The Definition Of A Breastfeeder Is Not What You Might Guess

by Kylie Hastings  

I sat on the little chair in the Pediatrician's office holding my 2 month old as the Nurse Practitioner came in. She didn't even look at us and went immediately to her chart. She seemed cold and uninterested and yet she would end up saying one of the most comforting and memorable things someone could have said to me at the time. She began measuring my baby, still without even looking at me, and began asking the usual questions.

“Are you breastfeeding or formula feeding?” She asked.

“Well,” I fidgeted awkwardly, “I’m pumping.”

She laughed and looked me right in the eye and said, “So you're breastfeeding. It's the same thing.”

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I could have hugged her and I felt tears well up in my eyes. I had felt so much like a failure for not being able to get my sweet little girl to latch. Soon after this encounter I would figure out that she has a tongue and lip tie, and we adjusted as needed and she was finally able to latch. Another 2 months later and she would be exclusively breastfeeding. It was a long hard road to get there, emotionally and physically- though if I'm honest, the hardest part was the emotional aspect. I thought in the beginning that exclusively pumping made me not a Breastfeeder and meant I was doing something wrong. Looking back I now know I couldn't have been more wrong.

World Breastfeeding Week brought out wonderful results this year with The Big Latch On recording over 13,000 women breastfeeding at one time and a study revealing that breastfeeding is on the rise. There was a sad side that seemed more prominent to me this year though. Many groups like The Big Latch On saw an outcry from some women who felt left out or ignored by World Breastfeeding Week.

There are many women, due to inability for their children to latch or due to being working mothers, who pump exclusively or supplement with formula. They often don't call themselves a Breastfeeder, or feel the need to explain themselves when people ask if they breastfeed. Due to two little words, "latch," and, "exclusive," they feel separate and maybe as if they have failed. Yet, in this year’s breastfeeding report card for America 79% of babies start out being breastfed and 49% are breastfed up to 6 months- this means a large majority of Americans should be big supporters of breastfeeding. Sadly, due to internal demons and bitterness many women, despite breastfeeding for even a short amount of time, will not call themselves breastfeeding advocates or supporters. My father always says that as long as you did your best you are not a failure. So why do so many women in this country feel they are failures? Some argue that it is due to the tragic state of postpartum care in America, which causes mothers to have a lack of support and healing.

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The Badass Breastfeeder, Abby Theuring, has a series of pictures on her Facebook called, “Sometimes Breastfeeding Looks Like This,” and it contains a wide range of photographs of mothers nursing, pumping, feeding with Supplemental Nursing Systems, and feeding breastmilk in bottles or even with an eye dropper.

It is a great reminder that whether you fed your baby only one day's worth of breastmilk or if you are still breastfeeding your four year old, you are a Breastfeeder. This isn't some exclusive club that says you have to nurse at the breast for a certain amount of time to be included. You have provided breastmilk in some form or another to your child and that is commendable. You are not any less of a woman if you had to supplement or pump and you absolutely should be celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with everyone else.

kylieKylie Hastings is an Oklahoma girl who is making the big move to New Jersey. She is a Criminal Justice graduate of Northern Oklahoma and The University of Central Oklahoma.   She currently writes the blog   Someonematernal.blogspot.com  and hopes to one day write the next great American novel...or at least publish a book that a few people buy. She is the Mother of a little girl and soon to be mother of a little boy, and the wife of an Army National Guard Blackhawk pilot. She loves to read, travel, ski, and scuba dive. You can follow her on Twitter @SimplyKylieC5.