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MYTH: Breast is Best Debunked

MYTH: Breast is Best Debunked

MYTH: Breast is Best Debunked

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Whoever said don’t cry over spilled milk, obviously never spilled the two ounces of breast milk that they spent all day desperately trying to pump out of their breasts.

Now, before I start getting hate mail, let me start by saying I have nothing against breastfeeding.  I think it’s a beautiful and natural thing between a mother and child. If you breastfeed your children do it proudly.  I am a staunch support breastfeeding.  However, there is a lack of support for women who formula feed their babies.  Even worse than the general lack of support, is the mom shaming that I see all the time.

This post is for those mothers (like me) who struggled with feeding her babies. Either because they tried to breastfeed and for whatever reason couldn’t.  Or those mothers who for any reason at all, chose to formula feed their baby from the get-go. Frankly, this post is also for those moms who breastfeed their babies, as a reminder that women that we should support each other.

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Let me start with what I dislike the most.  The rhetoric, “Breast is Best.”  This simple phrase, that I am sure was started with the best of intentions makes my blood boil.  Just saying “Breast is Best” implies that anything other breastfeeding is inferior.  It’s the words that I have a problem with. Because let’s be honest, words matter.  They have meaning.  And during what is probably the most emotional and hormonal time in a woman’s life.  They can be devastating.

I remember when I was in a prenatal class while pregnant with my first son.  The instructor asked who planned on breastfeeding their babies.  Without hesitation, 100% of the women proudly raised their hands.  After all, everyone is told that breastfeeding babies have been linked to so many advantages.

I too was certain that I would breastfeed my son.  I felt as though it was a valuable gift that my body was going to give to my child.  Despite the best of intentions, things don’t always go according to plan.  In my case, it was due to a complete undersupply.

This was not for lack of trying.  I was taking Fenugreek, Blessed Thistle, eating lactation cookies, making lactation smoothies, pumping, drinking Guinness (and I strongly dislike beer), constantly pumping, and feeding my son through a tiny tube attached to my breast. I went to lactation consultants. I filled a prescription for Domperidone.  Side note: Domperidone will apparently make men lactate, but not me.

After a month and a half of this exhausting schedule, I was lucky if after a full day of pumping would produce a grand total of 2oz of milk.  At this point, my son was having 4-6oz of formula in a single feeding (still through that tube attached to my breast).

I felt so guilty for having to supplement with formula, but nothing was working, my supply was not increasing.  I felt as though my body had failed me.  It had produced this miracle, but couldn’t feed him.

Everywhere I went, people asked me if I was breastfeeding. I felt such guilt when I would tell them that I was using formula.  The disapproving glares I received when I told them I was using formula didn’t help.

My son was crying.  He was hungry. He was starting to lose weight because he was working too hard to get the formula from the tiny tube, and falling asleep before he was full.  I was told by his pediatrician that I could continue pumping, but that I had to stop the tube.

I cried.  I had done everything right.  I had read the books.  I did everything I was told.  It didn’t work.  I felt as though I had let myself down.  But more importantly, I felt as though I had let my son down.

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At that point, I gave up.  I realized that instead of enjoying this precious time with my newborn, I was creating unnecessary stress.  I had to give myself permission to let it go.

At that point, I gave up.  All at once, I stopped the madness, stopped all supplementation and formula fed my baby with a bottle.  I stopped pumping and trying to breastfeed.  And do you know what happened?  My son began to gain weight.  He was happier, healthier, and frankly so was I.  My son is how a normal healthy toddler, and is in no way any worse off in life because I stopped breastfeeding.  Shocking, I know.

Despite my general health and well-being significantly increasing after I stopped pressuring myself to breastfeed, the stares and the comments did not stop.  I was being mom shamed for feeding my baby!

There are no shortage of reasons why women don’t or simply can’t breastfeed.  However, there seems to be an inherent need for women to justify this decision to the world.  I remember being at the supermarket bottle feeding my son when a woman approached me and told me I should be breastfeeding.  I was shocked.  I was embarrassed.  I was tongue-tied.  I didn’t know what to say, and so I just looked at her and said nothing.  When I got to my car, I cried.  All the guilt and shame came flooding back.

That’s when I realized, why was I justifying my parenting decisions to anyone.  More importantly, why should I have to.

I am not a scientist.  However, I can make two statements with complete certainty:

1.  Fed is best!

2.  A happy and healthy mother is best!

As a mom, we already have enough pressure to do what is best for our children.  Not every parent will raise their children in the same way.  Parents will make tough choices on a daily basis that are based on what works for them and their families.  We should be uplifting and be supporting each other.  Not finding ways to judge and tear each other down.

So, if you are struggling to increase your supply, or agonizing with the decision whether to breastfeed or formula feed your baby, know that whatever decision you make, your baby will succeed.  Give yourself permission to do what is best for you and your well being.

If you are breastfeeding your baby, do so proudly.  It is a beautiful thing.  But no more or less beautiful than a baby being fed by any other means.

I just ask one thing – no matter how you feed your baby – please, please stop saying breast is best.  Because the truth is, Fed is Best!

#FedIsBest

#StopTheMomShaming

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21 Comments

  1. Chastity

    People can be so judgmental with this topic. At the end of the day whatever works for you and the baby DO! As long as your child is healthy nothing else matters🤗

    Reply
    • Karrie

      Couldn’t agree more. It’s a personal decision whether a mother breastfeeds or formula feeds their baby. All a mother needs at the end of the day is support.

      Reply
  2. Renata Green

    There is mom shaming on every level and everywhere – it’s a cultural thing: Motherhood did become sort of religious – which, by the way, makes it unnatural. I think breast feeding is great and did do it, but in the beginning it was very difficult and I remember feeling bad about it. I find we should all relax about these things – and especially stop judging and giving advice. That’s my advice 😉

    Reply
    • Karrie

      You’re right. Everyone needs to stop judging. Live and let live.

      Reply
  3. Lisao

    I feel like we need to, as hard as it is, remove the emotion from the discussion about breast vs formula, and support/educate parents, so they can make an informed decision for their baby and specific circumstances. Fed is best is an equally emotionally loaded statement, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the scientific evidence. There is pressure on both sides. Formula feeding mums feel shamed for not breastfeeding, and breastfeeding mums get pressured to switch to formula when people suggest they are not feeding their babies enough. The science is in. Fed is required. Breastmilk is the biological norm. Formula is an adequate nutritiona replacement. Parents need to be informed about the immunological and protective factors and trade offs. The focus should be on providing parents with the best support and information to do what’s best for their baby, with no judgement.

    Reply
    • Karrie

      I agree mothers need to be able to make informed decisions about what is best for them. Education is key. Mother nature will sometimes take the decision out of your hands. That said, we all need to uplift and support each other; even if mothers make choices that differ from our own.

      Reply
  4. Ana

    You never have to justify your parent decisions to anyone – especially a complete nosey stranger. I can understand the points of each side of the benefits of breastfeeding or not breastfeeding, but it ultimately comes down to what is best for mama and baby. I have heard of the benefits of mother’s milk helping the child with a better immune system and being less allergy prone, but current natural organic baby formulas also are making great strides in providing excellent nutrition – and you’re absolutely right, a well-nourished child is more important than an underfed one. Ultimately, it is solely the mother’s decision and society should support those decisions or mind their own business. Great insight and post!

    Reply
    • Karrie

      The message is true for all aspects of life. Shaming others – whether it be mom shaming or woman in general shaming is all too rampant. We should all mind our own businesses!

      Reply
  5. Shaylynn peCh

    Oh mama. I can relate to your anger and frustrations whole heartedly. I pumped breastmilk exclusively for my daughter for 10 entire months. With my son, I formula fed. I hate the “breast is best” phrase, too. Breast is great, but FED is best. You do you! Thank you for sharing what a lot of moms need to hear!

    Reply
    • Karrie

      Thank you for sharing your story. A fed baby and happy mama is what is best at the end of the day.

      Reply
  6. Luci

    I know two women who had a hard time producing enough milk to satisfy their baby. If a woman can breastfeed, more power to them but they should feel ashamed if they do or do not breastfeed. Just feed your child.

    Reply
    • Karrie

      Exactly!

      Reply
  7. Angel Coleman

    I’m a breastfeeding peer counselor. I see many of the issues mom struggle with and have dealt with them on my own. The issue with breastfeeding is lack of support and education. For me personally I find it bothersome that formula feeding is the norm, and breastfeeding is the exception. Mostly because hospitals push formula and a lot of Dr’s and Nurses aren’t trained in breastfeeding knowledge. So moms don’t always get the support they need and I notice that people who have family that has breastfed before have more success. I breastfed all 3 kids for an extended period but for my last one I had more knowledge and support and I was able to do it longer(still breastfeeding) I did use formula for my kids at some point so of course I’m not completely against it, but I see from my experience lack of support, birthing trauma and birthing drugs, birth control, not enough education affects successful breastfeeding. In your case I think your baby went through a growth spurt and began to eat very frequently which causes concern in many moms because they feel as if there child isn’t getting enough, and they can’t see how much baby is getting and baby is hungry every hour especially at night.

    I think there should not be shaming but I feel there should be more educating. 😊

    Reply
    • Karrie

      I wholeheartedly support breastfeeding. I know for myself, and other women I know, it wasn’t possible. After over a month with lactation consultants, supplementation, pumping etc I would get 2oz of milk A DAY. My little guy was eating so much more than that.

      I agree that for many women the issue is education, support and the ease of obtaining both of those things. It can be easier to give up when things get challenging. These are barriers that need to be addressed so women know where to get the information and support they need.

      My issue was with the shaming and guilt that became associated with using formula.

      I’m sure location plays a large role in what is considered the “norm”. I know the hospitals in Toronto (where I live) provide support for breastfeeding (although limited), and Dr. Jack Newman is an expert and pioneer in the field. But telling women that they just need to try harder, that it’s their fault or that formula is second best is what I have a problem with.

      I completely agree with you that there needs to be more support and education on all fronts and that there is no need to shame a woman whatever she decides to do.

      Reply
      • Alethea

        There is a lot of shame and judgement on all fronts, most people are actually more comfortable around bottle fed babies and often breastfeeding is heavily shamed or worse sexualized! I think its obvious if a baby is being loved, and nurtured regardless of how a mother chooses to feed it, and a happier mother is a better mother but there is scientific evidence in support of breast milk and “debunking the myth that breast is best” is verbiage that also has weight and is just not true or what the article is even about really (your article is about supporting mothers which YES i agree.) Its not a scientific paper and reducing all of the studies done on the benefits of breast milk to “a myth” is not where your article even goes its just click bait. where I live there is a community of mothers who pump and donate to mothers who have supply shortage which I think is encouraging and beautiful and builds nurturing and strong feminine communities and needs to be done more often. Also (as a side note) I don’t agree that a male (Dr. Jack Newman) could ever be an expert or a pioneer in something that is so divinely feminine I wouldn’t take advice from a man who doesn’t even have breasts on how to breastfeed. I’m a strong advocate for trying to encourage women to at least try to breast feed or source out breast milk. To each her own though!

        Reply
        • Karrie

          Thank you for reading my post. I can see that you are passionate about breastfeeding. That is a good thing.

          We both agree that women need more support and education on all fronts. I also completely agree that women should not feel shamed or sexualized when breastfeeding in public. As I have said, I wholeheartedly support breastfeeding.

          I certainly don’t think that I was somehow implying that this post was a scientific journal or paper. That said, you had a reaction to the title of this post. Words matter. That is the point of my post. The use of the word “Best”, as I previously stated, implies that I was doing something was inferior. The post (at least my intention) is not just about supporting women, it’s about changing the conversation. All women should be supported, and saying breast is best, is not supportive. It’s divisive. The myth I refer to isn’t that breastfeeding is bad, it’s that at the end of the day, all that matters is the baby that is fed. No matter the means.

          Breastfeeding is great. I believe that as long as there is no medical reason why a mother shouldn’t – every mother should honestly try and breastfeed their children. Despite my difficulties breastfeeding with my first, I still tried again with my second. Unfortunately, my results were similar. The lactation consultants that I hired agreed with me that my body just wasn’t cut out for breastfeeding. This time, I didn’t beat myself about it. I was proud and happy I tried again. I was lucky I was able to hire a lactation consultant through La Leche League. Not every woman is able to do that, which is a shame, but that is a different issue, for a different post.

          What a beautiful and selfless thing the women in your community are doing by donating breast milk!

          Reply
  8. Letitia

    I find both slogans “Breast is best” and “Fed is best” offensive and not to add any value to motherhood.

    Both offend mothers on both ends of the spectrum and our society will be better off without them.

    They cause a divide and we should rather focus on supporting eachother and providing support to mothers who wish to breastfeed.

    “Breast is best” offends you because you formula feed your child and had such a difficult journey trying to breastfeed.

    “Fed is best” offends breastfeeding mothers who have overcome many struggles and shame, since no alternative will be able to exceed nature.

    We need to stop shouting slogans at eachother and rather support eachother. Stop giving power to these hurtful slogans.

    Your title may not be intended as being hurtful but it is and a better option woul have been “Why we should support our fellow mother”.

    At the moment it can be perceived as click bait and as it sets the tone for the article, your message will be missed.

    Reply
  9. KISha gulley

    thank you so much for this!!!! I struggled with breastfeeding and everywhere i turned i got zero support.

    Reply
  10. Sincerely Ophelia

    Wow, I know a mom who really needs this. This is an eye opener!

    Reply
  11. Becky

    Yes! Yes! Yes! A million times Yes!!!! I tried so hard to breastfeed my daughter and it just wasn’t working, I tried to pump but I wasn’t producing enough for her to have a whole bottle and I was getting depressed. Finally I told my husband I had to stop. I felt like a cow constantly being attached to the pump, I just needed it to stop. He was in 100% support and I’ve never regretted it. She is a happy & very healthy 2.5 year old who is super smart & has had 1 case of the sniffles. She (and I) was much better off being formula fed, and I was able to enjoy her infancy & toddlerhood.

    Reply

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