Some women love breastfeeding and have a great experience. This article is not for those women. This is for the women struggling. To let them know breast is not always best.
Before my first child, I prepared to be an earth goddess mom: boob out, feeding her baby wherever and whenever. In my mind, formula led to obesity, ear infections, and a plethora of health issues. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.
Reality hit about 48 hours postpartum with raw nipples and a screaming infant. Supplementing with formula still was not an option. I even went to a lactation specialist who said (paraphrasing here, I was sleep-deprived), “You’re doing everything right. If she doesn’t want to latch, that’s on her.”
Pumping became my next option, and I am lucky enough to be a human equivalent of a dairy cow. I exclusively pumped for the good part of a year. I made a social media post around this time bragging about how I pumped for seven months without using a single drop of formula.
After weaning, I realized how ridiculous it was, putting so much pressure on myself, spending hours a day attached to a pump. Time that I could have spent with my daughter (who still had about four ear infections in her first year, by the way).
I put this same pressure on other moms looking for advice with feeding. Urging people to keep going with low supply, multiple bouts of mastitis, and extreme food elimination diets were wrong. The growing industries for lactation cookies/drinks/supplements and lactation consultants show that women are trying anything and everything. Sometimes despite their bodies telling them that it’s not working out.
Oftentimes (I know I was), people are looking for permission from other moms to supplement or wean. There’s a shame some women feel in “giving up” because we all want what’s best for our children, and we’ve been told over and over that breast is best. I can no longer count the number of times I’ve heard someone feel like they’re “failing” their child by struggling to breastfeed. These women don’t need lactivism; they need non-judgmental support.
My advice for new moms now, feed your baby in a way that is feeding the both of you. Breast milk is not magic; it’s food. If breastfeeding isn’t working, there are other options.
In fact, breast is best is overrated. Many studies that compare breastfed babies to formula-fed babies don’t control for important determinants of health. These include factors like socioeconomic status and parental education. What this boils down to is the data isn’t overwhelmingly persuasive that one is much better than another.