If you spend any time on social media, you're probably familiar with the antidote to "breast is best," "fed is best." It's troubling that by advocating breastfeeding, mothers somehow get the impression that it's an all or nothing proposition resulting in hungry babies and stressed, broken mothers. Of course, like most hyperbole, this is not reality, but #fedisbest is a powerful movement that we struggle with.
Why? Fed is a requirement. Obviously. We want healthy happy thriving babies.
Of course, formula is not the same as breastmilk. Doctors and scientists are just beginning to uncover some of the multitude of benefits for both mother and baby, and as we look more to our guts, where the balance and presence of certain bacteria have a very real impact on near and long term health, babies' first food matters.
But here's the thing: breastfeeding is hard. It can feel lonely. It is time consuming. And that's all true if its going well. We fill our Instagram feeds with gorgeous, ambitious, svelte new moms living their "best life" mere weeks after a baby, and uncertainty washes over us. Couple this perception of new motherhood with a culture that is still unfriendly to breastfeeding mothers AND fractured support from family members (how many of your mothers, aunts, or grandmothers breastfed and know what it's like?), and you have a recipe for disaster.
Breastfeeding successfully or struggling day by day or giving up or pumping your heart out for a baby who has trouble latching... none of these are measures of your worthiness as a mother. But goodness, it's difficult not to feel that way, when increasingly we're told "breast is best" but our expectations of post partum are completely out of whack.
Newborn life can feel endless. Who among use can relate, as our Founder Lilly did, "Oh shit. I asked for this?" Yeah. She continues, "And that has to be a big contributor to why breastfeeding fails. Formula allows the sort of fractured maintenance of the old life and self."
Increasingly, as lactation counselors, we're viewing breastfeeding as a mindset and philosophy. It takes over an unequivocally huge part of post partum life. That's what babies do. Being real about this, sharing experiences, and setting expectations that just make sense have to be a part of the support we provide. That, and letting all moms know its ok to ask, "What's in this for ME?" because that's ok, too.