Recently I posted a link on our facebook page to a blog written for formula feeding mums. The blog, Fearless Formula Feeder, is written by a very eloquent (and definitely fearless) mother and includes many guest posts from women telling of their struggles with breastfeeding, and how they came to (and dealt with) the decision to formula feed their babies. I posted the link with a short ramble about how humbled I felt after reading the stories of these women’s struggles, and of how important it is to be compassionate in our advocacy of breastfeeding.
I have a feeling that, when I look back at the Insights on the facebook page in a few days, I’ll see that I lost a few fans from posting that link; for mentioning the dreaded ‘F’ word without a derogatory overtone.
And you know what? I don’t really mind.
I have spent the past 3 years as a passionate proponent of breastfeeding, and I will continue to be. However, in the past I have been guilty of being “that” lactivist – the one who judges other mothers for choosing to feed formula; the one who incorrectly assumes that every single mother is physically capable of breastfeeding and those that “can’t” just don’t want it enough/are selfish; the one who believes that formula is akin to poison. Looking back at those moments makes me cringe.
I don’t actually believe that most breastfeeding supporters hold these views – a few militant lactivists hardly represent the entire population of breastfeeding advocates. However, if we are ever going to help create a world in which breastfeeding is normal and the vast majority of babies are breastfed, we need to stop judging – from both sides.
It’s not fair, for a start. I mean, who the hell am I to decide how somebody else should feed her kid? I choose to breastfeed. I believe that breastmilk is the normal food for babies. My body makes it in abundance, and both of my children have breastfed/are breastfeeding without issue. I am very grateful that it has been relatively easy for us, and I often wonder whether I would have the ‘staying power’ required to battle through the issues that some ladies I know have experienced. If anybody tells me that my choice is wrong, I will politely tell him or her that it’s none of his or her goddamn business.
So why is it any of my goddamn business if someone chooses to formula feed their baby? Well, it isn’t. I may not agree with their reasons to stop breastfeeding (or to not breastfeed at all), but I will always support their right to choose.
The problem I have is with the formula companies who tout their products in immoral ways, and who make it so damned difficult for women to breastfeed. The problem I have is with women not being provided with the correct information with which to make informed decisions. I personally know so many women who valiantly tried to breastfeed but did not manage it, due to a variety of reasons – some physical, many emotional, even more due to the absolute stupidity of their healthcare professionals and a complete lack of appropriate support.
In the end, this is what it comes down to:
All women who want to breastfeed should be endlessly supported and informed.
All women who want to formula-feed should be endlessly supported and informed.
All women, breast or bottle-feeding, should be supporting EACH OTHER and fighting TOGETHER for safer formula and against aggressive marketing practices employed by formula companies, as well as seeking to normalise breastfeeding.
All women should have easy access to correct, current information about breastfeeding in order to quash the common misconceptions that can cause women to quit when they didn’t really want to or need to.
Energy spent attacking each other from separate camps is energy wasted. In my opinion, there shouldn’t even be separate camps – after all, we are all just human beings doing our damn best to raise happy, healthy kids. Until you’ve walked a mile in someone else’s shoes, you have no idea what they have been through or what motivated their decisions – even if you think you do.