Friday, June 16, 2006

mama guilt

Have you seen the breastfeeding ads from the Ad Council? There has been a lot of debate on the issue...from newscasters, doctors, formula companies. A constant theme has been "we shouldn't make women who choose not to breastfeed or who can't breastfeed feel guilty for that decision". I agree with that. I hate mama guilt. Working with new mamas, there is guilt and judgment on mothering issues all around them. We are constantly feeling evaluated. (And as a mama who has birthed 6 children in 9 years, let me tell you that I feel those eyes on me!) But taking an ad off of TV because it may make someone feel guilty is probably not a good enough reason, IMHO.

This has sparked a lot of debate even among breastfeeding mamas from what I've heard through a doula group I belong to. I really liked what one of the doulas posted that we feel guilt and pain for a reason. We shouldn't ignore those feelings. We need to process those feelings. She shared her breastfeeding history with us and the way she has processed some of the guilt she felt over weaning early. Someone else also shared a great online article.

I think that the idea that guilt is there for a reason and what do we do with it, is really resonating with me. Some of the mamas that I have worked with have chosen to formula feed. It is usually due to lack of commitment and sometimes lack of support. I have tried to be there to support them in the decisions they have made. It is one time when I have to remind myself this is not my baby...not my choice of how to feed. But what do those mamas do with the guilt they feel? I think that the Ad Council ads can remind them that they made a poor choice...and why did they make that choice? Why did they choose artificial milk over human milk for their baby? And what do they do with those choices now? One thing I love about my job is the counselor role I get to play on occasion. I love listening as mamas process the thoughts and feelings they are having. I love encouraging them to explore things on a deeper level. And very often those feelings are feelings of guilt over something they have done or not done.

Yes, I am definitely thinking about all of that.

I have my own mama guilt with breastfeeding as well. I only nursed my first two kids for about 7 months each. The oldest I weaned early because I was pregnant again and I didn't really even know about tandem nursing. The other was taking a daily bottle of formula (because I was too lazy to pump) while I was at work 3 mornings a week. It became easier to give him a bottle than to breastfeed him. I think I was really relieved when my 3rd rejected all artificial nipples. I was able to nurse him a year. And my 4th and 5th went to a year and 14 months respectively.

Since I've been working the past month, baby Jack has been taking a daily sippy cup of breastmilk when I am not there to nurse him. The other day D was out with the kids and had Jack in the stroller. He was shopping for his trip to California. I met him when I was finished with work for the day. I looked at Jack in the stroller and he had his daily milk in a bottle instead of his cup. That bottle took me by surprise and made me a little sad. He still prefers his milk "fresh from the mama", but I was a little sad to think that he would actually take a bottle even if it contained his familiar milk. Knowing that Jack could be my last baby and my last nursing experience, I have a hard time imagining weaning him in 4 or 6 more months.

Yes, my mama guilt is there. Why did I think my body that was breastfeeding and pregnant wasn't able to nourish the babies it conceived? Why did I ever think it was easier to just give Trey a bottle of formula and then another of formula and then another of formula to the point that I wasn't breastfeeding him any longer? And how will I ever wean my little Jack E? I don't want to lose that portion of our lives.

mama guilt

No comments: