Happy Breastfeeding Week
Yo! Let’s stop telling mums “fed is best” because, duh... Of course, it is better for a baby to be fed by any means possible than not. We already know this; we don’t need to make a hashtag out of it. I have myself muttered those words in the past to assuage the guilt of having breastfed my firstborn for 23 months, because I know many near and dear who wanted to but could not. (Isn’t it weird how we can feel guilt any way we choose to feed our babies?)
Most people mean well when they say it but as someone in the throes of breastfeeding again, I find this catchy slogan deeply triggering — so triggering, I felt compelled to hastily write on my blog instead of take a shower.
“Fed is best” is supposed to make us feel good about our choices but at its core, it downplays the magic of breastmilk while simultaneously doing a great disservice to all the women who have breastfed/are breastfeeding/struggling to breastfeed.
Breastmilk is ridiculously #amazeballs — now, that’s a good hashtag. When a baby’s mouth and saliva interact with their mother’s nipple, specialised milk is created for that baby on that specific day. And its nutritional value grows and changes with that baby even beyond infancy. Show me a formula which can do this. Please.
I know there will be people out there, at the ready, pointing a trembling finger, accusing me of mum shaming. But I say this not to antagonise or induce guilt around using formula. Formula serves a purpose and is a valid option. It is so necessary in some situations and commonly part of an infant’s feeding journey. In fact, I was a formula-fed baby.
My gripe here is how the “fed is best” rhetoric ignores the nutritional, immunological and microbiological differences between breastmilk and formula. It overlooks all the wonderful benefits that breastfeeding and breastmilk provide for both mum and bub. When we fail to recognise these benefits, we fail to invest in systems that truly educate and support mothers on their journey. It also sets a precedent for comments like, “just switch to formula” or the idea that women are doing themselves in trying to breastfeed when there is a less painful alternative available.
Although breastfeeding is a choice — a privilege, even — it is by no means easy. Breastfeeding is hard, relentless work on the mind and body, especially so in modern motherhood. The sacrifice, the commitment, the determination, the unseen labour that this endeavour asks of women… I cringe whenever I hear someone (usually it’s someone who has never breastfed or is without child) say they want to breastfeed because it’s free.
I roll my eyes because I’m non-confrontational, but what I really want to say is HEY! FUCK YOU TOO. Because here is someone who clearly doesn’t respect or place value on a mother’s time, effort and energy. And I guess as a breastfeeding stay-at-home mum (double whammy), this is a particularly sore point that elicits lots of big emotions.
However we choose to feed our babies is beautiful, no doubts about it. But instead of perpetuating the obvious (and uninspired) idea that “fed is best”, let’s celebrate breastmilk for what it really is — friggin’ amaaaaaaazin’! And more importantly, let’s rally around women and give them practical help and support that actually empowers them to feed their babes however the f they want.
If you’re someone breastfeeding/trying to breastfeed/thinking of breastfeeding your child(ren), thank you! You’re an inspiration to people you didn’t even know were watching. Whichever part of the journey you’re on, however it looks to you, congratulations! Stay hydrated \m/
In true mum style, I’m a lil late but I don’t care ;)