Lactivist desperation to prove superiority reminds me of eugenics

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If there’s one thing that proponents are absolutely sure of it is that they are superior. That belief is enhanced by the accompanying conviction that science will demonstrate their superiority.

No, I’m not talking about eugenicists, though I could be. I’m talking about the contemporary lactivist movement. Every time I write about blog post about the incontrovertible fact that infant formula is an excellent, nutritionally complete way to feed a baby, lactivists swoop in like a murder of crows, all cawing loudly, “The Science! The Science!”

Lactivists bear an uncomfortable resemblance to eugenicists, not because they are racists, but because of the way they categorize the world into us vs. them. Moreover, like eugenicists, they abuse science in the service of their unscientific beliefs.

Consider:

1. Both start with a conclusion and then search for proof.

Eugenecists claim that it is self-evident that the white “race” is superior. Their “science” is an attempt to prove that superiority and to quantify it. There is absolutely no possibility that their research efforts will ever conclude that all men (and women) are created equal.

As Prof. Elof Carlson explains:

The eugenics movement arose in the 20th century as two wings of a common philosophy of human worth. Francis Galton, who coined the term eugenics in 1883, perceived it as a moral philosophy to improve humanity by encouraging the ablest and healthiest people to have more children. The Galtonian ideal of eugenics is usually termed positive eugenics. Negative eugenics, on the other hand, advocated culling the least able from the breeding population to preserve humanity’s fitness. The eugenics movements in the United States, Germany, and Scandinavia favored the negative approach.

Grantly Dick-Read, the father of the natural childbirth movement, was deeply influenced by the positive eugenics movement, and made his claims in an effort to convince white women of the “better” classes to have more children. In contrast, American eugenicists were more concerned with using “science” to justify discrimination against other racial and ethnic groups.

Beginning in the 1900s, scientists began to develop different methods for measuring intelligence. These tests were used often to justify racial and ethnic discrimination. The results of these intelligence tests were influential in shaping U.S. immigration policy that limited immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, and in justifying race-based segregation in public education, and U.S. conscription during World War I. Previously, the scientific debate centered largely on perceived differences in racial intelligence based on cranial size.

Similarly, lactivists claim that it is self-evident that breastfeeding is superior to formula feeding. Their “science” is a surprisingly desperate attempt to prove that purported superiority. It makes children smarter! It prevents obesity! The microbiome! Epigenetics! There is absolutely no possibility that their analysis of the data will EVER conclude that there is no measurable difference between breastfed babies and formula fed babies, let alone concluding that formula feeding leads to smarter, healthier children.

2. Both feel the need to discriminate.

Eugenicists refuse to accept any of that namby-pamby claptrap about equality. It is critically important to locate themselves within some group that is better than other groups.

Despite the fact that breastfeeding is a practice that affects only your own child, lactivists care deeply whether other women are breastfeeding or formula feeding. Why? Because it is critically important for them to locate themselves within a group of mothers who are better than other mothers; they insist that their children are superior to other women’s children.

3. They are desperate for scientific confirmation of their deeply held beliefs, so they can turn around and use “the science” as a cudgel to beat those who don’t agree.

Eugenicists used and misuse science to support supposedly “morally neutral” race based discrimination.

This is akin to the phenomenon that sociologist Charlotte Faircloth explains in ‘What Science Says is Best’: Parenting Practices, Scientific Authority and Maternal Identity.

Arguably, ‘science’ here is not about understanding, but belief. The use of ‘evidence’ has reached the level of the quasi-religious; … they are held to be beyond the possibility of doubt and revered as truth…

When ‘science’ says something is healthiest for infants, it has the effect, for [lactivists], of shutting down debate; that is, it dictates what parents should do.

Lactivists use and misuse science to support supposedly “morally neutral” claims of superiority. The truth is the opposite; shouting, “The Science!” is a way to moralize a personal choice that has no impact beyond the individuals and families of the person making that choice.

For lactivists, appeals to “the science” are a rhetorical strategy, and a rather cynical one at that. Many of very same people who often ignore the scientific evidence on the dangers of homebirth, who openly spurn the World Health Organization recommendations on vaccination, and who dismiss the scientific evidence on circumcision by insisting it is only relevant in the developing world choose to misinterpret and misuse the scientific evidence on the limited benefits of breastfeeding. Indeed, they often justify vaccine refusal by insisting, falsely, that breastfeeding is better at preventing vaccine preventable illness than vaccines themselves.

Fortunately, most of us have come to recognize eugenics for what it is, a way to codify and justify racial hatred. “Science” that attempts to prove the superiority of the white race should be viewed with deep distrust. It’s not that it couldn’t be true; it’s just that the authors are desperate to believe that it is true for reasons that have nothing to do with science.

Similarly, we need to view scientific papers that claim to demonstrate the superiority of breastfeeding with skepticism. It’s not that it couldn’t be true; it’s just that there are many people desperate to believe that it is true for reasons that have nothing to do with science. In industrialized societies with clean water breastfeeding does have real benefits, but they are trivial. The myriad of extraordinary claims made on behalf of breastfeeding are strikingly similar to typical pseudoscience claims: it prevents every possible disease; it prevents obesity; it prevents chronic diseases of old age; it makes children smarter; it makes for a superior intestinal microbiome; it gives babies better DNA! The more claims that are made, the more spectacular they are, the more divergent they are, the more all encompassing they are, the less likely it is that these claims are true.

When lactivists shout, “The Science!” it’s worth remembering that eugenicists shouted “The Science!” too.

We need to recognize lactivists’ cynical use of “the science” for what it is: a way to justify bullying and humiliating women do refuse to mirror lactivists’ own choices back to them, nothing more and nothing less.

  • Kq

    Heads up – someone has attempted to change my password in disqus. I only use that here. There may be someone attempting a hack.

  • SporkParade

    Ya know, as a Jewish woman, I have heard many complaints that terms such as “Grammar Nazi” minimize the horrors of the Holocaust, yet I have never heard a single Jewish person complain about the term “Lactation Nazi.” On the contrary, I know many Jewish women who breastfeed who freely refer to lactivists as Nazis.

  • A

    OT, but I just realised if I go to “skepticalob.com”, the last post I can see in the main page is “Celebrities say: take this medical advice*” while if I visit “www.skepticalob.com” I can see the posts published ever since just fine. I just thought it was weird, since it has never made a difference whether I typed the www or not. Anyone else had this happen? I’m on Chrome, btw.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Yep. That’s what I get in chrome, too

      • Right now, it seems OK, but recently, on several occasions, I’ve had great difficulty signing in with Disqus.

    • Nick Sanders

      Weird, if I do it from your link, it’s like you said, with the celebrity article being the newest, but if I include the “www” in the URL, the actual newest articles show up.

      Safari user here.

    • mostlyclueless

      I have the same problem. Chrome and Safari.

    • Jocelyn

      Same thing’s been happening to me for the last couple days.

    • liz

      I’ve also had it happen – but I managed to fix it (temporarily? I don’t know) by going to the visual archive, and then back to the main page. It seems to reset whatever weirdness is going on. (I use chrome.)

  • john swain

    It might be helpful if you elaborated on what “trivial” means in this context. It certainly would make your readers feel better if for any reason they find we need to or choose to bottle feed (undoubtedly you have, but I’ve been unable to find your more detailed analysis).
    The American Academy of Pediatrics in its book, “Caring for your Baby and Young Child”, say that “where we [pediatricians] stand” is that “breastfeeding is the optimal source of nutrition through the first year of life.” As for bottle feeding, they say, “While recognizing the benefits of breastfeeding, mothers–and fathers too–may feel that bottle-feeding gives the mother more freedom and time for duties other than involving baby care … Even so, formula manufacturers have not yet found a way to reproduce the components that make human milk so unique….[formula] lacks the antibodies and many of the other components that only mother’s milk contains….” What does this mean in practical terms? Are the pediatricians bad guys too?
    My guess is that your concern is that there is a difference between saying BrF is good and saying BoF is bad. Kids are safer in a Hummer than a compact car, but there are many reasons we all don’t or can drive Hummers..

    • Jocelyn
    • Young CC Prof

      Short answer: Breast milk has a type of antibody called IgA, which provides some protection against tummy bugs and possibly respiratory bugs during breastfeeding up to 12 months. (It doesn’t work in toddlers even if breastfeeding continues, since toddler stomachs digest the antibody rather than absorbing it.)

      In low-income countries, or for babies born seriously premature, this anti-infective property actually improves the baby’s chances of survival. For a healthy full-term baby living in a place with clean water, it means, on average, one less minor illness during the first year.
      In the long run, the most accurate studies say there is no difference.

  • Bugsy

    Very enjoyable post; I agree with pretty much everything said about attempts of lactivists to position themselves above everyone else.

    One particular word jumps out at me: “should”

    “‘When ‘science’ says something is healthiest for infants, it has the effect, for [lactivists], of shutting down debate; that is, it dictates what parents _should_ do.'”

    To me, this one word is the entire basis for lactivism and extreme parenting – defining very specific parenting parameters. “What I do is what you SHOULD do; what you should do is what is proper/correct for parenting.”

    Should. That one word alone makes me run far & fast from lactivists I encounter face-to-face.

    • Melissa

      I think that for some people should is very comforting. Having a buffet of options that are all, generally, equal can be a source of anxiety. How can you choose between otherwise equal options and how can you be sure that you have made the right choice? While most people deal with this sort of philosophical crisis at some point, some people would rather have a system where they are told what to do because it alleviates them of the pressure of needing to make a decision.

      I

      • wookie130

        I can say with great confidence that as far as infant feeding options go, this isn’t that big of an issue for mothers. Most mothers, in their heart of hearts, do NOT want the pressure of someone telling them how to feed their babies. And there isn’t really a “buffet” of choices here to list…there’s breastmilk, formula, or the option of feeding a child breastmilk and formula. I don’t need anyone telling me what I need to be doing with my breasts, but if I wanted to use my breasts to feed my babies, I would. But…I can’t, nor does it matter much to me anymore, so I choose to formula feed. I choose to not let lactivism drive my parental decisions.

      • Bugsy

        You raise some valid points; the decisions new parents need to make can be overwhelming. I can see how having a formal structure in place would be helpful to some people, just wish that those same people would understand that what works for them may not work for others. My “should” doesn’t equal theirs.

        • Amy M

          Yeah, its important to realize that those books and websites and parenting philosophies are more guidelines than rules. Too bad none of them have a disclaimer: Following the suggestions in this book is NOT a guarantee that your children will be smart, healthy and successful. You should always speak with your doctor if you need medical assistance.

          • Bugsy

            LOL, add to it that they won’t necessarily become the sensitive little flower types their moms intend them to be.

          • Amy M

            HA! Disclaimer: Despite the gentle parenting methods outlined in this book, we do NOT guarantee that your child won’t be pulling the wings off flies when he is 6.

          • Bugsy

            …but selective parenting amnesia can ensure that you forget to share such less-than-perfect moments with other parents. Similar to how I conveniently hope to forget that our son has been enjoying taking his diaper off in the middle of the night…and smearing poopy goodness around the crib. Selective amnesia! 🙂

          • MegaMechaMeg

            My mother has a lot of opinions on how children should be parented. According to her, my brother and I were under constant supervision and rarely misbehaved because we respected her authority too much. I think if we could get ahold of a time machine we would find out the truth of those stories, because I distinctly remember being shoved outside to go play at the park starting around five because mom wanted to clean the floors and we were being assholes about it.

      • Young CC Prof

        And for some people, should is upsetting when “should” turns out not to work for their child or family. I don’t like turning options into shoulds. One of my mom friends is like that, she worries a lot, and every time things don’t go exactly like she expected, or exactly like the books said, it stresses her out.

        • Cobalt

          If you want to hear God laugh tell Him your plans?

  • J.S.

    I’ve felt this way for years about the “natural parenting” movement (cult, more accurately) as a whole. So much of the language they use sounds as though they are striving to raise some sort of master race, with characteristics that are superior to the rest of us mere mortals. Frankly, it’s creepy. I’ve particularly noticed this about people associated with the Weston A. Price Foundation and similarly obsessive “real food” types. There is such an ugly classist, ableist subtext to all of it.

    • Yes, the whole NCB/AP/lactivist philosophy is very cult-like.

  • LibrarianSarah

    I’d like to make a finer point about eugenics. It is important to keep in mind that even though race was a big factor, the eugenics movement was primarily an ablest movement not a racist one. The goal was eliminate disability through selective breeding. The bind, Deaf, “feeble minded,” epileptic, were far more likely to be sterilized then a “healthy” person of a “lesser” race. Obviously race also played a big role in the eugenics movement because of intersectionality. But it saddens me that we downplay the blatant ablism of the eugenics movement in favor of the racism angle and it make it all the more easy for history to repeat itself.

    • Roadstergal

      Troof. And the Nazis started with abelism when it came to their mass murders.

      • demodocus’ spouse

        And never mind that most of the time, disabled people have regular children. I’m hearing impaired, my husband congenitally blind, our son has neither problem.

        • LibrarianSarah

          I wouldn’t look to the Nazi’s when trying to find well thought out “solutions” to these sort of “problems.”

          • demodocus’ spouse

            I never do.

    • Valerie

      Thank you- we forget that eugenics was originally more about public health than race, and the movement was quite popular in the USA before it reached Europe. The forced sterilization laws in the US targeted mainly people with mental or physical challenges thought to be hereditary. Yeah, race was a factor in who was likely to actually be affected by the laws (just like today), but I don’t think they were directly race-based. I think the Nazis were the ones to really get into racial “science,” but before they started murdering based on ethnicity (Jews, Romani, etc), they went after Germans with mental illness, intellectual disability, homosexuality, etc. The success of the Eugenics movement in the western world really set the stage for the holocaust, and that’s not something that is commonly taught in high school US history.

  • Amy M

    Don’t forget about cosleeping! The AAP says that cosleeping is a risk for SIDS, but according to some lactivists, only formula fed babies die from SIDS and as long as the cosleeping baby is breastfed, it can’t possibly die from SIDS or suffocation or at all really.

    • Cobalt

      They also skip over how pacifiers are also protective.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        Doesn’t a pacifier lead to like a 90% drop in SIDS? Compared to LZ’s big 30% difference

        • Bombshellrisa

          It’s also something that is hammered into your head by the nurses at the hospital (although they didn’t provide one at the hospital I was at, being baby friendly and all) and during the well baby visits. Our pediatrician only wanted to know what baby was being fed so she could put it on the chart and make sure if we were breastfeeding that we were also giving baby vitamin d supplement (magical breastmilk doesn’t provide enough vitamin d)

        • Cobalt

          I don’t know what the relative risk reduction is, but pacifiers are recommended despite being known to cause dental and speech delay risks. Pacifiers are way more dangerous than formula.

          • Sullivan ThePoop

            Pacifiers don’t really cause speech delays. They cause dental problems and can increase the risk for ear infections if they are used too long. These things can contribute to speech delays.

          • Kelly

            Plus, from what I understand, if you get rid of it by the time they are a year and a half, it does not cause any problems.

          • Cobalt

            I’ve seen a range of “wean by” dates between one and three years. I imagine it depends somewhat on the child’s mouth conformation, how often they use the pacifier, and how much time they spend talking/chewing. A kid that holds a pacifier in their mouth for 15 minutes just to fall asleep is different than one who has one in 20 hours a day and is developing eye expressions and hand gestures to communicate to avoid speaking. The delays also are frequently self-correcting, and might well result in less stress overall than the child never having had a soothing tool.

          • Kelly

            True. It is definitely one of those things in parenting where the decision needs to be based on the individual kid and what the pros and cons are. Plus, it is a discussion to be had with a dentist and pediatrician and what they think.

      • Kelly

        Does sucking their thumb give them the same protection. I was just wondering as both my kids sucked their thumb and I am sick of people telling me I should have stopped it when they were young. This will give me something to fire back at them besides the fact that both my kids are great self soothers.

        • Cobalt

          What do they expect you to do? Chop the thumb off so the kid conforms to their standards? The protective mechanism of pacifiers is unknown, and I couldn’t find a reference specifically for thumb sucking, but there isn’t really a lot of difference between them so I’d go with it.

          Some kids are thumb suckers, some are pacifier users, and some hold on to those habits longer than they “should”. If it’s working, it’s working; the risk/benefit analysis is up to you. Let the dentist be your guide on any potential mouth issues, enjoy the upsides of self-soothing kids, and tell the nosy bystanders that you’re naturally strengthening the kid’s microbiome.

          • Kelly

            Thanks! They told me that they kept taking their thumb out of their mouth and they never really started. The first year is really hard for me and I will use anything to get them to sleep. I would rather fight with a kid later on to get them to stop than deal with the awful sleep deprivation.

          • Mac Sherbert

            Exactly. You have to choose your battles. As a newborn my son want to suck his thumb, but that was easily replaced with a paci. Had he not taken the paci I probably would have let him have his thumb and then dealt with it later. (Oh, and second baby wouldn’t take paci or thumb. That was ruff.)

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Despite our best efforts, we could not get either of our kids to use a pacifier. It would have made things easier if they had.

          • Elaine

            Both of my kids needed the paci as my oversupply made comfort nursing not a thing. Our son likes to chew his hands to the point where they are red and raw, and a pacifier gives him an alternative to doing this. If it becomes a problem down the line, we’ll deal with it then. There are an awful lot of things that it seems we are “supposed to” avoid just in case they cause a problem later, even though most people never do have a problem. I say deal with what is going on now and let the future take care of itself.

          • My parents told me that I was never one to be addicted to a pacifier, although they never made it an issue. I never sucked my thumb, either.

            What caused me to need braces was that my baby teeth were half the size of my permanent teeth, so when each new “giant” tooth erupted, it would crowd the ones beside it, so all were eventually crooked. Pacifiers had nothing to do with it. The shape of my jaw and the size of my permanent teeth, did.

        • Amy M

          Mine used pacifiers to fall asleep until they were almost 3 (yes we suck as parents) but the moment we took them away, they (and I’m not really exaggerating), they started sucking their thumbs instead, and still do. They basically still only do it when falling asleep, and I’ve started talking to them about it, but I don’t want to be a big jerk and try to force the issue. I recognize they might have teeth issues, but odds were good they were going to need braces anyway.

          • Daleth

            You don’t suck at all. I’ve never understood some people’s conviction that pacifiers are bad. And if they’re just sucking their thumbs to fall asleep…. how is 20-ish minutes a day, out of a 1440-minute day, going to make them need braces?

          • Amy M

            I never thought pacifiers were bad, just that maybe there’s a point where they shouldn’t need them anymore and perhaps we waited too long. That’s a good point about the amount of thumb-sucking. The boys tell me they don’t do it at school, so maybe their teeth won’t be any worse than they were already destined to be. (both their father and I had teeth pulled and braces for crowded mouth)

            (oh, also, I was preemptively scolding myself, just in case anyone else was inclined to do so)

          • momofone

            We suck too; my son was 3 when we got rid of the pacifiers.

          • Kelly

            That sucks and is worse because you can’t take it away. My daughter’s dentist says that her jaw is beginning to move so we are working on getting her to stop. She is 3 12 and it is so hard. Our second daughter just turned one. After our huge plane trip, I am going to try to get her to stop. I figure if I do it when she is younger, it might be easier. If not, we will just pay for the extra orthodontics.

          • Who?

            And I wonder if sometimes they suck their thumbs or fingers because they just go in so easy. I don’t doubt that hours per day for years might make a difference to mouth, bite etc but there’s a lot of growing going on, and which comes first, the configuration that makes it easy to do the sucking, or the sucking despite some discomfort doing it?

            I have one that never did suck for comfort, who has perfect teeth, and one who sucked her fingers until she was about 6. She stopped overnight after a conversation with the dentist, and had a mouthful of braces for years. Mind you she has my tiny mouth and her dad’s giant teeth, so I don’t know if the fingers had a particular part to play in her orthodontia.

        • Ruby

          Anecdote for you:
          I had my thumb in my mouth ALL THE TIME when I was little and didn’t give it up until I was about 9 or so (embarrassing, yes..).

          I was a very colicky and anxious child and it really helped me to calm down and relax. My mum was adamant that if I needed a thumb to relax myself, then I should have it, and it was better than anything else I could have used. I am still grateful to her for this.

          My teeth are (not trying to brag, I had nothing to do with it) perfect. Perfectly aligned, no gaps, etc. When people find out I never had braces, they are actually shocked, and even my new dentist was shocked when she found out.

          It’s just an n of 1, but still.

  • Thank-you – couldn’t agree with you more. OT – but somewhat urgent as the mom is 7 months pregnant…her provider just recently informed her that they won’t support her request for a cesarean. As such this mom is in a real bind – scrambling to find an alternate provider or contend with an unwanted TOL. It boggles my mind how a woman can be upfront about her care preferences and a provider can pull the carpet out from under her late in the game. She’s in the Toronto area so if somebody has names or ideas, I’d greatly appreciate being able to assist in the circumstance.

    • FormerPhysicist

      I don’t want to be a silent majority that’s drowned out, so I’ll just say that this is horrible and unacceptable and I hope she can find a provider. And if she has to pay the difference in upfront costs, I am willing to donate to a campaign.

      • It’s Canada – short of being a birth refugee and fleeing south (all kinds of citizenship and logistical hassle) it is illegal in Canada for Canadians to spend their own money on medically neccessary care. There are some private clinics – but none that provide maternity care…she is at the mercy of the public system.

        • Cobalt

          And an elective cesarean on an uninsured patient in America is certainly prohibitively expensive.

          • Liz Leyden

            I live 1 hour from the Canadian border, 2 hours from Montreal. My local hospital offers a cash discount to Canadian patients who self-pay. If it comes down to it, maybe she could work out something with a hospital in Buffalo or Detroit?

        • rh1985

          This is the main reason I am against true single payer health care and would prefer a system like Australia’s (where there are private options including for maternity care)

        • araikwao

          Sounds like her ob would argue that it’s *not* medically necessary..

    • Cobalt

      That’s really awful. I hope she finds a doctor and hospital (because sometimes its the hospital) that is willing to do what’s best for her.

    • Cobalt

      I’d look at ICAN or a site like that that makes a big deal over cesareans to find a list of providers with a high cesarean rate and start calling them. It’s a way to find a doctor that is obviously comfortable with the procedure. Not the way they intend the information to be used, but whatever.

      • Doesn’t look like ICAN has that information in Canada at the provider level…

    • wookie130

      How horrible! Now, if this mother were asking for support in having a natural birth or a home birth…well, I think you know where I’m going with this.

    • Daleth

      Check out the Cesarean by Choice Awareness Network on Facebook. It’s a closed group so she would need to request permission to join. Then contact Pauline McDonough Hull there–she has a ton of resources, especially for Canadian women.

      • Poogles

        “Check out the Cesarean by Choice Awareness Network on Facebook. ”

        A great suggestion, but Mrs. W is actually an admin and one of the founding members of that group, and, I believe the mother being discussed is also one of the members of that group 😉

  • Ada Barnes

    Can I just say how much I appreciate your writing this blog? Because I need my “choice” validated, too. I’ve been so surrounded by the natural childbirth crowd that I’ve had a hard time coming to terms with regretting my two vaginal births (both OP, causing extreme pain and large amounts of damage) even though, by everyone else’s estimation, I should be happy because I pushed them out myself.
    No matter how I tried, I was also unable to produce milk. I tried EVERYTHING, exhausting myself with a punishing nursing/pumping schedule, using herbal supplements, off-label prescriptions, teas, compresses. . . because nursing had been so talked up to me I felt like a complete failure and still feel a measure of disappointment that I couldn’t nurse, and feel compelled to explain that it was a case of *couldn’t* rather than *wouldn’t*. Even a lactation consultant was pushing the domperidone that I eventually tried. When I balked because of the expense, she said “Well, formula is expensive, too.” I said “Yes, but formula has a concrete, proven result.” She wasn’t impressed. I’m thankful that the pediatrician stepped in and demanded formula, and a different lactation consultant gently gave me permission to give MYSELF permission to just stop, because I was robbing myself of enjoying this new baby, and I needed that emotional energy to recover from the birth.
    If I had it to do over, elective c-section all the way for these two. And not fetishizing my own boobs.

    • Kq

      Welcome – there are a fair number of women with stories like yours here. I ended up with a c section after a painful, exhausting labor. I too wish I’d had a calm, peaceful scheduled cs. And I too live deep in the heart of Woo-ville.

  • Young CC Prof

    The movement is also self-perpetuating: Women who made great sacrifices to breastfeed are most likely to need their choice validated and to refuse to believe that the benefits are small.

    • Amy M

      Sure. Why go through all that effort if it doesn’t matter? It HAS to matter for them, to justify what they did, otherwise they put themselves through a lot of hardship for nothing.

      Also, I think there’s some idea of more effort = better results. So a woman who struggled to breastfeed wants to believe her child will be better for it, and overall better, than a child that was fed effortlessly via a bottle that anyone could have mixed up. (I’m not saying that women who formula fed put forth no effort—getting up multiple times in the night is effort–but the act of popping a bottle in a baby’s mouth is effortless, especially compared to a grueling nurse-pump-repeat cycle.)

      • JJ

        That is how I used to live my life. I figured whatever was the most difficult was the “best” until I could not take it anymore.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          You can hike to the top of Pikes Peak, or you can ride the tram.

          If your goal is the view, then it is the same either way. If your goal is the process, that is the difference.

          • Roadstergal

            I suppose a parallel to breast/bottle would be hiking/running outside vs going to the gym. I prefer the former, as it revs me up more and it’s more convenient for me; some people find the latter more motivating and easier to fit into the day. What matters is that at the end of the day, you get your fitness from whichever way works… you don’t get bonus points for doing it the less convenient way.

      • Cobalt

        Bottle feeding is easy IF:

        you don’t have an unusual amount of trouble acquiring formula

        AND

        you completely discount the baseline amount of effort it takes to feed a baby anything

        You could say the same for breastfeeding, though. Pumping most feeds, on the other hand, is kind of like doing it all twice.

        • Amy M

          Sure, there are drawbacks and advantages to either method. Personally, I found formula much easier and I think that at least the cohort of women who struggle with breastfeeding would agree with that. And the lactivists who insist that formula feeders are lazy, of course. 🙂

          And I guess I was lucky, when my boys were babies they were pretty efficient eaters. They ate when hungry, stopped when full, and moved on. Of course now trying to get them to sit at the dinner table for more than 5 minutes is like pulling teeth, and then they forget to eat, and then want food right when its time to brush teeth and get ready for bed.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      For sure. Imagine after going through that and then discovering that it was not all that important to do? No doubt you’d work hard to justify your effort.

      • fiftyfifty1

        As I said above, I’m not so sure. I am one of those who went to the ends of the earth. I did it because I had been taught in training that “the best studies we have show a 7-11 point IQ gap”. I had doubts about the quality of those studies even then, but that seed of worry was always there. What if it really was ~10 pts? That’s the difference between a 10 yo performing at the 4th grade level and a 10yo performing at the 3rd grade level. I was thrilled when first the Belarus PROBIT study and then the discordant sib study provided excellent quality evidence that there was no IQ gap. Why in hell would I want my sisters, friends and patients to have to go through what I put myself through? I only wish I had had the evidence sooner (or been less uptight enough to let go sooner even without the evidence). What a waste of time, pain, and tears! The only good that has come out of it is that it has made me a better doctor. I can meet struggling women where they are at and really speak from experience as well as from a place of scientific evidence.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          But think about those who cling to the 3 IQ point difference as if it matters? Why are they doing that?

          Instead of saying, “3 points? Big deal!” it’s “But it’s still three points! Isn’t that worth it???”

          It’s an attempt at self-justification

          • Roadstergal

            I think worrying about a 3-point IQ difference is half a standard deviation away from overthinking the relevance of IQ tests.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “But think about those who cling to the 3 IQ point difference as if it matters?”

            To clarify for those that aren’t familiar with the research, the best studies we have (the randomized controlled Belarus PROBIT design study and the discordant sib study) don’t even show a 3 point gap, they don’t support a gap at all. That supposed 3 point gap that lactivists throw around lately comes from poorer quality non-randomized observational studies.

    • JJ

      Yes. I have a friend who put so much effort into breastfeeding/pumping ect that she even admits that she feels mad when people choose to formula feed just because they want to. I can’t imagine if she knew that it wasn’t the breastmilk that made her children intelligent.

      • Who?

        Making parenthood into a suffering competition is no good for anyone’s health or happiness.

    • fiftyfifty1

      I’m not so sure about that. I think it has more to do with personality factors. There are lactivists who had an easy time of it and lactivists who went to the ends of the earth. What all lactivists share is the desire to be seen as “better than”.

      • Amy M

        Well, maybe the ones that had an easy time don’t see it that way. If a person doesn’t have to make great sacrifices to accomplish something, she might not understand that it could be difficult for other people. A woman like that could be coming at it from the opposite direction. Something like: Well breastfeeding is best and it was so easy, why would anyone choose NOT to? Her attitude could be truly oblivious, or it could be more of a humble-brag posture, but either way, she’d be “better than” all those who “didn’t even try.”

        • MLE

          Yeah a certain E. M. seems to fall in this category, completely ignoring the real difficulties many women experience.