Is it True Breastfeeding is Best? Well, Fed is Better
Although science often shows us statistics showing that breastfeeding is best when it comes to feeding your baby, there’s one important thing some overlook: FED is better. What’s your opinion on breastfeeding?
Surely, women and parents could argue all day about the benefits of breastfeeding. The facts are clear on the subject, but there is more to the argument than whether or not breastfeeding is best for your baby. As many women can understand, being responsible for feeding another human being is HARD. Perhaps you’re happy and able to spend every day with your baby, nursing them as often as they need to be fed, but if you return to work or your own health changes, so does your breastfeeding plan.
The echo of the common phrase “breast is best” reminds many mothers to do everything they can to breastfeed until their child is at least six months old, as about 57% of mothers do in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Problems arise when mothers are “shamed” for not breastfeeding long enough - at least as long as social norms dictate - or when life changes impact their plans. The matter is that not every woman can abide by a specific breastfeeding plan, and that does not make them a bad parent.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding
Science shows us that breastfeeding is best, but as with anything, these facts cannot apply to every mother. The Agency for Health Care Research and Quality found these (and many other) benefits of breastfeeding:
- 72% lower risk of hospitalization for respiratory tract infections among infants who were exclusively breastfed for six months
- 64% reduction in infant gastrointestinal infections
- 38% reduction in sudden infant death syndrome
- 15-30% of breastfed infants were less likely to develop adolescent or adult obesity
- And much more!
In addition to these breastfeeding statistics, studies showed that breastfeeding may lead to higher IQ scores and improved neurological outcomes.
Given the science, can we all agree breastfeeding is an exceptional way to feed babies, and it’s a gift for mothers to be able to provide nutrition to their children? OK, great! Now, think about what would happen if you suddenly had to be on medication that would prevent you from breastfeeding or if you simply weren’t producing the amount of breastmilk your child needed.
Reasons Mothers Stop Breastfeeding Early
Despite attempting to breastfeed their children, some mothers stop earlier than intended because:
- They have issues with the baby latching
- Their bodies are not lactating as expected or they experience delayed onset
- The mother is on medications that may not be good for the baby
- The mother is experiencing postpartum depression and breastfeeding contributes to the symptoms
- Their workplace does not provide an adequate for mothers to pump breast milk
Would these circumstances make you feel like any less of a mother? I hope not, but society has trained us to feel otherwise.
Why Breastfeeding is Best but Fed is Better
The “breast is best” ideal puts a lot of societal pressure on mothers to breastfeed their babies and continue to breastfeed exclusively for at least the first six months. While the message and campaign are designed to help women embrace the benefits of breastfeeding and has the best intentions, it can alienate mothers who are simply trying their best. The Fed is Best Foundation is built upon the belief that we should all support mothers in choosing clinically safe feeding options for babies, and there is nothing wrong with this mission.
There are many concerns over the science of the “fed is best” movement, focusing on the foundation’s message that newborn babies should be fed formula after birth if the mother experiences delays in her milk supply. Despite being a very controversial subject, surely everyone can agree that babies need proper nutrition after birth, and if formula is what it takes to ensure that, then parents and doctors will do what they must.
Put an End to “Mom Shaming”
Every mother and parenting team is entitled to make their own decisions about how to feed their child - whether it is with breastmilk, formula or a combination of the two. That said, every mother should do her due diligence to ensure they are making an informed decision that is best for their own health as well as their child’s. If you experience any problems that may cause you to change your breastfeeding plan, consult your doctor to determine a solution that is best for your health and your family.
At PP, we’re all about conversation! We’d love to hear your thoughts on breastfeeding and the “breast is best” versus “fed is best” movements, but please be respectful of all mothers. Remember, you never know what someone else is going through.