Written by Aran Tavakoli
It has been nine months and I just put away my pump. Getting it ready for storage was bitter sweet. How many hours have I spent with that machine in the past 9 months? Its usefulness outweighed the annoyance. Once again, at this point in time, I am redefining my breastfeeding relationship with my baby.
Breastfeeding has been an extraordinary journey. I have experienced and learned so much. I keep searching for a word that captures and defines my experience, but I can’t find one. I believe the breastfeeding community is actually missing a term for mamas that fall into their own camp. There is the exclusively breastfeed group and the formula group. Research often distinctly divides mamas and babies into these two groups. But, there is an ever-growing group of mamas that breastfeed and give formula to support their breastfeeding relationship with their baby. The current words used to describe this group include combo feeding or more commonly, low supply needing supplementation.
From the true definition, I do not "exclusively" breastfeed my baby. However, I do exclusively give my baby all the breast milk that I have. But he needs more to be happy and healthy, so he also receives formula and when he was really little, he received donor milk. Honestly, I am so tired of the “low supply” conversation, I wish there was a different word for how I feed my baby. A word that matches the pride of the mamas who do exclusively breastfeed their little ones all that they produce.
Per Merriam-Webster, ‘exclusive’ is defined as, “not shared: available to only one person or group.” ‘Inclusive’ is defined as, “covering or including everything: open to everyone: not limited to certain people.”
Thinking about it, I have never been an exclusive type of person, so the opposite of exclusive is inclusive. I have inclusively breastfed my baby for 9 months (way longer than I would have thought in the beginning!). This is the word that I am using to define my breastfeeding experience.
In the inclusive camp, mamas know the best and worst of both worlds. The best of breastfeeding includes that joys of nourishing your baby with your body and making personalized milk. Then there is the best of formula: the intervention that provides life saving nutrition to support healthy growth and development. The worst of breastfeeding includes the sometime difficulties: mastitis, plugged ducts, yeast, blebs and so on! On top of breastfeeding, there might also be pumping, all the equipment and time that is required. For formula, besides the cost, the worst includes the bottles to be cleaned, sterilized and cleaned again.
In the inclusive camp, the mamas are incredible as they work so hard to maintain their milk supply for their little ones, while also accepting help in the form of formula or donor milk. It is not one way or the other, it is all the ways: the breastfeeding, the pumping, the supplementing, the love, the dedication, the tears and the sweat (especially on hot days)! The inclusiveness of the experience.
I don’t want to use a breastfeeding definition that makes mamas feel bad that their milk supplies are low (I worked through that one) or that they feel badly for needing to use formula (I worked though that one, too). Saying that, 'I inclusively breastfeed" is so much more positive and empowering than saying, "I have low supply and need to supplement." My lactation consultant, Ashley, always said to me, “He is getting your milk.” That has become my motto. He’s getting my milk, the amount doesn’t matter, and he is getting my milk.
So...Mamas who Inclusively Breastfeed, shall we adopt a new term?