Back around 50 years ago, you’d give your precious 3 month old a lick of ice-cream, formula or boob, and it really wouldn’t matter much to the majority of people, no-one would bat an eye. Science then told us that breastmilk is, in fact, superior to formula and now everyone is pointing fingers at each other, trying to tell us all what to do.
Do you think that a mom who knows the benefits of breastfeeding but chooses to put her child on formula, cares about her child’s wellbeing less than those who breastfeed?
When the term “breast is best” emerged, it was created to uplift women who felt fear to breastfeed in public and to increase breastfeeding rates but it all turned really ugly when the term was used against moms who formula fed.
So many women struggle to breastfeed, it’s actually not only terribly sad but also worrisome. Latch issues, a lazy drinker, lactose sensitive, reflux issues, low supply and those are just a few issues out of a sea of many. These women who go to doctors and specialists begging for answers but eventually put their babies on formula without a choice in the matter because no woman is strong enough to watch their babies hurt. They are left feeling guilty and not good enough and the only way for them to carry on and not let their feelings over take them is to accept what has happened and move on.
Imagine the Mom who had a terrible breastfeeding experience and couldn’t help it, she then goes online and all she sees is “breast is best”. Not only that but some moms even get called out by other moms for not breastfeeding and I can only imagine how hurtful that must be. What happened to the saying, ‘motherhood is a sisterhood’?
Let me tell you my quick story; my 11-month-old has had no other drink other than breastmilk. I used to think I was the bees-knees by doing what was “best” and I wondered why all moms didn’t just do it that way. I was on such a high horse, sitting at home with my new baby, not really having much interaction with other moms besides what I read online. When I eventually decided to venture out of my new-baby nest, I met a lot of moms who both breastfed and formula fed. I listened to their stories and I saw their pain about not being able to breastfeed and I felt so much shame for ever thinking I should expect all women to breastfeed and I felt privileged for the breastfeeding journey I had so far.
All of this got me thinking, it’s illogical that we fight each other and that we don’t unite. I thought about the term “breast is best” and what it was actually for and why it mattered. I was formula fed as a baby and so was my husband. I know so many formula fed babies that are beautiful, healthy and thriving so why does this matter so much to us? I took a deeper look and found where it truly mattered.
There is a good reason the term “breast is best” exists and it is definitely not directed at the healthy, full term, no-problems baby who has access to all he needs. Breast is best when a mother doesn’t have access to clean water. Breast is best when a mother doesn’t have enough money for formula. Breast is best for a very premature baby with little immune system. Breast is beast for a baby with immunity disorders. If breastfeeding rates increase a little, then 10% of infant deaths can be prevented. This being said, the healthy baby with all their amenities met will probably not fall under this category but yet most of the keyboard-warriors are those with children who are not likely to be affected by the decision to be formula fed or breastfed.
With all this fighting and judging, you’d think we would have found a solution and found the source of the problem. I can’t help but wonder why we have not been doing the one thing that might actually help breastfeeding rates. Why are we not directing our anger at the medical community? Why are we not demanding more? When a medical student studies breastfeeding, it is just one module with no practical work. No wonder so many moms are left feeling destitute when they want to breastfeed but told they are unable to.
Breastfeeding is seen as a non-priority with medical professionals and no research or time is put into breastfeeding to help make it work for moms who are so desperate for answers. This means that a struggling mom is given so little choice about whether she can or cannot breastfeed. We need to expect more for those who are meant to help us. They tell us that breast is best, say we should do it but then cannot help us when we really need it.
So please, let us make motherhood a sisterhood. Can we stop fighting each other and start making a difference where it matters? No woman should feel guilty about the choices she makes with her child and no woman should be shamed either. Let us build each other up, help those who actually need it and expect more from those who can make a real difference.
Nicola Schoeman | @tinytaleofannaleah