For many, the phrase “fed is best” has come to signify support of all mother’s infant feeding journey regardless of whether or not they breastfeed. While I 100% support all families on their infant feeding journey however it unfolds, you will never hear me use or see me rallying around the phrase “fed is best.” Here’s why.
1. “Fed is best” is modeled after the phrase “breast is best.” I could write an entire post on why I find the “breast is best” slogan hurtful, wrong, and unhelpful, but that’s for another day. The short version is “breast is best” was never meant to empower breastfeeding mommas. It was developed by a formula company to seem like they were supporting breastfeeding on the surface while in reality manipulating new moms into doubting themselves and ultimately to buy their product. It’s brilliant from an advertising perspective, but in the context of infant feeding it’s unethical. And, just so people don’t get defensive that I’m picking on formula companies, all advertisings and marketing’s goal is to manipulate you into doing something without you realizing it so I’m not singling out formula. If you are interested in reading more about this, check out this article. I’m not sure why “breast is best” got adopted into the breastfeeding promotion side of things, but it was a sad day when it did. So, I won’t use a phrase modeled off a very problematic phrase to show my support for all mammas.
2. “Fed is best” is inaccurate. Bear with me a minute before you think I’ve lost my mind. Being fed isn’t something “best” something we should strive to achieve. Being fed is a basic human need and right. It should be a given that all babies need to be fed. Yes, there are families that struggle to feed their babies and themselves, but “fed is best” is not referring to those situations, nor am I. The fact that we need to make sure a baby is fed regardless of the status of breastfeeding should be so fundamental that calling it best has never sat right with me. You may hear me say “the first rule is feed the baby.” While some might find the distinction between these 2 phrases minor, to me, it is huge.
3. While many wonderful, truly supportive people use “fed is best,” it is also commonly used in the guise of support that in reality is minimizing breastfeeding to prop up formula use. Sources and articles that claimed to be even handed, while truly not being so, don’t help anyone. There are many complex reasons why a parent might want or need to use formula, and those reasons should be supported. Supporting parents varied choices and situations does not need to mean lumping all choices together or denigrating one over another in a moral sense. There are risks and benefits to everything in life, not just in infant feeding. The weight individual families give to those risks and benefits and the exact nature of them varies from family to family. The context in which individuals make their feeding choices matters, and only they can determine what is right for their given situation.
There is no best when it comes to infant feeding, unless that best is empowered, supported, and educated to make the best decision for them. If “fed is best” really speaks to you then of course you should use the language that resonates with you, but I hope you now understand a bit why I don’t.