Advice from my mother.

Since the visit to my family began, I’ve been inundated with a steady stream of advice.  Most of this has come from my mother, with the occasional contribution from my father (who has much less to say, despite having raised more than twice the number of children).  This advice has included:

-When on a plane, a pillow should be held in front of your belly at all times.  It’s like an airbag.

-Don’t lift things.  Anything.  That pillow is too heavy.

-Don’t eat chips.  They’ll cause birth defects.

-Home births are unsafe.  You need to go to the hospital the second your water breaks, or else you will become infected.

-Are you sure I can’t be present at the birth?  Are you sure?  Lots of people have their parents present.

-Your child is always a child.


Articles that my mother has clipped from papers and saved for me to read.

Perhaps most persistently, however, she has been questioning me about whether we plan to breastfeed or formula feed Bingo.  I’ve refused to answer.

First of all, the only people who will be involved in deciding how Bingo is fed are Sea, Bingo and myself.  Though I’m sure many people do, or will, have opinions on the matter, their bodies, families and children are not implicated.  Fundamentally, when my mother tells me that I should or have to breastfeed, she is telling me what I have to do with my body as well as what Sea and I have to do with our not-yet-born child.  Bodily autonomy and consent matter, friends!  Even when you’re talking to your mother.

Secondly, I don’t know.  On an intellectual level, I agree with a lot of what my mother has been saying.  Breastmilk is, at a nutritional level, the best option.  Undoubtedly, there would be fewer bottles to clean.  I know these things, but I don’t know Bingo and I don’t know who Sea and I are as parents.  I don’t know what will feel right for my body, or for the relationships Sea and I build with Bingo.  I might have terrible supply.  Bingo might have tongue tie.  Bingo might have allergies or sensitivities.  I might hate breastfeeding.  I don’t know, and won’t know until Bingo arrives.  Though I hope, right now, to feed Bingo breastmilk (whether by breast and/or bottle), I can’t adamantly say how Sea and I will feed a child that we haven’t met yet.

My mother, however, was unwilling to accept “I don’t know” as an answer.  Or, for that matter, “I don’t want to discuss this”.  Day after day, she would wax poetic about the joys of breastfeeding: how much healthier it is, how important it is for bonding, how much easier it is, how much she had loved how it felt.  I have never wanted to talk about breasts less.

Finally, sick of it, I turned to her at lunch a couple of days ago:  “Actually, Sea and I have decided to feed Bingo nothing but Diet Coke.  It’s a low calorie option and a source of energy.  The bottles are one-use and fully recyclable, so there won’t be any need for cleanup.  Of course we’ll use a decaffeinated option around bedtime.  It seems like the best option.”

She hasn’t mentioned breastfeeding since.

8 thoughts on “Advice from my mother.

  1. Ugh. It’s sort of great that she is supportive of the idea of breastfeeding, given that many women of her generation aren’t, but there’s supportive and there’s stifling. Ugh.

    The Bean, for the record, was mostly breastfed but not entirely. I found breastfeeding very difficult, partly because of uncommon (but real! Jesus, the trouble I had getting treatment) medical problems and partly because of all the guilt and associated emotional nonsense currently forced upon women of my race/class/educational class on the topic (while other groups are left without even barely adequate support, because that’s a great use of resources). I did not love it, ever. I don’t think the hormones involved do me a lot of favors, for one thing. It is more convenient than carrying formula around, but it was not, in my experience, easier, as is so often claimed. Because I can’t pump (see my “nipples” category on my blog), it meant I often felt constrained in what I could do and where I could go, and sometimes resentful. As for bonding, sure, there was bonding. But there was also bonding between me and my dad and between our son and my wife, with no boobs involved.

    I hope you get to do what you would like to, without intrusive behavior from outside of your new little family.

  2. I love your final answer. My mother doesn’t get “I don’t want to discuss this.” In fact, should I ever even come close to saying such a thing, the ensuing barrage is far worse than the one I’d have endured had I just given in and discussed it. That said, she mostly kept her opinions to herself about feeding the baby and thank goodness for that. Stay strong. Buy some diet coke.

  3. Bonding is not a reason to breastfeed. The kid has lived inside you for (hopefully) nine months. If you two aren’t bonded by then I don’t see how a growing resentment at a creature that chewed your nipples to breaking point is meant to change that. I’m struggling with this decision so much right now. I want to do whats best for the boy… but I really don’t want to breastfeed. I might be evil.

  4. I love your answer. This is great. I will tell you that I tried to breastfeed. I wanted to so badly. Punky and I just click with it. She didn’t latch well, she wasn’t interested in breastfeeding from the breast. I pumped for 3 months and I hated every moment of it. You are so right, you won’t know until Bingo is here. I should have been less invested in the idea and I could have saved myself some guilt.

  5. “Actually, Sea and I have decided to feed Bingo nothing but Diet Coke” – I laughed out loud (at work) at this. Such a great answer.
    I think taking a “I don’t know” stance at this stage will save you a lot of heartache later on, no matter what you end up doing. Whatever works for you will become the best option for you.

  6. PB wished to point out that in her experience (caring for 10+ children from infancy through preschool age, and nursing one child from newborn through 2.5), breastfeeding is not easier on the whole. Bottle feeding is.

    Which is not to say that there aren’t a lot of benefits to breastfeeding; there are. *All things being equal*, I think it’s the best option. But things aren’t always equal, and to pretend otherwise is obnoxious and sometimes insulting. I know the breastfeeding class we took right before Critter was born left me feeling kind of like a deadbeat for supplementing him with formula for the first few weeks. (This was supposed to be natural! Formula was the devil! I might as well be giving him Diet Coke! And I had less of an issue with it than PB did.) But you know what? He survived, and thrived. (And for what it’s worth, nursed until 2.5, so supplementing clearly didn’t destroy their nursing relationship.)

    I’m planning to breastfeed Teeny, but I can’t honestly say I know how it will go. Especially since I’ll have to pump once I go back to work, which I’m not particularly looking forward to doing. At the end of the day, I think as long as *everyone* is having their physical and psychological needs met, you call it good.

  7. Wow, your mom sounds…intense. I think your “we’ll see how we all feel once we meet each other” approach seems like a good one. You can’t predict ahead of time how breastfeeding will go, and you can’t know what kind of temperament your kid will have, so having your plan be to see what works best for your family sounds like a great way to go.
    And I love the diet coke comment–and that it seemed to work!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s