I’ve been reading parenting boards, looking for perspective and ideas. But I’m seriously annoyed by how often, when women ask for help with bottle or formula feeding, they are told how to breastfeed or pump better, instead.
I asked my first and last question about formula feeding in one group — G was getting constipated as we had to increase her supplementation with formula, as I returned to work and found I was unable to maintain my breastmilk supply at a level high enough to meet her appetite — and got two or three comments on how to ease constipation in an infant. I got 3 times as much feedback on how to augment my milk supply so I could stop giving her formula. I ran out of polite ways to say “I’ve tried that, I’m doing yay, that one didn’t work,” and stopped myself before I said “and does anyone want to answer the question I actually asked? Because my husband and I are fine with our choices and you aren’t helping me.” They all meant well. Much of it was good advice. But it wasn’t the help I asked for, or the help I needed.
Another woman, on another board, asked for advice on transitioning her breastfed infant to bottles and formula, as she was returning to work and knew that pumping would be complex and likely unsuccessful. All the replies were about how breastfeeding would be better, with three people who wrote variations on the theme that she should petition/complain/sue her employer for failing to make breastfeeding and pumping easy for her per the law, or she should extend her maternity leave, or she should find a new job. No one offered advice on transitioning to bottles and formula. Essentially, because she had the audacity to admit publicly that it’s hard to be a working mother, and she might not succeed with breastfeeding with her personal constraints, she was told she should try harder, and that her solutions were wrong, and no help was offered.
There are all these lovely essays about how motherhood is hard, and we’re all doing the best we can and we need to be kinder to ourselves and acknowledge that our choices and instincts about what is right for our family are valid and worthy. And then there are all these people who seem to just be waiting to tell you exactly how wrong you are when you follow those instincts and make those choices.
Justin is often confused because I say I don’t want to be part of big and expansive communities, that I don’t want to invite multitudes Into my life. He sees that as a weakness: you have less support when your community is small. But, man. I just… Parenting isn’t actually making me reconsider that feeling of mine. This is really a big part of why I prefer solitude: when no one knows what you’re doing, no one can judge you.
More than that, I wish motherhood wasn’t social competition, and that we trusted each other to make the best possible choices for our own families. But we, apparently, don’t.