Breast Cancer Survivor Shamed for Not Breast-Feeding After Getting Double Mastectomy

When it comes to breast feeding her child, Journalist Emily Wax-Thibodeaux doesn’t have a choice. She can’t because of a life-saving double mastectomy. But that fact hasn’t stopped friends, family, and strangers from weighing in with their disapproval.

Emily has been through the worst and back. She had always wanted to have kids, but at the age of 32—just as thoughts turned to starting a family— Emily discovered that she had breast cancer. After undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, three rounds of surgery, and a life-saving double mastectomy, Emily and her husband had to wait another five years to be well enough to have a child.

Even after her cancer treatment had ended and she was cleared by doctors to try to conceive, the struggle of fertility due to the impacts of chemotherapy left Emily and her husband turning to multiple rounds of IVF.

Therefore, when the pair welcomed baby Lincoln into the world it was a moment of joy. Surprisingly though, it was also one filled with harsh and unsolicited judgment from family, friends and strangers for the worst reason possible.

In an essay for the Washington Post, Emily describes the shame she was put through for not breast-feeding her child, despite being physically unable to do so. She describes the moment the hospital’s lactation consultants descended on her and her newborn to tell her it’s better to breast-feed, and when strangers in yoga class and friends on Facebook criticized her for bottle-feeding her son.

She told the lactation consultants of her cancer history and their response was “Just try. Let’s hope you get some milk.” When she explained that she’d had most of her breast tissue removed in a double mastectomy they suggested that she might lactate through her armpits—something her breast surgeon assured her was utterly ridiculous and physically impossible.

It seems that everywhere she went, people would watch her give her baby a bottle, frown, and make comments like “breast-feeding is optimal.”

In an age where women are kicked out of restaurants for breast-feeding and shamed for using a bottle when it is medically necessary, it is starting to seem like you just can’t win. She found strength in acommunity of women mother’s willing to stand up and defend the bottle, although nearly shamed into silence by society.