I'm a breastfeeding feminist. I believe that breastmilk, evolutionarily, was made for human consumption. It is complex and, scientifically speaking, ideal for babies.
That said, there are times when mothers choose to quit breastfeeding. There are times when mothers choose to quit pumping breastmilk and bottlefeeding. There are times when mothers do not breastfeed at all.
And you know what bugs me the most out of all of this? That those mothers consistently feel the need to explain to us, the breastfeeders, the world, why they formula feed. Formula feeding moms feel the need to justify to the world - "This is why I'm not breastfeeding!" - they have to explain to us the reason why they made that parenting decision.
And yeah, that makes me pretty sad. Do you know why? Because I trust those moms to make that parenting decision. I am not those women. I do not live their lives, I do not know what they have gone through, I do not know the challenges they have faced. By that fact alone, I have no right to judge the choices they make regarding how they feed their babies. Even Jessica Valenti said that formula feeding was 100% right for her. Why should we ask her to justify that decision? We don't know her and we don't live her life.
A friend Sarah and I were out with a group of moms recently, and when I disappeared to talk to someone else, the topic of breastfeeding - and struggling with breastfeeding - came up. Sarah told me later that two other moms out of the large group professed having difficulties before my friend spoke up about her experience with public health nurses telling her she was starving her child and the subsequent the guilt trip she faced on the internet when she blogged about supplementing with formula. And she confessed to me that as soon as she put it out there, as soon as her story hung over the group in silence, she was nervous about what the other moms would say. Thankfully one wise mother piped up and said something I have said before, too: "We as mothers have enough to worry about, we need to be free to make the decisions that are best for our babies without being made to feel guilty."
If you formula feed or if you breastfeed - your baby is fed and loved and cared for. You are an amazing mom.
|Squeaky D raises his fist in Solidarity|
I do talk about breastfeeding a lot. It's what I do these days. But I've also shared the story of a Formula Feeding mom. I am a close supporter of many moms who formula feed. I want people to know that you can support and encourage breastfeeding without leaving formula feeding moms behind.
In the last week or so, things have become very heated in the feminist twitter community. Yes, there is one, it's weird and awesome all at the same time. Of course I love it.
Firstly, it must be addressed that there are some women who are not kind. Bluntly, that is it. There are women who champion breastfeeding without being considerate, without being kind or compassionate. Some of them even spread a hateful message. I do not stand behind these women, and I encourage everyone I meet to be inclusive and kind. This is very obviously a sensitive topic and I don't think there is anything wrong with treating it as such.
And secondly, breastfeeding in this modern time has become, unfortunately, something that is mysterious. There are a lot of misleading half-truths that are consistently spread by older generations, doctors, nurses, hospital "lactation consultants," and formula companies. We desperately want to spread truth about breastfeeding, and sometimes that means questioning things that women have heard.
For instance, someone shared in the midst of the kurfuffle that her mother could not breastfeed because she was intolerant to breast milk. Babies are not intolerant to breast milk. A baby could have an allergy or a sensitivity to something a mother is eating, but maybe that mother would have made the choice to eliminate peanuts or eggs (or whatever) from her diet and continued breastfeeding. Maybe not. But maybe so! And isn't it her right to know that and make an informed decision? It is hard for us breastfeeding mothers to stay quiet when we hear people repeating misinformation and all at once respect the relationship that mother may have with her choice to formula feed.
We know about the "mommy guilt," all of us. I know of it so deeply that sometimes it is crippling and I can feel weighed down and crushed by it. I can't imagine what it might be like to be bottle feeding publicly have have someone shame me for parenting my child. As a breastfeeder I fight for the right to breastfeed publicly but I have never had someone insinuate that I was a bad mother for breastfeeding. How upsetting, how demoralizing, how infuriating, how utterly cruel. This is not a comfortable position and I myself would probably also take a defensive stance. My worth as a mother is hardly defined by how I feed my baby.
Please, my formula feeding moms, my fellow moms. Please understand that so many of us, we don't think you are stupid. We don't think you are uneducated. We don't think you didn't try hard enough. We don't think your baby is eating poison and we don't think your kid is going to be stupid.
We just want formula companies to stop their false advertising. We don't want them to lie to mothers anymore. We don't want them to pretend to offer breastfeeding support.
That's it, really. We just want the truth and the experts on breastfeeding to be the ones offering breastfeeding support. We want educated doctors, nurses, and internationally certified lactation consultants handing out unbiased information and support. I don't mind that formula companies exist and I think formula should be available, I just want them to keep a respectful distance from a mother's right to educate herself about feeding her baby.
We want all moms to make the best choice for them and their babies and their families. And you don't have to justify it to us, the breastfeeders, or anyone else.
Can I say it again? Your baby is loved and cared for. You are an amazing mom. We can all support all mothers so that each one knows her rights and has the access to make her best decisions, no matter what they may be.