When lactivists lie

Fingers Crossed

She’s hardly the first prominent person to lie in order to maintain her place in the natural parenting pantheon.

Actress Kate Winslet lied about the birth of her first baby Mia because she was ashamed of her C-section.

Attachment parenting guru Katie Granju (MamaPundit) lied by omission about her late son’s drug use, painting a picture of an idyllic family life that was anything but.

Now comes word that Jessica Martin-Weber of The Leaky Boob has lied about breastfeeding, and she is ashamed (The Romanticized Myth of What Constitutes Successful Breastfeeding- An Apology.)

… My shame is that I upheld an artificial picture of what it looked like to successfully breastfeed and called it supporting the WHO Code.

My shame is that my actions supported the WHO Code more than they supported women, babies, and families….

Screw shame. I’m done. And I’m sorry. I’m deeply sorry that it has taken 3 years for me to find my courage to take the stand I live but never shared here. I’m sorry that I’ve not been honest…

For every single one of my 6 beautiful children, bottles and breast have been a part of me reaching my goals. And not just because I had to go back to work. I choose to go back to work, I love working and am a better parent when I work, but even when I didn’t work outside the home, I elected to partially bottle feed my milk to my baby. This was a positive thing for me as I get physically stimulated very easily and as an introvert found the need to create some space for myself. I did better mentally and emotionally, which meant I was in a healthier place mentally and emotionally to parent my children. It was the best healthy choice for us. I have never, not once, regretted it. Today, with a breastfeeding 2.5 year old, I also don’t believe it ever interfered with our breastfeeding nor did bottles have a negative impact on me reaching my breastfeeding goals.

In fact, I firmly believe that without bottles, I would have quit breastfeeding early on.

That’s particularly ironic in light of what Martin-Weber wrote early this year in a guest post on The Fearless Formula Feeder’s Blog:

… Sometimes tough love really isn’t tough love, it’s a power trip down false-sense-of-superiority lane.

Even those purporting to support families. Birth, breastfeeding, and, ironically, gentle parenting advocates, far too often resort to shaming other parents. Because that makes sense, something negative is going to have a lasting, positive impact. Undermining parents’ confidence surely is going to result in change for the better, right?


It may get your website page views, it may increase your “talking about” numbers on Facebook, it may even get people pinning your content on Pinterest. But helping people? … Shaming is intentionally trying to make someone not only feel guilt but to internalize it as believing that somehow they are bad/lazy/stupid/unloving/pathetic/unloveable/worthless as a result. Ultimately, shaming comes from a desire to see someone feel bad about themselves…

The Leaky Boob isn’t about that kind of passion. The information, images, stories, and interactions we share are meant to inspire and encourage people. While we can’t control nor are we responsible for the emotions of others, we don’t intentionally try to manipulate others’ feelings.

Yet at the same moment that Martin-Weber was declaring that she doesn’t intentionally try to manipulate others’ feelings, she was busily manipulating others’ feelings.

To her credit, Martin-Weber is eloquent in her understanding of what she has done:

Through The Leaky Boob I have contributed to a beautiful yet often unattainable depiction of what it looks like to breastfeed. In my attempt to normalize breastfeeding and provide support up what breastfeeding looks like, I have held up at the breast breastfeeding as being more beautiful, more important, more viable, more worthy of sharing and discussing and promoting than any other infant feeding methodology…

… [F]or the last 4 years as The Leaky Boob I have not been entirely honest with you. As a public voice in breastfeeding support, I have contributed to a mythical image of breastfeeding. I wish I could say it wasn’t intentional but it was and of the 4 years I’ve been doing The Leaky Boob, I have wrestled with this for three years. Motivated by fear, I allowed myself to present a picture of my breastfeeding journey and an idealized image of “successful” breastfeeding that simply wasn’t true. Well, not true for me anyway and likely not true for many of you. And I know holding that ideal up was damaging for some and a sort of betrayal for others. It wasn’t that I overtly lied, it was more of an omission of truth. I was wrong to do so and I am sorry.

She is deeply insightful about her motivation:

Leakies I am sorry I never shared images of my babies and other babies receiving bottles. I was wrong to only ever present a side of my infant feeding journey that was safe for me as a public breastfeeding supporter. Anxious that I would be inviting drama and attacks from other breastfeeding supporters, educators, blogs, organizations, and my own readers, I didn’t want to risk being accused of being a WHO Code violator by posting pictures of my babies with their bottles. Specially since I do make some income from The Leaky Boob, I was concerned that if I ever even showed bottle feeding some would think it was sending the wrong message.

But message or not, this is the truth: my babies, all 6 of them, got bottles. One got mostly formula in her bottles. Back when I was attending women as they had their babies, often I was helping a new mother and baby pair with their first few feedings while my baby was at home getting a bottle of my milk…

She ends with a heartfelt apology:

By intentionally keeping that part of my breastfeeding journey quiet, by not sharing images of my baby receiving a bottle, by just sharing images of my babies feeding only at my breasts, and by neglecting the real life bottled-up aspects of the breastfeeding journeys of others, I perpetuated a romanticized myth of what constitutes successful breastfeeding.

I am sorry. Please forgive me.

With all my love, sincerely,


What can we learn from this episode?

First, many natural parenting advocates are not honest about what they really do. They hold up an ideal of birth, or breastfeeding, or attachment parenting that is unachievable even by them.

Second, a great deal of natural parenting is not about what is good for babies. The natural parenting advocates who lie about what they’ve been doing are good parents; the fact that they’ve done what is best for their children demonstrates that they care above all for the wellbeing of their children, and that their commitment to ideology comes in second.

Third, natural childbirth, lactivism and attachment parenting is about women boosting their own self esteem by projecting an image of themselves as “better” mothers than other women. It’s about competition among sanctimommies, and the many women who are hurt by it are collateral damage.

Fourth, and perhaps most important, natural parenting advocacy has created a world where women feel compelled to lie in order to preserve their status among their peers. Instead of sharing true images of birth. breastfeeding and parenting, they present a carefully curated image designed to impress.

The take home message, in my view, is this:

Every mother needs to do what she thinks is best for her child and herself, without regard to what other women insist is correct. That’s what Jessica Martin-Weber did even if she didn’t have the courage to admit it.

The next step is creating a world in which is doesn’t take courage to admit that you put your children ahead of your ideology.