Feeling good about how we feed our babies

The Duty Mistake

The first big unhelpful idea is that we, as a society, expect new parents, especially mothers, to justify their decisions about how they feed their babies.

Talking about decisions can be very helpful, feeling a need to justify is not.

In the next few pages, we’ll explain why the expectation that mothers justify their decisions is a mistake and how this mistake can lead to problems.

You do not have to justify your decision to

  • use formula milk
  • breastfeed
  • keep breastfeeding
  • stop breastfeeding
  • mixed feed (formula milk and breastmilk)
  • express/pump

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

“Sociologist Elizabeth Murphy says infant feeding decisions are often (mistakenly) treated as “an accountable matter”: mothers feel they have to justify their decisions to avoid being seen as bad mothers.”

Murphy E. (1999) ‘Breast is best’: infant feeding decisions and maternal deviance. Sociology of Health and Illness 21, p. 187

This is not because these decisions don’t matter, but because every family is different. Each new mother has to work out what works best for her and her family.

Even if we have great reasons for our decisions, this doesn’t mean people who make different decision have made a mistake.

The following pages are based on research by Fiona Woollard. For links to the original research, see “Sources and where to find out more”.

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