There was a time when all babies were breastfed; how did that work out?

image

Lactivists are fond of logical fallacies and their favorite is the naturalistic fallacy.

According to Logically Fallacious:

When the conclusion expresses what ought to be, based only on actually what is more natural. This is very common, and most people never see the problem with these kinds of assertions due to accepted social and moral norms. This bypasses reason and we fail to ask why something that is, ought to be that way.

Jennifer Grayson, writing in HuffPo, adores the naturalistic fallacy:

If our goal is to ensure maximum survival of children, it is both foolish and ahistorical to pretend that breastfeeding holds the key.

Breast is best? Prove it! the media shouts with every study, unraveling a stream of headlines like “Should I Breastfeed My Baby to Make Him or Her Smarter?” Such headlines, unfortunately, trivialize the depth or greater context of the real science, or else misrepresent it altogether. The unthinking substitution of formula for breast milk is virtually as if, during the past century, we had decided to swap out the blood supply in our bodies, to replace it with an artificial blood substitute — and then demanded that the people who support real blood prove that it really worked better than the manufactured alternate.

In Grayson’s version of the naturalistic fallacy, breast must be best because it’s natural.

But the naturalistic fallacy isn’t a logical argument; it’s the absence of a logical argument and if you think about breastfeeding for anything more than 30 seconds you will recognize that.

There was a time when all babies were breastfed and in that time gone by child mortality rates were hideous. It is estimated that under 5 mortality in ancient times ranged from 1:3 to 1:2. Nearly HALF of all children did not survive beyond age 5.

But how can that be if we’re still here?

Easily, as this paper on population dynamics explains:

Over the long haul of pre-recorded history,the human population survived,but grew very slowly, with an average annual growth rate of less than one per thousand… Over the long haul, births and deaths have to have been in very close balance, and the net reproduction rate (the number of females surviving in the next generation to replace the mothers of this generation) must have averaged very slightly over 1.0… Thus the requirements of population dynamics indicate that, over the long haul of prehistory, the probability of dying by age five for females was probably no lower than 440 per thousand live births.

This pattern has persisted until the past century:

Since the beginning of the age of the Enlightenment and over the course of modernization, the mortality of children below 5 years of age has declined rapidly. Child mortality in rich countries today is much lower than 1%. This is a very recent development and was only reached after a hundredfold decline in child mortality in these countries. In early-modern times, child mortality was very high; in 18th century Sweden every third child died, and in 19th century Germany every second child died. With declining poverty and increasing knowledge and service in the health sector, child mortality around the world is declining very rapidly: Global child mortality fell from 18.2% in 1960 to 4.3% in 2015 …

Big countries like Brazil and China reduced their child mortality rates 10-fold over the last 4 decades. Other countries – especially in Africa – still have high child mortality rates, but it’s not true that these countries are not making progress. In Sub-Saharan Africa, child mortality has been continuously falling for the last 50 years (1 in 4 children died in the early 60s – today it is less than 1 in 10). Over the last decade this improvement has been happening faster than ever before. Rising prosperity, rising education and the spread of health care around the globe are the major drivers of this progress.

Indeed, in 2016, the countries around the world with the highest breastfeeding rates have the HIGHEST rates of childhood mortality.

For most of human history, breast wasn’t particularly good or healthy at all. It may have been better than the contemporaneous alternatives, but it was far, far worse than what we have today with easy access to infant formula, clean water and healthcare.

Fallacious assertions like Grayson’s are based on profound ignorance of prehistory. Life in nature was not a paradise; it was hellacious. Therefore, if our goal is to ensure maximum survival of children, it is foolish to pretend that breastfeeding holds the key, or even has any particular benefits.

Grayson is nothing if not ignorant about the scientific evidence:

Four generations of human beings have now been reared on infant formula, and millions upon millions of people would attest that they’re fine. But maybe we should stop talking about the benefits of breastfeeding and instead start considering the risks of not breastfeeding, since I’m certainly not fine. Are you fine? Are we — an overweight nation of chronically ill, medicine-dependent formula feeders — fine?

In prehistory, human life expectancy was 35 years. After the technological discoveries of clean water and sanitation systems, (but prior to the advent of infant formula) human life expectancy reached 48 years. In the US today life expectancy is approximately 80 years. What accounts for the difference? The very lifestyle and medications that Grayson unthinkingly derides.

Grayson commits another logical fallacy beloved of lactivists, confusing correlation for causation.

The reason was are a “nation of chronically ill, medicine-dependent” individuals is because so many of us live to be far older than we ever would in nature. Indeed, the prevalence of chronic illness is a sign of SUCCESS, not failure, but Grayson doesn’t have a clue.

Grayson’s “argument” is the intellectual equivalent of claiming that life before sewer systems was “best” because 1. that’s what nature intended and 2. sewer systems are responsible for the current rate of chronic illness and medication dependence.

Grayson concludes with a flourish of stupidity:

In the epidemic of our nation’s ill health, what if we are overlooking an utterly simple piece of the puzzle — that what and the way we feed our young, radically altered for the first time in human history, has played a role?

We AREN’T experiencing an epidemic of ill health; we are enjoying the BEST health of the entirety of human history! The rise in formula feeding has been accompanied by a dramatic INCREASE in health, not a decrease.

There was a time when all babies were breastfed … and they died in droves. Too bad Grayson seems utterly clueless about that reality.

  • SporkParade

    I don’t know, you guys. I was exclusively formula fed as a baby, and now I’m an insufferable cow to anyone who thinks they have the right to tell me what to do with my breasts. Whereas my husband was EBF and is an absolute saint when it comes to dealing with stupid people. Do you think it might be related?

  • mishabear

    OT: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23130813-000-uk-doctors-may-starting-warning-women-of-childbirth-risks/

    This site is the first and only place I’ve heard about rectoceles and prolapses as a potential risk of vaginal birth…and I already had twins by c-section at the time. C-section was medically indicated (severe HELLP Syndrome), but I can’t believe I seriously considered vaginal birth at the time.

    • crazy grad mama

      Ugh, people in my Twitter feed are freaking out about that article. In their minds, “talk about the real risk of vaginal birth” = “those scare-mongering money-grubbing doctors!”

  • Amazed

    OT: Keep your fingers crossed for me. My mom is out of town and I am expecting Auntie’s (not so) Little Treasure in about an hour. The Intruder and SIL are dropping her and her bottles by as they’re going out for a dinner. If I am in any luck, my mom won’t return just yet. I can have an hour alone with Amazing Niece. Perhaps. Please pray that my mom makes it a little late. That will be my first time with AnsLT since I came back to my home town last week!

    OT: I say bollocks to the sacred needs of all babies to be exclusively breasfted for as long as possible. This kid has never had any trouble nursing, she’s never had formula, she’s just started eating solids AND she gets mortally offended if someone gets to eat around without offering her her own meal. Let alone the fact that she perks up and lights up like a candelabrum each time a cucumber happens to be close to her nose. I take that to mean that in her infinite baby wisdom she knows what’s good for her and that’s the coming consummation of solids.

  • Dr Kitty

    OT:
    In the four days my son was sick with a cold and teething and decided to nurse solidly, I’ve lost 6lbs (3kg), and my milk supply is back up higher than I want it to be for comfort. Not awesome.
    He’s thankfully back to bottles during the day and solids.

    Anyone got any ideas for getting him to drop a 1am breast feed?

    • nomofear

      I’ve read so much about infant/child sleep, yet all I can offer is to throw up my hands and roll my eyes. The stuff I read seemed to work with the first kid, so I walked around proud that I’d done right, til I had the second and realized it was just luck that first time, because the second was not going to roll over and go back to sleep without that boob, she was not going to take a bottle, and I was just going to have to deal. She stopped that last night feed right at a year, and declined the boob altogether at fourteen months.

      Too bad this wasn’t four years ago. I’d have all the answers for you :p

      Also, if there’s ever a third baby, he or she is getting 100% formula.

      • Margo

        We had one baby in our family who not only stuck to his guns for a feed at two a.m but also flatly refused to take a bottle however hard we tried to introduce the bottle. What I learnt, like you, is some babies it would seem,don’t really care about our wonderful plans/schedules they have their own agenda going on haha.

    • Margo

      Oh that’s so hard to drop. I have had women “top up feed” around 11pm and then (and this is hard, don’t know if I agree with it) they have let the baby cry upon waking at 1a.m…in my experience it seems to take up to four nights for the baby (only a baby already on solids) to go back to sleep by being settled by the baby’s partner not the breastfeeding mum.

      • Dr Kitty

        Lord no, you haven’t met my husband.
        4nights having HIM wake at 1am and be unable to go back to sleep would be worse than me waking for 20minutes at 1am every night for the foreseeable future!

        • Monkey Professor for a Head

          Sounds like my husband! I’m so sick of him complaining about the baby waking him up when I’m the one who has to get up.

    • Ayr

      Maybe I’m just lucky, my two month old sleeps through the night a full 10 hours, but then he only takes one good nap a day for about 1.5 – 2 hours. He just stopped waking up regularly at night to eat and has always been on bottles. My pediatrician recommends on their website to gradually back up the feedings by 15 min every night so start at 1:15 then go to 1:30 etc. It might help him get to the point he realizes that he no longer needs that feeding.

  • Tori

    Formula saved my baby’s life – I can’t produce enough to keep him alive, much less let him thrive. I never wanted to use formula and didn’t buy a bottle or any equipment before he was born – I was going to breastfeed. Despite all attempts I can’t produce even a third of what he needs. I’m so grateful for formula, without it I wouldn’t have a baby to cuddle and watch grow.

  • jennifer

    When I was in an maternal-child health class once, we were looking at old studies by David Barker on the fetal origin hypothesis (too lazy to find and link to them but I think the cohorts were from the 30’s-50’s.) I noticed in the tables formula feeding was associated with failure to thrive, etc. I asked the professor and apparently in those cohorts rich women looked down on breast feeding as vulgar, so surprise, surprise, breastfeeding was associated with all sorts of health problems. I got a good introduction to confounding that day. 🙂

  • Amy

    I was breastfed until age two. One sister until three, the other only a few months. Both my kids nursed until a little after age three.

    I live with chronic migraines and pretty severe depression. One of my kids inherited the depression (which makes four generations in my family with diagnosed depression, woohoo!). I’m hoping neither will develop migraines. Neither of my sisters suffer from either.

    I know, I know, small sample size, but obviously breastfeeding wasn’t some magic bullet. Neither was being born naturally, wearing cloth diapers, or being worn by my mom. Must be the public schools and the crappy diet that damaged me.

    • cookiebaker

      I was breastfed, I’m overweight and have PCOS and insulin resistance. My older brother was breastfed and he has high cholesterol. My twin brothers were breastfed longest and they’re both overweight now.

      Of my 6 kids, I breastfed the first 4 and formula fed the last 2. Ironically, my formula fed babies are the healthiest. They’re never sick, while the my breastfed babies were frequently seen at the pediatrician for ear infections, rashes, the flu, fevers, etc.

      • Wombat

        I’ll pile on this ancedata train and say all of the above and then some amongst me and my two siblings (all exclusively BF for at least a year per mom).

        It’s almost like genetics, short term environmental/socioeconomic factors, and long term environmental/socioeconomic factors have way more to do with things… breastmilk does count (albeit fairly minutely) in the second category – but it’s not remotely miraculous enough to cancel out the first or overly extend to the third. And it’s not remotely like formula doesn’t as well. After all, both done right are adequate quantity quality nutrition /scandalous.

      • BeatriceC

        For my anecdata, my only biological sibling and I were breastfed and our health is shitty. Three of my four adopted siblings were formula fed (one ate formula in his first foster placement but was FTT and with CPS and pediatrician’s approval, ate my vast oversupply from pumping for my youngest). My adopted siblings are all far more healthy than my bio sibling and I. It’s almost like genetics has something to do with it.

      • Mac Sherbert

        Formula fed (Soy!) and I am not overweight, but I do have PCOS. My youngest was the BF kid and sick way more than my first probably because the youngest was exposed to the germs the oldest brought home from school.

    • CSN0116

      My anecdata shows me how truly important it is to carry a baby to term, when at all possible.

      All 5 of my kids are/were EFF. My 36 week twins (who had to be born at that gestation) are by far my sickliest children. Things have leveled out now, but for the first 6 years of life they picked up everything. Their 41+0, 40+1, and 40+3 siblings catch 1 out of every 5 illnesses that they do. Our 5-year-old has only had about 3 colds/infections her entire life – the hardiest of the bunch!

      The immune system is late to get setup and perfected in utero. Keep babies gestating and feed them whatever you please, IMO.

      • demodocus

        I dunno, i had the same number as my sister and i was a 7th monther and she was late

  • Chant de la Mer

    OT: I have a friend that will be 24 weeks on monday having a high risk pregnancy with twins and her cervix is dilating so she’s been on bed rest for 2 weeks now. She’s hoping to make it to 28 weeks and so far its looking good but her OB offered her the steroid shots and left the decision up to her and she’s trying to figure out what to do since she can’t get ahold of her perinatologist until next week on Wed. Does anyone have pros and cons for timing of the steroid shots, not medical advice obviously, just the things to consider when she’s making her decision?

    • BeatriceC

      Not a doctor, but when I was given the choice I chose to get the shots because any negatives of getting them early and the baby not being born was vastly outweighed by the negatives of not getting the shots and the babies being born too soon.

    • Mel

      I’m not a doctor, but I was born at 28-29 weeks 34 years ago along with my twin sister long before steroid shots were available.

      We both had to be on ventilators for the first 17 days we were alive which meant that my parents couldn’t hold us.

      I needed two pneumothorax tubes placed at 2 days old and 4 days old when my right lung collapsed followed by my left lung.

      My twin sister had gastrointestinal issues that kept her malnourished for the first 18 months of her life. (She weighed a whopping 12 pounds on her first birthday. People kept pointing out that she looked like one of the starving babies in Ethiopia.)

      Sis also had probable brain bleeds that kept her on the edge of needing a shunt for the four months she was in the hospital – and gave her a Frankenstein-esque forehead until we were in elementary school.

      We are both alive and well now, but my parents met families in the NICU whose preemies had similar issues and died.

      Since there is lots of data supporting the shots between 24-34 weeks gestation to speed lung development and some data supporting positive changes in intestinal development and brain-bleed prevention, I’d be begging the OB for the shots because I wouldn’t want to watch my child go through that.

    • guest

      I was offered the shots at 30 weeks when I was diagnosed with pre-e. The hope was that I wouldn’t need to deliver early, but just in case. I asked about drawbacks, and the doctor told me that there weren’t any (I believe – I know there are articles on the internet saying there’s increased risk of ADHD, but I have friends with ADHD and they are lovely, self-sufficient people!). I got them. Babies born at 35+6, twin A was on CPAP for like 12 hours and then she rocked the whole breathing thing. Twin B was on CPAP for three days, I think?

      The way the shots work, the greatest benefit comes if the babies are born between 48 hours and 7 days of the injections. But it’s not like the benefit goes to zero after 7 days. However, the babies who need that benefit the most are the earliest pre-term infants. So your friend might want to ask her doctors about what they think the optimal timing is. But I would defer to them on timing.

    • Montserrat Blanco

      I got the shots at 27 weeks and my baby was born 6 days after the shots, at 28 weeks. The shots can be repeated every 7 days if needed as far as I know. I did not have any side effects, they are a contributing factor to thrombosis, which is something your friend might want to consider if she is already in bed rest. If she delivers before the shots the risks for the babies are quite higher than without the shots. At 24 weeks they will surely need a ventilator but the issue is how much time.

    • Amy M

      I got them around 28 weeks, when I had threatened PTL with my twins. They held out until 36wks, but did not need any NICU time when they were born. I don’t know if the shots had anything to do with that, but I was glad to get them when I did, in case they’d been born even earlier.

  • Johnathan O’Bryan

    Something nobody is taking into account is the fact that the countries with the highest rate of breastfeeding are also the poorest nations with little to no health care and the mothers nutrition is terrible. Look at breastfeeding in western nations and see that Thierry child mortality rates are the same or lower than formula fed babies

    • fiftyfifty1

      Sure, in Western nations child mortality rates are lower in breastfed babies compared to formula fed babies. Also, child mortality rates are lower in babies named Claire compared to babies named Crystal, and in babies who wear new clothes compared to in babies who wear hand-me-downs. It’s clear, therefore, that the name Crystal and hand-me-down baby clothes must contain some sort of toxin that is killing babies. THAT’S what nobody (e.g. you) is taking into account.

      • Amy

        ARE they, though? He didn’t provide any sources.

        • Azuran

          It wouldn’t surprise me if they were statistically more likely to. But then again, is it because formula is poison, or because babies with health problems are less likely to be able to breastfeed and more likely to die? But of course, lactivist are not going to bother looking it up.

      • Johnathan O’Bryan

        All I am trying to say is that the article makes one think that formula is somehow keeping the mortality rate low and that breastfeeding keeps it high, think about it, there are more factors in the mortality rate than where the nutrition comes from. My child breastfed for 2 months and now is on formula, she’s still fine I am in no way demonizing formula just saying that the reason western nations use formula more often is just the change of culture and the fact that formula is affordable and readily available. And as far as mortality rate that has more to do with better access to Healthcare, hygiene, and overall better quality of life

        • Sue

          “think about it” suggests Jonathan.

          Maybe read a bit more widely on this page, Jonathan, and you will see that we HAVE thought about this, at great length.

          You might want to go to where Dr Amy discusses the research in a developed country.

          • corblimeybot

            He just assumed that no one here has ever thought about this (over and over, in excruciating detail, with cites!) because he doesn’t agree. He seems to think that if you don’t agree with him, you just haven’t thought about this issue hard enough.

        • fiftyfifty1

          “the article makes one think that formula is somehow keeping the mortality rate low”

          Yep. Because it is. An estimated 5-15% of women cannot make enough milk to fully nourish a baby. Formula (and the clean water needed to make it) saves those babies.

        • Azuran

          The point isn’t that formula is the sole reason why child mortality is so low.
          The point is that if breastmilk has all the ridiculous properties that lactivist pretend it does and has such a huge role in determining the health of children, then why wasn’t it preventing all those children death back then?
          And the answer is: Because breastmilk isn’t magical and is not what makes a difference.

        • Linden

          Dr. Amy is not sharing the child mortality rates and BF by country info to prove that breastfeeding is bad for children, and formula feeding is good.
          She is countering the argument *by lactivists* that somehow, giving formula to babies is an “unthinking” act, akin to pumping out one’s lifeblood and using a synthetic alternative, with no checks, no controls. That natural is, by definition better in all things.
          If formula were as horrible as lactivists claim, the droves of dying children would be in the countries with the lowest BF rates, not the highest.
          Of *course* better access to Healthcare, hygiene, MODERN MEDICINE and overall better quality of life means lower child mortality. Of course. Breastfeeding is not some panacea that undoes the inequalities in this world. It doesn’t even undo social inequalities in the same country! We’re not the ones who claim it does.

  • SL27

    I was formula fed, and I am fine. Not overweight, no chronic illness, not stupider than my siblings who were breastfed, no allergies. Yes I think I’m just fine, thank you.

  • Mac Sherbert

    Sometimes it turned out like this story my MIL tells. This woman in the community had a baby. It was never well. It didn’t thrive. It was puny. Another woman in the community finally offered to BF it and took it from it’s mother to stay with her. The baby stilled died.

  • MB

    My son is about to turn one year old this month. It’s a strange world I felt thrust into, one where everyone from my own mother to my husband to strangers on the internet have this pervasive need to judge. It’s like everyone in the world wants a shot at controlling my body and telling me what to do with it.

    One moment stands out: a few weeks after our baby was born, I was sitting on the sofa, in pain because my breasts hurt so bad from the nursing. I told my husband I didn’t want to do it anymore. It was too much pain. Why did I have to be the one that had to do every feeding and be in so much pain all the time? My husband had a fit. “It’s people like you that should’ve never had children in the first place.” Oh yes. He said that to me. I cried for days over that. I was post partum, I was already sensitive, plus the constant needling by everyone on the planet on how to mother and how to do it “right”.

    So I’ll start by saying this: my husband is an idiot. But I married him, so I guess what does that say about me? His comments came from his mouth and the blame for his behavior is squarely on his shoulders. That’s my problem. But the man clearly drank the cool aid.

    There’s this pervasive message out there that your child is literally going to die or grow up a cripple without the milk from a breast. No matter that I was losing weight at a rate I couldn’t even comprehend. I kept thinking in my head, I’m so depressed and stressed and strapped for time with this baby I can’t even eat. How is this baby getting more nutrition from me than he would from a bottle of formula.

    So I was bullied into breastfeeding. I can’t say I hated every single minute of it. A lot of minutes of it. Some of it I actually enjoyed. But I can tell you the NBC movement and the Lactivist Movement did these 2 things for me specifically:

    1.) It encouraged and sustained my husband’s complete lack of involvement in the rearing of our child. We used to live in an egalitarian household where we shared duties. Now we live in a household dictated by biology. I do everything for the baby. Apparently that’s what my body was created to do.

    2.) It gave my husband (and anyone else for that matter) the false impression that they somehow should have an influence over what my body does for our baby. Because in his/their minds, it’s the health of a baby over my own creature comfort.

    I don’t even hate that I’m my child’s sole caregiver. In fact, I have actually grown to love it unequivocally. If anything, it has just shown me over this past year how little I need my husband and how little he’s actually been there for me physically and emotionally. Those are his shortcomings, but I really do think the NBC/Breastfeeding movement was this weird reinforcer for him.

    What a strange reality I find myself in.

    • MichLaw

      I am so sorry for the hurt that your husband caused you in that moment and I’m so glad you recognize that what your husband did was wrong. I hope he comes to realize it as well someday.

      Women have the right to feed their babies without suffering from terrible pain. This does not mean we love our children less or are bad moms.

      I also wanted to stop breastfeeding my second child because of terrible breast pain. I dreaded feeding time and cringed when my baby was brought near me. Once we switched the baby to formula, I was able to care for her much better. I’m grateful that my husband and mother supported my decision to put my emotional/mental health first. The people who love us need to recognize that a mom can not bond well with her child if she is in constant pain and/or extremely sleep deprived.

    • Madtowngirl

      I’m so sorry that your husband drank the kool-aid and hurt you.

      My husband may be even angrier with the NCB/BFHI than I am. He was also seriously duped by it, and became very angry when he saw what happened when breastfeeding didn’t work out for me. It is frustrating that they can’t just allow women to make the choice that’s best for them.

      • BeatriceC

        MrC hears me talk about this stuff and can’t even begin to wrap his mind around some of it. It just doesn’t make any sense. He’s declared Ina May and company as sociopaths.

        • Roadstergal

          I’ve mentioned it before, but my husband’s reaction to seeing an advertisement on a billboard for a “Baby-Friendly Hospital” in our area was “What, do they slap the babies around at the other hospitals?” I had to explain to him that no, they slap the moms around at the BFHs. :p

          • SL27

            Yes, because baby friendly is not mother friendly.

          • Mel

            I explained what a BFHI hospital was to my husband and I thought he was going to blow a gasket.

            Especially since we had a bottle-fed calf escape from a hutch and attempt to reattach itself to a pregnant cow that wasn’t producing milk – but the calf still knew what a teat was and that milk should come from it.

        • Amazed

          Tell him about sainted Stephen Gaskin and watch him hit the roof. Sometimes you talk about your kinks but the man was a new level of crazy. It’s no kink at all. I bet MrC doesn’t get aroused by being the (completely uneducated) chief “midwife” to all the women in a cult, going in and out as he pleases. Yay for Stephen and Ina May NOT! Your kink is not my kink should be the logo of all women who just want to give birth to their kids safely, attended by people who don’t get mental-erotic satisfaction by watching and interfering during the blessed event.

      • Mac Sherbert

        Yes. My DH was all about BF, but in the end he was the one to bring a bottle because he saw it wasn’t going to work. Miserable wife = miserable life. I did finally ask him one day why he was so all about the BF and he said something about his Mom BF him and it’s better for the baby. Haha. His mom told me she only BF him for six months then had to wean him to the old evaporated milk formula! Neither one of his siblings were BF either.

    • BeatriceC

      Would it help if you viewed the NCB Kool-Aid as some sort of mental glitch? I view the whole movement as a cult and the people who espouse those views without critically looking at the entire picture and the individual situations of specific women as in need of “deprogramming”. It doesn’t excuse what he said, but it could help you guys come back together even stronger.

      • MB

        Lol. Yes, actually. I am going to send him to “Dr. Amy’s Deprogramming Camp for Wayward Husbands”.

    • indigosky

      My husband would have had his ass beat down and divorce papers served. I hope to god he has apologized for that statement. If not, I would have no more children with him and reconsider my marriage. What else is he going to decide he is going to control about you and your son next?

    • Megan

      I’m so sorry your husband said that to you. That is downright horrible. I had a similar, though not as awful moment when I wanted to quit and my husband said to me, “You can’t quit. How will we afford formula?” It was as if sustaining our child with my low supply was totally my responsibility and not his at all. As if it was my problem to solve alone even if my biology made a solution besides formula impossible. He was also really worried about the health consequences of me not breastfeeding. Eventually, he turned around his thinking when I did more reading and discovered just how marginal the evidence was for breastfeeding and has now become my biggest advocate. I hope that your husband eventually “sees the light” too. You are absolutely right that the NCB/lactivist/AP movements reinforce these things. And I’ve noticed that when I go on maternity leave, our roles become much more gender oriented and when I go back to work, I have to fight to get things to be more egalitarian again.

      • BeatriceC

        I can’t comprehend the “we can’t afford formula” line. Eventually the baby is going to need more than breastmilk or formula, and then you’ll actually have to start buying food, not to mention the increased food needs of the nursing mother. I only wish I could feed my boys right now for the price of formula. I’ve said it before, but my grocery bill is my single largest monthly expense. I spend more on food than I spend on homeowners insurance, property taxes, gas and insurance for my car, power/water/gas, my cell phone (7 smart phones, two tablets, 32GB data plan…not a cheap bill). Now I don’t have a mortgage, and if I did have to buy or rent a house where I live that payment would likely be more, but I live in a really expensive area of the country. Anyway, my point is that if you can’t afford formula, how on earth are you going to afford food once baby gets old enough to eat solids?

        • SL27

          Seriously. My appetite (and thus the money spent to keep me from starving) was through the roof with my first baby, who breastfed easily. Baby #2 didn’t like it, so we’ve switched to formula, and it’s not that bad, especially at Costco where it is almost half as much as other brands.

        • Formula is expensive in comparison to breastfeeding only if the mother’s time is worth nothing and the extra food she needs is invisible (or, better yet, nonexistent). It’s just one more way that we can act out our culture’s discomfort with women’s needs, and particularly with women’s hunger.

          • demodocus

            i’m not even bf’ing and i’m hungry all the time

    • Sarah

      I don’t think his being an idiot says anything about you. Abusive people, and that remark was emotionally abusive, wait until you’re weak before preying on you. There’s a reason pregnancy is one of the peak times for DV to start.

    • Irène Delse

      I’m so sorry you went through this. You’re right, your husband drank the kool-aid, and the practical effect of lactivism is to put women in the prison of their own biology. I hope you have at least some supportive person in your life and can talk to them about it.

    • Jennifer

      I was thinking just the other day of two women I know who otherwise have non-misogynistic husbands who nonetheless bullied their wives into breastfeeding. It makes me so, so angry. This is the logical consequence of all this breast is best nonsense. I’m so sorry that happened to you.

      • MB

        Honestly, I get so angry myself when I think of this moment in my life. But he’s not a villain. I do love him, and in fact, he’s a good father, although he works all the time, it’s not like he’s been absent just because he feels like it. It’s just this thing. He was so sure our kid’s future would be destroyed without breastmilk. I wasn’t breastfed for heaven’s sake!

    • Maud Pie

      Very similar experience with a husband who fell in with lactofanatics. The marriage dragged on 14 more years, which had several ups and downs, but I know it reached the point of no return when he dug into that position. Fortunately, though I am not an assertive person, there were aspects of my personality that kicked in and enabled me to stand up for my child’s right to be fed and to be cared for a mother not physically and mentally debilitated.

      I’m now happily divorced, and that child who DIDN’T starve, thanks to formula, is a bright, witty young woman.

    • yentavegan

      I admire you. You are weighing the risks to the benefits of “making it work” with a spouse who showed you his true colors. For now while you are so dependent upon him for shelter and support you have chosen to take the high road. If in the future the risks outweigh the benefits I hope you have the wherewithall to kick his kool-aide ass to the curb.

    • Who?

      That’s all really hard, I’m sorry. You were probably both fraught and exhausted and overwhelmed, which is absolutely no excuse.

      I’m the first one to suggest listening with your kind ears, always bearing in mind the stressors on others, but it sounds like you’re already pretty good at that. Being too good at it isn’t a positive for you.

      Good luck with what sounds like some pretty big negotiations and discussions ahead. Trust yourself.

    • Maud Pie

      A stock character in the lactofanatics’ melodramas is the Eeevull husband pushing formula, trampling on his wife’s noble martyrdom in the sacred cause of EBF. As if a husband’s rational and compassionate concern for wife and child’s welfare is a bad thing. What a bizarro world view!

    • Jennifer

      You need a divorce attorney. NOW!

  • Roadstergal

    You don’t even need to look to the past – Dr T has posted the graph of infant mortality vs breastfeeding rates, and the countries where it’s “Breastfeed or die,” you do indeed get a lot more of both breastfeeding and dying…

  • namaste863

    Well, of course more people are being treated for illness than in generations past. We have the tools to diagnose and treat said illnesses now. We didnt then. In previous generations they simply went undiagnosed. And guess what? As a result of modern medicine and technology, We’re living longer now than we were then.

    • Azuran

      Back then, any child with any kind of chronic illness would simply be branded as ‘sickly’. Most wouldn’t make it into adulthood and nobody would know why. Without modern medicine, basically everyone with any kind of heart problem would be dead. Same with diabetics, people with auto-immune disease and practically everyone who ever got any kind of cancer.
      Sure, the rate of chronic illness would go down. But because those people would be dead. I don’t think that’s a win.

      • Irène Delse

        With my wonky immune system, I may well have been among the “dead before five” crowd. Hooray for vaccines, antibiotics, diagnostic tests and the rest! I can enjoy a normal life, and if a few pills a day is the price to pay, I count myself lucky. I can’t even blame it on formula, as my mother breastfed me ^^°

      • Mel

        Yeah, I would have died 2 days after being born at the latest due to prematurity.

      • guest

        I have this argument with my husband quite often. My son has asthma and uses a daily inhaler which works great for him. My husband periodically suggests trying to wean him off of it because “all those chemicals can’t be good for him.” To which I keep arguing “do you want to go back to our lives 2 years ago, in and out of the hospital and the kid sick more than he was better? The chemicals may not be great, but at least he’s not dead.”

        • Nick Sanders

          Not to be rude, but it scares me how poorly your husband seems to understand asthma.

          • guest

            I should have expanded more – my husband does understand it – he has asthma himself – but also has a mental illness that inhibits his ability to assess risk at times. Usually he just needs reminding from me about what’s at stake and he backs off. A big part of what I hate about all the conspiracy theory, natural movement crap is that it can feed the paranoia of certain people. The first sign for me that my husband is starting to struggle is when he talks about “natural” health and how “unnatural” things are today.

        • Monkey Professor for a Head

          Oxygen is a chemical, and a deficiency of it is widely acknowledged to be quite detrimental to your health.

    • BeatriceC

      One of the women in one of my FB groups posted this graph the other day. I’m not entirely sure where she got it from, but it shows the rate of cancer diagnosis relatively stable across birth cohorts and the “increase” in cancer being a function of living longer than we used to.

      http://i301.photobucket.com/albums/nn67/mmsw1/Mobile%20Uploads/IMG_2102_zpsmysy3pqb.jpg

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        Does anyone have the plot of breastfeeding rates over the years? When was the heyday of formula?

        • Amy M

          I think 1960s-1970s.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            My initial thought as well.

        • Amy Tuteur, MD

          1973, breastfeeding initiation 24%.

          • BeatriceC

            So according to the lactivists, my general birth cohort (I was born in 75, so I’m assuming that the rate wasn’t that much higher two years past the nadir), should be pretty sick, and we’re really not.

          • Roadstergal

            Seriously, that’s my go-to when it comes to lactivism. If breastfeeding had any substantial effect on obesity, allergies, asthma, or IQ, the current generation should be slim, un-allergic, scathingly smart, and have fewer allergies than my own generation. And yet almost all of those trend substantially in the other direction. Even if breastfeeding had some effect, it is absolutely swallowed up and spat out by all of the more relevant factors.

            If anything, the biggest health effect would be for mom to go right back to work, since SES is a proven factor in positive outcomes for kids. :p (I’m not bagging on SAHM, I’m just turning the lactivist argument around.)

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Do you have a link to the plot for breastfeeding rates per year? I think that I’ve seen that at some point.

        • swbarnes2

          Here’s a link from Kellymom:

          http://kellymom.com/fun/trivia/ross-data/

  • demodocus

    We’re both living long enough to develop chronic illnesses and children who’re born with them can survive with them. (depending on the illness or disability) DH would be lion food if he wasn’t exposed as soon as they saw the cataracts

  • Taysha

    “Are we — an overweight nation of chronically ill, medicine-dependent formula feeders — fine?”

    Because formula is the only thing that has changed for any of us for the last 100 years? I mean, if all the chronically ill people, those with cancer and other diseases just died like they did in the old days, we might appear healthier, I guess.

    • Madtowngirl

      It couldn’t possibly be our more sedentary lifestyles and workplaces, nor the significant increase in air pollution, the expense of healthy foods, or our increasing longevity! It MUST be EBIL FORMULA!!!!!!

      • LaMont

        Hey, with all the things we’ve recently changed, who knows what it is! I say it’s the computers. Or maybe the vaccines. Or the cell phones. Or… or… or… let’s nix it all!! Back to the Stone Age with us!

        • Azuran

          It’s the CHEMTRAILS!!!!!!!

          • nomofear

            ..

      • Amy M

        Sure, the Ebil Formula is responsible for diabetes and cancer, vaccines are responsible for autism, food dye and other chemicals in food are responsible for ADHD and MSG is responsible for autoimmune disorders. It’s so amazing how the woo-crowd has that all figured out, and it makes me wonder what all those academic scientists are wasting public money on. Industry scientists, of course, are making bank on keeping us sick and then selling us the treatment for that sickness.

        We used to think “one gene = one disorder” but really its “one chemical/technological invention=one disorder.” Why isn’t this brain trust running Harvard?
        /kidding