In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I wanted to ask all women to be kind to other women who are breastfeeding. I know this sounds simple and kind of crazy. But there is so much judgement and quite frankly, meanness, surrounding breastfeeding, I feel like I have to make this request.
I recently had to stop breastfeeding my second son. With my first son, I had too much supply, leaving me with multiple episodes of mastitis because I could never fully empty my breasts. With my second, it was the opposite. I barely had any milk. It was heartbreaking and the two weeks leading up to my final decision to discontinue were both emotional and complicated. I was full of doubt and guilt. Why had it been so different the first time around? Unfortunately, I found, it’s different with every child.
In the middle of this two week challenge, I was approached by a complete stranger who was incredibly rude to me about my breastfeeding choices. This shook me–so much that I wanted to tell my story.
My husband and I belong to a country club that we visit almost every weekend. On this particular weekend, we were swimming, or at least my toddler and husband were swimming. I was hanging with our then 3-month-old in the shade. We were going to leave soon, and I was debating on whether I should feed our son again before we left. Each feeding was getting harder and harder because he was so frustrated with the amount of milk he was getting. He just couldn’t get enough, fast enough. I had some formula in my bag just in case he needed more, but I thought feeding at home might be a little easier.
I finally decided I just needed to feed him and went into the locker room to breastfeed. The locker room has a strict no-phone policy, one I totally understand. No one wants to hear you chatting on the phone while changing or getting ready for your spa treatment. So annoying, I get it. But, I pulled out my phone anyway to use my breastfeeding app with a feeding timer. I had to be very careful how much time my son nursed on each side with my history of terrible mastitis. I wasn’t making a call, and so, I placed my phone on my thigh with the timer going as I started to feed my son.
Within five minutes, an elderly woman came up to be and told me I should put my phone away immediately. “No phones allowed,” she said. I replied politely, “I am using my phone to breastfeed.” “I got along just fine without that in my day; there are other ways to feed,” she rudely said back to me. I replied with an apology but didn’t put my phone away. I thought this was ridiculous. A few women around me chimed in, sticking up for me and telling her to mind her own business. She huffed and walked away. I still kept my phone out and continued feeding. I was so angry. I could feel my chest getting red. My son started to cry a little because he too could feel my sudden anger. Then, a few minutes later, she returned to yell at me again. “You can feed without your phone!” I turned to her and yelled back, “It’s a timer!” She stormed away to get someone who worked at the club. Next, a club employee quietly came in, looked at me and my baby, and rolled her eyes. She too knew that this woman was being insane. And even though I did have my phone out in the locker room, she never told me to put it away. The women around me were furious! How dare she make a scene like this. “Breastfeeding is supposed to be peaceful, I am so sorry, sweetie,” one woman said to me.
That woman in the locker room had no idea the problems that I was facing. She had no idea the tears I had cried earlier that day to my husband about how I was feeling so inadequate as a mother. She had no idea how guilty I felt that I was able to breastfeed my first son longer. How every time I fed, it was a challenge full of doubts about continuing to try or just get out the formula. She had no idea… and neither do we. We have no idea what other women are feeling when they are breastfeeding. We may disagree with how or where they feed or even how long they feed their child. The truth is, we don’t know what they are going through.
And so, I ask for kindness. Every mother wants only the best for her child, and we should only offer support. Visit http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/ for resources.