To health care professionals, lactation consultants, midwives, doulas, birth coaches, public health workers, and all human beings in the world:
I understand and recognize the wonder of breastmilk and the benefits it confers to babies and breastfeeding women. That said, the “breast is best” campaign is a horrible failure. Here’s why.
"Breast is best" denies that there are adequate non-breastfeeding options to the many many women who can’t breastfeed. Maybe they had an emergency C-section and their milk didn’t come in. Maybe they’re on life-saving medication that prevents breastfeeding. Maybe they have painful mastitis or thrush, causing them to cringe whenever their beloved newborn’s maw comes near. Maybe they have to work three jobs to make ends meet. Maybe, like me, they’re an adoptive parent.
"Breast is best" and the people who relentlessly promote it without listening or compassion make these women feel like failures, right out of the parenting gate. When healthcare professionals and even random strangers make women feel like they’re not trying hard enough, like maybe they’re not so invested in motherhood, like maybe they’re willing to sacrifice their newborn’s good health, they’re doing no good at all. No good at all.
"Breast is best" indicates to adoptive parents like me that we can’t possibly give our children what they need. If there’s no alternative to breast, then we’re bad parents from the start.
"Breast is best" arms the general public with self-righteous ammunition they direct at bottle-feeding strangers, spewing judgment and bad feeling all around.
The thing is, though, that we know as an undeniable fact that there’s a hell of a lot more to parenting than feeding. We know undeniably that there are unknown adults walking amongst us who were, themselves, formula fed from birth and who are now healthy, productive adult members of society.
So how about we lay off the “there is one and only one way to do it” rhetoric and start saying that “breast is usually best,” eh? Because when a parent cries when it’s feeding time and comes to resent her baby for the pain, it may well be best for her to formula feed and properly bond, don’t you think? When an adoptive parent bonds with a child without the hormones of birth urging it along, let’s allow him or her to do it the only way they can, okay?
Okay. Thanks for your consideration.
Kim Werker, formula-feeding adoptive parent