We’ve all heard the “breast is best” slogan.
It was the breastfeeding slogan bandied around some time ago that seems to have stuck, but interestingly, it has not officially been used by many breastfeeding organisations for some time now, in favour of breastfeeding simply being the normal way to feed.
Lactation consultants are no longer saying that breastfeeding is best — because it isn’t for every mother or baby.
In fact, the biggest users of the “breast is best” slogan are formula advertisers (take note next time you see an advert on television).
Many advocates believe that it's clever marketing tactic in disguise, designed to foster the divide, building the fiery passion for their choice, reinforcing their decision.
How you choose — or need to — feed your baby doesn't make you any better or less of a parent. There are a wide variety of reasons that mothers choose to formula feed, and not all are in the mothers control. Moreover, regardless of her choices, every new mother needs support, not judgment.
With that in mind, here are some things you should avoid saying to a mother who chooses to formula feed:
#1: “Everyone Can Breastfeed.”
In a world filled with obstacles to breastfeeding, many of us have been raised with the notion that anyone can breastfeed… and it’s true that most women can. But there are some women are physically unable to breastfeed. Some women work in restrictive or inappropriate workplaces that won’t allow them pump during the day. Some women have psychological challenges — such as a history of rape or abuse — which can make breastfeeding overwhelming.
It’s unfair to assume that you know that a formula feeding mother can breastfeed. Have a read of our article, 26 reasons why babies may need formula. Also find out 12 reasons why you should never judge formula feeding parents, here.
#2: “Breastmilk Is Healthier”
Most parents know that breast milk is healthier, so when you say this, you’re stating the obvious. Of course, sometimes breastfeeding simply isn’t best. Even if there’s no health reason not to breastfeed, every mother has the right to choose how to feed her baby.
Perhaps the formula feeding mother has chosen to focus on another area of health that you don’t. You just don’t know until you’ve walked in her shoes.
#3: “Have You Thought About Pumping?”
Pumping is not easy, and it’s certainly not a solution to all breastfeeding challenges. In extreme cases, some mothers have been known to pump with too much enthusiasm, and have ended up damaging their breasts to the point of breastfeeding being excruciating.
Pumping is an obvious solution she’s likely thought about. Unless the formula feeding mothers in your life have been living under a rock, she certainly knows about pumping.
#4: “Breastfed Babies Are Smarter/Healthier/Happier.”
Yes, breastfeeding has some serous benefits, but it is not – I repeat not – a cure to every single ailment. Researchers keep finding that the real key to a happy, healthy baby is a happy, healthy mother. When you guilt a mother for formula feeding, you harm her psychological well-being, and in doing so, it will affect her baby as well. There are lots of ways to keep babies healthy and happy, and breastfeeding isn’t the only one.
#5: “Have You Tried (insert breastfeeding method here)?”
A formula feeding mother shouldn’t have to ‘prove’ that she’s tried every possible method. Instead, every mother’s choices should be honoured. Rather than invading a formula-feeding mother’s privacy, simply respect her decision and her journey.
Motherhood is challenging, isolating work. No mother should have to live up to someone else’s expectations. Instead, every mother is tasked with the challenge of protecting her baby’s wellbeing while ensuring she has a little time for herself.
If you encounter a formula feeding mother, support her, encourage her, and embrace her choices. She doesn’t love her baby any less than you love yours.