What We Don’t Talk About (But Should) When We Talk About Breastfeeding

In time for Breastfeeding month, I’m going to talk about the things we don’t talk about breastfeeding, and why we should talk some more.

em aglipay on breastfeeding
My law school blockmate, Rep. Em Aglipay on her experiences breastfeeding in public. She also talks about the widespread prejudice against breastmilk in a separate graphic.

I come from both sides of the fence, so to speak. I am an exclusively breastfeeding mom but I also gave my baby formula several times while I was building my supply during the first two weeks post-partum.  Before giving birth, I naively thought breastfeeding was going to be an easy, natural thing to do and I went as far as post articles I read online about breastfed kids being smarter, happier and healthier than formula fed kids… not a very sensitive thing to do, I realized later on, which brings me to my first point.

Breastfeeding is framed as a public health issue, a food security matter, and so much more. However, talking about breastfeeding or formula as a matter of choice by a parent is such a sensitive and highly contentious topic even though it has public health dimensions. How you feed your child touches a raw nerve 99% of the time. It divides mothers, grandmothers, friends, workmates, one judging the other, when it should not be the case.

First of all, nobody talks about the private pain a mother goes through when people around her – family included, judge her choice to breastfeed.  Breastfeeding moms endure a lot of well-intentioned but hurtful comments and suggestions, ranging from their milk not being good enough to their babies not being fat enough – or that their babies look sickly compared to fatter formula fed babies. Moms who want to breastfeed but are not able to also endure hurtful comments about their ability to provide for their babies, sadly even from other moms, too.

Nobody really talks about how friggin’ hard it is, especially in the first few weeks, hence setting up a clueless mom for heartache and disappointment. The first thing I tell my friends who want to breastfeed is this – be prepared for a difficult and arduous rollercoaster ride. It’s better to be brutally honest about how hard it is at first rather than paint a rosy picture that is far from reality.

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