On (not) breastfeeding and maternal Jewish guilt
I had struggles myself with nursing each of my three children, and naturally the first time was the most difficult to deal with.
When my son as born, 15 years ago, the morning after the Friday night C-section I put him on to nurse and thought I was doing just that for a couple of days. Then he spiked a fever and when they ran his labs they found he was seriously dehydrated and put him in the NICU. There was my bruiser of an overdue, wouldn’t-come-out-the-usual-way of a 10½ pound son in with the premature, frailest babies in the hospital.
Why was he dehydrated? Because he wasn’t getting anything from the mama milk bar. I stepped out of the converted broom closet in the NICU where I had been tethered to an industrial-strength breast pump they wheeled in, but where I’d produced just a fraction of an ounce of milk in 30 minutes.
The NICU nurse asked what formula she should give him – regular or soy. Rarely have I felt so helpless and at a loss for what to do. I’d never considered not nursing, at least for a while. But my body was failing us both. I’d failed to go into labor spontaneously, failed an induced attempt to labor him out, and now I was failing to provide him with the only thing he needed. Maternal Jewish guilt had kicked in full-force.
Debra Nussbaum Cohen is a regular contributor to the Sisterhood, which cross-posts weekly with Jewesses with Attitude.
From the archives:
Breastfeeding Bullies -- Judith Rosenbaum discusses the hypocrisy of promoting breastfeeding as a "burning public health issue" in a society that does not support nursing mothers.
How to cite this page
Cohen, Debra Nussbaum. "On (not) breastfeeding and maternal Jewish guilt." 23 October 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 26, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/breastfeeding-and-maternal-guilt>.