|Photo by Molly Leon Photography|
A few days later, The Food Babe posted an article about finding organic formula for babies, and in her Facebook post, she ended by saying, "(And obviously breast milk is best, but some mothers need an alternative!")." Something about that really got to me. I commented on her post that while I actually loved and valued her article, research and findings, I was upset that she had to end her post with that comment.
Here's the thing: I've talked a lot about how new parents need to be lifted up, emotionally, and how we, as a culture, need to get the word "normal" out of our vocabulary. But, there's another word I have an issue with here: "best." Let me be clear: yes, we know 100% that breast milk is the best option, nutritionally, for babies. That's not a secret. I know that, you know that. Every doctor beats us over the head with that information. For some mothers, they need that snuggle and feeding time to bond with their baby, they need to feel that they are feeding their baby in the best way that they can. However, I think it's starting to become detrimental to tell new, scared, worried mothers that "breast is best!" when maybe...they can't do their "best," and provide the breast. By telling mothers that the breast is the best, and therefore, anything besides the breast is, well...not the best, it's simply telling mothers that they aren't providing the best environment, nutrition, and life for their baby. And, what new mom wants to hear that? By shouting the "best" word from the rooftops, it's sidelining every woman who can't, or (gasp) doesn't want to breastfeed.
Furthermore, in my situation, the breast was not the best. Sure, do I, the paleo cook, wish that I could have given my baby my milk, instead of a factory-produced milk product? Nutritionally, sure. However, there's a lot more to being a mother than providing my baby with nutrition; there's that whole...mental, emotional aspect too. I knew that by breastfeeding, I would not have been a happy mother. I would have been stressed out, upset, frustrated, and resentful. Do you know how many times I've formula-bottle fed my son and felt those feelings? Zero. Simply put, there is more to mothering than the fact that we have breasts.
It was really hurtful to me, to hear that interview with Kate on the TLST, because she was clearly saying that if a mother chose, or had to, formula feed, she wasn't being a great mother. She wasn't doing her best. She wasn't choosing the best for her child. Just like with anything, you can't judge a mother for feeding her baby formula because you don't know why she is feeding her baby formula.
We are all doing our best as new parents. My best was formula feeding, and I feel awesome about that. Like I said, I never felt guilty for formula feeding, I felt guilty for not speaking up sooner about not wanting to breastfeed. I think the "breast is best" phrase needs to be taken out of our lexicon; anything with "best" should. Take any topic about parenting: vaccines, germs, homeschooling, private schooling, playing with toy weapons...and you're going to have two sides to the argument. Someone will always say one side is "best" and one side is not. We are well aware, as a society, that breast milk is the best nutritional option for a baby; but, breastfeeding is not always the best option. We need to stop saying that formula is an alternative, because it's not: it's an option. It's an option that some parents choose, and others don't. It's an available option, just as breastfeeding is an option. New mothers are supposed to lift each other up, help each other out--not judge each other. It's so hard being a new parent, so let's stop judging, and start praising. Tell a new mom, "I'm proud of you!" or "You're doing great!" because sometimes that's all we need to hear to reassure ourselves that we're doing the best we can.