Yesterday afternoon I came across a post in one of the Facebook groups that I am subscribed to, where one young mother asked a simple question about whether or not to give water to a two-month-old baby. As usual, there were several responses to it by other group members; however, one particular response caught my attention and I quote “Mama if you are giving water to a two-month-old baby you are cruel“. I was surprised that someone could throw such an insensitive response to such a simple question, but then again, this has become the norm when it comes to most of these social platforms. People are quick to judge and share their opinions without a second thought. While exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months, it is not everyone who can do so for various personal reasons. With my first child, I introduced formula at one month, and my paediatrician recommended that I give him a little bit of water after every feed to avoid constipation. So I could not understand the reasoning behind this particular comment.
I have come across several such comments, and I sum it all up in two words ‘mum shaming’. Mum shaming has always been there in one form or another; however, what took me back, in this case, was how a fellow mother could be so insensitive with their comment. I honestly took offence because I was one of those mothers who gave water to their two-month-old baby, not out of cruelty but out of love.
My personal experience has taught me that being a mother is a full-time job that takes a lot of work and commitment. Sometimes I make mistakes and stumble along the way, but despite all that, I still give it my best shot day in day out celebrating every little victory that comes my way. I believe most mothers out there are doing the same day in day out; that is why I find mum shaming to be wrong worse still when it is coming from fellow women.
I have come across a lot of mum shaming not only on social media but also in person, and it is a result of people who are quick to judge and run to conclusions without first understanding the story behind whatever they think is ‘wrong’. In all fairness I probably have mum shamed others at one time or another by making some of these judgmental comments, I repent. Mum shaming comes in many different forms, so let’s take a look at a few of them.
- Mothers are shamed for breastfeeding their babies in public with some people even going as far as saying it is disgusting. Yet if the same breasts were put in a tight shirt showing off a fair share of cleavage the very same people would suddenly regard them as sexy. Talk about hypocrisy.
- Mothers are shamed for choosing to formula feed their newborn babies instead of breastfeeding. There are genuine reasons why someone would want to formula feed instead of breastfeeding that ranges from personal to health reasons. Breastfeeding in itself is not as automatic as people make it seem to be; it comes with its fair share of challenges. It could be low milk supply, mastitis or the baby failing to latch correctly, which in turn results in sore nipples making feeding very painful for the mother. Despite all this, some will choose to stick it out and continue with the breastfeeding journey while others will opt to take the formula route. At the end of the day, while breast milk is the recommend and perhaps most ideal choice whenever possible, the formula is the next best thing. The important thing is that whether formula-fed or breastfed the babies will still get the nutrients they need to be healthy and meet their developmental milestones.
- April is C-Section awareness month for a good reason; it is an opportunity to bring much-needed awareness to people about it. I have come across some alarming and insensitive comments made by other people to c-section mothers. I have seen comments such as having a c-section is taking the easy way out compared to natural labour. How is going under a knife, having your body cut open and left with a wound that can take up to six months to heal fully, be considered an easy way out? Sometimes it will be the only way out by default not by choice. Whether a C-section is optional or for health reasons, what is essential is that a woman is giving birth to a beautiful human being, and no one should judge or belittle them for that. I have friends who wanted normal deliveries, but due to health reasons, their only delivery option was to have a c-section. Others had a normal but traumatic first birth experience, and on their second pregnancy, they opted for c-sections. Whether a woman gives birth through normal delivery or c-section, they are both doing the same equally important task of giving birth, the rest is irrelevant.
- Lastly, I think most mothers out there would love to have their pre-baby flat and fat-free tummy, firm upright breasts, and slender body back but, the reality is that for some that phase of their life is gone. I too used to be slender once upon a time now two babies later, I have grown bigger and now have this soft pouch that makes my waistline almost invisible. Perhaps as some would say with serious dieting and the gym I might be able to reclaim my old me back but well, for now, this is who I am. This is probably the story of many mothers like me out there, yet some people will throw unwarranted body-shaming insults. All women are different; some will regain back their pre-pregnancy bodies like Kate Middleton’s of this world without a struggle. Some will choose to go on a military diet and gym routine to regain back their shape while others will embrace the new body, whatever the choice each person makes no one should be shamed for it.
These are just a few examples of mum shaming that I have come across in my journey of motherhood. Mum shaming is wrong; any form of shaming is wrong. If you need to criticize then let it be constructive criticism that builds and develops the recipient. It is good to take time to understand the story behind before you judge because when it comes to motherhood, no one glove fits all.
To the many mothers out there who like me have felt ‘shamed’ at some point or another in this journey, I say stay healthy and keep doing your best. Get up when you fall and remember no one can do you like you at the end of the day. No matter how imperfect you may be, you are still the perfect mother for your children. It is called imperfectly perfect motherhood for a reason!