The ‘FED IS BEST’ guideline states that babies who breastfeed more often than two hourly, but less often than three hourly are showing signs of increased hunger and the aren’t getting enough milk. How is that realistic? How is it that growing human, a baby that is going through rapid neurological changes and growth, is expected to feed within a perfect 2-3 hour window each and every feed?
Do we happen to forget that human babies are mammals? Do you see any other mammals checking the clock to see if it’s time to feed? Or if its too soon or too long since the last feed? NO! They feed their babies on demand. And most species of mammals have been around a lot longer than the human race.
So, every time I read or hear someone say ‘FED IS BEST’, it’s nails on a chalkboard. As an educated woman, when I hear someone say something that is SO outlandishly wrong, it makes me angry and I find it hard to hold my tongue.
Social media is largely to blame for the popularisation of the term. People use it as a way to support the use of infant formula over breast milk. It encourages womxn that might be struggling to breastfeed, that are stressed about their supply or whether their baby is getting enough that it’s okay to give in. That giving your baby a bottle of formula will ease their burden and fill their tummy. Because at the end of the day – ‘FED IS BEST’ right? No. I call absolute bullshit on that. It’s an excuse and it’s not empowering anyone!
And it’s NOT AT ALL because I have a problem with formula. I’m a midwife and a doula. I don’t care how you choose to parent because at the end of the day it’s your baby and I’ll support your feeding choice whether that’s breast, formula or a combination of both.
But ‘FED’ is NOT ‘BEST’ – FED is the BARE MINIMUM. And womxn who are struggling already with breastfeeding sure as hell don’t want to hear phrases like ‘FED IS BEST’. It adds insult to injury and suggests that there is another alternative to feeding your child – which would be starving your child. No parent of sound mind would knowingly starve their child, and no breastfeeding womxn wants to hear that her efforts to move past challenges are a waste of time.
Unfortunately, movements like ‘FED IS BEST’ are fuelled by womxn that are angry, hurt and misinformed. Womxns’ anger towards other breastfeeding womxn is often misguided and would be better directed toward health professionals who give outdated advice and dismiss feeding concerns and anxieties.
It’s common for womxn who aren’t breastfeeding to lash out at those who are on social media as a means to vent their frustrations and hurt. Maybe they themselves struggled with breastfeeding and were given crappy advice. Maybe they did all they could to make breastfeeding work but at the end of the day for one reason or another, they chose to formula feed.
These womxn too have been let down and they aren’t to blame. ‘Mum guilt’ and feeling of failure when breastfeeding doesn’t work out can cause deep and long term wounds. But movements such as ‘FED IS BEST’ don’t improve anything! They only make matters worse.
Lastly, and probably my BIGGEST issue with the ‘FED IS BEST’ movement is how quickly the whole thing morphs into a comparison of breastmilk and formula. As much as we would all like to believe that formula is just as healthy for an infant than breastmilk, the fact is that it’s not! And we do a disservice to parents by glossing over the truth to save face and avoid hurt feelings.
Of course formula provides all the basic building blocks for a human baby to survive and grow, such as protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins. But that’s all it provides. Breast milk is a living, changing food and it’s composition is constantly evolving to its babies specific and individual needs.
Breast milk also provides lives cells, more than a thousand types of proteins, amino acids, complex sugars to feed healthy gut bacteria, antibodies, growth factors, live enzymes, hormones and so much more! Researchers have only just begun to discover the tip of the iceberg and they’re still discovering more.
Those who are serious about reducing infant morbidity and mortality need to move away from click-bait ‘news’ articles that are more designed to instil fear and provoke doubt in a womxns’ biological ability to breastfeed rather than educate and inform. Womxn need more education, resources and support, not to be fed misinformation that incites fear in their bodies or weaponises exclusive breastfeeding. By directing the focus to education for clinicians, parents and society as a whole, we have more of a chance of improving Australia’s current breastfeeding crisis.