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Letting go of mommy guilt

It’s easy to get tunnel vision and think there’s a right way and a wrong way to approach all-things-baby-rearing. However, if centuries of humanity have taught us anything, it’s that this obviously isn’t the case. (Hey, if previous generations survived Jell-O molds and lead paint, I think we’re probably golden, right?) The truth is that...

McKinley_HappyBea_1-14-15It’s easy to get tunnel vision and think there’s a right way and a wrong way to approach all-things-baby-rearing. However, if centuries of humanity have taught us anything, it’s that this obviously isn’t the case. (Hey, if previous generations survived Jell-O molds and lead paint, I think we’re probably golden, right?)
The truth is that there are a million ways to raise a baby. And I totally and completely believe in this mantra. In a world that’s polarized on the effects of everything from sippy cups to spoon-feeding, I think there’s a middle ground that offers plenty of safe, happy outcomes for the modern parent and budding baby. No time for cloth diapers? No problem. Think baby shoes are a rip-off? Don’t buy ’em. Avoiding pacifiers like the plague? Totally fine. Chances are that no matter where parents stand on these hot-button baby issues, children on both sides of the line will grow up pooping, walking and talking with the best of them.
Yet, despite my firm belief in parenting freedom, I still struggle with that little internal mom voice—the one that gives me guilt when I deviate from what is widely seen as the “best” option. I heard it when I started feeding Bea solids before the official 6-month mark, even though she was ready and thoroughly enjoyed noshing on her soupy cereal. It was present when I purchased her big (and oh-so-handy) play gym; which if it’s making her less mobile or slowing her development, I sure haven’t noticed. And now, as I think about weaning her off of breastfeeding, it’s making me second-guess my actions all over again.
On the whole, Bea and I have had a wonderful breastfeeding experience. But off-and-on thrush, teething and latch issues have made the past couple months less and less rewarding for us both. So as Bea nears 9 months, I’m facing a reality: Struggle with the pain and frustration until she turns 1 or slowly make the switch to formula.
I’ve always been a “breast is best” believer—when it works. However, I know plenty of mamas who, for reasons ranging from medical issues to inconvenience, found that it doesn’t work for them, and their formula-fueled kiddos are just as adorable, brilliant and healthy as possible. Knowing my situation and seeing the success of others around me makes the solution seem simple, and as my wonderful hubby reminds me daily, it really is—just wean her already!
The internal struggle to be the best mom I can be to Bea is very real, though, and it’s easy to find fuel to add to my guilt-driven fire. For every positive, fact-based, you-go-girl guide to weaning there is, there’s another that makes it seem like giving up on breastfeeding is never, ever a good option—unless you wake up one morning to find that your breasts have fallen off. And mine are still attached (until another tooth comes in, at least), so I have this self-inflicted pressure urging me to keep going despite the struggles.
But this is where I need to stop and take a dose of my own philosophical, “million ways to raise a baby” medicine: I should do what works best for my family and quit worrying about getting it wrong. Because in this case, like so many other parenting choices, there is no wrong. And when it comes to nixing nursing, I know it won’t change my sweet, scrunchy-nosed, giggly, wiggly little lady’s demeanor in the least, and that’s what matters most.
So, it looks like the time is right to bring on the bottle for Bea and me—and kick the mommy guilt to the curb. Cheers, indeed!

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