What if Jamie Oliver had said pregnancy is easy and convenient?


Lactivists have rushed to Jamie Oliver’s defense.

As I wrote on Friday, in his efforts to promote it Oliver ignited a firestorm by claiming that breastfeeding is easy and convenient.

Charlotte Gill, writing in the Independent, is typical of Oliver’s defenders. The title of her piece Jamie Oliver was right to comment on breastfeeding – we can’t silence debate for the sake of oversensitive mums is dripping with judgmentalism. Apparently lactivists just can’t help being Sanctimommies.

Gill says:

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#F61014″ class=”” size=””]Opposition to women’s bodily autonomy is sexism.[/pullquote]

Unfortunately for Oliver, women are feeling more sensitive than ever about any claim ‘breast is best’. Over the last decade, the non-breastfeeding community has developed a faux-sense that society is ganging up on them; judging them for choosing alternative methods of feeding their babies. On learning of Oliver’s interview, many told him promptly to get back in the kitchen.

Way to miss the point Ms. Gill!

Let me see if I can explain the issue in a way you might understand:

Imagine if Jamie Oliver had said pregnancy is easy and convenient and therefore women’s shouldn’t use birth control; they should simply give birth to as many children as nature intended.

Would you be surprised at the ensuing outcry? Would you claim that women objecting to a man telling them not to use contraception were “oversensitive”? I doubt it. I suspect that you would be outraged right along with the rest of us at the idea that a man should tell a woman how she should feel about pregnancy and whether she should control her own fertility. You’d probably insist that such a view is profoundly sexist.

I wouldn’t be surprised if your outrage stemmed from your belief that a claim that pregnancy is easy and convenient is absurd. You’d probably insist (just as I would) that no one has a right to control a woman’s ovaries and uterus except the woman who owns them. They are parts of her body and how she uses them is protected by the principle of bodily autonomy. Opposition to her bodily autonomy is sexism.

Guess what? Breasts are also body parts and how a woman uses them is up to her and no one else, protected by the very same principle of bodily autonomy.

Ms. Gill laments:

… But any sort of advocation of breastfeeding is now seen as oppressive to those who can’t do it. I understand that it’s difficult and painful for many women – but when it has some many positive health outcomes, it’s for the greater good that we promote it.

It is a myth to think that the non-breastfeeding community is the silenced one; for years they have made known their difficulties. And they are wrong to assume that most people judge them for this.

But we must not be so sensitive to them as to whitewash the benefits of breastfeeding. It’s important – and if it takes a man to remind everyone of that fact, than so be it.

Would she insist that opponents of contraception aren’t oppressive to women? Would she claim that opponents of contraception have been silenced? Would she bewail listening to women whitewash the benefits of pregnancy?

I doubt it.

She would (hopefully) recognize that the issue is not the purported benefits of pregnancy to babies or to society as a whole, the issue is a woman’s right to control her own body. Similarly she should recognized that the issue at stake with Oliver’s comments is not the purported benefits of breastfeeding to babies or society, the issue is a woman’s right to control her own body.

It is sexist to oppose women’s right to control their own breasts, and no amount of hiding behind the purported benefits of breastfeeding for babies mitigates that sexism.

Meanwhile, the outcry has led Oliver to walk back his statements.

…I understand that breastfeeding is often not easy and in some cases not even possible but just wanted to support women who DO want to breastfeed and make it easier for them to do so… As a father … I would never wish to offend women or mums …


As a father of daughters, he should be deeply concerned about their right to bodily autonomy. His comments weren’t offensive merely because he ignored the very real difficulties of breastfeeding. They were offensive because he presumed to tell women how they should use their own breasts. That’s sexist and that’s why an apology was necessary.

72 Responses to “What if Jamie Oliver had said pregnancy is easy and convenient?”

  1. Dr Kitty
    March 21, 2016 at 7:05 pm #


    Anyone see this?
    I can definitely relate to the bit about lying on a sofa eating biscuits while feeding the baby.

  2. Glia
    March 21, 2016 at 12:39 pm #

    I found this argument really interesting, because I grew up in a fundi-lite community, and really DID hear people argue (or at least imply) all the time that pregnancy is pretty much easy and convenient! It is embedded in the argument that abortion should be illegal and contraception expensive/nonexistant because women can “just” have the baby and give it up for adoption. When I heard all about the terrible, evil boogeywomen who had abortions at 39 weeks “just to avoid ‘inconvenience'”, it lived in the scare-quotes around “inconvenient”. Honestly, the breastfeeding-is-natural-so-you-have-to commentary really doesn’t feel different to me from the pregnancy-is-your-purpose-so-you-have-to sermons I recall from childhood.

    • Young CC Prof
      March 21, 2016 at 6:50 pm #

      Natural childbirth is one of those interesting areas where the extreme right wing and left wing come together. You will see the all-organic, feminist, supposedly pro-reproductive rights women teaming up with the quiverful fundamentalist Christian women to tell you why giving birth the way God (or Mother Nature) intended is an essential good.

  3. Erin
    March 21, 2016 at 11:12 am #

    The forums which accompany the “birth trauma” support group I’m a member of have lit up over this. The pro camp seems to think that whilst their particular brand of trauma is an acceptable reason for stopping/not starting, all other women have no excuse and should just struggle onwards. All attempts to suggest that if their reason is “okay”, perhaps that woman over there has a good reason too are ignored or met by virtual feet stamping.

    Having got to the stage where I briefly considered cutting off my nipples with a knife so that I couldn’t ever breastfeed ever again, I just cant see why these women who are desperate for improvements in maternity care are happy to traumatise others in the name of breastfeeding.

    • Gene
      March 21, 2016 at 6:40 pm #

      “The only moral abortion is MY abortion”

    • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
      March 22, 2016 at 3:32 pm #

      I had a good reason, I did not f’ing WANT to breast feed, so I didn’t. Although I felt obligated, in 1994 no less, to lie to the staff and the LC from the La Leche League that I was going to at least “give it a try” Fortunately this was back when they still put the sealed ready to feed nursettes in the babys rooming-in bassinet and I just fed her formula and ignored them when they weren’t in my face about it.

      Fun fact the retired RN who taught my inhospital birthing class as deeply into the woo already and treated us like we were horrible people if we did not agree with her all breastfeeding , cloth diapering mantra wholeheartedly. And if Jamie Oliver thinks the way to help with obesity,food deserts, lack of parental leave policies, etc is to harangue women to Think Of the Baby, You Must Breatfeed if you want a Healthy Baby, he is an idiot…

  4. Amy
    March 21, 2016 at 10:38 am #

    For me, it always comes back to the fact that as a high school teacher, I simply cannot tell who was breastfed and who wasn’t. Full stop. It DOES NOT make a long-term difference. I’m still glad I breastfed my kids and would do it again, just like I’m glad I HAD my kids. But those were my decisions.

  5. Young CC Prof
    March 21, 2016 at 9:33 am #

    This latest argument of lactivists, I can’t even. A faux-sense? People who feel ganged up on are wrong? Why is she telling people that their feelings are wrong? Feelings are what they are, they may be based on incorrect facts, but they are not in themselves wrong.

    And no, most people who breastfeed or are in favor of breastfeeding are not ganging up on anyone, but a substantial percentage of the folks who are vocally in favor of breastfeeding are being unkind about it. If a significant number of presumably rational people are telling you that they find your words hurtful, telling them that they are wrong to be hurt is really not a good or helpful reaction.

    • CSN0116
      March 21, 2016 at 9:36 am #

      On her FB page this one woman says you’re a piece of shit parent for not attempting to breastfeed.

      Then this woman gets upset at her.

      Then she says, “defensive much?”

      Ummmm, if someone calls you a piece of shit – for any reason – is it not logical to become defensive? LOL

    • CSN0116
      March 21, 2016 at 9:42 am #

      The real line in the sand here is the medical community. They retain and encourage the biggest lactivists of them all. Posters, handouts, policies, speeches, and actual hands-on care provided …all created to push breastfeeding. Our health care providers should be our safe place, but with them taking the most egregious stance of all (my God, read about the stories of birthing in a BFHI hospital) – how is one not to feel marginalized and ganged up on? Then you exit said health care system postpartum and get hit with society’s lactivists…

      • Inmara
        March 21, 2016 at 12:20 pm #

        Thousand times this! So far the safest place has been pediatrician office because they care most about babies and not breastfeeding rates. But, as we know from previous posts, there are some lactivist pediatricians too.

  6. CSN0116
    March 21, 2016 at 9:32 am #

    Holy shit, Dr. T’s Facebook page blew up overnight. Up until now, I only read about lactivists here. I don’t know one, and I’d never even really seen them online (just what’s picked and quoted on this blog).

    OOOOOOOh Emm Gee. My cherry has been popped 😮

    Women who cannot even spell, and women who have extremely emotionally-charged past experiences, straight-up calling mothers pieces of shit for not attempting breastfeeding. And they’re serious!

    These lactivsts seem to be poorer women, with low levels of education, who have a lot of perceived guilt and failure eating at them, speaking this way just assert superiority. They don’t seem to give a damn about the health of other babies (and what have you), just that you know that they’re superior. When you have no other tangible achievements, you’re left with biology and they’re totally tapping into the last avenue of exploitation they possess.

    I’m late to the game here, but fascinated! Not offended in the least, just fucking fascinated at the psychology behind it!

    • Madtowngirl
      March 21, 2016 at 9:36 am #

      But don’t worry, they aren’t judging us “non-breastfeeders.” That’s all in our heads.

      • CSN0116
        March 21, 2016 at 9:38 am #

        I’m such an elitist (or narcissist?) that these women calling me a piece of shit is like the equivalent of a 4-year-old telling me I’m a dumb poopy head. Consider the source, dude. Consider the source. Of course it’s offensive to be called dumb and poop, but how can one be offended by such an ignorant, uneducated, self-absorbed, out-of-touch, not-fully-cognitively-developed 4-year-old?

        Same difference.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks
      March 21, 2016 at 10:58 am #

      It’s a bit like some in the NCB movement. A friend of mine who is *really* into this stuff will regularly describe NCB as the hardest thing she’s ever done and, correspondingly, says that doing it is her biggest life accomplishment, the thing she’s proudest of having done.
      I can understand that NCB is hard in that it’s generally very painful (duh), but it’s also a biological process: most pregnant women (key word, most) will eventually go into labor and have the baby and most of them will survive, ghastly though the experience is generally considered to be. I can understand the mentality of “it was really hard, but I got through it, yay me.” (Even though, in her case, it wasn’t necessary–she lives in the US and could have gone to hospital, gotten pain relief, etc.) What I can’t understand is ascribing that “best accomplishment ever” status to it because, well, see biology, above. It would have happened whether she wanted it or not.
      For me, the accomplishments I’m proudest of…hmm. I’d say that surviving PPD and not hurting myself or DD is pretty much top of the list, followed shortly by working 3 jobs to put myself through school and get my degree. Why? Because I worked damn hard at them, and the only reason I reached those achievements (surviving PPD, getting my degree) is because of a hell of a lot of effort on my part, not because an external force (external to my will/effort, that is) decided “yep, you’re going into labor today, as much fun as *that* is.”
      However, she never went to high school (oh yay, homeschooling) or college, never worked much out of the house, and so on. In her circle, not giving into the Evil Nasty Medical Profession by having her baby at home with a midwife (bonus: midwife has a history of preventable infant deaths) is the greatest accomplishment she can have. Sad thing is, this isn’t limited to the rather extreme view of religion her immediate circle takes: it’s becoming increasingly mainstream.

      • Daleth
        March 21, 2016 at 11:10 am #

        I can’t decide whether that’s more horrifying or more sad.

        And I agree, it makes no sense to me for someone to feel like they *accomplished* something by giving birth vaginally without pain relief. The fact a baby safely emerged from your vagina is mostly down to luck. It has nothing to do with your will or your skill, so I have trouble seeing it as an accomplishment. It’s a life-altering moment, for sure, but that’s because it’s the birth of your child, not because of how it came out.

        I guess I understand that some people (not me) feel like they accomplished something by not giving in to the desire for pain relief, but even that doesn’t make sense in a home birth, since the option of pain relief wasn’t there. Is it really that hard to decide against pain relief when the only way you could get it is to somehow pack up your agonized laboring self, drive to the hospital, get triaged and checked in, and finally perhaps two hours (if you’re lucky) after your decision, see an anesthesiologist who will then do a procedure that 20-30 minutes later will ease your pain?

        • The Bofa on the Sofa
          March 21, 2016 at 11:20 am #

          It seems odd to me. On one hand, NCBers will say that the NCB is the biggest accomplishment in their lives. Meanwhile, others will tell us how women have been having babies naturally for thousands of years. So what is it? A huge accomplishment? Or routine and common?

          • Roadstergal
            March 21, 2016 at 12:54 pm #

            It’s just the same way that breastfeeding is natural and easy and the way women have been doing it for thousands of years, and yet it’s the thing they’re most proud of.

            Seriously, my lactivist friend posted that breastfeeding was the thing she’s most proud of doing for her kids. I had to speak up and say, really? You VACCINATED them.

      • Monkey Professor for a Head
        March 21, 2016 at 12:00 pm #

        In the past 9 months, my son has gone from the 50th centile to the 97th in both weight and height. I’ve had people congratulate me for “achieving” that through breastfeeding. I just find it so odd to have that treated as an accomplishment. I haven’t done anything to “deserve” a good supply, it’s just the way my body works. How does that make me better than someone whose body doesn’t lactate as well. You wouldn’t congratulate me on having good eyesight or for not having diabetes. Getting my medical degree was an achievement. Raising a happy healthy son is an achievement. Lactating, for me personally, is not.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks
          March 21, 2016 at 3:46 pm #

          Right. I can understand that it’s rather satisfying to see that your baby is delightfully chubby and happy and healthy (I mean, how could it not be?!), and the “cool” factor of “my body helped do that,” but I don’t get the “achievement” factor.

      • Glia
        March 21, 2016 at 12:29 pm #

        I think those are some damn fine “best accomplishments”!

        I can’t disagree with your analysis. I know some SERIOUS crunchies. Like, I know people who have labored while strolling through a meadow picking flowers (not hyperbole, I mean this literally–to be fair, that was the way to get to the hospital and her husband was following in the car). I know people who homebirthed and then breastfed their own babies while pumping enough extra to also contribute a significant amount to another baby. I know baby-wearers, and cloth diaperers, and more babies slathered in coconut oil than I can count. Some of those things might even apply to me. 😉 But I have never heard any of those women say any of those things were their biggest accomplishment (I’m quite certain they would be pretty offended if someone else suggested it), and none of THEM have ever shamed me for my c-section or suggested I really should have tried to do a natural breech birth. It might help that they are all a bunch of engineers and scientists and otherwise brilliant accomplished women, who don’t need birth to be a source of pride. Not coincidentally, despite the crunchy background level of my social circle, not a one of them is an anti-vaxer, either.

      • waiting forevermore
        March 21, 2016 at 4:25 pm #

        I’m waiting for the day a man brags about having a vasectomy without anesthesia. Why should men be left out of major life accomplishments such as suffering unnecessary pain?

      • BeatriceC
        March 21, 2016 at 5:55 pm #

        My “Best accomplishments” according to me, in order of importance:

        -Finally getting the guts to leave a horrible domestic situation, even though it meant living in a homeless shelter for a short time.

        -Earning my Master’s degree

        -Relearning how to walk after taking a 25-30 foot fall off the side of a mountain.

        -Being approached by a well spoken young woman who carried herself like a Rockefeller in a grocery store parking lot, whom I absolutely did not recognize, and then informed by said young lady that she was a former student of mine and would be starting law school in a few weeks, and then told that the only reason she finished high school was because one teacher believed in her and pushed her to be her best, and those memories got her through high school and then college, and that teacher was me. When I finally realized who she was, I remembered her as one of the students that I was most worried would become a drug addicted, single mother, high school drop out by age 16. She was one of my all-time toughest students and to think that she believes that the only reason she got out of the ghetto was because of me was enough to make me break down into tears of pride, mostly for her, but also for me.

        Nowhere does pushing a baby out of my vagina (or having one cut out of my belly), or being lucky enough that my body produced sufficient amounts of breastmilk make that list.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks
          March 21, 2016 at 9:07 pm #

          Why can’t I like this times a million?!

    • BeatriceC
      March 21, 2016 at 1:20 pm #

      I should read Dr. T’s Facebook page. I haven’t gotten around to doing that yet.

  7. MichelleJo
    March 21, 2016 at 3:42 am #

    I live in a community where breastfeeding is the default and all babies are discharged from hospital with discharge papers stating ‘breastfed on demand’.Nobody asked me in the hospital what I was doing. There was a supply of ready to feed disposable bottles available for taking in the hospital, which serves the whole cross section of society, and I used them.However, never, not once during the years I formula fed five children, did a single person in my community say a word that could be classified as derogatory, shaming or even curious about me formula feeding. Where I did experience nastiness, which didn’t bother me in the least, was from people outside of the community, where the breastfeeding rates are far lower. It has led me to conclude that lactivists who push breastfeeding are doing it to feel better about themselves and enjoy feeling superior. Because those that attach great importance to breastfeeding got on with it and didn’t dream of even asking what anyone else was doing. Just like they wouldn’t ask or judge about family size. It’s simply non of their business and more importantly, they have a life to live.

  8. BeatriceC
    March 21, 2016 at 2:41 am #

    I have so many thoughts I don’t even know where to begin, so in no particular order:

    1. These people are idiots. My kids were all fed breastmilk for varying lengths of time. I suppose that makes me part of the “breastfeeding” community, even though my youngest is a couple months shy of 14. I absolutely condemn both of these people for their recent statements. They show frank ignorance of reality.

    2. “Mom shaming” is real, and saying it’s not is like a toddler covering his face and thinking that you can’t see him because he can’t see you. I’ve told the story before, but I was told by some random woman in Walmart that it was “obvious I didn’t love my kid because he was eating from a bottle”. It didn’t matter to her what was in that bottle or why he was eating from it, just the mere existence of the bottle meant I was a horrible mother and didn’t love my kid. (She was right about one thing: it didn’t matter what was in that bottle, so long as he was being fed. For the record, it was breast milk and it was in the bottle because after a six month long NICU stay, he never learned to latch properly).

    3. I love my breasts. They’re wonderful. They’ve nourished four kids (I’ve also told the story before, but for those who don’t know, I had such a huge oversupply that there was enough pumped and frozen to feed a FTT foster baby my parents took custody of…search my posting history for the full version). They also paid my way through undergrad. I was a Hooters girl. I definitely made more money in tips than my equally skilled but smaller breasted coworkers. However, the same people that would “congratulate” me for breastfeeding would condemn me as a whore if they knew how else I used them.

    • Roadstergal
      March 21, 2016 at 10:59 am #

      “However, the same people that would “congratulate” me for breastfeeding would condemn me as a whore if they knew how else I used them.”

      Oh lol, that is such an excellent point. Never mind that making more money will generally give your kid as much if not more advantages vs breastfeeding them…

    • AirPlant
      March 21, 2016 at 11:10 am #

      God, those facebook memes with a photo of naked celebrity compared with discretely nursing mom saying “Why is this (naked lady) ok and this (nursing mother) not?”
      It just makes me want to roll my eyes and never stop rolling them.

  9. Allie
    March 21, 2016 at 12:57 am #

    Did anyone else notice that in her rush to defend Mr. Oliver she plainly stated that he was completely wrong, noting “it’s difficult and painful for many women.” With friends like that…

    • Who?
      March 21, 2016 at 2:47 am #

      She was supporting his right to free speech, and buffing up her credentials by asserting that even though she disagrees with him, he should be able to say what he wants.

      Mind you, when people come right back at him, she’s not so comfortable.

  10. guest
    March 20, 2016 at 10:39 pm #

    I’ll cop to feeling overly sensitive about “breast is best.” But what made me that way? Before having kids, I never gave it a thought. But then I got pregnant and was inundated with pressure to breast feed. And I was able to EBF twins, yippie skippie. But then I started to want to go out more (and while I 100% support nursing in public, I tandem nursed and had twins who expected to eat at the same time – and it’s basically impossible to do that discreetly in public, and I wasn’t comfortable with it even if I support someone else doing it). And I had an uncomfortable trip on an airplane where I realized that while I could nurse one twin in public generally, I couldn’t do it when I was literally bumping elbows with a strange man, not even with a cover. And I was about to head back to work and realized that while I had my own private office, I’d have to walk through public corridors with bottles of milk and pump parts that needed cleaning, and the office kitchen is a filthy, filthy place. And I just didn’t want to do it anymore and I felt HORRIBLE TERRIBLE GUILT that I wanted to stop breastfeeding at six months (I was very lucky to have a long maternity leave).

    Why was I so sensitive? Because the lactivist community has plastered the internet with “information” about all the damage done to children who aren’t breastfed until they self-wean. I didn’t make myself feel guilty. I sought factual information about what was best for my kids, got lactivist information, but still wanted to stop doing this burdensome thing and found no support for that (at first – eventually I found it). It wasn’t just pressure to breastfeed in the hospital – it was pressure to breastfeed for as long as possible that got me.

    I made the switch at seven months, feeling ambivalent for a couple of months about it. I remain angry that it was ever an issue at all. And I get even angrier when I see lactivists torture women just after having given birth, when it would have been so much worse. So that is why I passionately defend formula and hang around blogs like this one even though I’m well passed the infant days and never going to have another child.

    • demodocus
      March 21, 2016 at 8:22 am #

      I have no idea when or if my kid would have self-weaned. He’d have some if offered, but he never asked or showed any signs of interest in my boobs when I stopped cold turkey at 11 months.
      I, on the other hand, am still so “touched out” that a year and a half later I can’t take the thought of bfing his sib we’re expecting.

      • guest
        March 21, 2016 at 3:26 pm #

        Mine were already used to bottles because I always preferred a relief bottle even though I had to pump for it, so the switch was actually quite painless for them. I just picked the cheapest formula I could find, tried it one feeding, and they drank it down and that was that.

        I totally understand being touched out, though. I get that way some days just from having three-year-olds trying to clamber over may and lay on me all the time.

  11. Deborah
    March 20, 2016 at 8:47 pm #

    “the non-breastfeeding community”
    Nice. That not very well veiled insult to women who are not like her, sums it up neatly. It’s all or nothing to these people. I wonder if the writer of that piece understands that many women combination feed, that others have breast fed one child but not another, and that for the majority of women there is simply too much else going on in their lives for it to be the do or die issue they make it out to be.

    • Box of Salt
      March 20, 2016 at 8:55 pm #

      “the non-breastfeeding community”
      “not very well veiled insult to women who are not like her”

      Not like her? But Deborah, Charlotte Gill isn’t even in the community. She just thinks she has the right to decide who should represent others.

      She wrote: “I’ve never breastfed either, but I certainly see this as no reason to shut up.”

      She’s just standing up for her own (and Jamie Oliver’s) right to be vocal and judgmental. About something neither one of them has ever done.

      • Deborah
        March 20, 2016 at 9:01 pm #

        Lol right got it!
        And there are so many other hobbies to choose from…..sigh

        • demodocus
          March 21, 2016 at 8:24 am #

          Might I recommend quilting? It’s my favorite, and one of toddlerboy’s favs, too. (That’s hard to arrange when he insists on my shrinking lap)

          • Deborah
            March 21, 2016 at 9:21 pm #

            Awww cute!
            I actually meant Ms Gill ought to perhaps find another hobby 🙂

          • demodocus
            March 22, 2016 at 9:10 am #

            I know, I was recommending it to her 😉

      • Sarah
        March 21, 2016 at 9:05 am #

        I’ve never breastfed either, but I certainly see this as no reason to shut up BECAUSE I’M AS MUCH OF A DICK AS HE IS. If he gets to lecture about things he knows nothing about, so do I. That’s basically the sum of it.

  12. Madtowngirl
    March 20, 2016 at 8:35 pm #

    “Over the last decade, the non-breastfeeding community has developed a faux-sense that society is ganging up on them; judging them for choosing alternative methods of feeding their babies.”

    It’s not a “faux-sense,” it is completely real. Take a look at the comments on the articles about Jamie Oliver’s comments. There are laws in place (rightfully so) to protect breastfeeding women from harassment when feeding in public. If a store asks a breastfeeding woman to leave, women show up in droves for nurse-ins. Celebrities brag about breastfeeding, and magazines put pictures of breastfeeding women on their covers.

    But it’s completely acceptable for people to lecture me when I pull out a bottle in public. It’s completely okay to tell women that they are feeding their babies poison. Only a few women defend their sisters when they are harassed for formula feeding. There are people out there who insist that formula should be available by prescription only.

    But you’re right, Ms. Gill. Society doesn’t gang up on us or judge us.

    • Chi
      March 20, 2016 at 8:47 pm #

      Thank you. You said that much more brilliantly and politely than I could.

  13. CaM
    March 20, 2016 at 7:50 pm #

    I’m in total agreement with you dr Amy on this (and most things) but I had to ask a theoretical question. If you are pro bodily autonomy with regards to breastfeeding, would you extend that to bodily autonomy to how and where a woman gives birth? Is it a woman’s right to have a home birth if she feels informed enough to make that decision, since it is her body. Thanks

    • fiftyfifty1
      March 20, 2016 at 8:07 pm #

      Dr. Tuteur has written many times that women have a right to give birth wherever they want, in the company of whomever they want.

      A woman’s right to bodily autonomy does not mean, however, that lay midwives should be able to award themselves a fake credential and sell themselves as medical professionals.

      • Sarah
        March 21, 2016 at 9:07 am #

        Yes, these are two different things. In the same way that, for example, a woman’s irrefutable right not to breastfeed doesn’t mean I get to package up any old shit I fancy and sell it as infant formula.

    • Box of Salt
      March 20, 2016 at 8:46 pm #

      CaM “if she feels informed enough to make that decision”

      How about if we change your question to “if she IS informed enough”?

      Part of the problem is that people are being misled into making decisions based on feelings, not information.

      • CaM
        March 21, 2016 at 9:26 am #

        Yes I agree entirely. I was just asking as I do feel strongly that women should have complete bodily autonomy, and yet for me the difference between exercising that autonomy by not breastfeeding (which carries limited risks in developed countries) and doing so by not giving birth with hospital back-up (which can be catastrophic wherever you give birth) feels huge. But I suppose it must be this way, and we can’t police how properly informed a woman is, just campaign for better research and information.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks
          March 21, 2016 at 11:03 am #

          Right. It’s a case of adults being allowed to make stupid decisions on their own behalf, even if those decisions are, well, stupid. I mean, what’s the alternative? Require all women to enter the hospital at 8 months pregnant and be tied to a bed ’til they give birth? Nope, not okay.
          Now, prosecuting “midwives” for preventable deaths/false advertising/the lot? Oh hell yes, that I’d support, just like it’s legal for *you* to try to enhance your butt by shooting it full of industrial silicone from Lowe’s, but it’s likewise illegal for someone to falsely claim to be a plastic surgeon and charge you a thousand bucks to do the same thing in an hourly hotel room. :p (Yes, yes, this did happen locally…sighs deeply, reaches for coffee…)

      • lawyer jane
        March 21, 2016 at 11:47 am #

        As a consumer financial protection advocate/lawyer, I have a slightly different take on this. Generally, we have found that things like informed consent simply cannot really work in a setting where it is hard for the consumer to really grasp what they are consenting to. And informed consent on a piece of paper cannot really overcome the propaganda and misinformation a mother might be getting in person from the salesperson. So in general, we advocate that disclosures/consents ONLY have a role once you have ensured that the underlying product also protects consumers. This is why, for instance, we regulate medicines and products to ensure that they are not dangerous in and of themselves. We don’t leave it to the consumer to protect themselves based on disclosures and consents.

        Similarly, with home birth, I think that although it is correct not to actually criminalize mothers, that does NOT mean that “informed consent” is actually the regulatory answer. (There is a difference between not criminalizing, and affirmative regulatory controls.) Instead, we would have to institute a strict new regulatory scheme requiring training, transfers, strict risk protocols, etc … If there is no appetite or ability to do that, or we STILL think that there is no way to make it safe enough, then the answer is simply not to criminalize, not to institute false, ineffective protections like “informed consent.”

    • Amy Tuteur, MD
      March 20, 2016 at 9:47 pm #

      Absolutely! I’ve said that repeatedly.

  14. Marie Gregg
    March 20, 2016 at 6:34 pm #

    Every time I read articles like this I come back to, “Why does anyone care?”

    Seriously, why does anyone care? You wanna breastfeed, fantastic. You wanna formula feed, fantastic. You wanna do both, fantastic. As long as that kiddo gets fed and isn’t malnourished, it doesn’t matter. It literally doesn’t matter. There’s no need to “promote” either breastfeeding or formula feeding. Everyone should just let mothers make their own choices and stay the heck out of it unless asked for an opinion.

    • BeatriceC
      March 21, 2016 at 2:58 am #

      And in a few years, none of it will matter. Whether or not they were breastfed, cloth diapered, or vaginally delivered makes absolutely no difference in the daily ins and outs of raising teenagers. The fact that I was born via c-section and then breastfed doesn’t have any impact on my 40 year old self. The fact that the late MrsC (MrC’s first wife) combo fed their daughters because she didn’t have enough of a supply to exclusively feed twins doesn’t impact them at all as 31 year olds. There’s all this shit being thrown everywhere and not one single bit of it matters at all.

  15. Gene
    March 20, 2016 at 5:40 pm #

    It seems to me that Ms Gill believes that only women who couldn’t or wouldn’t breastfeed think that Jamie Oliver was a bit of a dunce in his original statement. Because women who successfully breastfed would NEVER dream of supporting women who were lazy or inadequate or basically unfit mothers (aka: formula feeders). The poor formula feeders feel guilty (as they should!) and therefore are “sensitive” only due to their own guilt.

    Ms Gill, you are a shortsighted imbecile. Women are more than their breasts. If you honestly believe that every women who breastfeeding their children believes that it is best for every situation, I have a bridge to sell you. I breastfed three kids for over a year each (no formula, no combo feeding) AND worked full time. Because it worked for me and my family. But I’m smart enough to understand that what works for me and my family is not best for or going to work for everyone else. I support happy and healthy families, no matter their make up or choices.

    • Box of Salt
      March 20, 2016 at 5:43 pm #

      Gene, Brava!

    • Monkey Professor for a Head
      March 20, 2016 at 8:17 pm #

      I agree. I breastfeed because right now, it works for me. But I am not so arrogant as to think that my experience is the only one out there. There are so many factors that influence whether a feeding method is better fit for each individual parent and/or baby. I say give people accurate information, and let them make their own choice, free of judgement.

  16. Amy Tuteur, MD
    March 20, 2016 at 5:40 pm #


  17. Dr Kitty
    March 20, 2016 at 5:29 pm #

    I can’t with the “it’s so easy and convenient why doesn’t everyone do it” but “it’s so challenging and hard that millions of women WHO REALLY WANT TO BF can’t… We must SUPPORT them more!”

    Maybe, for the most part, women who really, really want to BF already are, the ones who aren’t, aren’t and the ones who are struggling should be supported in finding ways to nourish their infant and care for themselves (whatever that might mean).

    Just listen to women. Ask them why they do what they do. Accept their answers as genuine, even if it doesn’t fit with what they “should” want.

    I’m a nursing in public, pumping at work, no formula if possible person, because it works for me. I absolutely do not presume that my choices can be universalised.

    Oh, and my oldest, breastfed for over a year child spent the afternoon at a birthday party in a local sweet shop. So… Childhood obesity…#winning…

    • The Bofa on the Sofa
      March 20, 2016 at 5:44 pm #

      Just listen to women.

      No, no, no. This just will not do at all.

    • Chi
      March 20, 2016 at 5:51 pm #

      That is my biggest problem with lactivists. That they PRESUME to know what is best for women and their babies without even talking to them first.

      They PRESUME that ALL women will want to breastfeed if they’re better educated and that if they are formula feeding it’s because they weren’t educated/supported enough.

      They PRESUME that if a woman is using formula it’s because it was gifted to her at the hospital and she was too weak-minded to avoid giving in to the temptation of how easy it is to give a kid a bottle.

      Here’s a thought. How about they start treating women like rational human beings who are more than capable of deciding what works best for THEM and their family?

    • Young CC Prof
      March 21, 2016 at 8:46 am #

      Can we just erase the word “support” from the breastfeeding vocabulary? Because seriously, if you are not actually helping someone breastfeed, you aren’t supporting it. Helping might include:

      – Physically helping new mothers learn how by being a lactation consultant who stays up to date on the literature and discusses supplementing or quitting without judgement when appropriate. (I know such creatures exist, but they are tragically difficult to find)

      – Assisting a friend or relative with housework and care for other children so she has time to work on a breastfeeding relationship.

      – Doing real research into biological obstacles to breastfeeding and how to solve them

      Helping does not include verbally urging people to just keep trying.

  18. Box of Salt
    March 20, 2016 at 3:59 pm #

    Disclaimer: I am commenting having read Gill’s piece, before finishing reading Dr Tuteur’s post.

    Charolotte Gill is missing the point: “we shouldn’t simply ban people from discussing topics because of their experiences.”

    But we shouldn’t label someone without experience in an activity as a spokesperson for it, because that person lacks credibility when discussing the experience.

    At no time in the future will I be discussing how easy it is have my own professional cooking show on TV, because I know I don’t know what I’m talking about. Why doesn’t GIll get that?

    • demodocus
      March 20, 2016 at 4:07 pm #

      “But we shouldn’t label someone without experience in an activity as a spokesperson for it, because that person lacks credibility when discussing the experience”
      I had an argument with a professor about this. We were supposed to compose and deliver essays on an issue in the world that we’d like to see changed, and I picked the way people view physical disability. I said they need someone from their own ranks (of the visiably disabled, most don’t realize i have a hearing impairment) to speak out, because they tend to be infantalized. Prof thought I should do it. Um, if the point is to prove most people with a physical disability are as fully bright and competent as anyone else, then I would be the wrong damn person.

    • Daleth
      March 21, 2016 at 11:16 am #

      At no time in the future will I be discussing how easy it is have my own professional cooking show on TV, because I know I don’t know what I’m talking about.

      Hahaha. Exactly. Let’s all go backseat drive Mr. Oliver’s next episode (“Why are you putting vanilla in that? Why are you facing this side of the audience and not that side?”). Lord, at least we have all cooked food, so we have slightly more expertise in backseat driving his life than he has in backseat driving ours.

      • demodocus
        March 21, 2016 at 12:20 pm #

        For God’s sake, you have a lisp, face the camera when you talk so the hearing impaired can read your lips!

  19. Chi
    March 20, 2016 at 3:48 pm #

    Over the last decade, the non-breastfeeding community has developed a faux-sense that society is ganging up on them; judging them for choosing alternative methods of feeding their babies.

    So the way Ms Gill sees it, the issue is clearly black and white. You’re either part of the breastfeeding community, or you aren’t. So my question to her is, at what point does a mother stop being part of that ‘community’? (and I say that with as much sarcasm as possible considering how quick they are to turn on anyone who doesn’t tow the party line).

    Is she still part of it if she combo-feeds?

    How about if she exclusively breastfed for as long as possible, but then had to switch to formula because she had to go back to work and pumping breaks weren’t paid and she needed the money?

    What if she never started breastfeeding because she’s a survivor of sexual assault and just the very THOUGHT of having something attached to her nipples triggers anxiety and even panic attacks?

    How about a mother desperate to breastfeed but simply unable to nourish her infant? So desperate in fact because of this ‘breast is best’ mentality that she slides into PPD and has to go onto antidepressants which basically kills the breastfeeding relationship anyway?

    Dear Ms Gill and her supporters aka the members of that ‘breastfeeding community’.

    Do you agree with me that all of the above reasons are valid ones for women not breastfeeding?

    So, whenever you see a mother who is feeding their baby formula in a bottle, when you open your mouth to comment and ‘educate’ them on the benefits of breastfeeding, do you ever stop to consider that maybe she has one of those above reasons for formula feeding?

    To be perfectly honest though, it doesn’t matter. It’s HER choice, not yours. To imply that she hasn’t made the best decision for her child is anti choice and anti-feminist. If you breastfed successfully, good for you. But STOP assuming it’s easy for everyone else and therefore everyone else should do it.

    So the next time you feel obliged to ‘educate’ a mother, to bring her back into the fold of the breastfeeding community. DON’T. Just don’t. Keep your mouth shut, keep your opinions to yourself and keep walking.

    Thank you.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks
      March 20, 2016 at 4:04 pm #

      Here’s a totally radical idea: rather than being “part of the breastfeeding community,” they could try being part of the community, no qualifiers.
      Admittedly, my circle of friends is kind of mom-centric because that’s where I am in life: I have a kiddo, friendships with other people who understand what that’s like are a critical part of support in my role as a mom, and strictly from a practical perspective, being able to sit with another mom over coffee while both sets of kids wear each other out (bonus: two sets of adult eyes!) is a lot easier than trying to keep a toddler entertained on her ownsome while I hang out with a kidless friend. (Still have several of those, but on a day-to-day thing, other mom friendships are easier for the reasons listed above.) However, we have a lot of different backgrounds and parenting styles. Some combo-feed. Some breastfeed ’til 6 monthsish, then transition to formula. One EBFs. One pumps and breastfeeds for varying lengths of time depending on the kid. One EFFs. Etc.
      And you know what? We only care about that stuff insofar as it helps us to be better friends. Mom’s EBF and it’s going well? Cool! Lemme bring you some frozen dinners and some nipple ointment when you get home from the hospital! I’m EFF? My pumping/breastfeeding friend will happily mix up a bottle for Junior and give it to him while I shower or nap. Nurses at the hospital are being obnoxious in an either pro- or anti-breastfeeding manner? Doesn’t matter how the other mom fed her kids; she’ll listen, sympathize, reassure New Mommy that the nurse was, indeed, a bitch, and then get New Mommy some more coffee and chocolate.
      In the end, it just. doesn’t. matter. What DOES matter is building this community and support system for each other and our kids, and being there when we need each other. Life is too damn short and parenting is too damn hard for us to make each others’ lives miserable.

      • Chi
        March 20, 2016 at 4:38 pm #

        Absolutely. I go to a playgroup twice a week and it is amazing because there are several mothers there with kids around the same age as mine and so when I say ‘oh have your kids done x’ and get an emphatic YES in reply it’s amazing.

        Because then we discuss what little quirk it is and what we’re doing to deal with it. By sharing ideas and letting each other know they’re not the only one dealing with say a kid who refuses to nap and turns into an overtired monster by dinnertime, we do have that community and that support. Advice is offered up in the form of ‘oh well I tried x and it really worked for us, maybe it will for you.’ not ‘well you HAVE to do this or blah.’

        It is fantastic when you get other mums who simply don’t judge because they’ve been there and done that and just want to offer the value of their experiences. But they also get that kids are all different and what works for one won’t necessarily work for another.

        But mostly it’s great just to know you’re not alone.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks
          March 20, 2016 at 4:52 pm #

          Yes. Exactly!
          There’s a delightfully laid-back playgroup that DD and I go to every week. In it, you have everyone from EBFers to EFFers, most of them being some sort of combo-feeding. Recently, one mom was beginning to have serious problems with breastfeeding. The feeding part per se wasn’t the issue: it was the cumulative result of over 4 months without any significant sleep on her part, thanks to a kid who wanted to nurse all night, every night. Over a couple of weeks, from when she first brought it up, we offered tips and suggestions initially on getting dad to help a bit more, binkies, and the like, and eventually, when she decided to keep nursing during the day but have dad give one bottle at night, the response was to offer suggestions re bottles that work well with nursing, free formula (“I bought several cans of Brand X before it became apparent that Kid preferred Brand Y; would you like them?”), and so on. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, for goodness’ sakes!
          Likewise, when one mom mentioned that her 8-month-old was still getting up 6+ times/night and she’d just about had it, I mentioned that I had sleep trained DD (with ped approval) at 3 months, and that while I didn’t know her baby so please take this with a grain of salt, it worked really well for us. A week later, she’d done exactly that, and felt like a whole new person–not because I told her she *had* to (like I said, I didn’t know her kid or if it would be right for her) but because I mentioned it as a potential option.
          I suspect that in our increasingly mobile society, this kind of support is even more valuable than it was in decades past when you would probably have female relatives and longtime friends just down the street who’d BTDT.

    • guest
      March 20, 2016 at 10:27 pm #

      When we started up a parent’s group for recently born babies in my neighborhood, we didn’t break off into two communities, the “breastfeeders” and the “non-breastfeeders.” It was one community. ONE. And when we met up, people fed their baby as they pleased. And some might pair off to discuss issues to nursing while others talked about bottle feeding (it was a big group), but anyone would listen to anyone’s troubles. I had the only set of twins, but I didn’t need a separate “breastfeeding twins” community (though I did also have a separate twins group). We don’t need separate “communities” even if sometimes we need to talk to people who’ve had the same experience we had.

  20. Zornorph
    March 20, 2016 at 3:42 pm #

    The naked chef should put his clothes back on, shouldn’t he?

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