“I’m a foster parent, and no one has ever mentioned my family in the feeding debate before. I felt invisible.”
“I am the new mom that you wrote about. I have post-partum depression. I am trying my best.”
“I was successful at breastfeeding, but my best friend wasn’t. I never understood how hard it was for her until now.”
“I pumped at the NICU. My daughter had a heart condition.”
“I use a nipple shield and supplement with formula. I thought I was the only one.”
This is what feeding with love looks like. It looks like courage. It looks like determination. It looks like you and I, standing up to say “I Support You”. But a funny thing happens when you stand up to give your support to other parents. We see you. We see your beautiful, brave faces. When you’re supporting other parents, you are no longer invisible. You are standing up and letting your own story be known. When Suzanne, Jamie and I came together a week ago to begin the I Support You project, we were sure that we would be adding drops of change to a larger bucket of knowledge and understanding.
We had no idea just how much that bucket would overflow.
You came by the hundreds, reading our stories of failure, fearlessness, and fortitude. You shared your truths, sending emails that detailed the courageous ways that you feed your children. You introduced yourselves. You are mothers from my playgroup, and mothers from across the country. You are moms of tiny, screaming newborn babies, and moms of adult children who have now had children of their own. You are foster moms and families with two dads and women who chose formula so that you could stay on your medication. You are moms who nurse in public and moms who nurse two year olds to sleep. You are the dad who I ran into in the formula aisle last week, muttering under your breath “Crap! She didn’t tell me there were so many damn choices?!” (I’ll admit, I started to laugh. Not very supportive of me, but it was funny because I have SO been there.) You are using your voice. You are standing up. You are showing us how you feed with love. It’s nice to meet you. I’m so glad that you’re here.
You’re here, but so many of you are in pain. I have been reading your comments at 3 am, when I’m shushing my baby back to sleep. I’ve been checking in on you over at The Huffington Post, before I sit down to write the next essay. I am reading your emails to my husband over dinner, crying over your beautiful, painful words. I am you. You are me. And you shouldn’t have to be in this much pain. I don’t care if you feed your baby from your breast or from a bottle. You should never be made to feel less than. You should never be shamed. You should never have to carry the burden of a group that is anti-anything. Not here. Not with us. That is why I Support You was created.
There is no room for judgment here. We can’t allow anyone to hurt you any more than you have already been hurt. I will defend your right to nurse in public, covered or not. I will defend your right to choose formula, without shame or embarrassment. I will defend your right to nurse your four year old or bottle-feed your two year old. I will defend your right to research your choices, to have educated conversations and respectful exchanges, but I will not allow anyone to cause another parent pain. Isn’t that the point of I Support You? Simply put, we are here to make sure that parents aren’t made to feel bad for breastfeeding. We are here to make sure that parents aren’t made to feel bad for formula-feeding. It’s respect and empathy at the most basic level. We’re not taking away from World Breastfeeding Month, we’re adding to it. We’re challenging you to take responsibility for your own family. For your own choices. Decide what works best for you, and feed with love.
The beautiful thing about I Support You is that it has no beginning, and no end. I know from your comments and your emails that our bucket of empathy and understanding is overflowing. Let’s flood the Internet, my friends. The waves of change are coming. Let’s drown out the voices that tell us we’re not good enough, didn’t try hard enough, didn’t last long enough. We can turn I Support You into practical, useful solutions that will help to ease the pain of making tough feeding choices. Let’s harness this momentum, and keep making waves.
1) Tell us how we can support your feeding choice. I’m new to breastfeeding, so here’s what would help me the most:
- Don’t be afraid to nurse in public. I’m learning what breastfeeding could and should look like. It helps me to see how you do it. Do you use a nursing cover? How do you layer your shirt and tank top so that you don’t flash anyone? What’s the most comfortable way to hold your baby when you don’t have a nursing pillow with you? Teach me. Be my example. I need to know that I’m not the only one who fumbles and sweats and turns red when I nurse.
- Offer me a glass of water. When I’m nursing on the couch at home, offer to bring me something. A snack. Some juice. My mother-in-law offered to cut my food for me at breakfast yesterday because I was trying to eat while nursing Ben at the same time. These simple acts say “I Support You”. These things were really helpful in the first few weeks, but now that I’m getting into a nursing groove, it’s just as important to maintain my supply by eating and drinking enough.
- Please don’t bash formula around me. Remember that just because I breastfeed, it doesn’t mean that I am against formula-feeding. I used to be a formula mom. It saved my first son’s life. And I know that formula moms are working just as hard as I am to feed their babies with love. Supporting breastfeeding does not mean bashing formula feeding. They are not mutually exclusive.
- Encourage your Mother’s Clubs and New Parent Centers to offer support groups for ALL new parents. The first year of your child’s life is a roller-coaster of exhaustion, self-doubt, and change. It’s healing and validating to be around other parents in similar situations. Formula-feeding parents often miss out on this early mom-to-mom bonding when they aren’t able to attend breastfeeding groups. Start a formula Meet-Up in your area, or encourage your local wellness center to add it to their calendar. It’s also important to make sure that there are easily accessible breastfeeding support groups in your area. Successful breastfeeding is directly related to positive support, education, and constant opportunities for learning. Find “your people”, and if you can’t, then start a group yourself. Everyone deserves to have their situation mirrored back to them.
- Speak openly about breastfeeding. Don’t be afraid to tell me about teething, or nursing strikes, or oversupply. You can also tell me how well your baby is growing, how you feel like you’ve finally hit your stride, and how proud of yourself you are. Tell me the whole truth. It won’t scare me off, it will let me know what to expect. The more you educate me, the more confident about nursing I will be.
Suzanne has posted information about how we can support formula feeding parents at The Fearless Formula Feeder. Jamie has posted information about how to support breastfeeding moms on a local AND global level at I Am Not The Babysitter.
2) Share your story with us! Did you complete the “Interview Your Opposite” project? Have you written about your own journey on your blog? Use the link-up button below to post your story.
3) Take a minute to watch this amazing video that Suzanne at The Fearless Formula Feeder created. There’s a lot of love in the pictures that you sent, and dare I say it….a huge flood of pride washing over all of your faces. This is what feeding with love looks like.
4) Perform random acts of supportive feeding kindness. I stumbled on a moms forum this week where a breastfeeding mom had stopped by a forum meant for formula moms to say “I might not feed like you do, but I support you.” That’s pretty damn awesome. Text a new mom to tell her that she’s doing a great job. Sit next to a bottle-feeding mom while you breastfeed, and talk to her. Make a basket of activities that a friend’s toddler can play with while she feeds her new baby. Tweet your support to moms across the country by using the hashtag #ISupportYou. If we reach out to support each other instead of wasting our energy leaving nasty comments on blogs (“formula is poison”, “extended breastfeeding is unnatural”…you know who you are) the Internet might explode. Make the Internet explode with your support and your strength.
5) “I Support You” is thrilled to be partnering with Huffington Post Parents to celebrate World Breastfeeding Month. Our friends at HuffPo believe that it’s time to celebrate ALL feeding choices, and they’ll be working with us throughout the month to share stories about what feeding with love really looks like. Let’s make sure that they know how much we appreciate their message that we are all doing our best to feed in a way that works for our family, by joining the conversation here.
6) Join us on August 7th for a Twitter Party at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. We will be encouraging all of you to share your stories and connect with parents who are making similar choices. We’d love to hear your suggestions about how I Support You can take shape in your community, so we hope you’ll join us by using the hashtag #ISupportYou
I see your courage. We hear the love that you have for your children, whether you breastfeed, bottle feed or formula feed them. Thank you for adding your voice to our beautiful chorus. Thank you for standing up, being counted, and showing the world that your family is not invisible. We see you. Your feeding choices matter. Your story is important. We will learn from each other, we will grow stronger together, and we will not stop until every one of us knows that we are not alone.
I support you. Thank you for supporting us, and being a voice for change. Now let’s make the Internet explode…
Click on the button below to link your blog up and show us how you feed with love. In the subject line, please state HOW you feed and WHERE you feed so that other parents can connect to someone who feeds the same way they do. Or even better, they can learn from someone who feeds differently than they do. (Example: “1st Time Breastfeeder, CA” or “Formula, foster mom, TX” or “EP mom, NICU twins, MI”)