August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Several events have been organized promoting awareness of how beneficial it is to breastfeed babies—how important it is not just for the child, but also for the mother; how nothing can beat the nutrition it gives; and how the psychological aspect is unparalleled.
Breast milk supplies all the necessary nutrients for a baby. It protects against diseases, allergies, obesity. It is easily digested. It’s cheaper in the long run. And breast milk constantly changes to meet the needs of the baby. That’s why the battle cry of breastfeeding moms is, “Breast is best.” From Facebook, to Instagram, to Twitter, it’s all over social media.
I am a breastfeeding mother, and have been for the past nine months. After a very difficult pregnancy at the ripe old age of 40-plus, I was determined to do the best I could. It was a choice I made, and it has been a constant battle to have enough milk. So I tried.
I knew I had the option of formula if ever I could not produce enough, but I doggedly tried everything I could—lactation goodies, malunggay pills, halayan and lactation drinks. I have them all, because I’ve been told time and again that breast is best.
But sadly, that slogan has been twisted, and oftentimes now promotes arrogance among mothers. It pushes momshaming. The point of the slogan was to encourage breastfeeding because of its proven benefits, and yet somehow, in the convoluted, hypersensitive world we live in, it has turned into a put-down for anyone who, for one reason or another, chooses to switch to formula.
And to this I am here to say, NO. There’s another slogan, one not so popular, but one that should be heard: Fed is better. I have best friends and family who were unable to breastfeed. Does that mean they didn’t give their best? Not at all.
Health organizations do say breast milk is healthiest, yes. No one is questioning that. But seriously, breastfeeding mothers all over need to check their attitude. There are mothers out there who are physically unable to feed their babies from their breasts because of no or low milk production.
Health issues and other factors come into play when willing mothers are unable to breastfeed their babies. And when other moms cheer “Breast is best” all over social media, they put unnecessary burdens of guilt and shame on others who can’t, pushing them to silence.
I’ve read that some moms don’t know how to respond when they hear someone else say they couldn’t breastfeed their baby, that they can’t believe another body couldn’t produce enough milk. It must be “all in the mind,” laziness, lack of knowledge on the part of those mothers who give formula to their babies. After all, all moms have boobs. Therefore, all moms are capable of breastfeeding, so those who don’t are just making “excuses.”
Such an attitude is nothing short of arrogance.
All humans have eyes. Therefore all can see. All have ears, therefore all can hear. All have mouths and tongues, therefore all can speak. Right? Wrong. Not all breasts are created the same. They vary greatly in size, what more in function?
Every mother and every child is unique. So is every situation. So for all those moms out there who are proudly and loudly shouting “Breast is best” with no care for anybody else, PAUSE. Do not be too full of pride about your ability to breastfeed your child. Just because you can does not mean everybody else can. Take the time to learn about the other mom’s journey before you judge and blithely spout, “Breast is best.”
Breastfeeding is not the only way to provide nutrition, build a close relationship or bond with your baby. If you can’t give breast milk to your child, it does not mean you are a lousy mother. Nor does breastfeeding your child make you better than those who can’t. It just means each mother gave her best. Every mother who gives her best, in whatever way she can, is a great mom.
I salute those who have given their all. If for whatever reason you cannot breastfeed, do not feel put down by other moms. You have done your best. Do not be shamed. I say, the shame falls on those who belittle your efforts. Shame falls on those who do not want to hear about your journey of baby feeding. Shame on those who are narrow-minded in their belief that “Breast is best,” which makes them better than you.
So though August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, let it also be Baby Nutrition Month. Because we feed our babies the best we can offer. Because we all do our best. So sure, breast is best, but fed is better. —CONTRIBUTED
A former educator in a Jesuit school with a master’s degree in Reading Education, the author has been happily married for three years, and is a proud mother to a nine-month-old baby.