Motherhood is a tough gig. And for every difficult task, there are people ready to bash you for it. This is very clear online. Moms posts about anything parenting-related, and the comments declare they did it wrong. They’re shamed for introducing solid foods to “at the wrong time” or for how they sleep-trained their babies. But perhaps the greatest case of mom-shaming comes with the debate of breastfeeding versus using formula. Moms who use formula are shamed for “not trying hard enough” or “taking the easy way out”. Meanwhile, moms who breastfeed are shamed for how they choose to go about it. Self-professed lactivist Ashley Kaidel opened up about this in a viral Facebook post, featuring her staring down a judgmental woman while she breastfed her baby.

Mom Fights the Naysayers of Public Breastfeeding

“Earlier today I posted this picture of my son and I breastfeeding uncovered in a public restaurant,” she wrote in November 2015, in a post that remained relevant throughout the passing years. [1]

“In the picture, it appears I’m staring off into the distance. In reality, I’m staring into the eyes of a woman staring at me. She is looking at me with disgust and shaking her head with judgment in an attempt to shame me and indirectly tell me without words that I am wrong and need to cover myself.

“Let me make my reasoning clear on why I post pictures of my son and I publicly breastfeeding uncovered,” she continued. “I don’t mean to say ‘Everyone should breastfeed without a cover. Show the world your boobs!’ If a mother is more comfortable covering herself because SHE feels better doing so, then I totally support that.”

Kaidel explained that she posts these pictures as encouragement for the women who tried breastfeeding this way and got shamed for it.

“Number one, breastfeeding mothers are protected under law to breastfeed any way, any how, and any where they’re allowed to be in all circumstances otherwise. Number two, you should not ever feel shamed, belittled, embarrassed or wrong for feeding your baby the way nature intended.”

“Just look away”

She explained that she also posts these pictures to fight the naysayers. “I do this for the person that has the mentality ‘Boobs are to be covered. They’re for your husband’s eyes only. They’re intimate. It’s a personal/private thing to feed your baby. Cover up out of respect. My kids don’t need to see that. Walk out of the room,’ and any other derogatory, close minded comments and sentiments alike.”

Kaidel reiterated that breasts’ primary purpose are to feed babies; anything pleasure-related comes secondary. “There is nothing weird about this and there’s no difference in me feeding my baby with my breast than you feeding yourself with a spoon.

Then she described the isolation that can accompany breastfeeding. “Secondly, it is exponentially unfair and selfish to ask a mother and baby to exclude themselves from a table or event or gathering because you’re for some reason uncomfortable with how she feeds her child. No person should be isolated and shunned because they’re eating, especially when you yourself are eating while ridiculing how someone else is eating.” Her solution is to simply look away instead of shaming a mother and her child.

Then she contended with the ‘think of the children argument’. Simply put, children could also learn that breastfeeding is a natural way to nourish infants. Plus, normalizing it could encourage them to breastfeed when they become mothers if they are able to.

“So again, I don’t post this for attention,” she concluded. “I don’t post this because I think everyone should nurse uncovered. I post this to give mamas encouragement. And to encourage others to make breastfeeding mothers feel accepted and supported; not alienated, ridiculed and judged.”

Breastfeeding Versus Formula-Feeding

While Kaidel is right to tout the “incredible bond and benefits” that comes with breastfeeding, she claims that “breast milk and breastfeeding is and should forever be the first and best choice for both mom and baby”. While health experts agree that breastfeeding is the healthiest option, this is not the truth for every case. For one, there are medical reasons that make breastfeeding dangerous to pursue or entirely impossible.

Therefore, the true “first and best choice” is whatever is healthiest for both mother and child. Not being able to breastfeed does not equate with being a “bad mom”. On the contrary, a good mom follows the best option for herself and baby under her doctor’s recommendation, regardless of the mom-shamers. [2]

Kaidel also asserts that “formula and bottles are a trend,” which is also not true. In fact, this statement shames mothers who choose this route. Bottle feeding has been sourced back to the Roman Era, Middle Ages, and the Renaissance, often using animal’s milk as a breastmilk alternative. However, it took until the Industrial Revolution for a more refined and hygienic bottle to become available. In the 1920s, researchers began to develop non milk-based formulas for infants. Although it lacked the proper nutrients, the formula evolved into the healthy and safe substitute available today. [3] Most people would be hard-pressed to find a mom who picked formula just because it’s “trendy”.

So what’s the best option?

So yes, while breastfeeding does offer some benefits over formula, it’s not always the optimal choice. Mothers should speak to their doctors and lactation consultants before and after the birth to find the healthiest option for them. [4] And however they decide to feed the baby is nobody else’s business.

 

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