On Tuesday, Kim Chen, a grieving father and widower, shared his late wife Florence Leung’s struggles with postpartum depression and breastfeeding on a Facebook page dedicated to her memory. He encouraged new moms to get help and to not succumb to pressures to breastfeed.
“For all the new moms experiencing low mood or anxiety, please seek help and talk about your feelings. You are Not alone. You are Not a bad mother. Do not EVER feel bad or guilty about not being able to “exclusively breastfeed”, even though you may feel the pressure to do so based on posters in maternity wards, brochures in prenatal classes, and teachings at breastfeeding classes. Apparently the hospitals are designated “baby-friendly” only if they promote exclusive-breastfeeding.”
Our thoughts are with Mr. Chen, his family, and their son, who now has to grow up without his mother. We’ve reached out to him to offer our support and resources during this impossible time.
For us at the Fed is Best Foundation, this story is heartbreaking and familiar. We hear from parents every day who have been harmed by intense pressure to breastfeed and overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame when breastfeeding issues arise. This death and others are preventable, but the answer is not more pressure and “support” to breastfeed, the answer is support to find a way to feed your baby that’s healthy for you and your family.
Postpartum depression is common, especially among new parents who are struggling with breastfeeding. In hospitals, doctor’s offices and the media, moms hear ‘breast is best’ over and over. They start to internalize this message and think that in order to be good moms they have to breastfeed. That’s so far from the truth. Being a good mom is not measured in ounces of breast milk and ‘breast is not best’ for many babies and families.
You matter. Your baby needs you, and they need you healthy and sane more than they need your breast milk. You deserve support and love no matter what. You are not alone. We want new parents to know that we are here to support you and help. Please don’t suffer in silence.
Mom and Fed is Best advocate Steph Montgomery agrees,
“When I couldn’t breastfeed my daughter, I became depressed and suicidal. Everywhere I turned I heard ‘breast is best,’ and ‘you should have tried harder,’ and I began to think that they were right: that I wasn’t a good mom, because I couldn’t make enough breast milk. No one told me it was OK to feed her formula. The pressure to breastfeed almost made me take my life. I was lucky. I got help, but so many women suffer alone.”
Our own Co-founder Dr. Christie del Castillo-Hegyi’s son was harmed by accidental starvation in his first days of life when she felt pressure to breastfeed. She wants you to know that we are here and our message is simple:
“I had to learn the hard way that being a good mother is not defined by exclusive breastfeeding. Feed your baby. I don’t want this to happen to any other family.”
You don’t have to be alone. If you are experiencing infant feeding issues, please visit the Fed is Best Foundation for evidence-based advice and support at www.fedisbest.org or on Facebook. You can also join our parent support group for nonjudgmental infant feeding help and answers from peers and professionals who understand what you are going through.
If you or someone you love is experiencing postpartum depression, talk to your health care provider, or call Postpartum Support International at 1-800-944.4PPD (4773) or the National Suicide Prevention Helpline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The Fed Is Best Foundation, #FedIsBest www.fedisbest.org