Posts Tagged ‘values’

Should We Compliment Other Moms for Breastfeeding?

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

Should We Compliment Other Moms for Breastfeeding? I’m all for the public ‘atta girl and know personally there have been times when perfect strangers may have given me a boost without their knowing. Parenting is tough stuff. Whether it’s troubles with nursing, lack of sleep, the challenges of going in public with one or more children, or life happening around the kids, kids make everything more complicated. A voice of recognition and encouragement can sometimes lift a little weight from the proverbial parenting shoulders.

During World Breastfeeding Week in August I saw the on-going effort of both normalizing breastfeeding in public and encouraging the competence and confidence in mothers to feel comfortable to nurse in public (or however they see fit for their particular preference). It’s a week (month really) that brings excitement into the community of mamas with young ones. I’ve nursed three babes with varying amounts of ease. I’m all for normalizing nursing, whenever and wherever. I am not particularly proactive or stagnant if ever the opportunity comes up to speak about breastfeeding.

We’ve heard the stories. There’s the stranger who pays for a breastfeeding mama’s meal. Recently an older woman came and cut up a nursing mama’s food for her. It’s unclear to me if we are normalizing or glorifying breastfeeding. Let me be clear: I’m all for supporting other moms, dads, families, and… people in general. I’ve spent years nursing babes. I’m all about spreading the love. I’m just not sure where that line blurs into this larger trend of feeling the want/need to compliment complete strangers for their parenting choices and those implications.

I think part of the problem associated with complimenting parenting, here in the United States at least, has to do with a seemingly predisposition toward black-and-white, this-or-that, me-versus-them, right-or-wrong, good-or-bad mentality. I’m not against the complimenting so much as the underlying judgment that often accompanies it. Let’s not pretend I’m observing anything particularly new: Mama drama and parent shaming are common phrases associated with parenting, especially in the early years.

Dr. Amy Tuteur makes a case for not celebrating breastfeeding in a way that becomes, what she calls, moralization. I also wonder if this “moralization” of breastfeeding (cloth diapering, low/no technology, homeschooling, no-schooling, organic, baby-led natural parenting, etc.) encourages a sort of self-deprecating parenting. I sometimes hear things like: “I’m constantly afraid I’m messing up my child” or “it’s a sign that you’re a good parent if you think you’re doing it wrong.” What does that even mean? Many of us are either actually feeling incompetent or not wanting to come across as confident all while feeling the need to dole out approval and appreciation to others. Most of us probably fall somewhere in between.

Every new mother negotiates all of her life experiences when she decides if, how, and when she feeds her child. Part of the conversation is private—we all bring our stuff to the table in how we make our comments and how we receive someone else’s comments. We can’t leave out the public aspect, the culture we contribute to, with all of our collective words, actions, and judgements. So let’s give compliments, but maybe we can initiate reflective complimenting, observing our own selves and intentions as we observe and send judgement out to others.

Lynette is a mom of three children from 5 months to age four. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.