"I'm going to give breastfeeding a shot, but if it doesn't work out I'm not going to beat myself up."
"I will give it a try but have bottles and formula just in case."
"We've decided we will give it a try for the 2 weeks partner is on leave, then we've given it a shot and if it's not working swap to bottle when they return to work."
But do we use the same language when discussing something we do consider important, or for situations where we expect a positive outcome?
Let's try - learning to drive:
"I'm going to give driving a shot, but if it doesn't work out I'm not going to beat myself up if I have to take the bus"
"I will give driving a try, but have bought a bus pass just in case"
"We've decided we will give driving a try for the 2 weeks partner is on leave, then we've given it a shot and if it's not working swap to the bus when they return to work."Hmmmm I don't hear that as much...
Let's try some other scenarios.
"I'm going to give the new job a shot, but if it doesn't work out I'm not going to beat myself up if I have to resign."
"We've decided we will give a healthier diet a try for the 2 weeks partner is on leave, then we've given it a shot and if it's not working swap to ready meals. We plan to only half heat these because the official preparation guidelines on the packet are ridiculously time consuming. (removes tongue from cheek)
"We will give conceiving naturally a try, but have booked an appointment for fertility treatment just in case"The latter may sound ridiculous - yet realistically the number of women who physically can't breastfeed with the right support is probably smaller than the amount of couples who need some sort of fertility support (I appreciate in the UK many don't get the help they need to succeeed!)
Now let's flip mindset from "alternatives nearly as good", to "breastmilk is normal". Formula isn't vaguely comparable (hence why they are genetically modifying cows to produce milk more like breastmilk.). It lacks thousands of constituents and is ultimately the milk of another species modified so humans can even tolerate it. There is a distinct lack of studies demonstrating its safety - with results varying from a small to significant increase in numerous conditions and diseases. Nobody can know ultimately the total long term effect on the body of not receiving growth factors, hormones, antibodies, stem cells, HAMLET, and everything else that is missing - but the information we do have shows that it does impact, even if at this point in time we struggle to accurately measure the totality. No matter how much we would like to present infant feeding as almost comparable "choices", this is the reality.
Suddenly the above statements don't make as much sense.
Of course breastfeeding doesn't work for some mothers, whether that's down to ineffective support or otherwise - just like some will need support to conceive. Nobody is suggesting anyone should "beat themselves up" - I understand that poor support can result in a traumatic time for mums and that a prior experience can leave someone nervous.
I'm not even talking about trying to convince mothers who don't want to do it to do so - purely those who have decided they want to breastfeed.
But a mental shift has to take place, moving from "I will try to breastfeed", to "I plan to breastfeed". To assume one will be able to until something suggests otherwise, rather than "Most women can't do it, so I will give it a pop but won't hold my breath".
Furthermore why buy an alternative "just in case" - the shops are still open after a baby is born, and parents can feel more tempted to use something sat there, so it doesn't go to waste...
Instead there are lots more productive things parents could do to be as informed as possible. Some spend hours choosing car seats, cots, and discussing the best equipment for their baby, whilst often barely giving a cursory nod to feeding - the very cornerstone of lifelong health.
What comes first - the health system providing the care new mothers require, or women who are determined they want to breastfeed, complaining and stamping their feet if nobody is helping resolve their problems?
The irony is that those who are working tirelessly to provoke change, supporting mothers where the NHS fails - often in a voluntary role without even expenses paid; are not supported by the women that were let down, but attacked as the "Breastapo". What a fantastic market that you only get customers if they stop breastfeeding, and then although you as a company may be key in the reason why these mothers failed - they then defend your product. Genius.
Before I get called "Judgy" or "Militant", let me add that with my first child I was one of those mothers who said they would "give it a try" and who bought formula "just in case". I was naive enough to think a lot of women simply couldn't breastfeed, and that formula was nowadays nearly as good - had I had a different support system I could easily have been "booby trapped."
But think about it logically and as Gabrielle Palmer highlights in the Politics of Breastfeeding - why in such rich medically advanced countries, do we have so few women who can seemingly breastfeed?
Are we broken?
Perhaps mentally and sociologically - but as mammals, we work as well as ever. Believe that, and you're half way there....