What’s the main difference between Dr. Amy and The Alpha Parent

Psychology, Self Confidence Coaching

Allison Dixley, self proclaimed “Alpha Parent,” is in a snit. Several women have dared to write books about new motherhood that attempt to soothe the hysteria over breastfeeding. Apparently these writers point out that in first world countries the benefits of breastfeeding are small, many women find breastfeeding painful and difficult, and not all babies can get enough nutrition from exclusive breastfeeding. Dixley is incensed and attempts to rip them to shreds. In doing so, she exposes the principal difference between herself and me: no, not the fact that I have years of scientific and medical education, and Allison has none, although that is indeed a major difference. The principal difference is that Dixley’s self-image rests largely on whether or not she is right about the value of breastfeeding; mine does not.

I’m not emotionally invested in determining the magnitude of the benefits and hardships of breastfeeding because I’ve already done it quite successfully. I breastfed 4 children, despite working ridiculous hours, until each weaned him or herself. I had very few difficulties, a booming milk supply, and babies who fed easily and avidly, although I did have several serious bouts of mastitis (temp of 104, shaking chills, etc). In Allison Dixley’s world I’m a goddess! My breastfeeding “accomplishments” far exceeding hers and most the women she profiles. However, I understood even then that it was largely a matter of good luck on my part, in addition to my commitment. My children are grown now and it is easy to see that breastfeeding didn’t have any impact on how they turned out. My self esteem never rested on breastfeeding success, even though I achieved breastfeeding success.

Dixley would have you believe that she is a better parent than women who couldn’t breastfeed, had insurmountable difficulties breastfeeding, or simply didn’t want to breastfeed. And since her self esteem appears to be directly proportional to the benefits she attributes to breastfeeding, she is deeply emotionally (not to mention professionally) invested in shaming women who don’t copy her. I, on the other hand, devote tremendous effort battling the shame, blame and soul-sucking criticism that Dixley and her lactivist sisters heap on women who don’t mirror their own choices back to them.

Simply put, Allison Dixley NEEDS breastfeeding to be critical to child wellbeing because if it isn’t, she’s just another mother, no better than the rest of us. She cannot look objectively at the scientific evidence about breastfeeding since if it isn’t as important as she maintains it is, she loses her self-awarded designation of “alpha parent.” In contrast, it makes no difference to me. I did it. I have everything to gain and nothing to lose by beating women over the head with my “achievement,” but I don’t do it because I know the scientific evidence simply doesn’t support such preening.

Unfortunately, new mothers are exquisitely vulnerable to the efforts of Dixley and her lactivist sisters to boost their own self-esteem by battering the self-esteem of others. Dixley is thoroughly untrustworthy on the subject of breastfeeding because her critical thinking skills are immobilized by her emotionally neediness. In contrast, there is no downside for me in telling the truth that the scientific evidence shows that while breastfeeding has real benefits in first world countries, those benefits are trivial; therefore, breastfeeding is not the holy grail of new motherhood, merely one of two ways to completely and successfully nourish a baby.

Who is more likely to provide you with accurate information about breastfeeding? Allison Dixley who can only be an alpha parent if breastfeeding is absolutely critical to infant wellbeing? Or me, medically trained, fully apprised of the scientific literature and able to understand it, as well as a woman who successfully breastfed 4 children and doesn’t think it makes me a better mother than anyone else? It’s up to you to decide.

  • jb1021

    how could anyone who calls herself ‘the alpha parent’ be taken seriously? just that title alone irritates me. I can’t imagine putting much stock into what she says…

    Side note: I’m new to the comments here, but have been reading this blog for a month or so and I love it. I’m about a month away from my due date (first time mom), and it’s really refreshing to be able to let go of the pressure from the NCB – particularly with the breastfeeding debate. I got a breast reduction 9 years ago and don’t know if my ‘plumbing’ will work until after I have my baby. We had a lactation consultant come talk to this pregnancy group I attend and when I brought up the latest research (the sibling study – basically saying that it doesn’t have the magical effects people thought)… she totally dismissed me and I felt like total garbage and wanted to cry.

    Reading this blog has made me recognize that she has to speak that way since her job depends on it… and the fact that she so readily dismissed science calls her credibility into question.

    Anyway… just wanted to say thank you for doing what you do.

  • Tosca

    I found BF extremely convenient – always there, right temperature, sterile, no mucking about with bottles and paraphernalia, and free. I was a SAHM and produced like a cow, so there were no dramas. If I ever needed expressed milk, I hand-milked myself (hey, I grew up on a dairy farm!)

    That said, with hindsight I should have put my second onto FF, for my own health. I had a bad dose of flu just before he was born, and wasn’t fully recovered by the birth. He was born 3 weeks early and still over 9lb. At one stage he was putting on A POUND A WEEK, exclusively BF. By six weeks he needed a full feed Every. Two. Hours. Around the clock. I had plenty of milk and HE was thriving, but you can imagine the kind of state I was in.

    No one ever pressured me about BF, but it simply did not occur to me to supplement and no-one suggested it. I ended up giving him a little bit of very runny rice cereal, mixed with expressed breast milk, when he was six weeks old. Yes, weeks. I cringe to think of it now, but it meant he could go 4 hours between feeds. He’s now 20 and 6’5″, by the way.

    • Dr Jay

      My milk supply was adequate (barely) and I fed every two hours around the clock, too — for eight months. I just about lost my mind (literally). I recommend mixed feeding all the time. If you’re not coping, there is no shame in adding the odd feed in! It’s nice to know that big milk makers sometimes suffer the same probs! 🙂

  • anh

    OT: I ran into a friend this morning whose baby goes to my kid’s daycare. It was the first time I’d seen the baby in person. I thought he looked really small on facebook, but holding him, he’s TINY for a 4 month old. (she and her husband are normal sized) SHe told me she isn’t pumping enough and they are supplementing with a goat’s formula. so many alarm bells going off.
    questions
    1) we’re in the UK and I know she’s being cared for by the NHS. Are they more tolerant of small babies here (I’m used to giant American kids
    2) Can one purchase regulated goat milk formula in the UK?
    3) is there any way to raise my concern to her without sounding like a tool?

    • Dr Kitty

      The baby will have his growth monitored by the health visitor and GP, if he crosses two centile lines there should be referrals for faltering growth. At 4 months he should have had all his early vaccines, and his growth should have Ben monitored at 8,12 and 16 weeks.

      Where I work there is an excellent Infant feeding clinic which is run by community paediatricians, where speech and language, physio, developmental psychologists and medical staff assess the babies together.

      It is where I send all the FG/ uncontrolled reflux/ kids with very weird and restrictive diets. They do awesome work.

      I have no idea about the goat milk formula, I know that none of the paediatricians will recommend using anything except OTC cow’s milk formula or the prescription hydrolysed formulas.

      The only way I can think of raising concerns nicely is ” it must be reassuring for you that the supplementing is going well, I mean, obviously you know he’s staying on the right line on his growth chart, right?”.

      I have a tiny kid who has stuck to the 9th centile since birth, but she was a chubby, squeezable thing at 4 months. Skinny infants are not usually happy infants.

      • Joy

        My baby started on the 50th and by her six week check at the GP was on the 9th. It was “fine” apparently, perhaps because she was also on the 9th for height. If I didn’t take her to the monthly weigh ins at clinic no one would have weighed her since week 6, but they don’t do length checks. No one checked her growth at the GPs when we went in for her jabs. We saw the nurse and it was jab, jab, give her the new vaccine for rotavirus.
        I guess maybe if we didn’t show up for any of the weigh ins at the church/clinic they might have contacted me, but since anyone can go to any of them in my area and they don’t keep a list, I doubt it.
        The NHS is very variable. My baby is now on the 25th at almost ten months. She didn’t start to gain until we introduced solids. At one weigh in it appeared she dropped below the 9th and I freaked out crying because none of them seemed concerned at all. They sent the HV around to my house the next day and it turned out the scale the day before was off by 200 grams.
        So maybe the baby has been checked, but maybe not.

        • toni

          Your baby was checked by a doctor just twice in the first year? Did I read that right? My son had at least ten ‘well baby’ check ups with his paediatrician in his first year here in the US. Lots in the first couple of weeks and then 1 month, 2 months, four months, six months, 9 & 12. The nurses usually administer the shots here but that’s after the paed examines them and does weight/height charting. My brother lives in the south of England and his six month old has been seen by a GP four times (my SiL always texts me a picture when they go). They must miss so many development problems in your area by skimping on those check ups.

          • Joy

            Yeah, no kidding.
            Whoops! I forgot the three month check by the HV. I mean, she also forgot it so when my baby looked as if she dropped below the 9th they asked me what happened at the 3 month check. I said, “What three month check?” She came the next day, that is when we realised the scale was 200 g off, and she asked me why I didn’t call to find out why she didn’t come. Insert rolling eye smiley here.
            So in my area I got:
            -Visits with the midwives until your baby is back to birthweight (that took 4 weeks for mine)
            -1 HV check after the midwives discharged us
            -6 week appointment with my GP
            – 3 month check by the HV
            – 1 check sometime between 10-12 months the red book says it is with the GP, but my friend just had hers and it was with the HV. So, I don’t know.

            I’m American, so I know how it works at home. I figured this was normal for the UK. I’ve been thinking they must miss a lot, or depend on mothers to realise something is wrong. One person in my baby group was told if her baby dropped any more she would need to start using formula top ups. Problem solved though! She just hasn’t been to a weigh in the last three months because she is back to work and the ones here are all during the middle of the work day.

          • Dr Kitty

            Hmmm
            Our HV does weight/length/HC at 6,8,12 and 16 weeks, before the vaccines, I’m surprised to hear your HV didn’t do that, although I know ours is excellent.
            The 8 week check is a screen for cardiac issues, hip dysplasia, profound developmental delay and visual problems, it is not a general check over.

            The HV has a weekly drop in clinic for advice and will call out to the home if there is a concern that the home is inadequate.
            You can also, of course, bring your baby to see a GP if you have any concerns-I see kids with colds, sticky eyes, cradle cap, reflux, constipation, nappy rash and the like every day.

            At some point it is about parents taking responsibility.

          • Siri

            Sadly it’s not to do with the excellence or otherwise of HVs, but what is deemed the ‘core programme’. With private companies running primary healthcare, staff can only do so much. We offer a new birth visit, a 6-week review, a 1-year review and a 2-year review, and that’s more than we have been for a good few years. 1- and 2-year reviews are targeted in many areas. Parents can access clinic or request HV input of course, and as you say, they have to take responsibility. After all, they have chosen to become parents.

          • Dr Kitty

            Things I like about Primary Care here, no private providers, and we still have small GP partnership based practices. We’re able to offer a lot more from our HV as a result.

            Visits at home from 3 weeks to 8 weeks, a telephone advice service, walk-in HV clinic, 8,12,16 week appointments, 13 month appointment, 2 year home visit, 3 year pre-school appointment , that’s the minimum.

            Northern Ireland has a lot of social deprivation, but we have excellent vaccine uptake rates and pretty good child health statistics despite that.

            Austerity shouldn’t mean cuts to HV services, because it is excellent holistic preventive care. HV are often the ones to first raise issues of neglect or abuse too.

          • Joy

            Well, our HVs don’t do any length or HC checks. Only weight. We don’t see the HV at the jabs appointment, only the practice nurse. I think your 8 week check is our 6 week check.
            There is no weekly drop in in my area.

            Of course, you can go to the GP to check on any issues. I went for some extreme nappy rash which turned out to be thrush, or at least I assume so because the cream cleared it up, but the GP didn’t even look at my baby. Sounds like thrush. But how I am supposed to know if my baby’s head is growing properly? Or if there are other issues? I mean, have all of her fontanels closed that were supposed to? I don’t know. She’s ten months in two weeks, no one has measured her head or length since six weeks old. I mean, she looks fine, but she is my first.

          • Dr Kitty

            Contact your HV and ask for a check up.
            It is their job to do this stuff.
            If you have concerns they should try and put your mind at rest.

            In NI our HV are still attached to GP practices, and provide really excellent care. They are my first port of call for anything about pre-school children, because they are so plugged in to the local area and know a lots about individual family dynamics (also up on all the local gossip).

            I’m a bit sad you’re not getting that quality care.

            If you want you can use a tape measure and do a quick HC and length check yourself. Your child’s red book will have the growth charts to plot the results.

          • Joy

            Thanks. I don’t have concerns anymore. It was just stressful seeing her drop down the centiles in the beginning. Also, I was told by my HV that they have a three week wait for non-urgent cases. I live in one of the fastest growing areas of the country. :p

          • Young CC Prof

            3 week wait!? I wonder how many readmissions for breastfeeding problems they see.

            It’s one thing when the baby is a few months old. At that point, you know your child and you’ve got a good idea of when something is wrong. With a newborn, you don’t, and the signs of trouble can be subtle.

          • Joy

            Well, I know in the first few weeks there are more checks. We were in the hospital for five days, so we missed most of them. Most people here are discharged, if normal birth, after 6 hours. There is a midwife check the day after you get home, then day 3, 5, and 10 and after that it depends on on how well your baby is gaining weight. If your baby is back to birth weight then you get discharged to the Health visitor. We got a visit like every other, or every three days since she didn’t get back to bw until 4 weeks. The HV comes to meet you when you are discharged, so usually day 10 or so and then at three months. This is my area of course.

          • Young CC Prof

            4 weeks is… a really long time. Glad your baby is growing better now.

          • Joy

            It certainly seemed like a very long time. We paid for a private LC so she was reassuring.

      • Joy

        What area are you in? Maybe we will move there if we have another.

      • Joy

        As for the nurse looking the baby over when we got the jabs. I held the baby and she was never even undressed. I was just told to pull her clothes down to expose her thigh. I am the same person who was still getting the letters from the council about her first round of jabs after her jabs for the first year were finished.

    • Young CC Prof

      Try sending yesterday’s post from the Pediatric Insider:

      http://pediatricinsider.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/homemade-infant-formula-is-not-a-good-idea/

      It explains exactly why goat milk is a really bad idea.

      • Roadstergal

        I enjoyed that article, particularly the term ‘science milk.’

    • toni

      I have seen canned goat milk formula in Britain. It was in a ‘health food’ shop though but I assume it is nutritionally sound if sold in a can. Maybe that is a silly assumption though ha. It was called NannyCare. (wow, I’m surprised I remember that.. this was at least eight years ago)

      • Young CC Prof

        Actually, NannyCare goat formula appears to be a real, balanced infant formula. It has lots of added vitamins, anyway, and the macronutrient balance is right.

        • Dr Kitty

          You know I had a total brain fart and forgot about NannyCare, which is legit and held to the same nutritional standards as cow milk formula.

          There is no real reason to choose it above a cow’s milk formula unless there is an allergy, although CMPA usually cross-reacts with goat milk too.

          If there IS an allergy which for some reason didn’t cross-react most (I.e nearly all) people in the UK will opt for the extensively hydrolysed formulas which are available FOR FREE on prescription, rather than paying for NannyCare.

          As usual, the excellent NHS Choices website has useful advice about types of formula.

          http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/types-of-infant-formula.aspx

  • Gretta

    Breastfeeding has some benefits for baby.
    A happy, healthy, rested, content, emotionally stable, confident mother has more benefits for baby.
    Maximize the benefits however you can.

    • Gretta

      Similarly…

      Breastfeeding has some benefits for baby.

      Adequate nutrition and calories has more benefits for baby.

      Maximize the benefits however you can.

  • Sadlady

    I hated myself for supplementing even though dd had failure to thrive. I was so good at bfing number one that I was too aloof for 3 months to realize number 2 was suckling improperly. I figured same breasts. Ugh. This time I know what my favorite brand of formula is in case of accidental starvation.

  • Sue

    This is the topic where I regularly drag out my personal anecdote (apologies to those who have heard it too many times).

    My mother grew up in a semi-subsistence Southern Italian lifestyle, complete with Mediterranean diet. Though I was born in Australia, I had always assumed that I would have been breast fed for ages (my mother then being a recent migrant) and that this was one of the explanations for my wonderful good health.

    It was only when I had my own daughter that my mother told me that she had only breast fed me for a few weeks before starting formula, on the advice of the early childhood nurse, because I apparently cried a lot.

    And here I am, still glowing with good health, despite having been poisoned by formula from a young age. Yes, I know, n=1, but I love the story nonetheless.

    • Amy

      Similarly, my grandmother (who is in her 90’s) told me after I had my baby that she used formula with her firstborn because she couldn’t make enough milk to feed him and he wasn’t growing. This was an age before formula was widely available, and they were dirt poor…as in no indoor plumbing. She didn’t have the free hospital samples, no samples showed up at her door without her request, no unsupportive family members or “boobie traps….”

  • Kara

    I’m so glad you’re talking about Alpha Parent and her shaming. I also successfully breastfed a child but as a new mom I came across her blog and all it did was give me anxiety about feeding, even though it was going perfectly fine. I wish she could realise the harm she’s doing to the mental health of new moms.

    • fiftyfifty1

      ” I wish she could realise the harm she’s doing to the mental health of new moms.”

      Hell, she already realizes it. She likes it that way.

      • Cobalt

        When someone declares themselves the ‘alpha’ anything, they’re out to make others feel inferior.

        • Cobalt

          Three or more affectation rule. Not an exact fit, but same general principle.

        • Amy

          Ahh..You’ve made an excellent point. I should stop calling myself The Omega Parent.

    • Allie

      Holy moly! I went to her site just to see for myself what it was about and my jaw is still on the floor. What a horrible, horrible site!

  • Can you imagine how much better the world would be if people did not need other people to mirror their own personal choices? Hobby Lobby would not have happened.

  • Bombshellrisa

    Does anyone here watch “The Middle”? I picture Allison typing up a blog post and then, in true Brick fashion, drop her head down and whisper “I’m lying”.

  • Katie

    Dr. Amy, given that you do not believe the medical benefits of breastfeeding are significant (I tend to agree), and that it clearly wasn’t always easy (working long hours and mastitis), why did you choose to breastfeed? There must be some type of benefit? Some say bonding, but you can bond through bottle-feeding as well… Anyway, I am not sure whether or not I want to breastfeed, but I am open to the idea. Would also be interested in hearing from others who don’t buy into the breastfeeding propaganda, but still found it to be the best choice for themselves and their family.

    • Therese

      Well, if you don’t qualify for WIC then I’m sure you would save quite a bit of money. Dr. Amy probably saved thousands by breastfeeding 4 kids.

      • Kate

        Heck, even if you do qualify for WIC you save a decent amount of money on groceries because then WIC will give you food instead of formula.

      • fiftyfifty1

        I can’t speak for Dr. Amy, since I don’t know the specifics of her job at the time she had kids, but breastfeeding is usually a large financial hit for doctors. Many doctors in the US are paid piecemeal during clinic time. If you block out 45 minutes from your day to pump, that is 2-3 fewer patients you can see, and they simply don’t pay you during that time. Breastfeeding usually COSTS doctors thousands of $ per baby in lost productivity. Now, most doctors can afford this of course, but it certainly is not cost saving.

        • rachel

          True. I pump when I first get to the office after taking my big kids to school before my first patient is scheduled. I pump again during my lunch break. I use that time to catch up on charting , etc. I haven’t actually blocked anytime out and work the same clinical hours as my partners but I’m a little less available for work-ins (typically seen during lunch or at the beginning of the day if they call soon enough). No real loss of income due to breastfeeding but my maternity leave–that’s another story. 6 weeks of leave in which I continued to collect my salary and pay my overhead but no AR, follow that up with an unexpected microdiscectomy for a herniated disc 3 months later and another week off…I’m $70,000 in debt to my office!

    • Bombshellrisa

      If it works well for you and your baby is thriving, it can be enjoyable. And that is a good reason to breast feed.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      The benefits aren’t large, but they do exist. Since I could breastfeed without too much trouble I wanted to do it. The fact that my babies and I enjoyed it inspired me to continue despite the difficulties.

    • guest

      I wanted to breastfeed my first but couldn’t (bottle confusion, multiple birth complications, slow recovery and PPD). So on 2nd pregnancy I prepared myself to breastfeed during which I found that study about siblings but still wanted to try it for like 6 weeks and if I liked I would go for longer (my first turned out fine, happy and healthy despite how bad I felt about giving up soon). Well, It didn’t work again my baby never sucks then sore nipples and mastitis then nipple shields and pumping then low milk supply till I stopped. This didn’t stop me of feeling sad. That what led me to Dr.Amy’s website (thank you Dr.Amy! I was grieving before finding you and about to try to re-lactate!). Next time I’ll try again I think I will enjoy it if it works and I love that part about no bottle preparing at night, no cleaning and sterilizing and going out without bothering. But I’ll try to lower my expectations and not to torture myself with pumping when I barely have few drops.

    • Somewhereinthemiddle

      I know you didn’t ask *me* but am willing to offer my view and experience. For me, it was mainly because I found it convenient and I was physically capable of doing so. I hate pumping but didn’t work outside the home so the times that needed to happen were pretty few. After the rough first few months with my my first, it came easily and I enjoyed it. If it hadn’t, I would have formula fed but admitted would have felt disappointed. Additionally, for us, it really was a money saver since we would not have qualified for assistance with formula and I didn’t have the extra expense of pumping supplies.

      Now, I am experiencing the opposite end of the spectrum, I want to be done nursing my toddler and she is having none of the weaning business. *Sigh*

      • Allie

        I hear you – double *sigh* over here : /

    • DiomedesV

      Many of my friends report that they genuinely enjoy nursing. If it isn’t too difficult (e.g., you don’t struggle with supply, or it doesn’t mean losing your job), I think that alone is an excellent reason to give it a try. You never know: you might find that it is relatively easy and that it forms a special, loving, and nurturing relationship with your baby. They’re only young once.

      Personally, I loved feeding my baby.

      –An exclusive FF

      • Sadlady

        I agree. I loved it for me. At night it was like a relaxing nightcap. It felt nice. Also it’s a once in a lifetime chance. Once you dry up that’s it. No going back. Also breastfed babies act differently. I enjoyed watching them root around. Something I never saw my bottle fed little siblings do. I thought it was cute

        • Therese

          Breastmilk does seem to be like baby crack. Maybe formula fed babies come to feel the same way about formula? I don’t know, but my breastfed babies never seemed to particularly enjoy taking a bottle while breastfeeding was their favorite thing ever. Of course, then there are the babies that refuse to nurse and prefer bottles, so I guess it can go either way.

          • Cobalt

            My baby that went on formula at 10 weeks loved his bottles. Weaning off them in toddlerhood was super hard.

            The next baby started combo feeding around 4 months at daycare, never cared where the food came from as long as there was plenty of it and fast. I could give her bottles, even though I had the boobs right there. Switching to a cup was easy. She was breastfed the longest so far, but is actually the least ‘bonded’ to me. Daddy is her favorite, then grandma. Unless I’m making dinner, then I’m number one again.

            The newest addition resists the bottle, I can’t even be in the room.

          • guest

            It is not the milk. It’s the satisfaction feeling for having food (meeting their needs).

            “Babies need milk, and opioids are nature’s reward to them for obtaining it, especially during the initial attempts. The first few episodes of sucking organize nerve pathways in the newborn’s brain, conditioning her to continue this activity. This is the reason that breastfed babies sometimes have trouble if they are given bottles in the newborn nursery-early exposure to bottles creates a confusing association of pleasure with both bottle nipples and the mother’s breast. In fact, any incidental sensations experienced during rocking, touching, and eating that aren’t noxious can become part of a child’s attachment and will provide comfort. It could be the warmth of mother’s body, father’s furry chest, grandma’s gentle lullaby, a blanket, or the wood-slatted side of a crib.”

            http://archive.attachmentparenting.org/support/articles/artchemistry.php

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            You do realize that is total BS, right?

          • AmyH

            I figured she meant something like dopamine?

          • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa

            “Babies need milk, and opioids are nature’s reward to them for obtaining it,

            Opiods?

            What is the source of these opiods?

          • guest

            It is me who posted this. I thought the body is known to release some opioid-like substances. (I’m not a doctor or scientist)

          • Allie

            A woman I work with bottle fed and she told me her baby was constantly demanding ba-ba (bottle) at all hours and she gave up trying to wean him from it until he was ready. With my nephew, it was his soother. It was like heroin to him – he would beg for just one hit! I think they all have their “drug” of choice ; )

        • Young CC Prof

          Actually, my baby who I attempted to breastfeed for one week? Started rooting all on his own several weeks later. He still does it sometimes.

          Infant behavior is driven by instincts, but there are a lot of other things muddling it up, including the human-consciousness software gradually installing itself over the primitive newborn brain.

          • guest

            My both formula fed babies do that for several months.

    • Cobalt

      For me, it’s free food that I don’t have to prepare or clean up after and the warm fuzzies from nursing. We were frequently really poor when I was a kid and I can’t turn down free food. I know technically I might be eating more, but I figure everything I eat is eaten twice. We both get to enjoy it. Formula would cost my family more than the breast milk, and I am home running the farm, so no back-to-work pumping logistics.

      When I was breastfeeding and working away from the baby, I did mostly formula at daycare. It was easier and cheaper than pumping.

    • Allie

      I bet there are a million and one variables that ultimately make up the decision, and not all are even consciously known or decided. I think it is different for each woman and you can’t even really decide you will breastfeed or for how long until you give it a try (if you want to, that is). I NEVER planned on doing extended breast feeding, but here I am still at it at almost 21 months later (it’s hard to quit when you have a determined nurser – chalk that one up on the down side). I never really bought in to the propaganda, although I did think it’s what you’re supposed to do if you can, so I did it. Luckily for me, I’ve never had a problem with supply or even with pain or other complications, so I’ve kept at it, although I am SO ready to quit. It has been handy for me not having to get out of bed in the night and fuss with washing bottles and mixing formula and all that stuff, but if you are struggling with difficult issues such as severe pain, infection or supply problems, then those issues may well outweigh any other considerations. The bottom line is it’s an individual choice, completely unique to each mother, baby and family.

    • lawyer jane

      I didn’t plan it this way, but nursing acted like a total sedative for me. If I’d be up with insomnia, I knew I just had to get to the 1am feed and I’d be able to sleep again. (And yes, it is horrific to have both insomnia and a baby that nurses 2x/night!!) I did also enjoy the physical closeness and the ability to just completely zone out and watch TV while baby nursed during the newborn/infant stage. But to be honest I never *loved* nursing – it was never a particularly comfortable sensation (although I didn’t suffer from actual pain after the first few weeks). And my baby was never super into it either, despite the fact that he has a major oral fixation!

    • guest

      If you intend to be the dash-about-town kind of mom, as well as a feed-on-demand kind of mom, you can keep your fingers crossed that nursing works well for you. I was never confident that I would find clean good tasting water wherever we went, so every morning involved packing powder, water, bottles, and (in case of earthquake or other natural disaster) more powder and water. This all started when I ran out of supplies in a rural area. After that, my daily diaper bag weighed as much as if I were backpacking. Truly, I always envied women who were only slinging diapers, wipes and their reliable breasts. If (and it is a big if) you are lucky enough that breastfeeding comes easily to you, then it would be infinitely more portable and less worrisome.

    • jenny

      I’ve run the gamut of infant feeding, from exclusive breastfeeding to exclusive pumping to exclusive formula feeding, and pretty much every combination thereof. I breastfed one child for three years, another not at all (some serious medical issues), and one got a combo. When breastfeeding goes well, it’s sweet, lovey, and convenient. Bottle feeding is also sweet, lovey, and convenient. Both can also be frustrating. If you think you are interested in breastfeeding, it doesn’t hurt to try. You can always switch to doing something else if you don’t like it or if the good days don’t outnumber the bad days, or if it’s just plain not working out. I do like giving my babies the colostrum and a couple early weeks of breastfeeding if possible in the same way that I like knitting a snuggly blanket: it just feels nice even though in the grand scheme of things it’s irrelevant to their future development. But I also tremendously enjoy formula feeding my son. He smiles and giggles when he sees his bottle and it’s such a delight to hold him and snuggle while he drinks. I found that in the long term, I enjoy parenting in infancy more when I am not breastfeeding because for me it is such a struggle. It isn’t for everyone though.

  • Mel

    My mom breast-fed all four of us kids with varying success rates. My twin sister had major gastrointestinal problems due to premature birth – the breast milk wasn’t harmful, but sis needed specialized formula that didn’t irritate her digestive tract. My youngest brother was the dream nurser on the other hand.

    My mom was very vocal about breastfeeding for years – but not because of her self-esteem. My brother, David, breast-fed for about 8.5 months before he self-weaned when Mom got pregnant with my next brother. While no one knew it at the time, David had a severely compromised immune system that lead to his sudden death a few months later. Mom always believed, and still believes, that breast-feeding kept David’s immune system propped up for much longer than he could have had on formula.

    The reason I bring this up: Even with that level of emotional attachment to an issue, my mom has NEVER been as rude, condescending or obnoxious as “the alpha parent”. In fact, Mom often is the first to tell women that giving a baby formula is better than bleeding nipples and a child screaming with hunger.

    Mom gets her self-esteem from things she can control – going back to college as an adult, learning to navigate the special education system, advocating for us when we were young, teaching us to advocate for ourselves as we grew up, planting a beautiful ornamental garden, acting as a literacy tutor and being a dang good quilter as a simple starter list.

    When you actually achieve things, you don’t need to harp on the fact that you lucked out on a biological lottery.

  • areawomanpdx

    This is spot on. Dixley doesn’t have anything other than breastfeeding and sanctimommying to cling to in her quest for relevance.

  • no longer drinking the koolaid

    This is the thing that is so frustrating to me personally. I nursed 4 kids also until they self weaned. but know that it was also a matter of luck. Had a few issues along the way, but pretty much easy to do.
    Became an IBCLC while working as a PP nurse. In the hospital, because it was coming from a nurse, my advice to supplement with formula when breast milk intake was inadequate was seen as authoritative.
    Working as a midwife OOH, women’s friends were considered authoritative when there was an issue and I suggested adding or switching to formula. I was being “too medical”, thus my evidence based plan of care was ignored in favor of herbal supplements, nursing more, mom resting more, etc.
    None of that is going to help if the woman has tubular breasts or the baby has a short frenulum, heart shaped tongue, and a small jaw.
    It’s the same as with birth, you need to understand the impact that mechanical forces have on the problem at hand in order to understand the solution. Too many “experts” don’t understand the mechanics.

    • Smoochagator

      At an OB appt last week, the nurse asked me if I’d given birth by c-section previously. I said, “No, I was very lucky.” It took my awhile to get rid of the NCB brainwashing and realize that having two uncomplicated vaginal births had nothing to do with preparation or personal strength and everything to do with genetics and luck.

      • anon

        So would giving birth via c-section mean you were “very unlucky”? I had my twins via c-section and count myself very lucky to have had two healthy babies. I don’t really care how they got here – just that they got here safely.

        • Smoochagator

          I consider myself lucky for not needing a C-section, because I didn’t have any complications that necessitated a surgical birth. Having a complication-free pregnancy and birth is rare and something to be very grateful for. But if I’d had a complication that required a C-section, I’d be grateful to have access to that life-saving procedure, and as you pointed out, consider myself lucky to come out on the other side with a healthy child.

        • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa

          So would giving birth via c-section mean you were “very unlucky”

          My wife felt really lucky that our first was a breech presentation, because she could have a c-section and did not have to have a vaginal birth, and the baby was not in distress or anything.

          And as a result, she could have a c-section for our second.

          She didn’t consider herself unlucky in the least. She felt very fortunate.

          • guest

            I felt exactly the same when we found out that my 2nd is breech!. I always wanted a C-section after my vaginal birth with complications but didn’t dare to ask for one. I loved my C-section, no stress during delivery for both of us and had the chance to meet my baby immediately and thank god no complications, no PPD and fast smooth recovery .I was lucky!. Now, when ever I think about my next I can’t think about vaginal birth again.

    • guest

      Is heart shaped tongue always related to tongue tie?

  • Lena

    I think this article totally nails it. TAP was never interested in promoting breastfeeding. I don’t think she actually cares if other mothers breastfeed or not. If everyone was breastfeeding, she wouldn’t feel like an ‘alpha’ because she did it successfully. Then she’d have to find another way to feel superior. She’d have to take up knitting so she could shame mothers for buying clothes for their babies.

    • no longer drinking the koolaid

      Actually she might want to consider raising organic sheep, shearing them herself, spinning the wool, and then knitting. Why go to all the bother of driving to the yarn shop when obtaining the wool yourself is so easy?

      • Young CC Prof

        I know a couple people who’ve done that, made clothing from raw sheep fleece, just to do it.

        It’s not the worst hobby.

      • Sadlady

        And then knit wool diaper covers for cloth diapers. Lanolinize them! Everyone knows cloth is better!

        • Cobalt

          I use cloth diapers (prefolds/flats with covers, not those newfangled AIOs). It’s cheap and easy for us. I cannot imagine using the wool covers. Once you finally get enough material in the diaper to actually absorb a wetting without leaking through the wool, how do you get pants on the kid?

  • Amy M

    I’ve always kind of thought that about lactivists and I think the ones who struggled to breastfeed are the worst offenders. If formula is just the same as breastfeeding, then why did they go through all that trouble? Therefore, they HAVE to tout breastfeeding as the mothering gold standard, to justify doing it despite complications.

  • The Computer Ate My Nym

    I just got through studying breast cancer for the recertification exam. This is what ASCO has to say about breast feeding and breast cancer: breast feeding may reduce the risk of breast cancer but the extent and optimal duration have not been established. That’s it. It’s not a major factor, just a possible minor association. Just in case anyone starts to try to scare you with the “breast feed or die of cancer next year” stuff.

    • Pktaxwench

      I had beat breast cancer before my first kid, so doh! Guess I missed the chance to prevent it. (diagnosed at 29, and chose breast saving surgery.). I have since fed 2 kids, and was diagnosed AGAIN during my most recent and 3rd pregnancy. Obviously, breastfeeding is not a very effective treatment. I await mastectomy next month, and I will say, it is a massive hassle with 4 tumors putting pressure on and blocking milk ducts. It’s like perpetual mastitis, without the fever and chills.

      • Amy M

        Ugh, I am so sorry. I hope your surgery goes well and you remain cancer free.

      • Smoochagator

        I agree with Amy M – I hope your surgery and subsequent treatment goes well!

  • Young CC Prof

    Heat up the popcorn, it’s going to be quite a show.

    • Trixie

      Make sure it’s non-GMO!

      • Roadstergal

        Teosinte? It doesn’t pop well, but at least it’s not a mutant abomination like maize!

        • NoLongerCrunching

          You all are cute. Popped quinoa or amaranth is where it’s at.