With everything that Katie and I have been through so far on our nursing journey, I’ve been thinking about what all we (and by we I don’t mean me, I mean society) ask of breastfeeding moms. This particular line of thought was sparked by a conversation with a cranial osteopath who was seeing Katie to help her with her jaw muscles. He grilled me a bit about my diet, and I felt ashamed to tell him that I’m just so thrilled about being able to eat again that I am just eating whatever I can get my hands on. Lots of meat, cheese, spices, Indian food, Thai food, Mexican, etc. I was embarrassed to admit that we don’t always eat home cooked meals. In fact, we eat out fairly frequently.
This confession of mine predictably earned me a lecture on healthy eating. I should eat only organic food. Whole grains. Home cooked. Gluten free. And while I’m at it, I should stop eating dairy and soy because that’s probably why Katie has a stuffy nose. What I eat goes directly to her, didn’t I know, so I must avoid foods with chemicals of any kind and by the way, I should only eat brown rice, not white rice. Scratch that, don’t eat rice at all because of the gluten in it.
I left the appointment feeling guilty, overwhelmed, and exhausted. The more I thought about his speech to me, though, the more irritated I got. Aside from any rare allergy issues in kids (where there are specific clinical signs) milk is milk. Milk is not made from stomach contents. You don’t go to the drive through and then have cheeseburgers coming out of your nipples. Milk is made from blood. Unless the situation is one of extreme famine, a mother’s milk will always be rich enough, nutritious enough, and wonderful enough.
I kept turning this over and over in my head and getting madder. If I was another woman, one who wasn’t as plugged in to breastfeeding resources, I might have walked away from that conversation believing that since I couldn’t live up to this doctor’s impossibly high standards, my child would be better off on formula.
I experienced this kind of situation again following Katie’s tongue tie clip. First I had to get her clipped by a very specific doctor out in L.A. Then I was supposed to see a very specific lactation consultant (also in L.A.) to retrain her to latch. On top of that, I needed to get her in to see a cranial osteopath to get her jaw muscles working properly. Follow that up by special exercises and speech therapy, and you’ve got one seriously overwhelmed mama. How many specialists do I need to take my kid to? Can’t we just nurse?
Confession: I took her to LA for the clip, but I stuck with local lactation consultants to help with the latch. I only saw the cranial osteopath three times instead of the recommended five visits because darn it, it’s expensive and I don’t really dig it anyway. I haven’t been doing the exercises very religiously. We probably won’t do speech therapy at all unless we find out that she actually has a speech issue. Her sister didn’t. Her father and I didn’t. If she does, we’ll deal with it, but I’m not prepared to assume that she will.
Want to know something else? I eat fast food sometimes. Sometimes I even feed my family fast food. I don’t always cook. I do my best, but some nights, it just doesn’t happen. I take ibuprofen when I have a headache. And I cook with butter. So there.
There is so much pressure for breastfeeding moms to be perfect. Setting the bar so high (organic food, expensive doctor visits, no medicines, no wine, etc.) can ultimately drive women away from breastfeeding, and it’s critical that we not do that.
So nursing moms–all moms for that matter–Be good to yourselves. You’re not perfect and that’s okay.