We must always remember that for some women, the feeding options are limited due to circumstances out of her control. These circumstances are sometimes known, for example a mother’s long standing medical condition, and sometimes they are thrown upon us, for example premature birth or post birth infections. It is, however, guaranteed that for many of these women, the yearn or loss of ability to breastfeed will hurt so much that bonding is affected and/or self worth hits an all time low.
World Breastfeeding Week isn’t designed to alienate or make formula feeders feel like s**t, although I know from my own experience that if you are in a challenging space physically or mentally, all the posts and photos on social media can be extremely difficult to see. Some women avoid looking at these posts altogether, some see them and mourn for the journey they couldn’t experience, others find the posts and photos so disheartening that they become bitter about the success of others and the seeming need to ‘gloat’. I realise that posts exist that are preachy, divisive and damn right offensive, but these people are not worth following, and are few and far between. The vast majority are simply women feeling the love and pride of their achievements when it comes to raising their little angels, and rightly so! They potentially had a rough ride too and let’s not forget, their bodies are doing an amazing job!
I still don’t understand why the week can’t be renamed ‘World Infant Feeding Week’. Some of the extreme campaigners for breastfeeding have already tried to explain why this shouldn’t happen, but I’m not having it. World Infant Feeding Week would obviously still contain the extremely valuable and informative message regarding breastfeeding, but it would also include information and education surrounding bottle and formula feeding too. These include the reasons when bottle/formula might be a suitable method, and explain that sometimes it is the only method women rely on to feed their child. The week would educate on techniques as well as tips on bonding for both methods. I know many vocal ‘breast is the only way’ people would benefit from learning the reasons why some women bottle/formula feed so that maybe they will have a bit more empathy when approaching the subject.
Clearly the way the campaigns are functioning at the moment aren’t working. There is far too much judgement, stigma and division surrounding the methods used to nourish our babies. This will only end if the current way of promoting infant feeding is changed; if there is understanding and guidance on all feeding methods.
It’s not about ‘taking away’ the message behind breastfeeding weeks; the importance of successful breastfeeding would be paramount to a mother’s education. I also know that feeding safety messages and advice varies dramatically for mothers in developed countries and those in moderate or low developed countries. We do not have the same human right and clean water issues that many mothers face in less developed countries. It goes without saying that for these women, support and education on breastfeeding can be a matter of life and death.
To me, the fact that feeding needs and challenges vary so much across the globe, it further solidifies my reasons why the term ‘Infant Feeding’ would be more appropriate.
Here, in the developed country that I live in, we need to get to a stage where every single mother is comfortable knowing her feeding path is/was right for her and her baby.
Breastfeeders should celebrate, be proud and feel comfortable feeding in public. Formula feeders should celebrate, be proud and feel comfortable feeding in public. We need to stop the comparisons; every woman, every baby is different and their needs are individual. Only with that common awareness will the guilt, shame and embarrassment stop. Only then will we be able to focus on what matters, feeding and loving your baby without distractions.
Don’t Judge Just Feed always wants to make sure that breastfeeding, bottlefeeding and tubefeeding mamas are feeling the love. The ‘are you sponsored by a formula company?’ and ‘you don’t understand how vital breastmilk is to life and death’ people really need to ask why they are so disapproving of formula when it was only produced because there was a clear need for it. Whether it’s for mother or baby, for physical or mental health reasons, or simply because it’s what the mother wants to do, it’s not your place to force your ‘breast is best’ opinion on them. It really isn’t always best.
The first post was ‘World Infant Feeding Week (Just A Thought) can be found here
(originally posted on The Huffington Post UK)