Let’s Normalize Informed Is Best

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Because for some moms, breastfeeding or giving their babies formula may not be an option

Although 2020 has had many lows, us moms have had many wins in the info department. We’ve had moms speak out about miscarriage and loss, dads who’ve made their own safe space and even moms who talked about their battle with bulimia and depression. And here’s another hefty dose of mom realness from Chrissy Teigen: “Normalize breastfeeding is such a huge, wonderful thing,” she tweeted. “But I absolutely felt way more shame having to use formula because of lack of milk from depression and whatnot.”

When breast is best

When you give birth in the Philippines, you’ll find that many hospitals are pro-breastfeeding. You’ll see walls plastered with pro-breastfeeding propaganda. And why not? Breastfeeding is a magical feeding process that bonds and benefits infant and mom, prevents a handful of diseases and more. In less privileged areas, breastfeeding could be a godsend to those who can’t afford expensive cans of formula or have access to clean water.

The Milk Code

The Philippine Milk Code covers manufacturers and companies that sell feeding bottles, breast milk substitutes and other products that are marketed to replace breastfeeding. Also, it prohibits conduct or involvement in any activity on breastfeeding promotion, education and production of materials on breastfeeding.

It was created in response to WHO’s  International Code of Breastmilk Substitutes, preventing milk substitutes from becoming the primary source of nutrition for babies.

Here’s the thing. The Milk Code was not created to alienate mothers who can’t or don’t breastfeed. It was put in place to regulate the marketing and promotion of formula as breast milk substitute. As we all know advertising efforts can greatly affect anyone — in this case a mother’s decision regardless of her ability or inability to produce milk. Unfortunately some health care professionals, parents and people in general, take the Milk Code out of context, and this is where the problems begin.

But what happens when you can’t breastfeed?

(No) thanks to the “breast is best” movement, many women, like Chrissy, feel unnecessary guilt about not being able to, choosing not to, breastfeed. I’ve met women who’ve lied about giving their child formula, claiming their child is purely breastfed. I’ve heard of women whose children have been diagnosed as “malnourished” because they insisted on breastfeeding.

“Personally, I felt guilty when I had to resort to formula for my daughter,” shared a friend. “I felt that I should have been more strict about my pumping schedules.” Another friend who’s currently pumping agrees. “I feel bad that I have near zero milk for my son. I pump three times a day and it still isn’t enough.”

“I have several grown children who were formula-fed, and they are all thriving wonderfully — intellectual, athletic, artistic and most of all, healthy. They don’t even have any allergies. Breastfed or not, doesn’t matter. To me, fed is best!” says another.

I wore my 18 months of breastfeeding badge with honor and beat myself up when I couldn’t do the same for my second. But when I saw how happy and satiated he was, enjoying his bottle of formula, my worries eased up a bit. And yet, I felt guilty about not being able to feed him the way I fed his brother.

Ease off the shaming and focus on what’s best for your family

Women in the Philippines need more evidence-based, unbiased information when it comes to feeding their children. This way, they can make an informed decision when it comes to breastfeeding or formula feeding. At the end of the day, every family has different needs.

We need to normalize feeding our children the best way we can and stop passing judgement on other’s choices. We have enough mom guilt as it is, please don’t add to it.

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Thank You, Chrissy Teigen, For Sharing Your Story
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