Kathy Dettwyler: formula-fed children definitely WILL BE INFERIOR

internet bullying

New motherhood is the last bastion of acceptable bullying and no one believes that more firmly than professional lactivists. Many are incensed by Courtney Jung’s book Lactivism, which shows definitively that the benefit of breastfeeding in industrialized countries has been dramatically overstated. In expressing their outrage they inadvertently demonstrate exactly the ugly, sanctimonious behavior that Jung decries.

Kathy Dettwyler, Associate Professor, Supplemental Faculty, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Delaware, Newark, is known for her cultural work on extended breastfeeding and weaning. What are her medical credentials? She has none, but that doesn’t stop her from pontificating on the benefits of breastmilk or bullying women for making feeding decisions of which she doesn’t approve.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Were you breastfed or bottle fed, Prof. Dettwyler. I’d like to know which is responsible for your viciousness.[/pullquote]

Responding to a heartfelt reader review of Lactivism on Amazon, Dettwlyer treats us to a glimpse of professional lactivism in all its malignant ugliness.


“Peas on Earth,” describes herself as a victim of lactivism. She is among the approximately 5% of women who CAN’T produce enough breastmilk to fully nourish an infant. She writes:

This book is so important, I wish it could be handed out to every woman in the hospital, along with the newborn hat and binkie. Please please read if you’re contemplating breastfeeding. Not because you shouldn’t breastfeed – you absolutely should if it’s the right choice for you and it works. But because in case it doesn’t work, for whatever reason (biological or not), you need to know that your kids will in NO WAY be inferior to breastfed kids, nor would it impact your motherhood “value” in the least. You should NEVER EVER feel guilty or inadequate or depressed about not breastfeeding. It’s just NOT THAT IMPORTANT – it’s a personal parenting choice in the first world, and that’s what this book is all about!

Who could disagree with that?

Kathy Dettwyler could and she publicly excoriates this poor woman:

… [F]ormula-fed children definitely WILL BE INFERIOR to how those same individuals would have turned out if they had been breastfed.

Really, Prof. Dettwyler?

Over the years I’ve read most of the major breastfeeding literature and I NEVER found even a single paper that demonstrated that formula fed children are inferior in any way to breastfed children. I’ve never read a paper from a reputable journal that even dared to advance that claim. Even those who invoke all sorts of unproven health benefits from breastfeeding haven’t thought to suggest that formula fed children are inferior. Even those who claim a tiny increase in IQ acknowledge out that this purported increase has no known impact in industrialized countries.

Here’s a thought, Prof. Dettwyler, how about taking a look at my Harvard yearbook and pointing out for us the formula fed graduates and explaining how much further they would have gone in life if only they had been breastfed? Wait, what? You can’t tell the difference between the formula fed and breastfed graduates? How can that be if formula leads to inferior human beings?

Or, better yet, how about making your ugly claims here on this blog and letting the physicians, scientists and statisticians who are regular readers school you on what the scientific literature actually shows instead of publicly berating a vulnerable mother on Amazon?

Wait, what? You don’t dare appear in any forum where others who know as much or more than you do could call you out for misrepresenting the scientific literature? You’re happy to publicly dish out viciousness but only in places where you can’t be held to account? Quelle surprise!

I’m sorry that Peas on Earth was subject to your viciousness, but I’m actually glad that you left your comment. You have illustrated the need for Jung’s book in a way that mere statistics never could.

I hope that you noticed my comment to you:


Were you breastfed of bottle fed, Ms. Dettwyler? I’d like to know which is responsible for your viciousness.