Why We Need To Stop Saying ‘Fed Is Best’
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Put down your torches and pitchforks ladies, and let me preface this by saying this is NOT about singling out anyone or trying to make anyone feel bad. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. If you’re triggered by this content and feel the need to vent in a negative way, then I urge you to click away now because that’s not what we are about. If you’re willing to keep an open mind and want to empower women, then read on.
Over the last few years, we have seen a rise in the term ‘fed is best’ when referring to the breastfeeding vs formula feeding debate. This has particularly become prevalent when discussing cases of malnourishment, failure to thrive and in some extreme cases where a baby has died due to complications from not being fed.
We see the term ‘fed is best’ being used like armour – shielding women and using the phrase to justify their choices of how they feed their babies.
But we need to stop saying ‘fed is best’. Fed is a minimum requirement.
Please… keep reading before you get up in arms…
Breast is best. I’m not sorry to say it. Science has proven this over and over again and continues to do so. It is a recommendation of the World Health Organization to breastfeed, and the benefits of doing so are too numerous to name in this post.
Formula is an adequate substitute for breastmilk when breastfeeding is not an option.
But here is where our words matter. We need to stop saying ‘fed is best’ because it dismisses breastfeeding, formula feeding, mixed feeding and completely dismisses a woman’s ability to make decisions for herself and her baby.
Informed is best.
Supported is best.
Empowered is best.
Informed women, who make decisions for their baby, who are supported by those around them, and feel empowered by their choices are BEST.
The problem arises when women aren’t informed. They feel they are left with no choice, they feel like they are bullied into making feeding decisions. They aren’t offered support. They aren’t educated on their options.
Studies show that women who are supported by a Lactation Consultant after birth have higher rates of initiation of breastfeeding, higher rates of continued breastfeeding beyond the fourth trimester, and are more likely to still be exclusively breastfeeding at 3 months. (Source)
This isn’t about whether or not you were able to breastfeed, or if your milk came in, or if you couldn’t get your baby to latch. This is about whether or not you were supported, had adequate resources available and if your wishes were heard and met.
We have maternity health systems that ignore women, that treat us like incubators, that tell us how we birth our baby doesn’t matter, our mental health doesn’t matter, as long as we have a ‘healthy baby’ we don’t matter.
Then we are given little support after our baby is born, with many countries still not offering paid maternity leave, where women face the challenge of having to return to work or give up their career, where we have to fight for our right to breastfeed our baby in public, and where we are told it only takes 6 weeks to recover from birth and have little to no support after this time.
We matter. As women, as mothers, we matter.
And the first step in proving this is by informing women of the choices they have, listening to what they want, supporting them in their decisions and helping them feel empowered.
This is why we need to stop saying ‘fed is best’. It’s like saying it doesn’t matter what you want, it doesn’t matter what your goals were or what your idea of your relationship with your baby was going to look like. It doesn’t matter if you had previous trauma that you had to overcome, or have no support from those around you, or you’re scared to ask for help. It’s like saying women don’t matter.
Imagine we all had access to support, access to people who sat down and listened to what we wanted and explained our choices, who didn’t just say you have option 1 and option 2 but explained that you had option 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5…. and 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5 and showed you all the different ways you could make it happen. Imagine women felt like they had a cheer squad behind them, that ‘village’ we all say that it takes to raise a baby. And imagine if women never felt like they had to defend their choices because they could simply say ‘I was informed, supported and empowered and I am confident in my choice’.
It matters less what we choose, and more that we are informed, supported and empowered.
So please, stop saying ‘fed is best’. Women deserve better than that. Informed, supported and empowered is best.