The Debate Still Rages

Those of a sensitive disposition may want to look away now.

It’s another post about the way we feed our babies.

“But Maddy!”, I hear you cry. “Your kid eats sandwiches and chocolate coins and fluff! Why do you still care about this?!”. 

Because supporting other mums is kind of the entire reason why I started blogging in the first place, and I don’t intend to change that now.

brest vs bottle.png

I follow the “Fearless Formula Feeder” page on Facebook, and the other day she posted this article, entitled “Furious Formula Feeders?”. I have to say, this is one of my favourite FFF posts ever, and one I agree with wholeheartedly.

I’m angry that my community members are told that they are victims when they don’t feel like victims. I’m angry that when they do feel victimized, they are dismissed, brushed off as unfortunate casualties in the War Against Big Bad Formula.

I’m angry that the formula companies continue to make stupid marketing moves, adding fuel to a fire that should’ve been extinguished back in the early 1980s.

I’m angry that “celebrating moms” always means “celebrating breastfeeding”. Moms should not be celebrated for feeding their babies. They should be celebrated for doing a job that is often hard and thankless, for bringing home the bacon, frying it up, and cleaning all the dishes afterwards before putting the kids to sleep and working on tomorrow’s quarterly reports. I’m angry that this myopic focus, this fetishizing of what should be a perfectly normal act, marginalizes adoptive parents, primary caregiving fathers, and anyone without working mammary glands.

Is it possible to nod so much your head falls off? Because that’s what I’m doing right now.

I’m angry that women insist on battling each other in these snarky ways, like life is just one big junior high school. Grow up. Grow. The. Hell. Up. There are so many problems in the world – you really want to spend time arguing about whether we feed babies breastmilk or a perfectly viable substitute? Is live and let live really that hard a concept? Do you really have nothing better to do than tell random women on the internet how they are Doing It All Wrong? And formula-feeding moms who hang out on breastfeeding sites to cause trouble – I’m talking to you, too. You’re part of the problem. Making shitty comments about breastfeeding moms, who have just as much right to community and support as you do, is hypocritical and mean. Mean girl behavior is not “venting”.

So yeah. She’s angry. And by the time I finished reading the article, I was angry too – and proud of it.

As women, we’re taught that anger is unbecoming of us. It’s not ladylike, it’s not delicate and pretty. If we’re angry, we’re either a nagging fishwife or a shrieking hysteric. No. I am angry about this because I care about the right of every baby to be fed, and every parent to feed in a way that suits them and they are happy with.

That means I am angry when women aren’t given the right support to breastfeed. It means I’m angry when they’re told to breastfeed in toilets or under a blanket. It means that I’m angry when people say that breastfeeding is disgusting or gross, or compare breastfeeders to dairy cows, or compare the act of breastfeeding to urinating in public.

It also means I’m angry when women are told they are “poisoning” their babies with formula, or accused of “making life harder” for breastfeeding women and breastfeeding advocates, or told that their kids will be less intelligent/less healthy if they are formula fed (those studies make generalisations on a population level – in reality, a healthy, smart child is made of so much more than the milk they’re fed for the first year), or when a health professional shames a mother for giving formula.

I made a Mommitment last year, to not judge other parents for their choices. I don’t think I’m reneging on that when I say that if you make the choice to judge another parent for the way they feed their child then yes, I judge the hell out of you. Absolutely I do.

I’m thankful that in the blogging community I now feel so at home in, I don’t know of anyone who does judge – at least, not openly. It’s friendly and welcoming and encouraging. So why am I still seeing anti-breast/anti-formula propaganda on my timeline and the news and social networks near enough every day?

If you don’t like seeing breastfeeding in public, look away (and grow up while you’re at it). If you don’t like the way formula companies advertise, admonish the formula companies, not the mums just doing their best for their babies. If these two simple instructions are beyond you, I can only suggest that you don’t go out in public until you’ve eaten a batch of Shut-the-fucupcakes and can keep your ignorance to yourself.

I used to be angry that I didn’t manage to breastfeed beyond the first few days. That anger has gone now, replaced by that lovely serene calm that comes with accepting what we cannot change and learning from it. I’m still angry, though – angry that mums are still coming under fire for feeding their babies. I mean, goddamnit, at least they are feeding their babies! That’s the important thing.

I’m angry that mums shoulder the blame when breastfeeding doesn’t work out, despite the fact that in many areas of the UK, the proper support they need is either oversubscribed, difficult to find or just not there at all. I’m angry that all this money funnelled into the promotion leaflets and posters in every GP and hospital waiting room up and down the country could go into providing more lactation consultants – real, tangible support for breastfeeding, rather than a picture of a woman taking to it like a duck to water. I’m angry that society continues to shame breastfeeding, making it seem socially unacceptable to mums-to-be. I’m angry that “I didn’t want to” isn’t seen as an “acceptable” reason not to breastfeed, because it’s perfectly acceptable. I’m angry that formula feeding mums get the flak for the unethical advertising and practices of formula companies. I’m angry that tired, hormonal, upset new mums are being told they could’ve overcome their issues “if they’d just tried harder”.

I’m angry that people are still turning motherhood into a competition, rather than a sisterhood. Until this one-upmanship stops, and we start to co-operate, respect each other’s choices and support each other, I’m not going to stop being angry, and I’m not going to stop being proud.

I’m angry because I care, and I’m proud that I care. If I wasn’t angry, I’d be apathetic. I’d be letting down the women who are where I was eighteen months ago; lost and confused and hurt and guilty. I came to be at peace with my inability to breastfeed because of some fabulous angry women, who showed me that we don’t have to accept shame, and we don’t have to accept pressure. It isn’t our “punishment” for not breastfeeding; it’s unacceptable, and we can stand up against it. Now it’s my turn to be angry on behalf of the new mums, and to be their voice for a while.

I made my #Mommitment to support more and judge less. Now it’s time to put my money where my mouth is. If it’s going to take anger to stop pressure to breastfeed; to stop discrimination against breastfeeding mothers; to stop formula feeding mothers inheriting the bad reputation of the formula companies; to ensure that every woman’s feeding choice is respected, then I’m not going to apologise for feeling that anger.

So you’re damn right I’m angry.

But until society changes, I wouldn’t want to be anything else.



3 thoughts on “The Debate Still Rages

  1. Becky, Cuddle Fairy says:

    Really great post hun & well done for going there on the breast vs bottle debate. I’ve been wanting to write about it but it’s such a touchy subject. People really are angry about it! I think your decision not to judge is spot on, I feel exactly the same way. I don’t see why one person’s choice should have any impact on how another person feels about their personal choice. x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Becky Pink says:

    Fantastic, I couldn’t agree more. It astonishes me that this is even still an issue. I have struggled with the guilt of not being able to breastfeed my babies and it still brings me to tears when I think about it. To be fair I didn’t really feel judged my anyone but myself but I hate that ANYONE gets judged either way. As long as the baby is being fed, that should be all there is too it. And I feel that formula feeding has a lot of benefits too. And both my girls are happy and healthy and smart. And at the end of the day, that is all that matters. Good for you for making a stand xx

    Liked by 1 person

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