I have to admit that I disliked her right from the start. She was standing in front of me on the supermarket checkout line with a baby about the same age as mine, but that was where the similarities ended. There were big differences between us. The most annoying one was that I looked like I had given birth yesterday—not three months ago—and she looked as if she had just stepped off a model's runway. My annoyance increased as I inspected the contents of her cart: junk food, cigarettes and formula.
As I watched her leave, I wondered why I felt so hostile toward her. After all, it's not like she pushed past me on line, or stepped on my toes or anything. But in a different sense she had stepped on my toes. Yeah, I resented her for being thin, and I was angry at her for smoking (everyone knows the dangers of smoking to yourself, and to the people around you—especially a baby!), but more surprisingly, I was also annoyed because she was bottle-feeding her infant. I was irritated because I felt this woman was shortchanging her baby. After all, everyone knows that breast is best! Why would you feed your child any other way?
This is also the way a lot of other breastfeeding moms feel. Some react as I did with silent reprobation, and others, with spoken disapproval. Is it any wonder that bottle-feeding moms sometimes feel as if they're under siege? They're often made to feel guilty about their feeding choice and compelled to offer explanations for it. These feelings often lead to resentment and anger.
The breastfeeding side also has its own set of detractors. These mothers are sometimes made to feel as if they're nothing more than milk machines and are doing something sordid and mildly disgusting when they feed their babies. Nursing is banned from many public places, so breastfeeding moms are often relegated to bathroom stalls. And so, the battle lines are drawn. Instead of sharing the common bonds of motherhood, women are instead locked in a divisive dispute.
One of the reasons this struggle can become so heated is that motherhood has become the latest competitive sport, and everyone wants to "win." Part of winning means having the biggest, the brightest and the most physically advanced child. Of course there's no sure-fire way of attaining this, but don't tell that to the know-it-all mothers in every park. Hang out at any playground these days and you'll hear more bragging and advice about kids than you will of a guy's sexual conquests in a men's locker room.