I’m reposting in my Friday focuses this month, and next, since we are expecting our second little one soon, and I’m super busy with Abbey in Jed’s absence, as he is on patrol.
As a lactivist, I want to see all babies breastfed for as long as possible. As a breastfeeding mother, and a peer breastfeeding counselor, I have seen the societal barriers that make this impossible for a great number of moms in our society.
It’s important to realize that the problem at the root of the “breast vs bottle” debate is NOT that some mothers want to do what’s best for their children and others don’t. It’s not that women who want to be successful in their careers choose formula and stay-at-home moms choose breastfeeding either. The root of the intense breast vs bottle debate is a vast social problem, not one pertinent to women only: that our society has created an environment of tension around feeding choices by objectifying the female form and sexualizing the breast. Our society continues this environment of tension by allowing formula companies to market their breastmilk substitutes (which actually rate #6 out of 6 of alternatives to mother’s milk) in a deceptive and glamorous manner – and either ignoring or suppressing information from scientists and breastfeeding advocates (and even the AAP and WHO) about the risks of feeding formula to infants.
In her post, The Barefoot Mother talks about the way society shifted organically from a matriarchal to patriarchal status quo over the ages. I think that in the same way, we have shifted as a society from a natural and compassionate way of feeding and raising children to a society that is torn and in extreme tension over something that really is second nature. And just as feminism has started to shift our society back toward a more equal ground regarding gender roles, so, too, are we slowly starting to shift back to natural and compassionate parenting and feeding methods, drawn by scientific studies that are showing that natural feeding and compassionate parenting are biologically and developmentally better for our children.
It is so important that we break the cycle of ignorant and misguided tension surrounding the breast feeding/bottle feeding issue. We need to work to create a society in which breastfeeding is seen as normal, desired, and achievable, and that moms are well educated about breastfeeding – not just for ten minutes in a birth class, but throughout their lives by seeing breastfeeding, talking about breastfeeding, and hearing factual information passed from doctors, neighbors, family, and friends. We can only end this social struggle by breaking down the barriers that make breastfeeding difficult; not by shaming women who choose to bottle feed. It’s ultimately society that makes that choice for them, anyway, by allowing misleading formula marketing and posing great barriers to breastfeeding success.