There’s no doubt that breast is best, but mothers and other caregivers who cannot or choose not to breastfeed must have access to appropriate care and assistance to formula feed their child.
It’s true that many women attempt breastfeeding their tiny babies, but for lots of different reasons, it doesn’t always work out. These mums are sometimes left feeling like they’ve failed or are lesser than – which of course is just NOT the case.
Other women don’t want to breastfeed, choosing to feed their babies with formula instead. It’s every parent’s right to choose what’s best for their baby and the undercurrent of disapproval sometimes aimed at bottle feeding parents is unwelcome, unkind and unnecessary.
I am writing this in hope to help stamp out this policing of baby feeding choices and encourage education, understanding and acceptance, instead.
The need to provide support and encouragement to women who aren’t breastfeeding their babies is made even more pressing, when links between Postnatal Depression and feeding are considered.
“Discordance between the feeding intentions and actual feeding experience of a mother may increase the likelihood that she will experience PND, whilst women who are able to breastfeed in line with their intentions have a reduced risk of experiencing PND,” a medical statement revealed.
“Many mothers do not persist with breastfeeding. Only 39 per cent of infants are exclusively breastfed to four months, and just 15 per cent to six months. This highlights the need for more support to allow mothers to extend the duration of their breastfeeding,” Dr Gannon explained.
While we promote breastfeeding as “the optimal choice”, we are keen to destigmatise bottle feeding and ensure parents who formula feed are well supported, too. It’s a call for a more inclusive balance.
While breastfeeding is the optimal feeding choice, it may not be the best choice for all families, and there must be a balance between promoting breastfeeding and supporting mothers who cannot or choose not to breastfeed.
Remove the stigma
Dr Gannon urged health professionals to work with non-breastfeeding parents to ensure they could approach formula-feeding positively – and not feel shamed, judged or lesser than.
“Mothers may feel a sense of guilt or failure, and it is important that their GPs and other medical practitioners reassure them about the efficacy and safety of formula feeding, and work to remove any stigma,” Dr Gannon explained.
“Parents seeking to bottle feed their infants need support and guidance about how much and how often to feed their infant, how to recognise when to feed their infant, and how to sterilise and prepare formula.”
Becoming a mother is an especially demanding transition. Mothers should try to prioritise their own health as well, and ask for support from a GP or a mother’s group which in our opinion is a vital part of this transition.
Easier said than done, but an excellent sentiment nonetheless!