Home for the Holidays

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

An excerpt from “A Return to Love” by Marianne Williamson


A couple days ago I read this quote on a Christmas card from a friend. No matter your religious or non-religious convictions, I think it speaks to all of us. It got me thinking about all the moms who are going home for the holidays this week to spend time with family and friends, and the trepidation they are feeling right now about breastfeeding around their loved ones. They are worried about seeing that cousin who didn’t breastfeed, and how she will feel if she sees someone else breastfeeding. They are thinking about their grandma who gave karo syrup and Carnation milk to her babies and they turned out “just fine.” They are anticipating all sorts of ignorant comments from their childless friends. And they know that their mother-in-law will have something to say about the baby being hungry or fussy or too big or too small or too needy or too old or too anything else.

So many moms (myself included) have fought really hard to breastfeed our babies. We’ve cried, we’ve swore, we’ve blamed, and we’ve thought about giving up a million times. And some of us used formula or weaned early or hated every second we spent breastfeeding, and we really, truly don’t judge anyone else for doing or feeling the same. We recognize that our cousin is an amazing mom and her kids are happy, we know that Grandma just did what her doctor told her to do, we giggle about our naïve, kid-free friends, and we understand that the MIL is just trying to help. We get it, even though sometimes we just have to stomp around and whine for a minute or two to get it all out.

And yet, we are proud of what we have accomplished. We know that every drop of breastmilk that we’ve given our littles has come from our bodies as a beautiful expression (ha!) of love and devotion. When you work so hard for something you believe in, you can’t help but become attached to it.

So what is a mom to do? How does she reconcile her own “light” – her pride of breastfeeding her child – with the feelings and thoughts of others? Who are we to be “brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” When I posed this to my hubby over dinner tonight, he said, “Who cares? You have to do what you think is right, and you can’t worry about everyone else.” Sure, this attitude works for some of us. I’ve gotten a little bit better at this over the years, but I’m still not totally there. I still want to make everyone happy, being the good Midwestern girl that I am.

Let’s go back to the poem for a moment. Here’s the end:

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously
give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

So, what does that have to do with breastfeeding? Here’s my theory: breastfeeding is controversial because we allow it to be. Think about this for a second (I know, I’m asking a lot of you sleep-deprived mamas out there). If we allow others to push us, to extinguish our lights; we are feeding into their issue, their problem, their history and baggage and judgment, and every time we do that, we lose a little bit of ourselves. The alternative is to decide, today, to be comfortable with who we are and what we are doing, knowing that being proud of breastfeeding is not the same as judging anyone else’s choices.

How is this different from the “Who cares what anyone else thinks” attitude? I guess it’s a matter of mindset. I’d argue that to not care about others is to distance yourself from them and their feelings. To be who you are, doing what you want to do, is an act of courage and strength and authenticity, no distancing required. Sure, you might still get comments, but you know that those feelings come from a place of hurt, and they are NOT. ABOUT. YOU.

When I think about what I most want for my children, it is that I want them to be comfortable in their own skin, to have the freedom and courage to be who they are, and to love themselves unconditionally. What better way to teach them that than to do it myself?

As you venture forth this season, stand tall with the knowledge that you are a breastfeeding mom, and that is something you can be proud of. Know that when you stand tall, others can too.



Happy holidays and a very happy New Year.


Katrina Pavlik is the founder of Breastfeed Chicago, and along with her powerful, courageous, and talented board of directors, she is striving to re-normalize breastfeeding in Chicago.

One thought on “Home for the Holidays

  1. Well, look, there’s little doubt that breast is best, if you can manage it. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for a year. Breastfed babies have been shown to have less diarrhea and fewer colds and ear infections than formula-fed babies. Studies indicate that they’re less likely to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or develop lymphoma later in life. (More on these studies later.) Breastfeeding is also free and super-portable, whereas formula can cost from $1,000 to $2,400 a year. Given the vitriol aimed at formula-feeding mothers, in online forums and on the street, one might suspect formula was pure poison.

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