A little guilt is good

Howdy, friends.

I was surfing Babble.com earlier today and came across a link to this blog post about breastfeeding.

It’s a pretty good read — especially the part about how we tune out advice about parenting all the time, and don’t feel guilty if we don’t agree with someone (like when my mom yelled at me because my baby didn’t have a hat on … inside. I didn’t feel bad about that.). But bring up nursing, and suddenly, we can’t have a civilized conversation without guilt. She writes:

What I want to know then, is why can’t we feel the same way about infant feeding? Anytime an article expressing the merits of breastfeeding or the demerits of formula feeding arises, there is an almighty chorus of “Don’t make me feel guilty!” Huh? We can take the hard-of-hearing perfume-laden granny up in our faces yelling about whether or not our child is too fat or too skinny, but we can’t take a scientific article from some faceless guy in a white coat, telling us what our baby is consuming may or may not be good for them? Where did this guilt thing come from anyway? Because ladies, it is tripping us up on the road to successful breastfeeding. That’s right. Decrying breastfeeding information because of an onset of guilt is actually stalling the breastfeeding information. Moreover, it is increasingly leading doctors and other health providers to make decisions FOR us, while withholding information, in order to spare us from GASP! Guilt!

Even putting this on here, I feel like I need to say, “But, hey, I don’t care if you nurse or not! Seriously! It’s your call!” And maybe that’s part of the problem. Couching everything like that.

It’s just interesting. I went to a baby shower recently where a girlfriend and I were the first to offer advice to the new mom — which was part of the little game the hostess came up with. It was fun, and we heard lots of good and funny stories about parenting. But my friend who went first mentioned breastfeeding and pushing through the challenges. I mentioned the same thing, and gave my standard advice, which is: “If you are nursing your baby, and suddenly get a fever, you don’t have the flu. You have mastitis. Call your doctor immediately.” After at least four bouts of mastitis, I feel like I have to tell the world about it and how to recognize it!

Anyway, after we shared our stories, and the advice continued, the next like four women mentioned how they tried to nurse and couldn’t. I had never met these women. I didn’t know they had kids. And yet I sat there, feeling like I did something wrong by openly pushing breastfeeding on a new mom (who I know wants to try when her daughter is born). And maybe these women were feeling their own guilt about it, which is why they brought it up. And I know it’s good to hear other views, from people who didn’t and were fine with it. But the thing is, these women didn’t seem fine with it. At all. I don’t know all their circumstances, but I wondered if any were like the blogger’s — just bad information and then a missed opportunity.

Here is more from her blog:

I no longer feel guilty about formula-feeding my daughter early on, but I am still angry, and occasionally I fill up with rage so intense that I desperately want to scream at the next white-coated, stethoscope-touting, smug doctor that I see. I deplore my daughter’s hospital paediatrician, who denied me information essential to recovering our breastfeeding journey, and instead gave me sappy, cliché drivel about “not feeling guilty” because she felt that preventing the horror of guilt was more important than doing her damn job and GIVING ME THE INFORMATION I NEEDED. In her eyes I was no longer a mature, intelligent, capable woman and feminist, but instead a snivelling, emotional mess that needed decisions made for her. She undermined my rights, my capability, and my right to informed choice. She, an almost complete stranger, made a flash decision about me and my ability to handle myself, and took away almost all chance I had of doing something desperately important to me. She determined that I had an emotional fragility that was more important to protect than the health and wellbeing of myself and my baby. She stereotyped me, she prejudged me, she made me into something I am not, and was not. Her fear of guilt tripped up my breastfeeding journey. It is not right. We cannot and should not withhold information from women because we judge them incapable of handling guilt. It is decidedly chauvinist and misogynistic. It is anti-feminist. It is WRONG.

I’m glad my girlfriend has friends who have and haven’t nursed their kids. I’m also really, really grateful for the huge community of women I know who nursed. Many times, it was them who kept me going. And my husband, who empathized with my exhaustion or feeling of being strapped to the baby or now, when I seriously have bleeding nipples every f-ing day. What the hell, baby? It’s awful. I was totally ready to just quit the other day. I am in pain. I am sick of it. I just want OUT. And those same friends of mine said, hey, if you aren’t enjoying it anymore, stop. It’s fine. And just having that permission allowed me to keep going. Deciding to breastfeed makes it more enjoyable than having to breastfeed. And now Viv and I are back on track, bleeding nipples and all.

The blogger goes on to talk about how feeling guilt about not breastfeeding isn’t horrible. We all feel guilt about something — hell, I feel awful that I let Jack watch his “Letter Factory” DVD every single day now. Sometimes twice. I feel awful that I made almost ALL of Jack’s baby food. But Genevieve? I’ve made like 3 batches of baby food. The rest I buy at Target, at about 10x the cost of making it at home. I pretty much feel like an ass every time I open a jar. And I should. I mean, really. It’s just laziness on my part. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep doing it. I can live with a little guilt. I’m an adult.

And maybe that’s the blogger’s point.

Happy running.


Edited to add: I was just pumping, and started to think that this sounds like I am a crazy judgy person about people who choose not to breastfeed. I’m not. Seriously. I often wonder why, but that’s it — just a casual wondering, and then I move on to my own business. But I think the blogger’s point, and what I was trying (unsuccessfully) to share, is I agree: Give people all the information, including “breast is best,” which might make them feel bad, but it’s the truth. Then let them decide. My sister was in her early 20s when she had her son, and when the nurse asked if she was going to breastfeed, she said no. She hadn’t even thought about it. My mom didn’t, and she had no other reference points. She says now that if that nurse had even talked to her a little about it, she probably would have, and regrets not having tried. I think that’s the point here. Maybe that nurse didn’t want my sister to feel bad for having chosen not to. But she didn’t choose not to because she didn’t want to — she really didn’t know any better.

In other news, this is where you can offer any and all advice on bleeding boobs. It just keeps getting worse. It’s bad, friends, really, REALLY bad and very disgusting. Nothing is infected (according to Urgent Care doctor), but holy shit. I look like I was maimed.

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One Response to A little guilt is good

  1. Erica says:

    You already are doing all the things I can think of…sorry not much help here. I truly hope it gets better VERY soon!
    And about the above breastfeeding, I know what you mean about guilt. Whoever told you that is right-you should give yourself permission to do what you need to do for you and V.
    And this is the advice I thought of later after the shower…which is just to believe in yourself. Sure as a (new) mom you absolutely ask for guidance from those who have kids, etc. That’s what helped me and still does. But ultimately each of us and our little ones have to figure out what works for us. I think that about everything…breastfeeding, food choices (and I did the same with #1 vs, #2 with respect to babyfood, by the way), and on and on.
    And one more thing, I am surprised when breastfeeding comes up in certain situations how I end up feeling like a weirdo for doing something natural (this even happened when she was a tiny baby). Like I had to feel shame for doing it or something. It’s such a touchy subject, but why does it have to be?
    Anyway, feel better soon!

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