Three California moms are using National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, celebrated each August, as the time to end the so-called "mommy wars" when it comes to breast versus formula feeding.
Suzanne Barston, who spearheaded the social media campaign called "I Support You," said the influx of stories that come out each year around this time are "so anti-formula and formula feeding. The messaging is really alienating."
Barston is the woman behind the blog Fearlessformulafeeder.com and author of the book "Bottled Up: How the Way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood, and Why It Shouldn't." She came to formula feeding reluctantly after weeks of trying to breastfeed her son and ultimately finding out there were medical reasons he could not breastfeed or consume breast milk.
But she considers herself a breastfeeding advocate of sorts. "Really, I'm adamant women should be supported and respected for whatever choice they make."
Kim Simon of Mamabythebay.com has joined forces with Barston and has been on both sides of the baby-feeding issue. As a first-time mom who didn't produce enough milk to breastfeed and now as a mom who breastfeeds her second child. "It's difficult either way you feed. There's not enough support for either choice, and there's propaganda and misinformation around both choices."
The third mom is Jamie Lynne Grumet, who appeared on the cover of Time magazine last year breastfeeding her older-than-a-toddler son and igniting a firestorm of controversy through the headline "Are You Mom Enough?"
The reaction to Grumet's Time cover, said Barston, proves "you're screwed if you don't do it, and you're screwed if you do it too long."
But the reaction to the "I Support You" campaign has been "80 to 90 percent positive," said Simon. Comments have been pouring in on the movement's Facebook page. "I think it's just great to have somewhere to come where we know we'll be supported, no questions asked, no matter our choices. I got so frustrated with the lack of support and education when I was going through a rough patch after my daughter was born, and constantly [hearing] 'breast is best' and 'just keep trying' didn't help," wrote one woman.
"You have made it so that when I see a breastfeeding article I don't burst into tears. I love the way you decipher and pick apart the research. You've helped me to think critically about breastfeeding research instead of accepting it as the word of God," wrote another.
In addition to Facebook, there's a Twitter event on Aug. 7 planned for people to tweet their thoughts with the hashtag #ISupportYou, and I Support You meet ups planned around the nation for Aug. 31.
"The response has been tremendous," Simon said. "It's so wonderful to see women come together."
Barston blames parenting experts for much of the existing discourse. "It's well-intentioned, but our messaging isn't framed in the right way," she said. "What we need to do is explain there are many ways to get this done. Many ways to be good parents. We are all just left flailing and striking out against each other instead of working together."
Of course, the mommy wars extend well beyond breastfeeding. Barston said judgment comes from feelings of insecurity.
"We tend to look at other people's choices as an indictment of our own," she said.