When people talk about how formula companies acknowledge that breast is best, it should also be discussed that they are not using this language to endorse breastfeeding. Like all major marketing industries, formula companies pay big money for advertising professionals to come up with emotionally persuasive language to use in their quest to increase their consumer base.
Any time we talk about something being “the best,” it stands to reason that something else is not the best, but is “good enough.” After all, not everyone can afford the best cars or send their children to the best colleges in the nation. Just because you can’t have an Audi or send your kid to Harvard doesn’t mean that you can’t have a perfectly reliable car and your child can’t receive a wonderful education. So if by some chance breastfeeding proves to be something you can’t or don’t want to do, the nutrition your baby receives from formula will still be perfectly good, right?
No. Formula should be reserved as a last resort food for babies. Breastfeeding isn’t best. It is normal. It is standard. Anything less than breast milk is substandard in nutritional value. Does this mean that women who truly can’t breastfeed and have been unsuccessful in finding donor milk for their babies should feel bad about using formula? Of course not! This is when it should be used. It does not, however, mean that formula is the norm and breast milk is something above and beyond. Mothers who have found themselves in the position of having to use formula to keep their babies from starving should never be looked down upon. Instead, as a society we should be banding together to make breast milk more attainable for all babies, so that formula will come to be viewed as what it really is; an emergency food when the nutritionally standard food cannot be obtained.
These language shifts may seem subtle and insignificant, but they play a subconscious role in the way a culture thinks about breastfeeding. If we want to shift the culture of infant feeding, we need to shift the language we use when we talk about it. Breast isn’t best. It is normal.