What I Want My Daughters To Know About Motherhood- Feeding Babies

by Jessica Martin-Weber
Recently I was reflecting on why I started Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference and I thought back on my different feeding journeys with my daughters, looking back and wishing there were things I knew when I first started out that I know now. I considered writing a post to my young self but then I realized that the ones I really want to know now what I wish I knew then about infant feeding are my daughters. Before they embark on their own motherhood journey, before they begin feeding their own babies (yes, I’m assuming that out of 6 girls at least one of them will have children and I will get to be a grandparent), there are so many things I want them to know, I could write a book and not just on infant feeding. Respecting that their journey will be their own, not some version or extension of mine, what I want to share isn’t a how to nor is it a manual, it is more just… my heart. Why am I starting an infant feeding conference? My daughters are why.

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Dear Daughter,

From time to time I reflect on the days when you were new to the world, newer than you are now, which is still pretty new. Those days when you were tiny and fit snuggled on my chest with your arms and legs tucked under you, my hand supporting your little bum. I think about the smell of your head, the feel of your skin, the depth of your eyes. I smile as I remember arguing with your father and sometimes others that it wasn’t gas, you were actually really smiling in your sleep. Like precious family heirlooms, from time to time I reverently unpack the memories of your daddy gently swinging you on his arm during fussy periods of the day, how one of your big sisters would interact with you, the way you calmed when I held you, the seriousness with which you would watch light dancing on the wall, and other fragments of the time when you were the smallest big thing in my world.

Some of those cherished mental keepsakes have little barbs on them. They sting when I unpack them, no matter how careful I am. How you were taken away from me just after I had the first chance to hold you because I was hemorrhaging, the time I screwed up and dropped you due to careless use of an infant carrier (Oh sweetie, I tried to call Child Protective Services on myself), hours and hours of screaming that nothing would soothe and the obvious pain you were in (heads up, colic is hell), the stint in the hospital with RSV, and so many more. I could keep these painful memories locked up and forgotten but I don’t, though I don’t linger over them too long, they are an important part of the story we share.

A good number of those treasured memories so carefully packed in my mind are around feeding you. You, as babies do, ate often. Satiated is but a temporary state of being and babies stay there only for brief moment of visitation. Some of these memory gems are truly sublime, shining moments that reflect the light of my love, your beauty, and our connection in sparkling bursts of color from ever angel and with every turn. Some of them are more like clunky chunks of rough rock, the weight and texture of which can make me raw. There is beauty there, beauty only appreciated when the whole topography is viewed. I cherish them all.

My baby feeding story journey isn’t isolated to just feeding you. All 6 of my children have impacted me and feeding each of them has had a hand in shaping me as a mother and directly impacting how I parented. And so, there are a few things I really want you to know about feeding babies. This won’t give you everything you need to know but these, my strong, intelligent, and courageous daughter, are the things what I want you to know from my heart about feeding babies and I hope sharing this now feeds you in a new way.

Feeding is important. Very important. Feeding our babies is the most basic, most essential, most immediate, and most elemental aspect of parenting. It can be said, without fail, that not feeding your baby is parenting failure. Neglect. Abuse. This may seem obvious and it is, but it is also important in ways you wouldn’t first see.  In my experience, how our children come to us is a journey that shapes us much like rushing water can shape rock. Babies aren’t the only ones birthed, mothers are birthed through the arrival of their children into their lives. Likewise, how we feed our babies can lay a foundation for how we parent. Feeding can shore up our confidence as parents and it can tear it down.

But not that important. For as deeply as it can impact us, you’ll feed your babies so many times each day that it can become mundane. That’s ok. You don’t have to experience each moment feeding your baby as a super special time of bonding. That would be like expecting every meal with your significant other to be a candlelight dinner that you poured yourself into preparing and spent looking deeply into each other’s eyes. In the end, as long as the feeding happens, the important part is done. And because it has to be done so frequently, letting go of expectations as to how it happens can be freeing to enjoy each experience as much as possible without the stress.

You matter too. Before baby comes, everyone is all about the mother-to-be. After baby comes, everyone is all about the baby and the mom is little more than the easel holding up the masterpiece. With that comes all the opinions on how to care for, and certainly how to feed, the masterpiece. But you matter too. According to many, you’ll be doing it wrong. Even those who support the method you are using will find ways to tell you are doing it wrong. Everything is subject to such “support” when it comes to feeding your baby. Bottle feeding? You’re holding that bottle wrong, using the wrong bottle, giving a bottle at all… all wrong. Breastfeeding? You’re using the wrong position, the wrong pillows, the wrong place, the wrong timing, doing it at all… all wrong. Pumping? You’re using the wrong pump, the wrong setting, the wrong method, doing it at all… all wrong. With everyone focused on the adorable masterpiece, they will want to “help” you care for it “right.” In the process, some will forget about caring for you. Mothering may change how you see your body and how you feel about it, aspects you may not love may be the most wonderful to your child. Mothering will change your heart and how you feel about it, aspects you may not love about yourself may be the most wonderful to your child. Take care of you, your children will need you to, they need and love you. It may feel selfish but taking care of you is important in taking care of your baby. You matter. Find those that can genuinely support you and your goals in caring for your baby. Those who believe you matter too.

The system is broken. It is improving and I hope by the time you are embarking on this journey, the system will be in a much better place. Right now though, it’s broken. From uninformed health care providers to uninformed store managers, from predatory marketing to pushy breastfeeding supporters, from poor insurance coverage to poor maternity leave, from ignorant judgmental strangers on the internet to ignorant judgmental friends in person, the system of infant feeding support in our society is failing moms. It is imbedded in our culture and it is hurting people. That can change but only by addressing the system rather than individual parents. They, you, just need someone willing to support them as a person, not a conquest. There is a lot of hurt, anger, guilt, shame, fear, arrogance, and hope surrounding this and you will hear it but it isn’t really about you.

Science is cool. There’s a lot of it and you’ll want to take the time to be familiar with it before you head into feeding your babies. Not everyone agrees on the science, it’s worth hearing the various view points. Being informed and personally conscientious can help you tap into your own powerful confidence. Decide what makes sense to you, what works for you according to the information, resources, and support available to you within your personal context and individual circumstances.

But feeding babies isn’t science, it’s a relationship. At some point, all the information in the world, all the evidence, all the support, all the goals aren’t important any more. Because it is a relationship. You and your baby. You are the one who knows what that relationship needs, you are the expert, you are the one most qualified. Even when you feel like you aren’t. You taught me that what a baby really needs is a fully invested parent who lovingly cares for them. Listen to yourself and your baby and don’t let anyone else define your relationship, feeding or otherwise.

There is more, so much more about feeding I want to tell you but for now I’ll stop here. Except for this:

I believe in you. I support you. Whatever you need, I am here for you and plan to be there for you. Unless you ask me not to. But most of all, I love you. You’ve got this.

Love,

Mom

____________________

What would you say to your children about infant feeding? How will you tell them the story of feeding them? What do you want them to know?

Milk BLO event graphic

I started Milk with MommyCon founder, Xza Higgins, with the goal to bring together health care providers, parenting advocates, infant feeding influencers, and parents for workshops, seminars, and connecting centered around conversation supporting feeding our babies.

Founded on the belief that infant feeding support makes a difference and can directly influence confidence levels in parents, MiLK focuses on information sharing and mindful support that builds parents up without tearing down, respecting the unique journey of each of us. MiLK aims to actively educate and support infant feeding by connecting health care providers and the families they care for discussing breastfeeding, formula feeding, breastmilk pumping, at the breast supplementing, bottle feeding, cup feeding, spoon feeding… FEEDING. This is not, to be clear, a breastfeeding conference. It is an infant feeding conference with a goal of bringing together health care providers and parents where we can learn from each other.

Most importantly, I hope we learn how to really listen and what support can really looks like.

I hope you can me join me in Los Angeles, California, July 31st and August 1st. The speakers and panelists are all people I greatly respect, people that inspire me not only in my infant feeding journeys but in supporting others in their journeys as well. Offering 9.25 CERPs (IBCLC) and 11.1 Contact Hours (BRN), MiLK is for the lay parent and the health care professional.

I would love to see you there.

__________________

We have a MiLK giveaway!
3 prizes:

Grand prize: 2 tickets for one winner with the VIP option and a set of general admission to the local breastfeeding support group of their choice, 1 Arm’s Reach Mini-CoSleeper in Santa Fe, 1 tekhni Nymphai wrap, 1 Ergobaby nursing pillow, 1 Ameda Purely Yours Breast Pump, 1 [email protected] shirt, 1 box Earth Mama Angel Baby Organic Milkmaid Tea, 1 Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter, 1 pair Earth Mama Angel Baby Booby Tubes.
Prize pack 1: 2 general admission tickets to milk, 1 tekhni Nymphai wrap, 1 Ergobaby nursing pillow, 1 manual pump, 1 Ameda nursing tank, 1 [email protected] shirt.

Prize pack 2: 2 general admission tickets to milk, 1 tekhni Nymphai ring sling, 1 Ergobaby nursing pillow, 1 [email protected] shirt.

milkgrandprizegiveaway

Open to USA residents only.

Please use the widget below to enter.

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Comments

  1. Mechelle Lehman says:

    My breastfeeding journey has been ever changing yet comfortably similar.
    I am unsure which group to get tickets for. I live in northern Indianapolis Indiana… so whichever is closest?

  2. Complex. I would like the breastfeeding group of Sierra Vista to receive the tickets. https://www.facebook.com/groups/190464841083177/

  3. OpheliaLove says:

    I have many years (I hope) to finish telling & teaching what I want my daughter to know, as she is 1 yr. But I started a journal for each child at birth. It tells funny stories & heartbreaking stories & learning stories, about them, and about me & their father…and sometimes even others. It gives context to what is happening at various times, that in hindsight may help them understand their own history I hope. And over time, I hope that I am able to really teach them all that people *are* going to judge you. They will judge you as a child, as a teen & when you are grown. They will size you up, tear you down & many times be oblivious to the hurt they have caused. I will teach my daughter about her whole body, and I will try to teach her how to love it. I will try to instill her the sense that it belongs only to her, ever, for her whole life. I will try to impart that she need not please anyone with the way in which she chooses to use it, ONLY herself…not even me. It is hers & hers alone & that I hope she can love it the way I loved it the day I first saw it & had to touch every square inch…and smell that sweet baby smell. If she can ever love her own body the way I love it now, the way I kiss those toes & wash behind those amazing little ears, she will have everything she needs for life. <3

  4. I love it! I have breastfed all my children and it’s something we talk about. We also have to talk about why other babies don’t drink right from mommy… I want my children to understand it’s a choice.

  5. Beautifully said. I also LOVE that photo of your beautiful girls!!! I love all the older girls have one of the smaller girls on their backs!! I hope that when the time comes for my children to have their own kids that they will see me as a support system. I am very grateful to have my mom as support!!

  6. Kimber massee says:

    Anything but easy! After 5 months of snuggle and 2 bouts of mastitis I think we finally have the hang of it! The east Tennessee breast feeding group!

  7. An uphill battle! After struggling for the support of family and friends, I helped found Mississippi Breastfeeding Support – it’s our mission to give the critical support and advice to those mothers who don’t have a stable support system. It’s also this group that I would choose to receive the group tickets pack.

  8. My breastfeeding journey has been a wonderful and yet exhausting experience. By feeding my son I’ve normalized it for my older daughter. It fascinates her! I would want the tickets to go to our local LLL group!

  9. Terresa D. says:

    It’s not always easy but it’s worth it! I breastfed my singleton to one year and I’m almost to eight months with my twins. I’d love for the lactation consultants at Ochsner-Baton Rouge to receive the tickets. They are great about providing support to moms of our area.

  10. I can’t wait until my girls are old enough to tell themtheir feeding stories!

  11. Brittany herd says:

    My breastfeeding journey has gotten easier with each child, first child so tongue tied latch was impossible clipped his tongue but it was too late he refused to latch and had to pump, #2 was pretty easy except for nights of colic and gas, #3 so far has been the easiest. Love this community of nursing moms definitely helpful

  12. sherry b says:

    It was challenging at first but then got much easier. I’m sure which tickets I would choose.

  13. Mary gray says:

    Love the wrap!! It’s beautiful!!

  14. Karen Gonzalez says:

    I’m expecting baby #1 in a month so I hope it’s easy! I have diabetes type 1 and I’ve heard some women struggle but i’m hoping and praying everything goes well. I’m not sure where I would want the tickets for… I’m from texas 🙂

  15. Mary B. says:

    Empowering! That’s what my breastfeeding journey was with my daughter, now looking forward to my next journey with my son, due any day!!!

  16. Round 1 (1st baby) over all was empowering looking back on it. I would like the group tickets to go to The Alliance Of Moms. They work with Foster parents and teenage mothers.

  17. Heidi McDonough says:

    Short days, long nights, irreplaceable time spent with my 3 sons! If I won, I’d love for the Commonwealth Health Moses Taylor Hospital of Scranton, PA breastfeeding support group to win the tickets!

  18. My breastfeeding journey has been a way to bond with each child. Each of my children needed that time with me for different reasons and I cherish each moment.

    • My journey has been one of trials and bonding.

      I have a local moms’ group that would love to go. It’s run by an LC.

  19. My baby’s small, so I’m always worried he’s not eating enough. :/ Tickets for LLL of LA

  20. So far, it’s good, 2 months in.

  21. Colleen says:

    My breastfeeding journey has been…triumphant.

    I don’t actually know what local breastfeeding group I’d invite–I’ve never sought out a local breastfeeding community. If I could there are some lovely ladies who are so supportive in all aspects of parenting in my babywearing group, which is really the only community I need…but I don’t know if that counts. :/

  22. Amanda Giovanelli says:

    My breastfeeding journey went from failing with my first to still going strong at 13 months with my second. I don’t think it has an official name but the breastfeeding support group at mother’s haven.

  23. Jennifer Odom says:

    Different with each child! Tickets close to Boise, Salt Lake, or Vegas would be great. 🙂

  24. Leela R says:

    My breastfeeding journey is best described as frustrating turned rewarding. I’d loved to support the breastfeeding moms that meet at my midwife’s office at Beach Cities Midwifery in Long Beach.

  25. Catherine says:

    My first experience breastfeeding was challenging and was discouraged for number 2…didn’t give up and has been wonderful. 🙂 would like to go to the dc area.

  26. Easy, memorable and an unbreakable bond. I’d like to win group tickets for the Cleveland tn breastfeeding support group

  27. Breastfeeding for me has been full of ups, downs and unstable support. However it won’t stop me from breastfeeding?

  28. Heather says:

    With determination and dedication, breastfeeding was a beautiful bonding experience.

  29. Michelle E says:

    Very rocky start, but an amazing 2.5 years-looking forward to nursing our third. I’d like the tickets to go to Jan Brown

  30. Christine M says:

    Journey has been different with my two kids but both over one year of doing it.

    I don’t know any local breastfeeding groups. I didn’t know there was such a thing.

  31. Michelle Hand says:

    My breastfeeding experience was a very rough start, but a very rewarding journey.
    I would like the breastfeeding group of Surprise, AZ to win the tickets.

  32. april p says:

    My breastfeeding journey has been satisfying for both me and my son! I’m not aware of any breastfeeding groups in my area other than classes. If I win, could I maybe gift a breastfeeding class at Trillium Women’s to a pregnant friend of mine?

  33. Alix Kalfin says:

    I work every day to normalize breastfeeding. I don’t like to cover, mostly because my son likes to look up at me while he is nursing. I hate that showing cleavage is “normal” but feeding my son in public is not.

  34. My breastfeeding journey with my first son was a struggle and I’m hoping to be more successful with my second son who is due August 12th. My goal is to do child-led weaning. As far as the support group I’d like to win tickets, whichever one is closest to Sugar Hill, Ga.

  35. jessica long says:

    Harder then I let anyone know for me emotionally. It is both easier than bottle feeding and harder.

  36. My breastfeeding journey has not be easy for either child, but very rewarding none the less. I would love the RCPC WIC ground of Fairbanks Alaska to win the tickets.

  37. Love this! Inspiring me to write a letter in my daughter’s journal, which I don’t write in enough. Girls need to read these positive messages and more than anything, they need to know they have a support system.

  38. Our breastfeeding journeys have definitely been adventures. I wasn’t educated with my first so I gave up when we went home and she wouldn’t latch. I was under the impression if she didn’t do it in the hospital she would never do it. I pumped twice a day for two weeks but I gave up on that because i didn’t think that little amount made a difference. With my second I went straight to pumping and i did so quite successfully for 6 months. I tried to get him to latch a few times here and there in the beginning but he didn’t catch on, mainly because I wasn’t persistent enough. With my third I plan on trying everything i can to breastfeed, if i end up having to pump so be it.

  39. Veronica Bohan says:

    I switched to formula at 10 weeks so I could care for my toddler. BABS of Bloomington IN

  40. Melissa Hunter says:

    I suppose I would describe my breastfeeding journey as a rolling hill, with obstacles and easy periods. I am so pleased to have made it so far almost 3 years with my first, and I’m excited to continue with my second baby on the way!

    I would love for my local group, Knox Breastfriends, to win the tickets!

  41. Almost completed 5yrs of breastfeeding (second is almost 2yrs old. First nursed until 29months). It’s like a roller coaster full of emotions and sweet sticky milk! I wouldn’t change it for the world!

    If I could, I’d love for the Murrietta, CA, Obria Medical Clinic, to recieve tickets for their new parents, parenting class participants. They are very pro-breastfeeding and I’m sure would love to gift this to their new and soon-to-be parents.

  42. Regina Wright says:

    Wishful thinking!

    Hubs and I are TTC. I BF my 2nd and will BF our next.

    I’m not involved in any local BF groups. I live in Illinois.

  43. I have nursed all three of my kids and still nursing my 2 year old! Love more, judge less!

  44. Joey Wright says:

    I didnt breast feed, my wife did. Seeing her breastfeed made me view her as a Super Woman.

    APL Lactation Services in IL

  45. I want my girls to know that breastfeeding isn’t easy and the important thing is to have happy fed babies.

  46. The first 6 weeks are the hardest, even with the second baby, but oh so with it for all involved.

  47. It’s been a time of growth for both me and my children! The San Diego breastfeeding Center.

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