I might have stopped breastfeeding if it weren't for social media, that doesn't make me better than you
Social media gets a lot of blame for current societal difficulties. And previous ones too come to that. A bit like government powers getting blamed for decisions made decades before, or situations arising from cultural neglect; it can't all be the fault of the internet. However, as we well know - it can be a challenging environment; so many opportunities to: misunderstand, speak without consequence, share more than you might otherwise share.
I sometimes think it just brings us more social interactions than we are used to - those interactions are not all going to go well. There are going to be some disagreements, a misjudged comment or a hungry-tired grumpy sigh that is just not really about us at all.
For a long time I thought some social platforms were only a negative, soul sucking environment; a place for a cynical capatalist to hunt vulnerable prey and spread the word of the patriarchy. And sure, there is a hell of a lot of that going on, but perhaps not more than there is in my local town or newspaper. And on my phone I can build - for the most part - a safe space full of voices I want to hear.
So that's what I did, and that's what I try to be for other people - a normal, wobbly, sometimes sad, sometimes happy voice.
In doing this I found a group of women who I found were answering questions that I hadn't asked anyone else. Questions that I hadn't always voiced in my own head. In particular, worries and uncertainties around breastfeeding.
I was going to do a post on breastfeeding everyday this week, until I came across a few Instagram accounts that made me feel cold and scared. The tone of the accounts was that celebrating breastfeeding is to shame formula feeding mothers. That woman who breastfeed look down on women who don't breastfeed, thinking they should have tried harder. There was a lot of anger in these accounts - in the posts and comments. A few of them mentioned healing breastfeeding trauma and overcoming pressure that was put on them by health professionals, friends, family, organisations and society to breastfeed.
This made me feel awful; sad and guilty. I don't want to make women feel like shit for doing their best to care for their baby. I could easily have been that woman, I might be one day with a future baby. I don't think I am better than you if you formula feed. I don't think you should feel shame for making a parenting choice.
But, I do want to celebrate and promote breastfeeding. I do want to talk about the lack of support I, and many other women, face when breastfeeding. I don't want to be made to feel like a bully for sharing information about something I believe in.
I would honestly be so interested if you feel that I share information that does, or could shame you or someone else that formula feeds. What is it about the things I say that make you feel, or could make you feel that way? I mean, it will hurt to hear it - but I'll take it on the chin.
I am not ignoring my priviledge in this situation - I know I am incredibly lucky to have been able to have a baby, care for him and to breastfeed him. And perhaps me saying that I'm offended by their hurtis similar to people saying "all lives matter" ignorantly in response to "black lives matter (although perhaps this comparison is even more offensive) .
For what it is worth - without women sharing their stories, sharing their hurts and pain and truth, I probably wouldn't have lasted this long breastfeeding my son. I needed social support that I just haven't had outside of social media. I don't know how to fix the fact that those same posts might have made another woman -whose own breastfeeding journey ended before she wanted it to - feel sad. I don't know how to fix that, because I needed that support and I will continue to provide it for other women that might need it.
If you are someone, or if you know someone who had a tough breastfeeding journey, who wasn't supported in fulfilling her goals or chose not to for other reasons, tell her you know she did her best. You are doing your best. You are doing a fucking amazing job. Don't let someone else's joy let you feel attacked or not enough.
I am always talking about the accounts that have supported me so take a look at my social media if you need some more people in your feed to bouy you up and help you to feel stronger.