One part of motherhood I’ve always enjoyed from the get-go is breastfeeding.
While I know this is not the case for all moms, the moment my son latched, breastfeeding felt like the right choice for me. Now, this isn’t to say that I didn’t experience bumps during the course of our breastfeeding journey because I absolutely did. I remember in those early days constantly worrying if I was producing enough milk to feed my very hungry son, if cluster feeding was normal, and even wondering what to do about how sore my nipples were early on because, holy cow, they get really, really sore!
So, yes, I’ve had some big learning curves when it comes to my breastfeeding journey, but this is one of the few motherhood choices I’ve made that I’ve felt confident in every step of the way.
But the topic of how you’ll feed your child is one of many polarizing conversations when you become a new parent. Oftentimes, it is met with very strong opinions and, sometimes, equally as strong judgments. Once I made the decision to give breastfeeding a chance, part of the feeding conversation I wasn’t expecting was the constant question of when I was going to be done.
Once I made the decision to give breastfeeding a chance, part of the feeding conversation I wasn’t expecting was the constant question of when I was going to be done.
Many times this question comes after someone realizes that me breastfeeding my child somehow inconveniences them, like when they wanted to hold him or take him out for a while. Or I’d get this question after having a frustrating nursing session and talking about some of the pain, discomfort, and soreness that breastfeeding can cause. Most of the time, I just want a listening ear or a little bit of sympathy, but usually, I am met with a hurried sense of “When are you going to be done already?!”
The truth is, I didn’t have a timestamp on when I was going to be done. I always knew once I decided to breastfeed that I’d continue to do so until it was no longer enjoyable for me or my son anymore. There are enough struggles in parenthood and motherhood, I didn’t believe in forcing something if it was causing more stress than anything else. Thankfully, I’ve been lucky enough to have a really enjoyable breastfeeding journey for the past 11 months.
Yes, I’ve had to wake up in the middle of the night to get an extra pumping session in when I couldn’t pump enough at work.
Yes, I’ve had to monitor how much dairy I’ve eaten because my son had a very mild dairy intolerance.
Yes, he bit me (way too many times) when teeth started coming in.
And yes, I have considered choosing other options so that I can be away from my baby for longer periods of time without stressing about how much breastmilk to provide, my breasts becoming engorged, or having to pack all of the parts necessary to keep up with my milk supply.
The truth is, I didn’t have a timestamp on when I was going to be done. I always knew once I decided to breastfeed that I’d continue to do so until it was no longer enjoyable for me or my son anymore.
But for right now, I feel great with how long I’ve been breastfeeding and am OK with some of the sacrifices I have to make to feed my child in this way. If you also find that you’re getting a lot of questions around your feeding choices or if you’re the one asking the question, I’d like to offer just a bit of advice to you.
If you’re getting the question…
It doesn’t matter if the question is about breastfeeding, formula feeding, exclusively pumping, or some mixture of all three. If you’re getting questions about your feeding choice for your child and when you will stop or try something different, please try to let it roll off your back and remember why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Other people may try to chime in at many points along your parenthood journey: from if you’ll use a swaddle, to when to stop giving the baby a pacifier, to if you’ll use baby food or baby-led weaning, and so much more. But at the end of the day, you’re the mother and you know what’s best for you, your child, and your family. Let that be the constant mantra in the back of your head when someone tries to sneakily or boldly sway you with their opinions and questions.
If you’re asking the question…
I urge you to pause before asking any mother any question. Seriously. Think about it: a mother has a lot of things to think about and remember all day long, and your question may just be the thing to make her feel like she’s not doing enough, remembering enough, trying enough, or being enough.
If you’re thinking of asking a question, maybe try turning it into some encouragement. For example, if you see a mother carrying her breast pump or mixing up a bottle of formula maybe say “Feeding your child every day must be a lot of work, you’re doing a great job!” Or simply “You’re doing a great job.”
You may be curious and wonder about a lot of things going on in the new parenthood part of life, but maybe wait until she brings the topic up in a conversation before you ask any questions outside of “Are you doing OK?” and “Can I bring you hot coffee” (the answer to the latter question is always “yes!”). When you do ask questions, try open-ended, non-judgemental ones, like “How did you know that this option was best for you?” This gives the mother an opportunity to talk about her journey in whichever way she feels comfortable.
While you may mean well with your questions, you never know how it will seem to the one on the receiving end.
Oh, and if you’re wondering about me and if I will stop breastfeeding at the one-year mark? I’m not sure when my breastfeeding journey will come to an end. When the time comes, I’m sure I’ll know. But until then (and I mean this in the kindest way possible), please stop asking me.