I’ve got a confession, dear reader.
I don’t give a shit if you breastfeed your baby or not.
Sound a bit harsh? Read on—you’ll see what I mean.
Recently I was on Instagram and I came across a beautiful photo of a mother holding her baby. The picture had a light-hearted feel to it, yet the caption held a sad tale of how this mother was reprimanded by a stranger for giving her child a bottle that had formula in it. “Have you ever considered breastfeeding?” the stranger smugly asked. The mother felt her face flush; shame crept into her chest. She felt compelled to explain as to why she couldn’t breastfeed, and felt angry that the stranger seemed to relish in her emotional anguish and guilt. As I read her story, I felt angry, too. I couldn’t help but think
Who has the time to care if a mother breastfeeds or not?
I get it: breastfeeding can be a big thing to get hung up on. Before my son was born, I was 100% certain that I was going to breastfeed exclusively for at least 6 months. I would have a wonderful breastfeeding experience. Why didn’t everyone breastfeed? Isn’t it the easy option since it’s free? Boy, was I stupid! Okay, not stupid, but completely ignorant to how hard breastfeeding actually is, not to mention being a mother! You can imagine my face when my son was born early and I had to exclusively pump for the first month, then switched back and forth between pumping and breastfeeding before finally weaning at almost 6 months because I was stressed. Still, I never thought to confront someone about their decision to breastfeed or not. Why?
Because I honestly don’t care!
And this doesn’t apply just to breastfeeding, but to: attachment parenting, baby-led weaning, cloth diapering or disposables, co-sleeping, screen time, or whatever other “controversial” topics plague parents nowadays. Motherhood is a journey. A long and exhausting, but joyous journey. Responsibility looms large as you try to decide what is best for your family. And that’s the point: what is best for your family is not best for mine, and vice versa.
That’s why I don’t give a single shit about how others parent their children: it doesn’t affect me. It’s not my business. Abuse aside, I don’t have the energy to play parent patrol and get hung up on what others are doing because I am too busy trying to live in the moment while my son grows up before my very eyes. Furthermore, these strangers that think they are doing their part by scolding parents are forgetting the most basic of facts: they don’t know that parent’s story. You don’t know what battles that family may be fighting. You don’t know what they have been through to get where they are today. When people look at my son, they don’t realize how traumatic his birth and NICU stay was for our family. Truthfully, it’s not up to me to explain the decisions I make for him because of their ignorance.
Our culture seems to lack the “village mentality” because we are so busy judging what other people are doing that we are missing out on building connections based on solidarity and common decency. Connections that broaden our horizons and help us realize that there is no one “right way” to be a great parent, but we’re all doing the best job that we can.
So next time you see a mom formula feeding or breastfeeding, using cloth diapers or disposables, cooking from scratch or ordering a pizza, co-sleeping or sleep training, raise your coffee mug to her and smile. Tell her you don’t give a shit about how she’s raising her children, because from where you’re standing, it looks like she’s doing a pretty great job.
Have you ever received unsolicited parenting advice? What did you do?