Everyone knows breast is best, it’s told to us from the moment we conceive by doctors and nurses, midwives and health visitors, in pamphlets and by campaigners. We know. Breastfeeding is best for mum and baby, best for health, best for bonding and best for safety, but just because we know this doesn’t mean we can all do it.
A campaign has been launched to get safety style warnings boldly printed on packets of formula, akin to the safety labels across packets of cigarettes. Packs already bare the information that “breast is best”, but the plans are to make it stand out with health warnings.
So, good idea?
In my opinion, no. If you’re a mother who desperately wants to breast feed but can’t then you’re likely to already have intense feelings of guilt. Surely in cases like this we should encourage women to celebrate that there are alternatives that, whilst not the “best”, are safe and produce healthy, normal children. We don’t have to worry about dirty water and disease, formula is affordable and available easily. Yes, it would be wonderful if all mum’s were physically able to breast feed, and all baby’s were able to latch on and eat, but that is not the case and we shouldn’t punish those that can’t do it. Feelings of failure are already heart breaking, why add to that?
And for those women who decide breast feeding just isn’t for them? I still don’t think these labels are fair. They will be fully aware of why breast feeding is best, and for whatever reason decided it wasn’t for them. Maybe they tried it and it hurt, maybe they needed others to help feed the baby, maybe it just wasn’t something they were comfortable with, but that’s okay. Formula is there and able to stand in. I certainly think women in this situation being supported and educated to understand why breast feeding is best and how it works, but being informed is different to being pressured. Information we can use is different to stark labels telling us that formula feeding is dangerous for our children.
And for those who adopt? I plan on adopting in the next few years and assuming I’m not still lactating from breast feeding Miss Rose, I will have no option but to formula feed the baby we adopt. Do I want massive warnings that I am potentially causing this child harm? No! I want to give whoever we adopt the safest, warmest, most love filled life I can and formula feeding will have to be part of that.
We also have to remember that many, many women suffer from Post Natal Depression (PND), and this is already a silent torment that hacks at a woman’s esteem and devastates her with feelings of guilt and self loathing and inner agony. If these women are already in such a terrible place, and if breast feeding added to that pain, then isn’t it wonderful that formula is available so others can share the load? When a woman is mentally caving in on herself she needs support and encouragement, not blame. Not criticism. Not threats that she is failing her child who will suffer because of it.
Lactivists are very enthusiastic about the importance of breast feeding, and as I said I think it’s important we are educated as women so we can make an informed choice that is best for us and our family. But having made that decision, with all the information available, leave us alone. There are so many things we have to feel guilty about. The occasional glass of wine, eating junk food, spending all day on the sofa because you’re just too tired and too weak to move. We’d all love to be sprightly, breast feeding mums with their hair done and their make up on, with perfect clean homes and perfect clean children that sleep through the night and look like perfect little angels. I certainly would. But we are going to fail. We are going to make mistakes. We are fallible and we are human. We do the best we can. Leave us alone. Don’t expect perfection from others unless you’re offering it.
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!