An open letter to Lucy Martinez Sullivan, Executive Director of 1000 Days


Dear Ms. Martinez Sullivan,

Have you lost your mind? What are you doing posting a picture of a dead baby on the Facebook page of the Fed Is Best Foundation?

You’re not a random lactivist. I see from your bio that you are the Executive Director of children’s nutrition organization 1000 Days:

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Is that a dead baby floating in a formula bottle?[/pullquote]

We believe that all children deserve a healthy first 1,000 days and the opportunity to achieve their full potential. But too many children are robbed of this opportunity because they don’t get the nutrition they need to thrive.

As part of that, their goal is to ensure that:

More babies are exclusively breastfed from birth to six months and are continuing to breastfeed for at least one year.

What a coincidence! The Fed Is Best Foundation is also committed to excellent infant nutrition. They describe their mission on their homepage:

The Fed is Best Foundation believes that babies should never go hungry and mothers should be supported in choosing clinically safe feeding options for their babies. Whether breast milk, formula, or a combination of both – #FedIsBest.

You seem to have missed the fact that they too care deeply about making sure that babies are healthy. Instead you posted this bit of obnoxiousness on the Fed Is Best Facebook page:


Is that a dead baby floating in a formula bottle? Did you just accuse FIB of being the new Nestle? Did you just expropriate the tragedy of poor women of color in developing nations to browbeat privileged women in industrialized countries to breastfeed regardless of whether their babies are being harmed?

Are you nuts? Do you think you do your organization any favors by behaving so irresponsibly? You write that you have worked in the past with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; do you think they would want to be associated with someone who behaves as you have just done?

What did the FIB Foundation post that caused you to take leave of your senses? It was this:


They dared to share a post from 2nd Milk an organization that provides formula to babies whose mothers have died:

When a baby loses its mother it shouldn’t keep them from experiencing the fullness of life. 2nd Milk comes alongside these families from birth to 2 years old providing formula, porridge, fruits and vegetables.

We know that babies whose mothers die are far more likely to die, too. Could they be fed by a volunteer wet-nurse? Possibly if one were available, but I suspect that people reach out to 2nd Milk when there is no wet-nurse available. Who is going to feed these babies otherwise?

You provide no answer to that question yet you decided to lash out at a Foundation that is designed expressly to promote infant nutrition. Why? Because you apear to be more concerned with the process of breastfeeding than with the result of healthy babies. Here’s a pro-tip, Ms. Martinez Sullivan, if a breastfed baby is dehydrated, starving or failing to thrive then that baby is not healthy. And if you cared about infant health you would be rushing to support Fed Is Best.

Instead, like many lactivists, you are a zealot. You’ve painted yourselves into a corner. Instead of acknowledging that a substantial number of mothers can’t make enough breastmilk to meet their infants needs, instead of acknowledging that dehydration, starvation and death are real risks of exclusive breastfeeding, instead of acknowledging that judicious formula supplementation in the first few days actually improves the chances of extended breastfeeding you’ve doubled down on the absurd idea that breastfeeding is always perfect.

The chief manifestation of your zealotry is the belief that anyone who doesn’t agree with you is out to undermine you. I breastfed four children without too much difficulty and I enjoyed it. I recommend breastfeeding to every new mother. But I don’t agree with you that breastfeeding is perfect for every baby. I also know that the scientific evidence shows that the benefits of breastfeeding in industrialized countries are trivial and that the fanciful claims of lives saved by breastfeeding (as in the Lancet article) are merely theoretical and have not been demonstrated in real life. That’s not surprising when you consider that many of the countries with the highest infant mortality rates have breastfeeding rates approaching 100%. Exactly whose lives are going to be saved when all the women are already breastfeeding?

I have some suggestions for you. First, you ought to apologize to Jody Seagrave-Daly and Dr. Christy Castillo-Hegyi who are working tirelessly to prevent infant injury and death. Second, if you have a problem with what I write, feel free to address me directly. Third, you ought to recognize that outcome (a healthy, growing baby) is infinitely more important than whether or not that baby is breastfed.

I understand that you are afraid. Jody and Christie have reframed the issue and taken it away from lactivists like you with your exaggerations, outright lies and humiliating tactics. But the truth is that Fed Is Best whether you like it or not.


Updated: I initially linked Martinez Sullivan’s comment to the wrong post.