There is this huge push to bring awareness to the “accidental” starvation of breastfed babies to further push the “fed is best” campaign that’s floating around. You know, the one that assumes us “lactavists” are all just sitting around trying to find ways to MAKE women breastfeed even if they can’t make enough… because ya’ll know that is what we do, right? *sarcasm*.
Anyway, the whole point of the sharing of these stories is to get people on board with fed is best. And it sound so nice and fuzzy doesn’t it?? So what’s the issue? Because we all want babies to be fed. All of the women who work in the lactation field that I know (myself included) will be the first to suggest supplementing if needed…so what’s the issue?
Well by saying that just simply being “fed” is best, completely takes away any sort of importance attached to HOW we are feeding our babies. When the reality is that yes, it actually does matter how we feed our babies. If someone told me that “fed is best” as a new mum I would have gone, “Oh OK, so it doesn’t really matter then if I breastfeed or formula feed, it just matters that he is fed.” I would have been PISSED OFF to then read through the endless textbooks, research articles and stories about breastfeeding, the incredible ever changing composition of breastmilk and how it actually does matter. HOW WE FEED OUR CHILDREN MATTERS. Breastmilk is a living tissue which has been referred to as “white blood” (Riordan & Wambach, 2012) as it is always changing depending on what your child needs, the entire time you breastfeed for. A living, changing tissue.
These cases of the “accidentally starved” babies are stories of negligence within the health care system from the women and babies’ health care providers and the utter lack of support and information we give new mothers. It’s time for us mothers to stand up and demand better support, demand evidence based care, demand that the signs our baby is or is not getting enough milk are clearly explained to us and demand help when we know something is not right. EVERY SINGLE ONE of these stories involves huge red flags that something wasn’t right and the mother was then pushed through the system or ignored as her baby cried all the time and was unsettled and/or not gaining well.
We deserve better. Our babies deserve better and health care professionals need to be held accountable when they ignore women and their babies who clearly need more milk. This is not about “fed” or “breast” being best. This is about people paying attention while also being honest and truthful that breastmilk DOES MATTER. Because breastmilk and formula are not the same. Breastmilk matters. Breastfeeding matters. Women matter. Babies matter. The only thing that is “best” is what’s best for mother and baby. This might mean supplementing or switching to bottles. This might mean breastfeeding a four year old like me. It does not mean that we have to start spreading information that suggests WHAT we feed them doesn’t matter. Because for millions of us, how we go about feeding our babies does matter. A great deal.
-The Milk Meg