Hat-tip to A Dose of Joy, who sent me a link to this most interesting article. While I might not agree with each and every word, the concept certainly gives some material for thought: perhaps breastfeeding can be given a better chance when we refer to it as the norm, and to other forms of infant feeding as inferior. Of course breastfeeding as a whole is a wonderful miracle - but it is also normal.
The article is long but worth reading.
"Women may say they "breastfed" for three months, but they usually say they "nursed" for three years. Easy, long-term breastfeeding involves forgetting about the "breast" and the "feeding" (and the duration, and the interval, and the transmission of the right nutrients in the right amounts, and the difference between nutritive and non-nutritive suckling needs, all of which form the focus of artificial milk pamphlets) and focusing instead on the relationship. Let's all tell mothers that we hope they won't "breastfeed"--that the real joys and satisfactions of the experience begin when they stop "breastfeeding" and start mothering at the breast."
Certainly the purpose is not to make bottle-feeding mothers feel guilty, but shouldn't we be free to state the obvious fact: that formula is significantly inferior to mother's milk? When nursing hits the rough spots, if a mother thinks there's no substantial difference between breast milk and formula, will she be inclined to fight to make it work?
A disclaimer which seems to be necessary every time I write about breastfeeding: I realize there are mothers who badly wanted to nurse their babies, and for some reason or other, were not successful, through no fault of their own. My last intention is to make anyone feel guilty, inadequate as a mother, or any such thing.
I do understand why guilt is part of the equation, though, because every parenting choice we make is subject to lots of judgment, especially now that parental authority itself if questioned. Parents who are "too strict" are told they will traumatize their children, and parents who are "too indulgent" are told they will raise selfish, irresponsible brats. The world is overflowing with "experts" who are ready to tell you things will go terribly wrong if you don't do them just their way.
Still, I believe it should be possible to discuss breastfeeding without worrying someone's feelings will be hurt simply because it is mentioned formula is inferior. Do I feel guilty when I hear that organic, free-range, pesticide-free food is healthier than what common supermarkets hold, or that I'm supposed to exercise more often than I normally do? Do smokers feel guilty when they hear smoking is harmful? Perhaps, but it doesn't mean I'm hurt because the topic is discussed.
As long as no one is pointing fingers at me and saying, "hey, you! Yes, you, who refuse to buy local organic goat's milk because it's too expensive! You're making an irresponsible health choice and you and your family will be all terribly sick!" - my guilt levels will probably remain tolerable.
What I'm trying to say is that I believe we mothers should learn the art of dicussing all the alternatives without it all sliding into a war full of nasty personal comments and mud-slinging. Regardless of our personal circumstances and choices, we have such a wonderful opportunity to support each other, why not take advantage of it?