It's about time that we prioritised a mother's mental health over what feeding choices are "best"

 

Let's #endtheformulashaming #breastfeedingshaming and #ditchtheformulawarning. As a Mama of two who was diagnosed with Insufficient Glandular Tissue and is physiologically unable to exclusively breastfeed, I'm sick of feeling like a failure every time I have to make a bottle of formula for my children.  
 
In case you’ve never read the back of a formula tin, let me fill you in. It says:  
 
IMPORTANT NOTICE 
 
BREAST MILK IS BEST FOR BABIES. BEFORE YOU DECIDE TO USE THIS PRODUCT, CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR OR HEALTH WORKER FOR ADVICE 
 
I know that there are strict advertising rules around formula but has anyone stopped to think about how damaging these labels are for exhausted, emotionally drained and vulnerable Mothers and their #mentalhealth ? 
 
Before I go on, please do not mistake my opinion for being anti-breastfeeding. I cannot tell you how desperately I wanted to be able to vaginally birth my children and exclusively breastfeed because that is what I’ve been conditioned by society to believe is the only way to be a mother. As it turned out, no matter how hard I tried, neither were possible and I’ve hated my body for it. It’s only now, 7.5 months after the premature birth of my second child, that I can truly appreciate everything that my body has given me and my babies. All those hours of being chained to a pump desperately trying to squeeze every tiny millimetre of precious liquid gold out of my breasts, only to look at an empty bottle with barely 5ml for a minimum 60ml feed. I became consumed with recording every feed in an exercise book that, as I held my precious baby in my arms, all I could think about was “when is my next dose of domperidone due”, “what time did I last express”, “should I stay up an extra hour at 3am to power pump more milk because that’s when your body’s prolactin levels are highest”, and “can you get sick from eating too many lactation biscuits”.  
 
Did you know that The Marketing in Australia of Infant Formula: Manufacturers and Importers Agreement appears largely the same today as it did in 1992 and is part of Australia’s way of implementing its obligations as a signatory of the World Health Organisation’s International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes (1981)? Yep, you read that correctly, there is an international code that dictates how mothers are programmed as a society into believing that there is only one way, the “right way”, to nourish your child with no consideration as to how it impacts the mother. Further, in July 2021, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission extended the MAIF Agreement until 31 July 2024. The media release published on the ACCC’s own website quotes the ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard as saying: 
 
“Without this agreement among infant formula manufacturers and importers there is a risk of an increase in the marketing of infant formula, both directly to consumers and indirectly through references to infants in the marketing of toddler milk.” 

“A continued ban on infant formula advertising is likely to result in public benefits by protecting rates of breastfeeding, which has significant public health benefits.” 

Well, I’d love to know what assessment, if any, was undertaken to assess the impact that this decision has had, or will continue to have, on the mental health of those women who have no choice but to rely on these products. Better still, if no such assessment was undertaken, why not? 
 
Without formula, my children would not have survived. Whilst I was lucky enough to have donor milk with my son, he eventually disliked the taste. 
 
If this resonates with you: 

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Together, lets end the shame that comes with providing the essential nutrients our babies need, no matter how you feed them. Regardless of the decisions you make, or have to make, all Mamas should be celebrated for the strong, empowered and beautiful women that they are.  
 
Please join with me and end this ridiculousness. 


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