A debate is a discussion on a particular public matter where opposing arguments are put forward, and in the formal sense are put to the vote. To breastfeed, or not to breastfeed, is often a question pondered by expectant and new mothers, however it is also a tiring sales tactic to sell products and a common topic in the press and social media.
When will the debate end? Well, where there is choice and discussion there will be debate. The illustration above shows the amount of topics surrounding breastfeeding support within the literature, so the debates are truly endless and also have the potential to change behaviour, but there are good debates to be had and I will discuss these a little below.
1. Sadly, breastfeeding promoters may be labelled with a derogatory term such as 'breastfeeding nazi' or 'lactavist', which for some, deters them from joining the debate at all. Similarly when faced with a bottle feeding apologist (someone that offers defence to a certain practice or controversial topic), who begins picking apart the breastfeeding evidence, a great deal of energy is required to update their information.
2. When faced with someone that is perceived as a formula apologist then the promotion offered may be limited to avoid a debate. Actually leaving the mother uninformed.
3. By offering antenatal classes and campaigns that promote breastfeeding, but at the same time not offering ongoing support, many mums struggle and stop breastfeeding. (This I must stress is a political issue and not a reflection on anyone in particular). When mums feel let down they may alert others to the reality of their situation, this may stir another debate around breastfeeding and bottle feeding. The debate in this situation is often around why breastfeeding isn't for everyone rather than a demand for political change.
So what do we need to do?
1. Find the energy and motivations to join appropriate debates. There is a saying 'pick your fights'. Debates can be easily stirred especially when emotions are high. Listen to what people have to say and acknowledge this, but at the same time acknowledge that debates will always occur and that actually time could be better spent campaigning for political change instead/ fairer formula prices/ marketing restriction on formula in countries that are unable to prepare formula safely.
2. Increase the support we offer to breastfeeding mothers (obviously)
3. Be mindful of the conversations that we have. Asking someone is they choose to/ or are breastfeeding is not helpful. Questions like this can often force people to choose a side. After all it is OK to do both? Tailor appropriate information to the individual. Breastfeeding in this country is not often life or death and having a conversation as though it is is not helpful (Conversation guides are available from UNICEF and supportive language is available through the GP Infant Feeding Network).