The Arrogance of Breast Is Best

After reading an absolutely thoughtless post on social media from a mother who regularly uploads picture-perfect images of her life, I felt the need to write. To offload the frustration and borderline anger that was sparked in me when reading her ill-informed and blinkered take on infant feeding.

Firstly, anyone who uses the term ‘Breast is Best’ is a Class A idiot. Not because they believe in the awesomeness of breastfeeding and breastmilk, it is indeed awesome. Let’s be clear, it’s the only natural way of nourishing our precious babies and a female body is incredibly amazing for its ability to produce and sustain life. A mother who is successfully breastfeeding the required amount of milk for their baby to thrive is indeed doing what is best for them and their little one. However, implying something is ‘best’ deems anything else as lesser or inferior. Clearly the term and its users are idiots for failing to acknowledge the whole reason infant formula was developed: to ensure babies that would otherwise go hungry are provided with an equivalent.

The argument of formula being full of chemicals makes me wonder what they think the human body is made up of… as far as I was aware, everything that exists consists of a combination of chemical components. Much to the denial of some, formula is a food source that is rigorously tested for safety and constantly reviewed to provide high quality nutrition (yes, vitamins and minerals are included!). The other factor frequently used is evolution. Surely evolution includes the intelligence of man to invent a food product that provides nutrition to babies that would otherwise have an uncertain future?

What amuses me is that when preaching this message on social media, the hashtag of Breast is Best is often alongside the use of the hashtag Fed is Best. Like the aforementioned post that inspired this partial-rant (believe me, I’ve watered it down several times during the editing process), it’s almost as if the author of the post wants to antagonise the heated debate of breast vs formula. They are blatantly targeting the attention of people who truly believe that a fed baby is far more important than the method of feeding. Being the founder of the support network ‘Don’t Judge Just Feed’, I am obviously a person they want to goad.

I often read these public opinions and move on without comment due to the fact that I don’t want to draw more attention to a misinformed, biased piece of writing. I also feel that anyone who is unable to understand or comprehend the reasons, experiences or educated choices women make before using formula, to the point where they are openly writing messages of breastfeeding superiority, are people who are too arrogant to listen to the counter argument.

For the benefit of anyone reading this who has never considered the reasons women formula feed, here’s a brief list for you:

  • She may have undergone breast surgery
  • She may need to receive radiation therapy or chemotherapy
  • Her baby could have a metabolic condition known as Galactosemia
  • She may suffer from a chronic illnesses and her health may suffer as a result
  • She may have an infection requiring antibiotics which are harmful to the baby. Let’s not forget women who may have a more serious, existing infection (HIV, human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I or type II or untreated, active tuberculosis)
  • She may end up suffering from post-birth complications
  • She may be experiencing mental health and post-natal depression issues
  • She may have insufficient milk supply
  • Her baby may be adopted or fostered
  • Undiagnosed tongue tie leading to severe feeding difficulties
  • Let’s not forget some women simply choose formula as a better option for them and their baby

These just scratch the surface. You can read an array of circumstances and feeding stories from our supporters on our website

In all these scenarios, breast is definitely not best. I’d like to see someone try and argue otherwise.

What has riled me more than anything is the complete disregard for the emotional damage that can triggered by a message that belittles formula. A large proportion of women who rely on formula feeding often experience Breastfeeding Grief, a state of anxiety, low mood or depression at the inability or failure to breastfeed. A successful breastfeeder may not be aware of this state of mind and that’s to be expected, but surely they must of experienced hardships in their feeding journey as let’s face it, breastfeeding isn’t easy. Breastfeeding Grief can consume a mother and affect the bonding between mother and baby. It can lead to resentment of themselves, their bodies and towards women who are happily breastfeeding. It can often result in severe post-natal depression if left unrecognised.

Posts, articles and conversations using messages such as ‘Breast is Best’ fuel this condition. They add to the pressures that women are already exposed to as a new mother. They create a sense of failure by implying that a non-breastfeeding mother is inflicting their baby to a poorer start in life. They allow people to judge and question mothers using formula. Ultimately, they cause further harm to vulnerable women who are already struggling with their feeding journey. Shame on anyone who can’t see that.

#dontjudgejustfeed and yes, #fedisbest

(originally posted on The Huffington Post UK)