With ‘brelfies’ being the in thing these days and making the world breastfeeding friendly the new cause, sometimes I wonder if breastfeeding is in fact, overrated !

Exclusive breastfeeding is also a topic that never ceases to exist on my mom support group. It is a source of pride for some mothers and for some it’s a source of guilt. But one thing is for sure – every mom wants to breastfeed their child if not exclusively.

I write this blogpost, knowing fully well that a large community is going to diss me for it. There are popular breastfeeding support groups on Facebook that advocate exclusive breastfeeding till the time your child wants to be fed. I have seen posts of women breastfeeding their children till 5 years. I asked a few mothers what they felt about breastfeeding. Here is what they said.

“ Exclusive breastfeeding makes me realise that I am enough for my child. ”

“ Though exclusive breastfeeding is the goal, fed is best. ”

“ Moms are judged all the time. If she’s not breastfeeding, she is judged. If she’s breastfeeding in public, she is judged. There is just no escaping it. ”

“ I could not breastfeed my child because I was diabetic. My child is 3 years now and my mother in law still taunts me that my child was deprived of mother’s milk. ”

Breastfeeding is never easy and exclusive breastfeeding is the toughest especially in the first few weeks after having your child. If you ask me, exclusive breastfeeding is the toughest choice I’ve made in my life. The first month was not easy with a flat nipple, an adamant paediatrician and my baby losing 800 gms weight in 4 days. I will write a separate blogpost on my breastfeeding journey, later.

I am a very strong person and breastfeeding broke me. I was under so much stress that I had zero milk for a couple of days. I asked for help on a popular breastfeeding forum on Facebook and was told in a very insensitive manner that I HAD to breastfeed, no matter what. And that led to further stress. I had to start formula as ‘medicine’ as suggested by the paediatrician and slowly wean it off till my milk supply was established. The admins of the forum dissed my paediatrician for his advice but I knew that they were wrong about it.

But my posts of the forum were seen by a couple of sensible women including a childhood friend and a new mother. They messaged me personally and their advice was gold ! I calmed down and continued to mixed feed my child and pumped at the same time to increase the milk supple and deal with the flat nipple.

We were exclusively breastfeeding when Mi turned one month old. There was nothing that has ever made me happier or feel like I had conquered the world. I was so proud. It also made me realise that a lot of women like me are not able to breastfeed and they are not as lucky as me to find the right advice at the right time. They get dissed on forums and by people who are supposed to help them including their family.

In such situations, I agree with the ‘fed is best’ philosophy but it should be used with caution. Encourage the mother and help her establish her breastmilk supply. If a mother is not able to feed her child due to medical conditions, be sympathetic. Do not jump to the conclusion that a mother is being misled or is being lazy. 99% of the mothers I have spoken to want to exclusively breastfeed till 6 months and continue breastfeeding after that.

New mothers are extremely sensitive both physically and mentally. And both these things have an affect on breastmilk. I’m not even getting into the fact how c sections and no skin to skin contact after normal delivery affect breastfeeding. These are things that one can only do so much about. As women, we must only encourage. Child birth is traumatic and can have a long lasting effect on your body and your mind. Post partum depression is real and we do not want to add to it.

Exclusive breastfeeding is the goal and there are different ways to achieve it. Let a mother choose her own path. By undermining her or telling her that her pediatrician’s advice is wrong is not going to help. Suggest her ways to overcome challenges and be open to the fact that not everyone ‘can’ exclusively breastfeed. Fed is best is such extreme cases.

Exclusive breastfeeding is ideal and of utmost importance for a baby but what’s more important than that is the ‘mother’. Trust her, encourage her, lead her and she will get there. If she could not, understand and accept it. 

Please remember that a new mother is more important that a new baby. If a mother feels loved and appreciated, it will lead to happiness and well being – it will increase her love and connection for her child, it will increase her breastmilk and her will to exclusively breastfeed.