My eldest was born in 2009. I was terrified. But I was determined to not fail my baby. I prepared myself mentally for the sleep deprivation, constant crying, and even lack of outings.
What I wasn’t prepared for though was the constant judgement and what I like to call “bullying using fear.”
After going through a scary emergency C-section (my baby’s heartrate went dangerously down), trying to work through the guilt of that, and having hormones all over the place, I wasn’t ready at all to face these constant criticisms. And they started straight away.
- Why isn’t she latching properly? Are you sure you are holding her right?
- She lost a lot of weight, are you sure she is getting enough?
- She is choking! The milk is coming out of her nose! You are not burping her correctly. You should hold her upright after a feed.
- Don’t leave her in her crib by herself, you won’t know when it will happen again, and she won’t be able to breathe.
- Don’t hold her long while she sleeps, her bones will grow out crooked.
- Don’t pick her up every time she cries, she is just manipulating you and you’ll give her the wrong message.
- She is one year old and still not walking?
- OMG, you taught her how to suck her thumb?
- Are you sure you want to keep breastfeeding your daughter while pregnant? You do realize that all the nutrients will go to your milk, and none will be left for your unborn child?
- Don’t you think it’s gross that your breastfeeding your daughter and she can walk and talk? Will you do that to your son also? Don’t you think he will remember? And forever have an unhealthy relationship with breasts, or women in general?
And it goes on and on and on. It’s like every decision I made was not only second guessed, but I was told, unintentionally (I hope), that I am doomed to mess up my kids forever.
So here is my story.
My dear daughter (DD) did not latch for the first three weeks. I was devastated! I had a lot of milk but I can’t even give it to my own baby. I must be a terrible mom! I pumped and gave it to her in a bottle. Before every bottle, I would try unsuccessfully to latch her onto my breast. I HATED pumping (still do and cringe every time I see a pump). After three very long weeks, and no sleep at all, I gave up. I sent my dear husband (DH) to buy formula. He quickly came back with the wrong one. DH, it clearly says stage 2 on the front how can you not see that?! But before he went to return it, by the grace of God, DD finally latched. And we didn’t stop until she was 2 ½ years old.
The reason I love breastfeeding (you’d think I will say because of its nutrients and all these things) is that it is easy for me. Personal preference as I am a germ freak when it comes to my newborns and always scared things are not clean enough. No washing bottles, no sterilizing, no heating water, no waiting for the right temperature, no fumbling with measuring spoons and cups in the middle of the night. It was always there, always sterile, always the right temperature.
Now if a mom chose not to breastfeed, if she chose bottle instead, who am I to judge?
I hate crying. I can’t stand to listen to it (funny coming from a mom of 3). Do you know how people cringe when someone runs their nails on a blackboard? Yeah that’s exactly how I feel about crying. Maybe that’s why I snap at my older kids and ask them as nice as I can to use their words and not their tears. That is the exact reason why I could not and did not use the cry it out method. The economist in me will say there is always an opportunity cost to every decision. You have to decide: sleep deprivation vs. baby crying. I choose sleep deprivation.
But if a mom chooses to use the cry it out method or any baby sleeping methods for many a reason, who am I to judge?
I like routine, a flexible one. I can’t follow a rigid schedule or timeframe for the life of me. The other day I had to attend a function at my DS’ school at 10 a.m. sharp, I was already in full panic mode at 8 a.m. so I can’t really follow a strict hourly routine with my kids. We do have a normal flow to our day, though we mostly go with the flow.
But if a mom chooses to have a neat schedule for herself and her kids, who am I to judge?
I never gave my kids pacifiers, mainly because of my germ phobia. I don’t know if its clean enough or how many times I have to sterilize it. But if a mom uses pacifiers, even at an “unacceptable pacifier age”, who am I to judge?
Who are you to judge? Or Mr. Fancy Doctor? Or Ms. Parenting Expert? Or Mr. Parenting Author? Who are you all to judge?
Moms, I can only say this now because I have three kids and heard it all.
Breastfeeding? Congratulations! Here is a study that proves breastfeeding increases intelligence. Both breast and bottle? Congratulations! Here is a study that shows breastfed babies need a bottle of formula for the vitamin D. Formula? Congratulations! Here is a study showing that the benefits of breastfeeding are exaggerated.
Co-sleeping? Congratulations! Here is a study that shows co-sleeping reduces stress and anxiety, and increases quiet sleep. Choose not to co sleep? Congratulations! Here is a study that suggests the dangers of co-sleeping.
Sleep training? Congratulations! Here is a study that proves it is safe and effective, improves baby’s sleep, and reduces maternal depression. Not sleep training? Congratulations! Any book on attachment parenting will show you are on the right track.
And just like the list of mommy criticisms can go on and on, so can the list of scientific studies that prove one point is correct, or the other.
So moms, it doesn’t matter what the parenting book you read is saying. It doesn’t matter what the “put together mom” on social media is doing. It doesn’t matter what your best friend or sister are doing. What really matters is you, your baby, and your family.
You are the only one who knows your mental state and your needs. You are the only one who knows your husband/partner’s needs and schedule. You are the only one who knows your baby and your other kid’s needs if you have any. And YOU are the only one who can best balance all these needs. No one else knows the entire picture.
Even if it feels like a juggling act, even if a ball or two slips from time to time, trust your judgement, trust your heart, and confidently move forward.
And always remember to “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” We are all trying our best. And at the end of the day, who are we to judge?