I remember clearly the first time I felt I was being mom-shamed.
My son was two months old and was in the Pediatric Cardiology Intensive Care Unit. Because of his condition, he needed to be tube-fed. I was doing everything that I could to pump as much breast milk as I could to feel like I was doing something to take care of my baby. At the time, he couldn’t even take breast milk and had to be on a specialized formula.
Then I saw the post on social media.
“Breast is best. Fed is the bare minimum.” A wave of negative emotions came over me. Even though the post was not directed at me personally, I felt attacked.
The first thought I had was, “How DARE she say I’m a bad mom because I don’t breastfeed?!” I immediately commented on the post explaining my situation because I needed her (and everyone) to know that I am not a bad mom.
It was not until months later I learned that some women just don’t know the differences between breast milk and formula. At that moment, I realized that the person on social media was not trying to shame me specifically; she was simply sharing information.
Thinking back, I am so grateful for those shared posts in my social media newsfeed.
There are certain things regarding car seat safety, for example, that I saw in my feed while I was pregnant that I may have never learned otherwise. Posts about how the chest clip goes across the chest and not the belly because it is a chest clip and not a belly clip weren’t implying, “Hey you’re a bad mom if you don’t know this.” They were saying, “Hey, in case you didn’t know this, I want to help possibly save your baby’s life.”
I think that’s the big difference between mom-shaming and simply sharing information.
As Brené Brown said in her Ted Talk titled Listening to Shame, “Shame is ‘I am bad.’ Guilt is, ‘I did something bad.’”
When I read that post about breastfeeding, the author never said, “You don’t care about your baby enough if you don’t breastfeed.” Instead, guilt is what I felt.
Being a first-time mom is so scary. The postpartum hormones are intense, you reach a whole new level of sleep deprivation you did not think even existed, and you love this baby so dang much, but you just do not know what you are doing. So when you see a post or maybe even a mom friend is just sharing what they’re doing with their children, and you feel a wave of not so great feeling emotions, I encourage you to first pause before you react.
Take a second and ask yourself “why am I feeling this way?”
Are you feeling insecure about that certain topic in your parenting? Have you received judgment about it previously?
Hopefully, the people you surround yourself with or the people you are friends with on social media are not personally mom-shaming you. After much contemplation, and honestly a good amount of therapy, I realized I felt guilt about the breastfeeding because I already felt like I was failing as a mom from the very beginning. I felt that my body failed me and my baby because he was born with a heart defect. But sometimes things just happen, and we don’t know why. It was just genetics. I did not fail my son; I was not failing as a mom. Caring that much just proved that I was a good mom.
Being a mom is so tough these days.
There’s information coming at you in every direction on how you should parent your children. I think it is important to be informed, but it is not necessary to obsess. You know your children best as their mom. So with what you know, and what’s in your heart, you can confidently make a decision.
That does not mean you cannot ever change your mind. You can always pivot if you gain new knowledge. You do not need to feel guilty, but if you do it is okay. Learn from it and move on.
Also, for the record, I decided to stop pumping for my own mental health. When I hear anything about breastfeeding, I no longer feel any shame or guilt.
Because I know in my heart, I am doing the very best for myself and for my son.
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