Want to know a secret? Shhh. Come close.
We don’t give a shit how you feed your baby.
We don’t care. We don’t care because there are women taking their babies for chemotherapy and women struggling to scrape up enough cash to buy dinner and women who feel so shitty about themselves that they think it would be better for their children if they just disappeared. Mothers are falling so deep down the rabbit hole of depression and anxiety, because they are sure that they are failing. Because that’s what some of you are telling them. And you know what? We’re starting to think it’s a cop out to say it’s because you really want their babies to have what you think is best. We’re starting to think it’s because it makes you feel better about yourself. It makes you feel superior. You feel superior when you say, in not-so-hushed voices, that she should have weaned her baby when he started to walk. You feel superior when you say that she could have breastfed, if she’d just had the fortitude/education/enough love for her child.
When we started the I Support You project last year, we heard from hundreds of women who finally felt seen, heard, and understood. They saw their stories reflected in our mission. Breastfeeding moms and formula-feeding moms reached out to each other in kindness and friendship. But there were whispers of discontent. Over the last year, the whispers have grown louder. This is my party! I’m the birthday girl! Some of you want to make sure that everyone knows that support is only relevant if you’re supporting what you personally feel is right and true. Look at me! Look at me, Mom!! No, no….look over heeeeere! Some have complained that I Support You lets everyone join their exclusive club, even the mothers who haven’t earned it. These are my toys. All of them. I’m not going to share.
AND YOU ARE HURTING PEOPLE.
We will say it again: you are hurting people. I Support You isn’t just about discussing how we feed. It is us, pleading with you, to take care of each other. We are begging you to step outside of your own experience, and be kind to each other. Stop talking about yourself. Stop preaching. Stop telling other women what to do with their bodies. You know what’s anti-feminist? Shaming other women for not using their breasts the way that you do. Telling other moms how to care for their babies, because that’s what has worked in your family. If you believe that you are in charge of your own body, then please don’t tell other women what to do with theirs. If you believe that you know what is best for your family, then don’t assume that you know what is best for ours.
Support isn’t about holding up signs that celebrate one way of parenting by stomping on another in your combat boots. We’re on a hamster wheel – spinning around and around, the same scenery whirling past our eyes, going nowhere. One step forward, twenty steps back.
But we know you’re out there, too. The ones who want to see real change. The ones who are as fed up, bored, exhausted, and angry as we are. And we hear your whispers, too:
I am a breastfeeder, and my children are brilliant because I talk to them and make sure they don’t starve and expose them to wonderful adventures in life and love on them and wake up to cuddle them when they’re scared.
I am a formula feeder, and my children are inquisitive, sensitive, and utterly confident that they are loved for who they are, and not because they are an extension of me or my desires.
I am a breastfeeder, and I care about your feelings.
I am a formula feeder, and I don’t give a flying you-know-what how you feed your baby, because I trust that you love him and are doing what you know is best for your family.
I am a breastfeeder, and I don’t care how you feed your baby or what you feed your baby. I will mind my own business, because your personal choices are not mine to know.
I am a formula feeder, and I would never presume to know your experience, or judge your parenting philosophy, because what the heck is a parenting philosophy, anyway? Who has time to think about this shit?
I am a breastfeeder who has supported moms while they leave their abusive partners, while they struggle to learn a new language in a new country, while they cry on the floor at Mommy Group because they feel so alone. I do not care what they are feeding their baby, as long as they are not drowning in the deep end of depression.
I am a formula feeder, and I want my choice to be seen as normal and acceptable, instead of something for which I am supposed to feel defensive and ashamed.
I am a breastfeeder, and I have more important things to do than tell you how to take care of your kids. Like sleep. And eat something that is not the crust of what my kids just threw on the floor.
I am a formula feeder, and I will support breastfeeding women because they also should be made to feel like their choice is normal and acceptable, because (duh) it is.
I am a breastfeeder, and I am ashamed that some of my breastfeeding sisters make you feel bad.
I am a formula feeder and I believe we ALL deserve support regardless of which way the public opinion/scientific consensus pendulum sways, because how we use our female bodies should not be up for public discussion, full stop.
I am a breastfeeder, and I will feed my baby wherever I want to, and you should too, because normalizing it means just doing it, and not milking it for page views.
I am a formula feeder, and I want us all to avoid the “buts” and focus on the “ands”…but/and I don’t want this concept to be co-opted in a way that marginalizes or demonizes one disenfranchised group for the benefit of another.
I am a formula feeder, and I don’t champion a way of feeding, or the biological norm, or a highly marketed, commodified product, but I will champion your right to parent with love and autonomy, because my support is not conditional.
I am a breastfeeder, and my kids will grow up knowing how fiercely I love them, and how fiercely I fought to feed them. Both of them. The formula one and the breastmilk one.
I am a breastfeeder, and I will not use that privilege to shame, isolate, or judge you.
I am a formula feeder, and I will not use that privilege to shame, isolate or judge you.
I am a formula feeder, and I Support YOU.
I am a breastfeeder and I Support YOU.
If you are interested in learning more about normalizing kindness, and how we can lift each other up on this journey of motherhood, then please visit I Support You. We hear you. It’s okay to raise your voice. Maybe it’s time we did, too.
***This post was co-written by Suzanne Barston and Kim Simon***