Raising Awareness About Formula Shaming This Mental Health Awareness Month

In honour of Mental Health Awareness Month, we've decided to address the topic of formula shaming.

Formula shaming is a form of parent-shaming that can have a devastating impact on new parents. It occurs when parents who choose to formula feed their babies are made to feel guilty or inferior to those who breastfeed. This can happen through subtle comments or more direct criticism from friends, family, or even strangers.

Formula shaming can create feelings of intense grief, guilt, and inadequacy for parents who are already struggling with a myriad of demanding life changes that come with a newborn.  It can also make it harder for parents to bond with their baby, which can lead to postpartum depression and anxiety, causing long-term impacts on both caregivers and their children.

It's important to recognise that there is no single "correct" way to feed a baby. Behind every parent is a range of experiences that we’re most likely not aware of: a challenging mental battle, a traumatic birth, a mastectomy, a prolonged stay in the neonatal intensive care unit, a thyroid condition, a breast reduction, or simply an informed personal decision to formula feed, without any justification needed. 

All of these factors can influence a parent's feeding choices and should be respected.

Parents should feel empowered to make the feeding choices that work best for their family, whether that be breastfeeding, formula feeding, or a combination of both. Criticising or shaming parents for their feeding choices only adds to their stress and anxiety and can contribute to feelings of isolation and shame.

The Australian Government is currently reviewing the Marketing in Australia of Infant Formula (MAIF) Agreement, an agreement which aims to encourage breastfeeding as the first choice and optimal option for infants. While we 100% support this position at Sprout Organic, we also strongly believe that this message needs to be re-conveyed with compassion and respect. For decades, the phrase "breast is best" has been pushed without consideration of parents’ who are either unable to breastfeed or have made the the informed decision not to.

By recognizing the importance of inclusivity and respect for all parents, regardless of their feeding choices, the MAIF can take a step towards improving the mental health of parents across Australia. 

We are proposing the scope and messaging of the MAIF Agreement to be revised in recognition of the following:

  • The right of all caregivers to choose how to feed their child and their right to freely make that choice without the prejudice of others.

  • The right of women to breastfeed or formula feed without discrimination, noting that it is unlawful to treat a woman less favourably on the basis that she is breastfeeding or formula feeding under anti-discrimination laws (such as the Australia Federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and the NZ Human Rights Commission Act 1977 and Employment Relations Act 2000).

If this article has resonated with you, we encourage you to put your views in writing to the Australian Government. 

Consultation on the MAIF agreement is open to all interested parties until 12 May 2023. You can email your views directly to: maifreview@allenandclarke.com.au

If you are a parent who has experienced formula shaming, know that you are not alone. We encourage you to seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional. It's crucial to recognise that you are doing what's best for you and your baby, and you should never feel ashamed or guilty for your feeding choices.

It's time to put an end to formula shaming and embrace a culture of inclusivity and support for all parents. 

With compassion,

Team Sprout

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