As midwives, we promote the idea that breast milk is the best, most perfect food for babies. We support women/parents who have given birth to breastfeed, because breast milk provides exactly the right nutritional content – from the richer, super-concentrated colostrum when the baby is first born, to a later, more plentiful milk supply which both hydrates and nourishes depending on what the baby needs.
We support breastfeeding, because if a baby can’t be breastfed the alternative (with the exception of finding donor breast milk) is to feed the baby on formula milk, which is made from cow’s milk. This use of cow’s milk for babies isn’t what I am questioning here – it is imperative to ensure the baby is fed, and if the woman/parent either does not want to breastfeed or is unable to do so, then cow’s milk-based formula is a way do this. But as midwives we recognise that from an all-things-being-equal perspective, breast milk is better for the baby than cow’s milk because it is made especially for a growing human baby.
The thing that I find very weird, which seems almost too obvious to say, is…
In the same way human breast milk is perfectly composed to meet the needs of a growing human baby, cow’s milk is perfectly composed to help a baby calf grow into an adult cow! And yet in the West at least is is completely commonplace for adults to consume cows milk. It is considered weirder, in my experience at least, to try and avoid cow’s milk.
I think about this literally every time I think about breastfeeding, and I wonder if other, non-vegan midwives either don’t see the connection, or employ some kind of cognitive dissonance to put it out their minds. We are adults whose bodies have already grown, able to make our own choices (unlike the babies who may be fed cow’s milk based formula) but the overwhelming majority is choosing to drink cow’s milk, this liquid food perfectly composed to grow baby calves into cows. And yet there is uproar when breast milk is offered up for adult consumption, be it as ice cream or just as-is for perceived health benefits (warning for whorephobia) even though in both these cases, consent appears to be given from those producing the breastmilk!
I’ve been vegan before, and have just gone vegan again. Partly to free up some headspace when offering breastfeeding support (joke) but also because being vegetarian but not vegan always feels a bit inconsistent in terms of the animal welfare reasons I have for being vegetarian, and I tended to deal with it by just not thinking about where dairy comes from. The Veganuary campaign gave me the push to go from my long-term vegetarianism back into veganism.
And if you wanna buy the patch in the picture? Here’s the link!