This post is sponsored by Mirum, but opinions expressed are my own. Photos via K. Olis Photography.
Mom shaming or mom judgement is certainly a hot topic. What was sadly NOT shocking to me was when I polled you guys to ask about your experience, it’s not only people that you know that mom shame you but also acquaintances and strangers.
When I did a poll on Instagram stories asking if you’ve ever experienced mom shaming 88% of you said yes. Then when asked if you have felt mom-shamed, whether it came from friends/family or acquaintances/strangers, 71% said family and 29% said acquaintances and I got multiple messages that said both.
I have certainly felt mom shame more often than I would like to admit. Whether it be about breastfeeding, choosing to be a work-at-home mom, keeping Leyton out of Mother’s Day Out or programs to be with a babysitter, ways that I should be making him eat or not eat, and a host of things in between.
I think one of the hardest things for me that I didn’t see coming at ALL was how hard breastfeeding would be. NO one told me or if they did, it wasn’t broken down enough graphically for me to really get the picture. To get to the end first, I did end up breastfeeding Leyton for a year and yes, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. No, I do not regret it. But I am sad with how people around me were about it.
And before you read on, please know that I’m a pretty squeamish person about privacy. So when I say that it grossed me out to do breastfeeding at first, it’s because of me and how I personally first took it all in. I think it’s AWESOME if you didn’t feel that way and in fact, I’m jealous because it would have made my whole experience easier.
MY THOUGHTS ON MOM SHAMING & BREASTFEEDING
I remember when they first gave Leyton to me how excited and warm and fuzzyI felt but then when they wanted me to get half naked in a room full of people with my boob hanging out to feed him while people told me how to do this far-fetched weird thing (to me at the time) that I literally felt lost. I didn’t feel like “me” and not to mention, it was kind of gross to me. I know, I know, half of you are probably judging me right now. Ha!
Then on top of all that, it hurt…like a MOTHER. I cracked, I bled, it was painful and terrible and not just for days…for weeks and months. Every time Leyton latched, I wanted to cuss or scream. I cried in the middle of the night because he wasn’t getting enough food, and I didn’t know how to tell since you couldn’t see in a bottle what he was taking in and because I was EXHAUSTED and depressed.
The lack of sleep new parents go through on top of the rest of their world being rocked is cruel and unusual punishment. That’s why God gives us hormones that literally help us block out how horrible some of the suffering we go through is, so we’ll sign up for it all over again. HA!
I heard comments about breastfeeding incessantly. “Why, I wouldn’t think about stopping, would I?” And, “It’ll get better. You have to do what’s best for your baby.” and more. Looking back, it makes me a little agitated to say the least. I was suffering from baby blues, literally lost in motherhood, wearing diapers essentially, in pain, unable to walk past the mailbox for 6 weeks from complications and then people had the audacity to tell me on top of that what was “best for me and baby.” Puh-lease.
Through some miracle, I did end up fighting through the cracked skin and horribly awkward feeling creeping inside of me every time I had to get semi-naked to breastfeed and overcame drying up my milk supply (with cabbage leaves-note to other ladies- DON’T DO THIS) and my baby blues and was able to breastfeed Leyton for a year.
And you know what, I’m glad I did. I’m proud of it. But would I make someone else feel the way nurses, lactation consultants, friends and others did me about breastfeeding? Heck to the no. And do I think I did breastfeeding entirely for me and Leyton? No, I think others opinions swayed me and made me bitter, angry and probably made me worse off in my depression.
And then, to top it all off once I did FINALLY get comfortable with breastfeeding myself other friends acted awkward about it, or made sure to make their opinions on NOT doing it known. You literally can’t win, people. You can’t win. So you might as well do what is best for YOU and YOUR husband and YOUR baby.
Please know that if you are reading this and you are pregnant that breastfeeding is hard. BUT, your experience may be different than mine. You may not get cracked skin, you may not have to use the shields “that are bad for baby’s nursing instincts-insert eye roll” and you may not feel awkward breastfeeding for the first time, but I want you to have at least heard from someone else who has had these thoughts and feelings so that hopefully it will help you pause if someone else you know isn’t having as easy of a time with it as you.
And, please know that it DOES get easier. After about 5 or 6 months until towards the end it was easy to breastfeed. What stinks is all the time, effort and energy it takes plus the pumping, the washing bottles and pumping parts and storing the milk, measuring it out, spilling it all over your kitchen with many a splash and drip. Half of your day, if not more will be spent breastfeeding, pumping or cleaning parts in the beginning.
At the end of the day, I never thought I’d be one of those women who felt “guilty” for not producing enough milk. Because before pregnancy and child-birthing hormones, that doesn’t seem rational, because it’s not. But then there you are at 4 am, exhausted and crying in bed and your husband has to help you however he can…which sadly in the beginning is minimal because again…he has no boobs. And you feel it, perhaps for the first time…the mom guilt creeping in. How you aren’t good enough to make the milk or whatever it is.
Then the WEIRDEST part is that when it was time to stop breastfeeding, then I was sad about it. Motherhood hormones, you are truly a beast. What is that about?! I’d say things like “Oh my gosh, this is the last week.” or “This is the beginning of the end of his babyhood.” or “We won’t have this same bond.”
My hope is that next time (in a few short months!) Eric and I will do what is right for us as a family and baby regardless of what others say. If I feel that it is too much to breastfeed and my body isn’t responding, that I will listen.
I hope that this post frees you to feel however YOU and YOUR FAMILY need to feel about breastfeeding, about pumping or about using formula. Because at the end of the day, that sweet baby is going to be A-OK no matter what you chose. Eric was formula-fed, I was breastfed and guess what? We are both OK.
Because I think many times people don’t even REALIZE they are mom shaming, I wanted to share not only some of my own experiences but some of yours. I think some of these stories you ladies shared with me will hit home and some may think, “Oh, I’ve said or done things like that before and I didn’t realize how that came off.” Regardless, I think being more aware and communicating about it is key.
I ask that no matter how you feel about my story or the ladies below that if you don’t have anything KIND to say that you please keep your comments to yourself. I am SO grateful for your willingness to love on each other, encourage and share so that we all can come together. I was blown away by all your responses which you can see on this Instagram post and how some of you even took the time to write back and love on other mama’s lifting them up. Thank you for your genuine kindness and time. Love y’all!
Mom Shaming Experiences from the MLWL Community:
“I’ve been mom shamed for a lot of things. But the worst thing was for having a fourth kid! I couldn’t believe the things people would say…strangers and family. And I still hear constant comments from people because of how many kids I have and how close they are in age. I try to rise above it.”
“I have a son on the spectrum and everyone has their opinions about his behaviors and what I should and shouldn’t do. I have gotten a thick skin over the years I do me and trust God with all decisions.” -J.
“I had a woman approach me at Target when my two year old was fighting with me and I was clearly pregnant. She asked if he was my first, and she said, “Okay. SO you need to get your s–t together before this one comes or else he’s gonna walk all over you.” Easily the most mortifying experience I’ve had so far as a mom.” L.V.
“I wish the mom shaming had not gotten so bad people feel like they need so much to feel good about themselves. Botox, plumpers, plastic surgery. I look at my 99 & 96 year old grandmas and all of their wrinkles and think how they are from laughing and working hard, worrying, LIVING! I can’t wait to look like them and grow old. I wish people just loved themselves. It seems like people always say if it make you feel better about yourself then do it, but we can never actually see ourselves, only a reflection of ourself; so I find it hard to believe people are doing it for themselves.
Maybe this is me mom shaming, but I feel shamed for not covering grays, getting botox or spray tanned. We live in such a “filtered” world. I want me kids growing up know what real people look like and they are beautiful!” – J.K.
“I was judged with both kids…I am judged with my daughter because I went back to work just shy of her turning 6 weeks and for letting her use a paci.”
“I’m 23 weeks pregnant and have only just begun to feel this way. I call it “Mom-splaining”, like mansplaining. When another Mom explains something to you in a condescending or patronizing way. You must do this, you must get this. No, don’t register for that. This hospital was the best, and so on… ?” – Kathryn
“I’ve gotten tons of mom shame because I I formula feed my kids and because both my kids were born via c-section.” – Heather
“I’ve had plenty of times I felt mom shame and most of the time it comes from the grandparents. So once a year, my husband has a business trip out of state. I am lucky enough to be able to go with him, so it’s a vacation for me and work for him. I’ve been told by one (don’t want to name which) in many occasions that when she was raising her kids, that if the kids couldn’t go with her then they just didn’t go. She just doesn’t understand why I don’t take the kids. This also applies to date nights or any non kid friendly events. I know deep down she doesn’t mean to be shaming me but it always feels that way. I also get a lot of “push back” when it comes to health and wellness. To believe that medical science hasn’t changed since our parents had kids is ridiculous. It may seem crazy and I may eat some “weird” healthy things, but that doesn’t make it weird or bad. By weird I mean like zucchini noodles or substituting turkey for ground beef . Or making fun of my sanity for running my first half marathon.” -Ashley
“I’m an older mom now, but believe me moms have always endured mom shaming. Social media has definitely ramped it up tho. I feel so for my daughters-in-law, who are new moms. I had 5 babies. While pregnant with my 5th in the company of my four boys age 12 and under, a man yelled at me across a parking lot as we were leaving a restaurant. He yelled, ‘God said to go forth and populate the Earth. But he didn’t say all by yourself!’ Being pregnant, I wanted to smack him.” – Tammy
“One morning I had to take my twin boys to their very first speech assessment. It was earlier than our morning routine usually included appointments and I had to wake them up to get there on time. The appointment itself was quite hard on them, and afterwards I was trying to wrangle two miserable not quite two year olds, and a newborn baby in a bucket carseat out to the car. Of course the boys melted down in the most inconvenient place and we ended up blocking the door way to the building. I’m trying to coax my trio as every single child is crying and a mom comes up to me and loudly says in a huff ‘Spank them and don’t come out in public’. I remember feeling so embarrassed and just like the worst mom in the world. I broke down and started sobbing as I did finally reach my vehicle. Another mom from accross the parking lot came up to me and asked if I was ok. I cry blubbered what the mean lady had said to me in a complete breakdown and this parking lot mom was so nice. She told me life with 3 gets easier, helped me load my toddlers into the carseats, and reminded me that even though it was a bad day I wasn’t a bad mom. And I guess that’s just it. For as many times as I’ve had people judge or say mean things, I’ve also found and seen the nicest people being so encouraging and supportive. And that mom coming over and saying positive words inspired me in so many ways. It made me braver to go up to a mom in a moment of struggle and say kind things.” – Jasmine
“At my daughter’s 18 mo appointment, I got some attitude from a nurse in my pediatrician’s office when I told her my duaghter still gets most of her calories from breastfeeding, since she is simply not interested in much solid food yet (tried every trick in the book trying to get her to eat more, she just wants the boob). She acted like I was starving my toddler and said ‘Well, I HOPE you’re AT LEAST giving her vitamins.'” – Allison
“I’ve had so much mom shaming regarding my decision to breastfeed. It’s constantly ‘why can’t you just give him bottles?’ or ‘you’re being selfish not letting other people feed him!’. Then there’s all the don’t breastfeed in public/without a cover/if your baby is old enough to eat solids/if other people are visiting your house’ comments. My baby has bad reflux, and projectile vomits multiple times a day, which his doctor is aware of, and everyone and their grandma on social media wants to tell me that formula/cereal/goat’s milk/whatever will fix it, and I should just stop breastfeeding. I’ve never judged anyone for breast, bottle, formula, whatever, as long as they’re feeding their kid, so I don’t get the constant comments about it. I also still work part time, and was told at one point that ‘God intended for you to stay home and raise your baby, not go to work and pawn him off on other people’ (other people being my husband). An elderly man got upset the other day in the grocery store because the baby wasn’t wearing a hat, even though he was in a onesie, pants, socks, and covered with a blanket, I was ‘letting that baby freeze to death’ because I decided it wasn’t worth listening to him scream the whole time we were in the store to put a hat on him, and it wasn’t that cold out anyway. We also cloth diaper, and people acted like I’m telling them we let the baby play with rattlesnakes when I say that. We got about 20 packages of disposable diapers before he was born ‘for when cloth diapers don’t work out for you’ and were told by a couple people that if they ever had to change his diaper, they were putting him in Pampers instead. There’s just so much judgment for everything I think. I try to be encouraging and supportive, especially for new mamas.” – Courtney
“Mom shaming is such a touchy subject but I believe if we discuss and are vulnerable about it, we can understand each other better. If we have the intent to listen instead of the intent of replying, we can truly hear other moms instead of only listening to the cue for us to say something back. Something I’ve seen that has been such a HUGE topic and something moms have been hurtful over is vaccinations. I can honestly say I’ve never seen a positive discussion about this. And the words that are exchanged if you do vaccinate or don’t vaccinate are horrible.”
“I felt so much mom shaming and pressure with breastfeeding! It was honestly the hardest thing about having a baby for me. After 3 months, I switched to formula and felt so much pressure lifted! A wise friend told me: do you feel convicted or condemned about x, y, z in being a mom because if you feel condemned, that’s the enemy! I felt condemned if I stopped breastfeeding. Her advice really opened my eyes and helped me step into a healthier view of myself and what others tell me or how they make me feel.” – Leah
“My sister-in-law has been mom shamed for having her daughter do modeling (my neice
“Women need to realize we need to bring others up not tear them down!” – Crystal
“So I’m a foster mom as well as a biological mom and I feel this so strongly. I feel it when people don’t count my foster kiddos as part of the family, or when people judge my foster kids based on a behavior that is not age-appropriate, but they have come so far and overcome so much. I also feel it based on the size of my family – in four years, we have parented four children, with another one on the way. It’s like I don’t have a right to complain or ask for help because ‘I signed up for this.’ Yes, I know the first thing that pops into everyone’s heads is that foster moms are ‘saints’ – but I very rarely am treated like anything special – in facet I often feel belittled because of it.” – Suzanne
“I think all of us moms want to do the best we can to protect our children so if you choose or don’t choose I don’t think it should be a matter to pick at or make fun of someone. We are our childs mother, so God has given us the ability to make choices for our child, and we should all respect that from mom to mom on what decisions we make. And if we disagree with those decisions, let’s explain why with love so other moms can gain better understanding and insight into those decisions we’re making, not to just say you’re wrong and I’m right and this is the way it should be. ? “Mommin” is a hard enough job already and with that comes so much responsibility so I’m ALL for cheering each other on!” -Bethany
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