Parenting is hard. Caring for and guiding other humans is hard. For most decisions parents must make, there is no single right answer.
Breast or bottle? Crib or co-sleep? Daycare or stay-at-home parent? Screens or no screens? These are just a few of the many (oh my gosh so many) questions parents have to answer and there’s no right answer. We weigh facts and feelings and make a decision.
So long as you are doing your best to parent with authenticity and compassion, I’m in support of your decision. And you know what? It’s totally not my job to decide if you are doing your best, so I’ll just trust that you are and support you.
If you ask me my opinion on specific decisions, I might weigh in with the best info I have. I have quite a bit of expertise in the normal course of human lactation, breastfeeding challenges and strategies for dealign with them, infant and child development, and education. I even have a number of professional credentials related to those things and I keep up to date on the research and literature.
Sometimes I’ll share what I chose when facing the same or a similar decision, but often I don’t. Why? You aren’t me. Your child is different from mine. The other members of your family are different humans from the other members of mine. Your circumstances – including physiology, finances, family or culture background, and life experience – may be very different from mine. . . . You are the expert on you.
. . .
It’s hard not to second guess ourselves, especially when it comes to parenting. We are talking about the people you love more than anything in the world after all, and you are responsible for them. The stakes seem very high. But you know what? Those little people are extremely resilient and the things they need most don’t require much in the way of decisions: communication, connection, and love.
I was recently reading a “Girl Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis* and really appreciated her new parent priorities list (paraphrased):
- Keep the baby alive,
- Keep you alive.
That’s it. Everything else is is bonus.
Anytime you are feeling overwhelmed, check your list. Are you doing priorities 1 & 2? Then you are doing great.
Yes, your list will expand as the baby gets older. They and you will be more capable and you will have passed that all-consuming new-baby period. But even then, the list still stands.
*There’s only so much I can keep up with and pop culture isn’t on the list. I’d never heard of Rachel Hollis – apparently she’s popular – but the library website kept suggesting her book so I checked it out. Full review coming soon.
. . .
So back to the headline: You do not have to explain your parenting choices to me.
Why am I posting this and why now? Because Breathing Space is starting to offer lactation support and, right now in our culture, to breastfeed or not to breastfeed is one of those parenting questions that seems very heavy and surrounded by judgement.
Yes, I’m a lactation consultant. I’m well versed in the benefits of breastfeeding both individually and population-wide. I have strong opinions about what public policies and culture should be doing to make it easier for parents to breastfeed and have made it my mission to support women in doing so. I’m familiar with a lot of techniques in overcoming breastfeeding difficulties, but know it’s not easy or possible for every woman.
AND, I also absolutely support your right to feed your child formula for any reason.
Even though this should go without saying, I can say it again: You can decide for any reason at all that breastfeeding is not for you . . . . and you don’t even have to tell me the reason. I trust you to decide for you and your family.
So whip out that bottle in baby yoga class, I’m not judging and I’ll defend you against anyone who might be.
If you wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t and want to commiserate, I can do that. I can be angry for you if the support or advice you got was inadequate. If you want change direction or need support now, I might be able to help. If you don’t want to talk about it, I’m good with that too.
About the Author
Jennifer Mueller has been teaching yoga for children and families in Washington DC since 2008. Jen is a Yoga Alliance® Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RTY 200) and Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher (RCTY) as well as a Certified Educator of Infant Massage (CEIM), a Certified Baby Signing Time Instructor, and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).
Jen teaches Breathing Space Baby Yoga & Play classes, Tot, Toddler and Little Families Yoga, afterschool yoga, Baby & Toddler Signing Time, and directs day-off and summer camps . . . in addition to offering lactation support and doing bunch of behind the scenes stuff to keep it all running.