World Breastfeeding Week misses the mark

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Happy World Breastfeeding Week to all the moms who have chosen or are choosing breastfeeding for their families.

For just over 20 years, World Breastfeeding Week has been celebrated during the first week of August. For the past 10 years, it has been an opportunity for many breastfeeding moms to share pictures on social media of them nursing with captions exclaiming the special bond they have with their baby, a list of obstacles they’ve overcome to breastfeed, along with a few sentences sprinkled in about how magical and amazing it is that they’ve been able to feed their infant with their breasts. 

Truly, healthy mothers and babies are something to support and celebrate. But, World Breastfeeding Week is missing an opportunity to empower and enable ALL babies and families to be supported and healthy, because breastfeeding isn’t always an option, and it isn’t always the best option for every family.  

As a mother who has both breastfed and formula fed, I’m wondering why a separate week solely for breastfeeding needs to exist? Wouldn’t “infant and child feeding week” equally educate and appropriately celebrate all parents and families?

Why choose a week to focus on what sets us apart and creates division, rather than advocate for a week that provides awareness of all feeding methods as well as supports and recognizes the health and well-being for all families?

First things first.

Breasts aren’t required to bond.

To believe women who breastfeed have a stronger bond with their children than parents who formula feed is both ill-informed and pretentious. Bonds are created in the love and time you give a child, and that love and time 100% does not have to include breasts. 

Moving on. 

All of parenthood is filled with overcoming obstacles and making sacrifices. 

Breastfeeding families work hard and make sacrifices. So do formula feeding families. 

Every time I’ve gotten up to make a bottle in the middle of the night, every evening I hand washed and sterilized bottles from the day, every time I bought and mixed formula with nursery water, made sure bottles were prepared and packed in proper refrigeration for a quick trip out or week-long stay, I was doing so for my babies. Bottle-feeding takes planning and time and effort, just as breastfeeding does. 

And you know what? When I gave my babies a bottle and rocked them to sleep at night, or took pause from a busy afternoon to sit down and feed them, I felt every emotion that every parent feeding  their child feels: love, sacrifice, pride, and joy in the knowledge that my child was eating and growing and thriving.

Next. 

Breastfeeding isn’t magic, it’s biology.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines magic as “a special, exciting quality that makes something or someone different or better than others.”

Now, let’s take a minute to look at another definition. A mammal is defined as:

“A warm-blooded vertebrate animal of a class that is distinguished by the possession of hair or fur, the secretion of milk by females for the nourishment of the young, and (typically) the birth of live young.”

There are over 5,000 different species of mammals. All of which have nursed their young since the beginning of time. 

Every day 5,000 different species are feeding their babies with milk secreted from mammary glands. It’s interesting, but it’s also a natural, biological process. 

You know what’s really magical? 

That one species of mammals, humans, have used science to develop and provide an alternate option to nourish their young.

For adoptive parents, for parents using a surrogate, for foster parents, for mothers who have survived a double mastectomy, for mothers of multiples, for mothers who jeopardize their own health in attempting to breastfeed, for mothers who simply know breastfeeding is not the best choice for their family… formula makes it possible for these babies to be nourished and these families to thrive. 

And know what’s amazing? 

Babies. 

Being a mother. 

Parenthood.

To know a love so deep and pure that you choose to put your every need second to that of someone else’s—that’s amazing. 

Three cheers for families who breastfeed. And three cheers for families who formula feed. At the end of the day, we’re stronger as a united front. What if we could support each other in simply doing what’s best for our own families, and understand that looks different for every parent and every child. 

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