Megan Evans is an Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Tufts Medical Center, as well as the Director for their Residency Program. She is passionate about policy and advocacy work surrounding reproductive health, leading her to co-found “The OG Advocates” podcast. Her podcast features four different OB/GYNs in four different regions of the country, all sharing their experiences and thoughts with the policies and politics of reproductive health through education and advocacy work. As both a mother and a medical professional, Megan has offered some valuable insight into how to approach and manage feeding your newborn.
The Truth about Fed is Best
Despite the truth that ultimately Fed is Best, many stigmas around choosing not to breastfeed still impact new mothers. Seeking her perspective as a medical professional, we spoke to Megan about what this dialogue around feeding is like in the medical community. Speaking from her own experience, Megan said that things really shifted for her as an OB/GYN after having her own children. Prior to being a mother, Megan said that, “I heavily promoted breastfeeding and often used the term ‘breast is best.’”
However, after struggling to breastfeed her first child due to the emotional and physical distress of being unable to produce enough breast milk, Megan turned to formula to supplement her feeding. She explained that, “my baby slept better, my partner was able to participate in feeding her, and I felt better watching her thrive and grow with breast milk AND formula.” Then, after her second child was born, Megan didn’t feel the same stress about supplementing with formula. As a mother, she understands that any new parent just wants what is best for their baby, as she did with her firstborn, and that this can mean breastfeeding or it can mean seaking alternative feeding methods. When speaking with patients, she aims to give her “real world breastfeeding talk,” trying to help alleviate feelings of stress and guilt that come with these decisions.
Now, Megan advocates for removing the phrase “breast is best” from feeding conversations. Instead, she asks us to consider the fact that “when we say those terms, it puts (for some) an unreasonable expectation on women and pregnant people. If they decide not to breastfeed, they are not doing the ‘best’ for their baby.”
Specifically, Megan spoke to the difficulty of being a new mother and the overwhelming flow of information that comes with a newborn.
“That is a totally normal feeling,” says Megan. “We see so much imagery of people breastfeeding and so much pressure to breastfeed, that the pressure to breastfeed is present even before our baby is here. The truth is, it’s impossible to know before you deliver how breastfeeding will go for each individual. Enter pregnancy and the postpartum period with the mantra ‘I would like to breastfeed, but if I can’t or I can’t make enough, it is ok to supplement my feedings with formula.’ Patients who have approached breastfeeding in that light, I think, are kinder to themselves about feeding during the fun, tiring, and challenging postpartum periods.”
Tips on Managing Postpartum
That being said, Megan also shared some advice for women managing postpartum feeding decisions and challenges. She made the point that “if you are struggling or feeling down or exhausted and not taking care of yourself, it’s very difficult to take care of someone else.” Here are a couple things to remember:
1. Ask for help (family members to clean the kitchen, make dinner, hold your baby while you take a nap or shower).
2. Don't forget to drink water and eat!
3. If feasible, find a new parent/moms group in your area. Creating that community can be critical to your postpartum period.
4. Distance yourselves from people who are going to put you down in the first few months as a parent.
5. Recognize when you need to talk to someone. Baby blues can be normal, but after a few days, if you're crying often or having trouble taking care of you or your baby - talk to your OB or provider. They are here to help.
Regardless of what feeding method a mother chooses, it is not a journey they need to take alone. Partners, families, and medical professionals can all play a role in supporting new moms.
Specifically for mothers with partners, Megan says that there are many different ways they can be involved in the feeding process. If breastfeeding is part of your feeding plan, Megan says that you can try pumping for one feed and having your partner do one of the feedings. She said, “My partner and I did this for one of the night feedings and it was nice to have his involvement.” Formula feeding allows either partner, not just the birth mother, to feed the baby and create a feeding schedule with both partners. If you decide to breastfeed exclusively, your partner can help with the process. Megan recommends things like helping to pick-up and hold the baby, assisting with positioning, and helping change diapers. Megan describes feeding as a “team sport”!
Megan also provided tips for anyone supporting the birth mother through the feeding and postpartum journey.
1. Ask her what they need. Or just do it! Dishes in the sink? Clean them. No dinner plans - send over dinner. Hold that baby and tell your friend to go take a nap.
2. Give advice only when asked. There is no one way to be a good parent.
3. Lose that judgement—it's not helpful!
No matter what feeding method you choose, Megan emphasized that the central focus is the comfort, health, and happiness of the birthmom and the baby. Despite societal expectations, breastfeeding is by no means the holy grail feeding method and she hopes to see change surrounding this in the medical community.
If you want to learn more about why “Fed is Best” and how you can approach the journey of feeding your newborn, check out other articles from the Larken Lineup with information from other medical professionals and experienced mothers!
As always, our content is not medical advice and does not serve as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your doctor and health team for medical advice.