Ok, I'll admit it.
As a long time breastfeeding advocate this one has been tough for me.
I used to be quick to spout off the phrase anywhere I could, frequently followed by, "Facts are not attacks." I never understood why someone could get so riled up by a simple fact. I mean it must be their own guilt they're struggling with. Sounds like a personal problem.
Here's what's wrong with that line of thinking:
First of all, "breast is best" ISN'T a fact.
It's a generalization.
To continue to tell every person that has a baby or is thinking about having one that breast is best for them is unrealistic, unempathetic, invalidating, and demeaning.
Breastfeeding offers a plethora of incredible benefits to both mom and babe, a FACT you will never see me dispute. Very frequently those benefits outweigh the benefits of other feeding options. Breastfeeding advocacy has it's place to encourage education and support so others can take advantage of those awesome benefits. I admire many advocates work and the strides they have made in public education, awareness, and implementing support systems for those that wish to breastfeed.
However, we can not continue to insinuate that being armed with knowledge about breastfeeding leaves us in a place to tell a family what is best for them without stopping to consider the complex dynamics of their lives and overall health.
Have we not created that feeling of guilt so many moms who feel like they "failed" experience within the community ourselves?
There's a list we've made of "acceptable" reasons not to breastfeed. We say we "understand" it didn't work and that "It's ok. Just because you didn't breastfeed doesn't make you a bad mom." Which makes it seem like the two have anything to do with one another and only one option leads to you being "the best". We call mom's who never tried breastfeeding or quit for reasons we don't support selfish. We remind them that being a parent is the ultimate self-sacrificing job. As if harboring another human's body within your own for nine months and then waking up every two hours with said other human for weeks on end after practically ripping your body in half to get it out in the first place isn't enough. We continue to drill into them over and over again, that while formula feeding is certainly ok if you REALLY want what's best for your child this is what you'll do. What parent has ever said, "No I don't want what's best for my child?"
As a doula one of the main focuses of my job is my client's mental and emotional well-being. How could I continue to use a phrase I've seen and experienced to be so damaging to so many? To some they may be just words but to others those words can keep them up at night. They can intensify PPD and leave them racked with feelings of being less than.
Sometimes what is best for a family looks like a happy, healthy formula fed baby who is being taught by example to choose happiness and the importance of balance, self care, and mental and physical health.
And all time the reasoning behind that choice doesn't have to be one you agree with.
When babe and family have found what works best for them and everyone is fed, happy and healthy, that's where the magic happens.