Yes, I Artificially Feed My Baby

06/09/2017 12:42 BST | Updated 06/09/2017 12:42 BST

Referring to formula feeding as an 'artificial method' is the newest phrase on the block, being used by healthcare professionals and the media.

When they first used this terminology in front of me, 12hrs post emergency c-section, my blood boiled. Potentially I was a little more sensitive due to the major surgery, but even so... artificial?! How dare they insinuate that the food I'm using to nourish my child is fake. I'm using formula because I know it contains all the nutrients my baby needs to grow into a healthy human being, and besides, like many women in the world, breastfeeding wasn't an option for me. I really was offended and shocked that 'artificial' was now the official word to use.

It was playing on my mind for months, I was enraged at the cold, dehumanising term so I wanted to check I wasn't misinterpreting the word or overreacting. Out came my trusty Oxford Dictionary which provided me with the following definition:

" 1 - Made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally, especially as a copy of something natural."

Hmmmm. This is a completely accurate way of describing formula milk; it is a replica/substitute for breastmilk. With the wind now taken out of my furious sails, I came to the short-lived decision that I was unduly reactive to this term.

I turned the page to see the list of definitions continue. Cue a hurricane in my resurrected sail:

" 1.1 - (of a situation or concept) not existing naturally; contrived or false.

2 - (of a person or their behaviour) insincere or affected."

If 'artificial' simply meant "made or produced by human beings" or "as a copy of something natural", there would be absolutely no issue with using this word as a way of describing formula feeding. However, the act of infant feeding also incorporates the latter two interpretations and this is where the problem arises.

Obviously mothers know, and understand, that using a bottle of formula to nourish our baby is "not existing naturally". It is a manufactured product; we did not scoop the powder from our breasts. Nevertheless, as a formula mother, I can say that the experience, situation and concept of providing my child with food is a completely natural one. Feeding a child is a natural instinct for any mother in the animal kingdom, and if you can't do it yourself, you naturally source food from elsewhere. This primal act is by no means artificial; contrived or false. Sadly, we know that in many animal, and indeed human situations, finding alternative food is not always possible. The result? The infant dies.

I thank my lucky stars that science (and water sanitation) has evolved so that I can safely feed my babies using formula. Whilst I'm at it, I also praise the powers that be for recognising the need for birth interventions; my babies and I wouldn't be here if it weren't for these developments in medicine. I realise that many people in this world live in much less fortunate conditions, a fact that makes me even more angry when I think of the stigma we are often exposed to for using formula. We should actually be in awe and celebration of its creation and our ability to safely feed via formula rather than dishonouring a mother's decision (or reason) for using it.

When it comes to their baby, I can safely say that a mother's behaviour would be far from "insincere". Their baby is a part of them. Any decision they make for their child will be heartfelt and committed. Parents who use formula aren't mis-informed or "affected" by the formula industry. Whether they knew they had to rely of formula from the offset or whether they had to end their breastfeeding journey, there are always sincere reasons why formula is used. It can range from the mother simply not wanting to breastfeed, to a physical or emotional condition/episode that prevented them from breastfeeding. From premature birth, to severe malnutrition and dehydration from insufficient breastmilk supply. All reasons are far from 'artificial' and a mother should never be made to justify her position. Justification is only needed in circumstances where someone is doing wrong or causing harm; even the most hardened lactavist would be hard pushed to label a safe, regulated and approved food source in the 'wrong doing' category.

As if I needed to further my exasperation towards the current NHS trend of using 'artificial', I decided to use my Oxford Thesaurus to really absorb what they mean by this term. My findings are listed as follows:

"synthetic, fake, false, imitation, mock, simulated, faux, ersatz, substitute, pseudo, sham, bogus, spurious, counterfeit, forged, pretended, so-called, plastic, man-made, manufactured, unnatural, fabricated replica, reproduction, facsimile, phoney, pretend"

How wonderful. Yes, to man-made and manufactured. Yes, to replica and reproduction. If anyone tried to liken any of the other aforementioned words to formula feeding, there would be uproar.

My conclusion surrounding the term 'artificial' is that this would be suitable if we only associated the word with the initial definition in the dictionary. You and I both know that isn't the case, and I'm convinced whoever masterminded 'artificial' as a medical phrase knows that too. An example of yet another immoral and underhanded way of pushing the breastfeeding campaign at the detriment of those who formula feed.

Now, where's my plastic, synthetic bottle so I can use my counterfeit milk in an unnatural and forged feeding experience with my precious daughter?

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