Baby Feeding · Gentle Parenting · Mummy and Daddy

Can we stop talking about the “Benefits of Breastfeeding”? 

As the World Breastfeeding Week 2017 is approaching, a UNICEF report with a four step plan, has been circulating! 

Its aim: an attempt to improve the low rates of breastfeeding in the U.K. (UNICEF 2017) The rates and the reasons for these is a subject that is often avoided in the U.K as a result of the strong emotions attached! Yet, somehow, the “milk wars” gets a firmer hold for each year that passes, and with it, the resentment grows between the self proclaimed “camps”, all to the glee of the formula companies.

When I’m reading the “Call to Action on Infant Feeding in the UK” report by UNICEF something jumps of the page! I read “Powerful new evidence about the benefits of breastfeeding” 

There are no benefits of breastfeeding!

You might wonder were I’m going with this so before you become concerned that I’m pushing the abandonment of breastmilk, I’ll explain! 

Breastmilk is what humans are supposed to drink. It is created by us, for us! It’s intention is to give us the best chance in life, in both emotional and physiological development. Breastmilk supports us with what we, as young children, have yet developed, such as our immune system. It supports our development in the most optimal way possible. Human breast milk is biologically correct for human babies.

There are no benefits of breastmilk, as that would indicate that artificial milk is ideal for us; but breastmilk isn’t the deviant!  The idea that formula milk is somehow the baseline, is damaging. Indicating, that by giving breastmilk to your baby, you’re simply adding these extra benefits- like the icing on a cake! But these “benefits” were supposed to be there in the first place! They are what a brand new body expects and needs, to develop to its full ability.

“There are no benefits of breastfeeding! There are only risks associated with formula feeding. 

I looked for support in the early days of motherhood – I was so determined I was going to breastfeed that I did everything I physically could! Yet, in the midst of my battle, I was told to surrender. I was told by health professionals that “fed is best” and that formula is “just as good” as breastmilk, and to not push myself any harder.
I wanted to breastfeed my daughter, yet a chain of events left me unable to do so, and I do find that my inability to breastfeed my first upsets me; even more so as I’ve been able to successfully breastfeed her little brother. In ways, it feels as though I failed one of my two children, yet I don’t like being patronised with the illusion of benefits, rather than being spoken to in honesty about the clear risks.

Throughout life, we get told about healthy eating and what foods are more suitable as fuel for our bodies! We talk about the risks of unhealthy eating and how we are putting our bodies under strain. A visit to the doctor can lead to a long discussion about a healthy diet, yet in infancy this is somehow taboo – we must not question the quality of the milk which the majority of us readily give to our babies! 

“I love a Big Mac, but I never eat one under the illusion that it is as healthy as a hearty portion of steamed vegetables.”

So, here’s a suggestion! Instead of becoming defensive we need to be open! We need to recognise that there is a huge difference in what we feed our babies! 

Many mothers have wanted to breast fed but have been unable to access support, thus have had to switch to formula. Some have never even seen breastfeeding and fall for the societal pressure to bottle feed as this is what’s ‘normal’ to them, and some are living with the trauma of trying to breast fed but being medically unable to do so.

These are all perfectly valid reasons why someone may choose to or have to formula feed, and of course, when a choice has been made, we have to respect that choice!

After all, the majority of us do what we believe to be the best for our children, and we make that choice with the information and support we have on hand at that time!

So why do we question each other so loudly and become so incredibly defensive over how we feed our little?

 Why are facts suddenly insults and statistics, verbal abuse? Why is it, that someone trying to breastfed is by doing so, told she’s judging those who feed artificial milk?

Talking about the risks rather than benefits isn’t passing judgment or criticising a feeding choice! No! It offers Mothers a chance to make informed decisions in regards to the milk they offer their babies!

When I gave my daughter her first bottle of formula, I was told formula was a great substitute for breastmilk! My midwife reassured me that my daughter would thrive on formula! It really is no wonder that mothers find them self confused with such contradictory advice and information!

A health professional may say that formula is a perfectly suitable feeding choice; yet the NHS states that the low breastfeeding rates cost the country over £40 million in treatments, as a direct result of formula feeding!?

As long as we keep talking about the benefits of breastfeeding we make it seem that other alternatives are perfectly sufficient and that breastfeeding is going the extra mile! like an organic cloth nappy in a sea of disposable pampers.

By focusing on the benefits of breastfeeding we deny mothers the chance to have an honest dialogue in regards to the consequences of their feeding choices! 

However, if we are realistic and talk about the risks of formula feeding; not to offend or upset but simply to empower mothers, then maybe we will see a change

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UNICEF 2017 – (

Risks and Health :

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