Mothers make hundreds of choices every day on behalf of their babies. They want to do everything right so they read parenting articles and talk to their doctors. They pester experienced mothers, the embattled soldiers who have come before them. Then, in the moments of quiet contemplation, they must choose what feels right.
More than anything else, it seems, motherhood causes women to question themselves. Even the most confident and secure women feel like they have to justify their choices when it involves their children.
I chose not to breastfeed for reasons as personal as any parent's decision on circumcision, crying it out or co-sleeping. I'm not here to debate the health benefits of breast over bottle; those are proven. But line a bunch of 8-year-olds up next to each other, and you wouldn't be able to tell which ones were fed formula. To my knowledge, no college asks whether an applicant was breast-fed during the admission process.
Most pro-formula articles are written in a particular tone. They assume a woman's work schedule is incompatible with pumping, the baby can't nurse effectively or that the mother is not able to breastfeed. Then they list all of the reasons formula is absolutely acceptable. Generally, people who identify with the "Fed Is Best" movement acknowledge breastfeeding doesn't always work for everyone.
Rarely does anyone contemplate a woman who didn't try to breastfeed at all, one who doesn't have a "good enough" reason for her choice.
My decision should have been simple: I didn't want to breastfeed. But it came with tremendous burden, as I tried to come to terms with the feeling that I was flawed before I'd even become a mother. Breastfeeding, as natural and biologically ingrained as it is for so many, did not feel remotely natural to me.
The thoughts made me anxious, and as I neared my daughter's birth, I felt like I was forcing myself to participate in a club in which I didn't want to belong. I wanted to look forward to feeding my baby — to snuggle in and stroke her face and bond with her while she ate. To me, this was not congruent with my growing uneasiness about breastfeeding. Yet my decision brought shame, much of it from a sense that I was somehow failing my child.
The pressure on mothers to breastfeed is real, and that puts a lot of unnecessary stress on those who choose to strictly formula feed. One study even found women who attempt to breastfeed and dislike it were 42 percent more likely to experience postpartum depression after two months. I wonder why we are doing this to new mothers when the pressure may be causing them real harm?
Part of the judgment is indicative of the larger role of "mother" in general, and the belief that if you do not put your children before yourself in every single way you are somehow defective. But there has to be a balance so women can get what they need as well, not at the expense of their child, but in order for that child to thrive. This cannot be accomplished when women give so much of themselves that they look in the mirror one day and realize they have nothing left to share.
I worried about the consequences of my decision constantly. Not for my child's health — I had multiple conversations with my doctor and felt comfortable with the formula I'd chosen. But I would work myself up over an article I read or a snarky comment from someone I barely knew telling me I "had to" breastfeed, and start second-guessing all the research I had done.
I would think "How do I know if I'm not comfortable if I haven't tried it?" The answer, for me, was the level of anxiety I felt every time I thought about breastfeeding. I concluded that I was putting unnecessary pressure on myself. I gave myself permission to believe that "I don't want to" was a good enough reason. Period.
Over 13 years and three children, I've learned that choosing not to breastfeed does not define me as a mother, and it does not make me a selfish person. There have been a million choices I have made on behalf of my children, participating in things big and small that I did not always want to do, because I am a parent, and that's what parents do. There have also been choices I have made just for me because I am a person, too.
How a woman chooses to feed her child is her decision (and yes, I recognize I was in a financial position to use formula, and that is not an option for every mother). My choice to formula-feed did not invalidate anyone else's decision to breastfeed. My choice did not affect their life, or their child's life or, more importantly, my child's life.
Choice is a beautiful thing.
Julie Scagell is a freelance writer and mom based in Minnesota. Find her on Twitter @74AMB.
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Stop by the AccuQuilt facility, 8843 S. 137th Circle, to see the world’s largest Barn Quilt Block and see the facility’s offices. You’ll get to meet the team, stroll through the AccuQuilt Quilt Gallery and the quilting studio. Visitors can finish up the tour with a walk through the warehouse and a stop at the coffee bar. Tours take place Monday through Thursday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 1-888-258-7913 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Admission is free. More.
Come to Arbor Day Farm, 2611 Arbor Ave. in Nebraska City, and take a guided tour. Check out the farm's trail system, learn about honeybees and walk through the Arbor Lodge Mansion. There are tours tailored to fit any schedule, age groups, interests and budget. Some are free. To see all tour options, click here.
Take a tour of the Dairy Store in Lincoln to learn how cheese is made, discover what makes your favorite ice cream flavors so delicious, learn about the on-site dairy plant and see dairy products made by hand. Tours are given free of charge and visitors have the option of purchasing a discounted “tour cone” after the presentation. Tours should be scheduled at least two weeks in advance. To schedule a tour, go online, call 402-473-2973 or email email@example.com. The Dairy Store is located on the East Campus Loop of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 114 Food Industry Complex. More.
Learn about nature during a self-guided tour at Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue. The forest is home to more than 600 species of plants and animals. Families can hike 26 miles of maintained trails and 2,000 acres of upland and lowland forests, native prairies, wetlands, lakes and waterways. Fontenelle Forest is located at 1111 Bellevue Boulevard North. More.
Visit the Omaha World-Herald's John Gottschalk Freedom Center, 14th Street and Capital Avenue, to see where the Omaha World-Herald is printed. You'll learn Omaha history and some fun facts about the printing processes used from 1885 to the modern print type used today. Hour-long tours are free Monday through Friday at 1 p.m., based on availability. Advanced reservations are required. One parent, teacher, guardian or group leader must be present for every 10 children ages 7 or older. This is a walking tour; no strollers are allowed. To schedule a tour, call 402-444-1011. More.
See how the Civil War and National Indian Wars hero officer lived on the frontier in the 1880s. The Italianate house, which was built in 1879 and is on the National Register of Historic Places, has been authentically restored, and includes decorative arts, costumes, arts and crafts and period furnishings. There’s also the heirloom garden, which has more than 110 varieties of flowers and plants. Guided tours are available by appointment. Cost is $6.50 per person for adults and $4.50 per person for children. To schedule a tour, call 402-455-9990 ext. 102. More.
Come to Nebraska State Historical Society’s Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center, 1326 S. 32nd St., to discover the work being done to conserve priceless artifacts of the region’s history and learn about the only U.S. president born in Nebraska. Hours are by appointment. Call 402-595-1180. More.
Joslyn Castle, built by Omaha business and community leaders George and Sarah Joslyn in 1903, is open to the public for tours on the first and third Sunday of each month at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. Private group tours are also available. To schedule a tour, call 402-595-1415. More.
Visit the Larsen Tractor Museum in Lincoln to learn how tractor testing and performance data continues to contribute to more successful uses of tractors in agriculture. Hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 402-472-8389 or click here.
Bring your kids to the Nebraska State Capitol building, which was built in 1867, and learn about the history of Nebraska. The building, 1445 K St. in Lincoln, is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Tours are available on the hour except noon. More.
Learn what firefighters do during a tour of a local fire station. Tours can be scheduled two to three weeks in advance by calling 402-444-3560. Groups of five or less people do not need to be scheduled. More.
The Durham Museum offers River City history tours year-round for groups of up to 42 people. Choose from one of seven tour choices and hop on Ollie the Trolley to check out a unique viewpoint into the early years of Omaha. For more information on reserving a space on a public tour, or scheduling a private tour, call 402-444-5027 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. More.
Families are welcome to enjoy a relaxing cruise along the Missouri River most Saturdays and Sundays through October. The cruise features a short captain’s narration and music. Highlights include the Omaha riverfront, Freedom Park Naval Yard and cruising under the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge. Tours last approximately one hour. Concessions are available. Cost is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors 65 and older, $12 for military with ID, $8 for children 12 and younger and $4 for children 18 months and younger. Special packages are available online. More.
Visit Rotella’s Italian Bakery, 6949 S. 108th St., and learn the history and art of making bread during a guided tour of the bread factory. Participants will receive a free bag of bread at the end of the tour. Call 402-592-6600 to schedule a free tour. More.
Come to the Prairie County School, located at 3rd and Railroad Streets in Murdock, Nebraska, and reenact a typical school day in a one-room schoolhouse. Tours are given by appointment by calling 402-994-2377. Cost is $5 for a three-hour school day and $7 for a five-hour school day. More.
Take a tour of Serendipity Chocolate Factory at Master’s Hand Candles, 3599 County Road F in Tekamah, Nebraska. Tours of the chocolate factor, the candle-making process and the floral shop are available by appointment. Call 402-374-2003 or 1-888-363-2003 to schedule a tour. More.
Take a guided educational tour of Willa Cather's childhood home and other historic buildings related to her life and writing. Discounts are offered for school students and groups of 12 or more. Group tours should be arranged in advance by contacting education director Tracy Tucker at 402-746-2653 or email@example.com. Parties of less than 12 do not require advance notice and are encouraged to arrive 15 minutes in advance of regularly scheduled tour times. The Willa Cather Foundation, 413 North Webster St. in Red Cloud, Nebraska, is approximately three hours southwest of Omaha. More.
Go behind the scenes at Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corporation to find out more about the production of Jet Ski, ATVs, rail cars and more. One-hour tours are available on Thursdays at 10 a.m. at the factory, 6600 NW 27th St. in Lincoln. Children must be at least 12 years old to tour the facility. Reserve your spot online by clicking here.
Families can come to Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa, and explore the 1,268 acres of Loess Hills, which harbor some of the largest remaining prairie remnants of Iowa. Hitchcock, 27792 Ski Hill, is open year-round. Come explore the Loess Hills Lodge Interpretive Gallery, climb the 45-foot observation tower, view the prairie from Badger Ridge Trail, go hiking, have a picnic, do some earth-caching or geocaching, camp or explore more than 10 miles of hiking trails. For more information, call 712-545-3283 or click here.
Come to Honey Creek Creamery, an artisan goat cheese business, to learn about how the cheese is made. Locally owned and operated, the creamery offers chevre, flavored with organic herbs and spices. Open houses are scheduled every third Saturday, May to October, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The creamery, 25593 Old Lincoln Highway in Honey Creek, Iowa, offers pre-arranged tours of the dairy for a minimum of 10 people. More.
Come to Schramm Park State Recreation Area to learn about the historic site of the state’s first fish hatchery, as well as explore a geologic display that features limestone and shale from the Pennsylvanian Period. Visitors may also see Paleozoic marine fossils like brachiopods or corals. Families can also feed fish in water trout ponds, tour the Aksarben Aquarium, bird-watch, hike and have a picnic. The grounds also offer an access point to the Platte River water trail. Schramm Park State Recreation Area is located at 21502 NE-31 in Gretna. More.
At the Omaha Children’s Museum, kids can learn about dinosaurs at the Dinosaur Safari exhibit, open through Sept. 3, and watch as stories come to life in the Fairytale Land exhibit, open through Aug. 7. At the Lincoln Children’s Museum, kids can learn about construction at the Cuckoo Construction exhibit; young guests — newborn to age 3 — will enjoy the Grow Zone, where they’ll learn all about how things grow.
Visit Homestead National Monument to follow the footsteps of homesteaders on the nearly three miles of trails that wind through the 100-acre restored tallgrass prairie. Living history demonstrations will occur daily through Labor Day. Hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. There is no entrance fee, and all programs and events are free. For more information, call 402-223-3514 or click here.
Check out the Living History Farms, 11121 Hickman Road in Urbandale, Iowa, to experience rural traditions. Visitors can watch as the farm re-creates the daily routines of past rural life at the interactive, 500-acre outdoor museum, approximately two hours east of Omaha. Kids can touch, play and engage at each of the three working farm sites — 1700 Ioway Indian Farm, 1850 Pioneer Farm and 1900 Horse-Powered Farm. There’s also the 1875 Town of Walnut Hill, complete with a blacksmith, general store, print shop and Flynn Mansion and Barn, both of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. The farm is open daily through Aug. 27. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. More.
Learn about how the expedition traveled, camped, hunted, fished and met with native people in this area at the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Headquarters and Visitor Center, 601 Riverfront Dr. Visitors can meet with park rangers to learn more about Lewis and Clark history, or to gather information for their own journey along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. The center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and holidays through Nov. 12. More.