As a Doula, I offer non judgemental, un biased information to my clients about pregnancy, labour and birth.
I want to clarify the difference between Information, Advice and Opinions.
Everybody has access to information, everybody has the ability to give and receive advice and evvvveeerrrybody has opinions on evvveeerrryyything.
So how then do we distinguish between which is which and what we need? Well for me, this was a very important question to ask myself before I started meeting clients and hosting classes (information sessions). This is how I have made the clarification for myself.
Information: deals with evidence based researched facts
Advice: sounds like information but has an element of judgement in it that triggers an emotional and questioning state of mind.
Opinion: Has an immediate emotional impact of either agree or disagree, shame/guilt or righteousness.
I am going to make three statements, they will all be about the same topic, and may sound similar, however I believe through these three statements I will be able to showcase how they cross three very separate lines
a) Breast milk is the most nutritionally complete form of feeding your newborn baby
b) You should breastfeed your baby unless it is medically impossible
c) A mother who doesn’t breastfeed is not as good a mother as one who does
Women who become mothers make decisions (ie judgements) about their body’s and for their baby’s based on the experiences they have had in their own lives so far. We all have major experiences in our life that can impact us permanently in a positive or negative way. Because we do not know every woman’s personal life experiences and the impacts they have made on her decisions, it is important as women, to show empathy and consideration one to another instead of assuming we have all the relevant information, causing us to become judgemental about someone else’s choices
Let me explain why advice is dangerously judgemental.
you may have picked up that statement ‘b’ was advice. It sounds ok to some however here is where it unravels; the part where they have said “unless it is medically impossible” crosses over the line, here’s just three examples of why a woman may choose not to breastfeed her baby even though it is not “medically impossible”
- She may have been a sexual abuse victim and through her own healing process she has set up physical boundaries of what parts of her body remain sacred and ‘just for her’ which include her breasts.(yes even to her infant)
- She breastfed previously and the experience was traumatic and psychologically challenging, so for her mental health/sanity she has decided not to breastfeed this time around.
- She is unsure how she will feel until it happens so has given herself permission to formula feed her baby if she feels uncomfortable with the sensation.
Now, you may have strong objective opinions about these reasons and you are allowed to have your opinions, what you are not allowed to do is make another woman feel like less of a mother simply because you do not agree with her choice. If you are comfortable and confident in your own choice, Fantastic, I’m proud of you, now go and be confident and comfortable forever more! but if your opinions towards someone else are anything less than positive, please keep them to yourself. They are neither helpful nor needed.
Judgement is what we use everyday to keep us safe and alive. Being judgemental is what we do to others.
Your story is yours to tell, but show and tell is not compulsory so lets be kind one to another and save our pregnancy, birthing and post natal judgements for the things that effect our own lives and not someone else’s.
*let me make a quick obvious side note/disclaimer
If you can see that a mother’s choice is clearly putting herself or her baby at serious medical risk, use your common sense (your everyday judgement) to seek help for her or the baby. This can still be done without being judgemental (vicious and degrading) For example; go to the mother with empathy and concern and ask if you can assist her to get the information or direction she needs to improve her situation.