There’s a war going on in the midst of the mothering world—breastfeeding versus formula feeding. I may be biased as a breastfeeder, but I feel that the formula feeders have more hate. When advocating for breastfeeding rights, I never say “oh, you should have tried harder” or “you’re an awful mom because you formula feed” (because it’s the system’s fault, not the moms), but it seems like no matter what I say it is taken that way. I blame this on The Guilt.
Recently, I tweeted about a study I found:
I basically just shortened the title and posted a link. Immediately afterwards, I had a “Twitter argument” with @madamemenu about correlation versus causation and the like which ultimately ended in a “agree to disagree” type of thing. It was not until a week or so ago that I found out I was prominently mentioned in this post by Fearless Formula Feeder. Once again, it was misinterpreted that I was trying to make causation when saying “more likely” directly equals correlation in my mind, but that isn’t the point. The point is this constant war between formula feeding and breastfeeding moms.
Breastfeeding moms who often struggle to get to the point they are at with breastfeeding and formula feeding moms who likely turned to formula because of the same struggles—it would make a perfect team. So why do we decide to hate each other rather than band together to fight the system? I blame The Guilt.
I realize most of the people who read my blog breastfeed, but play along with me here. As a lactivist, I always look at breastfeeding and pregnancy and think about all of the formula ads I saw, the cans of formula that were sent to my house, the bag of formula they gave me at the hospital, et cetera. Imagine you formula feed/fed your baby. From this perspective, rather than being bombarded with ads for formula, you’re instead bombarded with constant messages that breast is best—implying you’re not doing the best for your baby. No matter what your reasoning is for chosing to not breastfeed, being told you’re not doing the best for your child will make you feel The Guilt. No matter how true it is, you start to resent those ads and eventually even the women who do breastfeed. You feel judged. You feel angry. You feel The Guilt.
As many of you know, I co-sleep. I have thoroughly researched the benefits of co-sleeping and have done everything I can to eliminate the risks. I am entirely convinced this is the correct decision for my family and I quite often discuss the benefits of co-sleeping with others as well as how to eliminate risks. That said, I still occasionally feel The Guilt. The American Academy of Pediatrics (the same organization I quite often cite for their breastfeeding recommendations) says it’s not safe. So does the Consumer Product Safety Commission. No matter how convinced I am that this is the right decision for my family, being told that it isn’t the best or safest makes me feel that same guilt, feel that same judgment, and feel that same burning fury in my chest that wants to kill any person who dare claim I am endangering my child.
In my lactivism, I never try to make a formula feeding mom feel guilty. Every time before I write a post, tweet, or even comment on someone else’s blog I contemplate two things: 1. Do I sound accusitory to formula feeding moms? How will my statements be read from the other side? While at the same time walking the fine line of 2. Am I sugar coating it for formula feeding mom’s benefit? Am I in any way implying that formula feeding is just as good a breastfeeding? I don’t want to tip toe around The Guilt and give soon-to-be or one-day-to-be moms the impression that they don’t even need to try. I want them to understand that sometimes breastfeeding is really, really difficult in the beginning and some moms don’t get the proper support to get to that point where it’s easy breezy, but that just means they need to try to surround themselves with the support and do as much as they can to educate themselves before they’re in the middle of it all.
Lactivism is not meant to cause guilt, it’s meant to prevent it.