I have turned into a clipping machine. Hardly a day goes by when I don't clip an article out of the newspaper to share with one of my college classes or someone I know. One of the recent columns I clipped is The Formula Follies by Jennifer Graham that appeared in the July 21st Wall Street Journal. (Click here to read it online.) The gist of this piece is that in an attempt to encourage mothers to breastfeed, formula is rapidly becoming characterized as being as harmful as smoking.
Now, before I begin opinionating I want to establish three caveats:
1.) Yes, I believe that breastfeeding is the ideal for babies.
2.) Yes, I support the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services campaign to inform mothers and fathers of the importance of breastfeeding.
3.) No one I know lives in an ideal world; we live in the real world.
Let the opinionating begin.
If for my purposes today, I accept as accurate the columnist’s premise that formula is being demonized, it seems to me that we may be forgetting that this is very much a personal decision for mothers and families. There are situations where it is best for the family—and hence for the baby—that Mom uses formula. I am concerned that the push, as described in this column, will, at least for some mothers, simply create one more thing to feel guilty about and mothers do not need anything more to add to their feelings of inadequacy or guilt.
When I talk about the importance of breastfeeding in my college classes, I emphasize the advantages of breastfeeding for both mother and baby. But I also remind the teachers-in-training that it is not our place as educarers to tell families how to raise their children. Yes, we need to share facts and information with them. Yes, we can and should encourage them and provide support but unless there is a clear and present danger, and nothing I have yet read indicates that formula reaches that magnitude, we need to back-off and allow parents to make their own decisions without guilt.