As a mom, we have to make many decisions before our child is ever born. We do our absolute best to be prepared for what is to come knowing that when our child enters the world everything we have planned for may change. Part of being a mom is, or should be, being flexible when things don’t go as planned in this parenting journey. Along our way, there will be many that try to influence us and even more people that will judge us for the decisions that we make. (Unfortunately, sometimes the mommy community isn’t as supportive as it should be.)
One of the first decisions that I made when I got pregnant was that I would do everything in my power to breastfeed. (If you haven’t read my breastfeeding story, you can do so here.) While I say I decided, I’m not really sure that is the correct term to use. In the current mommy climate, it is expected that a person will breastfeed. Period. If you do not, the judgement comes pouring in. So, while I wanted to breastfeed for my own reasons, the pressure to do so, and to do so well and for an extended period of time, was overwhelming. What I didn’t know then is that there is a term for this movement – it is called lactivism.
According to dictionary.com, a lactivist is “a person, especially a woman, who advocates strongly the breastfeeding of children, and is opposed to bottle feeding.” I would like to say now, before I am shunned, that I wholeheartedly understand the need to advocate for breastfeeding. I absolutely support breastfeeding and the mamas that are able to do so successfully. The issue comes when a person opposes bottle feeding at every turn and begins to shame mamas that choose to go that route. Often times, the person doesn’t even care to know the story of WHY a mom might have chosen not to breastfeed, but immediately looks down upon the bottle feeding mother. Lactivists also like to use fear mongering to scare new mothers into choosing breast over bottle, insisting that children will be smarter, healthier, and have a better bond with mom if they are breastfed. Many of these things just aren’t true and are spread solely for the intent of scaring unknowing mothers into a decision they may or may not choose for themselves.
There are just so many problems with this attitude. First and foremost, it is hurting babies! Many of us know about the story that was in the news in regards to this, but if you don’t, babies can STARVE while breastfeeding. Yes, starve! In this particular story, a lady named Jillian Johnson accidentally starved her son by exclusively breastfeeding. At 15 days old he died of cardiac arrest and dehydration which led to complete organ failure. He was not getting near the nutrition that he needed and ultimately it caused him to lose his life. Her story is not an isolated event, as a quick Google search will lead you to too many stories of mothers that have almost done the same thing.
We have come to a point as a society that we are advocating so strongly for breastfeeding and condemning bottle feeding so much that we are pressuring women into starving their children rather than giving them formula. If you don’t have a fundamental problem with that, then you need to go on some where. Seriously. That is just wrong on so many levels. Even if the child does not die, malnutrition can lead to other severe issues such as jaundice, seizures, and neurological delays. A simple bottle of formula could avoid all of these issues and keep children from experiencing life long ailments.
Lactivism can also be seriously damaging to mama’s mental health, as well. If a person cannot breastfeed, or heaven forbid, makes the choice not to breastfeed, the amount of guilt put upon the mother is over the top! I can personally say that I struggled for months with my decision to give my son formula, despite not producing enough milk, having inverted nipples, and my son having a poor latch. Ever factor was against us and I still beat myself up repeatedly for MONTHS over a situation I had very little control over. I know I am not alone in these feelings. I am so thankful for resources like the Fed is Best Foundation for helping me realize that breastfeeding is not the right choice for every mother and baby and that is totally okay!
As mothers, we should be coming together to support one another in the way we feed our children, rather by breast or by bottle, rather than condemning mamas for the choices they have to make. The world is too harsh as it is, I will never understand why we do this to one another. Let’s make the conscious decision to lift each other up rather than put one another down. At the end of the day, it isn’t going to matter if you chose to breastfeed or to bottle feed, what is going to matter is that your child is fed and healthy and happy and loved. Let’s forget about the insignificant details that are really none of our business anyway and focus on helping each other get through this crazy thing called motherhood!