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Stop calling bad parenting child abuse

Parenting is and probably always will be a competition. I get that. Sometimes I’m guilty of the mom-petition mentality on social media myself. But one thing I won’t stand for is parental judging that takes a nasty turn — using the label of “child abuse” to slam parenting decisions you don’t agree with.

It starts from birth. When I was pregnant with my first son, I thought that breastfeeding versus formula was a valid choice. (If you must know, I did both.) Little did I know that there are entire groups of moms out there who legitimately believe formula feeding is child abuse.

I am not making this up. Moms who frequent pregnancy and baby forums know exactly what I’m talking about. Some adamant lactivists (also lovingly called “breastfeeding Nazis” on occasion by forum users) use the argument that feeding an infant formula is child abuse. This is the ugly side of the Breast Is Best campaign.

Child abuse is real, and it is heartbreaking. But there are many, many things that child abuse is not. Child abuse is not letting your child cry it out in his crib in the majority of cases (which happened to work great for both of my kids). Child abuse is not piercing your baby’s ears. Child abuse is not circumcising your son.

Child abuse is a serious matter that we need to talk more about, in the right context. According to, forms of child abuse may include neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse. Nowhere did I see mentioned that legitimate child abuse includes our favorite hot button parenting arguments — like drinking while pregnant, smoking while breastfeeding or letting your kids watch violent movies.

Let’s get a few things straight. Every time angry parents throw the term “child abuse” around to bash another parent, it is an insult to abused children and survivors of child abuse everywhere.

You don’t like the fact that a parent at playgroup keeps their kid on a strict vegan diet? Join another group. You don’t agree with women who drink socially and under a doctor’s care while pregnant? Don’t be friends with them. You wish your friend had breastfed for longer instead of abusing her infant with formula? You probably need to get over that.

As parents, we all need to come together and stop crying wolf about child abuse. If you see a child who has been abused, it is your responsibility to contact the authorities. If you see a parent making choices that are different from yours, it is your responsibility to keep your mouth shut.

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