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“Breast Is Best?” That’s My Choice




liz gunnBy Liz Gunn  ||  So I came across quite a gem in my Instagram feed today. A picture of a sweet, angel baby getting a snack from mom’s boob.  I’m sorry … what?  Oh yeah.  #NationalBreastfeedingMonth.  Lots of other fun hashtags, too, like #itsjustaboob and #milkontap.

Clever.  But my questions is why.  Why are we celebrating breast feeding?  I know there are a lot of people with very strong opinions on this topic, and I’m sure to piss each and every one of them off.  But why are we celebrating something that is supposed to be natural … normal … not a big deal?  If you truly want to normalize something, I’m not sure you’re going about it the right way.

Full disclosure here – I did not breast feed.  By choice.  Let the hate mail roll in!  Yes, I chose not to breast feed my baby.  My milk came in.  I just didn’t want to.  Does it make me a bad mother?  Does it mean I love my baby any less?  No.  It means that it’s my own damn business what I feed my baby.

Lots and lots of babies have been formula fed from day one, especially thirty years ago.  I was one of them.  I started walking at ten months. I excelled in math and reading and scored in the top one percent of my classmates on standardized tests.  I played soccer as a child, then I was captain of the cheerleading team and a competitive gymnast in my later years.  I played the piano.  I’m quite social.  I’m just not sure I missed anything by not getting my mother’s milk.

Thirty some odd years ago it was much more common for people not to breast feed.  From what I’ve read, it was even a bit of a socio-economic status statement.  People who couldn’t afford other means were the ones who breastfed.  I’m sure just like today, it was different in different parts of the country and in the world.  My point though, is that it’s no one’s business.  And it’s no one’s business what your reasons are.

I know women who breastfed because they liked the way their boobs looked in their enlarged state.  I know women who breastfed solely for the calorie burn.  Does it matter what anyone’s reasons are for breastfeeding or not breastfeeding?  No.  The only person who needs to know that I don’t breastfeed is my daughter’s pediatrician.  Perhaps if I did breastfeed I’d also need to let my employer know.

I’m not in any way anti-breastfeeding.  As a matter of fact, I applaud women who have it in them to commit to it.  And it is a commitment.  I could honestly give you a million reasons why I chose not to breastfeed.  I personally never had the desire to try. Coming home from the hospital with a newborn baby is scary and anxiety inducing enough.  Call me crazy, but I think it’s just as important for a baby to have a momma that isn’t a total head case, too.  To me, breastfeeding felt like one more thing to add to my worry list.

Pre-birth women worry about their milk coming in, worry about the baby latching on.  They worry about their nipples…yes, nipples!  Not once but twice my doctor offered me some nipple cream that was supposed to help prepare them.  Sounds awesome!  I won’t even go there about what breastfeeding does to your boobs.  Once the baby is here they worry if the baby is getting enough to eat.  They worry that they can’t keep up the supply.  They have to continue to limit a lot of things in their diet (as if nine months isn’t long enough?).  They worry about being out in public and needing to feed, or being at work and needing to pump – and believe me when I say I couldn’t be more supportive of those things if I tried.

It may not seem like it, but I am a borderline feminist.  I love and look up to strong, independent women.  I hope someday my daughter will see me as one of them.  But strong, independent women don’t force their opinions on you.  They don’t judge you because you parent differently than they do.  And they certainly don’t need to post a picture on the internet of their boob with a baby hanging off of it to prove a point.

We get it.  “Breast is best.”  But at the end of the day, it’s still a choice.  And it’s more than a wee bit self-righteous of you to judge anyone’s parenting choices.

Liz Gunn is a wife, mom, author, businesswoman, travel enthusiast, food snob, fashionista, lover of great wine and the No. 1 Gamecock football fan … ever.  A graduate of the University of South Carolina, she lives in Columbia with her husband and daughter.

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