Her Body, Her Baby, Her Choice

I recently faced a lot of criticism when I expressed my decision to stop breastfeeding my baby before six months. Surprisingly, a lot of it came from close quarters, where I had actually expected the maximum support. Of course, when I made my case, sat them down and had an open conversation, they understood my difficulties and became supportive and to this day, they have my back. It made me wonder though why women are questioned, judged and shamed for choices we make about our own bodies. And this is not just restricted to breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is not as easy as it sounds

A lot of women face difficulties while initiating and trying to maintain breastfeeding.

Latching problems in breastfeeding are very common

First off, not all babies can latch on properly. This can happen if the baby is preterm ( as in my case ), if the mother has flat or inverted nipples or if the baby has a tongue-tie. Even when my preterm baby was learning to latch, it was an excruciatingly painful process for me. After watching countless youtube videos, talking to multiple obstetricians and lactation consultants, getting my nipples pinched and pulled at by nursing staff and female family members and wincing and screaming in pain for a month every time he tried to latch, I decided that I was done.

I pumped and bottle-fed him for a few months along with formula feed. Now at six months, he is exclusively on formula feed (soon to be started on complementary feeding) and is as healthy as an exclusively breastfed baby, at a normal weight and height for his age.

The question of privacy for breastfeeding and the shaming of feeding in public

Secondly, breastfeeding requires privacy and comfort, which many women lack. There is a constant, unwanted barrage of visitors after delivery. Also, most public spaces still lack decent feeding rooms, except airports and malls. And despite all this, if a woman chooses to breastfeed in a public place or even in the living room of her own home, she is severely frowned upon, as though she is doing something indecent.

What if she does not want to breastfeed for whatever reasons?

Thirdly, some women are just not comfortable with the idea either because of some past sexual trauma or the associated weight gain. Many do not have the courage to say it out loud due to the fear of being mercilessly judged. They also face a lot of internal guilt and conflict, where in they feel like ‘bad mothers’ who are ‘depriving’ their babies of something essential.

Why you shouldn’t feel guilty

I want to tell this to all moms out there, make the choice that is the most comfortable for you and your baby. This was probably the best advice I got from my therapist and a few very close friends.

As such, motherhood is the most physically and emotionally demanding and challenging phase in a woman’s life. Why do you want to add to the stress? If you are comfortable with breastfeeding, well and good. If you want to pump and bottle feed /combi-feed /exclusively formula feed, still well and good.

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Whatever method you choose, your baby will surely get the adequate and required nourishment. Talk to your Obstetrician and your baby’s Paediatrician openly –  it is important to choose a doctor you are comfortable talking to – to get reassurance and guidance. You are not depriving your baby of anything, just because you choose not to breastfeed. I agree, it is the ideal thing to do but if you do not feel comfortable and if it is stressing you out, then remember, there are alternatives. Ultimately, your baby needs his or her mom to be healthy and happy.

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About the Author

Lavnya Krishnamurthy

Doctor (Ophthalmologist) by profession and a writer by passion read more...

12 Posts | 4,813 Views

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