Lactivism is for Everybody – Not Just Breastfeeders!

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.lactivism is for everybody - not just breastfeeders

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.

Image courtesy of _Shward_ @ flickr


  1. says

    May I just say…you are awesome!

    I love, love, love this post. :) You know I was totally in that judgmental camp against formula feeders until I actually had my baby, and tried so hard to breastfeed and went through hell and back before I decided to give her the dreaded formula.

    I support breastfeeding. I want to be successful with it next time around. But it was support that I needed that first time, and my own judgment and that of others was a huge stumbling block that I really believe was part of what propelled me into giving up.

    What you are saying is EXACTLY what we need.

    I have come to peace with my decision, though I still feel guilt at times. In the end, I know the reality is that I am a great mom, and if I can help anyone else realize that about themselves ‘in spite of’ feeding formula, that will make me very happy. :)

    The education and the support is what it’s all about…thank you so much for this!

    • says

      Aw, shucks :) Thank you so much.

      Isn’t it funny how we can have all of these grand ideas that just end up blowing by the wayside when the baby arrives! Parenting is so much harder than I thought it would be. With my first baby I certainly would have switched to formula had I not been lucky enough to have been able to stay at our fantastic birth centre for 4 whole nights (and therefore had practical and emotional bf support 24 hours a day). And other than the usual latching issues/soreness/exhaustion, we didnt have ANY problems at all! I can totally see why someone would choose to switch to formula.

      I’m so glad that you have found peace with your choice, as well you should! There is no place for judginess or guilt when it comes to this stuff. The important thing is that babies get fed :)

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment, and for linking to me from your blog! :) xo

      • says

        It’s certainly a very humbling experience :) I knew so many things in full certainty before I became a mama! ;)

        I do envy your experience at the birth center…that would have been awesome! :) I’ve already decided that next time I have a baby I’m spending the first week in bed with the sole intent of establishing bf’ing :)

        I was very happy to link over to this post…I hope all kinds of people read it! :D

        • says

          Oh I feel so lucky that we had the chance for all of that support. I didn’t even give birth there; I was risked out at the last minute because Monkey decided to come before 37 weeks. I was able to transfer less than 24 hours after the birth back to the birth centre. I am eternally grateful for the support. Monkey ended up being breastfed for more than two years; there’s no way I would have managed more than two DAYS had I been sent home, or if i’d had to stay in the Big Scary Hospital.

          A whole week in bed with the new baby sounds like a wonderful way to do things :) I am sure that today’s modern hectic lifestyles have a lot to answer for for low breastfeeding rates.

  2. says

    This made me cry. It means so much to me – more than you could possibly know – that there are people like you out there advocating for breastfeeding in such a positive way. I feel so strongly that breastfeeding is a beautiful, natural, amazing way to feed babies and I wish that every woman who wants to nurse could do so unencumbered. I know it may not seem that way, being the FFF that I am – but I honestly consider myself a lactivist (albeit a weird one) and I didn’t back when I started the blog. Getting to know women like you who helped me let go of my anger and see the beauty in breastfeeding is what made that possible.

    Thanks again for the incredible honor of this post. :)

  3. says

    I totally agree! I get very annoyed when I have to defend my right to breastfeed. I see how both FF and BF mama’s get defensive but it is really counter productive! I don’t care how a baby is fed as long as its fed!
    Great post!

  4. Darcie says

    I love that you are willing to “stick your neck out” for all mothers. For one reason or another infant feeding is a topic that brings out the best and worst in some people. I think if we substituted vaccinating, veganism, homeschooling, etc. for breastfeeding in this post it might help some people understand what you are trying to say.
    Supporting mothers in how they want/can raise their children is in the best interest for everyone. If we were less concerned with trying to sway one another and just put valid, accurate information out there, and let parents decide what benefits/risks/struggles/(in)conveniences they are willing to deal with in the best interests of their family and HONESTLY believe it’s not my place to have a say… we would all be better off.

    • says

      Thank you so much for your comment! You’re absolutely right; whatever we believe in, it’s important to remember that really, we have no idea what it’s like to live in someone else’s shoes. For me and my family, the benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the negative parts – and there are negative parts. It’s not all hearts and flowers. None of us have any right to deem whether or not someone else’s reason not to breastfeed is valid.

      Infant feeding is such an emotional subject; it’s hard to get your point across without upsetting somebody.

  5. says

    I think there are far too many areas of parenting where we wind up being judgmental about how others choose to parent. The reality is, there are many GOOD ways to parent and we should support one another in the quest for great parenting, embracing the many ways in which great parenting takes place.

    When it comes to breastfeeding, I am an avid supporter of it if you’re able to. There are too many moms out there who physically can’t (myself included) and we do not deserve to be judged unfairly just because we don’t whip out the boob to feed. Trust me, many of us would if we could. =)


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