Breastfeeding advocates spend a lot of time claiming they promote breastfeeding because they "support women." However, their support for women seems to stop at their breasts and, well, that's wrong. Parents deserve to be able to choose to feed their babies in a way that is healthy, safe, and right for their families. They definitely deserve to make that choice without being shamed. Which is why formula feeding is actually a feminist choice.
What does formula have to do with feminism? Well, I firmly believe that being a feminist means supporting people in making choices – not just choices about birth control and pregnancy, but choices about their bodies and babies, too. It means supporting equality at home, in the workplace, in public, and for everyone regardless of their gender, identity, or sexuality.
Formula gives people the ability to nourish their babies when they can't or don't want to breastfeed, or when breastfeeding isn't even an option. It can allow people to advance in their careers, take care of their babies, and take care of themselves, too (something you totally need to do in order to be a good parent). However, far too many breastfeeding advocates claim that formula companies prey on unsuspecting women and that a lack of education or support is why they choose formula. That kind of attitude is condescending and diminishes women and their autonomy, rather than supporting the idea that we have the right to make our own choices.
For me, formula saved my babies' lives when I didn't produce enough breast milk, and that's reason enough to love it. However, it was also great for my mental health, gave me freedom, and let my husband play a more primary parenting role in our family. Despite what the "breast is best" crowd might say, for our family, formula was a feminist choice, and the right choice for u s.
Women Are Experts In Their Own Lives
Last year the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a updated statement about infant feeding, sating, "Obstetric care providers should support each woman’s informed decision about whether to initiate or continue breastfeeding, recognizing that she is uniquely qualified to decide whether exclusive breastfeeding, mixed feeding, or formula feeding is optimal for her and her infant."
You're damn right women are uniquely qualified to make this choice. I love breastfeeding and formula feeding and will probably do both when my next baby is born, but I am only person qualified to make that choice for myself.
Formula Is Good For Babies And Moms
In the developed world, formula is safe, nutritious, heavily regulated, and readily available. It's not free, but it's also not as costly as you might think, and there are programs to help with the cost if you can't afford it. What's more, formula is sometimes a healthier option for your baby. They might have an allergy or intolerance to breast milk, you might not make enough breast milk, or you might not be able to breastfeed, physically, emotionally, or logistically. Isn't it amazing that another healthy choice is available?
Formula Promotes Bodily Autonomy
No one should be able to dictate what I have to do with my body, including my breasts. My right to bodily autonomy didn't end when I became a mother (even though my snuggly preschooler might disagree). I support people choosing to breastfeed their babies anywhere, at any time, and support parental leave and workplace policies that enable people to make that choice. Of course, I also support people's decision to not breastfeed. Formula gives them a healthy alternative.
Formula Enables Shared Feeding
Formula lets parents without breasts take part in infant feeding, too. That is huge, for both moms and dads. All parents deserve quiet moments of one-on-one bonding with their babies. And all parents deserve the ability to take a break, go for a run, or get some damn sleep.
Formula Supports Parenting Equality
Formula doesn't just give people with breasts the option to share feedings with their partners, it gives people without breasts or who are unable to breastfeed the option to adopt babies and build families. This means that same sex couples can adopt and transgender individuals have choices about how they feed their babies. Parenting equality for the win.
Formula Is Freedom
As a new mom it was so isolating to be attached to an infant all day. For me, formula meant freedom. Formula allowed me to send my kids to daycare, advance in my career, train for half marathons, be involved in feminist activism, go out for girls' night and go away on business trips, despite not being able to pump enough to meet their needs.
Formula Creates Families For Foster Kids
Babies in the foster care system thrive on formula, when their parents are unable to care for them. All babies deserve to be loved and nourished, and formula makes that possible for foster families, which is good for babies, communities, and foster parents.
Formula Provides An Emotionally Safe Option For Sexual Violence Survivors
There are thousands of reasons why a parent might not want to breastfeed, and they are all OK. As a sexual violence survivor and advocate, I believe that giving survivors the ability to regain control over their bodies and safely nourish their babies without shame or fear is so important. Formula for the win.
Formula Can Help Break Down Myths About Gender Roles
Whether we like it or not, moms are often viewed as the "default parent" in our culture, which means that women are expected to be awesome parents, and men are often given a pass or praised when they do the bare minimum. This attitude is harmful to women and men, and children of all genders, too. Formula enables dads to play a more active role in parenting, which gives moms a break and breaks down bullsh*t gender roles at the same time.
Formula Can Mean More Sleep For Moms
You don't have to be a martyr to be a good mom. Moms need sleep to function, stay healthy, and thrive. Formula gives them the ability to get more of it.
Formula Is Good For Mental Health
Our culture often views women as secondary to men and our needs as secondary to everyone, including our children. That's crap. Women's needs matter. If mom isn't healthy, she can't be a good mom or partner. For me and many moms, my breastfeeding challenges contributed to severe postpartum depression and anxiety. Formula gave me confidence, peace of mind, and the ability to take care of myself, so I could be a better mom.
Women Are More Than Just Breasts
I am not just a vessel for growing humans or a milk dispenser. Formula has enabled me to have freedom and autonomy. Arguing against formula because it's not "natural" sounds like the same anti-choice rhetoric that supports making people carry unwanted pregnancies or stay home and take care of their husbands and kids. Barf.
Ultimately, I support parents in feeding their babies in whatever way is safe and right for them and their families. Why? Because #feminism.