I was out shopping with a friend the other day when she ran into a former colleague and his pregnant wife. After introductions were made and the niceties exchanged, of course the subject came up of the baby. Where are you delivering, did you take classes, etc. The couple stated that they are due to begin their childbirth series class in a couple weeks. I asked if they were set up for breastfeeding class and the weary response (after glancing at each other for guidance) was “well we haven’t looked into that yet”.

As an IBCLC, breastfeeding advocate and firm believer in patient-centered care, I found myself unsure of how to respond. This isn’t the first time I have found myself in this place, either. So do I jump up on my perch and begin singing the  breastfeeding praises as my subconscious would like me to do, or do I back off and let them make their decision?

As long as I have been working in this field, I have been faced with the issue of guilt among breastfeeding mothers. Guilt coming from many angles – it might be associated with early cessation, it may be due to family members telling mom that she is selfish because now no one else can “feed the baby”, it may be due to not initiating breastfeeding…the list goes on. So what drives this so-called guilt? And how do we work around it? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it all boils down to education. If you have the information to make an educated, evidence-based decision, then guilt should be no where in the equation. No one (at least no one I have met) is out to make any mother feel guilty over her feeding  choice. So let’s turn the tables a bit here…why did I feel uncomfortable when this couple was obviously uneasy when I asked about breastfeeding class? That’s pretty simple, I was afraid that they would see me as a “pushy breastfeeding person” or my favorite – a “breastfeeding natzi”. How did something as wonderful, nurturing, normal and necessary as breastfeeding become associated with “pushy?” How is it that formula companies can drive their products into every ob office, pediatrician office and hospital, yet breastfeeding advocates are the ones who are considered “pushy”? Society has somehow taken over and reared its ugly head, with mothers and babies paying the price. Usually, in the situation that presented with this couple, I would explain to them how attending a breastfeeding class and obtaining all the information needed to make an educated decision can make all the difference. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have the time to address this with them, and I am left to wonder about the decision they will make on their own.

The Other Side of Guilt

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