Fed is best, right?
Fed is best, right? Well actually, fed is the bare minimum. Yes I am going to say that feeding your child so that they don’t starve to death is damned important. So the mere state of being fed cannot possibly be described as “best” at all.
"Fed is best" or "breast is best"
Whilst I detest ‘fed is best’, I don’t want you to think I am advocating “breast is best” either. You might be surprised to hear that I hate that one just as much.
I get it. Everyone (including me) hates hearing “breast is best”.
You might feel like that mantra puts a lot of pressure on you and makes you feel like a failure when you can’t provide the “best” for your baby. Well that isn’t the only reason to hate it. The thing is that formula companies love the “breast is best” campaign, precisely because you hate it. They love it because it separates us into two categories (this is important). It pits us against each other: those who are breastfeeding and those who are using formula. Those who are desperately struggling to breastfeed, and not getting much support, have to defend their reasons for this struggle, sometimes to themselves and close relatives by sticking to the “it’s best” mantra. Those who formula feed for whatever reasons, feel attacked by this message.
Best and worst: 'breast is best,' so...
Breast is best manipulates those who formula feed their babies into staunchly defending their right to do so. It encourages them them to shout down anyone who dares to voice an opinion, or talk about statistics or risks about their feeding method. It does this because the word “best” is a binary term. Its binary partner is “worst”. When someone says how wonderful they think breastfeeding is, your brain thinks “if I’m not doing that, I’m doing something worse”.
So began the 'Mummy wars'
Now we are at war with each other, when actually most breastfeeding parents don’t think formula feeding parent did “worst”. Also, most formula feeding parents are happily recognise how hard breastfeeding parents may have worked. We are at war because they have told us to be, ever so subtly over time.
Formula companies, those multi million dollar industries, want us to think we are different from each other. They want us defensive of the ‘side’ we ‘picked’. They are completely over-the-moon that the situation occurs. It benefits them that as soon as someone states facts and statistics about breastfeeding’s benefits, someone who uses formula milk will defend it to the hilt. Parents, understandably hate the implication that they didn’t do the “best”. Sometimes this descends into parents, usually online, bashing formula milk and breastmilk because everyone feels judged, threatened, hurt, and not listened to. So, they lash out. So the mummy wars continues.
Feeding your baby: you did your best
I am here to tell you that you absolutely did your best! You did your best with the information, support, history and relationship with your body and the societal influences surrounding you at the time. You did your best whether you breastfed for 4 years, 4 minutes or you never even tried.
But, and this is a big fat but:
Saying “fed is best” is like saying it is fine to feed your child McDonalds every day. It is saying that it doesn’t matter what you feed your baby. It does. You know it does. everyone knows it does. It hurts when someone implies you didn’t do your best because we know how important it is.
Breast is not best; it's the biological norm
Human babies are evolved to drink milk from human mothers. Where there are no issues feeding a baby human milk is optimal. Human milk has developed to nourish a baby in a way that cannot be substituted by taking the milk from another species, and dehydrating it and enriching it to create a long-lasting powder.
Furthermore, the companies that design, produce and sell formula do not primarily have your babies’ best interests at heart. They are wholly and completely focused on their profit margin. I know that no-one wants to believe this but it’s true. If you are unsure, read The Politics of Breastfeeding by Gabrielle Palmer
Fed is not best; formula is a life saving tool
Fed is not best. Fed is the bare minimum. Breast is not best. Human milk is the biologically normal food for human babies. Formula is not evil. Formula is a life saving and valuable tool to replace human milk when needed. It is most definitely not ‘worst.’ There are babies being fed much worse and let’s not forget it.
What the formula companies don’t want you to realise is that formula is not the only option if you don’t or can’t exclusively breastfeed. Formula is not the next optimum option after breastfeeding and it doesn’t need to be culturally normal to replace human milk with supplemented cow’s milk substitute. They purposely put us into two categories (I told you it was important) because they don’t want us to realise there are other ways.
If you cannot or choose, and you are entirely valid in making your choice, not to feed your baby solely your milk from your breast, you have the options outlined below. The World Health Organisation recommends these options in this order for low birth weight infants, and previously recommended this for all infants.
The point is that they want you to think that they don’t care how you feed your baby but trust me, they care. Breast milk is not a profitable commodity and so they care very much that you feed your baby a product that is!
Important Note: my feeding history
While raising my four children I have: exclusively formula fed, mix fed, exclusively expressed, used donor milk, donated milk and exclusively breastfed to past 2 years. I have zero issue with how people choose to feed their babies. Everyone is different. I have a massive issue with the formula companies and their unethical practices in promoting formula and the purposeful warmongering they manipulate between mothers.
Thank you for reading.