Reagan Moya-Jones Breastfeeding Story
When I had my first daughter Anais, I hadn’t given breastfeeding much thought. This was primarily because I had always intended to breastfeed my baby and I just assumed that it would come naturally to me. I thought breastfeeding would be "easy" seeing as I had everything I needed to do it — and by "everything" I mean boobs!
I quickly found out that I was mistaken. Despite my best intentions, breastfeeding didn’t come naturally to me – I simply couldn't produce a lot of milk. I would pump for 30 minutes on a hospital grade breast pump and still only get one ounce out of each boob. As you can imagine, it was frustrating beyond belief. For four months straight, I stuck at it and ultimately starved baby Anais. I still can’t look at early videos of her because she always looks so stressed. In many videos, you can see her rooting for milk even when no one is touching her. It kills me.
Why did I keep going with this? Why was I so stubbornly sticking it out? I was told so many times that if I gave my baby a bottle, she would get “nipple confusion” and never take the boob again. I was brainwashed by nurses and lactation consultants to believe that I should exclusively breastfeed and that if I didn’t, it would be detrimental to my baby. And so I kept trying, despite the fact that Anais was clearly hungry.
Do What Works For You
But here’s the reality: as soon as I put a bottle in her mouth, she became a completely different baby. She stopped clenching her fists, she fell to sleep more easily, and she slept for longer. All in all, she was a much more contented baby.
I went on to have three more girls. With each of them, I simultaneously nursed and bottle-fed from birth.
And even though I had been through it before and knew what was best for my babies, I was still faced with criticism every single time. When Amelie, baby number four was born, I went ballistic on a lactation nurse who came into my hospital room while I was feeding her a few days after I’d given birth. She scolded me for giving her a bottle. She was lucky I’d had a C-section, because I would have crash-tackled her had I been able to move.
I explained to her that I all but starved my first child because of being brainwashed by the "breastfeed only" mentality. I expressed my desire for more sensitive treatment; these professionals need to be aware of the fact that some women just can’t breastfeed, despite really wanting to. She just rolled her eyes, turned on her heels, and walked out of the room.
Mom Guilt And Breastfeeding
We’re all familiar with mom guilt. But this particular flavor starts with the phrase “breast is best,” which brings with it a heavy load of guilt for those who physically can’t produce milk, or have to return to a workplace with no lactation rooms, or — god forbid — simply prefer not to breastfeed.
The benefits of breastfeeding are undebatable, sure. We know that it helps the baby build immunity and contributes to establishing a close bond with the mother. But we also have cultural ideas around breastfeeding that, as three psychiatrists wrote in an op-ed in the the Washington Post, “Carry the force of a threat.” If you don’t breastfeed, “my child is more likely to get sick; ...won’t be smart; if I don’t breastfeed, I’m not a good mother.”
Let's Support Each Other As Moms
What would happen if we stop criticizing other women’s choices about how they feed their children? It’s far more important that your children are fed than exclusively breastfed, and yet we’ve made the ability to breastfeed one of many (hundreds) of hallmarks of what being a good mother looks like, despite the fact that it doesn’t work for every single situation.
There’s one assumption within this whole debate that we’re not talking about: all of this relies on the belief that the baby’s health is more important than the mother’s – and nothing can be further from the truth.
When one thrives at the expense of the other, both will suffer. A depressed and anguished mother who’s struggling to produce milk for her child isn’t better than a mother who chose to bottle-feed. Nor is it better to have a successfully breastfeeding mother who’s deeply depressed because she feels like she can’t have any personal space or return to work due to constant feeding.
A Happy, Healthy Mama Equals A Happy, Healthy Baby
The health and wellbeing of the mother is equally as important as the health and wellbeing of the child. We worry so much about how babies physically latch to the mother, but what about healthy emotional attachment? When a mother is struggling emotionally, the attachment bond between baby and mom can be deeply affected, among many other things.
I’m certainly not advocating that every mother out there “dump the pump” and quit breastfeeding. What I am asking for is that we all be a little bit more conscious of the way we talk to new mothers about how they feed their children.
Please Remember This...
When it comes to motherhood and breastfeeding, one answer doesn’t fit all. And if we have a little more respect for moms, kids will be better off, too.
Mom to Mom
Majka is partnering with moms to create a Mom to Mom blog series. Here, we aim to highlight the unique stories and struggles of moms from all around the globe. We believe that as moms we share a common bond, allowing us to learn valuable information from each other, inspire one another, and connect through similar experiences.
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Raegan Moya-Jones is the author of What it Takes: How I Built a $100 Million Business Against the Odds. Raegan is the co-founder and President of Saint Luna, a premium moonshine company, and the founder and former CEO of aden + anais, an award-winning lifestyle brand for babies and children. She is the winner of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year award and a board member of Hopeland, a charity dedicated to making sure all children have a family. Her previous book is Swaddle Love, a short history of the ancient practice of swaddling. She lives in DUMBO Brooklyn with her husband and their four daughters.