I used to believe that breast is always best. I gave the stink eye to bottlefeeding moms, I towed the Breast is Best partyline.
I was wrong.
I passionately believe that breastmilk is the optimal food for your baby. That part is based on science and economics, not opinion. But is feeding your babe at the breast really best for every woman?
For me, as a sexual abuse survivor, breastfeeding was amazingly therapeutic. Breastfeeding my sons transformed my relationship with my body. But I was ready for that experience, I worked really freakin’ hard
to get to a place where I could fully accept that transformation.
Not every survivor is there yet and I shouldn’t expect them to be, and I have to question whether my going on and on about the breast is making things worse.
Cancer, chronic back pain, sex work, all of these are reasons a woman might choose to not breastfeed, if it’s even a choice at all. I also have to remind myself that I see the world through a middle class,
privileged, able-bodied, white lens.
At times, even I’m startled by my arrogance.
The bottom line is you don’t need a socially acceptable reason to not breastfeed. Those are your breasts, you have the right to use them any way you’d like.
I’ve spent the greater part of my life defending women’s rights, our right to choose, our right to be informed regarding our options. Yet I’m guilty of carrying on the breastfeeding conversation long after the mom
I’m speaking with has said she’s not interested.
How many moms have we (doulas, public health, other mothers) alienated by not leaving room for options?
I personally can’t answer that question but here are some statistics that might help (or completely muddy the waters).
First, let me say that I hate stats. I firmly believe the 78% of all statistics are made up on the spot. With that in mind, check these out.
Breast is Best is doing spectacularly well in Ontario. Here is their provincial breastfeeding strategy, but notice their use of the term exclusivity (either/or, no options thinking) and then two bullet points about the importance
of fully informed, consenting mothers.
It seems to me that if you have a strategy that only promotes one way of doing something you will not have a fully informed populace.
Here are a few stats for breastfeeding in Nova Scotia (pg.22)
Those stats are appalling. They also tell us that it is time to rethink the Breast is Best campaign. I don't know how to do that right now, although I am working with the Breastingfeeding Community of Practice in Halifax to come up with some answers.
Here's what I do know.
Women deserve choice. We deserve reproductive freedoms. We deserve to know all the facts, not just the sensational or politically correct ones. We have the right to say no to breastfeeding, without recrimination, without the need for explanations. Women need support, before and after birth, so that they can make truly
informed decisions. And we need to understand that what worked for us doesn’t work for everyone.