An open letter to the exclusively-breastfeeding mom who hates breastfeeding alternatives, featured by Southern Momdays

 

Hey there, breastfeeding mom!

Honestly, I used to be a lot like you in my feelings towards breastfeeding.

I thought formula was poison.

I even believed that moms who formula fed were lazy or ill-informed – or both. (Cue the cringe!)

I read and touted the research, telling anyone I could about how Breast Is Best. I believed a living food was the only acceptable option for my baby…

So when I say that I applaud you for standing up for Breast Is Best online, you can believe me.

I’m glad that you’re giving your baby the most perfect food possible. Breast milk is what’s best as far as food options go for babies – plain and simple. No one can refute the facts.

But, when I had my first baby back in 2016 and (tragically) couldn’t produce milk for her, my perspective had to shift.

For my baby’s health (and my own mental health), our pediatrician said it was time to consider “the alternative…”

So, I did. Through tears and intense feelings of failure that would linger for months, I picked up my first can of formula.

Something unexpected happened, though.

My baby didn’t just survive, strung along pitifully by the “poisonous substitute” of formula.

She didn’t just develop at an average speed, either.

She thrived.

In fact, she flourished in every sense of the word once I stopped trying to force something that was making us both sick.

I am still blown away by how smart and healthy she is, years later…because I assumed formula-feeding meant she’d be stunted for life.

(Should have known better! I myself was a formula baby back in the 80s, yet I somehow have always been healthy and graduated at the very top of my class all the way from elementary school straight through my college years…*cue eye roll*)

I bought into the lie that I was killing her chances at a bright, healthy future hook, line, and sinker, and I allowed it to condemn my own opinion of myself as a mother for months.

But…it turns out, while Breast Is (indeed!) Best as far as food choices go, it’s not necessarily “best” for every family’s unique situation.

 



 

So that’s why I get really frustrated when I stumble across content or comments by breastfeeding moms attacking “formula feeders” or anyone supporting breastfeeding alternatives.

I know the Breast-Is-Best movement has good intentions, but using accusations or insults – or passing unmerited judgment – is not how anyone advances a noble cause.

I also know that it’s tough to be a breastfeeding mom. Actually…it’s possibly the hardest thing many of us will ever do (or attempt to do) in life.

It’s really hard.

You wouldn’t believe it could get harder! But then, it does. Because the public harbors a nasty stigma towards the very act of breastfeeding a child in public. And that’s inexcusable.

But, in an effort to rally against that stigma and “normalize breastfeeding,” some of those breastfeeding moms see formula-feeding moms as part of the problem.

In a painful parallel to how they are treated by the public, these breastfeeding moms hurl terrible insults at the formula-feeding mom, insinuating everything from stupidity to selfishness.

That is equally inexcusable.

You can’t win, no matter how you feed your kid. You’ll never make everyone happy.
And the worst part is…mothers are the biggest critics of other mothers.

Don’t you think that’s insane?

It’s a cycle of disrespect that has to stop.

While breastfeeding moms have their own list of serious challenges, formula-feeding moms deal with crippling judgment that’s just as undue. We’re called things like stupid, selfish, vain, lazy, and irresponsible…but that simply could not be more wrong.

Here are three things so many of us wish you knew about the truth behind the phrase, “Fed Is Best.”

  1. Supporting “Fed Is Best” (or #FedIsBest) is not about a battle between breastfeeding and formula feeding.

It’s not necessarily said in support of the Fed Is Best Organization, either. (This article is not written in support of or in affiliation to that organization, actually. Just FYI!)

It’s simply a motto that represents equal support for every mother’s feeding choices.

It’s the motto for moms who agree that a healthy, happy, thriving child is better than a terribly ill, thrashing child whose mother spent weeks or months changing her diet to clear out allergens and promote a healthy breastfeeding relationship (to no avail).

It’s the motto for sick moms who can’t breastfeed.

It’s the saving grace for moms (both biological and adoptive) who cannot produce milk — or enough milk.

It’s the needed support for moms who don’t have a supportive breastfeeding environment at work, regardless of laws.

Finally, “Fed Is Best” is even supported by breastfeeding advocates who understand the intricacies that go into the “choice” of whether or not a mom breastfeeds. Because, news flash! It’s not always a choice.

(Shout out to my lactation consultant Debbie who helped me not lose my mind while attempting to make breastfeeding work with my second kid!) 

 



 

  1. “Fed Is Best” isn’t meant to be an attack on breastfeeding.

I’m sorry if it’s seemed that way, but the sheer truth is, it’s not – regardless of what certain Breast-Is-Best propaganda claims.

Supporting “Fed Is Best” is simply an attempt to equally celebrate each woman’s feeding choices and – most importantly – every baby’s well-fed status.

It’s not saying that all feeding options are equal in benefit to mom and baby. (We know they’re not!) It’s simply saying that a fed, nourished baby is what matters. It’s also saying that the formula-feeding mom’s choices are just as valid as the breastfeeding mom’s choices…and they absolutely deserve the same level of respect. (The same goes for pumping moms, donor-milk moms, and supplementing moms, by the way.)

  1. “Fed Is Best” is not something women choose to support out of ignorance about breastfeeding.

Girlfriend, we know the benefits of breastfeeding.

Our doctors, midwives, and nurses give us packets of info about breastfeeding during every maternity checkup and after delivery. We take breastfeeding classes as part of the newborn-care curriculum at the hospital. We see billboards stating “Breast Is Best” while we’re driving down the highway through tears – angry, thrashing, screaming-from-hunger baby in tow. A message supporting Breast Is Best is even in big, capital letters on the back of every can of formula…as if moms aren’t already obsessing over the contents of each can.

We literally cannot get away from the message that Breast Is Best these days.

So if it stirs up a little angst when a breastfeeding mom goes on a tirade to “educate formula-feeders,” as some moms so eloquently put it, it’s because moms who don’t breastfeed have already been bombarded today by the lie that how they’re nourishing their baby isn’t what’s best.

I can promise this: these moms have weighed the facts, understand the issues, and are simply trying to embrace their reality as a mother who doesn’t breastfeed – whether it was due to an informed choice or a painful but vital necessity.

 



 

Again, I’m so excited for the moms thriving in their breastfeeding journey.

I applaud you for your breastfeeding advocacy, too!

But the next time you see a mom tag #FedIsBest, or you hear her talk highly about formula, or you just see her mixing up a bottle out in town, take a breather before you react. 

You might feel compelled to tell her how wrong she is — or to unleash your rage online and put “lazy formula-feeders” or “stupid moms” in their place — but do remember that you don’t know the journey that mom took to get to this very moment.

Her reality of formula-feeding is not an insult to your heroic efforts to exclusively breastfeed.

Every woman’s journey to whatever feeding method she uses is as unique, multi-faceted, and valid as she is.

And the fact is, any mom who contributes to another mom’s shame or doubt in her mothering abilities is not advancing a noble cause.

She’s simply advancing a serious problem in society where, instead of empowering each other in unity, women feel the need to tear each other down in order to exalt their own personal choices.

We’re not on two sides, ladies. We’re all just moms doing our best and figuring this stuff out as we go.

“Fed Is Best” celebrates all women fighting to have the same, equal respect for how they nourish their babies.

Because being well-fed – meaning a full, happy, healthy, thriving baby – is best. That’s what really matters, whether it happens via the breast, pumped milk, donor milk, supplementation, or — you guessed it! — formula.

 

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An open letter to the exclusively-breastfeeding mom who hates breastfeeding alternatives, featured by Southern Momdays

 

Somewhere along the line, this debate stopped being about what’s best for baby and started being about which mom is the “best” mom.

(Silly, right?)

It’s time to lay down arms and welcome each other with open arms.

After all, each of us will likely experience a kid who refuses to eat anything but fast food one day. And when that day comes, the debate about a supreme feeding choice will be solidly in our rearview mirror – as we drive straight to the drive-thru so our kid actually eats something that day.

 

See you in the pickup lane!

Andrea signature

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