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It is not selfish not to breastfeed

Right out of the gate — and by “gate,” I mean vagina — there is a hugely important parenting decision you have to make. Should you breastfeed or not? Should you give it a go and supplement with formula if things get hairy, or does that make you a failure?

Wait a minute… Who turned this into a breastfeeding competition?

I don’t know about you, but I only heard the Breast Is Best message when I had both of my children just a few years ago. Yes, it is good to breastfeed. Yes, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend it. Yes, I am a rule-follower who likes to get an A+ on the test.

But beyond the “breast, breast, breast” chant I heard after giving birth, I wish I had been given more information on the full picture. Namely, formula is not the devil’s milk. Contrary to rumors on the internet, formula is also not made of rat poison. If a mother decides to feed her baby formula exclusively instead of whipping out her teat, she’s not a loser in the competition.

There are some moms who just don’t want to breastfeed. These women are not selfish monsters who should have never had children. In fact, there is even research on their side that shows that some benefits of breastfeeding may have been exaggerated.

One forum mom echoes the refrain of all other mothers who aren’t feeling the breastfeeding vibe, “I have never had the desire to ‘want’ to breastfeed therefore I don’t think I should be pressured into breastfeeding. Yet, everyone (doctors, family, WIC office) insist I am a terrible mom if I don’t want to. WHY?”

Great question. Why does everyone care so much about whether a woman lactates? There are plenty of parenting decisions that we each have to make every single day, for at least 18 years to come. Breastfeeding versus formula feeding is just one of them, and it really is no one else’s business.

If you want to breastfeed from birth and beyond, that is your protected right. You should be able to do it without judgment. If breast never seems like the best choice for you or your baby, there’s no shame there. Your ability to mother has nothing to do with how you feed your child.

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