Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would have heard that to some people, “fed is best”.  I don’t want to reinvent the wheel.  There have been many blog posts about this, and if you have no clue what I’m talking about, you can learn more here, here and here.

I don’t want to talk about my opinion of this slogan (for the record though, I disagree).  What I want to look into situations where I believe it’s inappropriate to engage in a discussion about all of the reasons why you believe it’s incorrect.  Among breastfeeding forums, it’s often asked how to best respond when someone tells you that fed is best.  Suggestions often include sharing useful and informative memes, links to articles and blog posts and long winded explanations as a way of “proving” that fed is NOT best.

These are fair and appropriate ways of sharing information, which is great.  Sometimes people are prepared to expand their knowledge and discuss their opinion.  It’s wonderful when that happens.  But more often than not, the phrase has come from a mum who has been very hurt by an unsuccessful breastfeeding journey.  In these situations, I don’t think she needs to be corrected or educated – she needs support.

Imagine how you would feel if you just poured your heart out to your best friend, and they chose to focus on a word you mispronounced.  Imagine if you were a child writing your first love letter and it was returned with a big red circle around a word you spelled incorrectly.

Perhaps by focusing on three words out of fifty, we are missing the broader point.  When I see or hear that “fed is best” on it’s own and with no context, it seems ridiculous to me.  However when a mum is choking back tears while she tells me about her baby that cried and cried, and wouldn’t gain weight, and how she desperately wanted to breastfeed but was told (and believed) that she couldn’t, I can understand why she would cling onto any thought that would make her feel better about a bad situation.  At that point in time, my opinion isn’t important, no matter how correct I think it is.  Instead, I say:

  • That must have been really difficult for you
  • I’m sorry you felt let down.  That’s unfair, you deserve to feel supported
  • Thank you for sharing that with me.  I hope it helps to get it off your chest
Photo credit - The Leaky Boob
Photo credit – The Leaky Boob

I’m not suggesting anyone lies by pretending to agree when they don’t, and I’m definitely not suggesting that we diminish the importance of breastfeeding.  Instead, keep the broader picture in mind.  If a mum feels like she’s being attacked when she’s vulnerable, she’s not going to listen to your message.  If anything you may have turned her off it completely.  If we can help more mums heal, then maybe we can have these conversations with them one day when they aren’t so fragile.  Fighting about whether fed is best won’t encourage more mum to breastfeed, but a little bit of kindness goes a long way.  With a bit of luck, that kindness will help those mums remain open to trying to breastfeed again in the future.  THAT is a win we can all feel good about.

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7 Comments

  1. What a fantastic post! I definitely agree that fed is best usually has a personal story behind it.

  2. After breastfeeding three if my babies, I was unable to produce enough milk for my fourth child. I was incredibly disappointed but, in the end, had to accept that she needed food more than I needed to feed her.
    I would still maintain that breast is best for many reasons but for those who cannot, fed is the next best thing. Is second best such a bad thing?

  3. It’s sad it comes down to one or the other. I had issues breastfeeding, but I just followed doctors advise. Comp-feeding so that I breastfed as much as I could manage, which got me through to 18 mths – we need to get that whole failure attitude readjusted with breastfeeding- there are lots of approaches other than just giving up, I think. Although giving up under certain circumstances is also a valid option. Best of health for mother and baby is best, in the end.

  4. I remember been given a subscription to a breastfeeding magazine with my first baby and was rather annoyed thinking what if it’s not for me and my baby? Judged before I’ve even begun.What ever it takes to keep baby and mother happy and healthy is always what’s best!!

  5. Excellent – totally agree. Also thanks for the link! It can be hard sometimes when you are armed with all this information and someone is saying something that doesn’t sound entirely accurate if in that moment they’re hurting or vulnerable it won’t help at all to say anything other than supporting them where they’re at.

  6. This made me think of an episode of “Call the Midwife.”
    The first time I ever organized an informational event about breastfeeding I brought in a pediatrician who fully supports breastfeeding. I wanted to focus on why breastfeeding is so great, but she said women are told this over and over and it was more important for them to know how to create a support network and where to find the resources for their breastfeeding journey to be as successful as possible. Most people know breastfeeding is great for babies and moms, but it doesn’t always work out for everyone, a lot of times because of lack of support.

  7. There’s a difference between a conversation with an individual and an article written for the general public. Most articles are meant to address a general audience, not specific individuals. Articles correcting the “fed is best” myth are no more insensitive than articles touting the dangers of smoking while pregnant or leading a sedentary lifestyle. Keeping the truth from the public is not sensitive, it’s dangerous.

    Jo, if you felt put upon just because someone sent you a breastfeeding magazine, what would you do if someone gave you a healthy cookbook for Christmas or a Fitbit for your birthday? How about if someone gave you a box of disposable nappies not knowing that you intended to use cloth, or a set of bottles not knowing that you planned to breastfeed?

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