Why Fed Is Best: From One Therapist’s Point Of View

Written by Sarah Edge

I am a Counsellor Psychotherapist, specialising in postnatal mental health in the United Kingdom. I am also a Mum of two small children. I recently wrote a guest blog on “The Process of Healing From Infant Feeding Trauma, Guilt, and Shame: When You Wanted To Breastfeed and Couldn’t” for the Fed is Best Foundation, and when I was asked to write again, I jumped at the chance. In this piece, I aim to examine the Fed is Best message through my therapist’s lens and discuss why the Fed is Best message is an essential part of healing and recovery. 

It is well known amongst those in the psychology field, whether it be researchers, psychologists, or therapists, that people are often drawn to study and work in a field where they have personal experience. The well-regarded and highly accomplished trauma academic Bessel Van Der Kolk has described his own research as “self-search.” And most have heard of the phrase “the wounded healer.” I am no different. I became interested in working therapeutically with postnatal mental health and infant feeding guilt due to my own experience of breastfeeding difficulties.

I personally have a complicated and emotional relationship with infant feeding. I experienced formula feeding my firstborn and breastfeeding my second child. I have personally undergone my own therapy and recovery, meaning I am now able to work safely and supportively with other women experiencing psychological distress compounded by, or sometimes caused by, their infant feeding experiences. But that’s not to say my heart doesn’t ache when I hear a mother sharing her raw and moving story of when breastfeeding didn’t work out. Continue reading

Dear Chrissy Teigen, You Are Right; We Need To Destigmatize Formula Feeding Our Babies

Dear Chrissy Teigen,

Thank you for your Twitter post raising the very important topic of stress, guilt, and sadness when a breastfeeding mother experiences low milk production.  

I could feel the deep despair you expressed through your words because I have supported thousands of mothers, just like you, who felt tremendous guilt and stress when they tried their best to make enough milk.

Can I emphatically tell you something? You and your body did not “fail” with making enough milk. You were failed by the current breastfeeding education and guidelines, which don’t fully inform mothers about their biological and psychosocial risk factors for low milk supply. Instead, parents are taught that every mother can make enough breast milk if she has the right support; but the research tells us that low milk supply is far more common than people realize.   All of the support in the world cannot increase breastmilk supply if your body cannot biologically produce it!       

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I Am Back From My Breastfeeding Battle And Here’s What I Have Learned

Hopefully, my experiences will help another family avoid the psychological trauma that I endured while breastfeeding my daughter. This is what I learned:

  • Sacrificing your mental health or your baby’s health (or both!) to exclusively breastfeed is not worth it. 
  • Some breastfeeding advocates don’t see (or don’t want to see) the risks of exclusive breastfeeding which include a baby who isn’t gaining weight sufficiently, an emotionally suffering mum, or a strained mother–baby relationship.  
  • Seek help from lactation professionals who are open-minded enough to suggest combo-feeding as an option and are willing to support your choice because sometimes exclusive breastfeeding is not an option.

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Liquid Courage Sometimes Comes In The Form Of Baby Formula

Written by: Sarah L. R.

“I think it would be very courageous for you to do this.” 

My psychiatrist leaned forward in his chair, clasped his hands together, and smiled at me. 

Grabbing a tissue from the box on the table, I sniffed, “Then why do I feel like the biggest coward for making this decision?!” 

“Sarah, what’s braver than making sure you’re the best mother you can be?”

It took several more conversations and even more tissues, but eventually, I made the decision to forgo breastfeeding entirely, and feed my daughter formula milk from birth. In doing so, I hoped to avoid postpartum depression and anxiety that haunted my earlier experiences as a new mother. 

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Fed Is Best- And I’m Fed Up!

“Are you breastfeeding or formula feeding?”  I cringed as I overheard a complete stranger asking my husband this question while we were shopping for baby clothes. “Formula,” my husband replied. “I can’t believe she asked you that!” I exclaimed as she walked away. “How is that any of her business?” He shrugged and replied, “maybe she’s pregnant and is trying to figure out if she should breastfeed.” “It’s still none of her business,” I said. “If she had asked me, I would have said we’re breastfeeding.” 

Yes, that’s right, I would have lied to a random woman because I was afraid she would judge me. Despite my anger at this stranger, however, I wasn’t necessarily worried about what she thought of me; it was about what I thought of me. I felt guilty about formula feeding. 

It wasn’t that I didn’t try to breastfeed. It just happened that my nursing journey didn’t exactly work out the way I’d planned, and not a day goes by that I don’t feel bad or like I somehow failed my son for my inability to breastfeed. 

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