Superiority Complex of Breastfeeding Mothers

Jul 13, 2000

I thought that might get your attention.

I speak of some breastfeeding mothers who seem to feel that they are somewhat "better" and "superior" women than those who do not breastfeed. I've witnessed those admonishing glances given to mothers feeding their newborn baby in the mall with a bottle [you know, it could be breastmilk in there]. I've heard the conversations about "formula mothers" ~ "How could she feed that junk to her child?" Et cetera...

Before my husband and I decided to start a family, I began to obsessively read about the best I could do for my baby, including breastfeeding. I knew about its immunological benefits already from my science background, but didn't know a thing about latching on or milk production. I also learned about problems that could occur - painful nipples, mastitis, baby's failure to thrive. It seemed like it was going to be a lot of work and I started to worry that I wouldn't be successful at it and [quel horreur!] our baby would have to be a "formula baby".

I was lucky. My baby and I were a surprisingly natural breastfeeding pair from the beginning. No problems with latching on, pain, infection, or milk production. I pumped like a mad woman - because I was so freaked out that my baby would not be exclusively breastfed until 6 months - our freezer was filled only with what my husband called "pods of breastmilk." I reached that goal and we're still a happy pair at almost a year.

Along the way, I've met many other nursing mothers - some with superiority complex, others without. I've also met formula-feeding mothers, most of whom I've noticed make unecessary justifications regarding it. Conversations with these women have helped me formulate the thinking that goes into making this personal decision:

1. Preference - For example, "I don't feel comfortable with the idea of having my breasts suckled on all the time."

2. Societal pressures - For example, "I really don't want to breastfeed, but all my girlfriends are doing it, and if I don't then they'll think less of me."

3. Prevailing ideology of the medical community - Back in the 70's, it was believed that formula was a superior choice to breastmilk.

4. Ability - It just isn't true that "everyone can breastfeed" - I know of several people who could not breastfeed for medical reasons or no matter how strong their intent, will, and attempts to continue or increase milk production. These were NOT lazy or non-committed women.

5. Time - It can be difficult to find the time to breastfeed/pump for a variety of reasons: work, other children, stress, and fatigue.

In essence what I'm saying is that "To Breastfeed or Not To Breastfeed" is a combination of many factors and no one should be made to feel as if she is an inadequate mother because she chooses not to breastfeed. Nor should she feel guilty about that choice - if the mother isn't happy, the child certainly will not be and breastmilk isn't a substitute for a mother's love. Whatever a mother's mode of feeding in her child's early life, it would be wise to remember that each woman's choice is a valid one and there is no "better" or "superior" one.

[A final food for thought: my mother breastfed me at a time when it was socially aberrant and she had to face the superiority complexes of formula-feeding mothers!]

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