I am writing this post because it is international breastfeeding week and there are a lot of polarizing views on how to feed babies. Before I even begin I want to to put this disclaimer: I do not and will not judge another Mom for how she feeds her baby. I am a formula fed human. I think I turned out pretty well. I do not have a third eyeball nor do I have an extremely low IQ. I am actually pretty healthy and have suffered no known consequences for being formula fed. I do not want to shame, make anyone feel less than or guilty for the choices they make but what I would like to do is address this new popular saying we have all adopted in attempt to make everyone feel happy inside- "Fed is best".
Let's start with the definition of the word best.
1. of the most excellent, effective, or desirable type or quality.
Best means the most desirable and effective type or quality. It has been scientifically proven time and time again that breast milk is the most effective and is of the most desirable quality when it comes to sustenance for a baby human. Does that mean formula is horrible and of poor quality? NO! But when using the word "Best" you are automatically ranking two or more things, and in that ranking system breastmilk comes out on top. And by breastmilk I mean breastmilk from a mom who doesn't take medication and who eats some type of nutrient dense diet. Breastmilk riddled with drugs vs. formula? Formula is then the best. Overall though- breastmilk beats out formula. I am not saying this to hurt feelings, but I am saying this because it's just a fact of life. I know a lot of Moms have trouble breastfeeding and have to stop their journeys and it is an extremely painful and sometimes traumatic experience for them. My heart goes out to these Moms because I know how that feels. After dreaming of an unmedicated natural birth for my whole adult life I ended up with c-sections for both of my babies. That hurt me. It put me in a depression after my daughter and it still to this day makes my heart sink when I think I will never experience that very sacred rite of passage that most women experience when giving birth to their babies. But does that mean I think that c-sections are best? Noway jose. I firmly believe that vaginal births are (again, generally) healthier for both Mom and baby. I don't get my panties in a bundle or try to defend c-sections when the topic comes up. Because my choices and experiences don't change evidence based research and the most up to date information science can offer. I think this is why the "fed is best" motto has bothered me so much. We live in a time where we are making up mottos that are 100% against the science to make everyone feel warm and fuzzy inside. But you know who the "fed is best" saying is actually damaging the most? Moms who breastfeed. I know, sounds crazy but stick with me while I explain why.
Breastfeeding was not easy for me. It did not come naturally. My daughter had a tongue tie I had no idea about until she was almost one and we struggled. When I say struggled I mean cracking, bleeding nipples, bawling my eyes out the first couple of weeks every time she latched from pain and terrible anxiety at the thought of her suckling from my teets. I also felt like a huge milk cow with no other identity because she was CONSTANTLY attached to me, eating, eating and eating. All of the time. I missed bachelorette parties, got asked to not be in weddings and did not have a date with my husband for months. I didn't start working out (which is one of my passions) for 6 months after she was born because she ate every hour and I was a first time mom and didn't know how to deal with a demanding baby and juggle everyday life let alone find time to work out. I was a mess to be honest- but do you know why I stuck with it for over a YEAR? Because I knew it was the best thing for my daughter. I was willing to sacrifice A LOT, because I was trying to do what was BEST for her. And it really bothers me that we can't even say something is better in fear of hurting peoples feelings. Because it hurts breastfeeding Moms feelings who sacrifice a lot to make it work when we are told it doesn't really matter because FED is best. What you are doing and what you are sacrificing isn't that big of a deal because every choice is the best choice. Tell that to the frazzled first time Mom building up her supply in her freezer before she has to return to work. Tell that to the Mom who had to say "No" to that movie, or concert, or happy hour because they can't leave their breastfed baby for that long. Tell that that to the Mom at 3 AM who is waking up with the baby as her husband sleeps because she really is the only one who can feed the baby. Breastfeeding is a wonderful and beautiful thing- but it is a HUGE responsibility. You are CONSTANTLY worried about what you are eating, how much you are producing, how long you can leave the baby for and if you are giving your baby what they need to thrive. It is a commitment that takes more sacrifice than most can imagine. And you know what? it is the best for a baby and sometimes that sentiment alone is the ONLY thing that keeps a struggling Mom who has had the last ounce of energy sucked out of her from her nipples by a small human being the strength to keep going.
Instead of trying to make everyone the same no matter how different their choices are why don't we just support one another instead. I have friends who are awesome Moms who formula feed their babies. I never once have thought less of them. In all honesty I envy them at times. This whole stupid mommy war can't make us so scared to offend one another that we make up scientifically invalid statements to make everyone happy. I feed my daughter microwave Mac n Cheese more than I would like to admit. Does that make me a terrible mom? No. Are their better choices? Yes! In the end we are all just parents who deeply love our kids and are trying to do whats best for them whenever we can. Sometimes we can't and that doesn't make us any less, any worse and it doesn't make our kids any less either. But if we start making everything the "best" then it makes nothing the best. And when nothing is better than anything then why even try? Let's just support each other as parents- the best and worst versions of ourselves. Let's celebrate our wins together and love each other through our losses.