Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

I do not have as much experience with breastfeeding as other moms. My son, Parker, breastfed for less than two months, and with my daughter, Anika, I made it a whopping four months. I did the best I could to breastfeed, but at the end of the day, formula was the best option for us.

And even in light of World Breastfeeding Week, it’s important to note that it was still enough. My babies were fed, my babies were loved, and we still created an incredible bond despite the fact my children weren’t latched to my nipples for months.

An unfortunate aspect of motherhood is the all-or-nothing approach that women have towards each other. There is often only “one” right way to do things and any other method of parenting is “wrong.” For a long time, mothers who breastfeed were discouraged in favor of formula. Now, breastfeeding is taking the limelight, but it’s important to acknowledge that it should not be about minimizing moms who use formula.

We should acknowledge that every form of feeding is important, as long as a baby is healthy and fed.

No mother should be stigmatized for how they feed their baby, and right now, there is a great deal of pressure to breastfeed. Moms that do not or cannot breastfeed are regarded as having failed their children, and criticized for the chemicals in formula that they are putting in their baby’s bodies. Yet, at the same time, mothers that breastfeed in public are shunned for exposing themselves and asked to cover up, use a restroom for breastfeeding, or even leave. There is incredible shame regardless of how a baby is fed, which is why World Breastfeeding Week is so important.

World Breastfeeding Week promotes the normalcy of something that is natural. It is a cry of encouragement for mothers who can’t afford formula or whose children may be prone to malnutrition. It is spreading information on how babies around the world can be fed, even in areas of food crisis. It is the healthy promotion of simply feeding babies.

We are very lucky to have access to formula, and I am glad that my children thrived and were healthy regardless of my inability to breastfeed (there was literally not enough milk to nourish them). For some women, breastfeeding is impossible, undesirable, or too stressful. Mothers in privileged areas have the choice of how they feed their babies, but others do not. World Breastfeeding Week gives mothers the tools to feed their children and normalizes what is stigmatized in the developed world.

This week is a moment to remember the pain and sadness that can come with wanting to breastfeed, but not being able to. This week is a moment to champion other women who breastfeed for years, but it is also a moment to encourage the mothers who chose formula from the very start.

Fed is best, regardless of how it is done.