I'll be upfront here and now: I breastfed both my children. I am one of those extended nursing, boob out in public, crunchy lactivists you sometimes hear about. I am delighted that breastfeeding is on the rise in the United States. Unfortunately, in their zeal to fight the uphill battle, most nursing mothers have to face, some of my fellow nursing proponents have become... well... they've gotten to kind of be a**holes to our fellow mamas who choose, for whatever reason, not to breastfeed. They vilify infant formula. They belittle the mothers who opt for it. And that is crap. It is complete crap and I will not stand for it. While they've personally never attacked me (despite the fact that my first child regularly received formula in addition to breast milk), their slights against other women raise my hackles and I feel the need to jump into the fray.
Let's be clear for a minute: This is not by any stretch all or even most nursing moms who do this. We're talking a vocal minority here. Moreover, even within that minority, not all of these condescending jerks are nursing moms. Literally anyone can be guilty of shaming moms who choose to formula feed. Crunchy moms. Not crunchy but still breastfeeding moms. Childfree women. Dads. Childfree men. Some pediatricians. The list goes on.
Unfortunately, I know too many of my fellow mamas who have had to deal with this crap. So, on their behalf, I would like to shut down the haters with 11 valid retorts to their judgmental condescension and concern trolling.
"I Tried So Hard To Breastfeed."
Breastfeeding is hard. Yes, it's natural, yes, we have physiological and evolutionary adaptations to make it easier on us, but we lack so much of the social support that once existed in the days of villages and clans that enabled nursing moms A) to be familiar with what breastfeeding was like before they had their babies, and B) ask any number of peers and role models to physically help them out. And, of course, if you give this answer, it so often comes with a million invasive and inappropriate follow-up questions: "Did you go to a lactation consultant?" "That lactation consultant is human garbage. Did you go to this lactation consultant?" "Did you take fenugreek?" "Did you try acupuncture?" The undercurrent is always: "Did you reeeeeeally try hard enough?"
NOPE. No more demanding the formula-feeding mom qualify their choice by proving that they tried really, really hard not to make it, and that it was a last resort arrived at only after every recourse was exhausted.
"It's Really Just Not For Me."
Why is this not an acceptable reason for some people? "Well have you tried it?" is so often the reply. Who cares if you did or didn't? Can't they trust that, one way or another, you know yourself well enough to know whether it's for you or not? Like if you said, "Marathon running just isn't for me," would they ride your ass until you started training? No. So why is it acceptable to go on about feeding your baby?
"Who The Hell Are You Even?"
This question can be applied literally to randos you just met who weirdly have strong opinions on how you feed your child, and metaphorically to the people who know you but are being jerks about this.
"Formula Is A Healthy Option."
Because for goodness sake, people, it's infant formula, not rat poison! It's specifically designed to nourish a growing child. And it does. Very, very well, in fact.
"You Have No Idea What This Baby And I Have Already Been Through."
Have you ever had a traumatic birth experience? Was your baby born sick and had to spend months in the NICU? Have you know what it's like to be so scared of losing your children that caring about which nutritionally balanced food they eat is so at the bottom of the list of things you could possibly give a sh*t about it has dropped entirely off your radar? No? Then maybe back off.
"I Did Not Physically Deliver My Child."
Yes, there are methods to induce lactation in women (and men) who did not deliver their children. And that's great, because hooray for options. But even advocates of these methods stress that there are cons to inducing lactation, including great time, effort, and potential difficulty. Guess what, Mommy McHolierThanThou? Not everyone gives birth to their baby, and that's one of a million possible (valid) reasons why they might elect not to breastfeed.
"You Have No Idea What You're Talking About."
Like "who the hell are you even," this can be applied literally (to the younger brother who is taking a child development course in college and now thinks he's an expert on breastfeeding based on half a lecture's worth of notes he took) or in a bemused or gobsmacked way to your friend who joined La Leche League who won't shut up about ~breast being best~.
"It Is Medically Inadvisable For Me To Breastfeed."
Maybe you need to take medications that are incompatible with breastfeeding. Maybe breastfeeding triggers your depression. Maybe you have HIV or AIDS. In any of those instances, breast would not, in fact, be best. So thanks for starting this invasive conversation by challenging a personal choice that you aren't a part of at all. I hope you're really uncomfortable about where your journey has lead you. Hint: Talking about how someone feeds their baby is exactly this personal for anyone you ask, even if their reason doesn't make you as uncomfortable as me sharing personal details about my health does.
(To put it delicately.)
"Breastfeeding Is Triggering For Me."
Many sexual assault survivors find breastfeeding triggering for a number of reasons. There are ways to help deal with this for those who still want to give breastfeeding a try, but they don't always really help enough to make breastfeeding not traumatizing. In fact, if someone doesn't even want to try to work through it, that's fine because formula is a healthy, widely available choice. Formula is far, far better an option for a baby than having a mama who by nursing is constantly reliving horrors from her past.
Because what else do you have to say, really?