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
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.