If you were blessed to bring a child into this world, you are undoubtedly familiar with pressure (societal, familial, cultural, Facebook-al?) To nourish your offspring in the most optimum way possible.
For new mothers, this is overwhelmingly breastfeeding. Before a child reaches a certain age, I, speaking as a person who only breastfed, can see how formula-shaming is especially strong in the earliest days of motherhood. We have shifted toward a more breastfeeding-friendly society — to a point — where mothers who can’t, or simply do not wish to breastfeed are pressured or shamed into rejecting formula.
Already disparaged by many of the very people whose job it is to help them settle in to their daunting new role, formula-using new mothers are then subjected to a slew of criticism from sanctimonious know-it-alls.
Of course, even if a new mother wants to breastfeed, and gives birth in a place that encourages her to do so, she will eventually have to leave the hospital, birthing center or her home and confront a society which may agree and even pressure her into nursing, but has no desire to see her feed her child in public. As if the only acceptable way to breastfeed is in the hospital after delivery or in one’s home.
And, if a breastfeeding mother should decide to continue feeding her child in that manner beyond one year or more, she is no longer a loving women providing valuable nutrients to her child, but rather a freakish, selfish abuser.
The debate over how we nourish our babies is awful and unending, but at least the shaming stops when the breastmilk dries up or the formula runs out, right?
From the moment we give our children their first taste of solid food, people question our choices.
Did we make our own organic baby food, or did we buy the cheap stuff at the supermarket?
Are we stuck up for insisting on growing and feeding are kids our own vegetables?
Are we starting solids too early, or too late?
Did we really just let our eight-month-old try a piece of cake?
Do we never let our kids eat any sweets?
Do our kids eat too much fast food?
Do they never get to eat any treats?
Someone will always find fault in how we feed our family. This is the cards we were dealt for playing a hand at a table smack dab in the middle of what has got to be the most judgmental environment to raise a family. I’m not suggesting people never had opinions, but at least 20 to 30 years ago they kept them too themselves, or at least to their immediate friends and family. Now, we have the wonder of social media, where everyone is an expert on everything.
And, critiquing parents seems to be a very popular activity because, everyone — whether they have raised kids, or not — apparently holds, a Ph. D. in childhood studies, and their theses were on children’s food.
There are times to be concerned about what children are eating. Sadly, there are parents who use food as a form of neglect or abuse. There are also too many kids who are obese and at risk of future health issues. However, I would like to think that in all but the most extreme cases, no parent is deliberately trying to harm her child.
I will step off of my high horse for a minute to admit I am not perfect, I have judged other parents for how they feed their children. I am evolving and learning to see past my narrow views and appreciate the experiences of other parents. Like me, they are doing their best. Like me, they may have a picky eater and another child who eats everything in sight. Or they may have a completely different child whose needs I may not understand, but I can feel empathy towards.
We are all better off when we try to understand one another.