Dear Mama, Breast Is Not Always Best!
Yes you are not seeing things. I am a breastfeeding mother, a breastfeeding advocate, a peer supporter for breastfeeding mothers and I am also saying breast is not always best! Why have I chosen to blog about such a controversial subject? I read some tweets earlier today about a mother whose baby was failing to thrive on just breastmilk despite a great deal of support and trying everything possible. She refused to formula-feed even though a trial showed baby thriving on it because "Breast Is Best" and she desperately wanted to exclusively breastfeed. This kind of scenario worries me. I have and continue to have a beautiful experience breastfeeding and I enjoy sharing what I have learnt on here and with other mothers when they ask but I am under no illusion that Breast is indeed best for everybody.
Breastmilk and breastfeeding have so many advantages, some of which include the fact that it is free, readily available and chuck-full of antibodies and nutrients. However, as I have now encountered in my daily interactions, not every mother will be able to breastfeed for one reason or another. For example, a lady who had a breast reduction, which affected her milk ducts could not produce enough breastmilk for her baby. This stuff happens! This is real life. There are many other reasons why a mother might not be able to breastfeed or give breastmilk to her child. What is she to do then? The Breastfeeding Nazi would have you believe that if you don't breastfeed, your child is doomed; that you are somehow a bad mother, that formula is poison. This is wrong! If for whatever reason you formula feed your child, please go on and be guilt free! If baby is happy, you are happy and your healthcare providers are okay with it, keep doing what you're doing. If my son had failed to thrive despite all my best efforts to offer him breastmilk, I would have formula fed him, no problem! I have had no reason to formula feed but I would not challenge another mother's decision to formula feed her child. Hello, Breastfeeding Nazi, support is what she needs not guilt tripping.
In my peer support training, I learnt three major things that have stuck with me:
1. I am there to support not force my opinions on anyone and certainly not to judge their decisions.
2. I am only there to offer information if asked but it is the mother's prerogative to take my advice or leave it.
3. Some breastmilk is better than no breastmilk. Sometimes exclusive breastfeeding is just not feasible. There is nothing wrong with supplementing with formula if need be. If breastfeeding/breastmilk is not an option at all, FORMULA IS JUST FINE. FORMULA IS NOT POISON!
I have learnt to refrain from just throwing "Breast is Best" out there because sometimes breast really is not best and a new mother could be greatly affected by this statement. Breast is best for us (my baby and I) and knowing all the benefits, I do encourage and support mothers to breastfeed if they can but ultimately, it is every mother's choice (and sometimes it isn't even a choice) how she feeds her baby and it is wrong to perpetrate mum guilt. There is no one size fits all approach to parenting. If there is anything that motherhood has taught me, it is to be flexible because nothing is predictable. I wanted a water birth so badly but ended up having an emergency C-Section. I did not beat myself up. I moved on and focused on caring for my beautiful baby boy. If you are like the mother in the story above, think of your baby. Don't let it become a child protective services problem before your eyes are opened.
Knowledge is power. But wisdom for application of that knowledge is everything!
Wishing all mamas out there the very best. You are all total rockstars!