As the founder of Don't Judge Just Feed, I thought our campaign message was pretty clear; we love, encourage and want to empower all methods of feeding, but we specifically focus on providing a positive and safe space for bottle-feeding parents. Quite simply, we are a support network for women who can't or don't want to breastfeed, with a special aim to help women suffering from breastfeeding grief (the loss and despair felt when breastfeeding can't or doesn't happen).
After a surprising comment made to us on social media yesterday, saying they thought our message was anti-breast, we feel it's time to once again, declare that Don't Judge Just Feed, have never, and will never be against breastfeeding. It would be ludicrous to be so. The nutrition provided by breastmilk is everything a baby needs.
As a group that ultimately wants to achieve equality in the support provided to all methods of feeding, we find the current drive to ensure everyone knows "breast is best" is a message that is extremely hard to process if you are or were unable to breastfeed. The claims of an extra-special bond, a closeness like no other and a nutritional benefit is frankly intimidating and biased. The current message clearly only points out the pros of breastfeeding and is very quick to point out the cons of bottle-feeding, in particular, formula feeding. This creates a 'good vs bad' division which adds to the guilt and pressure surrounding our feeding methods. Obviously every parent wants to be the best parent they can be.
When speaking to Dr Fiona Woollard, a moral philosopher who works in Pregnancy, Birth and Early Motherhood (with a special interest in Infant Feeding), she is fully aware of how philosophical mistakes can contribute to the shame, guilt, blame and judgment surrounding decisions about how babies are fed:
"One of the problems here is the assumption that saying that breastfeeding is good and worth doing implies that those who don't breastfeed are less good or failures. I think we often treat mothers as if they have a duty to breastfeed: we get to ask them to defend their decision not to breastfeed and if they can't produce a good enough defence ("my nipples fell off!"), then we lay on the blame and guilt. Women have good reasons to breastfeed - and to celebrate their breastfeeding journeys. But we don't have duties to breastfeed, and this means that we don't get to judge other people for not breastfeeding or demand that they justify their decisions not to breastfeed. Mothers (and fathers) do so many different things to benefit their children. Breastfeeding is great - but parenting is so much more than how you feed your children." Dr Woollard's article on 'Celebrating Breastfeeders Without Shaming Formula Feeders' can be found here
What I find very strange, is the online phenomena of saying whatever the hell you please. Whatever happened to the good old saying 'If you have nothing nice to say, don't say it at all.' It's as though the protection of online anonymity and the physical distance created by the internet means people will say their opinion, even if it is hurtful or damaging to someone else. How about people learn to move on if a subject matter, or in our case, a support network isn't right for you? We have, and will continue to direct anyone to the hundreds of breastfeeding support groups that do a wonderful job. There's no need to write negative (and potentially harmful) comments, and there's certainly no need to report us to the social media powers that be, by saying we promote an anti-breastfeeding message. Previously, Facebook were happy for us to reach out to parents in need of bottle-feeding support, they have recently stopped us from promoting any of our posts.
Many of our critics fail to realise or acknowledge that breastfeeding isn't always an option. It's easy to forget the thousands of women who suffer from a chronic health issue, post birth complications or a medical condition which prevents them from breastfeeding. We also have the 33% of women who develop some form of depression or PND which can massively affect feeding journeys, and the thousands of new mums who have milk supply issues or have a condition known as Breastfeeding Aversion. Our critics also seem to want to push that breastmilk is the best and only safe way of providing nutrition to your baby, forgetting that babies can actually be allergic/intolerant. And of course, breastmilk is often contained in the bottles we feed our babies anyway!
One piece of feedback we received was that we were being unfair by not including breastfeeding photos. The only reason we do not share or feature beautiful breastfeeding posts and photos is purely because in the past, I have personally found these types of posts a trigger for my anxiety and depression; as have hundreds of our followers. We are not saying that women shouldn't celebrate their breastfeeding achievements, please do; shout it from the rooftops! We are also not saying that it's right for women to experience negative emotions from another's success, and for most people these types of feelings do go over time. However we are, and will continue to cater to for any bottle-feeding parent, at whatever emotional state they find themselves experiencing when they discover Don't Judge Just Feed. They could be a loud and proud formula feeder, a very content pumping mama, a stressed out parent struggling to come to terms with their feeding journey, or a distressed person in need of sensitivity and support.
We are by no means anti-breastfeeding or being discriminatory by not featuring breastfeeding pictures in our campaign; we are just acutely aware of how these can affect some people who seek out our network. Our movement and support is for bottle-feeders, there is nothing for breastfeeders to feel offended about.