The Nurse Off: Or Why I’m a Better Mom than You

Breast might be best for you.

Or maybe your kids are older and it was best for you.

But it wasn’t for me. Like so many other new moms, I was woefully unprepared for the difficulty and pain that would come with nursing. I was unprepared for the latch issues. I was unprepared for the bleeding. The mastitis.  And I was definitely ill-prepared for the challenge that I faced in eking out any more than a few ounces of that liquid gold at a time.

I never quite flowed like this. Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay) CBS News

I never quite flowed like this. Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay) CBS News

My sister, she didn’t have any of these problems. Like a bountiful fountain, the milk flowed from her.

Not me.

Clearly that makes her a better mother, right?

Some think so.

Here’s the thing – this line of thinking is idiotic.

If you are among the group of people who enjoy attacking other mothers for the reasons why they opted for formula over breast milk – then the sad truth is – you have some unresolved insecurities that are about you. Like the very bully on the playground that you hope your child isn’t, you make yourself feel better by knocking down others and better yet – telling them what’s best for their baby.

But I think this: There’s no reason to dump these feelings on other moms, especially new moms. Those women – and we’ve all been one once – they need a break.

I was well prepared to handle, with confidence, the breastfeeding challenges I faced with my second child. And certainly those challenges were different from what I faced with my first. I had support. I met with lactation nurses. My husband was there to encourage me.

Rah Rah Rah.

Guess what – still didn’t work out so great.

If only I’d had that level of confidence the first time around, I might have had a happier and less emotional entry into the minefield that is new motherhood.

Earlier this week, I proudly chimed in when Rebekah of Stay-At-Home Pundit asked for opinions from formula feeding moms on why it worked best for them – for a piece she published on the site Babble. I pulled from a blog post I wrote back in 2008 titled “I hated breastfeeding.

That post still gets a decent amount of traffic and often comments from new moms grateful for the insight that they are not alone.

Nothing quite like the trolls in the comments section of web sites.  Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Nothing quite like the trolls in the comments section of web sites. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Naturally, Rebekah’s piece brought out the trolls that we can always count on when it comes to hot bed issues. These bullies enjoy saying things like this in the comment section:

I know that breastfeeding advocates have a reputation of being inflexible in their opinion but we need to forget about opinions when it comes to the safety of our babies and look at the facts. If you choose to formula feed your baby (and unless you have a legitimate medical reason which prevents you from breastfeeding then it is a choice) then you should first educate yourself about the risks – and there are several. In the west we have come to regard formula as being comparable to breastmilk and have convinced ourselves that feeding formula is basically the same as breastfeeding, but that’s simply not true.”

Well isn’t that special?

How about this one, apparently this woman is confident in being the spokesperson for another woman’s baby – a stranger’s baby at that:

“Never even tried because the formula was right there. And who knows – She might have absolutely loved breastfeeding. Guarantee that her baby would have preferred it.”

Should I keep going? If you’re interested in the article and the vitriol that comes from some nursing advocates, you can read it all here.

Instead, I will end with this. I’m only 7 years into motherhood but that’s a lot further in than when I was still nursing a baby. Especially that first time. I’ve grown. I’ve gained confidence. And I have a much longer view of parenting right now.  The markers of a great mom aren’t things like

  • How long you breastfed for
  • If you gave your child formula
  • How quickly your child slept through the night
  • If you shared a bed
  • If your 2-year-old never had a tantrum
  • How quickly your child gained mobility
  • How quickly your child started talking
  • How quickly your child potty trained

Should I keep going?

Because that’s just the beginning and we all have challenges, hurdles, pure joy and plenty of stress in front of us. Much like most of us have grown bored with the “Mommy Wars” debate and we couldn’t care less if you work or not, most of us also couldn’t care less how long you nursed for and certainly don’t care how your success in nursing demonstrates your greater commitment to motherhood. The same is true for all of the above. Your child who potty trained so fast? Let us know how your second child turns out. Those full sentences your brilliant toddler is speaking? Isn’t it fun now that they can yell at you and negotiate endlessly?

Should I keep going.

My kids are awesome. I gave them breast milk for 13 weeks each. And when I spend time volunteering in my first grader’s class, there isn’t one person in there wondering if they were nursed by mommy. Trust me.

My kids are awesome because me and my husband have worked hard all these years.

So if you are a new mom and having guilt issues over whether or not you are nursing enough – don’t waste your energy on that guilt. Take a nap. Read a book. Read your baby a book. Go out to dinner with your partner and taste the food.

And if you get off on insulting other women because you nursed for longer, enough already.

Have you hit “Like” on the Wired Momma Facebook page yet? I hope so……


15 Responses to The Nurse Off: Or Why I’m a Better Mom than You
  1. Elaine
    April 25, 2013 | 7:05 pm

    You’re (seemingly) angry at being judged for not nursing long enough, but then you go on to demean nursing moms by essentially saying what they did wasn’t important and doesn’t matter at all. I would challenge you to think that sometimes, one person’s “I’m proud of what I did” sounds to another person like “you sucked because you didn’t do it my way”. I’m tired of the judgment on mothers both ways.

    Your “My kids are awesome because me and my husband have worked hard all these years.” doesn’t sound all that different in sentiment than the person who says “I’m awesome because I worked so hard to nurse my babies”.

    And why insult the parent who is proud that her children potty trained quickly by suggesting that it can’t happen twice? Maybe that mom does have a thing or two to teach others.

    • ann @ my life as prose.
      April 27, 2013 | 11:17 pm

      elaine, you’re missing the context. this post didn’t come out of nowhere. it came in response to a babble post about why some moms (like monica) choose to formula feed. as soon as the post went up, EBF moms came out of the woodwork to put down the women in the post, calling them lazy, selfish, and the like. it was awful. this is a very even-handed response to such trolling.

  2. Monica Sakala
    April 25, 2013 | 7:17 pm

    Elaine — thanks for weighing in. I’m definitely not angry for not nursing “long enough” and actually am really proud of the time I did nurse. I think “I’m proud of what I did” is very different than being scolded for using formula and further, it’s absolutely none of anyone’s business how a mother chooses to feed her own baby. Ultimately, I think that’s the point here. I think saying “I’m awesome because I worked so hard to nurse my babies” is right on! I’d love to hear women say that! It’s a proud statement about themselves.

    • Elaine
      April 29, 2013 | 7:16 pm


      I appreciate this, and I do think I see your point. And really, I do not care how you fed your children – just as you do not care how I fed my children. I have a policy of assuming every mom is doing the best she can for her, her family, and her baby – and I recognize that sometimes those things collide and the mom has to make a choice (or choices are lost to her). And who am I to second guess from the outside how choices or situations came to be. No matter what our goals as mothers start out to be, sometimes something has to give.

      My point (which is unclear, I now see) is that the post loses lots of its punch – for me – when two things happen. First, it feels like you’re trying to not just say “I don’t care how you fed your child” but also “it doesn’t matter how you fed your child”. And while it may not matter on many levels, nursing may have been an extremely critical part of mothering for some women – so taking that away from them feels unproductive, at best. At worst, it feels like an insult lobbed back. Second, when you go on to be snarky about potty training and early talking and other milestones, I also thing the intent of the post gets lose. Maybe it’s all nature, and nurture doesn’t matter at all. But maybe nurture did play a role in those baby milestones, and your post demeans them (in my eyes).

      I want to have a productive, fact-based conversation about all of these issue. I realize that some “trolls” may have been jerks to you, and I do wish that hadn’t happened. Nobody deserves that. But what I also wish is that you could say what you said in this comment – that you’re proud of the time you breastfed your baby but equally happy that formula exists because that is the nutrition that made the most sense for you / your family / your baby, and you are really tired of being judged by people who have not walked in your shoes – and end it there.

      • Monica Sakala
        April 29, 2013 | 7:45 pm

        Elaine — I think this post was unusually edgy and snarky for me – and it’s because I’d had enough of very righteous people telling perfect strangers how to feed their babies and how horrible of mothers they are for the decisions they make. Sometimes, we all just have enough – and if I can’t use that space in my blog to voice that frustration – realizing I am going to isolate some people – then I shouldn’t have a blog, right? I think anyone who reads me regularly knows that I am very pro-women, pro-confidence, pro-feeling good about the choices you make as mothers and ditching the guilt – which I think is another reason why I felt comfortable being snarky with this post. I also enjoy controversy and stirring the pot, to be honest, so hearing from you and anyone else who disagrees with me – and wants to have a productive conversation about it like you are doing with me – is quite fun and interesting for me! So thank you!!

        • Elaine
          April 30, 2013 | 12:16 am

          Peace. I wish lots of women would have honest debates, and not resort to making hurtful comments. It wasn’t fair for you to receive them. Much respect to you and your opinions – just trying to stir the pot in the opposite direction a little bit.

  3. Meghan
    April 25, 2013 | 9:26 pm

    Good for you for writing this post! Breastfeeding was great for me, but I was personally formula fed- and I don’t remember a minute of it. My kids and I all got adequate nutrition and are perfectly healthy- which is what matters, unless you are seriously in need of an adjustment in world view.

  4. Bron
    April 26, 2013 | 4:54 am

    Couldn’t agree more .. great article. Unfortunately, Elaine missed the point of your article. The whole point of having a child is to raise a happy, healthy and loved child. It’s not about how the baby is delivered, what type of food it’s fed, whether it’s circumcised or not .. it’s about making decisions that work for you and your family.

    Seems sad to me that a small number of very vocal breastfeeders find offense in anything they read. I bottle fed my babies, I had no choice. I’ve been told i’m a bad mother, that my children are unhealthy (they’re not) that they’re stupid (they’re not) and many other things because some people *need* to belittle others to feel better about themselves.

    If breast is best for you, that’s fantastic . if it’s not then formula may be best for you.

  5. Bri
    April 26, 2013 | 4:37 pm

    your kids are 7 and you’re thinking about this? somethings up here.

  6. Devon
    April 26, 2013 | 7:35 pm

    Thank you for sharing. Being pregnant with my third, I am appalled at the judgement amongst mothers. Facebook sites debating the typical controversial issues…making grown women name call and act as bullies, are totally disheartening. It makes me incredibly sad. I will continue to surround myself with friends/women who encourage and inspire…..NOT because they have chosen to breastfeed or formula feed etc etc, but simply because they are providing their children with a loving and beautiful environment to grow up in. One with no judgement xo

  7. ann @ my life as prose.
    April 27, 2013 | 11:24 pm

    thanks for the reminder of what’s important in parenting. :) i think those of us still in the infancy/pregnant stage really appreciate mothers like you reminding us that perspective. it’s sometimes hard to see how brief this stage is when we’re in it … and honestly, how inconsequential some of these seemingly “big” choices end up being.

    seriously, thank you.

  8. Ms Kate
    April 28, 2013 | 9:13 am

    My Jane said, “Screw you,” to the boob and that was it. The Leche lady seemed actually to think starvation was a reasonable alternative. We disagreed and bought formula.

    She’s six now and is showing signs of being a future supervillain, so we don’t think her brain was effected.

    When she gets her Hidden Undersea Lair up and running and starts taking over the world, I’m just gonna quit my job and apply for Head Toilet Cleaner. Work my way up from there, maybe. Might as well join the winning side.

  9. Ms Kate
    April 28, 2013 | 9:14 am

    OH NO. That was supposed to say “affected.” My apologies.

  10. […] Wired Momma took on the milk shamers last week and I, myself stepped into the ring to defend the Mom on an iPhone. These are just tiny little, barely noticeable skirmishes in the larger Mommy Wars. I’m here today to call for peace talks. The tendency to consider mothers public property and to snipe their decisions, to backseat drive the way we address parenthood and how we balance it (or don’t) with a full time career, is ridiculous. It needs to stop. It is fueled by sexism (or we would also be talking to the Dad on an iPhone, and I notice we AREN’T.) and by the intense consumption of a media driven culture. The intense perfectionism we impose on moms is nothing but another variation of the Madonna/Whore dichotomy. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t. […]

  11. Julie
    April 30, 2013 | 12:45 pm

    Amen sister.

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