Let *her* in
Even if I can barely hear David Green talking about the woes of the world, I make an effort to listen to Morning Edition each day. I'm listening for pieces like this one about breastfeeding and future success--stories and news that affect how we think of ourselves as women.
Too often, I'm wincing. Like yesterday with the breastfeeding piece. When a pediatrician like Valerie Flaherman says "some women can't breastfeed for physical reasons or because they have to go back to work,", I wince at not only her ignorance but the cost to moms everywhere because of her ignorance. I can only hope as a researcher that she is not also in practice. Can you imagine going to your pediatrician and talking about challenges with breastfeeding or saying that you'd rather not breastfeed? Well, maybe you can. And perhaps like me, you may also imagine just how smoothly that conversation would go.
1 in 3 women are a survivor of physical, sexual abuse or stalking in their lifetime. This is a CDC number, not a number from an advocacy group but from a government agency. Technically, it is more than 1 in 3 (36%+) but for simplicity, I say "1 in 3". As I talk about at length in my When Survivors Give Birth trainings, past abuse or trauma can be one of the MANY reasons - beyond physical and career- that women don't breastfeed. Remember those early days? Your baby constantly at your breast (cluster feedings!), rooting around at your blouse or top, constantly touching your chest and skin with their roving hand. At some point there was also pain. All of these actions can be very triggering for a past survivor of abuse. Some survivors won't try breastfeeding because they have a sense just how triggering it might be. And some do try.
But there are other reasons that women cannot breastfeed. Women who have struggled with disordered eating or body image challenges can find the idea of breastfeeding scary or disturbing, on top of the many other changes that are happening or happened to their body. In the past, women who took antidepressants were encouraged to wean from their meds before breastfeeding. Scary but true. Weaning is not necessarily what is advised today as this piece points out. Fearless Formula Feeder founder, Suzanne Barston wrote a terrific book, Bottled Up, talks at length about the reasons why some women don't breastfeed. (Worth checking out if you're curious.)
Y'all, breast is not best. What's best is what's right for YOU and your family. Not what your pediatrician says. Not what some study says. What's best is what works for you and your family. .
There will always be stories about what we, especially we women, can do to be more "successful". And how moms can better support brilliant, well-rounded children destined for careers that improve the world and make boatloads of money at the same time. Let's turn the channel on those stories. Just like I'd never suggest "leaning in". , I never think it's good for anyone's mental health to compare themselves to others. You're not successful alone; we're successful together. Instead of isolating and marginalizing those who don't fit into tight criteria (who does really?), let's gather them together. Let her in. You know. The woman with the messy house or the one who doesn't talk as much. The much older woman or the much younger one. The woman who doesn't have a partner or kids. Or who has had many! Let's gather her and the rest together to build better stories about community, love and support.
Invite me too.
Thank you for reading.