It’s World Breastfeeding Week 2017, and as usual the river of anti-breastfeeding messaging is well and truly in flood.
Like clockwork, the formula companies got started the week before WBW, with Nestle launching their ‘Start Healthy Stay Healthy’ campaign in China in which we are meant to believe that a multinational company wants their biggest market not to buy their products any more lolololol good one Nestle.
Over at the Fed Is Best Foundation they’ve dedicated this week to “educating families across the globe about the risks of exclusive breastfeeding” because in their cuckoo universe of alternative facts, allowing newborn babies to latch on to their mother’s breast is an emergency waiting to happen and it’s a miracle the human race has survived this long:
Even the UK National Health Service got in on the act, with a since-removed Facebook post claiming that all newborn feeding methods are equal, providing us with a giant flashing neon clue as to why the UK has the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world:
I think my favourite so far though is this article from Holly Leppard, arguing that it should be called ‘World Infant Feeding Week’ and broadened to include all mothers regardless of how they feed their baby. Leppard is the founder of something called the ‘Don’t Judge Just Feed Campaign and Support Network’, possibly a response to the ‘Judge and Don’t Feed’ lactivist agenda (t-shirts $29.99 all profits to
Leppard claims that World Breastfeeding week is exclusive, divisive, and discriminatory. In “celebrating and promoting the amazing ability for a mother to feed her baby” we inflict emotional scars and inner grief on women who are left out because they provide their baby with food “deemed inferior to breastmilk.”
Enough already. I am so very tired of women feeling like they have to share WBW material with disclaimers about how we are all good mothers and this isn’t to judge anyone and we all deserve support. World Breastfeeding Week is not a party that only some women are invited to. It’s a public health initiative advocating for ALL mothers’ and ALL babies’ rights to breastfeeding information and support. The vast majority of mothers want to breastfeed and initiate breastfeeding but face such significant barriers that they are unable to achieve their goals. Attempting to stamp ‘fed is best’ onto WBW trivialises a serious human rights issue and undermines decades of important and life saving work to increase the access of mothers and babies to breastfeeding.
As my friend Mo wrote over at Novice Mum:
Don’t folks realise that parents (mostly black and brown ones, if I may add) are falling into more (avoidable) poverty and children are malnourished, sick, and dying around the world because of the unethically and aggressive marketing strategies of Infant Feeding commercial practices that predatorily competes against the function of the lactating breasts?
Imagine how worse this would be without breastfeeding advocacy like World Breastfeeding Week – crumbs, I don’t have to imagine, I only need to research back a few decades to see the devastation caused when no one stood up against the predatory and aggressive marketing of formula companies, built on the peddling of doubt about the lactating breasts; as well as the ongoing troubling statistics from the ongoing impact of not breastfeeding today.
Breastfeeding guilt and grief is real, and we all deal with it in different ways – this, I know too well.
Even then, World Breastfeeding Week doesn’t seem to be the time and place for verbal diarrhea against the support, protection, and promotion of the functioning lactating breast … kinda like how there is no place for ‘All Lives Matter / Blue Lives Matter’ in the Black Lives Matter movement, or White History Month when celebrating Black History Month, or International Men’s Day (19 Nov) during International Women’s Day (Mar 8)…
WBW is not the time for white middle class frailty or cries of “all infant feeding methods matter” – WBW is the time during which we call the loudest on those in positions of power to invest in the changes needed to dismantle barriers to breastfeeding. If we want WBW to be inclusive and empowering, the answer is not to broaden it to include all methods of infant feeding, but instead to broaden access to breastfeeding so that fewer women and babies are left suffering its loss. Breastfeeding matters, and one week set aside in a year-long sludge of cultural and commercial formula norms is not too much to ask.