factivist'" who claims to be "standing up for formula feeders, without being a boob about it." I read through some of the submissions by moms who formula feed their children, and my heart broke for them. They felt as if they were looked down upon by breastfeeders for giving their children artificial nutrition. And I have to agree with them: there are many self-professed "lactivists" out there who, rather than celebrate breastfeeding, waste their time berating women who couldn't breastfeed, or who simply chose not to breastfeed.
Not cool. As someone very wise once said, "You have to feed your child." (That goes nicely hand-in-hand with my other parenting mantra, "You do what you have to do.")
I have never bullied a fellow mom for how she chooses to feed her child. So long as you're not spoon feeding your kid mashed up McNuggets, I've got your back. But I do post a lot of links to pro-breastfeeding articles and news items on my Facebook and sometimes wonder if I am alienating those moms on my friends list who didn't or couldn't breastfeed. I hope I'm not. Unlike the haters above, I don't publicly humiliate non-breastfeeders. But I do celebrate breastfeeding, I do promote it, and I do (in my own way) fight for it.
Fight for it, you say?
Yes. According to a 2006 joint position paper, Newfoundland and Labrador has the lowest initiation rate, and only 11% of infants are still exclusively breastfed by 6 months. Why? It ain't easy to breastfeed, folks. Here are a few reasons:
- There is nothing natural about it.
- Not everyone gets the support they need, from either their healthcare team or their family & friends (especially in NL, where our healthcare system is severely behind the times).
- It can be difficult to get up the courage to do it when you're out and about, and not every baby will take a bottle of expressed breast milk (and you may not always have one at the ready).
Fearless formula feeders, I salute you. All I ask is that you realize where we breastfeeding moms are coming from, and understand that when we band together and celebrate, we are not doing so to attack you. We are simply looking for strength in numbers, whether virtual or real, when we venture outdoors into the public world with our (apt to be hungry) little ones.
Next time you see a breastfeeding mom nursing her child on the bench in the mall, give her a little smile. Your mother-to-mother support, well hidden amongst all the leers and jeers she received, might just be the push she needs to continue feeding her child the way she has chosen to do so.