World Breastfeeding Week starts tomorrow. Lots will be shared about the miraculous composition of breastmilk. We will talk about what it gives to baby, what it does for mother, the diseases it prevents and the ailments that it cures.
This will be hard for a lot of people. Many babies have received very little breastmilk, and even more have had only formula. This leaves a lot of mothers feeling lost. Often times reading this information brings up feelings of disappointment and sadness for not having shared a breastfeeding relationship with their own child. Whether or not we ourselves breastfed, our goal should be that all families have what they need to make breastfeeding happen.
If we continue to believe that formula is a substitute for breastmilk and that breastfeeding does not affect the health of our children, how will people become informed about its importance? We cannot start to fix what is broken until we admit that it is not working. Until we stand up and collectively say: “we demand support, resources and the truth” we will not receive it.
If you formula fed, we are with you and you can stand up and join with us. You can say to the world “I fed my child formula and I am working for change. I am still standing, the sky did not fall and my children love me. Admitting that I wish things had been different does not make me a bad parent or mean that I love my children less, it means that my eyes are wide open and I want my fellow mothers to have all that they need for it to work.”
When our voices unite and we trust each others intentions, we will get what we are asking for. No longer will we focus on accusing each other or defending our choices. Instead, our efforts will join to make things better for families.
When we do this, the next generation will talk about how unimaginable it is to have only a few weeks of maternity leave, and will gawk at the thought of pumping in the bathroom or feeding your child while sitting on a public toilet. Sharing milk will be commonplace and watches that track feedings will only exist in our memory.
Each choice that we make is an action toward making this happen- or preventing its success. When we tell a mother that she fed her child poison or tell a breastfeeding advocate that formula is “just as good”, we are choosing to engage in battle instead of making things better for families. When we ask a nursing mom to move or leave, we are saying that we support the shamefulness of breastfeeding and that having healthy babies is unimportant.
When we ask a mom “how can we help?” and donate our milk we are setting her up for success, we are telling her that we are with her, not against her. When we thank a mom for nursing in public or stand up for her when someone else says otherwise, we are telling her that she can count on us. Whether we ourselves breastfed or not.
Each choice that we make can unite our voices more strongly. Each time we say out loud that breastfeeding is good we become the change. If we all start to make this choice consistently, we will collectively and certainly say “we are mothers, we are families, we are people, and we demand that breastfeeding again be normal.
When we say this with one voice, the world will listen.