To the Mom Who Hates Breastfeeding Alternatives
Hey there, breastfeeding mom!
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. Or, at least, I’m not.
But, when I had my 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…”
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, as I assumed she would. She didn’t just develop at an average speed, either. She thrived. In fact, she flourished in every sense of the word. 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.
I bought into that lie hook, line, and sinker, and I allowed it to condemn my own opinion of myself as a mother for months. Turns out, while Breast Is (indeed!) Best as far as food choices go, it’s not necessarily “best” for every family’s unique situation.
And that’s why I get really frustrated when I stumble across content by breastfeeding moms attacking “formula feeders” or anyone supporting breastfeeding alternatives online.
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.
It’s no secret: the public harbors a nasty stigma towards breastfeeding moms for the very act of feeding 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 attack formula-feeding moms…which is equally inexcusable.
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.
Don’t you think that’s insane?
It’s a cycle of disrespect that has to stop.
So, when I read your description of the common formula-feeding mom last week on your blog, it really burned my biscuits.
Your article suggested that she’s stupid, selfish, vain, lazy, and irresponsible. You could not be more wrong, my friend.
Here are three things so many of us wish you knew about the truth behind choosing a breastfeeding alternative.
Choosing a breastfeeding alternative isn’t a battle between breastfeeding and formula feeding.
It’s simply a decision for moms who agree that a healthy, happy 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). And, it involves more options than just breast or formula.
Breastfeeding alternatives provide a revelation for sick moms who can’t breastfeed.
They’re the saving grace for moms (both biological and adoptive) who cannot produce milk.
They’re the needed support for moms who don’t have a supportive breastfeeding environment at work (regardless of laws).
And so many others.
Finally, breastfeeding alternatives are even celebrated 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.)
Breastfeeding alternatives aren’t meant to be an attack on breastfeeding.
I’m sorry if it’s seemed that way, but the sheer truth is, they’re not – regardless of what certain Breast-Is-Best propaganda claims.
Supporting breastfeeding alternatives 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.)
Breastfeeding alternatives are 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 you so eloquently put it, it’s because moms who don’t breastfeed have been bombarded by that message already today.
They don’t need you to sway them to “your side.”
I can promise you: they’ve 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 that you’re thriving in your breastfeeding journey, and I hope you keep it up for a long, long time.
I applaud you for your breastfeeding advocacy, too!
But the next time you hear a mom talk highly about formula, or be excited that her baby thrives on exclusively-pumped breastmilk — or any other direct breastfeeding alternative — and it ruffles your feathers enough to unleash your rage online and put “lazy formula-feeders” or “stupid moms” in their place, do remember that it’s not an insult to your heroic efforts to exclusively breastfeed.
It’s simply a reflection of the fact that every mom’s feeding choices matter.
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.
Breastfeeding alternatives celebrate 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 formula.
♥ Pin this for later!
Somewhere along the line, this debate stopped being about what’s best for baby and started being about which mom is the “better” 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!
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