Pregnancy & Childbirth

Grounded Pregnancy: Are You Planning to Breastfeed? And Other Personal Questions People Ask Pregnant People

Random Stranger: Are you planning to breastfeed your baby?

Me: Wow, that’s a really personal question. I didn’t realize it was any of your business, but since we are clearly close friends, how often do you masturbate?

Sadly, I haven’t responded this way. It’s on the running list of l’esprit de l’escalier responses (those that occur to you after the encounter) that I come up with at 2:00 a.m. the next day.

What’s the big deal? Why do I think this is personal?

  1. It’s about what I plan to do with my body. As a pro-choice person, I firmly believe that what someone chooses to do with their body is their business. Period. It’s not about you, up to you, or any of your business. If you wouldn’t ask someone about their sex life, bra size, poop consistency or masturbation frequency, why would you think it’s okay to ask them about their plans for feeding their baby? And if you do, you are fucking nosy.
  2. This question is often asked by people who have no knowledge of a person’s medical or personal history or previous experiences feeding a baby. When you ask this question, you have no idea if someone has tried to breastfeed in the past and had a horrible experience, if someone has a medical condition or surgical history or takes a medication that is incompatible with breastfeeding, or if someone is a sexual violence survivor who can’t breastfeed because it is triggering or frightening, etc. You don’t know their reasons, and it’s none of your fucking business. And, when you ask, many times, they will try to tell you their entire medical, trauma, or personal history to justify their choices. That’s wrong. No one should have to tell their story unless they want to and certainly not to a nosy person with an agenda.
  3. Unless you are my health care provider or partner, you don’t get to talk to me about my health or my baby’s health. In the United States (where I currently reside) and in many, many other places, there is only a negligible difference between breast-fed and formula-fed babies. And breast-fed babies can face real risks of dehydration, jaundice, low blood sugar, and brain injury in their early days, if their moms don’t understand when and how to supplement. Lactivism disguised as concern or public health promotion is still lactivism. Take your concern trolling elsewhere. I don’t need to be educated about breastfeeding and its benefits (especially the made up, exaggerated, or simply impossible ones). Not many people do. If only there were a handy rhyming slogan to tell us how awesome breast milk is that they could put on brochures, baby magazines, posters, and cans of formula everywhere to make sure that we never forget that breast is best…oh wait.
  4. This question is almost always followed by the question – “Do you plan to at least try?” As if you making a choice about how to feed your baby that involves your time, energy, lost sleep and body, is only valid if you try their way first. And if you can’t breastfeed or know now that it’s something you don’t want to do? You don’t have to try. And it shouldn’t be something you have to justify to anyone, let alone strangers. And if you decide to “try” and change your mind or it doesn’t work out, you can switch to formula or combo feed or pump or any combination of those things, for any length of time. You shouldn’t have to deal with shaming or comments like – if you just stick with it, it gets better. Nope. It may have gotten better for you, but you don’t walk in my shoes, you have no idea if it will get better. Suck it (pun intended).

Before the hate mail starts coming in, please understand, I think breastfeeding is awesome – if you can and/or want to breastfeed. The person breastfeeding (or not breastfeeding) is the only person who gets to have an opinion about it. Breast is not best in so many circumstances. Breast milk is good. Formula (science milk) is good. Fed babies are awesome. #fedisbest

That is the sum of my opinion on other people’s choices about what or how to feed their babies.

So…do you plan on breastfeeding?

I really don’t know. I have insufficient glandular tissue. With my daughter and son, I only made enough to feed them part time, and they both experienced the same terrifying cycle of my milk not coming in for over a week, jaundice, weight loss, and supplementation. If I do breastfeed, I am planning to supplement with formula at the hospital. I refuse to starve my baby because of some mythical idea that supplementing will ruin breastfeeding for us or hurt her. I will see what kind of supply I have, but I am not willing to take non-evidence-based supplements or Canadian drugs, or to pump all day long to build a supply. I get stressed out even thinking about the lengths I went to to breastfeed my children. I need to be here for all of my kids, not tied to a baby or pump all day long.

Trying to breastfeed my daughter destroyed my self esteem and hurt my experience as a first time mom. Formula feeding saved our relationship. With my son, getting professional support to combo-feed and re-defining my breastfeeding goals made our breastfeeding relationship beautiful. I know that things might be different this time, but I am not going to gamble with my emotional well-being and ability to raise my children and step children to achieve a bullshit goal. For those who are curious? Yes, my boobs do appear to be getting bigger this pregnancy, not that it’s any of your business. They are pretty nice boobs.

As for your other questions…

Was it a planned pregnancy? Yes, but if it wasn’t that could be a really assholish thing to ask. I highly recommend you never ask that again.

Did you use fertility treatments? No, but again, how is that any of your fucking business?

Are you hoping for a boy or a girl? Velociraptor.

Will you find out the gender? As of now, I plan to look at the anatomy ultrasound. Maybe in a few years, we’ll know the gender.

How much weight have you gained? I will let you know as soon as I stop vomiting. Or I won’t. Because it’s none of your business.

Are you sure there’s only one baby? Yes. And fuck you.

Are you afraid to have another child because of your age? Fuck you.

Don’t you guys have four children already? Fuck you. Unless you are offering to nanny for free, then, are you available at 4?

What’s your birth plan? Are you planning a vaginal birth ? Whichever birth method results in a healthy, living baby and mama is okay with me. Why are you concerned about my vagina? I mean, it’s very nice, but we haven’t even been on a date.

Will you get an epidural? Absofuckinglutely, as soon as humanly possible.

Anything else? I didn’t think so.

 

For evidence-based information on feeding babies, check out the Fed is Best Foundation.

Featured image credit: Steph, all rights reserved.

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Steph

Steph

Steph recently traded single parenthood to two awesome kids (3 and 7) for marriage to a great guy with two awesome kids (5 and 10). Their adventures in parenting are set in a tiny town in the middle of a corn field. Their newest edition is due in February 2017. In late 2015 she left her stressful, more than full-time job with a victim services agency to pursue writing and activism. When she's not busy writing, chasing kids around, cleaning up messes and engaging in social justice warfare, Steph enjoys snuggling, making pies, engaging in debates on the internet, yoga, and fitness. A recovered natural parent, Steph now considers herself a semi-crunchy peaceful parent and trusts science, evidence and common sense to lead the way. She has been actively involved in the reproductive and women's rights movements for more than 20 years and is a passionate pro-choice feminist.

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