A SYTYCB entry.
In response to the “Latch On” program in New York which is designed to promote breastfeeding – and limit access to formula, depending on which source you read – a national newspaper here in Canada printed the following story this morning: “Breast vs. bottle: Should the government intervene?”
Invariably, this sort of thing brings about some rather important, but predictable, responses: First, women’s choices aren’t being respected and acknowledged if they cannot choose to formula feed (or not). Second, the government (or other patriarchal structure) is pushing an agenda at the expense of women’s freedom. Finally, and what concerns me, is that articles like this tend to result in judgment. It doesn’t take long before we are taking sides, pointing fingers, and not-so-silently judging other mothers at the park – regardless of whether their babies latch onto a breast or suck from a bottle.
I believe part of what is at the root of this judgment is not that we feel our freedoms are being taken away* (which they may very well be!), or that as women we feel undervalued in a conversation that pertains largely to women as mothers. I think the biggest problem is that we reflect these types of controversies back onto ourselves.
What if I’m making the wrong choice? What if I’m not doing the best for my baby? What if I’m not a perfect mother? This second-guessing, and ensuing guilt, is crippling us from having a more productive discussion about these topics.
Regardless of how we feel about access to formula, the nutritional value of breastmilk, and a mother’s right to choose what is best for herself and her baby, we need to take a collective step back and stop judging ourselves. If – as mothers – we were all more confident in our own choices, we might stop these issues from turning into such a predictable conflict. First, we need to believe that the actions we take and the choices we make are correct. We need to give up the myth of the “perfect mother”.
*I absolutely believe this is an important issue and should be discussed as such. My concern is that part of what makes these issues seem important is our lack of self-confidence as mothers and our inability to simply say: “This is what I did. This was my choice. This was the best I could/should/wanted to do for me, my child and my family.” And walk away.