I was nervous to post about breastfeeding. It's one of those topics fraught with feelings and judgments and contradictions and it's something that every parent has to address at some point. How we feed our babies is personal and yet almost everyone has an opinion on it.
I'm overwhelmed by the response I received. Thank you to all those who commented, tweeted, or emailed. I'm so happy I have this space where I can talk about stuff like this.
I'm also really happy that I have people in my life who feel comfortable enough to tell me when I've made them a bit twitchy. I'm not perfect (ha! far from it) and I don't always convey my feelings or thoughts clearly.
Two points were brought to my attention regarding the language I used in my post and after sitting with it all day, I think I need to clarify a few things.
When I said "I think that in some cases, formula is necessary" I didn't mean that formula needs to be medically required to be necessary. I meant that sometimes formula is needed. If you suffer from hypoplasia - formula is necessary. If breastfeeding is too painful for you (for whatever reason - it doesn't have to physical pain; breastfeeding can cause emotional pain too) - formula is necessary. If you decide you don't want to breastfeed because breastfeeding sounds too difficult - formula is necessary. There are so many different reasons why formula is necessary and it's not my place to decide what makes a reason valid or invalid. It's no one's place to decide. If you decide to use formula, that is your decision. It is valid. I respect it. I support it. I used the word necessary in a literal sense - if you don't breastfeed a baby you have to feed it something, so formula is necessary.
The other point that was brought to my attention was my use of the term "breast is normal." This is where things get a little bit fuzzy. When I say that breastfeeding is normal (and formula feeding is not normal) I mean it in a literal sense. Breastmilk is normal. It is the biological norm. Formula is synthetic. It is man-made. It is not the biological norm.
But "not normal" doesn't just mean "not the norm" - it can be used to mean "not okay" or "weird" or "bad."
My sister is one of the smartest people I know. She made me realize that calling formula "not normal" is not a constructive way to erase the breastfeeding/formula-feeding tension and create a society that supports both choices. She also told me that "normalize" and "normal" are two different things (she teaches English at a university. She knows her stuff.) She's also one of the kindest people I know, as evidenced in this part of her email (sorry, T! It just hit my heart and I had to share it):
"There are so many other factors that force people's choices away from breastfeeding. And, to me, it seems cruel to add to those factors being called 'not normal'. It doesn't seem like something that will help change those other factors."
So. Thank you to everyone who reached out today. Especially to those of you who told me I could work on my delivery - I am very grateful to you (wouldn't the world be a boring place if we all agreed with each other all the time?) My feelings haven't changed but my language will. I will try to be more sensitive and clear and maybe a little less literal. But I won't stop talking.