As a nursing mom and a breastfeeding advocate I often here the complaint that "formula feeding moms need support too!" whenever the topic of breastfeeding support comes up. I find this extremely frustrating. It's not that I don't think formula feeding moms NEED moral support....I'm sure they do! Particularly if formula feeding wasn't their first choice. Hell, mothers in general need moral support! It's a tough job no matter how you feed your baby....but the sort of support that breastfeeding advocates are talking about, the sort of support that can make all the difference to a mom struggling in the early days of nursing, is something else entirely. Moral support is great, sure. A good ol' "you go, mama!" is lovely, but the support we're talking about here is so much more than that!
Breastfeeding support means support from your doctor, your child's doctor, nurses, hospital staff, health visitors, and lactation consultants...including accurate information and advice to help you meet your breastfeeding goals. It means support in the form of policies and laws that protect a mother and baby's RIGHT to nurse and a mother's RIGHT to express her milk. It means protection against discrimination. It means actual physical assistance in addition to emotional support from your family, friends, and spouse....it means putting a stop to the booby traps and marketing that seeks to undermine a mother's choices. It's about creating a supportive culture where feeding a baby isn't viewed as obscene or harmful. It is a dire thing. It is a multifaceted thing. We are not just talking about a pat on the back or assurance that what you are doing is okay....we are talking about actual HELP and ASSISTANCE with a bit of assurance on the side.
A mom will never have to say "I really wanted to formula feed....but it just didn't work out."
Doctors will never tell you your child isn't gaining so you MUST to relactate.
A mom who intends to formula feed will never be told she should keep a breastpump at home "just in case" or be sent home with a free sample nursing bra.
The nurses at the hospital will not try to sneak your baby a bottle of donor milk.
Your mother-in-law won't try to nurse your baby behind your back. (If she does you have bigger problems than a bit of breastmilk...)
Nobody says "you can formula feed for the first 6 weeks, but then you HAVE to give breastmilk."
Formula is readily available.
Nobody will ever feel like giving up because their arm is too sore to mix another bottle.
Rubber teats don't bleed.
A mom isn't going to bawl her eyes out over half an ounce of spilled formula.
Formula feeding moms will never be thrown off a plane, told to leave a business, told to cover up, or told they should only do "that" in private or to go give their child a bottle in a bathroom.
Nobody will ever tell a formula feeding mom "Put that powder away! There are children watching!"
Formula feeding moms can't be "bottle trapped".
Formula has instructions right on the back of the can.
There is an entire culture that views formula and bottles a totally normal.
You can bottlefeed ANYWHERE - a restaurant, a church, a store, outside, inside, at family gatherings, around people of all ages, etc....and nobody will bat an eye.
There aren't any laws protecting your right to give a bottle in public because they're completely unnecessary.
There are so many things out there that are detrimental to breastfeeding that those who choose formula don't have to face.
Formula feeding isn't all fun and games, of course. There is effort involved. It's expensive and there are a lot of extra dishes to do....but it's not the same sort of mentally taxing, exhausting, do or die sort of situation that a nursing mom faces during the beginning of a nursing relationship.
The call for breastfeeding support has NOTHING to do with the mommy-wars. It's not us vs. them. It's not breastfeeders wanting to one-up anyone else. It's simply about mothers actually being able breastfeed is they want to. It's about choice and preserving a woman's right to decide if she wants to nurse or not. Formula feeding because you HAD to isn't a choice. It's a need.
If we want women to be able to decide to breastfeed OR decide to formula feed, we need real breastfeeding support. If you choose to formula feed, fine by me! Go for it. However, nobody should have to fight tooth and nail to feed their baby in the manner of their choosing. Period.