Breast IS Best - I'm Not Going to Shutup

I am overweight. Why? Partly it's genetics. Partly it's medical. Partly it's my ass's propensity for the couch and mouth's propensity for ice-cream.

Partly it's marketing schemes I swallowed when I was a child and didn't know any better that led to me becoming addicted to sugar. Partly it's society that told me being overweight was disgusting, made me look at myself with disgust, and led me to devalue myself to the point where I allowed myself to become even more overweight. Partly it's my lack of motivation to lose weight due to previous failures.

In other words, I've been booby trapped. Not like the Best for Babes booby traps - they talk about why women chose to use formula instead of breastfeed. No, I guess I've been fatty trapped.

Except, a lot of the reason - like 90% at least - is me. I've made the choice to stay the way I am. Not consciously, but it's not like I've done everything in my power to change.

And I know being overweight is unhealthy. Given my family's history of high cholesterol, diabetes, and arthritis, I know that loosing weight could save my life - make me healthier.

I know that I am not being the best role model I can be for my children. When I choose ice-cream over exercise, what am I showing them?

It's wrong. And I know it's wrong. And there are times I feel very guilty about it. And there are times I feel angry about it. And there are times I feel powerless.

But, do you know what? When I see media messages about living an active lifestyle, eating healthy, maintaining an acceptable weight; when I see medical studies that show how dangerous it is to be overweight; when reports are released about how important it is to lose weight - all of that. When I see those things I don't say:

"Yeah, yeah I've heard it all before."


"Stop trying to make me feel guilty"


"Your science is flawed and I don't believe it"

Instead I say: bring it on. Because I know that the message sent is that being overweight is dangerous to anyone's health and a nation's economy. I understand it is not personally aimed at me. I realise any guilt I feel is due to my own failure to cope with societal expectation and my own beliefs. Yes, that's right, I create my own guilt. Scientists studying fat mice in a lab did not get together in order to make me personally regret my choices or non-choices in life.

I also understand that even though I "get" the message, I haven't acted on it to my fullest ability. And for everyone else out there like me, who knows the dangers, "gets it" and does nothing, there are twice as many who still don't hear or understand the message.

So why is breastfeeding different?

Why is it that formula companies are allowed to advertise formula, sell it's benefits, even try inspire guilt in parents who can't afford the premium DHA or added probiotics formulas, but breastfeeding advocates are not allowed to counteract this message? What is it about saying "breast is best" that can inspire hundreds of women to hate themselves?

Breast is best. There's nothing wrong with saying that.

Your situation may mean you couldn't breastfeed. It may mean it was difficult and you made the choice not to pursue it. You may have been "booby trapped." Maybe you just decided you didn't care. Maybe your mother telling you formula is fine was a stronger message than the public health nurse telling you breast is best.

Whatever. I don't care about the reasons behind it. If you feel guilty, it's about you, not the message.

And yeah, I totally acknowledge that some of that guilt comes from you internalising societal messages. But guess what? You're an adult. You can be media savvy. You can analyse a media message and ask yourself "does this apply to me? Is this true to me?" That's what media literacy is all about.

Meanwhile, there are entire communties in my home province where not a single woman chooses to breastfeed. There are millions of women around the world being misled by formula companies telling them that in their situation formula is best. There are children growing up with images of bottle-feeding shoved in their face everytime they go in public while women who breastfeed in public are told to cover-up.

So, yeah, I'm going to say it. And I'm going to say it loud. BREAST IS BEST.

Bring to that what you will. The message is true. The message is clear. There's no falsehood or doubletalk involved.


  1. Couldn't have said it better myself!!!

  2. Breast is best but is not always possible. As a man I feel like I don't have the right or the authority to impose a blanket decision on any woman regarding what she does with her body. Every individual should have the choice and that choice should be respected by all. Sadly, that is not the world we live in... but one day maybe, eh?

  3. I LOVE your blog.
    And I LOVE this message. It's so well written, well done and thank you :)

  4. Well done you. That post you thought about is finallyh here. And it's a strong, powerful message very well articulated.
    But you know i thoroughly disagree! And you're right when you told me it's because i see this world through the middle class lense. But in my middle class niche it is not about a free choice - a choice whether to breastfeed, or a choice not to be bothered by the messages out there, not just from the media, but from the mothering community.
    I agree people should be empowered to make the right choices, and i agree that trying breastfeeding, persevering and giving it a good go is really the best option. but i also believe that if it doesn't work for you, there's nothing worse than yet another thing to beat yourself up about.
    Youre much better reaching for another chocolate biscuit and blaming those old men in labs ;<)

    oh and surprise surprise i've got a post on that one too!

  5. This same argument can be used for many things, huh? We know so many things are dangerous and or bad for our health and yet many people still smoke, don't exercise, drink excessively etc. And as you say it's perfectly okay to tell people that over eating will make them fat, smoking will give them cancer and yet it's seen as wrong to tell people that breast is best. A very odd society in which we live.

    Marketing To Milk - I don't understand your argument. you agree that the breastfeeding is better than formula and yet you don't think people should be allowed to talk about it? That there shouldn't be any kind of advertising campaign? How can education and exposure of breastfeeding being more healthy for a child than formula be a bad thing? Does your guilt out weigh the benefits of promoting breast feeding? Is it more important than more children being breastfed? Isn't it about time that people that chose not to breastfeed (I was one - I only breastfed for 8 weeks) chilled out about it and let the message get out so it can help others?´

    We have to understand from our middle class bubbles that there *are* women out there that haven't been told this, that don't know, haven't heard the facts, and that it could help them and their children. Any guilt we feel because we made an informed choice or couldn't physically do it shouldn't be more important than making sure others can make an informed choice.

  6. Personally I hate the breast is best label because it's not true. Breast isn't best, it's normal. It's natural, it's what we were designed to do and what babies are designed to live on.

    Or it should be normal. And it's marketing companies who've made it other, and health professionals who talk gobbledegook. So the only way to make it normal is for more and more of us to do it, to talk about it, to refuse to hide in the bathroom with it and to let our daughters know that even if it's tough, it's worth it. And to let men know that it's what breasts are for, everything else is just a bonus, live with it!

  7. People should be allowed to talk about it. There should be campaigns to empower and educate. Can you stop certain demographics from internalising these messages and powering on the guilt? I have known people in real despair over this. That's why i lament the additional pressure on (granted middle class) mothers. I don't know the answers. I just hate the pressure that is heaped on women. It makes me really sad. Problem is, i suppose we are doing it to ourselves. And ultimately can we pander to middle class egos? hmmm, it's a very interesting topic isn't it?

  8. @liveotherwise
    yes yes yes. oh you're a wise woman you!
    i think that's what a hate. dichotomous labels of "good" "bad" "best" "worst" "success" "failure.
    I recently got into a heated debate on this exact subject around seeing drug-free birth as "success" and caesarians as "failure". I think there is something we can do to address the terminology. "natural" is perfect. empower women to believe in their bodies, but don't demonise those who try their hardest but it doesn't work out for them.


  9. Is it still best when it makes the mother feel violently insecure? Makes her resent time with her child? Means that Fathers get to spend less bonding child with their children? Makes the mother more tired, irritable, and generally ruins the first few months?

    Not everyone makes this decision based on medicine or marketing.

    In other news, gross generalizations are always true.

    Breast is medically best. Not always best.

  10. Great post! I get very very angry and upset that so few children are breastfed in this society. I live in Ireland and we have the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world. The lives and health of women and children are being compromised on a daily basis in this country purely because there is no money to be made in doing what nature intended.

    I despair that little girls (I have two) are sold dolls that 'do' things only if they are bottle-fed. Both my daughters are keen to point out that the 'milk' in their babies' bottles is 'expressed breastmilk' ;)

    The bottom line is - and I know it's not popular to say this - is that people who feel guilty because they chose not to breastfeed *should* feel guilty. In exactly the same way as people who feed their children fast food every day instead of cooking meals should feel guilty.

    Steve - while I appreciate your desire to be sensitive and not tell women what to do with their bodies, the effects of breastfeeding do not start and finish with a woman's breasts. Breastfeeding is not always possible - but is *is* possible in over 80% of cases. I personally know a woman who breastfed a child whom she adopted - and she had never even been pregnant when she adopted her baby. She just chose to be well-informed and was very determined!


  11. Oh but that argument could run and run we do so many things these days that are not the natural order of things. not what nature intended. I don't think we'll get very far in the "modern" world by guilt tripping people who make choices that are freely available to them. We have to empower not judge, so that women can make the best, informed choices.

  12. I have a friend who swore by formula - she wasn't always responsible for feeding her daughter, she could go out and leave a bottle in the fridge, nappies weren't so messy etc. All fine, until she tried to convince me I should give up breastfeeding because my life would be easier. I loved breastfeeding, tiredness, messy nappies and all. For me it was best.For my babies it was best. All I can say really, but this was a great post -really thought provoking.

  13. You are a very talented writer...

  14. Just as long the man is not excluded from his use of the breats, I am all for it.

  15. Breast is only best if the mother is both willing and able, if not then formula in the western world (clearly I am ignoring the very recent scare in the US with weevil eggs) is a perfect safe and viable option.

    I agree that more education is needed in certain areas about the benefits of breastfeeding, but as a well informed and vaguely intelligent woman I fail to see why advertising of Formula milk should be banned. Why are only breast feeding mothers allowed information relevant to their choice?

  16. Ladyscribbles

    I am absolutely incensed that you are comparing not breast feeding to feeding a child junk food. What utter bollocks.

    Good for you that you can breast feed, I am sorry that you are so sanctimonious about it though. The lives of babies in the Western world at NOT put at risk by formula feeding and peddling that kind of crap is dangerous, misleading and downright stupid.

    I formula fed, I DO NOT and NEVER WILL feel guilty.

  17. @VBiC Since when has advertising been information? It's not information - that is readily available on the sides of the formula tins/ boxes and from parenting classes.

  18. Ladyscribbles - it may be possible in over 80% of cases but what if the mother chooses, for a whole raft of possible reasons, not to breastfeed? My wife found it agony but suffered it for the first few days before going to formula. I think her decision was sound and support her on it. I certainly support the freedom and right she exercised in doing this.

  19. Great post, it really pinpoints what I've been trying to get my head around, that any promotion of doing the normal thing (and breast feeding to me is the normal option) will lead to people who didn't make that choice feel guilty and react against you. Recently I posted about breast feeding and tried to avoid alienating formula feeders by stating that there are medical reasons and also reasons of choice which are very valid (people close to me chose not to breast feed - not for medical reasons but because it was the right choice for them and I did support that choice). What is not acceptable are breastfeeding rates in deprived areas of only 8%. And that, to me, is like feeding junk food to children - because in those communities the junk food is the extension of choosing not to breast feed. Very bored in Catalunya - I'm not saying this is the case for you or for many other people who chose not to breast feed, but it IS the case in poorer communities where the majority of health choices, including food, will lead to poorer health.

    I find the whole debate always gets out of hand when the general is addressed but the individual feels spoken to. So when my point is to show how breast feeding rates in poorer communities are significant and need to be turned around, I'm not saying that you, the reader, should have breast fed. We must be appalled by 8% rates at 6 weeks, this is just wrong and tells us that culture is wrong. As it is wrong that people find it disgusting if a child is breast fed in a restaurant. There is an attitude issue that needs addressed.

  20. I haven't seen anyone say you shouldn't be allowed to say breast is best. In fact, I see it everywhere. Even in formula adverts ;-)

    I have no issue with the breast is best message, apart from some sympathy with @liveotherwise's position!

    I have issue with the subtle point you make here that us (middle class?) formula feeder's haven't tried hard enough, just as you haven't with healthy eating and exercise - that we "got" the message, but haven't acted on it to our fullest ability.

    Write about breast feeding, not formula feeders, if you want to reach out to FF or those embarking upon feeding a baby. Nothing to complain about there.

    Don't tell me why it's better. Tell me why it's great, why it's normal, and how I can get over problems.

    Not that I think it would have helped me, but this is not a place for personal stories...

    I agree with your ultimate point, that BF *should* be talked about as natural, normal, and best, but that is not what you have done here. What you have done here is say FF haven't tried hard enough. And whilst in some cases that may be true, within your readership, I'm not sure how many that would be. But it would seem unfortunate if it is that band of people you are seeking to get to here, as apart from anything else it's likely to be too late for them!

  21. For some reason I haven't read much about the support that women need if they are to breastfeed. My friends who breastfed seemed to spend the first few weeks in bed with hubby and family helping out so that they had time to breastfeed. Many mothers do not have that kind of support. Some have to go back to work, manage a home, a clatter of other kids and a husband who wants as much attention as usual. Throw poverty and other problems into the mix and I can see how many Mums will take whatever is the easiest option just to get them through the day.

  22. @Looking for Blue Sky - that is an incredibly valid point, if you don't have support and already have a child or two, can you really be tied up all day cluster feeding. I get that.

    @cartside - I have the upmost respect for you, I know that you are championing a worthy cause, and I do believe it honestly. Your approach is a more gentle, fact related, and unbiased approach. You say, quite rightly that in deprived areas, the breastfeeding rates are shocking low. I suspect that most mothers in these areas don't even try, and that is largely down to lack of understanding, so yes there should be a drive to push the message home.

    However, bullying tactics as shown by Ladyscribbles do nothing but undo your good work. No-one, lest not the underprivaledged want to be preached at and beaten around the head with a big stick (or breast), it's completely counter productive. I don't understand why people don't see this. Gentle persuasion and education win the day, not lies, scaremongering and sanctamonious bullshit.

  23. Viable, yes. Perfectly safe? Depends on if you're ok with things like aluminium and BPA.

    Very Bored in Catalunya said...
    Breast is only best if the mother is both willing and able, if not then formula in the western world (clearly I am ignoring the very recent scare in the US with weevil eggs) is a perfect safe and viable option.

  24. I support a woman's right to use formula if she has tried to breastfeed and it didn't work out but what I find so annoying is really the marketing campaigns of formula companies - I mean I was actually given free formula once I had given birth in a sort of gift basket at the hospital - absolutely outrageous really when I think about it - targeting women at their most vulnerable. Breast is best, of course some women can't breastfeed and they should not be made guilty for that but that is still a fact.

  25. Dude!! What an aweomse convo you got goin' over here. WEll, I'm pretty sure you know how I feel about BFing. But I'm going to leave the link to my latest SK article on the subject since it totally relates. It's called, "Would you breastfeed your 4 year old." I'd love to know what you think too. :)

  26. I'm an ex-breast feeder- me and my kids took to it no bother. I fed them for a year each. Would have done it for longer if they hadn't both started biting me! But my mate Jane was made to feel a right failure in hospital when it wasn't working out for her. That's terrible. She felt like crap- her baby was hungry but yet these women kept on at her to try and try and try even though clearly her body was not playing ball.It made her miserable.

    Better to concentrate their bullying efforts on the LEGIONS of pregnant women smoking at the hospital gates, i always thought.

  27. I breastfeed my six month old daughter and planned ahead of time to do so, but for some reason this debate about breastfeeding makes me itch, like I'm afraid of offending my friends who don't, so I really appreciate this post. I feel icky using this comment as an advertisement, but I did just do a podcast called The Case Against the Case Against Breastfeeding and then wrote a blog post explaining why I breastfeed. It was liberating, and the link can be found at my name.

  28. Breast is best but it you have to really want to do it to and it hurts like hell. But it's worth it if you can. As always Dara - loving your work. Gentle, vigilant persuasion and sisterly support is required at all times.

    I have written on this too!



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