This post appeared on Jezebel today. The same argument appears over and over again in different forms all attempting to justify bottle-feeding as an equal choice to breastfeeding or in some way less stressful. I will be the first to admit that some “lactivists” (and I honestly don’t like that word) do actually use tactics that are borderline inappropriate and often ineffective if not counter productive. However, feeling the need to shout from the rooftops “you can’t guilt-trip me!” sounds like someone already did.
To Sarah Fister Gale (author of the piece): I’m very sorry that you had such a horrible breast-feeding experience. It must have been extremely stressful, and by comparison bottle-feeding probably did seem like an easier alternative. Everyone has the right to feed however they see fit, and everyone’s experience is valid, but the entire tone of this piece is troubling to me. You’re discounting decades of scientific research from extremely credible sources, recommendations from ALL leading global medical entities, and in essence doing the same thing that was done to you but in reverse. You may have felt bullied, and that is unfortunate, but trying to influence you to feed your child the substance that was made for them to ingest, that helps protect them from disease before they are able to be vaccinated, and helps you recover more quickly from your birth experience is not necessarily bullying though there are some who can come across that way.
I cannot understand the defensiveness that comes up from women who choose to bottle-feed. Yes, you made that choice…make it then. If you feel defensive is it possible that you feel guilty? One of the first ingredients in formula is corn syrup. How is that in any way healthy for an infant? Especially a premie. I can’t imagine what it’s like to deliver a premie, but the benefits of breastmilk for them is especially noticeable and may have been the source of your doctor’s apparent annoyance. This post, while possibly validating some women who had a similar experience, probably also scared some others who were on the fence.
Breastfeeding is amazing. Yeah, it hurts sometimes. Yeah, you are the kids’ sole source of nourishment. But why can’t women find that empowering instead of limiting? YOU are your child’s lifeline! YOU are capable of supporting that child the same way you did when it was in your womb. If you make the choice to bottle-feed, cool. But please don’t try to make it sound in some way righteous. I was bottle-fed and I have a Ph.D., so yeah, people who say that formula-feeding will cause your child grievous harm are not necessarily correct. Saying that breastfeeding is the only way to bond with your baby is also incorrect, but it sure helps. My main issue with this argument (that is regurgitated in different forms all the time) is that trying to say that formula-feeding is on par with breastfeeding IS simply incorrect, and formula companies have been getting in trouble for making that claim for decades. Is it hard? Sure. But how is it easy to get up in the middle of the night a heat a bottle? And if husbands or others tell you they feel left out, give them diapers or tell them they can burp the baby. Feeding is not the only way to bond with a child.
I combo-fed my second child, and it almost broke my heart. The first time I bought formula I cried. I looked at the ingredients and put it back twice, but I was in so much pain because of her poor latch that I felt like I had no choice. I didn’t know what resources I had available to me for support. I didn’t realize that there were several people I could go to to help me with the issues I was having. But, in order to move past the guilt, regret, and sadness I felt, I have now made it my mission to help women understand what resources they have available and to be one of those resources. Yes, breastfeeding requires a commitment, but I do not understand the ridiculous notion that it is somehow “anti-feminist” or “being strapped to your child”. Hanna Rosin is the “feminist” who is most often credited with the argument that breastfeeding is a step backward for women, but she is definitely not the only one. How is nourishing the child we chose to bring into the world “anti-feminist”? How is doing the most we can to insure our child’s health and well-being a step backward?
We need to reframe the argument. Breastfeeding is power. Breastfeeding is something that only women can do. Breastfeeding is the absolute best source of nourishment for a growing brain and body. Breastfeeding is normal and beautiful. Change the message. Claim your God-given power to see that your child has the best start in life. Sure it’s hard! But didn’t you just have a baby?! THAT was hard!