The Great Milk Debate – Part 2

So if you’ve read yesterday’s post I just want to say thank you for taking the time to read it, and thank you in advance for reading part 2!

In this post I will be a little bit more opinionated (and sometimes profane), but I want to preface that any negativity that I express is not against moms who breastfeed, or moms who formula feed.  Yes, I am on the “Fed is Best” team, but that’s because to me it includes both breastfeeding moms, and formula moms.  All the negativity is directed at those who choose to judge moms on their choice or “shamers” as I like to call them, by making them feel guilty about their choice.  I also want to preface this by saying that all of my below statements are referring to babies and children who are raised in a safe environment (ie: not a CFS situation).  They always say that it takes a village to raise a child and while that is true, if the child is not at any safety or health risk, let the parent be a parent.  None of us are perfect, so let’s not act like we need to be the baby police if they make a mistake.  I do also refer a lot to “moms” because generally when it comes to feeding (ie: breastfeeding) it’s the mom who’s doing it, but I do also want this to be about parental support.

1.) The Gory Details
For me, I’m an open person and I don’t mind sharing my story and experience, hence why I started this blog.  But not every one is like that and sometimes some things are private.  To put that into perspective let’s ask a few questions.  Why is what I do with my breasts of any concern to you?  Do you want to know what my husband and I do with them in bed too?  Probably not.  It’s like those people that as soon as your married ask you when you’re having kids, and how many.  Do you wanna know the days of the week that we have sex too?  Sometimes some things just aren’t any of your f*cking business.  Does my choice to breastfeed or formula feed concern you or affect you in any way?  NOPE.  Its my body and I will do with it what I please.  Now, I can hear all the shamers in the background going “but its the life of your baby too!”, and I agree.  But are you there at 3am to console her when she’s been crying for an hour straight?  Are you there to clean up her shitty diaper which has gotten all over the change table and her onesie?  Are you there when she pukes all over me?  Are you there massaging my breasts for hours on end until milk comes?  Unless you’re involved in every aspect of my child’s life, and you’re there helping me do it all, mind you’re own f*cking business.  My husband and I will decide what is BEST for our child.

2.) “Junk Food”
This one irritates me because now you’re questioning my judgement as a mother.  I’ve heard people say that formula is akin to feeding my baby McDonald’s every day.  They say some formulas are better than others, and some are really crappy.  First of all, here in Canada I know we have some of the highest quality food ratings and screening systems across the globe, so no matter what formula I pick I’m pretty sure it’s not that bad.  Second, don’t sit there and assume I don’t care about my child enough to do my research on formula.  I researched what I should and should not eat if I was to breastfeed, and I also researched the different types of formula and chose the one we’re using for a reason.  We could also question the nutrition of a breastfeeding mom, since their breast milk is directly affected by their diet, so let’s not even go there.  Another thing I’ve heard people say is that breastfed kids are skinny and formula fed kids are fat.  Really, are we doing this?  Now we’re going to judge babies and kids, and categorize them as fat and skinny?  Cus clearly we need more of that in this world!

3.) Fed = Alive
This goes hand in hand with my previous point.  Some people take the “fed is best” slogan to mean “well they’re alive, so that’s good enough”.  I get where your coming from, but think about it this way.  When a baby is born what do they need?  Food, love/comfort, a clean diaper, to be bathed, and a proper sleeping environment.  Out of all of those things what is most critical to their survival?  Feeding.  They need to feed to gain weight, to grow, and to live.  The very reason we’re having this debate is because a mother is concerned about the wellbeing of their child.  If breastfeeding isn’t working, what are they supposed to do?  Let the child starve?  Should it be breastfed or nothing?  If my baby or child is hungry I will get them food regardless of what it is.   Not that it’s your business what I feed my child, but whether it’s “junk food” or quinoa with fruit, they’re fed.  I understand why people are concerned about people’s diets, but I reiterate: that’s not your concern.  If given the opportunity to feed my child junk food, or let them starve, I will opt for the junk food 10/10 times.  That’s not to say that I prioritize junk food over healthy food.  It just means that I will do whatever takes to ensure my child is fed, versus letting them starve.  But in terms of breastfeeding if the child is not getting the milk, should we let them starve rather than giving them formula?  The Fed is Best campaign is meant to take the guilt and shame away from whichever method a mother chooses to use.  Whether it be formula or breast, your child is fed and nourished, and that’s what matters.

4.) Death
Here’s the grim one, but it must be talked about.  Postpartum depression is consuming  mothers who are trying so hard at such a vulnerable time in their lives to meet the expectations that society has put on them.  Everything we do is wrong!  Whether we let our baby co-sleep, or put them down in their own crib, Pampers versus Huggies, swaddling versus not swaddling, it seems everyone has an opinion about everything and it seems no matter what we do we hear advice advocating for the opposite.  Is breastfeeding something that we are willing to let babies or moms die over?  This is something that must be talked about, whether you like it or not.  Is breastfeeding that important that we must beat ourselves up over it until either the mom or the baby is no longer healthy?  Is that really what we want out of this?  At the end of the day wouldn’t we rather see a happy & healthy mom, and a happy & healthy baby, regardless of how their fed?  If that’s not what you want than I really think there’s a deeper issue that you need to think about.

5.) Personal Reasons
I hope by now you’ve caught on to the point I’ve been trying to make: whether a woman breastfeeds or not (and the reasoning behind it) is none of your concern.  But lets dive into this a bit for the sake of the debate. Let’s say you asked a new mom if she breastfeeds and she says no, and you tell her that formula feeding is wrong and she’s not doing what’s best for her baby.  Did you know that that woman had been sexually abused as a child and can’t bear the thought of breastfeeding?  Or what if that woman had undergone chemotherapy, or surgery or some other medical procedure that forced her to not breastfeed, and it kills her inside?  Or what if it’s an infertility situation: the woman had tried desperately for 10 years to have a child and couldn’t, so they went with a surrogate?  Or what if it’s a gay couple who finally got a baby from overseas?  Or what if the woman gave it her all to breastfeed and after 8 days she made the decision to formula feed for the sake of her sanity and the sake of her baby?  Or what if from the get go she chose to formula feed because that’s what she wanted to do?  The fact is regardless of what her reasoning is, her reasoning is her reasoning, and it’s not your concern.

6.) Secret Master Plan
This one makes me laugh.  Someone once pointed out to me that the “fed is best” slogan was created by the CEO of a major formula company to increase their sales.  Really people?  Which do you think makes more sense: a master-mind CEO plotting a way to make more money, or a genuine organization set up to help ease the mindset of new moms?  For the record the “Fed is Best” campaign was created by a non-profit organization, set up to help change the guilt and shame mom’s deal with.  The Fed Is Best Foundation (fedisbest.org) has an excellent article on their website about their intentions and why they created the foundation, which you can read here.

7.) Permission and Guilt
In part one of this blog post I had mentioned that I spoke with my midwife as well as my husband regarding exclusively formula feeding.  I also spoke with my mom who I turn to for a lot of advice.  When my midwife pointed out that I could exclusively formula feed I first was shocked that she, as a medical professional, suggested this.  Because in my experience the medical community was one of the strongest advocates of exclusively breastfeeding, and the “breast is best” campaign (which by the way was created by the College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists).  I remember asking her if what I was doing was ok, or allowed.  She said, “Of course; you’ve done everything you can and it’s not working, of course it’s okay.”  Same with my husband who recognized I was not well and just wanted what was best for me.  Thirdly with my mom; my mom had a very similar experience with my sister and I, and could not breastfeed.  My pediatrician was one of the most amazing men, and medical professionals, I have ever met;  I remember he played hide and go seek with me one day when I was sick to cheer me up.  But when my mom was not able to breastfeed me he basically said the same thing to her “your baby needs you, and she needs you to be happy and healthy, and it’s okay that you formula feed your baby.”  What I’m trying to get with all of this is that we as new moms feel we need the permission to formula feed, or the approval of medical professionals and our loved ones, because we feel that we have failed them.  The “breast is best” campaign is pushed on us so hard that if we can’t, we feel guilt and shame and therefore feel like we need the approval in order to move forward.  Clearly I did this too but it shouldn’t be necessary.  There is no reason for us to feel that way.  I really hope out of all of the discussions that happen with either the “breast is best” or the “fed is best” campaign is that we take away the guilt and shame that mom’s deal with.

8.) Education
Someone once said to me that the “Breast is Best” campaign is not working because there’s not enough education provided to new moms, and I whole heartedly agree.  I think the system and methods we have now are not where they should be, and can definitely be improved.  But why does it have to continue to be one sided?  Why can’t we also include formula moms in that education?  If we’re so concerned with the formula their picking based on nutritional value, let’s educate them too!

Here’s the thing: if you’re breastfeeding – I commend you.  If you’re formula feeding – I commend you.  If you’re breastfeeding and supplementing with formula – I commend you!  What you do with your child and your body is YOUR RIGHT, YOUR CHOICE.  It has zero affect on me.  I know how hard breastfeeding is and if you were able to stick it out and things are going well (or went well) for you that’s fantastic!  If you chose to formula feed, or were forced into deciding to formula feed for other reasons, that’s fantastic, because I know how hard of a decision that was to make.

I have zero judgement on what you do.  I am friends with moms who exclusively breastfeed, I’m friends with moms who breastfeed and supplement with formula, and I’m friends with moms who exclusively formula feed.  And guess what, they’re amazing women with amazing kids.  That’s all I see, amazing women who are trying their BEST to be good moms.  Isn’t that what we should be encouraging and supporting?

If you’re reading this and you’re struggling with either of these phrases (or choices), or some other issue you’re having with your baby: You are enough.  I know you’re doing your best.  This shit is hard, and I am so proud of you for trying as hard as you are.  Your baby appreciates everything you do, whether they voice it or not.  You are a good mother (or father).  Just keep at it and try to enjoy it because before you know it you will look back and wonder where your little baby went.  And if you need anything, I am here for you.  I am here to support you, and encourage you, and keep you going.  Don’t ever feel like you can’t ask for help; there is no award for doing this on your own!

My hope is that whatever mindset or campaign you gravitate towards you’ve at least thought of the sensitivity of this subject.  I truly hate to hear of stories where either the mom or the baby did not survive because of their inability to breastfeed.  I want to see mom’s & babies who are happy, and thriving.  I want to see mom’s enjoying this period because it goes by so fast.  And if you are guilty of shaming a breastfeeding mom, or a formula feeding mom, I just want you to sit back and think.  Think of how you would feel if someone said those things to you when you were depressed, or having a hard time.  Let’s be honest: no baby comes with a manual, although lord knows that sure would help!  But we’re all doing the best we can – mom’s and dad’s, or dad’s & dad’s, or mom’s & mom’s!  Any parent probably questions what they’re doing at least 10 times a day.  Having babies is one of the toughest things a person can go through, so let’s not make it more difficult for each other!  Rather than asking personal and private questions, ask if they need any help.  Offer to do the dishes or the laundry; let them know you’re available if they need any advice, don’t just shove your opinions on them.  Let’s just support and accept each other, regardless of our differences.

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