In an article posted by the BBC, a hospital has been criticised for using the term artificial feeding in regards to how people might want to feed their baby after the birth. Not only did they refer to feeding a baby formula milk as artificial feeding, but they also used the term ‘artificial milk’ several times throughout the letter.
If you want to see the letter in full, then here it is:
So I’m here to ask two simple things. Is it wrong to criticise the term artificial feeding? And should a maternity unit actually provide formula milk?
Is the term Artificial Feeding Actually Offensive or Are We Easily Offended?
Before I start this, I will say that I don’t get offended very easily. And offence is entirely subjective; we are all different as to what we find offensive. But just because something might be considered offensive, doesn’t mean that it is wrong and should be stopped.
To me, the term artificial feeding isn’t really offensive because on a technical level it’s kind of right. Let’s be honest, formula milk is artificial. If you want the dictionary definition, then the term artificial literally means: “made by people, often as a copy of something natural.” That doesn’t just perfectly describe the term artificial, but it also perfectly describes what formula milk is.
The NCT literally describes it as “Infant formula is usually based on processed, skimmed cow’s milk. Added ingredients include vitamins, fatty acids and prebiotics (carbohydrates that can stimulate the growth of ‘good’ bacteria in the digestive system).”
In other words, they artificially add extra ingredients for the formula milk to better resemble breastmilk. It’s technically artificial.
Should a Hospital Really Use the Term ‘Artificial Feeding’?
Whilst the term is technically correct, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily something that the hospital should have used. I’m not sure what the aim of this letter was. Perhaps it was to try and encourage more women to breastfeed. The mere fact that they don’t want to provide formula milk would indicate that. But is using a term that will inevitably irritate people the right way to go about it? Probably not.
They could have simply done what everyone else does and just used the term formula milk or formula feeding. But at the same time, does it really matter?
Should We Really be Getting Offended by the word Artificial?
Does it matter that the hospital used the terms artificial milk and artificial feeding? No. It doesn’t. At least not to me. But people love to get offended.
Look, if you want to formula feed your baby, or felt like you had no choice, then that’s fine. But let’s be bloody honest with ourselves. This milk has been artificially made so women don’t have to breastfeed. Science is a wonderful thing. And having a scientific body, like a hospital, describe something as it’s scientifically known is perfectly acceptable.
I wouldn’t use the term myself. It would sound slightly strange saying “do you breastfeed or artificially feed?” but I don’t see a problem with a hospital using the term.
I don’t believe it casts any judgement and it isn’t meant to make someone feel like a failure for not breastfeeding. It’s just a factual statement and a scientifically accurate term.
Do I Understand Why People Would be Offended?
Absolutely. I’m a man. So I will never truly understand the feeling of not being able to breastfeed when you wanted to. I also have a wife who took to breastfeeding rather well. So I’ve not had much involvement with someone who was unable to do it.
But I still understand why someone might not like this term. It doesn’t sound the nicest and almost feels like you’re doing something unnatural with your baby. But at the same time, technically, formula milk isn’t actually natural. We made it. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just is what it is. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Besides, just because a person is offended, it doesn’t mean they’re right.
But that’s not the biggest issue that people should have with this letter. This isn’t about the term that they used, it should be about the fact that they don’t want to provide formula milk on the maternity unit.
Should a Maternity Unit Provide Formula Milk?
This is a much more important question. To a certain extent, a maternity unit shouldn’t really have any need to have formula milk in stock. But then they do have a medical responsibility to anyone in their treatment. So stocking formula milk does come under that obligation. They simply have a duty of care to everyone in the hospital, so not stocking formula milk is a violation against that duty.
Among other reasons, midwives are on hand to help support someone with feeding the baby. Whilst I don’t think they really need to help someone with using a bottle, they should still be on hand and they shouldn’t make a mother feel bad about that choice. But should they actually provide the milk? I’m torn.
Of course they should stock it at least in case of emergencies or medical reasons. Maybe someone has to stay in longer and therefore needs formula, so they need it for that. But what about the women who know they want to formula feed anyway? Should they stock it for them?
On the one hand, of course they should. Like I just said they have a medical responsibility to the child in their care. But I also feel that if someone knows that they’re going to formula feed their baby, then surely you should have that packed on not just rely on the hospital.
What About Women Who Can’t Breastfeed?
I know a lot of people say they couldn’t breastfeed, but there is no way they can make that judgement so early into a babies life. Generally, you don’t really spend that long on a maternity ward anyway. So I don’t see how you can decide that you physically can’t breastfeed whilst on the maternity ward. Even more so if you’re just there for a day.
The NHS is already struggling when it comes to money, and perhaps they should be a little bit tighter with what they provide. I don’t even think you should be able to get paracetamol from your GP, so maybe formula should be a little bit more restricted too. But, with all that said, I still feel that a maternity ward should be there to support a mother with her choice, and therefore they should perhaps stock formula milk.
I’m Not Here to Judge
Look, I don’t care what option a mother picks. Whilst I feel that a maternity unit should be on hand to support with breastfeeding, I guess they still need to support someone who is bottle feeding. Even if that is something that is far simpler and likely needs less support.
As for the term artificial feeding. If you’re offended by it, then simply ask yourself why? Do you see it as a derogatory term? Does it make someone feel guilty for formula feeding their baby? I honestly don’t see how that is the case. It is artificial. The whole point of formula milk is to artificially replicate breastmilk! Most formula companies even happily admit that breastmilk is better.
But I won’t judge a person for eating unhealthy as an adult. So I’m not going to judge someone for picking a slightly unhealthier option when it comes to feeding the baby. I know it’s more complicated than that. I know breast isn’t always best. But if we’re going off go generalisations then generally speaking it is the better option. If a mother has a nasty crack addiction then breastfeeding probably isn’t a good idea. But there are always outliers that go against the suggestions of science and research.
But welcome to the modern world! We have that little to complain about in the Western world that we manage to get pissed off with something as stupid as artificial milk being called artificial. Genius.