• Liz Thomas

COVID-19 SILVER LININGS: Virus fallout helps heal breastfeeding/formula divide


PHOTO CREDIT: JENNIFER TAMAS/JAKE CALVO


For fifty years inexplicable battle lines have been drawn – fed is best on one side, breast is best on the other. An unhealthy division that has fostered animosity, contempt, and at times unhealthy ignorance.


But a new approach is gathering momentum: Informed is best.


We know that breast milk is the optimal nourishment for babies, a superfood in the original zero waste packaging, that also provides immunological, emotional and developmental support.

We know that we are only beginning to understand the health benefits, and while there is still less research on breast milk than there is on wine, coffee, or even tomatoes, the studies that have been done, show its enormous potential in both prevention and cure of key diseases. 


But we also know life is complicated. 


We know women are failed by poor post-partum support, by old narratives that tell them there’s something wrong if the baby cluster feeds or cannot sleep through the night. We know around the world – authorities hail the importance of breastfeeding while providing very little in the way of maternity provisions.


And most of all we know a mother is under-valued.


So much so that breastfeeding is dismissed as easy and free, rather than a learned skill that needs support and time to master. We also know that mama is important too – for some the challenges of breastfeeding can outweigh the benefits, for others it is all about a freedom to choose.

There is greater empathy now for women who walk different paths, the fight is less and less between us, but more in ensuring that everyone is making decisions based on all the available information.


If you believe in a woman’s right to education – it must be all education – including maternal and infant health. 


But the horror of living through the COVID-19 pandemic, might just be creating another bridge between worlds.


Ittasteslikelove talks to blogger, campaigner, and YouTube star Jennifer Tamas about how this virus is helping heal old divisions and how her milk donation drive has not just fed hungry babies but been a unifying force for good.


PHOTO CREDIT: JENNIFER TAMAS/JAKE CALVO


By Jenny Tamas


Setting up the milk donation was never my intention, but my neighbour told me that there were moms unable to find formula for their babies.


This was due to people panic buying because of COVID-19.


When I was in foster care, one of my foster moms specialised in caring for medically fragile babies, and so I grew up with a lot of babies around me. The house was one huge nursery.  Obviously no-one was being breastfed – they all drank formula.


So I can, on a first hand basis, grasp how many babies are impacted by not being able to drink formula. 

I think that when you breastfeed and you’re surrounded by moms that breastfeed, your view of the world is small, in the sense that you don’t actually realize just how many babies rely on formula. 


Especially babies in communities that need more support.


So when I heard that, I got physically ill. Can you imagine not being able to feed your crying baby? Holding them as they looked at you and you are unable to do anything for them. Can you imagine how intensely and sickening that would make you feel?


I think I would go mad.


So it just started as me offering to share my milk with any local babies.

Even though I hate pumping, I took out my pump from the back of storage and started.


What happened next was insane. 


Moms from literally all around the US came forward: Moms who needed milk and moms who were giving milk all got in touch.


It was a spiders web of milk support during this pandemic.


PHOTO CREDIT: JENNIFER TAMAS/JAKE CALVO


I created an online milk bank – now permanently located in my Instagram highlights. 

I wanted it to be as easy and user friendly as possible, so it’s sorted by location and it’s clickable. 

And so, say you live in California, you simply click until you’re on the California page and there you will find moms grouped together in the area, that are able to donate, and you just click on their IG handles. And Ta-Da!


You’re connected with a mom who can and wants to support you and your baby!


So simple! You obviously need to use common sense and safety guidelines, especially in this time, and moms are able to do that and still have this – it’s as quick a fix for a hungry baby as going to the store. 

Moms from all over have written saying that they were able to procure milk from local IG moms, and through doing so have been able to form mini support groups and communities.


This is so needed during this time of social distancing. 


I’ve also had several instances where moms were hospitalized due to COVID-19  and unable to breastfeed their babies during that tumultuous hospital stay – they  reached out to me directly asking for milk.


So I threw up an ISO (in search of…)  in my stories and  moms in that area flocked to their aid. Milk was being shared and delivered.


I think it’s important to highlight that this type of giving is different from the work milk donation organizations do.

PHOTO CREDIT: JENNIFER TAMAS/JAKE CALVO


This milk drive is an immediate response in the middle of a terrifying pandemic.  It gives immediate power to moms with hungry babies that feel as though they haven’t any.


When you have a baby who is hungry and you have no other options, you don’t have time to wait. So there isn’t a waiting period or charge, and that’s different. And it’s created a community.


Sharing something that has been so sexualized is revolutionary to me. 


Moms who were formula feeding are willing to give their babies milk from another mom’s breasts. 

These moms are the real heroes. The ones asking for help – being open to something different, because they are erasing years of past judgement and divide. 


I cannot highlight that enough.


This, I believe, has become a transition in time unlike any other. 


Where before there were such clear hash lines drawn.


Formula vs breastfeeding, now because of a global pandemic that affects all classes, colours and religions, something else has happened. 


PHOTO CREDIT: LIQUID GOLD AU

That line isn’t so harsh anymore.

It’s humanised all of us.  And so judgement has been set aside.


Judgement of breastfeeding or formula feeding. All of it. Cover no cover.


Breast milk, full of amazing and various antibodies, is being shared between babies across households. 


It’s as though the instinctual survival part of DNA has been highlighted and instead of allowing fear


to win.


Mothers have chosen to allow love, selflessness, and breast milk to win.


Jenny Tamas is a writer, influencer, women’s rights campaigner, and breastfeeding advocate.


You can see more of her work here https://www.patreon.com/JennyTamas

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