So many amazing parents who did not have breastfeeding as part of their journey—either by choice or because of breastfeeding problems that couldn’t be solved despite every effort—find this week to be extremely painful. That is a fact, and it should not be ignored. There are constant reminders on social media and in medical settings that breastfeeding is best, that they as formula feeders are not celebrated for nourishing their children healthfully and lovingly, or that something they might have desperately wanted to do just didn’t pan out for complex reasons which were out of their control.
Breastfeeding promotion and support are important both on a public health level, and on a personal and human rights level, since the majority of mothers choose to breastfeed. That choice should be respected and supported. But we need to figure out a way to support breastfeeding that does not cause emotional pain to parents who formula feed. Figuring this out should be a shared responsibility too. Not only would it be the right thing to do, but we as parents and citizens are more powerful when we work together.
In the beginning of my parenting and breastfeeding journey, I was privileged to be involved in a breastfeeding support group that was inclusive and supported breastfeeding while having zero tolerance for formula shaming. I remember being out as a group, and when one of our new mothers was harassed by a bystander for not being “discreet” while latching her squirmy two-week-old baby, a formula feeding mother was the first to come to her defense. I know any of us would have done the same for her if she had been criticized for bottle feeding.
This is what breastfeeding support should look like—support for mothers and fathers first and foremost. When all parents are supported for nourishing and loving their children in the way they choose, breastfeeding would be protected as a matter of course, all year, instead of in one week. And parents who use formula either exclusively or to supplement breastfeeding would also feel celebrated and supported in their own efforts.
That is my take on shared responsibility. We all have a responsibility to protect and support each other in the healthy, joyful feeding of all our babies.