Yes, that's right, this parenting website owner of more than 12 years is flipping out. I've totally had it with the breast versus bottle thing. You probably have too.
Being in the role of providing information to others can be an absolute minefield. To be a respected source of information (and an agent of change), you've must provide quality, evidence based, accurate information. And what you publish needs to be information that your fans want to read (not always need to read), or you don't grow.
In the parenting world, the facts and ‘want/need to read' don't always go hand in hand. Some facts are truly hard to hear. This is why big mainstream publishers are less likely to ‘dare to go there' and challenge the status quo, or delve into controversial topics with facts that might result in losing readership. They have management, the board and shareholders to keep happy. But I believe that when we know better, we do better. So it's important to hear valuable information, warts and all.
Just to make it clear to BellyBelly's fans and anyone reading this: BellyBelly always has been and always will be, PRO-PARENT. That's pro-choice, in case it's not clear. This is why we have information on vaginal birth, c-section, formula feeding, breastfeeding and everything in between — backed by studies and written by educated, trained professionals who I value. They are not journalists reporting on news, but people in the trenches every day, helping women and men overcome pregnancy, birth and parenting challenges.
The whole team understand that we do and try things out of desperation, exhaustion, physical or emotional need, and lack of resources. We have never judged parents for making the choices they have made. We simply write about the facts that we're passionate about, without judging.
Here are 7 facts I want BellyBelly's millions of readers to know:
#1: Social Media = Social Pain
When people post on Facebook, they have the safety of being able to control their anonymity. These days, there are so many keyboard warriors and headline commentators out there, that debates are quickly sparked and soon get out of control. It collapses into name calling and then you know it's no longer about the topic at hand at all.
It's not just isolated to the parenting industry (have you seen science pages? Ouch!). People commenting on your images and posts don't even need to be fans of your page. They may decide to chime in after being tipped off (private groups alert people to posts against their belief system, so you may be bombed by a pack of people), or more likely, a friend liked or commented on a post that they don't agree with, and they head over to make their point.
Social media means any random person from any corner of the globe can chime in. They may be well educated or pooly educated. They may think they understand but they may be confused or misled by others.
When people comment, it's one person's opinion and theirs only. It's a reflection of them and not you, nor BellyBelly and what we believe to be true.
#2: Defense Is The First Act Of War
Hard to believe for some, but this saying coined by Byron Katie is certainly true.
Someone's comment is simply someone's comment (no matter how untactful or inappropriate you believe it to be) and nothing more. If you start to look at it that way and don't get attached to the comment, you'll feel more at peace. Their comment is based on their experience of life. Not yours.
It is only when you choose to engage and defend, that it becomes a ‘war'. Once you begin the defensive interplay between two people, it keeps going. There is no peace in that, because both people want to win (or all 10 or 20 as the monstrosity grows with each comment).
It may help to understand that those who are angry and aggressive are likely in some sort of emotional pain. People use a powerful emotion such as anger to get relief or feel better from the disempowering feelings of fear or sadness. What do they fear? It may be as simple as the most common fear that we human beings from around the world have: that we're not good enough. Because what might happen if we're not good enough? We wont be loved. And that's a damn scary place to live in.
Stay away from a person's triggering comment, unless you feel you can contribute in a calm and meaningful way. But when you defend, you're starting a war that may have not happened.
#3: Know That Facebook Now Ranks Comments By Activity Level
When you respond to a comment you're upset about, know that Facebook will rank the person's comment up higher in the comments thread. So the more you interact, the more weight you give that person's comment. Facebook figures the higher the interaction level, the more important it is.
So instead of getting involved in troll fests, let Facebook take care of it, as the unpopular comments drop to the bottom. Like and comment on things you agree with. It'll move the positive, helpful comments up higher, and other readers will be more likely to see those nicer comments.
You give more energy and power to the things you hate by being anti-something. Give your precious energy to the things you believe in and agree with.
“I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there.” — Mother Theresa
#4: If You Get Hooked In – Ask Yourself Why You're So Hooked In
Some people find it so hard to walk away. It's like they're vested in their opinion, knowledge or experience being validated, as if there's going to be a really big payday at the end. There's not — in fact everyone will be left feeling screwed over.
The only person that can truly validate your opinion, knowledge and experience is you. If you expect others to do it for you, expect to be disappointed frequently.
If you tend to get hooked in, ask yourself why you think you get so hooked in. In the heat of the moment, if you can't walk away, ask yourself what it means to you to keep going. What are you waiting for? For the person to say, “Oh, now I've thought about it some more, you're SO right! Thank you for setting me free!”
What is it that you're seeking or need? Do you need to feel heard? Because they likely aren't listening to you if you're in war. They're in defense mode, which means: react and protect. When you have someone in the corner, what do you expect? It's like when you yell at someone, the other person hears the volume and tone, not the message. It's wasted energy.
Do you need your parenting choice(s) to be validated? If so, then you need to look within and be loving towards yourself. There is no need to choose guilt, it's like drinking poison. When you start to love yourself and your choices, life will never be the same.
Know and believe that you chose the best for you and your baby at the time — with what resources and information was available to you at the time.
#5: Reaction Vs Response
Below is a recent response from a fan's question, which was: “I'm due to have my second c section this fall, I don't plan on breastfeeding for more than a few days. Was it harder to heal afterwards without breastfeeding baby? Did it have more complications, was it harder to get back to normal? It's made me worried.”
I had to do A LOT of cleanup after angry women were firing left, right and centre, because others posted about the benefits of breastfeeding in response to the question (there were also some nasty comments on both sides).
So, someone commented about how breastfeeding is best for baby and that it can help burn baby weight. This is something that women are commonly told – she likely thought she was being helpful. She was not attacking, she didn't call anyone an idiot… in fact I see comments like this as an opportunity to educate. I posted BellyBelly's article about the little known facts of the Breast Is Best message, which includes the fact that breastfeeding organisations don't even say that any more.
Yet, someone else chose to react by saying that it was criticising the mother (which she wasn't) and made an assumption that the comment wasn't even helpful to the mother – how do we know? See how a comment can turn into a war based on one persons reaction? Look down further at the very last response.
Wow! See, we can actually disagree, yet still have an interesting mother-to-mother conversation, where we don't let our own reactions and assumptions get in the way.
Assumptions, reactions, war… all based on our own triggers. You are an individual thinker who is in charge of your own feelings, thoughts and emotions. Just because someone thinks or does something differently, it doesn't mean they are wrong. And they are most certainly are not an idiot because they don't agree with you.
No matter if you react or respond, how you choose to behave reflects who you are, not anyone else.
#6: Yes, We Have Lots Of Breastfeeding Articles… It Doesn't Mean We're Anti-Formula
So, BellyBelly has lots of information on breastfeeding. Does that make us anti-formula? No. Because we know some babies and mothers do need to use formula. It would be professionally and factually incorrect and stupid for us to say that parents should not need formula. I even wrote an article on the many reasons why people shouldn't judge formula feeding mothers (see here).
The fact is, in Australia, around 96% of new mothers start out breastfeeding. So breastfeeding articles are valuable and worth posting for at least 96% of us (they are especially important for 100% of pregnant women to read). But 96% of mothers feeding very quickly declines due to a variety of reasons. All of these problems and hurdles we try and address in our content. We know other countries have much higher breastfeeding rates, so it's nothing to do with Australian women. It's how we support them.
There are so many topics that can be written on breastfeeding. There are how-to's, feeding problems on baby's end, feeding problems on mama's end, health problems, weaning babies, weaning toddlers, fan questions (e.g. what medications are safe when breastfeeding, can I have a glass of wine)… it's endless. Women and men search for these things every single day, so we're simply answering what our fans are telling us they want to hear. Do you honestly believe anyone could have a viable or successful business if they produced a product that was designed to make everyone feel crap about themselves?
We are growing our database of formula, pumping and other feeding articles, so if you have a request or a suggestion, please ask. Email us at [email protected] with your article suggestions. We're not the bad guy. We just want to help.
#7: We Do Have Formula Feeding Articles, But We Still Cop It
Despite having more formula articles than ever before, we still get angry mamas posting on most of our breastfeeding articles. It is impossible to please everyone. It's rare that people will take the time to thank you for providing something they asked for or really wanted to see. It's common that people will complain and make a big fuss when they don't get exactly what they want, exactly how they wanted it — even if it's free!
I listened and responded to the requests for more formula articles — which I happily provided — but it's still not enough for some people. They just can't see past the breastfeeding articles not being an attack on their feeding choice.
I can assure you, I don't invest precious time and money into articles that will offend. I look to see where our team can add value, and what is missing that people are asking for. See the point above.
#8: We Really Do Care For Every Single One Of You
It's absolutely not true that we form an opinion on you based on how you birthed or fed your baby. We just want to provide as much information as we can, so women and men have access to it. We're really proud of what we write on BellyBelly! Some of you even write to us to tell us that information you read on BellyBelly changed your life, and that's just beautiful.
We're trying to help as many people as we can to avoid feeling stuck in disappointing and frustrating situations that they didn't want. We've heard your pride and joy, we've also heard your pain and sorrow. For me, it's been 12 years worth of hearing women's stories — many millions of mothers. I feel the pain, loss and sorrow buried under the smiles and brave faces. I also feel the raw power of your victories and wins. The growth you accomplished from learning the last time around and making it even better.
We're on your side. And we really want change, which is why we post what we do. But the biggest change we'd love to see online is the way people react and respond to each other.
If you feel you need closure on your experience or if it's causing you pain, birth de-briefers have begun springing up to help women deal with their painful wounds from birth. This can carry on into mothering and can happen during the feeding process too. Healing ourselves from our parenting wounds is the first step we must take responsibility for.
I know you've got it tough out there with the lack of support and resources for mothers and families — but an informed and caring community where people respectfully support one another may be all the healing we all need. Will you be part of it?