All About Babies

Target's 'Natural Feeding' Sign Stirs Heated Debate Among Moms

A post shared in the popular Facebook page, Breastfeeding Mama Talk, drew attention to the aisle sign. Moms weighed in on whether or not breastfeeding should be called "natural feeding." 

Mom breastfeeding baby uncovered Mita Stock Images/shutterstock

Every mom wants to do what's best for her baby and for her own wellness. And when it comes to feeding your L.O., there are a variety of factors that you have to take into consideration, from hormones to latch to sensitivities, etc. Worrying about judgment from others is pretty much the last thing any mom has time for. So, it's no wonder that conversations around how society perceives breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding have a tendency to get a bit heated. Recently, on the popular Facebook page, Breastfeeding Mama Talk, conversation erupted over a post about a Target aisle displaying the sign: "Natural Feeding."   

Kristy Kemp, who runs the page, took to Facebook to share an image of the aisle label, asking fellow moms, "How do you guys feel about how Target is labeling their aisle for breastfeeding supplies? The interesting part is there are people right now arguing that we need to stop referring to breastfeeding as natural because it implies that formula is unnatural, which I mean is true. Formula is a man made alternative why can we not call it as it is? It's not like when we say, 'Breastfeeding is natural,' we're saying 'And formula is artificial and man made ha ha ha ha ha' yet the way some are arguing against it it's almost as if they are accusing people of doing just that. Insinuating that when we refer to breastfeeding as natural or normal that we're only doing so to make those who formula feed feel like outcasts which is not true."

She continued, "Oh and I've also been told that we're not supposed to refer to breastfeeding as normal either because it implies that formula feeding is abnormal. How do you guys feel about all that? Do you like that Target used natural feeding to label their aisle or do you think they should have just said breastfeeding or breastfeeding supplies? How do you feel about all the people trying to dictate how we refer to breastfeeding? Does stating something about breastfeeding imply or insinuate something about formula feeding? You all know my thoughts on this , but I would love to hear yours."

Later on, Kemp elaborated in a comment on the post, "I want to know when labeling something natural and something else artificial became a bad thing. I feel like some people want to have it both ways. They talk on and on about how far we have come with science and being able to provide alternatives for things that we were not able to attain naturally , but yet we are looked at as villains when we dare use the natural/artificial label?"

In response to her line of questions, moms had varied opinions.

"I feel like they are censoring the word 'breast' and thats what irritates me...apparently breast is too graphic for a sign," wrote Rachael Willard.

Another mom named Christina Ralph shared, "I find that when people have issue with parenting choices or discussions it's because they are feeling judged or even judging themselves on their own choices or circumstances. I take no issue with calling breastfeeding or vaginal childbirth natural but perhaps I would feel different if my breastfeeding relationship had not been successful or if I had a surgical childbirth experience. I think we all need to leave room for conversations that are simply discussions rather than judgements. We should be capable of discussing facts without intending insult." To that, Kemp replied, "That is the problem though. Facts are not attacks. Feeling judged does not justify shunning someone who merely stated a fact, even if that fact being stated incited them to feel judged."

However, many women on the page agreed with the stance of BabyCenter writer Michelle Stein that the term "natural" is "loaded." "By labeling breastfeeding as natural, it seems to automatically insinuate that formula-feeding is artificial/less than/second-rate," Stein wrote. "Which I’m guessing doesn’t exactly help with the guilt and/or pressure felt by many moms who choose not to breastfeed in the first place, wind up supplementing, or decide to stop breastfeeding altogether. And why not just call it like it is — 'breastfeeding?' There’s nothing remotely offensive about the word 'breast' after all."

Mom.me points out that Target has been getting flak for their "Natural Feeding" aisle for quite some time. All you need to do is check the term on Twitter to see criticisms go back to 2010.

So, it's no surprise the company is already well-prepared with a response on the debate—and has reportedly begun addressing it. When approached by Mom.me, a Target spokesperson explained, "To help guests navigate our stores, we put a lot of thought into how things are organized and the signs that we use. This particular sign is outdated and will be removed immediately from the one store where it remains. We apologize, and appreciate all the feedback that we have received on this topic."

It's heartening to know that Target has taken their customers' opinions into consideration. While its signs likely won't be at the center of heated debate in the future, this particular discussion around the world "natural" is sure to persist. And let's hope that when it does, we're able to talk about it with respect and compassion for all moms' very personal experiences around feeding.