I hate this phrase.
I’m a huge breastfeeding advocate but this drives me insane. Whether or not it has any truth is irrelevant to the argument. It incites so many bitter feelings, so much anger and rawness, that it is simply not useful to anyone any more.
Breastfeeding is important, but we don’t need to convey that any other option is ‘bad’ or ‘inferior’, even if breastfeeding offers benefits to mother and child that may not be achieved elsewhere.
Here are some more pleasant alternatives to ‘breast is best’:
- Breastfeeding is normal. It is the biological norm. This is a simple fact. This isn’t condescending. It isn’t an opinion statement, it is true. For most babies, the milk of their mother or from another human donor is the most nutritionally complete food they can consume.
- Breastfeeding can be easy. Don’t get me wrong; its hard sometimes, its really hard in the beginning. But once it is established it can also be easy. It sure is a thousand times easier to roll over, whip a boob out and breastfeed in the middle of the night, than it is to properly wake up at 4am after 20 minutes of sleep, to then go and sterilise bottles, mix up formula and feed and burp a baby in a cold room. My boobs are the perfect prep machine version 1. It may not always have been easy, but it can be.
- Breastfeeding is cost effective. My boobs are all I need. I don’t need bottles, a steriliser, formula. I don’t need fancy machines or the next size up nipples. I need my own boobs, the pair I was born with and thankfully, the pair that are free.
- Breastfeeding successfully requires education and support. Mothers and babies often need a little help to begin with – be it with latch or positioning or something else. Not everyone has the support, not everyone is able to access the education that will help them. If I didn’t have access to kellymom or my local breastfeeding group’s facebook page at 3am, I’m not sure what I would have done in the early weeks. If I didn’t have supportive family and a patient husband who brought me endless glasses of water, my breastfeeding journey may have been shorter than it has been, and for that I am thankful.
- Breastfeeding is a choice. It is an important choice, because it can offer lots of benefits for both mother and baby/toddler, but it is a choice still. I made the choice to breastfeed my daughters because to me it was important, and it felt right. Not everyone feels the same, and that’s fine. Not everyone receives the support we discussed above, the support that they want and need, and that is absolutely not fine.
Everyone seems to have kicked off about Jamie Oliver’s recent breastfeeding campaign. Perhaps he phrased things wrong, perhaps he said some things that weren’t true for everyone. A gold star for everyone who noticed he is a MAN who has no breasts. However, I think his message, at the end of the day, was what I just said –
‘Not everyone receives the support we discussed above, the support that they want and need, and that is absolutely not fine.’
So please cut Jamie some slack. In slagging off his campaign you ruin the message of support for other mothers, for other parents. He may not have all his facts straight but his heart is in the right place. Breastfeeding has tons of great benefits, and we need to talk about them. We shouldn’t feel ashamed to talk about them, the same way we shouldn’t feel ashamed to talk about our struggles, our failures, and our conviction in the choices we make for our children.
I’m writing this as someone who is not only a breastfeeding mother but also someone who is young enough to have experienced the ban on unhealthy foods in schools in the UK. I have literally no idea why suggesting women need more breastfeeding support is more controversial than me not being able to buy five cookies for lunch. Teenage me was raging. I’m still bitter.