I Support You

My mom still talks about hiding in the closet in her own home to nurse her baby when relatives were over. The pressure to wean was immense back in the 1970′s and she weaned my brother and sister before she or my siblings were ready.

When I came along in 1986, my mother was more confident to power through heavy criticism and practiced child-led weaning, which was what she believed was right for me.

When my sister had her first baby, I watched the support of my family encourage her to do what was right for my niece and herself. I also saw her friends poke fun and sometimes harshly judge her once my niece turned a year old and was still breastfeeding. I realized the support of my family was giving my sister courage to do what was right for her family, regardless of other’s comments. My parents encouraged her (all of us) to parent for our individual child’s needs rather than society’s wants.

When I had my first child, I had my sister and my mother’s experiences to help me.  My husband and I knew criticism wasn’t going to stop us from doing what was right for our child and our family. However, as prepared as I was for criticism, although I felt encouraged from the support of my family (which I know is much more support than many mother’s receive), to experience that first bit of judgment still hurt.

I remember the first place I felt judged was in the mothers’ nursing room at church when Aram was a little over a year. A flippant comment from a mother in the room made me realize I was out of the “safe” zone for breastfeeding. The 0-12 month age range meets the approval of the women in the church’s nursing room and of many others in our country.

After the Time cover came out, comments about child-led weaning (ranging from the ignorant to the ridiculous) made me realize how lost we were as a society. Here we are arguing about multiple healthy options to nourish, love, and parent our children, when in reality we are wasting our energy worrying about nothing when there are legitimate concerns about nutrition in our own country and globally. There are many mothers who have no options.

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Ethiopia 2012
Photo by Jamie Grumet

What bothers me the most is that these feelings of judgment mothers are experiencing are real and need to be addressed. The feelings are not “a first world problem” as many try to use to trivialize the issue of judgment among parents. It is real, it is a real problem.
My problem is, it shouldn’t be a problem, and that is what is so frustrating. We need to validate and support each other so we can move forward and start focusing on the children who are not getting nourished on this planet and the mothers who are losing children needlessly because they have no options.

That is why I joined up with Kim Simon of Mama By The Bay and Suzanne Barston of The Fearless Formula Feeder and author of Bottled Up to encourage education, stop judgment, and stand up and say “I Support You”.

The I Support You movement is a respectful, empathetic, compassionate exchange between parents.  We all feed our children differently, but we are all feeding with love, and in ways that work for our individual circumstances and family dynamics.  I Support You is the first step in helping formula-feeding, breast-feeding, and combo-feeding parents come together and lift each other up with kindness and understanding. We have chosen to announce this movement during World Breastfeeding Week to honor the commitment of those who fight for better support for breastfeeding moms; we are inspired by this, but believe that by changing the focus to supporting all parents, we can truly provoke positive change without putting the needs of some mothers above the needs of others. The “I Support You” movement aims:

1) To bridge the gap between formula-feeding and breastfeeding parents by fostering friendships and interactions.

2) To dispel common myths and misperceptions about formula feeding and breastfeeding, by asking parents to share their stories, and by really listening to the truth of their experiences.

3) To provide information and support to parents as they make decisions about how to feed their children.

4) To connect parents with local resources, mentors, and friends who are feeding their children in similar ways.

If you want to join the movement and celebrate real support with us:

Send us your photos. I’m creating a slideshow of photos to show how beautiful support can look. If you are willing to let me use your image, take a photo of you, your baby, your family, you and a friend – doesn’t matter – with a message of support (i.e., “I exclusively breastfed, but I know every mother does what is right for her – and I SUPPORT YOU” or “I may formula feed, but I’d fight like hell for a woman’s right to NIP. I SUPPORT YOU”) and send it to formulafeeders@gmail.com by Friday, August 2nd.

Interview Your Opposite. Are you a blogger?  Are you a formula-feeder who is best friends with an extended breastfeeder?  An adoptive parent who knows of a mom using an SNS nurser with a baby in the NICU?  We want you to interview someone who is feeding in a different way than you are, and then publish it on your blog.  If you’re interested in participating but don’t know where to start, feel free to email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com for a list of interview questions.  On  Sunday, August 4th, we will ask you to share your story with us, by adding your link to the I Support You blog hop. If you don’t know anyone who feeds in a different way,  send me an email and I’ll try and connect you to someone.

Join us for a Twitter Party on August 7th, at 5pm PST/8pm EST.  We’ll be asking you to share your truths about your feeding choices, and connecting you to other parents who might be feeding their children the same way.  You can find us with the hashtag #ISupportYou.

Create your own meme or message of support. If you’re tech savvy, feel free to create a meme or shareable video that honors the “I Support You” message, and share it on the FFF Facebook page.

When I was a Formula Mom, I used to pour formula into Medela bottles, so that the other moms at playgroup thought that it was pumped breastmilk. I felt their eyes on me. I felt shame, and embarrassment. I was different.

Now I am a Breast-Feeding Mom, and I get funny looks and nasty stares when I nurse in public. I feel everyone’s eyes on me. I feel shame, and embarrassment. I am different. Read More

Read more of Kim’s personal story and her I Support You post

I felt my shoulders tense up, an ancient and forgotten ache shooting through them, down into my belly, where old pain dies hard. The ache grew deeper when one of my friends told me that my children probably didn’t sleep as long as hers did because she breastfed them, because “nursing gives them sleepy hormones”. And when another, trying so hard to be kind and include me in the conversation, reminisced about seeing my son in his infant carrier making little sucking movements with his lips as he slept, “as if he was still sucking on his bottle”.  Read more ….

Read more of Suzanne’s fearless post about the I Support You movement

This isn’t something we can just talk about, we need to take action. Please join the movement so we can empower each other, put the shaming to rest, and focus on loving, supporting, and aiding one other around the world.

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Hamlin Fistula Clinic in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (March 2013)
Photo by Lori Dorman

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