Formula feeding moms need just as much support as breastfeeding moms, say OBGYNs.
As a formula feeding mom, it’s easy to feel judged and isolated in your choices, but a groundbreaking policy update by the largest organization of women’s health professionals in the U.S. shows a promising and necessary shift in the way formula moms are treated. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released an updated committee opinion this week that encourages doctors to respect a woman’s decision not to breastfeed.
Traditionally, the ACOG has encouraged all women to breastfeed exclusively for at least six months. They’re keeping that recommendation, but they’ve injected some nuance into their stance and are making strides to encourage doctors to do the same. Per their official statement:
“Obstetrician-gynecologists and other obstetric care providers should support each woman’s informed decision about whether to initiate or continue breastfeeding, recognizing that she is uniquely qualified to decide whether exclusive breastfeeding, mixed feeding or formula feeding is optimal for her and her infant.”
Pretty awesome, right? They also said:
The obstetrician-gynecologist is obligated to ensure patient comprehension of the relevant information and to be certain that the conversation is free from coercion, pressure or undue influence.”
In other words, respect that moms know what they’re doing, and don’t bully or shame them for wanting to use formula. Now there’s some good advice.
The movement to normalize breastfeeding has made many important strides. Per the CDC’s 2014 breastfeeding report card, 79 percent of babies born in the U.S. are breastfed for at least some portion of their infancy, and just under 50 percent are breastfed for the recommended six months. Unfortunately, the unintended consequence of constantly shouting “breast is best” at moms has been that far too many women either feel extreme pressure to breastfeed or like they’re somehow failing as mothers if they choose to use formula.
The ACOG’s updated stance appears to be an effort to address those issues and put the power of choice back in moms’ hands. In a statement to Canada’s Globe and Mail, the lead ACOG opinion author, Alison Stuebe, MD, said making sure all women are supported in their choices is far more important than policing which option they choose. “We need to be advocates for the patient, not the cause, ” she said. “Our obligation is to make sure she [the mom] has the information to make an informed decision.”
Formula feeding is a valid option for moms, and no one should feel guilt or shame for the way they choose to nourish their baby. The important thing is not whether a mom chooses to breastfeed, bottle feed, pump, or use formula. What matters is that each mom is supported in her choices and has the agency to decide what’s right for her physically and emotionally. A fed baby is a happy baby, and we should be advocating for policies that help all moms feed their babies how they see fit.
We’re all sick of arguing about breast versus bottle, and we’d all love a little more support from our healthcare providers. It’s encouraging to see such a prominent health organization take this very important step in the right direction.