Jennifer Lopez is making big news after her April 5th People Magazine spread featuring her newborn twins. Is it because of the over-the-top ornate nursery? Her husband’s pink shirt? Or the very idea of her running down her driveway in high heels and evening wear pushing a pram for kicks? No, it’s because she said she chose not to breastfeed the twins. She gave a two-sentence explanation, “My mom didn’t breast feed and I think that was the thing for me. You read and figure out what’s the best thing for them.”
That opened the hatches and all hell broke loose. Just Google “Jennifer Lopez” and “breast feeding” and you’ll see a ton of links to blogs about what a bad example she’s setting for mothers everywhere. She’s being criticized for not only choosing to bottle feed, but also for her so-called “excuse.”
I’ve never been a fan of J.Lo. For a long time, I referred to her only as, “That Bitch Who Stole Ben Affleck,” of course that ended and the official title went to Jennifer Garner. But, I feel obligated to speak up in defense of J.Lo. now (Who knew I’d ever be pitying her?), because her rings and perfect hair don’t mean anything in the world of motherhood.
I’m a three-time breastfeeding failure. I made honest efforts with two of them (the first and third). The middle I just bottle fed from the start, because I was so anxious and frustrated after my experience with trying and failing with the first child and my run-ins with the zealous “lactivist” members, I didn’t even want to try. It still pains me that I failed with the two. I know with my whole self that I tried to the best of my abilities. That’s not to say that some other mother couldn’t have tried for longer and maybe been able to work through the same issues. But, I know that I made my personal best effort, and that’s the best I can do.
After all those years of mulling over the feelings and facts from my own standpoint, I can say that it doesn’t matter what reason a woman gives for not breast feeding. Often that reason is torn apart and criticized or it’s just not even true. When asked why I didn’t breast feed (and I’ve been asked in casual conversation countless times), I’ve found myself lying. It is such a raw and personal experience, and sometimes the truth is too revealing, leaving you too vulnerable to spit out to some doctor you’ve known for exactly three minutes, or some casual acquaintance at the park who may be genuinely interested, or may be looking to “re-educate” you about how you really could have succeeded if only this or that happened. She’ll tell you next time you should make sure you do this or that differently so you can “do things right” next time (with the implication that it’s all “wrong” with the current kid). Furthermore, some information is better not unleashed into a small, tight group of mothers who you have to see all the time and your kids have to associate with regularly. So, personally, I take Jennifer Lopez’s explanation with a grain of salt. Maybe it’s true, or maybe it’s not. The explanation was simply, from my experience, a two sentence statement to be read: This is what I chose, now leave me alone.
Maybe there should be some anonymous information bank somewhere, and women can leave detailed accounts of their experiences so that some big committee can examine it and use it to make changes to increase breastfeeding rates. Wouldn’t that be more constructive than bashing Jennifer Lopez on a blog?
Now, I know that breast feeders get bashed too. I’ve read some truly sick things in regards to public breast feeding and extended breast feeding. I know that those who choose to breast feed have their own battles, and I support them in their rights. But, really, so does everyone else. They have the World Health Organization, they have the American Academy of Pediatrics, and they have lawyers through LLL to help them with legal battles when their rights are being trampled. Being a breast feeder in today’s world is not a lonely choice. You can name a dozen celebrities off the top of your head who have breast fed and gone unblogged. But, you get this one and the world goes crazy.
Jennifer Lopez obviously loves those babies more than life. They will be raised in ridiculous opulence, given every privilege that a child could hope for. That such a deal is being made about her feeding method is disgusting. There are children born addicted to crack, with parents who abuse them impulsively or with premeditation. There are layers of festering illness that permeate family dynamics that we can’t even begin to understand. But, this woman’s feeding method is what is dominating our attention. And that’s supposed to make some sense?
I feel for Jennifer Lopez. I know what it’s like to make the unpopular choice, the choice that does not have science and world-wide medical establishments backing it. I know what it’s like to be asked to explain that choice and then suffer cruel criticism for the choice and the explanation. But, the truth is, while those who succeed at breastfeeding may be giving their children some health advantages, those of us who have treaded the territory of making the other choice get an earlier indoctrination into motherhood. This is the reality of it. You will make unpopular choices. You will choose your own sanity over the “right” thing sometime during your tenure, and later realize it was the best decision you could have made for everyone involved. You will also receive bad news at some point, and wonder whether you were the cause of it because of some choice you made on behalf of your child. Your idea of “right” will differ from someone else’s idea of “right” and you’ll question everything. This is motherhood. Get used to it.
But, what I hope from new mothers is that they won’t get so defensive of their methods that they cross the line and become malicious to other mothers who make different choices. We should give each other the benefit of the doubt, and assume that unless we’re shown otherwise, that other mother loves her child as much as we love ours. She’s as bright and caring as we are, and she’s reached her decision with as much thorough deliberation as we reach ours. And whatever that deliberation consisted of is none of our business. Because babies don’t need to be rescued from formula. They don’t need to be saved from baby-carriers or strollers and put in Maya wraps instead. Cribs are not cages. There is a very clear line in our legal system as to what constitutes abuse, and it is only insulting to those suffering from actual abuse to be focusing so much of our collective hostility on these differences of parenting practice. It’s almost like we’re looking for an excuse not to get our hands dirty with the real issues. And, ironically, so many of the little girls suffering this very minute in those real abusive conditions will be mothers themselves someday, and when asked what could have been done to help them succeed at breast feeding, they’ll give some flippant, unrelated answer, but they may be thinking You could have helped me fifteen years ago, instead of ranting about what a horrible mother Jennifer Lopez was.
All original content © 2002 - 2013 Imperfect Parent®. Imperfect Parent and Mominatrix are registered trademarks.
The views, opinions and information expressed in articles and blog posts published on imperfectparent.com and all subdomains are those of the authors alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of The Imperfect Parent or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of any entity of, or affiliated with, Imperfect Parent. The Imperfect Parent is designed for entertainment purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for medical, health, legal, or financial advice from a professional.
Reproduction of material from any of Imperfect Parent's pages without written permission is strictly prohibited.