Let’s Stop Romanticizing Breastfeeding

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A baby is held in their parent's arms while being fed a bottle of milk
Photo by Lucy Wolski on Unsplash

It’s World Breastfeeding Week again, and every year what I see on social media is promoting and celebrating breastfeeding as natural, beautiful, hard work that should be celebrated. But what if it doesn’t come naturally? It’s unfortunate that formula-feeding moms come as a secondary shoutout this week like, “Oh yes, you moms that must (or  intentionally choose) to formula feed are good moms too.” It’s all a bit naive to the choices, experiences, and hardships of both nursing and formula-feeding parents. I’m not here to be a Debbie-Downer, ( I successfully breastfeed my baby for almost a year,)  but is there a formula feeding week we can celebrate that I’m not aware of? While I of course support moms who choose to breastfeed, here are three ways I feel like social media romanticizes breastfeeding, while throwing shade at parents who feed their babies in other ways.  

 

Natural Vs. Unnatural

Why do we say breastfeeding is natural and beautiful? It insinuates that the formula is unnatural or toxic and well… not beautiful. We hear “fed is best” but never that fed is natural and beautiful. Yes, breastfeeding is natural, but it doesn’t always come naturally. Some women struggle with not being able to breastfeed due to low supply, medical conditions, baby allergies, etc. This doesn’t make them less of a mother because it did not come naturally to them. I also know moms that said no way to breastfeeding from the get-go and went straight to formula. This also does not make them unnatural or less of a mom. How about adoptive moms and dads that don’t have the option to breastfeed? We’re all just trying to do what’s best to keep our babies full and healthy.
Do you know what’s beautiful? A happy, milk-drunk sleeping baby no matter how you feed them.

It’s Not Glamorous

So many photos are out there on social media glamorizing breastfeeding. Moms in these angelic dresses, hair, makeup, and beautiful baby suckling at her bosom. Reality check, 99% of the time it does not look like this. It’s crying, clawing baby. It’s ugly unsupportive nursing bras and sweaty t-shirts. It’s milk stains, bleeding nipples, and long late nights. And guess what? You’re in a corner or bathroom not in the woodlands. The only time it looks this peaceful and pretty is in a photo shoot.
Breastfeeding isn’t Renaissance art. Portraying it as such is sending the wrong message for another unattainable expectation set by society.

Building a Bond

Breastfeeding my baby was an intense experience and did contribute to building a bond with my daughter, but so did laying on the ground practicing tummy time, watching the mobile together, playing peek-a-boo, and singing You Are My Sunshine 1000x times. Our bond is no better or worse than my formula-feeding friends. That’s because bonds are about all the experiences you share with your baby.
Building a bond has nothing to do with how you feed your baby.

 

To my breastfeeding moms: I’ve been there. I know how hard, time-consuming, and draining it can be and you should be proud of your breastfeeding efforts. This isn’t a call to shame or challenge your sacrifices and labors, but to recognize all the parents out there trying to do what’s best for their babies. Let’s not just applaud some moms, let’s praise them all and advocate for celebrating World Infant Feeding week instead. We’re all in this together. Let’s support with realistic expectations of motherhood and celebrate all the different paths and ways parenting can look.


If you are in the Rhode Island area and are looking for support for feeding your baby you can find breastfeeding resources here. Resources for those who need help finding baby formula can be found here.

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Shannon is a type a-event planner who loves organizing, ice vanilla coffees, and is never without a vacuum in hand. As a new mom, she never quite planned for the whirlwind of motherhood nor the copious amounts of laundry that came with it but is relishing in the new moments with her almost one-year-old baby girl Fira and is getting a little shut-eye whenever she can. As a New England native, Shannon grew up traveling the coast as well as internationally and started exploring the world from a young age with her family. This passion and tradition drove her to make her love of travel and organizing an everyday gig and currently plans corporate events all around the world. Currently, Shannon is managing her extensive work travel schedule (sometimes traveling with a baby in tow), the needs of a dance-loving, Elmo obsessed baby and marriage. When Outside of her 9 to 5, this working mama stays busy with reading, gardening, riding bikes, and hiking with her baby, husband, and two rescue Westie mixes, Clover and Ghost in Warwick, RI.

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