Talking about Fed is Best
Several years ago Meghan Markle was having her first royal baby. There were a lot of stories going around about her birth plans and wishes and I guess at one time she was called a “birth brat” for being so demanding. I saw a great post on Facebook about this, which got me thinking about breastfeeding (of course…). Someone pointed out that Meghan Markle wanting to choose things like healthcare provider and place of birth were not outrageous requests. Striving for more than just a baby and mother who are alive at the end of the birth experience should not be viewed as high maintenance or troublesome. In fact, in a first world country with the appropriate resources, a healthy mom and baby at the end of the experience should be our minimum expectation in nearly all cases.
So, what does that thought have to do with breastfeeding? It’s about changing the perspective on infant feeding care and calling on our healthcare providers to raise their standards when it comes to our new families.
With infant feeding, as healthcare providers, we often put in the minimum amount of effort. The saying that always comes around is “Fed is Best”. I disagree wholeheartedly. In a beautiful, first world country such as Canada I assume that being “Fed” should be our minimum standard for everyone. We should all be getting fed and we aren’t even meeting that basic need for a lot of our citizens. Beyond simply being “Fed”, we need to see if needs are being met around nutrition and food security. There are examples of how this plays out in all ages and walks of life, but I am (of course) going to focus on our newborns and new mothers who are trying to figure out this getting “Fed” thing.
In my world as a lactation consultant “Fed” is not “Best”, it is the baseline. It is our starting point. When I was training, I learned how to assess moms and babies and then develop plans to help mothers meet their breastfeeding goals. The very FIRST thing we do is assess “Is the baby being fed adequately?”. If the answer is no, then we make that happen using the WHO guide and parent preference as to how and what to feed the baby. That is where my assessment STARTS. This is often where the assessment of feeding with other healthcare providers for babies and moms will end.
After we assure ourselves that baby is fed, we can talk about how that is happening and if it’s working for everyone. If a mother wants to breastfeed, they should be offered support to make that happen and not just be reassured that their baby is being fed.
No mother should be told by a healthcare professional that “Fed is Best” when it comes to their child, so not to worry about adding formula, a pump or a bottle. They should not be told that it can be better to bottle feed so you can “at least see what is going in”. These healthcare providers need to learn how to assess and address breastfeeding challenges or at the very least refer their patients to someone who can help them.
You are not being troublesome or problematic by wanting to feed your baby in the way you choose. Regardless of whether it is breast, bottle or a combination you should have support to feed your family in the best way possible that will work physically, economically, mentally and emotionally for all of you. No matter how your breastfeeding journey begins and ends it should be supported throughout.
As healthcare providers being “Fed” should be our baseline and not our gold standard for infants. I firmly believe that if we can change our perspective, if we no longer accept “Fed is Best” and artificial feeding as an automatic default we will provide better support to our patients. As healthcare providers we will seek out solutions and be more open to research and new ideas around breastfeeding. We will ask for more training and more services for our families, to help them reach their infant feeding goals. We will need to do these things, when we no longer accept the bare minimum as being the “Best” for our mothers and their newborns. Healthcare providers, let’s raise our standards to provide the support our families want and need to meet their infant feeding goals, whatever those may be.