How lactivists treat formula feeders: shame, blame, repeat!

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My piece for TIME, Why I’m Not Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week has apparently hit a nerve.

Tens of thousands of people have read it. Overall the reaction has been very positive: lots of Facebook likes, Tweets and expressions of gratitude both public and private. The negative responses, nearly all from women who have breastfed successfully, have merely served to prove the point of my piece, that there exists a pattern of subtle and not so subtle attacks on women who can’t or choose not to breastfeed:

Not only do they have no remorse for making formula feeding mothers feel humiliated, they blame them for their feelings.

Shame, Blame, Repeat!

To understand this pattern, let’s consider what might happen in a classic social situation. Imagine a dinner party where Martha makes a joke about obesity without taking into account (or forgetting) that one of her listeners, Jane, is morbidly obese. Tasteless, right?

There is utter silence, while eyes dart from Martha to Jane and back again. Jane exits the room in tears.

What would we expect Martha to do if she regrets making Jane upset?

I imagine that most of us would expect Martha to feel terrible that she humiliated Jane. We might also hope Martha would apologize to Jane or to the other guests. We would be shocked if Martha proceeded to make another joke about obesity, or declare, “Stupid cow can’t take a joke” or to insist that Jane ought to be publicly humiliated for failure to maintain a socially acceptable weight.

Now consider that the primary point of my TIME piece was to inform people that World Breastfeeding Week, a week reserved for public celebrations of breastfeeding, makes many formula feeding mothers feel shame and guilt.

What would we expect supporters of WBW to do if they regret making formula feeders feel awful?

We would expect them to apologize, insist that shaming formula feeders was inadvertent, and ask how they might modify their words and actions to minimize feelings of humiliation and guilt. But that’s NOT what breastfeeding cheerleaders do when confronted with the fact that their “celebration” induces shame in those who can’t or choose not to breastfeed. Instead, they double down.

They completely ignore the pain they have caused other women; and they gaslight those women by insisting that formula feeders are imagining that lactivist rhetoric is shaming. They express zero regret and make snide remarks about formula being second best or even dangerous. They attack anyone who dares question their “celebration,” who dares question whether the fact that they breastfed is heroic, who dares question their hurtful claims and shaming words.

It appears that not only do they have no remorse for making formula feeding mothers feel humiliated, they blame them for their feelings, and deny any responsibility for hurting them. These are not the actions of people who regret causing others pain. They are the actions of people who glory in causing others pain.

In other words, they continue the cycle:

Shame, Blame, Repeat!

That’s why I’m not celebrating World Breastfeeding Week. I don’t want to participate in a celebration created by women who cheer on some mothers and demean others, who deny responsbility for the effect of their own actions, and who, when alerted to the pain they have caused, merely double down to cause more shame, guilt and humiliation.

  • Maman Brigit
  • Allie P
    • Mac Sherbert

      Poor Guy. Doesn’t he know he can just order some unscreened breast millk over the internet and re-live his infancy.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      OK, that’s a really funny website, but the funniest part is how many people actually think it’s serious!

      Read the comments to the birthday post (where parents took back their presents because there weren’t any goody bags). Most of the comments actually think it’s serious!

      I thought it was a riot. “It was pretty bare-bones. It’s not like they had a bouncy house or anything.”

      It’s not like it’s even Poe’s law. I mean, just a quick look around the website and you can tell it’s all a joke. Is there an internet meme of “There are some people that are so gullible they’ll believe anything they read”? Maybe the Law of the Nigerian Prince?

  • moto_librarian

    Yesterday, the Children’s Hospital that is part of the medical center where both of my children were born posted a link to a blog post about how a mother used informal donor milk networks “to meet her breastfeeding goals.” http://www.childrenswishingwell.org/the-most-precious-gift-of-all-breast-milk-sharing/
    To summarize, the mother had IGT, ended up switching to formula after doing pretty much everything that could be done to increase supply, and decided to use unscreened donors met via Human Milk 4 Human Babies, “after formula caused my daughter extreme stomach pain and severe skin rashes I was at a loss of what to do. After reading several articles about the superiority of breast milk and its’ many benefits I desperately wanted my daughter to receive the nutrients of breast milk.”

    I am enraged that a university medical center is actually suggesting that unscreened donor milk is a better option than formula in a developed country. I am also stunned that they are putting breast milk onto such an altar that they are basically encouraging women with IGT to go to such lengths to breastfeed. I went through this with my first child, and I put myself on that pumping regime that nearly drove me insane until my mother reminded me that the only thing that mattered was feeding my baby, and that the method was inconsequential. I am just so frustrated by all of this.

    • FormerPhysicist

      I wish they would bring in that exact donor milk and test and screen it.

      • FormerPhysicist

        Replying to myself to add:
        And publish the results!

    • Sarah

      You should complain.

      • moto_librarian

        I did. Both on the post itself and on the main FB page for the hospital.

    • Gatita

      I don’t understand this at all. There are formulas specifically for babies who can’t tolerate cow’s milk and even formulas for babies who can’t digest human breast milk. Did this woman try one brand and throw up her hands?

  • Asia- OBX Resident

    I think your view on the subject only takes into account the negativity between the two sides and completely misses the mark on what we breastfeeders are truly trying to achieve. All I want and many mothers like me is to feel “normal” for breastfeeding. I want to feel I can freely feed my child out in public without shame or discomfort, or to pump at work to supply food for my child. Breastfeeding is my choice for my child, same as formula feeding is my sister-in-laws choice for her child. I don’t judge and I don’t criticize. I do try to educate new moms on the task of breastfeeding. It’s a true commitment and often evolves blood, sweat, and tears. Yet reading articles like this and other stories of mothers being asked to leave a restaurant or stores, just amplifies my feelings of fear and anxiety about our anti-breasfeeding society. So congratulations… I don’t leave my house to go out to dinner with family on my 30th birthday. I pump in a bathroom at work with the fan running because it feels more private and because there really is nowhere else to go. I feel I could never go un-draped around anyone but my husband and fellow breastfeeders. Frankly, even draped in a restaurant makes me uncomfortable and that any moment a hoard of angry villagers are going to through their dinner knives at me. While it may be easy to through in the towel and give it up for scoops of powder, I’ll survive this short span in my son’s life. Perhaps things will change and future mothers don’t have to feel this way.

    • Shannonblue65

      Here you go again. “True commitment”. “While it may be easy to throw in the towel and give it up for scoops of powder.” Breastfeeding is normal in the U.S. What you and your ilk really wants is to be applauded for your choice and held up as a moral standard. Sorry, no dice.

      • Asia- OBX Resident

        Yep, that’s what I need… applause & validation. Thanks Shannon.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          Look at the comments that Shannonblue quoted, and think about the message you are sending with them.

          Those are your words, and they tell us about you.

      • Mattie

        I do feel that you missed the point here, OP used ‘true commitment’ as a way of acknowledging that breastfeeding IS hard, and that women who want to breastfeed should be encouraged. Not encouraged at all costs, if they or their baby are unwell or unhappy then they should be supported to fix that. But if a woman makes a choice to BF and finds it hard then telling them to just quit because formula is just as good isn’t helping them either.

        OP says that she feels uncomfortable breastfeeding in public, and that her place of work does not feel supportive with pumping, that needs to change…so that all women feel comfortable and able to make feeding choices equally.

        • Cobalt

          “But if a woman makes a choice to BF and finds it hard then telling them to just quit because formula is just as good isn’t helping them either.”

          Sometimes it really is helping. What some women need is “permission” to stop. To get off the roller coaster, let go of the stress, get some sleep and long shower, let their nipples heal, put the pump down and just use formula because it IS just as good.

          Same good nutrition, same baby, no Herculean effort for the same results.

          Mothers who struggle need to know that formula is just as good and it completely ok to use it. They can struggle as much as they like but they don’t have to.

          • Mattie

            Yeh, I can see that, but I also think that some women who really want to breastfeed don’t realise that it’s not always super simple, but that once you get past the first few days/weeks it can then suddenly click and all be fine.

            I totally agree though that women need to be told the truth, that formula is just as good, that nipple confusion is rare, that supplementation is fine and that sometimes it’s better to stop now and not continue flogging a dead horse/pumping an empty boob.

          • guest

            I needed permission to stop. And thankfully, I got it. It needs to be said, often: it’s okay to stop. It’s okay to choose formula.

          • Chi

            Same. My midwife and my husband both told me it was ok.

            And you know what? It really was. I dare anyone now who does not know that she was formula fed to look at my daughter and guess which of her peers were also formula fed and which were exclusively breastfed.

            Here’s a hint: You probably couldn’t. My daughter is tall, robust and sharp as a tack. Just like her peers.

    • moto_librarian

      I’m sorry that you don’t feel comfortable breastfeeding in public. You should not have to pump in your workplace’s bathroom. Have you investigated your rights in that matter with HR? That is unacceptable.

      I will say this though. The benefits of breast feeding a term infant in the developed world are negligible. I truly question why we are pushing women to breast feed when the evidence is so shaky. We should be spending our time and efforts towards advocating for mandated paid parental leave.

      • Gatita

        I will say this though. The benefits of breast feeding a term infant in the developed world are negligible. I truly question why we are pushing women to breast feed when the evidence is so shaky. We should be spending our time and efforts towards advocating for mandated paid parental leave.

        Wordy McWord. That’s my big problem with WBW. Why are we pushing it so hard when there are so many other public health interventions that are more important and have a much bigger impact.

        • DelphiniumFalcon

          Like making sure poor families have running water?

          …but that takes more effort than whipping out a boob so I guess that’s out.

          The issue I have with these things is everyone calls for changes to the world we live in but no one wants to do the hard work. It’s easy to put a baby on the breast if you’re already successfully breastfeeding and requires minimal effort. Raising money for families that have had their water or power shut off, lobbying for paid maternity leave, or volunteering at a mass vaccination clinic requires time and energy.

          I’d take these people more seriously if they got out with the rest of us, even if it’s just a small act of kindness.

          Heck I can’t do much but I’m trying to get my dog her Canine Good Citizen certificate so I can take her to the retirement homes for them to pet since she’s a big sweetie thar loves people and they don’t get enough visitors. It’s not much but it might mean everything to them to them.

    • Angharad

      Nobody deserves to be shamed or harassed for feeding her baby. I understand feeling self-conscious about nursing in public, and it shouldn’t be that way. You don’t deserve scorn or shame for feeding your baby. At the same time, I also have felt self-conscious for bottle feeding in public, and have been told that I’m poisoning my baby. And I don’t deserve that either.
      Nobody here thinks breastfeeding shouldn’t happen. We just don’t like the rhetoric that shames anyone who can’t, or who dares make a different choice. Breastfeeding women are often policed and told to cover up (which they shouldn’t be) but at least nobody is telling them that their fundamental choice of how to feed their child makes them a subpar parent. And that’s the message (that there’s a way to feed an infant that’s good, and a way that’s bad) that we object to, and that world breastfeeding week (maybe inadvertently) contributes to.

    • Ash

      “…any moment a hoard of angry villagers are going to through their dinner knives at me.” Have you had experience with people being critical of you in real life for BFing in public? Assuming that a group of people will be angry at you for breastfeeding is quite unusual.

      • Mattie

        I don’t think it’s any more unusual than any other irrational thought. I have anxiety and I have some super weird thoughts that probably aren’t true, if I hear of something happening to someone I know, then it gets even worse.

        • Cobalt

          If breastfeeding is a trigger for major anxiety or OCD-type thoughts, feelings and behaviors, perhaps it is not in the best interests of the dyad. It certainly warrants considering the mental health impact.

          • Mattie

            Maybe, I try and not let my anxiety stop me doing the things I want to do…so I try to just push through and ignore the thoughts, or remind myself constantly that the thoughts are irrational.

            Otherwise I’d never go outside, or eat in public, or finish university =/

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            I think Cobalt is suggesting that if you have an irrational fear of something, and there is no cost in avoiding the thing that triggers that fear, then why not avoid it?

            I mean, if I have an irrational fear of spiders, I can ask my wife to go to the basement and get meat from the freezer, if she’s willing to do it. I’m not, so I don’t, but if there’s no good reason to face the fear, like that it makes life especially hard (your go outside, eat in public, etc), then why do it?

          • Mattie

            Yeh, I do see that, but if it was something I wanted to do. Like I am terrified of spiders but I also don’t want to pick up spiders. If used to do ballet and had terrible stage fright, but I wanted to do the show…so I made myself deal with it, I could have just not done it, I didn’t have to and there was no good reason to do it (other than wanting to) and life would have been easier not doing it…but I chose to do it, and to deal with the anxiety and irrational thoughts.

            Avoidance is not always the best strategy, although of course it can be useful, but in OPs case, if they heard about less situations where BFing mothers were asked to leave, or felt that campaigns like WBW or nurse-ins were actually helping them…then great. That doesn’t mean it becomes ok for BFing people to demonise formula, or to harass formula feeding people.

          • Cobalt

            But is it culturally acceptable for you to be publicly shamed for choosing not to address your stage fright? If you decided it wasn’t worth it to you to work through that, would you get smacked with a campaign that implies that being shy is poison and will make your children stupid, fat, ugly, sick, and unable to form an emotional bond with you?

            Or could you just get on with your off stage life and take up another hobby?

          • Cobalt

            Children are challenging enough already without adding yet another source of stress and anxiety, especially if there’s no real benefit. There is a loss to the mother and the baby when useless stress is piled on the mother.

          • AirPlant

            It isn’t my place, but reading things like that kind of makes me concerned about post partum. Thinking that people en masse will attach you for nursing with a cover in public is irrational and is very indicitive of an irrational thought pattern and it is a good idea to get the checked out. It is really hard to say that without it sounding like I am dismissing her concerns about nursing in public though, but post partum depression and anxiety is a huge problem and it is very treatable.
            Sweetie, if you read this? Your breastfeeding in public is fine. It is just like middle school where nobody sees that giant zit but you. People are pathalogically self involved and busy with their own stuff. Get out of the house, do some stuff for you, and feed your baby how you see fit. If you are still anxious? There are lots of antidepressants that are perfectly safe for the baby and they really really help.

    • Cobalt

      Oddly enough, the reason I don’t feed in public (unless I absolutely cannot avoid it) is because of lactivism. Lactivist pressure and theatrics makes breastfeeding feel very abnormal to me. It encourages anyone who sees me breastfeed to come up and comment on it. It turns feeding my baby into a Statement, a Demonstration, A Challenge To Be Overcome.

      If lactivists would settle down, back off, and treat breastfeeding like what it actually is (providing milk to a baby), then maybe breastfeeding will stop being treated so exceptionally by the public.

      • Gatita

        It’s an extension of the cultural problem we have with women being told to smile or having their bodies commented on publicly. Almost an extension of rape culture. Our bodies become community property for anyone to comment on at will.

        • Cobalt

          Yes. And it’s not coming from those ebil formula companies. It’s coming from lactivists trying to turn my body into a battleground.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      What if I told you that 99% of people don’t care that you breastfeed in public? Normally, to say that 99% of the population doesn’t care is construed as a massively overwhelming majority. Shit, you can’t get 99% of Americans to agree that the moon landings weren’t faked.

      Unfortunately, in terms of getting hassled about breastfeeding in public, even if 99% are ok with it, that 1% is what you notice. If you are out in public, you don’t notice the 99 people who aren’t bothering with it, but only the 1% that is. And if it is really 99% (although I made that up), then it means that if you are in public and there are 100 people around, you will get hassled 2/3 of the time. It’s understandable that it is annoying, but it doesn’t mean it is “rampant.” It can be relatively very rare, and still happen a lot. It’s the statistics of large numbers.

      For my anecdote: I was at the Columbus OH Zoo last week. It was hot, and there was a woman breastfeeding while standing in the mister that they have to cool people off. Very busy, people everywhere, and no one paid her any mind at all. So standing in the mister with kids running all around her, and no one says a word.

      • AirPlant

        And I am really really sorry for that one time I glared at a nursing mother at the Science museum. I twisted my ankle falling down the stairs and I wanted to sit and recover and she was using the only chair in the room. I didn’t want to ask her to move because she was busy, but I was in a lot of pain so I glared before I thought how she might take it. I didn’t think she needed to hear my story so I walked away, but I still feel pretty awful.

    • Neya

      My experience BF/pumping was very different. I travel quite a bit for work. So, I had to pump during international flights and at airports. Everyone was fantastic. The flight attendants would normally go out of their way to accommodate me while in the plane and most airlines were willing to let me use their lounges to pump in a more comfortable setting. All I had to do was ask. On the other hand, the experience of *looking* like I was bottle feeding was very negative. My baby had a stomach tube, so I pumped and put the milk in a bottle. I had total strangers telling me that maybe my son would get better if I just breastfed. A nurse once told me to put down the formula and how she had breastfed twins, one on a front and one on a back sling and still made breastfeeding work – making it sound like I had it so easy…

    • Inmara

      To achieve better conditions in workplace or reduce shaming incidents in public, shouting “breast is best” from the rooftops does nothing. Nothing! For the workplace conditions, there has to be legislation in place and enforcement of said legislation as well, and concrete steps have to be taken to achieve that. If “breasfeeding celebration week” would raise awareness of these problems and offered solutions, nobody would object. Also, to tackle public shaming there could be campaigns that stated “babies want to eat in public just like anyone else, may it be bottle or breast” or something like that, but again – celebrating breastfeeding as superior choice doesn’t address that.
      I’m really feeling for your struggle regarding pumping in workplace; in my country breastfeeding women have to be provided time and place for pumping or feeding, and they can’t be fired while they are pregnant and later as long as they’re breastfeeding. But it’s just part of larger package of social guarantees (parental leaves, benefits etc.) and U.S. in general has long way to go in this regard.

      • Roadstergal

        “To achieve better conditions in workplace or reduce shaming incidents in public, shouting “breast is best” from the rooftops does nothing. Nothing!”

        I wish I could upvote this more than once.

    • guest

      If you can’t feel normal about breastfeeding without telling lies about breast milk’s superiority and putting down formula and formula feeding mothers, then you should seek to change yourself, not the world. Your comfort shouldn’t come at the expense of someone else’s.

    • Mac Sherbert

      You know you really don’t have to feel that way now. I have an almost 3 year old I nursed for 18 months. I nursed in public I never thought the villagers were going to come and get me.

      There are ways to nurse “undraped” in public without exposing a large amount of boob. (If that’s what makes you uncomfortable) I’m super modest, but my baby didn’t like to be covered. So, I invested in few items of clothing that made it possible for me to nurse in public and still be covered. In fact, unless people were looking closely or watched me latch her on they would have never known.

      As others have mentioned, if your pumping options at work are not acceptable you may have to speak up. Others may not even know what the conditions are?
      I don’t see how the issue of you feeling uncomfortable will be fixed by making women who don’t want to or can’t BF feel guilty about FF. Forcing everyone to do something or feel the same way about something is not the way to go. And certainly telling women lies is really not the way to go.

    • Allie P

      The only place i was ever shamed for breastfeeding in public in my now 11 months of breastfeeding (and I’ve done it at restaurants, in parks, on public transport, planes, airports, museums, national monuments, you name it) was at the *breastfeeding class* in the private maternity lounge of the “baby friendly hospital”. By the lactation consultant. I kid you not.

    • moto_librarian

      You know, the more that I think about what you’re telling us, the more concerned I feel. I have major depression and anxiety, both well-controlled with medication. It sounds like maybe you are dealing with something that is well beyond normal anxiety. Not wanting to go out and do normal things because you are afraid of the perceptions of others to this extent is worrisome. Not celebrating your birthday because of it is worrisome. Have you talked to your doctor about how you are feeling?

      • Cobalt

        Well, if you hang out in lactivist forums, it’s easy to get the impression we are in an anti-breastfeeding society. They cultivate the perception in order to unify the group. It’s the military-lactational complex.

        In reality, most people don’t give a damn if anyone breastfeeds or how or for how long. This is, of course, translated to society being “unsupportive” or even hostile.

        • The reason why mothers and babies being thrown out of stores and restaurants makes the news when it happens is because it is no longer the norm, making it newsworthy when it does happen.

      • Asia- OBX Resident

        I’m fine. Going out to dinner in my resort town can take over 45min of waiting for a table, several more for food to come. Baby just can’t last the duration without wearing out in the evenings. I’d just prefer not to deal with it at all. As for not going out… after working 6 days a week and with bills to pay, I’m just exhausted and I don’t find it responsible of me to spend anything on non necessities at this time. I really thank you for your concern.

    • Bombshellrisa

      Raising a child in general involves blood, sweat and tears.
      Have you personally been asked to leave places because of breastfeeding? If you have, the law is on your side, if not, PLEASE stop imagining that you are going to be asked to. I never covered up breastfeeding in public, not did I expose anything. Nobody mentioned anything either way. They also have yet to say anything negative to my husband, who has done a majority of the formula bottle feedings for my son in public.
      Raising children means a million choices that may be perfect for YOUR family and situation and make no sense to and get no support from anyone else. It’s ok. The only way future mothers will stop feeling anxious about they will be viewed breastfeeding or formula feeding is if we STOP caring so much about what “the village” thinks and do what is best for ourselves.

      • momofone

        “Raising a child in general involves blood, sweat and tears.”

        Exactly. And true commitment, no matter how they’re fed.

    • ladyloki

      Define “educate new moms on the task of breastfeeding.” Is that helping new moms that are having issues and you are sweetly assisting them with techniques that might help? Or do you see pregnant women and new moms and confront them with the “facts” of the superiority of breastfeeding? If it’s the former, good for you. If it’s the latter, you are part of the problem.

      I get insanely angry when breastfeeding mothers are told to cover up or leave. I was in a cafe during such an incident and I told the jerk off, much to the relief of the poor, stressed mother. But I have had to practically pull lactivists off of bottle feeding moms. They will harass these poor women to tears (one time the mom was bottle feeding breastmilk, another it was her GRANDCHILD).

      One time they were berating a father for not telling his wife to do the “right thing” and breastfeed. Guess what? Said wife had DIED right after childbirth from a brain aneurysm. Then that anti-Christ said that he should be using donor milk. No apologies, nothing. Souless, heartless creature.

    • missnina

      I don’t know where you live but in my area breastfeeding is definitely the norm. My breastfeeding friends get congratulated by random strangers for breastfeeding when they do so in public and they’ve never been made uncomfortable or told to cover up. I think what Dr Amy is trying to do is point out that all of this breastfeeding propaganda has turned from supporting breastfeeding moms to making people feel like they have a duty to “educate” and shame formula feeding moms and make moms breastfeed at all costs.
      I want to give a big thanks to Dr Amy for what she’s doing. I stopped taking my psychiatric medication in order to breastfeed my son at the insistence of lactivists. I have a history of abuse and I hated every second of breastfeeding my son but continued on because I was continually told by my family and health care providers that breast is best. After three months off my meds I was the worst I have ever been psychologically, with full blown depression, anxiety and ocd. I was losing touch with reality, I seriously considered ending my life and I was in constant fear that I might snap and hurt my child. And I was still pressured to breastfeed. Thanks to Dr Amy and the Fearless Formula Feeder I had the courage to make the switch to formula and go back on my meds. I knew my son would be ok. Now I’m back to “normal”, I finally feel bonded to my son. I don’t spend the days crying, we go out of the house daily, we sing nursery rhymes and have a good time together. Those scoops of power that lactivists have such disdain for saved my sanity and my life. But since I made the switch I’ve been constantly put down. The people who used to pat me on the back while I was breastfeeding look shocked when they find out I stopped. I was told that I am giving my son cancer because I’m formula feeding and that he will not be as strong or smart as breastfed babies. A lady who found out I breastfed for three months shook her head and told me that women these days give up so easy and that I should educate myself on the benefits not knowing the hell I put myself and my family to bf those three months. One breastfeeding friend commented on how surprised she is that my son is rolling over so early given that he is formula fed. And people put me down without feeling guilty and quote lactivist research and “facts” because this is what all the breastfeeding fanaticism has come to. But it’s ok, I don’t let it get me down because I know they are wrong, and this is thanks to people like Dr Amy. I think that this is what she is trying to change and I owe her a big one for that.

      • DelphiniumFalcon

        I’m glad you came out the other side of that dark place in one piece and that you’re there for your son and the rest of your family.

        A well mother, mentally and physically, is worth more than all the months of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding only lasts a few years at most. Your child will need you the rest of his life and that’s more than worth the trade off.

      • Roadstergal

        Screw those horrible people. It’s your son who matters, and he will grow up happy to have mom in his life and so close to him. He won’t care if he was fed at breast or bottle, only that he was fed and loved.

      • Amazed

        Educate yourself, aka do as I do, aka breastfeed till you drop dead, at which point we’ll go after your SO if they dare not use donor milk.

        If you don’t do as I do, you haven’t educated yourself properly. Obviously!

    • fiftyfifty1

      Oh poor little mommy martyr. You chose to stay home on your birthday! Boo hoo. Can you believe some mothers make different choices than you and then on top of that have the nerve to be happy? Even the ones who through [sic] in the towel and give up for scoops of powder?

    • Chi

      It’s not your place to ‘educate’ new mothers. Because to be completely honest you have NO real understanding of their background, of ALL the things that have come together at that precise moment in their life to make them decided to choose formula over breastfeeding.

      Maybe they’re not the child’s biological mother and thus are nourishing the newest member of their family with the logical alternative since she isn’t even lactating. Oh right, she should be getting unscreened donor milk from a bank right?

      Maybe she has IGT and no matter what happens, her body is NEVER going to ever be able to produce enough milk for her babies. Oh that’s no excuse, she just needs to try harder, watch her diet and pump like a maniac right? Our bodies are DESIGNED to nourish our babies right?

      Or how about the mother who has struggled for weeks. maybe even months to breastfeed her child. Her nipples are cracked, bleeding and painful, her baby has lost more than 10% of their birth weight and isn’t gaining it back, she is sleep deprived, her baby WON’T sleep unless they’re on her chest and even then it’s only for like 20 minutes at a time and then it’s back to nursing for 40 minutes out of every 60 every SINGLE day. Something is clearly not right.

      So she finally gives in. She makes up a bottle of formula. She gives it to her baby who guzzles it back, burps and then falls into a happy, satiated sleep. For three hours. And she goes and takes a shower and cries the whole time she’s in there because she caved, because she ‘failed’ because she wasn’t ‘good enough’ didn’t try hard enough.

      When you’re a new mother, you’re vulnerable, you’re emotional. Especially if you’re a first-time mother. Your ENTIRE world is basically shattered into pieces by the arrival of this precious new life. They BECOME your world, and if you’re not careful, you lose yourself in the process. And it’s hard enough to put those pieces back together, to find yourself and who you are NOW without everyone offering their advice (however well-intentioned) or trying to ‘educate’ you about why the choices you’re making are completely wrong (especially when there isn’t a lot of good solid science to back you up).

      So I ask again. What right do you have to ‘educate’ new mothers on breastfeeding when such education, however well-intentioned, serves only as a reminder to them that no matter how much blood, sweat and tears they poured into this tiny life already, according to lactivists, it’s not enough. It serves only to make them feel worse about themselves when they’re already emotionally fragile and most likely at the end of their proverbial rope.

      Instead of trying to educate women. Why don’t you just try smiling at them and saying, ‘Good on you for doing your best.’ No matter how they’re feeding their child. Because at the end of the day, that’s really all they’re trying to do. Give their child their best, just like you are.

  • CherrySweet27

    I am always so happy for BFing moms who can do it, especially beyond a year. I will fight along side them to allow BFing in public or more nursing spots available and comfortable locations besides a bathroom. If BFing is a special bond and they want to feel like they are giving the best, I support them. What I don’t understand is why WE aren’t supported. I personally tried to breastfeed and my first wouldn’t latch and with my second, the pain was unbearable. Nothing fixed it. So I couldn’t bear it anymore. That is irrelevant though because my effort shouldn’t have a bearing on whether or not I get treated like a human simply feeding her baby. I think that’s all that matters – a fed baby. The rest is just personal preference and shouldn’t be treated we’re abusers because we aren’t. We love our babies just the same.

  • Gatita
    • ForeverMe

      Now 46,914. That’s awesome.

  • fearlessformulafeeder

    Thank you for this, Dr. A. Just… thank you. I’m seriously at my wit’s end with all of this lately, and it was nice to read something that summed it up so perfectly.

    What kills me is the hypocrisy. The same people I see defending the downtrodden, demanding equality (all the things I also stand for, incidentally), are the same ones rolling their eyes when a formula feeding woman tries to speak her truth and explain why the anti-formula, breast-is-best rhetoric offends her.

    Formula feeders: one of the only groups of women that it’s culturally acceptable to publicly shame without any repercussions or backlash.

    • Allie P

      FFF, you saved my sanity four years ago. We love you in our family!

  • Liz Leyden

    Semi OT:”Should I Continue to Starve My Newborn to Death With My Inept, Hippie Breastfeeding? Or should I feed him formula, and turn him into an allergic retard?”
    http://observer.com/2015/08/should-i-continue-to-starve-my-newborn-to-death-with-my-inept-hippie-breastfeeding/

    • monojo

      Thank you for sharing that, it was a very touching article. Mothers are damned if they do, damned if they don’t, and it can be a very alienating time.

    • Roadstergal

      Wow, a very well-written and painfully empathy-inducing article.

  • Jessica

    I breastfed my son for 19 months, and it wasn’t always easy, and I went to great lengths to make it work. Overall I enjoyed the experience; I’m pregnant with #2 and plan to breastfeed again.

    I thought this was a great article. I am all for supporting breastfeeding, but not at the expense of women who choose otherwise, and not on the basis of alleged benefits which may only be theoretical at best. The people railing against this article are the usual suspects, and it saddens me.

  • Froggggggg

    Some women who have breastfed successfully just don’t appear to be able to see past their own positive experience. To them it must have been easy and if they had problems, they managed to overcome them, so they just can’t understand that it doesn’t work like that for every woman, that we all have different bodies, limits, abilities, priorities, ways of handling things, and so on. Empathy fail.

    “If I could do X, Y, Z under my difficult circumstances, then surely everyone else should be able to do the same” – yep, we’ve all heard that from the lactivist camp. But it’s not just them… it’s an attitude I see a lot, with many things – overcoming adversity, battling health problems, weight loss, grief, relationships, work-related stuff, you name it… I think we’ve all made a statement like that at some point and sometimes it may just be an attempt at humility, saying what we achieved wasn’t really such a big deal and anyone could do it. But in the case of lactivists, humility doesn’t seem to come into the picture, or if it does, it is soon overtaken by smug superiority.

    • mostlyclueless

      I think it’s also some of the opposite — women who put themselves through SO MUCH pain and effort and time to breastfeed have to rationalize that there’s a good reason for it.

      • Froggggggg

        I agree, definitely – looking for validation that it was worth it. And for some of them, the amount of pain and effort they went through probably causes resentment towards women who chose a different path.

        • Chi

          Women who took what they see as the ‘easy’ path.

          Never mind that with all the blaming and shaming that that path is FAR from easy.

          • Sarah

            I can only speak for myself, and wouldn’t wish to downplay the experiences of any other formula feeding mothers. But honestly, for me, formula feeding one child from day two and one since birth has been spectacularly easy. That’s why I chose it, and that’s what it’s been.

        • Sarah

          It is quite well documented that humans tend to attach more value to things and experiences when they’ve had to suffer for them. Presumably some sort of validation/coping mechanism.

          • guest

            Well that certainly explains why people get PhDs.

          • Gatita

            Ha!

      • Chi

        I think the best comment I heard with regards to ANYTHING to do with mothering (in particular, because of course dads don’t factor into this at all, lacking tits or whatever, don’t get me started on the sexism in the lactivist camp) is this:

        You are NOT a true mother unless you’re a martyr. There seems to be this expectation, particularly in the western world, that unless you sacrifice and do everything in your power to give your child EVERYTHING that is considered to be ‘best’ (breastfeeding, non-gmo all-organic hand-made solid food, cloth diapers etc) you are not a true mother.

        You are expected to give EVERYTHING to your child, even at the cost of your own body, mental health, whatever. It’s like, to some people in this camp, once you pop out a kid, you no longer exist as a woman.

        People say the reason that breastfeeding in public isn’t culturally accepted is because breasts have become overly sexualized. And I think that’s part of it, but I think the main reason is because seeing a woman breastfeeding hits home the fact that they are primarily to nourish young. And so, I think it comes back to reducing women to their parts and function and thus the idea that women need to be TOLD what to do with those parts. Not sure if that makes sense, but that’s the feeling I get when reading about women who have been told to cover up or leave or breastfeed elsewhere.

        • guest

          And it’s because if the mother (or father, if we stop being so sexist) has to give up *everything*, then the rest of us don’t have to. We’re not responsible for kids that aren’t our own. Ergo, we don’t need to fund healthcare and education for them, we don’t need an ADA Act for children mandating public spaces be safe and accessible for families, and we certainly don’t need paid maternity leave. Because it’s mom’s job to just give up all of herself, her money, her feelings, and her heath in devotion to her children.

          Because tits, I guess.

          • Gatita

            Yes, goddammit. All of this. This is what it’s really all about.

        • Roadstergal

          “And I think that’s part of it, but I think the main reason is because seeing a woman breastfeeding hits home the fact that they are primarily to nourish young.”
          That’s a great point. “Your boobs aren’t there to please men! They’re there to please babies! Use them the way we tell you.” Neither message is liberating.

  • Adrienne

    Loved your piece for Time, thank-you for devoting so much time and energy to raising awareness about the dark side to the “breast is best” mentality. Women, like myself, who are unable to exclusively breastfeed their children need more health care providers like you to speak up!

  • Sue
  • Maman Brigit

    During my prenatal class (I’m in southern Ireland) the hospital midwife handed out a sheet of paper. Both sides were printed with two columns on each page. She stated this paper listed everything that was in breast milk that was NOT in formula. The list contained all the vitamins and minerals, some fats and of course water. Now the chemical names for each thing was listed and the Latin in some cases so if you didn’t know what you were looking at you would have really been worried about formula.
    Oh & I laughed as soon as we read it which went down real well. Any questions regarding feeding that didn’t involve from the boob were ignored. Even when someone brought up expressing so their oh could do a feed they were poo pooed by her. Men can bond with their babies over dirty nappies. I couldn’t believe the attitude that it’s ok to ostracise the father of your child and to not allow him time to bond with his baby. But it’s the same sexist attitude that affords little comfort for the father in the event of miscarriage even though it’s equally heartbreaking for them, but it’s ok because it’s women being sexist

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      There’s no water in formula?

      • Cobalt

        I’ve been doing it wrong a long time then.

        • KarenJJ

          It sounds like they think parents are just giving dry milk powder in the bottles?

      • Maman Brigit

        Ikr she really didn’t appreciate oh asking me loudly (once he’d stopped laughing) how come formula fed babies haven’t all died from malnutrition and thirst if that list was accurate

    • Sue

      I recently read a comment on an anti-fructose FB page that infant formula is “loaded with sugar”. Actually, breast milk is about 7g/dl lactose. It also commonly contains aluminum.

  • Taysha

    I pumped for 6 months for no other motivation than it was flipping expensive to get formula for my twins and I was hoping to save some cash by playing cow. My mother, who’d never been able to breastfeed, encouraged me to use formula because she saw the toll pumping took on me. But she also helped me care for my twins while I got pumping established and helped me stay sane. So I call it a draw.
    My mother also remembers what happened to her neighbors baby when the woman was unable to breastfeed. Feeding a baby toasted flour and water to try and help it survive because the mother wasn’t producing milk left quite a mark on my mother.
    There is no reason to shame a mother trying to survive. Ever.

  • There’s a reason why the Fearless Formula Feeder is a personal hero to me, even though I predominantly breastfed both of my munchkins. What is mind boggling is – it is fairly well established that shame does not change behaviour. Doesn’t work with smoking. Doesn’t work with exercise. Why on earth would it work with breastfeeding? Not only that, but even if it did work – the benefits simply do not outweigh the costs – there just isn’t a big enough bang for the autonomy destroying buck.

    • DelphiniumFalcon

      It doesn’t work on incestuous twins either.

    • guest

      Yes, I EBF’d twins for six months…but Fearless Formula Leader is my hero as well. I was probably going to switch to formula anyway, but finding her site allowed me to do it without guilt. Why should anyone feel guilty about switching at 6 months in the first place? It’s crazy. And she’s a sane voice in the wilderness.

  • DelphiniumFalcon

    OT: Can I just say I really, really enjoy the level of intelligence on this board? I’m not even close to the smartest one here and yet everyone is so chill.

    Just almost had a stroke trying to point out that laws don’t lead to death as one “Libertarian” on my city’s “What’s Happening” blog. Because laws cause violence. *head/desk*

    • yugaya

      Yeah this blog spoils you like that.

      • Gatita

        I’m here much more for the commenters than for Amy’s posts though I respect the shit out of her for being willing to take on the vitriol she gets even when I don’t agree with everything she says (I think she tends to overreach when the evidence doesn’t support her which is too bad because there’s no need–the solid, not-iffy evidence is so damning).

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      OT: Can I just say I really, really enjoy the level of intelligence on
      this board? I’m not even close to the smartest one here and yet everyone
      is so chill.

      Yeah, you’ve been duped….:)

      It is because of the level of discourse that I am even here to see your comment. I don’t waste my time on idiotic “fan” boards where the bulk of discussion consists of mindless woofing (it refers to sports boards, but can be about anything). I end up spending time in places like this, where it’s not about being delicate and “no drama,” and involves actual thoughtful discussion. All of my on-line activities are in places like this (with various topics).

  • dragonchaser

    I hate pushy lactivists. I had on my birth plan that I was going to formula feed. The nurse decided to grab my boob out of my gown and tried to force me to breastfeed. My husband grabbed her arm and pulled her away from me and was nearly arrested until we explained what happened. Then the charge nurse said I should have just gone along with it because it was the right choice. I told her that touching my body without my permission was assault and that anywhere else that nurse would be in jail for touching me like she did. I had to go up a very high chain of command at the hospital to finally get someone to concede that the nurse was inappropriate. Stupid BFH that I had no choice but to use, because every hospital around here is baby friendly even if they aren’t certified. That is what WBW encourages to me.

    • AirPlant

      well isn’t that… special.

      • DelphiniumFalcon

        I need an adult?

        Seriously though. Somebody would have lost fingers if it were me.

        • AirPlant

          And what exactly do they think is going to happen? Something clamps onto your nipple without you consent, you bolt upright and say “Eureka! I have seen the light! I will exclusively breastfeed after all!”

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            That made me laugh far harder than it should have!

    • Sarah

      How very rapey.

    • Cartman36

      WTF? That is seriously messed up.

    • Maman Brigit

      Wow and I thought the head midwife repeatedly asking if I was sure I wanted to formula feed while I was in the heights of labour was bad… But wow… Just wow…

  • Mac Sherbert

    As former baby that was FF. I really don’t understand the big deal about BF. Seriously, do they not realize they are not just attacking moms that FF, but all of us that were formula feed as babies. I love my mom. I’m healthy. I’m not obese. I don’t have allergies. Even the lack of BF IQ points didn’t stop me from getting a Master’s degree.

    • DelphiniumFalcon

      I’m a former breastfed baby with a myriad of health problems. Can I get my money back? Lol

      • Mac Sherbert

        I wish. Sometimes it’s just luck of the draw. I think that’s the whole issue with BF. Women want to believe it will do things that it can’t.

      • FEDUP MD

        Yup, I was exclusively breastfed and I have all sorts of health issues too.

    • Maman Brigit

      My mum was told her boobs were too small to breastfeed us back in the day

    • Roadstergal

      I pointed out to my lactivist friend that, given that I was a 4th child in the mid-70s to a career mom, I most likely was partially to exclusively formula fed, just given the numbers (I don’t know for sure, because my mom didn’t tell me about the REALLY IMPORTANT things, such as whether I came out of her vagina and the extent to which I sucked on flesh vs rubber nipples – only that she loved me and let’s read all of these books and do some art and running around outside). And I then pointed out that I’m not exactly lacking in IQ, I’m a bit of an athlete at the local level and very fit, and have no allergies. And her response basically boiled down to, “Well, sometimes you get lucky…”

      • Sue

        Yay – reading books! Those things, as well as parental cognitive level, are well-shown to influence the child’s develop, function and cognitive level.

        If lactivists were REALLY concerned about infant development, they would champion reading and early childhood education, no?

        See http://earlyliteracylearning.org/cellreviews/cellreviews_v5_n4.pdf

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          If lactivists were REALLY concerned about infant development, they would champion reading and early childhood education, no?

          For sure. And it’s fun, too. I went to my son’s kindergarten last year once a week to read to them. We had a great time. For the last few weeks, I brought in Shel Silverstein’s book Runny Babbit, in addition to whatever other story I was reading, and we would read a couple of sections of it. The teacher had as much fun as the kids.

          “Runny had a firlgriend, her name was Sunny Bue…”

    • Sue

      I regularly tell the story of my Southern Italian mother, who I ahd assumed must have breast fed me for ages, resulting in my great health and uber-immunity.

      It was only when I had my daughter that she told me that, because I “cried all the time”, the infant health nurse advised formula after about six weeks. And here I am, still uber-immune!

      These are anecdotes, of course, and can be countered with other anecdotes, but the research that tries to tease out any long-term benefits (in wealthy communities) struggles hard – what there is is scanty and relatively weak.

    • DaisyGrrl

      I think I’ve shared this before, but my father was the 11th child in his family. Due to circumstances, he was adopted at birth by an aunt and uncle and must have been exclusively formula fed. Fast-forward 40 years…he has a family photo with all 11 siblings lined up and he’s a head taller than the next tallest sibling. I imagine the quality of nutrition he was able to access as an only child helped tremendously, but it’s clear the formula didn’t hurt him any either.

  • Charybdis

    Slightly OT, but what is the fascination/obsession of some lactivists with trying to force their babies to EBF when the kid starts dropping nursing sessions or tries to self-wean? They seem to panic that the kid is on a “nursing strike” and will then start withholding any other food (crackers, Cheerios, water, etc) in an effort to starve the baby into nursing again. I have to wonder if the nursing is more for them and their mommy egos than it is for the benefit of the child.

    • Cobalt

      It is mire for them, and calls into serious question true dedication to “nature”. If the kid decides to quit and switch to solids, it’s “unnatural” to interfere.

    • Nick Sanders

      Wait, they do what?!

    • AirPlant

      The way I see it there are some kids who nurse to eat and some who nurse because it is OMG the best thing ever. The ones who just wanna get some grub will start naturally weaning when something better comes along as opposed to the ones who are in it to win it and it takes a whole lot longer for them to find something that they like better. The second category is where you get extended breastfeeding (which is fine if that is what you want from your life, any way to calm a screaming kid etc).
      The problem comes when your belief system states that extended breastfeeding is the best, only, and most naturally healthy way to raise your child and you get a kid from the first group. You get a situation where what you believe is different from what is happening and the cognitive dissonence kicks in and you start doing some crazy shit.

      • SporkParade

        I was thinking about this today, and I’m not sure you’re right. If you read really old Jewish texts, it was pretty clear that it was standard to breastfeed at least two years, recommended to continue until four, and recommended for sickly kids until five. I mention it because that tracks pretty well with contemporary recommendations about when to switch small children from full-fat to low-fat dairy products.

        • AirPlant

          I am just going by my plural of anecdote, but my friend cohort I know a solid handfull of kids who hit six months to a year and something just clicked off in their brains. My godson was a champion nurser from birth, but once solid food became a thing in his life he refused to latch on. His mother tried just about everything, but he had moved on and nothing could take him back. The kids I know who went past a year all had pretty much one thing in common and that was that they comfort nursed. It isn’t a perfect theory, but it fits my dataset, and I like “every baby is different, do what works” a bit better than “Every baby wants to nurse for as long as possible, starve your baby to make it happen for the greater good”

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            The greater good!

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      I have to wonder if the nursing is more for them and their mommy egos than it is for the benefit of the child.

      You think?

      The moms interrupting kindergarten class to nurse their kid aren’t doing it for the kids, make no mistake.

      • Amy M

        Someone does that?

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          I’ve heard of it

    • Fallow

      I have had several EBF friends go to a lot of trouble to prevent their child from self-weaning. Usually when they needed to go on a trip that would last a few days. They’d panic that the kid would wean if they weren’t there 24 hours a day.

      I don’t remember any of them entertaining the idea that it was okay for the child to wean. Even though they were all nursing into toddlerhood at that point. But building on what AirPlant says below: I think many of my friends who panic about weaning, rely on breastfeeding as a guaranteed way to comfort their child.

  • DelphiniumFalcon

    Can we also talk about the disturbing implications that women who don’t deliver their child vaginally and then breastfeed aren’t “real mothers?”

    That’s the biggest slap in the face you can give an adoptive parent.

    How can a person who takes in and cares for a child they didn’t give birth to and aren’t biologically related to and -chose- to do this be called “not a real mother?” People who have given birth to their own children and breastfed but are abusive towards their children are supposed to be held above adoptive parents who take children out of those situations and love their new child more than the kid’s own parents did?

    Because that’s what I see from NCB and lactivist zealots.

    The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb as an alternate saying goes. I think all adoptive parents know this to be true.

    • ladyloki

      I had someone post something about C-Section moms not being real mothers on her Facebook page. I replied that I guess I was definitely not a real mother because I adopted. She backtracked and said that’s different. I inquired how it was, and when I got no reasonable answer I replied that she was a horrible person and I don’t make friends with horrible people. She tried to message and email me apologies, but I know her true colors. Block block block.

      What makes a real mother is love no matter how you became a mother.

      • Cartman36

        Preach it sister! A real mom reads to her kids, holds them when they are sick and loves them forever. The way a baby was delivered or brought into a family is irrelevant.

        • ladyloki

          They were not even babies, they were elementary school age. I don’t like babies – they are too loud and stinky, so we adopted older πŸ˜‰

          • Mattie

            I mean, older kids can be pretty loud and stinky =P especially tweens/young teens, before the figure out they need to use deodorant lol

      • nomofear

        Hey, maybe you actually have some power there to change her mind, if she’s apologizing! I was a NCB asshole, and I changed, all thanks to this site and the commenters. People can change – NCB and anti-vaccers usually don’t, but sometimes we do, when we get out of the echo chamber. Maybe she’s just never had an actual informed discussion about it.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          I hope so. And then she can remember the lesson with her other friends.

          But I don’t blame ladyloki for cutting her off. Sometimes when you burn bridges, there’s no getting back.

        • Sue

          That’s great to hear, nomofear. You are an example of the answer to the question of “why do you persist?”.

      • Sarah

        If you need to huff your baby out of your chuff to feel like a real mother, you’re doing it wrong.

      • Dr Kitty

        I’m sure you were a model of polite restraint.
        As someone who is, all being well, having her second scheduled CS in less than 3weeks, if I had seen that on my FB feed I would probably have invented new swear words!

    • Deborah

      Well, of course, REALLY dedicated adoptive moms do the protocol to get their milk going.
      I thought I was off the hook, having adopted my girls a little bit older (9mos for one, 1 year for the other) but I STILL got comments from people about how I could have tried to breast feed.

      • DelphiniumFalcon

        If I keep head/desking myself every time someone mentioned a ridiculous “suggestion” from such helpful people I may have to check in to the ER. But it just hurts my brain so badly…

        I think this is comes in just behind the “Armpit Lactation” for stupidity.

      • Mel

        *Blinks*

        Two problems that should be obvious even to dingbats.

        Obvious One – attempting to establish lactation without a pregnancy is freaking ridiculously hard for moms who have successfully breastfed before and damn near impossible for women who have never breast feed.

        Obvious Two: 9 months and 12 months is old enough for a baby to develop a distinct preference for a feeding type. I can’t imagine trying to re-establish breastfeeding with a child who has teeth – and I wouldn’t blame either baby if they showed their displeasure with having a breast shoved in their mouth by biting…..

        • Mattie

          Is it hard, I’ve heard of plenty of women have done it and not just adoptive mothers (I heard a story of a lesbian couple who were both breastfeeding, one woman had had the baby, the other used medication and breast stimulation to lactate). I figured it was something that could work if you wanted to try…obviously no guarantee of producing enough milk or the baby taking it, but that’s a risk with all breastfeeding relationships.

          • namaste863

            I had an acquaintance in a lesbian relationship (Handfasted in a Wiccan ceremony) whose partner bore their child. Strangely enough, she started spontaneously lactating for a while. Nothing ever came of it, as she was a CF patient 6 years past a double lung transplant, and on some pretty powerful drugs. She finally passed on due to complications from rejection last September. Just a point of interest.

          • Mel

            The devil is in the details. If you want to go through all the trouble of formula feeding through a goofy apparatus while taking a drug that promotes lactation to produce 1 oz of breast milk daily, you’ve got a 89% chance of success. Every peer-reviewed study I found clearly stated that mothers should understand that will most likely never be produce enough breast milk to BF exclusively.

            Now, most studies argue that maternal feelings about the process should count as successes as well since moms who do the

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            And even so, it’s not like I care if that’s what you want to do. However, you start criticizing others because they DON’T see the point of going through all that and you’ve stepped way over the line. You want to jump through 45 hoops and bend all over in different contortions, good on ya. But don’t you dare suggest that anyone else should go through that.

        • AirPlant

          My new neighbors just moved in with their six month old and that poor baby can’t even figure out how to sleep in her new room, you are going to enough of a hard time calming the child and allowing them to figure out their new life without messing around with how they are fed. How on the earth is breastfeeding the most important thing to think about in anybody’s mind?

    • E

      My mother was quite the flower child. I am now 35 and my brother is 38. She had us both naturally even though we were both a variation of breech. I almost died in the process and my mother wasn’t able to have kids again after me. And yet the biggest outrage she had during my birth was that the doctor had given me a vaccine shortly after birth which she didn’t approve of. She breastfed us both until we self-weened. She co-slept with us. Didn’t potty train until we were preschoolers. Never owned a stroller, and unschooled us until high school. I am so very grateful she had the wisdom to let us attend high school.

      She was also abusive.

      She hit us every single day. She screamed at us, called us names, forced us to eat detergent. She once beat my brother up with a self help book. My brother cowering on the floor, begging her to stop. Me crouched in the corner under a table, crying quietly, afraid I was next. The book fell apart.

      But in her mind she’s a martyr.

      She had not medications and I was 10 pounds. What a sacrifice. She breastfed forever. She made fun of moms who even so much as pumped. She was gold card carrying member of La Leche League.

      Being a mother has nothing to do with natural childbirth or breastfeeding. Really nothing.

      • demodocus

        jeezus

      • DelphiniumFalcon

        I’m so sorry you had to deal with that. πŸ™ I hope that life has gotten better and you have your own family and/or circle of friends that care about your well-being. It always sucks when your mom turns out to be your worst enemy.

      • Mattie

        Wow, that’s terrible I am so sorry. I also feel for you in that I can only imagine you entered high school woefully unprepared for the challenges that would be presented…not just academically, but structurally as well. I hope now that you’re grown you have managed to come to terms with your childhood and found some kind of peace.

      • Mel

        I’m so sorry you went through that hellish childhood.

      • yentavegan

        Goes to show that breastfeeding does not automatically grant parenting wisdom to the adult. Even really crappy moms lactate. Your own mother must have hid her spanking/abusive beatings/screamin from her sister La Leche Leaguers. LLL is kind of preachy about loving guidance.

        • E

          I dunno. Was it 35, 40 years ago? I’m serious. I really don’t know. It was started by a bunch of Catholic women at a church picnic. So did it only get gentler in recent years? I remember a lot of my friends getting hit as kids too. My best friend’s mom used to hit her with a metal pipe she called Rodney. My mom and her mom were quite close.

          • Evelyn

            It really was. They were countercultural at the time.

        • Liz Leyden

          I used to work with a bunch of very religious women who loved to share tales of beating their children. They compared methods for effectiveness. The most important thing was not to leave any marks.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Horrible people, to put it restraintively

          • Roadstergal

            I am distressed but not surprised. Spare the rod, spoil the child. Ugh.

      • Megan

        I’m sorry. That’s horrible.

      • Sue

        Thanks for the perspective, E. A bit of real-life reality is always needed.

      • FormerPhysicist

        That’s hideous.

      • RMY

        I’ve noticed people who are hyper-ideological tend to just follow their ideology and ignore reality. My mom is a slightly less abusive right-wing version of that (natural birth, breastfed for six months, church at least once a week, prayers constantly, but allowed us to witness her very dysfunctional marriage which was riddled with verbal and occasional physical abuse by our dad who thought that if everyone was terrified of him, we would be safe).

        It’s like they see good motherhood as a set of checkboxes, and as long as you hit those, it’s all good, the feedback from the kid doesn’t matter. It’s not cooperative, and not healthy.

  • Maman Brigit

    I didn’t breastfeed due to health concerns. When lo developed eczema, reflux and then was diagnosed with allergies I was subject to backhanded comments about how he might not have these things had I breastfed. What I discovered was none of these women would say those things in front of my oh, it was all said quietly when he was out of the room or not with me. These women knew I was/am very sensitive when it comes to lo because I had suffered multiple miscarriages before having him and had a rocky pregnancy.

    Afterwards I realised they were just cowards because if they had said any of those things in front of oh he would have gone thru them for a short cut. Not all breastfeeding mommas are like them.

    Anyone who behaves like a bully needs to be told that it’s not ok, that goes for every side of the fence whether formula or breast feeders women need to learn to not be so hard on each other for what we do differently but to stand together and support each other. Once our children are happy and healthy that’s all that matters.

    • Angharad

      One of the big reasons I stopped combo feeding and switched entirely to formula was due to my daughter’s allergies to the foods I was eating (dairy, eggs, and nuts). I am regularly told that she wouldn’t have developed allergies if I hadn’t given her formula in the first place. It’s insulting and frustrating and undermining. I’m sorry you had to deal with similar comments.

      • Maman Brigit

        If I ever manage a second child god help anyone who suggests anything I did caused genetic issues. As it is I just resort to managers answers now, if someone asks something dumb they get a single word answer yes or no. Without expanding on your answer they have no wriggle room to argue and feel very uncomfortable.

    • Mel

      My husband was exclusively breastfeed for at least 6 months. He has allergies to all known mammal dander, most wind-pollinated plants (great for a cow farmer), bananas, kiwis, pork and eggs. He’s also obese and has asthma that needs a daily control treatment.

      I got some breast milk and formula. I’m allergic to most wind-pollinated plants, a protein in uncooked vegetables, cherries and tree nuts. I also am excellent at producing skin rashes due to dermal irritation – I can do classic eczema, dihydrotic eczema, atopic dermatitis and – new for me as of this week! – contact dermatitis from the prickles on summer squash plants. I’m also obese.

      My twin sister never got breast milk – her GI tract was too reactive as a preemie. She gets hayfever about once every 10 years and is a healthy weight.

      • FEDUP MD

        I was exclusively breastfed. I have terrible allergies to dust mites, so bad I actually have had multiple nasal surgeries including adenoidectomy in my 30s (they are usually gone at age 9 or so). I have asthma. I have autoimmune thyroiditis. I am obese.

        My daughter had a bad allergic reaction to eggs while I was still breastfeeding her at 9 months old. She has never gotten formula. We now have an epi-pen.

  • ArmyChick

    Lactivists should be very thankful women formula feed. Because if formula didn’t exist, how else would they feel so great about themselves? How else would they find a way to announce to the world how much superior they are?

    Get off your high horse, ladies and find some REAL accomplishment to be proud about. Something that women have done for thousands of years isn’t quite something worthy of praise.

    • Megan

      It’s the usual dichotomy isn’t it? Breastfeeding is so easy and natural and women have been doing it for thousands of years, but it’s also hard and women who don’t do it are being lazy and taking the “easy way out.”

      Which is it? And why are they so proud of it if it’s so easy?

      • ArmyChick

        Because they think that everyone’s experience needs to mirror theirs. That’s why they feel superior when others have no choice but to formula feed or just choose to formula feed for personal reasons. It has nothing to do with how hard it easy it is. Nothing. It’s about holding themselves to a higher standard and everyone who doesn’t conform is inferior.

        I never said breastfeeding was easy. I just pointed out it is not an accomplishment when millions have done it. Just like pushing a child out of your vagina isn’t an accomplishment either. Bodily functions and accomplishment don’t go hand in hand… Unless you are a NCB/Lactivists zealot.

        • Megan

          I don’t think breastfeeding is easy either. I was merely saying that is the usual lactivist trope. They go on and on about how it’s natural and easy and every woman can do it. Yet they also shame formula feeders as lazy and say they’ve taken the easy way out. They can’t decide which is reality. Probably because neither is true. I agree with you.

          • Cobalt

            Breastfeeding was easy for me when I did it. Formula feeding was easy when I did that. And combo feeding when I did that. I freely admit I did whatever was easiest at the time. Making it easy was a goal.

            Lactivists may call that lazy. I find efficiency rewarding though, it allows for more resources to go to more important stuff.

          • Megan

            IMO the biggest perk to switching to all formula was that it made feeding efficient and freed up more of my time to spend with my baby, not my breast pump or fighting with her to latch. That’s the beauty of choices.

        • AirPlant

          I have a pretty good singing voice. For the longest time I was a complete bitch about some people not being able to sing because for me I just open my mouth and what I want to happen just happens and it is effortless. Music is my chief joy, and the idea that people were unwilling and unable to put the effort into becoming a singer when music is such a wonderful thing in this world was completely galling.
          Then one day I turned 15 and got over myself. I still take a little umberage when people say that they don’t like listening to music (what?) and I have a genuinely hard time understanding people who can’t match pitch, but adults live their lives how they choose and let other people do the same. If I can’t figure this shit out lactivists on the internet who are also all adults should be able to get their shit together.

        • demodocus

          Yep. We are excited when our child learns to walk but that doesn’t mean we should crow about his/her bravery and accomplishment except to the grandparents, of course. Nor should we be mentioning it 3 years later or telling people who cannot walk that they are inferior.

      • nervousprima

        They do the same with c-sections. It’s either major surgery, so hard to recover from!!! or the lazy, easy, “too posh to push” way out.

        • Froggggggg

          Yeah, I never got that. I think it’s probably major surgery if one of their own had one and it was one of those rare c-sections deemed “necessary” even by NCB zealots, but other than that, it’s the easy way out.

    • Shannonblue65

      Exactly!

  • Angharad

    Here’s the general format of an interaction with a lactivist in any comment section.
    Lactivist: Breast is best and normal! The formula you feed your baby is responsible for any and all her problems that she has or may develop, and it will give her leukemia! Mothers who love their babies breastfeed them.
    Me: I feel attacked when you say that. I have valid reasons for the feeding choices I make.
    Lactivist: Why are you so defensive? Nobody can make you feel inferior without your own consent.

    • AirPlant

      Only lazy mothers are not willing to put in the work to breastfeed.
      I mostly just feel sorry for formula feeders though because washing and sterilizing bottles is pretty much the hardest thing ever, as is measuring powder in the provided scoop.
      How dare you get one of those formula keurigs?

      • Happy

        OMG, you rock! I’ve been trying to figure out what to get for a friend’s shower. I’d never heard of these before, but google shows a ton of options. Thanks πŸ™‚

        P.S. Yes, she’s planning to formula feed. It’s one of the first things she mentioned to her obstetrician (who is very supportive). She wants to be able to share feedings with her husband and doesn’t want to be tied to a breast pump all day.

        • Roadstergal

          A formula Keurig sounds like the most awesome thing for new parents sharing feedings.

          • SporkParade

            I thought people were being sarcastic, but now I want a formula Keurig!

        • AirPlant

          I do not perform well under low sleep conditions, so I do not trust myself to mix and heat in the dark of night. I kind of figure the plan will be to have the Keurig by the bed, cue up the empty bottle, press go when the baby cries, feed, change, rock, cue up the next empty, toss the used in a bucket and go back to sleep. that feels about as close as a person can get to the convenience of breastfeeding with a formula baby, and I think that is why lactivists HATE it.

          • Cobalt

            Cold bottles (if baby will take them) are even easier. Make them up ahead, keep them in a minifridge or insulated bag by the bed. Apply as necessary. The pediatrician can advise on when it’s ok to stop warming the milk.

            I may be a monster.

          • Tricia Blanchard

            This is exactly what I did – I put cold bottles in an insulated bag with a couple of cold packs every night. So easy; baby liked bottles anywhere from room temp to just out of the fridge.

          • AirPlant

            my friend traveled with a 12 hour vaccum thermos. The water stayed warm on outings which apparently helped her baby sleep through her errands.

          • AirPlant

            For some reason I thought newborns needed warm bottles. Like the cold formula would burn more calories heating it up and it would cause problems?

          • AirPlant

            I just reread, and I am totally not trying to sound judgy if that is how I came out. I had heard one thing and am apparently wrong which is a thing that happens like a lot.

          • Amy M

            We started by warming the bottles if they came out of the fridge, but I had 2 preemies in January. They would take it room temp as newborns anyway, so if it was already RT, we didn’t heat it. Then, by the summer time, they were pretty happy to get it cold from the fridge.

          • An Actual Attorney

            Dunno, but Actual Kid never got a warm bottle of ebm or formula. And we told all who cared for him that there would be holy hell to pay if they let him learn such a thing as warm bottles even existed. But he was born in the summer, in the south.

          • Michele

            I was told it’s only a concern if the baby is having problems putting on weight. If they are gaining normally it wasn’t an issue.

          • Cobalt

            Some do, but most don’t. That’s why I recommended the pediatrician for advice on when warming isn’t necessary. Small, premature, or slow growers might need it. Also some babies really prefer warm and are willing to fuss about it. Mine didn’t care, except for the one who preferred cold. Once he knew cold was possible he would fuss over room temperature. I hate warm milk, too.

          • Megan

            My kid gets room temperature bottles. I dump the formula ore measured into the premeasured water, shake and serve. I’m as much of a monster as you. πŸ™‚

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            Then I’m one, too.
            I warmed bottles for DD until she was about a month old, and screaming bloody murder for a bottle while it was oh-so-slowly warming. In desperation, I grabbed a cold one from the fridge and stuck it in her mouth, thinking maybe it would distract her for a minute or two. She inhaled it (had a definite attitude of “about freaking time, Mom!”, too), burped contentedly, and went back to sleep after a bit of rocking. Never warmed another bottle, and she certainly didn’t care.

          • Cobalt

            That’s about how I discovered them. Kid howling, I’m frazzled, gave him one from the fridge just to have give him something and it was gone and he asleep by the time I got the first one warmed.

            Never looked back!

          • SporkParade

            I was very sad the day I first had to start warming bottles because my baby would only drink the disgusting hydrolyzed stuff if it was warm.

          • Cobalt

            Mine was the opposite: the kid that needed the hydrolysed stuff had a strong preference for cold.

            Yet more evidence that babies are individuals and one size does not fit all.

          • Kelly

            We put water in a bottle and then we pre measured the formula. Poured it in and gave it to baby. If you don’t warm it up to begin with, they won’t need it warm. They don’t warm up formula in the hospital.

          • Amy M

            You can pre-make nighttime bottles–either by having a stock bottle in your fridge and pouring out what you need (maybe microwave for a few seconds if baby won’t take it cold), OR by have bottles of water ready, and pre-measured scoops of formula (they make a container that can hold 3 servings, you can find it at babies-r-us) and mix when needed. (I have twins, they were formula fed and we took shifts for the night feedings. So we found any way possible to make this as quick and easy as possible on the parent whose turn it was.)

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            I’m finding myself more and more convinced that my husband and I need to create something for formula like the espresso dosers baristas use .

            Maybe use a raspberry pi and a scale to measure formula and dose appropriately depending on how much water is being used.

            Hmmm. Tests.

          • DiomedesV

            We make up a pitcher once a day, using a pitcher with a lid that you can shake vigorously. Then disperse among bottles. Warm to room temperature in microwave for 18-25 seconds (depending on volume). Shake vigorously.

            We wash the bottles in the dishwasher and use the sterile rinse setting. It takes about as much time as setting up the morning coffee and cleaning it later. And As they get older, they use fewer bottles per day.

            And babies will take cold bottles. On outings we either take the ready to feed or a cold bottle. No warming. It’s just not that hard.

            I’ve heard the formula keurig can gunk up easily, but otherwise I’d totally buy it.

          • Mac Sherbert

            Mine would take it cold, which was really nice. I actually got more sleep with my FF baby than I did with my BF baby. FF baby would finish a bottle fast (8-10 minutes) and go back to sleep. BF nursed for 45 minutes and I was never comfortable nursing in bed. (not to mention the cluster feedings with a BF baby)

      • Cartman36

        My cousin has one of those formula keurig things. Would it be rude to say “can I have that when you are done?”. πŸ™‚

        • AirPlant

          Not rude, THRIFTY… Honestly though I have read that the powder gums up the works and they don’t survive as well as one would hope. Still worth it, but maybe temper your expectations about the lifetime of a used model.

      • Bombshellrisa

        I wish I would have known about those!
        I premeasured however many scoops per serving and had a jug of water and a kettle in baby’s room. Just warmed the water up while I would change baby’s diaper and we were ready to go.

      • Mattie

        Wow, I googled what a formula keurig is. It seems amazingly useful and time saving πŸ˜€ but does the water not have to be boiled fully first and then cooled to the right temperature? Does the keurig thing do that? *confused*

        • Megan

          I use room temperature filtered water. I think the sterilized water is only an issue for young babies/premies.

          • Mattie

            I didn’t think it was that the water needs to be sterile, but that the milk powder could potentially contain bacteria including (rarely) salmonella or other food-borne illness bacteria, the hot water kills that bacteria. Going by the NHS website here, and it’s what we used to tell mums who were bottle-feeding. It’s also recommended that you use fresh water every time, not previously boiled water (so fill the kettle every time).

          • Angharad

            I am 99% sure they don’t recommend that here. My pediatrician said tap water was fine, unless we were making up formula in advance, in which case we should use filtered or bottled water. In fact, the formula we used to use specifically said not to warm it or it would degrade the proteins. I wonder why the difference! It’s always weird to me when the UK does things differently from the U.S.

          • Mattie

            See we are specifically told to never use bottled water for formula, unless you absolutely have to (because the tap water has been deemed temporarily unsafe even when boiled). Even bottled water should be boiled.

            The website is here, for anyone interested in what UK mums are told. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/making-up-infant-formula.aspx

          • Angharad

            Wow… That’s a lot more work than making formula here. Taking the time to boil water and let it cool for 30 minutes (but no more), making up the bottle and letting it cool more sounds so excessive, and your baby would have to be on a pretty predictable schedule, not to mention it really would complicate middle-of-the night feeds. Any ideas why this is recommended? As far as I know there’s not exactly an epidemic of babies getting sick from their room temperature or cold formula that takes about 10 seconds of prep time here in the US (turn on tap, fill bottle to desired level, add formula, shake, refrigerate for later if desired).

          • Megan

            That is not generally recommended in the US. Tap water is fine. I just use filtered water because our water is hard and it can taste funny unfiltered. Sterilizing bottles is also unnecessary; they only have to be clean. I just run mine through the dishwasher (we use glass) along with the nipples and rings in a special basket. The only time I’d worry about these things is with a premie.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        I freely admit to eying one at Target earlier today. The $160 price tag put me off, but DANG it looked awesome!

    • DelphiniumFalcon

      “Because I had a double mastectomy due to being positive for both BRCA genes and already finding lumps. I am physically incapable of breast feeding you ignorant walnut.”

      I wonder how often that happens to lactivists. Or having to back pedal because of other problems that make it down right impossible to breast feed. Luckily that situation doesn’t apply to me since I can’t imagine radical surgery or other issues can be terribly comfortable to endure.

      • Cobalt

        Something along those lines happened and was reported on, I want to say in the Washington Post. The post-mastectomy mother was told that she should find a way, like getting the milk out through her armpit.

        “Spraying out the armpits” was used here to describe such asinine suggestions for a while.

        • DelphiniumFalcon

          Feed out of the arm… Whaaaaaat?

          The saying is “breast is best” not “spray and pray!”

          How are you supposed to bond with your baby with it’s head shoved into your armpit? Isn’t that what you do to younger siblings to torture them? Minus the horror show of milk secreting from where it shouldn’t?

          • Mel

            The author of the piece also attempted to point out the the wacky LCs that if she was producing milk from breast tissue located near her armpits she’d have a really serious problem – those tissues were supposed to be removed during the mastectomies .

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            Makes you wonder what’s more important to these people. EBF for six months or having the mom be alive the rest of the child’s life.

            …who am I kidding, once the vag and boobs have done their job these women don’t care about the women attached to them.

          • swbarnes2

            I think that’s the issue; gender essentialism. Women CAN give birth, and CAN breastfeed, therefore, to be “true” women” they MUST have babies and breastfeed. I bet these people really do wonder what the point of a woman existing is if she’s not incubating or breastfeeding.

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            Didn’t Dune have an interesting literary example of women just turned into incubators and it was decided this was a Very Bad Thing?

          • swbarnes2

            For sure, the bad guys, the Bene Tleilax, were doing it (and the Bene Gesserit concluded that all their females were so engaged).

            But the Bene Gesserit, who are the protagonists and pretty much the “good guys” eventually ended up converting at least one of their women into an axotl tank, to make their own clone.

            Those last two books are interesting…basically the whole plot is about which group of super-powered women is going to control the galaxy.

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            This is why I need more Kindle gift cards. Too many books, no enough time and money.

          • Fallow

            Been too long since I read the Dune series, but there was a lot of mystery in the Dune universe for a while about Bene Tleilax women. Who were they, what were they like, did they even exist, and so forth. Of course, they were unseen by everyone in the universe, because they were literally giant mutated blobby breeding machines that did nothing else but reproduce. (As far as I know – never finished Chapterhouse.) That’s a pretty interesting commentary on immersive motherhood, now that I think of it.

      • Taysha

        “you ignorant walnut” is my new favorite insult. Thank you.

        • DelphiniumFalcon

          You can thank tumblr for that one. It’s soooo useful when you can’t swear lol.

    • Cartman36

      LOL! So true!

  • sdsures

    Hey! I pooped and wiped my own butt today – how come I don’t get a Week of Poop Cleanup Celebration?

    • Sarah

      I’d be up for that.

  • sdsures

    Sadly, this awful behaviour has been made so much easier by the Internet. A breastfeeding mom shaming a formula-feeding mom can do so by writing a blog post, and never actually having to see in person the pain that it causes. πŸ™

    • DelphiniumFalcon

      Going along with their zealotry, do you ever have this clip pop in to your head when NCB worshippers, nature nuts, and lactivist start spouting their crap?
      https://youtu.be/yUpbOliTHJY

    • Cartman36

      Yes, it is easier to be an ass behind a screen than in person. I don’t remember anyone ever saying anything to my face about formula. I’m sure it was whispered behind my back though.

  • Daleth

    Fantastic analogy! Thanks for writing this.