Nothing in nature is “perfect” Michael Pollan, and that goes for breastmilk, too


Imagine if I made the following claim: Sexual intercourse is the perfect method of reproduction, formed by natural selection to result in a perfect baby every time. After you picked yourself up off the floor from laughing so hard, you’d probably point out a number of facts to me:

1. Every episode of sexual intercourse does not result in conception.

2. Every conception does not result in pregnancy.

3. Fully 20% of established pregnancies naturally end in miscarriage.

4. Many babies are born premature and die as a result.

5. Some babies are born with birth defects and die as a result.

So how have human beings taken over the planet, expanding from a population of perhaps 10,000 early in human history to 7 billion today?

First, population expansion does not require perfection in reproduction; it only requires more people in the next generation than in the one before. If a couple has 10 children and 7 of them die, the population still expands. Second, technology has dramatically improved our ability to survive and thrive in a myriad of environments, including those previous inhospitable to humans.

That’s because nature doesn’t do “perfect”; it only does “good enough.”

I would think that journalist Michael Pollan, often described as a “liberal foodie intellectual” would understand that, but apparently not. In a recent interview in the magazine Lucky Peach, Pollan makes the following absurd claim:

Breast milk is the perfect food, formed by natural selection to have everything the developing child—and its microbiota—needs. We’ve spent almost two hundred years trying to simulate it, because food companies can’t make money when people are nursing their babies.

Let me pick myself up off the floor from laughing so hard, and point out a number of facts to Michael Pollan:

1. Every pregnancy that results in a live baby does not result in a live mother. No mother = no breastmilk.

2. A mother’s ability to produce breastmilk exists on a continuum just like most other human characteristics. Most women will produce enough, but a lot of women will fall short and their babies would die if not for supplementation.

3. Breast milk is not a perfect food. For example, it does not contain enough Vitamin K to prevent hemorrhagic disease of the newborn in a significant number of babies. Those babies “naturally” die by bleeding to death.

4. Babies are not perfect, either. While most will be able to breastfeed successfully, not all will and if they can’t figure it out in time, they will simply die of starvation.

5. Breastmilk substitutes have existed long before the advent of record history. Babies whose mothers died were nursed by other women (wet nurses). Babies whose mothers couldn’t produce enough milk received milk from goats and cows. Throughout recorded history, women supplemented breastmilk with a wide variety of substances.

6. Formula was not created by corporations. It was created by doctors who were tired of seeing so many babies die for lack of breastmilk and because previous supplements were contaminated with bacteria or lacking in adequate nutrition.

That’s because nature does not do “perfect”; it only does “good enough.” Breastmilk isn’t perfect and neither is breastfeeding. It is only good enough, and Pollan ought to know that.

According to Pollan:

It’s human arrogance to think we can outwit nature.

To which I would say:

It is the human tendency to romanticism to pretend that we do anything other than outwit nature every moment of every day of every year. Nature is not that nice lady wearing a flower crown in the Chiffon Margarine commercial. That was an advertising campaign that thoroughly misrepresented nature in order to sell a product. Nature is heartless. Starvation is natural. Drought is natural. Disease is natural. Earthquakes, tornados and hurricanes are natural. War is natural. Infanticide is natural.

Everyone who lives in a house outwits nature. Everyone who wears clothes outwits nature. Everyone who cooks their meat instead of eating it raw outwits nature. Everyone who ever took an antibiotic to cure an infection, a vaccine to prevent smallpox, or had surgery to removed an inflamed appendix has outwitted nature. Every one of the many, many millions of babies who survived because of formula has successfully outwitted nature.

Breastmilk is good. It has advantage over formula, although in industrialized societies those advantages are trivial. It is not perfect because nothing in nature is perfect. I would venture to guess that the human tendency to romanticize nature, as Pollan has done with breastmilk, is entirely natural. That doesn’t change the fact that it is nothing more than a touching fantasy beloved of intellectuals, most of whom who wouldn’t last 5 minutes if they actually had to live in nature.

270 Responses to “Nothing in nature is “perfect” Michael Pollan, and that goes for breastmilk, too”

  1. October 31, 2014 at 1:17 am #


    I am Sandra Gaul from USA, I have been trying for 5years to get pregnant and needed help! i have Been going to the doctors but still nothing. The doctor said that me and my husband are fine and I don’t know where else to turn. Until one day my friend introduce me to this great spell caster who helped her to get back her lost husband back with love spell and also made her pregnant, So I decided to contact this spell caster Dr Brave on his after interaction with him he instructed me on what to do, after then i should have sex with the my husband or any man I love in this world, And i did so, within the next one months i went for a check up and my doctor confirmed that i am 2weeks pregnant of two babies. I am so happy!! if you also need help to get pregnant or need your ex back please contact his email address: or through His web address As HE did it for me, I am now a mother of twins. He will also do it for you. THANKS….

  2. RSM
    October 24, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

    Just about every person on the planet now lives outside of nature, totally disconnected from it. You would have to be, to think that it is perfect and to romanticize it in such a way. We do not live in nature, so why would technological fixes new out of order?

    I do wonder if these particular tech/medical solutions (CS, pain relief, formula) to age old problems are only seen as negative because they involve the bodies of women? Our status as less than man (even subhuman) makes us the scapegoat for all societies ills, and our needs are often seen as unimportant.

    Pollan is generally an excellent writer, with ideas worth consideration, but he overshot his mark with this topic.

    While I truly believe that the way of life we have pursued post agriculture is responsible for eco devastation and oppression, I still cannot fathom seeing nature as perfect. Unless you redefine perfect, I guess. The circle of life is full of death and imperfection.

    Nature has no care if you cannot nurse your baby, we are no privileged over other lifeforms. i.e: If enough moms can BF/survive labor/etc, its great for that mom, and for humans in general. If enough moms cannot BF/survive/etc, nature or culture may evolve to fix this, or humans will die out. Species die out all the time, why not us?

  3. Leara
    October 24, 2014 at 2:24 am #

    You are awesome. I am loving your posts. Reality 1: Breast feeding Nazis 0.

  4. junebug
    October 21, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

    My breastmilk only had about 10 calories an ounce. I wish I’d had it tested after my 1st baby instead of my 3rd. It would have saved a lot of heartache. I breastfed my 2nd around 12 hours a day until she was 8 months old. I wanted breastfeeding to work so badly I didn’t notice how neglected child 1 was or even how deprived child 2 was.

    When you’re struggling to get nutrition 12 hours a day you aren’t learning to crawl, exploring your world, playing with toys, interacting with your sister.

    I’m ashamed I spent their time as babies this way. I won’t be breastfeeding baby 4.

  5. Roadstergal
    October 20, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

    OT – thank goodness for Toast. I finally understand this site so much better! I didn’t realize how much Don Henley got around.

  6. Joy
    October 20, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

    Glasses are made of plastic and use lots of fossil fuels, so I guess everyone who needs glasses should kill themselves. Then non glasses wearers can eat our remains. The circle of life!

    • Sara M.
      October 20, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

      I should stop destroying the planet with these blasted hearing aides just to hear people’s voices. The batteries, filters, and energy my dryer takes up just increases my carbon footprint. I am an Darwinian failure. Shame!

      • The Computer Ate My Nym
        October 21, 2014 at 9:00 am #

        In nature a disability is frowned upon and considered a problem.

        There are those within the “nature” movement that say things like this in all seriousness. They don’t understand evolution. “Disability” is a problem…unless it’s a solution. For example, if we were invaded by aliens that used a mesmerizing song to hypnotize humanity into doing their bidding, your ability to turn off your hearing when you want could be a critical advantage.

        • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
          October 21, 2014 at 9:36 am #

          I read a really interesting book called “Survival of the Sickest” years ago about how some conditions and diseases that are sometimes eventually fatal were also the reason their carriers survived long enough to pass on their genes. For instance hemachromatosis, which causes the body to store excess iron in their organs, gave people who had it some protection from bubonic plague. And it is thought that sickle cell anemia gives some protection from malaria. Another theory they discuss in the book is that diabetes was an advantage to people in northern climates during ice ages, when having extra sugar in the blood may have enabled our ancestors to survive the cold better , as sugar lowers the temperature at which you freeze to death.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym
            October 21, 2014 at 9:41 am #

            And it is thought that sickle cell anemia gives some protection from malaria

            Specifically, sickle trait provides some protection against malaria. IIRC, the cells lyse before the parasites can reproduce properly so the infection doesn’t get going well, but I could have that wrong. In any case, it’s enough of an advantage to be “worth” (evolutionarily) losing 25% of your children (on average) to sickle cell disease if you live in a place where malaria is endemic.

            In fact, pretty much every bizarre red blood cell mutation in existence is that way due to malaria. My personal favorite is G6PD deficiency. Apparently, a G6PD deficient cell which is infected with malaria will suddenly develop a normal G6PD level…except that it’s not human G6PD, it’s malarial G6PD. In other words, the human cell coopts the parasite and starts making it do the work (and overworks it to death, apparently). I wonder if mitochondria started out that way: a cellular invader that got coopted and eventually incorporated?

          • sonia
            October 21, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

            The theory (widely accepted) re: mitochondria is that they were early bacterial symbionts living in early eukaryotic cells. Mitochondria have SSU rRNA sequence similar to bacteria, they have circular DNA (similar to bacteria) and two membranes (similar to some bacteria). I’m a microbiologist, and this was lecture about a month ago, so it’s fresh in my mind.

          • deafgimp
            October 21, 2014 at 10:55 pm #

            Someone in my life has G6PD. It makes cooking food annoying and eating out even more annoying.

          • KarenJJ
            October 22, 2014 at 12:32 am #

            My particular genetic issue is a dominant inheritance. If it had been at all useful, it could have spread through a small population fairly quickly over several generations. As it is it is hugely unhelpful and also caused sub-fertility and infertility. So yeah, not so great a fit for survival of the fittest and hence it’s very rare.

        • D/
          October 21, 2014 at 10:01 am #

          While waiting for the siren song of aliens I strengthen my ‘muting by choice’ super powers every day with this exercise.

          Walk in the door exhausted from work to be immediately peppered with all the “she did this/ he did thats”, “I need this/ will you do thats?” of the day … just pinch/ hold top of left ear for 3 seconds … silence 🙂 … “Hey wait, did you just turn us off? No fair!” … glasses off … now lip-reading’s muted too … give ’em 10 minutes to stew and they’ve usually worked it out for themselves 😉

          • MaineJen
            October 21, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

            I am…actually really jealous 🙂

          • KarenJJ
            October 22, 2014 at 12:29 am #

            I turn my hearing aids off when doing the shopping around Christmas time. I love Christmas carols maybe the first, second, tenth time I hear them – but beyond that I’m done.

          • KarenJJ
            October 22, 2014 at 12:35 am #

            Unfortunately whining kids is pretty much bang in the range where I can still hear clearly enough without my hearing aids…

          • D/
            October 22, 2014 at 9:41 am #

            Whining tones were unfortunately the last to go for me. Now their deeply covered with above five separate layers of tinnitus that at it’s worst never makes my hair stand on end like a whiner did. When I first turn my aids off I’m actually deafer than deaf for 15 minutes or so … It’ bliss 🙂

          • Amazed
            October 25, 2014 at 7:53 pm #

            My dad has mastered the art on sleeping on his good ear to perfection… he has NO hearing in the other one. A car accident when he was 17.

            Once, I couldn’t get home because he was sleeping on his good ear AND he had left his key in the keyhole. My solution? Press the next doorbell and ask the neighbours whether I could use their window to reach ours. Good people turned me down and made me tea instead. They even left a table at my disposal so I could do my homework.

            Did I mention that at the time, we lived on the 7th floor?

          • Sara M.
            October 25, 2014 at 8:19 pm #

            Aah! On those rare occasions when my husband isn’t home, I make sure I have a phone next to me. Some people with good hearing can sleeo through a hurricane. You had sweet neighbors!

          • Amazed
            October 25, 2014 at 8:36 pm #

            I am a person with good hearing and when it’s important, I usually take care NOT to have a phone next to me. The reason? The damned thing starts ringing, I just move my hand and turn it off. No recollection I ever did that. Now, when it’s on the table, there is at least a chance that I’ll crack half an eye open until I get there to turn it off!

            Yes, our neighbours were sweet. Years later, when I had already moved out, I did the same thing for my own neighbour. All of a sudden, jumping over windows didn’t seem such a good idea. Amazingly what 10 years can do to one’s experience.

            The thing that unsettled me, though, was that the neighbour wasn’t a tween (that’s the word, yes?) who thought that falls only happened to others, she was 40 year old mother of one…

        • Sara M.
          October 21, 2014 at 8:47 pm #

          Truth! To be honest, I am not involved in any sort of “nature movement” so I did not realize how strong of statement that was until I saw it again. I do not view disability as negative in an animal or human being. There are some that theorize autism is some sort of evolutionary development. But…that is nearing dangerous “trophy kid” thinking.

          My knowledge about nature and the reaction to disabilities stems from Dolphin Tale 2. It was interesting film but Harry Connick Jr. did not take his shirt off which I can’t forgive. But I still cried my eyes out!

          • deafgimp
            October 21, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

            There is a recent hypothesis that uterine inflammation during pregnancy can lead to autism.

            I gave up on hearing aids. My hearing was worse than the aids could help. Now they make aids that are possibly strong enough, but who has 12k to blow every four years?

            I don’t consider my lack of hearing to be what disables me, however. That’s partly my Deaf side speaking, but also partly that my deafness never held me back in life because I worked hard to make sure it didn’t.

          • Sara M.
            October 21, 2014 at 11:17 pm #

            12k wow, that is power aides territory. I admire your courage. I lost my hearing in my twenties for reasons still unknown and I still get frustrated some days.

            I find your hypothesis on autism interesting. When they stop spending so much money on J. McCarthy’s foolish theories, then we will be closer to answers.

          • KarenJJ
            October 22, 2014 at 12:28 am #

            Chronic inflammation is certainly what damaged my hearing. I have a genetic defect that causes chronic inflammation. I started losing my hearing in late childhood/early adulthood and it declined to the 60-70dB loss I have now (finally diagnosed and treated in my 30s – and thus far no further deterioration).

            I am very lucky in that I do very very well with hearing aids – not perfect – but a lot better than most others for some reason (suspicion is that I was late to lose my hearing and early to get hearing aids). I just bought new hearing aids – out of pocket – $5.5k for a pair. With the new water proof ones I’ve got I’m hoping to get maybe 8-10 years out of them (my average is 7.5yrs). Immune systems that are out of control are not nice things…

          • SisterMorphine
            October 22, 2014 at 10:24 pm #

            My MIL has, since infancy, had about 30% of her hearing. She self-identifies with Deaf culture despite the fact that her husband & many of her friends are “Hearing.” She attended mainstream classes in a a regular school and attended a regular university, with no interpreter needed, To her ‘hearing” friends and relatives she is just a normal woman who doesn’t hear well. She could now get hearing aids or even implants to help her hear much better, but the idea is frightening to a woman in her 70s. Oh wait, I guess nature intended us all to have perfect hearing. What’s my dear MIL doing here?

            A psychiatrist once told me about a fascinating paper he had read that (I think) drew a correlation b/w schizophrenia & maternal infection in utero. If that were true, should we force women with such infections to terminate, or start prophylacticly treating such babies for schizophrenia? What about alcoholism & depression, both of which are said to have a genetic component?

            So no, nature isn’t perfect–if it were, I’d like to think I’d be taller than 5 feet–5’8″ seems right–weigh about 100 lbs, have long blonde hair & blue eyes, and look more Swedish than Canadian. Hmmm–just looked in the bathroom mirror & no, nature still isn’t perfect. The horror!

          • Sara M.
            October 25, 2014 at 8:23 pm #

            I think I remember learning that vaginal birth with an active case of herpes or toxoplasmosis is a bad idea in terms of mental health outcomes.

            Otherwise I just got done reading comments from some lady who believes vaginal flora is magical. Yay!

          • Young CC Prof
            October 25, 2014 at 8:50 pm #

            Congenital/neonatal herpes can kill, also.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym
      October 21, 2014 at 8:58 am #

      Well, we could go back to making glasses the old fashioned way: stick pieces of glass in front of our eyes until we find one that makes things better instead of worse. Glass is silicon so that’s probably ok. Or something.

    • Liz Leyden
      October 21, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

      The Kmehr Rouge tried that in Cambodia. It didn’t end well.

    • MaineJen
      October 21, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

      So silly. People who need glasses to see CLEARLY were just not meant to live in the first place. How is humanity supposed to survive the zombie apocalypse if everyone is worried about losing their glasses while they run from the zombies? Trust eyes! They were perfectly designed and never fail. If you can’t see, you’re just doing it wrong.

  7. Sara M.
    October 20, 2014 at 6:18 pm #

    In my view, he fails to address the psychological effects that happen with breastfeeding. Some mothers who love their babies just as much as breastfeeding moms find breastfeeding to be painful, exhausting, and miserable. How is that best for anyone? When I have my baby, I do plan on breastfeeding b/c I did appreciate some things about it the last time but none of those had to do with nutrition.

  8. October 20, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

    It’s perfectly natural to not know when one is being an ignorant fool.

  9. mostlyclueless
    October 20, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

    I don’t understand the “perfect” rhetoric around breastmilk and breastfeeding. Breastmilk is low in vitamins K and D as well as iron; our pediatrician recommended vitamin drops to make up for that. Oversupply and undersupply are common problems. There is no reason for breastfeeding to NEED to be perfect; it is good, most of the time, except when it’s not. Insisting it’s perfect, when it’s demonstrably imperfect, undermines anything else you have to say.

    • Bugsy
      October 20, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

      My guess is that a lot of people who refer to it as “perfect” tend to look at the world in dichotomous terms. Breastfeeding = good; formula = bad. Natural childbirth = good; medicated childbirth = bad. It suppose viewing things as black-and-white makes it simpler from the standpoint that there’s clearly a right and wrong. Unfortunately, I’ve found that life is rarely so clearcut.

      • Busbus
        October 23, 2014 at 4:16 am #

        Due to all the rhetoric around breastfeeding, with my first child, I thought that breastfeeding must be VASTLY superior to formula. I was quite the smug mother (now I cringe thinking about it) and couldn’t understand how anyone could NOT breastfeed their baby. I also had no idea how many women have problems with breastfeeding, since it was supposed to be “perfect”, right? I thought all problems could be solved by appropriate supply/demand regulation. When I read, later on, about the actual science and realized that the benefits are much smaller than I had believed, I felt swindled. I felt that I had been lied to and that I might have made different decisions had I known earlier.

        I don’t think my prior conceptions were unusual at all. In fact, I think it’s pretty standard among middle class breastfeeding mothers. The whole “breastmilk is perfect”-discourse is not benign; I believe that it leads directly to smugness and judgementalness towards others who inexplicably “reject” this “perfection” (unlike you, of course).

        • Bugsy
          October 23, 2014 at 7:31 am #

          Well-said. I agreed that the push for breastfeeding isn’t benign at all, and it’s both everywhere and ridiculously easy to absorb.

          To add to it, I’ve seen that difficulties with breastfeeding can make the activists even less tolerant of others. I’ve spent a lot of time on this site as I’ve struggled to understand the demise of my oldest friendship, with a gal who’s become an attachment parent and NCB/lactivist in recent years. She faced struggles with both her L&D and initial breastfeeding, including a transfer from the birth centre to the local hospital. Unfortunately, the difficulties she encountered seem to further the exact smugness and judgmentalism you mention while providing little in the way of empathy. Since she’s proven that the difficulties can be overcome, you’d better be as good of a mommy and devote as much of a commitment to your kids’ upbringing as she clearly has.

          (That last sentence is completely tongue-in-cheek, and the “you” is the 3rd person, general “you.”)

          So much for overcoming one’s obstacles as a means for empathizing with and understanding others. I get the sense that there’s a lot of that missing within the larger discourse of “breast is best.”

    • Jennifer2
      October 21, 2014 at 8:13 am #

      I kind of get it. Milk of any animal is specially suited to be fairly complete nutrition for that species’ young. So to the extent that most infants need no other source of nutrition for at least the first few months, it’s “perfect.” But that definition of perfect is much different from the one most people think of.

  10. Amy
    October 20, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

    Amen. I love a lot of Pollan’s books, but he’s pretty much lost me with all the anti-feminist crap he spews, such as feminism is responsible for so many Americans NOT cooking everything from scratch. (And full disclosure: I cook almost all my own stuff from scratch, because it’s worth it to me. But it’s HARD, and people can be just as happy and fulfilled eating whatever the heck they feel like.)

    • Elizabeth A
      October 25, 2014 at 8:27 pm #

      I cook a ton of things from scratch, with the result that I can only find time to cook 2-3 times a week. I am the only person I know to ever have a nutritionist recommend that she do less home cooking. “You can buy tomato sauce that’s not significantly nutritionally different than making your own, you know.”

      I prefer my own tomato sauce, but I do eat more healthily if I get over myself and take short cuts with prepared food.

  11. Guesteleh
    October 20, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    It’s off-topic but can we talk about the Ebola panic? Because shit is out of control. Everyone needs to get a grip.

    • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
      October 20, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

      Saw a tweet today “More Americans have married Kim Kardashian than have died from Ebola.” My response, “What are my chances of marrying Kim Kardashian on my next flight?”

      • Siri
        October 20, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

        You should be more worried about accidentally marrying KK in spite of all your safety precautions. ..

        • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
          October 20, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

          My wife will be there; hopefully, that will prevent any accidental marriages

          • Sara M.
            October 20, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

            But if you don’t at least try to marry Kim, then you might never meet Kanye! Just seriously think about that consequence.

          • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
            October 20, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

            To be honest, I haven’t the slightest clue what you are talking about.

            Granted, I wouldn’t recognize Kim Kardashian if she said ‘I do’ while sitting on my lap

          • Young CC Prof
            October 20, 2014 at 7:22 pm #

            Just remember, if a woman you don’t know sits down in your lap and says, “I do,” the correct response is “Get off of me.”

          • Roadstergal
            October 21, 2014 at 11:41 am #

            Or perhaps just ask her to clarify what, exactly, she does.

          • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
            October 21, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

            Or perhaps just ask her to clarify what, exactly, she does.

            Again, with my wife around…

          • Amazed
            October 21, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

            Don’t forget to warn her what to watch out for. Otherwise, you run the risk of her thinking, “Why the hell has KK parked herself in Bofa’s lap and what is she prattling about?” and wasting precious seconds away.

          • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
            October 21, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

            I told her that my chances of getting married to Kim Kardashian will be lower if she doesn’t point her out to me, since I wouldn’t recognize her otherwise.

          • Sara M.
            October 20, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

            Um…I think you are just the coolest person ever now.

          • Amazed
            October 21, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

            Hehe, he is, isn’t he? Actually, the first time I saw KK’s photo, it was something about selfies and an elephant that had given himself one.

      • An Actual Attorney
        October 20, 2014 at 7:38 pm #

        I suggest taking the Ebola.

      • BethC
        October 20, 2014 at 8:49 pm #

        Also, twice as many Americans have been married to Larry King as have contracted Ebola. (Thank you “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”.)

      • The Computer Ate My Nym
        October 21, 2014 at 9:03 am #

        Probably not that different from your chances of catching ebola on your next flight if you’re flying within the US. Maybe higher if you fly business class. So far none of the known cases contracted in the US were contracted on flights. They’re all people who treated ebola patients, as far as I know.

        Far more Americans have died in childbirth and of the flu than have died of ebola.

      • Liz Leyden
        October 21, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

        Have any Americans actually died of Ebola? The only person in the US to die from Ebola so far was Liberian, nor American.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym
          October 21, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

          I believe you’re right. The man who died was Liberian. Two nurses were infected through contact with him, but at least one is reported to be improving. It may be that zero Americans will die of ebola in this outbreak, if we’re very lucky.

  12. Clara
    October 20, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

    The latest formula shaming escapade. Jack Newman live on air saying that “it’s rubbish” that bottle fed babies are as close to their mothers as breastfed babies.

    Listen and weep:
    (Canadians: please call the station and give them your opinion!)

    • Trixie
      October 20, 2014 at 3:44 pm #

      This from the guy who used to email domperidone prescriptions to complete strangers.

      • Guestll
        October 21, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

        Hadn’t heard this one.

    • guest
      October 20, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

      what a total ass!

    • Young CC Prof
      October 20, 2014 at 7:23 pm #

      Ah, the “Ignorant doctors” lactivist gambit. Doctors say things about breastfeeding that conflict with what I “know” to be true, therefore medical school must not teach them anything about breastfeeding.

    • Jami
      October 20, 2014 at 7:56 pm #

      I would say that my formula-fed son and I have the perfect kind of love. The second we both look at each other, we instinctively smile. Big, gushy smiles. I love that he doesn’t gnaw at my breasts and look at me solely as food. My body fed him for 10 months in-utero and he was born just under 10lbs. I’d say I fed him pretty darn well if you ask me. And now I continue to feed and nurture him with formula. He is a thriving, happy, happy baby! In fact, both of us are very happy. I don’t think that breast-feeding in itself is what creates the bond; it is whatever makes baby AND mommy happy, that’s the right kind of environment for bonding.

      • Bugsy
        October 20, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

        Well-said! “it is whatever makes baby AND mommy happy, that’s the right kind of environment for bonding.” The mom is a crucial part of the equation!

    • Guestll
      October 21, 2014 at 10:46 pm #

      Dr. Amy, please, please…please take on Jack “Domperidone for all!” Newman. Please.

  13. LibrarianSarah
    October 20, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

    Where I disagree with Pollan is that I think it is human arrogance to think that we can separate ourselves from nature. We are natural and therefore everything that we do it is natural. It is natural for an organism to modify it’s environment in order to thrive. Plants do it. Animals do it. Microscopic organisms do it. It doesn’t cease to be “natural” just because we are the ones doing it.

  14. Liz Leyden
    October 20, 2014 at 1:28 pm #

    If breastmilk is the perfect food, why start babies on solid food? Why wean?

    • Cobalt
      October 20, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

      So you can have even more babies! Tandem feeding two is difficult but can happen, nursing 4 or 5 leaves no time for hanging the laundry or carding the flax or hand carving the family’s furniture.

    • Esther
      October 21, 2014 at 2:12 am #

      That may be the rationale used by many a “crunchy” mama when she boasts about her exclusively breastfed, virgin-gut-intact one (plus) year old.

  15. Ceridwen
    October 20, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

    Breastmilk is only better than formula in the same way that abstinence is more effective than the IUD and induction causes c-sections. That is, it only looks that way when you use an inappropriate control group or fail to consider the real life implications of doing one instead of the other.

    Abstinence is the perfect birth control! When used perfectly every time, which we know does not actually happen. The result being that couples intending to use abstinence as their birth control (particularly when not educated about other options) will end up with far more unintended pregnancies than those using IUDs.

    Induction causes c-sections! Only when the control group is women who naturally went into labor, rather than the appropriate control group of expectant management.

    Breastfeeding is better than formula feeding! Sure, when you only include all the children and mothers for whom breastfeeding went well enough that they were able to feed that way without supplementation. But if we actually randomized women and their babies into breastfeeding or formula feeding groups I suspect the formula feeding group would win out every time on almost every measure. Why? Because you don’t end up with failure to thrive because baby can’t transfer enough formula or mom isn’t making enough formula. We sit here and obsess over insignificant differences in IQ while totally ignoring that many babies WOULD NOT BE HERE if formula were not an option. Cost and lack of access to clean water make the situation different when we’re talking about developing countries. But in the US, Canada, Europe, etc. there is every reason to expect that formula (even in it’s current far from perfect state) would outperform breastmilk in any randomized trial.

    • fiftyfifty1
      October 20, 2014 at 6:44 pm #

      “We sit here and obsess over insignificant differences in IQ”

      Differences that GO AWAY when we look at discordant sib studies.

  16. Amy M
    October 20, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

    So I guess the “Nature is perfect, and always good” thing, which includes breastfeeding and eating a certain way (even though the diet fads change a bit, they are generally always 1) time consuming 2)expensive and 3) fall to women to deal with preparation, is just a sneaky way to get women back in the home. It’s hard to be a working mother and exclusively breastfeed, and grow a garden and prepare perfect nutritious meals from scratch every day. Then it becomes easy to say that women should be the ones staying home, because, of course men can’t breastfeed. So suddenly, to some, it appears that women NATURALLY are drawn to cooking, homemaking, canning, whatever, and now the social construct of “mother home/father work” seems biologically dictated. This gives ammo to the “back in the Golden Years” people, to claim that if women just listened to their biological calling everything would be just hunky-dory. It becomes moral imperative for women to strive to be the best in the domestic areas. Ugh, that’s just gross.

    Of course, if a given woman WANTS to stay home and cook and breastfeed, she should have that choice, but it shouldn’t be the only thing for her to do, if she is a biologically sound and moral human being. I hate that people put these moral values on things where they just don’t belong.

    • Trixie
      October 20, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

      I happen to really enjoy canning, and there’s lots of things that just don’t taste the same canned from the store (especially peaches). But it really is time consuming. I just made ketchup this summer to see what it was like. Know how long it takes to turn a half bushel of tomatoes into 5 pints of ketchup? About 6 hours. Longer, if you’re putting them through the food mill instead of putting them in a blender. That’s enough ketchup to last my family about 6 weeks. A lot more complicated and expensive than driving to Costco.

      • Alcharisi
        October 20, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

        Exactly. I still have a large bag of wild black raspberries from July sitting in my freezer because I just haven’t found the four hours I need to boil the water, boil the jars, make the jam, can the jam, and watch to make sure the jars sealed. And for the record, wild black raspberry jam is one of my favorite things ever.

        • Trixie
          October 20, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

          Jam I can whip out in about 45 minutes. I’m pretty fast at canning because I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. So that gives you an idea of how long ketchup takes.
          You can also just run the jars through the dishwasher to prepare them. Or you could make freezer jam and not bother with sealing them.

      • Amy M
        October 20, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

        Oh sure..we did a garden this past summer, because we wanted to and we could. But you are canning by choice, not because a)you have to or b)you feel it is the morally superior choice, so you feel coerced into it.

      • Siri
        October 20, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

        Do you live in an enormous villa in St Louis? 🙂

        • Trixie
          October 20, 2014 at 9:14 pm #

          I’m missing the reference.

      • me
        October 21, 2014 at 9:20 am #

        5 pints of ketchup only lasts you 6 weeks? I’ve had the same 50 oz bottle (just over 3 pints) for god knows how long now (at least a couple months) and it’s still half full.

        You guys must love you some ketchup!

        • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
          October 21, 2014 at 9:25 am #

          I got my 4 yo a t-shirt that says “I put ketchup on my ketchup”

          • me
            October 21, 2014 at 9:39 am #

            I was just going to joke with Trixie that if she slipped a hamburger under her ketchup maybe it would last longer 😉


            We just aren’t big ketchup eaters around here.

          • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
            October 21, 2014 at 9:48 am #

            When my older guy started eating french fries, he didn’t actually eat french fries. They were merely used as a KDS – Ketchup Delivery System. He’d dip them in ketchup and lick the ketchup off, and then dip again.

            He still isn’t that big of a fan of french fries, but will eat them if there’s ketchup.

          • me
            October 21, 2014 at 10:07 am #

            My kids did that too (my 2 year old still does from time to time), we just don’t eat fries all that often. Maybe when we go out, but that’s someone else’s ketchup and doesn’t impact my personal stash, lol.

          • Amy M
            October 21, 2014 at 10:26 am #

            Mine do that with Ranch (dressing) and Orange Ranch (French dressing).

        • Trixie
          October 21, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

          Yeah. Well, I made the homemade stuff a little spicy and less sweet so the kids wouldn’t like it. They go through it way too fast.

    • namaste863
      October 20, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

      This very thought has crossed my mind on multiple occasions. Every time I’ve brought it up, I’ve gotten some bullshit rhetoric about “Valuing women’s reproductive work.” It’s just another way to restrict women’s choices, but in an ever so subtle, ever so sneaky way.

      • The Computer Ate My Nym
        October 20, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

        My rule of thumb for whether something is sexist or not is to ask whether the argument presented offers women more options or seeks to decrease their range of choices. If the former, it’s feminist. If the latter, it is not. So arguing for better access to pumping, daycare with the option to pop in and feed the baby at midday, maybe paying women for their work in staying home and raising children or otherwise acknowledging that it is hard (and high risk) work, is feminist. “Celebrating” women’s reproductive work by trying to force them to do no other work (eve if only through peer pressure and guilt rather than through legal restrictions) is not.

        • Mariana Baca
          October 20, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

          And even plentiful pumping/paid maternity leave as the only socially acceptable options still leave out the reality that a) paid time while not working still means the worker misses out on training, tech advances, and promotions, decreasing lifetime earning/professional potential. b) some women might want to choose work where leaving during the day or pumping is simply unfeasible (or painful and undesirable). Societally, if you want the option of economic/professional equality for women, you need to acknowledge that formula needs to be one of the options that is not denigrated — it influences what careers women choose and how they will manage their reproductive and professional goals.

          None of these options should be forced on women, they should all be available to women (and men, if the family opts for them to be the primary caregiver).

          • The Computer Ate My Nym
            October 20, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

            I agree. It should be possible to breast feed, even exclusively, without sacrificing your career entirely, but breast feeding should not be required of anyone.

        • namaste863
          October 20, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

          In theory, I hear where you are coming from. In practice, however, it is a little messier. In Sweden, for example, women have 13 months paid maternity leave. The price of that is a hit on the employability of women, because it just isn’t smart business practice to hire someone who will draw full salary for 13 months per child for no work.

          • MLE
            October 20, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

            I have read recently in Slate’s series on maternity leave that some countries pay for leave that you must take whether you want to or not. In my cyclical job, where it could be a year before I have the opportunity to see something happen in order to learn in, forced leave at the wrong time would be a terrible blow professionally. Flexibility can’t be that hard, can it?

          • AlisonCummins
            October 20, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

            However, if all parents must take that professional hit at least you’re on a level playing field.

          • MLE
            October 20, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

            ,Not really, because there are more important times and less important times. Anyone who has better luck fertility-wise, through chance or planning, could miss the low season and be back for the critical advancement season. Not to mention that I take exception with being told that I can’t come back early or I have to leave at a certain time, much like those arguing for longer leave. That is my business.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym
            October 20, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

            That seems like it would have a fairly easy fix: make it parental leave, available to both parents, regardless of gender.

          • Smoochagator
            October 20, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

            IIRC, in some countries, a total of one year paid leave is available to BOTH parents, and they get to decide how to split it up. If mom wants to take off the whole year, fine. If mom wants to take a month to recover from childbirth, then get back to work, while dad takes eleven months, fine. If both want to take six months, fine. They can even take their leave concurrently or “take turns.” I find this idea, frankly, BRILLIANT.
            Oh, and it’s available for adoptive parents as well.
            Or maybe I’m just making this all up in my head because the fairy tale sounds so wonderfully too-good-to-be-true.

          • Melly
            October 20, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

            This is sort of how it works here in Canada. There are 15 weeks maternity leave (only for mom, taken first) and then 35 weeks parental leave, to be used by either parent.
            We get the equivalent of unemployment benefits while on leave, assuming you are eligible for those benefits (same eligibility as regular unemployment benefits)

          • The Computer Ate My Nym
            October 20, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

            Sounds like a sensible way to do things to me.

          • AlisonCummins
            October 20, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

            Yep, more-or-less how it works here in Quebec.

          • Jenny
            October 20, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

            Yes it’s good but I have also heard that it looks bad if the dad takes more than a couple weeks off. Basically, it can give the dad a bad reputation with his employer and colleagues. So it’s still the mom that usually takes a lot more time off than the dad.

          • FormerPhysicist
            October 20, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

            I think I heard that in one country (Norway, Denmark?) there are 3 months exclusively available to each partner, and then 6 months split how you like. So, most Dads take 3 months because it’s use it or lose it.

          • Bugsy
            October 20, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

            And as far as I know, that’s how it works up here in British Columbia as well.

          • KarenJJ
            October 20, 2014 at 6:12 pm #

            That’s possible in Australia, except it is mostly unpaid leave and for partially this reason (makes more sense for the lower wage parent to stay home) and partially for cultural reasons (employer won’t take my career seriously if I’m a man who takes time out to care for kids, not many Dads take this option so it can be very isolating for men) – there is not much take up…

          • attitude devant
            October 21, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

            Umm, I just got back from Sweden, and now the law is that the men have a “use it lose it” paid paternity leave for part of the second year of the child’s life. So you see lots of Swede daddies about with toddlers. Also, an interesting side effect of the policy is that young graduates who fill in for the absent parent are given a chance to build their resumes and make contacts in their field.

          • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
            October 21, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

            Make no mistake – national family leave policies are an important part of national employment strategy, just as are national retirement policies. Note that every person who is filling in doing the work you is not unemployed during that period.

      • AlisonCummins
        October 20, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

        “Valuing reproductive labour” is fine. No need to stick the ‘women’s” on it.

        If reproductive labour has been undervalued and extorted, it’s feminist to value it and pay for it. It’s also feminist to recognize the value of reproductive labour no matter who does it, whether it’s an exploited undocumented immigrant, a carefully recruited PhD in education, a daycare worker, a parent, a sibling or other relative.

        It’s not feminist to assert that only a mother’s reproductive labour is valuable or that reproductive labour is the most valuable thing a woman can contribute.

    • DiomedesV
      October 20, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

      My rule of thumb: if something is important, it’s worth paying someone to do it. If it’s not important enough to be paid employment for someone, then I become suspicious.

  17. Trixie
    October 20, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    Most of us reading this have probably never even had a smallpox vaccine; that’s how well we’ve outwitted nature!

    • MLE
      October 20, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

      Uh, no, that’s due to sanitation and proper nutrition duhhhhhhhh

      • Trixie
        October 20, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

        You’re right, smallpox was caused by eating GMOs. THANKS MONSANTO.

      • Ceridwen
        October 20, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

        Which would themselves be just another way of outwitting nature.

        • MLE
          October 20, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

          Not true, just look at the all natural hand sanitizer dispensing tree. It leaks out of it like sap.

      • Bugsy
        October 20, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

        Hey, you beat me to it! 🙂 Great reply.

    • D/
      October 20, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

      I rode the end of the smallpox vaccination train myself, and remember as a youngster having my mother explain the importance of that scar on my arm. She was always an opinionated and *vocal* vaccination advocate, and firmly believed Nature deserved to be fought tooth and nail. Any family member or friend who was not intending to get a flu shot could expect her PSA of, “WTH’s wrong with you? You better be sure to not drag your sick ass anywhere around me, or you’ll end up killing me for sure!”

      Some years ago though I discovered that Mother had “laminated” the scab from my vaccination site in Scotch tape and immortalized it in my baby book. Still rather shocked that she obviously wasn’t a stickler for the idea that saving potentially infectious cowpox material was probably a bad idea.

      • Trixie
        October 20, 2014 at 9:17 pm #

        I must admit I have a friend who grew up in Russia, where they got smallpox vaccinations more recently than we did, and I eye her scars jealously. She’s more prepared for the zombie apocalypse than I am.

        • Dr Kitty
          October 21, 2014 at 7:58 am #

          But does she have all your cans and pickles and preserves Trixie?

          I have a carbs cupboard where I put all my pasta and rice and stuff. That will be handy for the zombie apocalypse, but probably not as much as larder full of tinned goods.

          • Trixie
            October 21, 2014 at 8:00 am #

            Uh, yeah. She taught me all her Russian grandma’s pickling secrets!

  18. Zornorph
    October 20, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    I outwitted Nature. As far as I am concerned, Mother Nature can go fuck herself.

    • Liz Leyden
      October 20, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

      I outwitted nature by having a c-section, wearing glasses and surviving (among other things) pneumonia and scarlet fever. My husband outwitted nature by wearing glasses and having his infected appendix removed. My daughter outwitted nature by having open heart surgery.

      • Zornorph
        October 20, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

        I would be blind if nature had her way. I was born with infant glaucoma.

        • Siri
          October 20, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

          A: Jesus was conceived via paradentosis. B: Don’t you mean parthenogenesis? A: I didn’t know you were an expert in odontheology..

      • Roadstergal
        October 20, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

        I have been outwitting nature for decades now with contacts and glasses, but OMG – I had (frikkin’) lasers shone at my eyes this past spring, and it is the best middle finger to nature I have ever experienced. I can see 20/15 with no glasses or contacts.

        I ride an unnatural bicycle that lets me go far faster than humans can run in order to get to work, with unnatural protective gear and lights. Long live unnatural things!

        Heh, and I often use very natural means (already existing restriction enzymes, polymerases, viral vectors, etc) to do genetic modification.

    • Hannah
      October 22, 2014 at 9:22 am #

      Me too! I survived lupus-induced kidney failure thanks to a chemo called Cytoxan. Toxan! Toxin! Ooh look the evil things! Mother Nature is the enemy. ‘Chemicals’ are not.

  19. Mariana Baca
    October 20, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

    It also treats breastmilk as if i were some sort of regulated substance that came out equally out of all mothers the way formula is basically all nutritionally alike (or at least, one type of formula to another can of the same type). But even if there is a “platonic breastmilk” that was perfect, not all women produce that platonic breastmilk, based on genetics or on their diet (or even the latch of the baby, medications she is on, regularity of feeding, etc). Some breastmilk is hypoallergenic, some is full of allergens from a mother’s diet. Some is heavy on hindmilk, some is like skim. Some has medications that leech into it. Some has contamination from infections, like thrush.

    And we are missing one of the most crucial reasons women sought out breastmilk substitutes other than “profit”: the need to leave the baby, either for work or for rest. Denying breastmilk substitutes to women means closing occupations off from women of childbearing age, or from leaving baby in the care of others.

  20. Susan
    October 20, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    applause! This has to be one of my favorites ever.

  21. October 20, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    Breast milk is the perfect food, formed by natural selection to have everything the developing child—and its microbiota—needs

    Breast milk should be sterile. If not, then, the mother has some form of infection in her breast[s].

    Nipples, however, aren’t sterile, often aren’t even clean.

    • Trixie
      October 20, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

      I think what that was getting at was that breastmilk encourages the growth of the “right” microbiota. Not that it was itself full of bacteria.

    • Cobalt
      October 20, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

      I wonder about the clean nipples thing. I hear ridiculously long instructions for sterilizing bottles, and even very reasonable instructions for just cleaning bottles, and yet breastfeeders are told not to bother cleaning their nipples more often than when they normally wash (because everyone with a newborn gets a shower every day, right?). Those nipples sit in a bra, quite possibly with leaked milk, all day. Ewww.

      • Trixie
        October 20, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

        FWIW, even as a milk donor, and despite very meticulous instructions for cleaning pumps and storing milk, the surface of the nipple wasn’t a concern for them. I don’t think there’s evidence that anything more than normal hygiene is beneficial in terms of safety to the infant.

      • Sara Lucy
        October 20, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

        I do remember reading instructions to wash hands before nursing/pumping, but not nipples.

      • NoLongerCrunching
        October 21, 2014 at 6:21 am #

        The baby’s mouth is more of a swarming petri dish than mom’s nipples.

    • Ceridwen
      October 20, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

      It’s actually not sterile. Even if mom doesn’t have infected breasts. One of my fellow grad students is actually studying the milk microbiome (in both humans and cows).

  22. RKD314
    October 20, 2014 at 11:29 am #


    If that’s not outwitting nature, I don’t know what is.

    I remember reading Michael Pollan’s book, “The Botany of Desire,” way before he got popular. I thought it was a very interesting and well-written book. So I bought his next one when it came out. Less good. A little more “crunchy.” Huh. Maybe it’s a fluke. Next book when it comes out. WAY less good, way more crunchy, way more unsubstantiated claims about how I should eat. At that point I was finished with Mr. Pollan. I’m glad to see I made the right choice.

    • Trixie
      October 20, 2014 at 11:36 am #

      Yeah, I thought Omnivore’s Dilemma was pretty good, in spots, in that he wrote in an entertaining history of the cultivation of a few staple crops. How he reconciles human modification of crops with his opposition to GMOs, I don’t understand.

    • MLE
      October 20, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

      We fly in planes and dive in submarines. It’s an abomination, I tells ya.

      • Liz Leyden
        October 20, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

        If nature meant for humans to swim, why don’t we have gills?

    • The Computer Ate My Nym
      October 20, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

      Pollan writes on the internet. And publishes books. This is “natural” how exactly?

      • Trixie
        October 20, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

        He should only publish on parchment sourced from local goats slaughtered in the open air, with ink mix from heirloom hawthorn branches, and handwritten by scribes.

        • Amy M
          October 20, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

          GMO-free. Everything has to be GMO-free. And free-range scribes.

          • Trixie
            October 20, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

            Good point. No domesticated goat skins. Only wild mountain goats.

          • Cobalt
            October 20, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

            I wanna be a free-range scribe! I even have my unvaccinated sharpie right here!

        • The Computer Ate My Nym
          October 20, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

          Going around the country singing it in old bardic style would be more traditional yet…and not count on people having the “unnatural” ability to read.

          • Trixie
            October 20, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

            Very true!

        • Siri
          October 20, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

          You mean publish on parchment peeled from proximate pumas? Pummeled in public? Printed in prune pigment by Persian penmanship-people. Sheesh, Trixie, get it perfect whydontcha?

        • NoLongerCrunching
          October 21, 2014 at 6:31 am #

          He is a man, so he is allowed to use technology. It’s only the wimmins that need to get back in the kitchen.

    • attitude devant
      October 20, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

      He praises Weston Price in one of his latest. That was enough to make me doubt EVERYTHING he says.

      • RKD314
        October 20, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

        OMG HAVE YOU SEEN THE HOMEMADE “FORMULA” RECIPES? Sorry for my shouting, but that shit is child abuse.

      • Trixie
        October 20, 2014 at 9:21 pm #

        No. Really? WTF? Okay, he’s really gone off the deep end.
        I challenge Michael Pollan to forego modern dentistry in favor of 19th century dentistry.

      • Therese
        October 21, 2014 at 12:12 am #

        What does he praise Weston Price for? And is it possible that Weston Price wasn’t as crazy as the Weston Price Foundation? I don’t think he had any say in the foundation that is named after him.

        • NoLongerCrunching
          October 21, 2014 at 6:27 am #

          he was totally not as wacky as the foundation named after him. I’d provide a wikipedia link, but my copypaste is broken. He was not the best scientist (a little sloppy and a little biased, but wasn’t a terrible one either. He had good ideas and attempted to use the scientific method to test them and then share them with other scientists.

        • attitude devant
          October 21, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

          He basically swallows whole Price’s ideas about native peoples not having any (none!) tooth decay because of diet

          • Therese
            October 21, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

            See, and I don’t think that is exactly what Weston Price even claimed. My understanding is he found varying levels of decay among different native people, some groups have extremely low levels and other groups having much higher levels.

  23. Montserrat Blanco
    October 20, 2014 at 11:12 am #

    Nature cares about vultures too. If you die, you are food for them. Somebody dying is important for others. The problem is, I really do not want to be another animal’s dinner…

    • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
      October 20, 2014 at 11:17 am #

      Yep, this is what I usually say. It’s not that Mother Nature is not caring, it’s that she cares for EVERYONE, including the vultures and the bacteria. The problem is, she doesn’t treat humans special.

      On this matter, she and I do not see eye-to-eye.

  24. namaste863
    October 20, 2014 at 10:57 am #

    Rather than some benevolent mother-goddess, I would argue that nature is much more like your wacky aunt from Cleveland. She comes with nice presents, but also eye-watering garlic breath and her fussy little Pomeranian. She stays for a week longer than you’d like, and she completely redecorates your living room whether you want her to or not. You know of whom I speak.

    • Smoochagator
      October 20, 2014 at 11:04 am #

      Her Pomeranian also frequently defecates in hidden spaces around the house, and you find dried-up little Tootsie Roll turds for months after your aunt has returned home.

  25. AlisonCummins
    October 20, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    The statement that breast milk is the perfect food is *not* contradicted by the statement that some mothers die. In the case that the mother is dead, the perfect food is not available from her. Either the baby gets fed a different food (which might also be perfect, the quote is agnostic on that) or it gets fed perfect food from someone else.

    Neither is it contradicted by the statements that not all women produce enough, or that not all babies suck well.

    It *is* contradicted by the statement that it doesn’t contain enough Vitamin K to prevent hemorrhagic disease of the newborn. (I think it’s also too low in Vitamin D for babies who don’t spend a lot of time in the sun, and too low in iron for babies at low risk for diarrhea? IIRC, being on the anemic side makes ferritin high enough that iron is unavailable to gut bacteria that need it. If you are unlikely to die of diarrhea there’s no benefit to being slightly anemic.)

    The quote was not “breastfeeding is always perfect” (which *would* be contradicted by all the statements above) but that breastmilk is the perfect food.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym
      October 20, 2014 at 10:19 am #

      High ferritin decreases iron absorption from the GI tract. High ferritin is only associated with some forms of anemia. In iron deficiency anemia, ferritin is very low.

      • AlisonCummins
        October 20, 2014 at 10:29 am #

        Ok, I don’t recall correctly then!

        I thought that when refeeding very malnourished children not much iron was included until protein stores were high enough to make enough ferritin to sequester iron to a degree competitive with gut bacteria. That if significant iron was included at the beginning of refeeding the child was at risk of severe diarrhea.

        Am I completely wrong or is the mechanism not ferritin? (This is from a looong time ago so my science is neither current nor perfectly recalled.)

        • The Computer Ate My Nym
          October 20, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

          I know shamefully little about how to refeed someone who is starving, but I think starvation is an inflammatory state so you’d probably see increased ferritin. And iron that goes into the gut and isn’t absorbed is there for the bacteria to ingest, so I’d guess that you get excess bacterial growth if you give too much iron in the setting of starvation and early refeeding, but I don’t know whether I’m right or not.

    • Young CC Prof
      October 20, 2014 at 11:03 am #

      In newborns, breastmilk also doesn’t clear jaundice as well as formula, even when feeding quantities are equal.

      Not perfect, just usually good enough.

    • DiomedesV
      October 20, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

      No. The statement:

      “Breast milk is the perfect food, formed by natural selection to have everything the developing child—and its microbiota—needs.”

      implies that natural selection has shaped breastmilk to be at an optimum. Nothing in nature is at a perfect optimum. Everything involves tradeoffs or limitations. Saying that *anything* produced by natural selection is perfect is terribly wrong.

      • AlisonCummins
        October 20, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

        Agreed. However, the statement “some mothers die” does not contradict it.

        Alison: Cats have four legs. Fido has four legs, therefore Fido is a cat.
        Amy Tuteur, MD: Of course Fido is not a cat! What terrible logic! I can demolish it right now by pointing out that some cats have amputated legs and some kittens are born missing legs! You are just ridiculous!

        In fact, Amy Tuteur, MD would be correct: Fido is a skunk and my logic is ridiculous — but her response is completely beside the point.

        Or this:

        Alison: Diamonds sparkle.
        Amy Tuteur, MD: Don’t be ridiculous! Diamond mines are dangerous places!

      • Guest
        October 25, 2014 at 7:09 pm #

        And if you prove to them that it is not optimum they immediately start blaming the mothers for their laziness and their bad diet!

    • Ceridwen
      October 20, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

      If breastmilk is going to be described as the perfect food then the perfection (or lack thereof) of the delivery system of that food is also at play. Otherwise the only way it remains the perfect food is if we go back to one upping nature and get things like pumps involved.

      • AlisonCummins
        October 20, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

        Wet nurses!

        • Ceridwen
          October 20, 2014 at 3:44 pm #

          Ah but wet nursed babies have dramatically lower survival than those nursed by their mothers. Formula > wet nursing. Science beats nature again.

          • Ceridwen
            October 20, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

            Actually, I retract this comment. The babies sometimes do worse, though it’s hard to be sure by how much. It does, however, open up a bunch of risk that formula does not, including infection with various diseases the wet nurse could be carrying. Not to mention cost and availability relative to formula.

            Regardless, I don’t think the fact that this problem is sometimes able to be solved “naturally” through wet nursing means that Dr. Amy’s statements relative to the delivery of the milk were irrelevant to Pollan’s statement about breastmilk being the perfect food.

          • Guesteleh
            October 20, 2014 at 4:14 pm #

            You should read this history of infant feeding. It’s fascinating:

  26. PenFox
    October 20, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    Michael Pollan’s sexism runs quite deep– I’m not surprised at all that he’s made these claims. He takes the view that feminism is to blame for modern eating habits, since women don’t revel in the deep satisfaction of making a home-cooked meal. His take on breastfeeding is similar to his implication that women have a moral obligation to cook. How dare women think that there is more to life than feeding babies with their breasts and cooking wholesome food for the family?

    Some reading:

    • Houston Mom
      October 20, 2014 at 10:32 am #

      Wow he sounds even worse in your article. There was a study reported on last month that showed the burden of home cooking falls mostly on women and caused them so much extra stress that the researchers questioned the value of it.
      The researchers also reported on the expense per person of eating healthy food – over $500/person per year.

      • Cobalt
        October 20, 2014 at 10:58 am #

        It can be done cheaper than that, but it’s a difficult learned skill that takes time and requires a lot of sacrifice, of both time and variety of diet. And location matters a lot. You have to be close to the cheap grocery store that sells “last day” produce because you have to go at least twice a week or be able to do a lot of prepare and freeze. It’s really hard to be healthy and poor.

        • Alcharisi
          October 20, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

          Being a somewhat-observant Jew means that I fast a few times a year, and every fast day, I am struck once again at just how much time cooking and eating takes up. I think a lot of these food-activist types don’t understand that time is not an infinite resource. (NOR, if they think about time, do they factor in things like second jobs or transportation.)

      • The Computer Ate My Nym
        October 21, 2014 at 9:46 am #

        The researchers also reported on the expense per person of eating healthy food – over $500/person per year.

        That’s a lot for someone making minimum wage but not so much for, say, a government that supports the Pentagon. Let’s see…there are 45 million or so people in poverty in the US. If we simply flat out gave each of them $500/year to supplement their diet with healthier food (or give it in food stamps if you want to make sure they don’t “waste” it on some frivolity like rent or medical bills) that would be about $2 billion/year. Not much at all for the feds. I expect a 5% tax increase on the highest 10% of earners would cover it handily and if not, simply sell off an aircraft carrier or two and that’ll cover the next century. Plus the money would be spent on food and therefore support the economy and bring in more taxes and decrease medical bills as health improves. Heck, let’s make it $1000 to make sure everyone’s covered properly. Still cheap.

    • Trixie
      October 20, 2014 at 11:52 am #

      Well, now I know what a turnspit dog is!

    • Roadstergal
      October 20, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

      Wow, that’s quite a read. And not in a good way.

      I do like that the author took on the idea that much of modern processing technology is anything other than an attempt to keep people from being harmed by tainted or deficient food. I saw a box truck on the way to work last week that was advertising raw milk. Aside from my surprise that it’s legal to advertise it, I was struck by how religious in tone the advertising was – pure, miraculous, etc. As if it were somehow _morally_ superior. (I suppose that’s the tactic they have to take, since it’s factually inferior.)

  27. Bugsy
    October 20, 2014 at 9:50 am #

    I can’t wait to see the comments from lactivitists…

    I have two thoughts:

    1) Regarding points 1 and 2 above… (“1. Every episode of sexual intercourse does not result in conception. 2. Every conception does not result in pregnancy.”) As someone who has and is struggling with fertility, you know what I would give to have ANY attempt at intercourse end in conception? Of course, my fertility struggle is probably because I’m not GMO-free.

    2) I completely agree that not all breastmilk is the same. My son is now 2 and is the size of a 12-mo-old. Why so? Given his slow growth, we have no doubt that my milk isn’t high in calories…and to the chagrin of our GP, my son spent the past year nursing on demand and thus usually refusing food in favour of his beloved milk. To add to this, the whole experience of breast-feeding led to terrifying heart palpitations for me that only ceased once I weaned my little boy.

    So no, not all breastmilk is created the same…nor are all nursing experiences. Of course, I really do have no doubt that my real problems can be attributed to my failure to go GMO-free. 🙂

    • The Computer Ate My Nym
      October 20, 2014 at 10:16 am #

      No one is GMO free. You don’t really think that wheat and corn are natural, do you? Not to mention that natural cows don’t look like that…We’ve been genetically modifying plants and animals to our liking for millenia. It’s no big deal if we’re now doing it directly instead of guessing based on phenotype.

      • Smoochagator
        October 20, 2014 at 11:08 am #

        I think Bugsy was being sarcastic about the GMO-free thing.

      • Bugsy
        October 20, 2014 at 11:29 am #

        Smooch is right; I was joking. It’s in jest and referring to comments from the toxicophobe in my life, who keeps stating that they’re GMO-free and that her 4-year-old is allergic to GMOs. No joke. I see nothing wrong with eating healthily, but a blanket “GMOs are evil and we’re allergic to them” is about as ridiculous as stating “we are allergic to the air we breathe.” Although to a toxicophobe….

        • Roadstergal
          October 20, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

          The very bacteria in said toxophobe’s gut are passing genetic information around like a cheap summer paperback.

          • Bugsy
            October 20, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

            Awesome metaphor.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym
          October 20, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

          I know, I just can’t help ranting about GMOphobia. I see reasons for testing the safety and efficacy of GMO food, but then again I see reason for testing the safety and efficacy of new crops acquired the “old fashioned” way: i.e. by radiating seeds and seeing what grows. But there’s simply nothing inherently different about GMO that I can see that makes it “bad” compared to other crop modification methods.

          • Trixie
            October 20, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

            GMO crops are the most thoroughly tested foods on the market.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym
            October 20, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

            Thus, IMHO, the most trustworthy. As long as they’ve been tested by an independent agency. I don’t actually believe that Monsanto is ebil, but I trust no industry or company to regulate itself.

          • me
            October 23, 2014 at 9:47 am #

            This is why I can get behind labeling (they are labeled in other countries). FWIU the majority of the testing is done by the companies themselves, and is relatively short term (6-9 mos). The FDA says it’s an EPA issue. The EPA says it’s an FDA issue. The companies that “do” gmos funnel millions (if not billions) into the government every year. Now there’s the Monsanto Protection Act, basically making them bullet proof, legally. Who is watching this stuff? Where is the independent research (esp long term, and on human subjects)?

            Maybe labeling would give motivation to get that independent research done. Or, as in the case of UK and many other European nations, there simply would be far fewer gmo products available, simply because people don’t want to eat them (logical or not) so the food manufacturers source non-gmo ingredients and avoid the gmo label. Of course, other countries pay quite a bit more for food than we do. Perhaps in part because they don’t use so many gmos.

            For the average person, it seems very simple: avoid sugar, corn, soy, cottonseed, and canola (stuff that isn’t particularly good for you in the first place) as well as the processed foods that are likely to contain those ingredients (again, not particularly good for you in the first place), and if you choose to consume alfalfa, papaya, zucchini, or yellow squash – buy it organic. Of course, as the list of GMO crops grows, it will get harder to avoid them. I would like to see more independent research on the safety. Not from the industry or from the government, but from truly independent third parties. Not sure who would do it though.

          • me
            October 21, 2014 at 9:59 am #

            I saw a bunch of people all up in arms on facebook recently over a brand of corn chips that had claimed to be “non-gmo” on the label, that turned out to contain about 75% gmo corn. Okay, fraudulent advertising is wrong, and I don’t disagree with the push to get foods labeled, so those who want to avoid gmos can have an easier time of it (misguided or not). However, many of these people were talking about buying these all the time, driving “all over town” to find them, eating a bag a week (or more). I ask ya – how concerned could one possibly be about his/her health while they are eating a bag of chips a week? Pulverized, degerminated corn, mixed with water and salt, deep fried in rancid oil…. but god forbid there be gmos in it.

            Uh…. derp.

          • Dr Kitty
            October 21, 2014 at 10:12 am #

            Never mind one’s health, if you are making special trips to a grocery store on the other side of town for a snack food, how much can you care for the planet?

            Also…increasing your risk of dying in a car accident just to eat supposedly non GMO corn…not smart.

            If you want to be GM free, I think you just have to accept that you can’t have nice things.
            No soy, no maize, no cotton, no beet sugar.

          • Roadstergal
            October 21, 2014 at 11:58 am #

            “I don’t disagree with the push to get foods labeled, so those who want
            to avoid gmos can have an easier time of it (misguided or not).”

            I do disagree. It panders to the idea that there is something special and different about ‘GMOs’, something worth avoiding.

            Companies can already label their products ‘GMO Free’ or ‘Non-GMO’ if they want to. And then I can avoid those products. :p

        • Amy M
          October 20, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

          Tell her you found a place that sells homeopathic eggs…

          • Cobalt
            October 20, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

            I thought (fertilized) eggs were homeopathic chickens.

    • Smoochagator
      October 20, 2014 at 11:09 am #

      Have you tried essential oils to cure your fertility issues? Drank raw milk? Eaten grass-fed liver and free-range eggs? Surely you don’t get the flu shot every year, do you?

      (typed with metaphorical tongue planted firmly in cheek.)

      • Bugsy
        October 20, 2014 at 11:25 am #

        I’m getting the flu shot tomorrow!

        I’ll be sure to bring these issues up with our reproductive endocrinologist later this month, that’s for sure. I have no doubt that he hasn’t considered these issues but will applaud the thoroughness of my research…despite his own 50 years in the field. 🙂

        And to think that I was steeling myself up for another round of IVF!

        • Smoochagator
          October 20, 2014 at 11:50 am #

          Well, when you know better, you do better!
          Seriously, though, good luck with your future fertility endeavors!

          • Bugsy
            October 20, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

            Thanks! It worked the first time around, so fingers crossed medicine lets us outwit fertility issues once again.

      • The Computer Ate My Nym
        October 20, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

        I missed the flu shot one year. I got the all-natural flu and a bit of all-natural pneumonia to go with it. I’ve gotten the unnatural shot since then. What the heck, I’m already autistic.

        • Smoochagator
          October 20, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

          I most certainly would like to avoid the all-natural flu every single year, if at all possible. It’s a great way to all-natural die, or at the very least feel so crummy that you kinda want to die.

          • namaste863
            October 20, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

            Yeah, me too. I get the shot every year religiously. And then I usually spend most of January and February between cases of strep throat. Mother Nature’s a real piece of work.

        • FormerPhysicist
          October 20, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

          I got mine today. Can I just whine “ouch”? Not the shot, the few hours after the shot soreness. Yes, much much better than the flu. But worthy of a bit of a whine.

        • Bugsy
          October 20, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

          Lol, I’ve had the same experience. Didn’t get the flu shot two years in a row in my teen years – developed flu followed by bronchitis both times. I’ve gotten it religiously ever since.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks
          October 20, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

          See, this is something I’ve never understood.
          Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that vaccines cause autism. (*rolls eyes, makes extremely rude remarks*)
          You know what? I’d sure as hell rather have my daughter autistic than dead of pertussis/measles/flu-related pneumonia/tetanus/etc.
          What is WRONG with people that they see autistic individuals as somehow worse off than someone who’s dead? Frankly, the whole thing smacks very nastily of eugenics.

          • Therese
            October 21, 2014 at 12:43 am #

            The argument I’ve heard is that autistic children have twice the risk of dying as non-autistic children, so either way you could end up with a dead child. It would be interesting to actually crunch the numbers; what is the risk of an autistic child dying vs. the chances of an unvaccinated child contracting and dying from a VPD?

          • Amy M
            October 21, 2014 at 7:49 am #

            I think they imagine all autistic children like RainMan or worse—severely disabled, never able to lead an independent life. But of course, there is a spectrum, and its only an extreme few that are on that end.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym
            October 21, 2014 at 9:36 am #

            And the vast majority of the “epidemic” is increased diagnosis of the mild end of the spectrum. Though part of it is also diagnostic migration from mental retardation to severe autism, so the number of severe cases has also increased (on the plus side, the number of people diagnosed with MR is getting smaller…yay, vaccines prevent MR!)

        • Guest
          October 25, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

          Vaccines Fluoride and Formula are the causes of every disease in the world.

        • Guest
          October 25, 2014 at 7:24 pm #

          Wait! maybe you got flu and pneumonia because you were not breastfed!?

    • Jami
      October 20, 2014 at 8:36 pm #

      Right on! My lab-conceived, formula-fed baby is now 3 months old and is off the charts. I call him über baby (I say it with German accent). He’s not only very tall and advanced for his age, but also über cute! I think it’s because my IVF lab must have added some fairy dust to his Petri dish. And his formula contains lots of nutritious GMO ingredients…
      I mean, all jokes aside, I’m glad you figured it all out. It is never as simple as “going natural”. There are million variations of natural. Isn’t that what the NCBers preach anyway?! It’s just that some variations are more compatible with life than others.

      • Bugsy
        October 20, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

        Awesome über-baby, and congrats on your successful cycle!

  28. The Computer Ate My Nym
    October 20, 2014 at 9:39 am #

    because food companies can’t make money when people are nursing their babies.

    Lindt, Spruengli would like to dispute this claim with Pollan. When I was breast feeding, I was HUNGRY. I ate probably twice as much as I normally do (including, for some reason, a specific craving for Lindt chocolate) and lost weight. That energy comes from somewhere and it has to be supplied as food, either directly to the baby or to the mother.

    • Young CC Prof
      October 20, 2014 at 11:10 am #

      When I was pumping, we kept a refrigerator in the bedroom. One shelf for breast milk, the other one for midnight snacks for me, since I just had to have something to eat at every pumping session.

      I thought about labeling the various milks: Breast milk, feed to Baby. Cow’s milk, feed to Mommy.

      • The Computer Ate My Nym
        October 20, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

        I made so much milk that I (briefly) regretted being born in the wrong era to have been a wet nurse. Also, when baby couldn’t drink it all, considered putting it in cooking. Especially when we ran low on milk. I didn’t do it, but I did wonder why I couldn’t…I mean, besides the squick factor.

    • Trixie
      October 20, 2014 at 11:55 am #

      For me, most of the extra food I ate was during pregnancy. I gained a lot of weight and lost it while B . So I’m sure I ate a few more calories while BF, but not that noticeable.

      • me
        October 21, 2014 at 10:01 am #

        Same here – pregnancy equaled HUNGER!!! (in block letters with shadows) and breastfeeding equaled THIRST!!! (same block letters with shadows)

        • fiftyfifty1
          October 21, 2014 at 10:58 am #

          For me, pregnancy equaled nausea and vomiting. Breastfeeding equaled HUNGER and THIRST and weight GAIN.

          Individual biology is so incredibly variable, especially it seems when it comes to reproduction. It’s hard to believe the level of variation.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym
          October 21, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

          For me pregnancy was 9 months of continuous nausea. The up side of having a nasty pregnancy, I suppose, is that a colicky baby feels quite easy in comparison.

    • Guest
      October 25, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

      Food companies are making money anyway. Natural advocates are scaring mothers of GMOs and formula while marketing for organic food at the same time and it is expensive.

      • Sara M.
        October 25, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

        Agreed, the “organic” food market is expensive and also unregulated, but people buy into it because they think its paleo or whatever

  29. Alcharisi
    October 20, 2014 at 9:24 am #

    For a religious studies nerd like me, there are a lot of ways in which Pollan is really fascinating. I’m convinced he’s basically a latter-day Kellogg or Graham, religious themes and all. Unfortunately, when he writes shit like this (which is often), I have a lot of trouble coming up with intelligent analysis because it is just so hard to get past my initial reaction of “WHAT. AN. ASSHOLE.”

    • Guesteleh
      October 20, 2014 at 9:32 am #

      I believe Pollan once suggested making food more expensive as a way to solve the “obesity crisis” which shows just how ignorant and elitist he is.

      • Alcharisi
        October 20, 2014 at 9:35 am #

        Well, the unwashed masses just need to be educated as to the value of bourgeois cooking practices, dontcha know. Unless they’re noble savages, in which case they should be placed on a pedestal.

      • The Computer Ate My Nym
        October 20, 2014 at 9:42 am #

        Um…what? Part of the reason that there is an obesity crisis is that food is expensive! Specifically, good, healthy food is expensive and hard for poor people to get (no supermarkets in poor neighborhoods, poor people work 2-3 jobs and have no time to cook, etc). Obesity would decrease if food were cheaper and more available and people had more time to cook rather than having the choice of McDonalds or no time to eat. The man’s an idiot as well as a jerk.

        • Cobalt
          October 20, 2014 at 9:47 am #

          And the government puts way more money into subsidies for beef and sugar than lettuce and tomatoes.

      • Liz Leyden
        October 20, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

        And gardens! Everyone must have a garden! Even if they live in an apartment, or the desert, or the Arctic, or another area with very short growing seasons! And even if they can’t grow plants to save their lives! See also: urban chickens.

    • Alcharisi
      October 20, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

      Here is what I had to say about him when I was able to get a bit beyond “WHAT. AN. ASSHOLE.”:

  30. Smoochagator
    October 20, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    The last paragraph of this piece is one of the best things I’ve read in a long time.

  31. October 20, 2014 at 8:50 am #

    Human breast milk also doesn’t provide adequate vitamin D, or adequate iron past ~ 4-6 months of life. It’s also very inadequate for premature babies (insufficient protein, calcium, phosphorus, and especially iron.) It’s still great stuff– but it’s silly and intellectually babyish to think of it as “perfect.”

    Also: whether a mom-baby dyad is nursing or formula feeding, as a pair the two beings require the same calories. Someone is “making money”, it’s true, either selling formula to baby or extra calories to mom. Just because someone sells something doesn’t make it bad.

    • guesty
      October 20, 2014 at 9:08 am #

      I’ll add. ‘big boob’ (Lactation consultants, Doula’s, Midwives, breastfeeding products, internet bloggers, birth centers, etc, etc.) is making money riding the natural parenting wave. They also have a lot more people involved who benefit directly (monetarily) vs formula companies.

    • anh
      October 20, 2014 at 11:37 am #

      Roy, I really like your blog

  32. Amy M
    October 20, 2014 at 8:04 am #

    We humans love our fantasies. The “American Golden Era” when everyone was happy, Mom baking in the kitchen, Dad working in the city and 4 kids playing in the yard surrounded by a white picket fence. No one was an alcoholic who beat his wife and kids and no one was addicted to little red pills. Everyone loved God and country and apple pie.

    And the one Dr. Amy discusses here: Natural is Perfect. The Way It Was Meant To Be. The Best. Before humans stomped all over nature with their technology, they lived in an idyllic world free from disease, war and famine. All children were raised with love and never cried.

    What these two fantasies have in common is that of course, both are total lies. They never happened. There was no Golden Era except in the minds of people who fear change and technology, or want to put women back in “their place.” And tribal people certainly made war on each other, and suffered from famines and all children cry.

    Why do these people have such difficulty facing reality, accepting it for what it is, and then adapting to it, like the human species has done since the dawn of time?

    • Cobalt
      October 20, 2014 at 10:03 am #

      Can you imagine what those perfect historical people would think of all this? I bet they’d be willing to trade places, and quick.

      • Roadstergal
        October 20, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

        Ask the North American natives how well their outdoor, all-natural living and eating helped when it came to smallpox.

  33. Cobalt
    October 20, 2014 at 7:41 am #

    But food companies do make money when women nurse their babies. There’s all kinds of ridiculously overpriced supplements, cookies, teas, shakes, etc. marketed to the lactating mother to increase quality and/or quantity of her milk. And it’s all cheaper to make and much less regulated than formula, so the profit margin is excellent while being of dubious value.

    • FormerPhysicist
      October 20, 2014 at 7:42 am #

      Or, really easy, nursing mothers eat more, so food companies make more money on them even without supplements and the like.

      • Cobalt
        October 20, 2014 at 7:48 am #

        And it’s not like their business model is threatened by people producing more people. Everyone eats, it’s not like they’re going out of business anytime soon.

        • Therese
          October 21, 2014 at 12:49 am #

          You’d think they wouldn’t even bother marketing their formula, if they care so little whether people buy it or not.

          • araikwao
            October 21, 2014 at 6:00 am #

            I get that you’re being intentionally obtuse, but really? Clearly there is enough of a market (all those “uneducated” mums, right?) for individual companies to try to have their point of difference and secure a larger share of said market.

          • Therese
            October 21, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

            Well, yes, that’s why I think it’s silly to argue that corporations don’t care if you buy their formula because if you’re breastfeeding that just means you’ll buy extra food from them anyway. There is no guarantee that any of that extra food will be purchased from any particular corporation.

    • PrimaryCareDoc
      October 20, 2014 at 9:48 am #

      I was in Target last week. There was a slightly frantic looking mother there with a newborn in a car seat, in the shopping wagon. The baby was surrounded by boxes of that “Mother’s Milk” tea, and poor mom was tossing more and more boxes into the cart. Seriously- there were probably 30 boxes in the cart. I wanted to give her a hug and tell her to relax, but unlike lactivists, I know when to keep my mouth shut.

      PS- I drank that tea when trying to BF my second. It tastes like ass. And they suggest drinking a cup every hour.

      • Cobalt
        October 20, 2014 at 9:50 am #

        I made one cup. I was breastfeeding, I drink tea anyway, thought “well, why not try it?”. ASS. Dirty, nasty, unwashed after natural water birth ASS.

      • Trixie
        October 20, 2014 at 11:59 am #

        It’s also not really evidence based. And fenugreek in huge amounts can cause digestive issues. And for preemies, you should never ever take fenugreek.

      • Smoochagator
        October 20, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

        Awwwwww… poor mom.

      • Liz Leyden
        October 20, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

        Hydration can affect milk supply. Excluding alcohol (which can make baby drunk) or caffeine (a diuretic), the result would be the same no matter what she drank.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks
        October 20, 2014 at 10:39 pm #

        Ugh. That poor woman. BTDT.
        I didn’t especially mind the taste, but it really annoyed me that it plus the fenugreek capsules made my sweat smell so maple-syrupy WEIRD. Since I was pouring sweat all night as my body decided to get the water weight off, this was particularly…pleasant.
        And you do NOT want to know what sixteen fenugreek capsules per day will do to your digestion. Trust me. You don’t. *twitches*

      • Therese
        October 21, 2014 at 12:48 am #

        That tea is delicious. Do you dislike black licorice? There definitely seems to be a hint of black licorice taste to it coming from the anise or fennel or something, so I suspect whether someone loves it or hates it could be predicted by how they feel about black licorice.

  34. Anaesthetist
    October 20, 2014 at 7:16 am #

    100% agree with this

    its a privilege of the modern western world that we can romanticize and laud nature like this, and look at the world in such an ahistoric way

    There have always been mothers who could not feed, who lost their milk, who could not establish supply. There have always been babies who lost their mothers and needed feeding. Perhaps society dealt with them differently eg a lactating relative might be able to assist, or a wet nurse was acceptable (and many of these wet-nurses were mothers who had just lost their own babies) but substitutes have always been used and some babies survived – but many died due to bacterial contamination, or inadequate nutrition

    Heres a lovely chapter from that doyenne of household tasks, Mrs Beeton, detailing some interesting ideas of physiology, suggesting very strongly breast is best but then giving details on how to ‘ rear by hand’ if it was not possible – noting that ‘arrowroot, bread, flour, baked flour, prepared groats, farinaceous food,biscuit-powder, biscuits, tops-and-bottoms, and semolina, or manna, croup, tapioca’ were used as infant foodstuffs if milk was not available – eg there was always a need for substitutes

    • Michelle
      October 20, 2014 at 7:44 am #

      I’ve got a ladies handbook from 1932 that gives recipes for “humanised” milk, probably very similar in approach as it does recognise there are times when breast feeding is insufficient or not possible. What we have here is the Naturalistic fallacy (or maybe just appeal to nature) and in doing so it’s created a fantasy that doesn’t even approach reality, not then and not now when mothers may face other challenges that mean breast feeding isn’t an appropriate choice for them.

      • Young CC Prof
        October 20, 2014 at 11:10 am #

        By 1932, I they had worked out the actual formula for infant formula, that is, the right macronutrient balance and how much sugar to mix with goat or cow’s milk. It wasn’t as good as what we have today, but unlike earlier substitutes, infants fed that stuff were about as likely to survive as successfully breastfed infants.

        • Smoochagator
          October 20, 2014 at 11:12 am #

          My mother-in-law said that back in the day (not sure if she means when SHE was a kid (mid-1950s) or when she was raising my husband (late 1970s)) formula was basically canned milk + Karo syrup. Which made me vomit in my mouth a little. But apparently it worked!

          • guest
            October 20, 2014 at 11:29 am #

            I’m a mid-fifties babe and that’s what I got! Evaporated or condensed milk and corn syrup! I don’t seem to be suffering any major ill effects from it..

          • October 20, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

            I remember reading my parents’ 1940s copy of “Dr. Spock” and noting the composition of the formula — I asked my father why the canned milk, and he replied that it was because that was guaranteed to be sterile. Not all milk was pasteurized back then.

            And of course it had to be diluted with boiled water and one made 6 or 8 bottles up at a time. Sometimes I’m surprised to still see the sort of sterilizers sold which are for sterilizing an entire day’s feeds. Back then, it was an essential. But now? Clean bottle, boiled water kept in a pitcher in the fridge, formula powder — made up just before feeding!

            I’m also a “survivor” of bottle feeding with the canned milk, sugar, and water formula

          • Trixie
            October 20, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

            The CDC recommends that formula be sterilized if mixed from powder to eliminate the risk of cronobacter. Especially for young infants.

          • Karen in SC
            October 20, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

            In an episode of Perry Mason, he came upon a scribbled note, in some kind of code. He puzzled over it a moment, then Della said, “It’s not a code, it’s a recipe for formula.” Leading to the important fact that the mystery of the week involved a baby! I wish I could remember the abbreviations, but I was surprised as I had never heard of a formula recipe before that.

          • AlisonCummins
            October 20, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

            Yep. Evaporated milk (not condensed, not fresh — more digestible this way) + sugar + water. It’s actually pretty good. Modern formula is better, but that old formula was good enough.

            If you look through older baby care books there’s a lot of detail on preparing formula. You need to get fresh milk from the farm because before government food regulations you couldn’t trust the quality of milk. The cow should be a jersey cow, and various other selection criteria. Then you add carbohydrate by making a flour paste, baking it slowly then grating and grinding the baked paste. The old recipes often had you add things like salt, which could be deadly.

            Evaporated milk and Karo syrup was a huge improvement and saved lives.

          • October 20, 2014 at 8:57 pm #

            I still keep a can or two of evaporated milk on hand for when we unexpectedly run out. My son is very nearly 4 and loves “magic milk” (some canned milk and tap water) and even begs for it. Of course, he started getting powdered poison in addition to perfect boobiemilk and was ruined forever at 8 months old, so what does he know?

          • Smoochagator
            October 20, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

            My kids’ pediatrician said that normal tap water (in an area like ours, with good municipal water supplies) was just fine, but if I wanted to use bottled water, she stressed that I ought to purchase the “nursery water” specifically made for mixing formula – because it has fluoride in it. Of course, my crunchier friends (and even my own mother) think that fluoride is a toxin introduced by Hitler to poison the world’s population… or something…

          • Liz Leyden
            October 20, 2014 at 3:04 pm #

            Is your municipal water supply fluoridated?

          • Smoochagator
            October 21, 2014 at 12:05 pm #


          • Amy M
            October 20, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

            Yeah, ours said the same…our water is fluoridated, so no need for nursery water. Despite that, my children still have bad teeth, but I guess they’d be worse if the water wasn’t fluoride filled.

          • Smoochagator
            October 21, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

            One of my friends has well water, so she uses bottled water at home. Whenever she’s at her mom’s house (her mom has municipal water), she pushes some ice water on her kids, calling it “fluoride on the rocks.”

          • Joy
            October 20, 2014 at 6:14 pm #

            The UK still says you need to make formula with fresh boiled water no more than 30 minutes old. To eliminate possible bacteria in the powder, not the water.

          • me
            October 23, 2014 at 9:53 am #

            My mother and all her siblings (1950’s and 1960’s) were all fed evap milk and Karo syrup. And she fed that same combo to me and my siblings (late 70’s and early 80s). I think there were also vitamin drops added to it. she did it not because commercial formula was unavailable (obviously it was) or even due to expense; rather she sis it primarily because it was what she knew (oldest of eight kids) and she was concerned about what additives or preservatives might be in the commercial formula.

            We all survived. And in reasonably good health. So, yeah, it worked.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.