To mark World Breastfeeding Week from August 1-7, many bloggers have been sharing their breastfeeding stories online. There’s even a new blogger-launched campaign getting press called “I Support You,” started by my friend Jamie Grumet and two other blogger moms, inviting women to show their support for each others’ choices when it comes to feeding their children. (Read more about “I Support You” here, here, and here.)
Not long ago, I wrote about why I think breastfeeding continues to be a controversial subject. That post followed my own story about why I “dry”-nursed my adopted four-year-old daughters, which tens of thousands of people so far have showed up here to read. If the general topic of breastfeeding sparks interest, debate, and judgement, adoptive breastfeeding takes it to a whole other level.
Rachel Garlinghouse — a new friend of mine and a blogger, author, and adoptive mother of three — just wrote a great post about why she wanted to breastfeed her adopted babies — but didn’t. Her reasons? Adoptive breastfeeding is still uncommon, there’s little support for it and few resources, and it takes a lot of work. Her last reason really struck me:
Finally, the truth is that some women don’t feel that they have earned the right to breastfeed a baby. We didn’t create ‘em, grow ‘em, birth ‘em. We didn’t endure morning sickness, stretch marks, heartburn, weight gain, sleepless nights prompted by an ever-filling bladder. Our scars aren’t physical. Instead, many of us quietly battle disease, infertility, miscarriage. We have to prove our worth as a parent to our adoption agencies with background checks, home inspections, interviews, questionnaires, and training. We are questioned at every turn. To commit to breastfeeding takes an immense amount of confidence and dedication, which is hard for some adoptive mothers to come by when the journey to motherhood has been nothing but knock-after-knock, question-after-question, demand-after-demand. Some perceive that adoptive breastfeeding is un-natural or inappropriate for the woman who hasn’t birthed the baby (“some” including social workers, the child’s biological parents, friends, family, and health care professionals).
Sad, but true.
Even I — the eldest of 10 breastfed children and a “crunchy” mama to be sure — wasn’t very knowledgeable about adoptive breastfeeding. I had planned to use donor milk if we were referred a baby. I didn’t know much about inducing lactation naturally and never imagined the role nursing could play in the attachment process of adopted toddlers and preschoolers. Live and learn, right? It makes complete sense to me now why an adopted mom would consider breastfeeding and how she can (try to) make it happen.
Promoting breastfeeding is important: Generally, it’s the healthiest option for a child, and it’s one of nature’s ways for a mother and child to bond. But there are many good reasons women choose (or have to take) alternate paths. My daughters weren’t breastfed as infants. I’m sad they missed that, but I’m also extremely grateful that, in a country where children frequently get sick and die in such circumstances, their first mother was able to obtain hospital-grade formula for them.
No matter how you feed your little ones, what matters most is the love and care with which you do it. And when there are so many mothers around this world who struggle just to keep their children alive, it seems to me we should be grateful we even have these choices and support each other along the way.
If you ever need support for your feeding choices, feel free to reach out to me and my contributors here at SlowMama, or any of those compassionate mamas behind the I Support You movement.
Image by B of me and my “dry”-nursed daughters