The biggest problem with nature worship

Lion hunting zebras

People who venerate the natural imagine that this is nature.

The cute baby zebra is perfectly designed to be lunch for lions.

It’s a cute little baby zebra, galloping with the herd. It’s perfectly designed to keep up with it’s mother. Born from her body, it was perfectly designed to stand within an hour of birth. It’s nourished by its mother’s milk, perfectly designed to meet its nutritional needs. But that’s a blinkered picture of nature, literally. Indeed, it was cropped from this image. Note the lion on the attack.

Lion hunting zebras

Because the sad truth about the cute baby zebra is it’s perfectly designed to be lunch for lions, and that’s what happened to it.

Lions eating a zebra

Advocates of natural parenting, natural eating and natural healing wax rhapsodic about the perfection of nature. But that’s because they imagine that the blinkered view they prefer is reality when it is nothing more than a comforting fantasy.

Focusing on the individual animal (or human) leads them to make statements like, “women are perfectly designed to give birth,” “breastmilk is the perfect food for babies” and “natural immunity is the best way to protect ourselves from diseases.” In contrast, if you zoom out to encompass the entirety of nature, it is obvious that nature doesn’t create perfection; it leads to the survival of only the fittest.

Zebras aren’t perfectly designed to survive until adulthood. By some estimates, as few as 27% of baby zebras survive their first year. Only the fittest — fastest, quickest to bolt, strongest — survive. What makes some baby zebras fitter than others? It’s genetics, their’s, their mothers’ and their herds’. Genetics makes some baby zebras faster than others. Genetics allows some zebra mothers to produce more milk than others. Genetics makes some herds collectively better adapted to their environment than others.

Remember the old joke: “How fast do you need to be to avoid getting eaten by a lion?” The answer: “Faster than the other guy!”

The same thing applies to baby zebras. The 27% of baby zebras who survive don’t do so because they are perfectly designed but merely because they are fitter —faster, quicker and stronger — than the 73% of baby zebras who didn’t make it.

Evolution isn’t merely acting on zebras, either. It is acting on all of nature including lions, for whom zebras are ideal prey. Evolution favors lions who are the fastest, quickest and strongest on the plain, and every increase in lion fitness comes at the expense of zebra survival.

If you look at the baby zebra in isolation, you might be fooled into thinking it is perfect. When you pull back to the wide angle view you can see that most baby zebras aren’t even “good enough” to survive, let alone perfect.

Similarly, women aren’t “perfectly designed” to give birth. In fact there’s a mismatch between what is perfect for the baby (to be born as late as possible with the largest brain size as possible) and what is perfect for women (to give birth as early as possible to the smallest size baby as possible). Evolution doesn’t ensure that all babies and all mothers will survive childbirth. A significant proportion will die and only the fittest survive childbirth. And just because they were fittest for childbirth doesn’t mean they are fittest for life outside the womb.

Modern obstetrics has changed that. Since surviving childbirth is entirely independent of surviving childhood, adulthood and old age, it only makes sense to employ childbirth interventions to save babies and mothers who would otherwise die. If you look at an uncomplicated vaginal birth in isolation, you — like natural childbirth advocates — might be fooled into thinking that childbirth is perfect. When you pull back to the wide angle view, the view that shows you the millions of children and mothers who routinely died in childbirth, you can see that childbirth is hardly an example of natural perfection.

Women aren’t “perfectly designed” to breastfeed. A substantial proportion of them aren’t capable of producing enough breastmilk, not because of “lack of support” but because of genetics. Babies aren’t perfectly designed to nurse at the breast, either. A significant proportion don’t have enough strength or muscle tone to extract what they need from the breast. In nature, they die. Today their mothers can pump breastmilk for them or give them formula. If you looked at a single baby who successfully nursed into toddlerhood you — like lactivists — might be fooled into thinking that breastfeeding is perfect. When you pull back to the wide angle view, the view that shows you the astronomically high infant mortality rate in nature, you can see that breastfeeding is hardly an example of natural perfection.

The same thing applies to vaccine preventable diseases. If you look at unvaccinated adults who survived childhood diseases unscathed you — like anti-vaxxers — might be fooled into thinking that natural immunity is all that we need. When you pull back to the wide angle view, the view of cemeteries filled with children and adults who routinely died from vaccine preventable diseases, it makes it crystal clear that natural immunity is far inferior to vaccine induced immunity.

Natural childbirth advocates, lactivists and anti-vaxxers have a profoundly blinkered view of nature. Imagining that natural childbirth, breastfeeding and natural immunity are perfect is no different from imagining that all baby zebras are designed to survive lion attacks … and just as foolish.

  • насне догонят

    Well, perhaps the young zebra was not *that* well designed, so it probably was a good thing it died before it could propagate the weakness to its offsprings. Now, for humans… is it a good thing to save babies from mothers unable to give birth or lactating, or… Until you can actually “fix” the weak part of a genome, saving each and every individual from malformations may be playing Russian Roulette (with 6 bullets) with the entire species, what do you think?

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      I think eugenics is repugnant.

      • Roadstergal

        Not only is it repugnant, it’s counter-purpose. So you say only women who give birth easily should pass on their genes. You’re selecting for poor runners and small heads (tiny brains). Or prematurity… :p

        Genetic diversity is an asset. Both the humanitarian and the utilitarian thing to do is to preserve as much of it as possible.

        • насне догонят

          That’s what Nature does all the time: if your build is unfit for the job, you won’t make it to the next generation, period. Nature doesn’t care too much about ethics…
          OTOH, Nature is responsible for making “tests” all the time, you call it “genetic diversity”, I call it “successful tests”. And, yes, that includes reproduction rate engineered over hundreds of millennia to find the right balance between the size of the group/herd/pack and the existing resource in a place at a point in time: the greater the number, the smaller the share…

          Is this what you call “repugnant”? You’re the one with a cultural bias. The Future shall say soon if it’s a winning strategy, or a cause for your extinction, for Culture-based “Struggle for Life” tends to be a lot faster than the Nature-based one: it takes a couple of generations for a Culture (a “stronger” one) to take over another (“weaker”) one.

          Now, what I’m saying is medicine is only half way, in a very dangerous position from the species point of view. I’m not thinking of Eugenics, which is cultural (see above…), I’m thinking of Cancer and hereditary diseases, let’s call them “genetic”, unless you find another PC word to qualify hereditary traits (sometimes, words carry what they mean and nothing else, let’s not fight over what you’ve twisted on purpose)

          Succeeding in saving kids with cancer in such a way they’ll procreate is a reason for your great grand-kids to have a much shorter lifespan than you, unless medicine finds a way to fix what makes the kid sick in the first instance. Every time you save a kid, you harm the entire species, you save one today and make a a thousand terminally ill in 50 years. Success? That’s my question…
          Now, if you really think it’s counter-purpose to isolate the carrier before the disease spreads, your “branch” of the species is definitely going to end very quickly, with women unable to carry, a mainstream of hydrocephalic heads (doesn’t make the brain bigger) and widespread leukemia. “Survival of the fittest” still applies a bit, and I’m not sure how compassion doesn’t transform to “passion” for all.

          • MaineJen

            “Every time you save a kid, you harm the entire species…”

            Wow, you are a prize. What kind of person literally argues against treating childhood cancer? (Which, most of the time, is not hereditary. But I wouldn’t expect you to know that.)

          • Roadstergal

            It’s just more tautologies.

            Even if biology were as simple as he thinks – which it isn’t – his argument basically boils down to “We shouldn’t save kids, because then we’d have to save kids in the future.”

            So what? We could try to breed humans with skulls thick enough to not require bicycle helmets, but why not just wear bicycle helmets?

          • Nick Sanders

            Altruism is an extremely successful survival strategy, just so you know.

          • Sarah

            Indeed. The eugenics lot never seem to factor that into their arguments.

          • Who?

            Nature doesn’t ‘do’ anything. Things happen or they don’t. People direct things, perhaps not always towards what an individual might think is best.

            I hope you practice what you preach, for yourself at least-or would your loss be too great for humanity to bear?

          • Box of Salt

            Stephen Hawking.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Every time you save a kid, you harm the entire species, you save one today and make a a thousand terminally ill in 50 years. Success?

            You really think it would have a noticeable effect in 50 years? You are crazy if you do. That is all of two generations. For an average procreation rate, that means something like 6 descendants would be affected on average. To get to 1000, you need a few more generations.

            So then the question is, what will medicine be like in 100 years, or 200 years? All these genetic concerns you have? Might not be an issue in 100 years, because medicine will advance to the point where it deals with them. So why should we sacrifice our children now if medicine will be able to help their descendants in the future?

            No, I won’t ask anyone to let their kids die, just so somewhere in the future, someone _might_ be able to live longer, although there is no guarantee. The fact that you would tells me all I need to know about you.

          • kilda

            not to mention, for most cancers, the genetics are nowhere near that simple or straightforward.

            not to mention, if we can save that kid with cancer today, why would those hypothetical 1000 descendants with cancer be “terminally ill” in 50 years? I imagine by then we’ll be even better at saving people with cancer.

          • Roadstergal

            Plus, certain genetic contexts that predispose to cancer might also be involved in, say, tissue growth and repair. Which are generally good things in other contexts. So if curing cancers that are influenced by genetics that have beneficial effects in other contexts becomes cheap and easy, then those genetics will be, in that context, nothing but good.

            Life isn’t as simple as internet bio-bros like to think.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Shoot, if we don’t save the kid now, doesn’t that mean there wouldn’t be a thousand descendents at all? Better they are never born at all than to be born with some genetic limitation? Even assuming it would be so

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            Even those nutty quiverful people need more than 2 generations.

          • Tigger_the_Wing

            Exactly. My paternal grandmother died in her early forties from TB. But she’d already produced three children, so that is irrelevant to posterity.

            On the other hand, her eldest son – my father – almost died of TB in his teens, but his life was saved by those new-fangled antibiotics.

            1000 people in fifty years?

            Even seventy years on, there aren’t that many descendants. He had four children; between them, they gave him 13 grandchildren (1 adopted, so 12 descendants) and have given him 7 great-grandchildren so far. That’s only 24 ‘extra’ people (counting Dad) in seventy years, and our families tend to be bigger than average (two of us have five children each).

            But since we were all vaccinated against TB (the vaccine came out four years before I was born) we aren’t at risk.

            I now know I have genetic disorders (all diagnosed after I had already had children, some after I already had grandchildren), and I know I have passed them on to my children and grandchildren. But medical advancements mean that there may well be excellent treatments in a few years’ time, before any of my descendants reach an age where the disorders become a major problem.

          • Roadstergal

            “OTOH, Nature is responsible for making “tests” all the time, you call it “genetic diversity”, I call it “successful tests”.”

            You could call it ‘Phil’ if you wanted, but it wouldn’t make any more sense.

            Genetic diversity is the raw material on which selection works. If you reduce diversity, you reduce the number of niches you can be successfully selected for. You seem to be confusing selection with the thing selection is acting upon. This is basic stuff.

            Hybrid vigor isn’t a phrase I just now made up. :p Reducing genetic diversity is also known as ‘inbreeding,’ and hasn’t exactly been associated with the development of ubermensch, except in the fevered imaginations of white guys with a heavily filtered pittance of knowledge of biology and history.

          • Amazed

            Does it work this way with medical interventions for yourself? Or are you ready to employ big bad medical rescue for yourself and burden the world with your defective genes?

          • Claire Secrist

            My kid is a pediatric cancer survivor. Her cancer was not heritable and will cause her no elevated risk of cancer for the rest of her life. She didn’t even need chemo. She’s also more than just a potential gene distributor.

            You know absolutely nothing, you shitstain.

    • Nick Sanders

      I think judging someone by a handful of their genes is insane, and comparing compassion to Russian Roulette shows you have no understanding of ethics or genetics.

    • MaineJen

      Yeah, it’s a good thing to save babies who would otherwise die. WTF kind of question is that?

    • momofone

      I’ll take my chances.

    • Gæst

      I think you’re a damned dirty eugenicist, that’s what I think.

    • momofone

      I think that if, in the big picture, you see the ability to give birth vaginally and breastfeed as the most important traits to pass on, you’re missing a lot.

      • MaineJen

        I think it’s more that he’s anticipating the coming apocalypse/grid coming down scenario. You can’t do a c section or mix formula in a Mad Max world.

        Also, eugenics.

        • momofone

          Definitely. And eugenics for sure. It just also struck me that those things seem odd things to strive for as opposed to intelligence, or adaptability, or a million other possible non-eugenics options.

        • Mishimoo

          They did do an emergency c-section in Mad Max: Fury Road, but it did not go well.

      • kilda

        plus his whole hypothesis is pretty silly. I mean, until about 100 years ago, nature had been selecting relentlessly for ability to birth vaginally and ability to breastfeed, for thousands of years. And yet we still have a significant proportion of people who can’t do one or both of those things. It’s almost like evolution isn’t simple or something.

    • StephanieJR

      Fuck off you ableist eugenicist.

    • Heidi

      One, those things sometimes have nothing to do with genetics. I survived because my mother was able to get a cerclage for her incompetent cervix. It wasn’t genetic. I was able to carry my baby full-term without any issues and have a vaginal birth. Failure to lactate isn’t necessarily genetic either. Some women can’t lactate with their first child but with the second child lactate just fine. Lactation has been failing since forever practically and babies used to die because of it but it still happens. Women and children have died during childbirth before we could do anything to save them, too. However, the inability to survive childbirth is still an issue today. What makes you think it would be weeded out?

  • J.B.

    OT somewhat: the death panels of Trumpcare consider nature+money perfect, if you have special needs or outlive your money clearly you have done something wrong. Looking at elder care costs now and bigly worried…

    • LaMont

      Oh yeah. After two years reading this blog I am *all in* on medical care as the best way to go, over romanticized nature worship. After AHCA, if I ever do have kids I’m going into the woods to have them delivered by bears. 🙁

  • Chi

    Slightly OT but not entirely (Since there was a discussion of breastfeeding down-thread). MAM is at it again, and this time she’s trying to take on Fed is Best and why it’s wrong;

    http://www.modernalternativemama.com/2017/06/12/fed-best-wrong-approach/

    *headdesk* I just can’t even with her. I really can’t.

    • Heidi_storage

      I think Dr. Tuteur has already pointed out that formula=/=junk food. I like how “chicken nuggets” is her example, though. What if you fed a 2- year-old nothing but chicken nuggets (minus the root beer)? Probably nothing bad.

      • J.B.

        I think a lot of two year olds would be happy to show us the effects, and we’ve at least got plenty of mostly healthy two year olds that subsist on goldfish crackers and milk (from the cow)!

      • maidmarian555

        My 14m/o would be overjoyed if I let him live on just chicken nuggets. In fact, I am pretty certain that left to his own devices, this would be his diet of choice. And tbh, if they aren’t deep fried then I can’t really see what all the fuss is about. There aren’t *that* bad in the wider scheme of things.

        • J.B.

          Ah, but the mechanical deboning introduces *dum dum dummmmm!* fluoride!!!!

          • maidmarian555

            Gasp! *clutches pearls* NOT FLUORIDE??!! Ah well, even if he is horribly poisoned at least he’ll have great teeth!

      • Dr Kitty

        I’m raising Carbo the Magnificent- toast and peanut butter, Weetabix, chips, grilled chicken, breadsticks, porridge, yogurt, milk, fruit purée, cheese and raisins make up the majority of his diet.

        The only veggies he likes are whatever I can purée and hide in bolognese sauce or pizza.

        • MaineJen

          My son will eat sandwiches and meat, but not fruit or veggies (except apple sauce)…my daughter is fine with fruit and veg, but won’t touch bread and is iffy about meat. Meal times are…interesting.

      • MaineJen

        Ask me in about 10 years… :/

      • Chi

        That’s basically ALL my fussy eater WILL eat. She’s 3 and has Asperger’s so is kinda sensitive to texture and very reluctant to try new things.

        Currently her list of things she WILL eat include:

        – Chicken nuggets
        – Chicken cordon bleu
        – Nutella sandwiches/toast
        – The occasional bacon and egg savory
        – Super wine biscuits
        – Yogurt

        And despite this less-than-optimal diet, she’s STILL skinny AND tall for her age. I’m hoping that as she gets a bit older I’ll be able to coax her into trying more fruit and veges.

        ETA: And I know that Dr Tuteur has made the formula isn’t junk food argument, but it seems that MAM didn’t get that memo. Plus this is a more recent article than Dr Tuteur’s. I was only posting it here cos a ‘friend’ on FB shared it. And got all huffy with me when I pointed out the BS in it by doubling down on all the lactivist propaganda (introducing formula tanks your supply!!! was her biggest argument).

        But then I shouldn’t be surprised. Apparently she’s trying to become a board certified lactation consultant so she’s swallowed the propaganda whole.

        • Heidi_storage

          What are super wine biscuits? They sound awesome.

        • Tigger_the_Wing

          As long as she is eating something.

          Super tall, skinny Aspies are pretty much the normal in my family. Unfortunately, the height and skinniness are often due to one or other of EDS and cœliac disease (I have both).

      • Gæst

        Well, I regard chicken nuggets as a nutritious source of protein.

        • kilda

          my oldest niece was a very picky eater and as far as I can tell, until she was about 12 the only foods she would eat were bread, butter, hot dogs, and baloney. I seriously remember Thanksgiving dinner when she was 9 or 10, all she ate was the dinner rolls. She lived and she’s even smart.

          of course she WAS breastfed as a baby. probably that’s what saved her. ; )

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            I seriously remember Thanksgiving dinner when she was 9 or 10, all she ate was the dinner rolls.

            Not even sopped in turkey gravy?

            Seriously, I could live on dinner rolls sopped in turkey gravy.

        • Heidi_storage

          That’s why it was so funny to me. She didn’t use something like Pop Tarts, or even potato chips, but a food that’s fairly nutritious (if a bit heavy on the sodium, and maybe the fat–both of which aren’t really big concerns for toddlers, in my opinion). A kid who eats literally nothing but chicken nuggets is eating “healthier” than the vast majority of children throughout human history.

          • Gæst

            When I was a kid, chicken McNuggets didn’t exist yet, so getting a McDonald’s meal was always a hamburger, Coke, and fries. Now my kids love Happy Meals, and they get four chicken nuggets, fries, fruit or yogurt, and water (or juice). It really doesn’t seem that bad. I limit it mainly because I hate the plastic toys and excess landfill it creates, but I’m not worried about my kids’ diet.

          • kilda

            I remember when chicken mcnuggets came out! I was on a trip with my mom and we stopped at McDonalds and said “let’s try these new chicken mcnugget things.” Yep, I’m old.

          • Tigger_the_Wing

            I remember when McDonalds first came to my country, and my friends and I were wondering if we’d be allowed to go (it was a half hour ride away on the number 61 bus).

            I’m *really* old. 🙂

  • Sugarsail1

    Nature is perfect, it just ain’t pretty. Anti-vaxxers just aren’t mentally fit enough so disease will eventually weed them out for the same reason the lion caught baby zebra. They’re both a little “slow”.

    • AnnaPDE

      I guess it all depends on your definition of perfect and what your grading criteria are.

    • Julian Edward Frost

      The problem is they’ll take other people with them. Do you recognise the names Kailis Smith, Kaliah Jordan or Dana McCaffrey?
      They were babies too young to be vaccinated who caught diseases from intentionally unvaccinated individuals, and died.

      • Sugarsail1

        Darwin does not share your sentiment.

        • Heidi_storage

          Darwin was devastated by the death of his beloved daughter Annie as a child.

          • Eater of Worlds

            Sugarsail is stupidly using Darwin as shorthand for nature. I used to be an evolutionary biologist and heard all the weak arguments for and against evolution and how it worked and and and …Sugarsail is just like all those young uninformed people I used to teach.

          • Sugarsail1

            My god, someone with a bit of a brain!!! I guess personification is “stupid”. Well someone tell Shakespeare and all the other literary greats. Who knew they were so off-base! I can guarantee you don’t even have the prerequisites to sign up for my class.

          • Eater of Worlds

            You can’t even make an argument here, and you’d expect me to take a class of yours? Running around spouting “Darwin does not share your sentiment” is all the lolz, because I’ve never heard a serious biologist say that.

          • Sugarsail1

            There’s no argument to be made. Life is 100% fatal, sexually transmitted and we all have it. Life doesn’t care about your morals, your sentiment, or who dies when….you will die when it’s your time and you’ll have little say in the matter. You could get struck by lightening tomorrow, or live to 100 while spending the last 20 years of your life curled up in a ball drooling in your food and forgetting your name. Hey, I didn’t make the rules, only pointing them out. My class can’t be taken, it can only be earned by living and acknowledging reality instead of denying it.

          • moto_librarian

            Yawn.

          • Eater of Worlds

            No kidding. At this point all I can do is laugh at the complete uneducated stupidity that was spouted. That last wasteful paragraph of energy filled with platitudes, not arguments…

          • Eater of Worlds

            It’s lightning, not lightening.

    • Heidi_storage

      No. Anti-vaxxers are people, and we don’t want them weeded out.

      • Sugarsail1

        Darwin cares not for your desires.

        • You do realize that people have all this lovely technology specifically to thwart common (and not so common) causes of death, right? We save people all the time who would otherwise die, because we do have sentiment.

          Also, Darwin was a person. He loved people. He lost people and grieved for them. If you’re talking about an anthropomophic Nature or Evolution, say so, but Darwin was a man like any other.

          Part of human evolution is being prosocial, which means we do care about other people and it is a very positive evolutionary trait to do so.

          • Sugarsail1

            and yet no matter how much you care, everyone dies.

          • Heidi_storage

            Indeed they do. Fortunately, thanks to medicine and science, they’re more likely to die at a good old age, rather than as fetuses, infants, or children. And gross sentimentalist that I am, I think this is a good thing.

          • Eventually. But when and how does matter.

        • Heidi_storage

          Did you see my comment below? It’s unfair to Darwin to ascribe to him callousness toward human beings. I hate antivaxxer sentiments; they do a world of harm. But that is exactly why I hate antivaxxer sentiments: They lead to disease, death, and suffering. Why would I wish death upon them?

          I’ve been infuriated by many parents who failed their children by not getting them real medical care–parents who let their kids die in homebirth, or didn’t take them to the doctor when they’re sick. In some cases, I would happily support removal of the parents’ other children (whooping cough lady) or even jail time (such as the Stephans).

          Hoping antivaxers are killed off (and it’s mostly their children who suffer) is no solution. And going down the “survival of the fittest” path with people leads to very dark places; surely you see that?

          • Sugarsail1

            by “Darwin” I do not mean the historical man I mean the process of life and death and natural selection that does not share human morals, fears or sentiments nor can be thwarted by human will. If you cannot grasp the subtleties of literary mechanisms like personification I suggest you go back to school and take a few humanities courses.

          • Eater of Worlds

            Bahaha nice explanation after I called you out on this. You’re not coming from a strong point in any of your arguments here.

      • Sarah

        Also the problem with the argument about anti vaxxers being weeded out is that a lot of them have been immunised themselves. It’s their kids who haven’t.

    • Heidi

      Except anti-vaxxers and their children, who are still innocent victims, may survive. Children too immunocompromised or too young for vaccines will be the ones to mainly pay the price. I don’t know where you’ve been, but I haven’t seen any evidence that stupidity is being bred out of humans anyway.

  • Mark

    Nature is not perfect. This article is a near perfect explanation of the ‘Natural Fallacy’

    I will need to book mark and share as needed.

    Well done!

  • Werrf

    Quoth Terry Pratchett: “Those who feel that we have exploited the animals unfairly should consider the alternatives for the animals, in the wild, where nearly all of them are eaten alive as babies, without even the benefit of a quick death.” This is what drives me nuts about people who refuse to eat meat because they can’t bear the thought of another creature dying – if we didn’t farm animals like cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, they’d probably be extinct by now.

    That said, I’m going to say this for the Lactivist crowd – breastmilk should be the first option a new mother tries for her baby. If it doesn’t work, there’s no shame in that, but at least give it a shot. there’s a lot of benefits when it works.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      unless you are already having psych issues just thinking about it. Women who’ve been sexually assualted often have problems with the idea and the reality of breastfeeding. I, luckily, haven’t been assaulted, but just reading Dr. A’s blog could sometimes trigger my pre-natal depression. The medicine is helping now, but I daren’t read more than a little portion.

    • swbarnes2

      But there really aren’t “a lot” of benefits, not in the breastmik itself. When you look at well-controlled studies that control for socioeconomic differences, virtually nothing turns up. Certainly nothing long lasting.

      I think most women will at least try it, because they like having the option, especially if they know that breastfeeding will work with their lifestyle for at least a little while, and they might even enjoy it, and for that reason, we should make resources available to help women through solvable problems.

      But if a woman doesn’t want to even try, she has her reasons, and the best judge of what’s right for her is her.

      • Lucy S.

        Why do you people think that properly nourishing your child is an “option”? Parents have “reasons” for beating their kids, too.

        • Young CC Prof

          Because correct formula feeding is also properly nourishing your child. Refusing to use formula when you know your milk supply is inadequate, however, or encouraging others to do so? THAT’s abuse.

        • Heidi_storage

          Properly nourishing your child is not an “option,” it’s mandatory. Which is why we support giving babies breastmilk or age-appropriate formula, in adequate amounts to keep the kid healthy and thriving.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          Explain how formula feeding does not constitute “proper nourishment,” without begging the question.

          I’d start by not insulting our intelligence by calling it child abuse.

          Sure, all else equal, breast is best, but all else us never equal and in almost all cases, formula feeding is just fine (exceprion: using tap water in Flint MI would be a case where non-pre-mixed formula would not be appropriate)

          • Roadstergal

            Since lead gets around in the body, formula made with bottled water is probably the safest Flint option…

            I mean, what’s ultimately best is to fix the goddam water supply.

        • Amy Tuteur, MD
        • Charybdis

          Because there ARE two options for properly nourishing your child. Formula and breastmilk, either exclusively or using a combination of the two.
          Breastmilk is not a magical, constantly morphing elixir that prevents measles, colds, etc. Passive immunity doesn’t work that way.
          I tried breastfeeding and absolutely hated, loathed and despised it. Switched to formula and everything got better, immediately.
          It is more abusive to cause a baby to suffer from jaundice, hypernatremia, dehydration and low blood glucose by insisting on EBF when the baby is clearly showing signs of hunger and non-satiety; or to offer unscreened, unpasteurized breastmilk from another mother than it is to offer formula.

        • moto_librarian

          Fuck off. The benefits of breastfeeding a term infant in the developed world are miniscule – on the population level, 8% fewer colds and episodes of diarrheal illness in the first year (daycare remains a huge confounder, and uptake of the rotavirus vaccine may have eliminated the latter).

        • Sarah

          The thing is, whether you like it or not, breastfeeding is an option. Women don’t have to do it if they don’t want to, at least not in the developed world where we have brilliant formula. So the initiation of breastfeeding is a choice, no more no less. That’s a fact. No amount of asinine comparisons between formula and child abuse from you will change it. Women have options. Hopefully that’s burning you up inside.

        • MaineJen

          Yes, children should be nourished. Glad we agree. Formula, if made properly with clean water, is a good way to nourish a baby. As is breast milk. And no, feeding formula is not equivalent to beating your kid. What’s your damage?

    • Mark

      You may think breast milk should be the first option for mothers to try, fine, but that is not your call to make.

      What mothers should have is safe births, vitamin K shots, vaccinations.

      Breastfeeding dose not even register. It should be supported, if that is what the mother wants. Ironically it’s the mother who benefits from breast feeding more than the baby, in terms of possible reduction in certain cancers.

      • Werrf

        I love how you decry my use of “Should”, then immediately throw in your own “shoulds”.

        • Mark

          I think you would agree that not vaccinating a child is not an option. That exposing your baby to contagious diseases is not an option.

          I appreciate your desire to say mothers should try breastfeeding.

          Perhaps I will use the more legal terms.

          Should in legalese terms means a non enforceable best practice.

          Shall is a requirement. Though we can’t legally force vaccination, perhaps morally it should read shall.

          • Werrf

            Okay…and what’s the problem? I think, non enforceably, as best practice, parents should be encouraged to try nursing. And if it doesn’t work, or they don’t want to, so be it. Again…what’s the problem?

          • Mark

            Nothing

            You explained your self well

            I understand

        • Daleth

          The difference is this:

          You were saying what all mothers should do with their own bodies. You were literally insisting that you knew best what any given woman should be doing with her breasts. That is SO not your business.

          Mark was saying:
          – All mothers deserve safe births. The fact he used the word “should” doesn’t mean he was telling other people what to do with their bodies; he was saying that mothers deserve safe births. Do you disagree? Surely not.

          – All mothers should get Vitamin K shots for their babies. IOW they should help prevent their babies from suffering brain bleeds or bleeding to death during routine circumcisions (that has happened, google it). I happen to agree but I’ll concede that he was telling parents what to do with their children, invoking a “should” in much the same way you were. Maybe that crosses a line? Or maybe not, because failure to get Vit K shots has killed babies, while deciding not to breastfeed hasn’t. If you think his statement re Vit K crosses a line, feel free to say why.

          – All mothers should get vaccinations for their kids. This is not at all on par with telling strangers what to do with their breasts, because it is a public health issue: unvaccinated people not only are more vulnerable to disease themselves, they are much more likely to spread serious diseases to other people. Telling someone “you shouldn’t do something that could injure or kill OTHER PEOPLE” is not at all the same as telling someone what to do with their own body parts. Your rights stop where mine begin: if your “right” to refuse vaccinations gets me or my kid sick, I’m taking your ass to court, believe it. Your decision IS my business because you’re putting me and mine at risk.

          • Werrf

            Incorrect. You’re assigning massively more weight to my personal opinion than I ever claimed.

    • Azuran

      To be fair, Today’s cows, pig, sheep, chicken etc are man made.
      They wouldn’t survive in the wild because they have never lived in the wild and have not been made to live in the wild.
      If we didn’t eat meat, those animals would not have to live a life of hardship in nature. They never even would have existed.

      And no, women don’t have to ‘at least give in a shot’.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Well, pigs seem to do fine in the wild. (A little too fine; they can be a destructive, invasive species). The rest, not so much. But even wild game animals that would exist without us are better off being hunted by us than being hunted by any other animal that would like to eat them. We actually care if they suffer.

        That being said, I have no problem with the choice to be vegetarian. It’s something I considered myself and the choice about whether or not to eat meat is morally significant, no matter what choice you make. I ultimately decided that eating meat is not immoral under the right circumstances but that doesn’t mean that taking a life to eat isn’t a pretty intense thing to contemplate. If people are uncomfortable with that, I’m not going to give them any trouble about reducing the extent to which they do it. (It’s pretty difficult to eliminate it altogether unless you’re a vegan who forages all your food. Agriculture inevitably kills animals and if you consume any animal products, you’re still supporting a system in which animals are killed. Those male chickens and cows that don’t produce milk or eggs and aren’t needed for breeding aren’t all becoming pampered pets or something.)

      • Werrf

        I didn’t say they “have to”, I said, in my opinion, the advantages are worth giving it a shot.

        • Azuran

          You can’t say that everyone should give it a shot yet say no one ‘has’ to breastfeed.

          and maybe for YOU the ‘advantages’ (which aren’t even that great) are worth it. But that is not the cases for everyone.

          • Werrf

            Should = my personal recommendation. Of course nobody HAS to breastfeed, that’s absurd! You’re projecting an awful lot of baggage that’s just not there.

    • Merrie

      Nope. New parents should feed their baby breastmilk, or formula, or some combination of the two, according to their own personal preferences and what works for them.

      • Lucy S.

        The preferences of the parents are far more important than the needs of the baby. Sounds great.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          No, the needs of the parents matter, and satisfying the needs of the baby requires addressing the needs of the parents.

          What is best for the baby depends on the total set of circumstances, including those of the parents.

        • Amazed

          Since science has made such a wonderful progress that save for some very specific circumstances and some negligible benefits, breastmilk and science milk are basically indistinguishable, needs of the baby can be met equally depending on the preferences of the parents. It’s great indeed. Unless you’re a desperate lactivist, of course.

        • Empress of the Iguana People

          Don’t be a jerk.

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            good lord, I may have to block this one. And my kids are weaned!

        • Roadstergal

          The baby needs to be fed.

          Since formula and breastmilk are both really good ways to do that, preferences/needs/abilities/constraints on the parents will be the deciding factor between them. (Absent issues with water that make formula unsafe, and absent issues with medication/disease/supply/quality/maternal trauma that make breastmilk unsafe.)

        • Charybdis

          You bet your ass they are. They are the primary caregivers of the baby and as such, they get to make all the pertinent decisions regarding the baby. Babies need to be fed, period.
          The baby doesn’t care as long as it is getting fed enough to be satiated, grow and thrive, has a clean diaper, shelter from the elements and loving, attentive caregivers.

        • Sarah

          What do needs have to do with it, when babies in industrialised societies do not need to be fed breastmilk to flourish?

    • AnnaPDE

      A lot of people who don’t eat meat actually argue with the conditions in which the animals are kept, raised and killed. Unfortunately they do have a point. In many cases of industrial scale farming, not being born in the first place is a preferable option.

    • Sarah

      ‘Should’? Fuck that. Not your call. Keep your moralising off my tits.

      Also, there’s not a lot of benefits. There’s a couple of minimal ones, tops. If you think there’s more, prove your claim, and explain why well designed discordant sibling studies and Probit, ie the nearest we can get to controlling for social factors, suggest otherwise.

      • Lucy S.

        It’s not your tits, its the child (who isn’t “yours”). Try punching your kid and telling the authorities to “keep your moralizing off my fists”.

        • Amazed

          And if I take your leaking boob and pull it so hard that I stuff it in your smug mouth? Shall we try it and see if this liquid gold will make you better and smarter (personally, I doubt it, with so little base material), or choke you?

          You’re a disgusting piece of work. Take your pearls and shove them.

          • Heidi_storage

            Reading her comments, she’s got an interesting perspective:

            Patriarchy: bad
            Capitalism: bad
            Transwomen: marginalizing to real women
            Catholicism: good (I think)
            Circumcision: designed to break bond between mother and child
            Petroleum jelly: bad (unnatural)
            Infant memories: of course we can have memories from babyhood
            Formula: bad

          • Roadstergal

            “Reading her comments”
            You’re a stronger woman than I!

          • Amazed

            Too much breastmilk in the eyes.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Let’s try this one:

            If you do not have a 529 account for your child by they time they are 5, then you are not properly educating your child. Who cares about your needs, you must be putting money away for your child’s college education, and if you aren’t, it is like you are abusing them.

            And don’t tell me that free public education and a high school diploma is sufficient. We know that people do better with a college degree, therefore, that is what you must be providing for your child. If you don’t, then you are neglecting their needs.

            Just a tad bit pretentious, no?

        • Madtowngirl

          Are you seriously comparing not breastfeeding to child abuse?

          • Sarah

            Of course she is. I notice with interest that she didn’t bother trying to argue with the point about minimal benefits, though!

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Actually, she hasn’t bothered doing anything. She dropped three turds yesterday and has not returned.

          • Sarah

            I expect she’s busy being stupid.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Oh, she is undoubtedly multitasking. She is being stupid AND sanctimonious. I mean, how can you expect her to have to time to respond to us?

        • Charybdis

          Umm….yes, it most certainly IS *MY* child and not breastfeeding your baby is not the same as physical abuse.
          Babies get hungry, babies need to be fed. Formula and/or breastmilk are the only 2 ways to feed a baby.
          It is MORE abusive to the baby to insist on exclusively breastfeeding when you are not making enough milk to satiate a baby.
          And no, nobody should be *required* to try breastfeeding.

        • Sarah

          No, it is my tits. They belong to me, and only to me. I cannot breastfeed without using them, thus the poster saying that new mothers should give breastfeeding a go is very definitely making a statement about what I should do with them.

          Also, your comparison fails hard because punching someone in the face is actually doing something to them, an active physical act, whereas not breastfeeding isn’t. It is very commonly accepted in pretty much every legal system I can think of (which is lots, I’m a lawyer) that the right to move one’s fist does not extend to the end of someone’s nose. That’s a basic principle of bodily autonomy, obliging a competent adult to engage in a physical act isn’t.

          So in summary, you started off stupid and got even more so by the end.

          • mumofthree

            The whole breastfeeding debate makes me sad. I didn’t breastfeed my son as I’m a sexual abuse survivor and just found it incredibly triggering and painful. Diehard breastfeeding advocates have made me feel really shit about this. My son is happy and healthy; but I’ve never stopped feeling guilty.

          • Sarah

            I’m sorry to hear that. I don’t suppose it would help if I told you that Lucy has embarrassed herself even by lactodipshit standards with that one?

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            I hereby decree “Lactodipshit” to the the word of the day for June 26.

        • J.B.

          Let’s try this one: it’s your responsibility as an adult to make a sh!tton of money so you don’t run out of money before you die. If you took time off for child care or elder care you are harming them. If you work during that time you are harming them. Because everything is about this personal responsibility ie everyone below a certain income level is at fault.

      • Werrf

        Nothing to do with moralising; everything to do with practicality.

        Breast milk is free and plentiful. Formula manufacturers use unethical tactics to generate sales, like pushing formula on mothers in the developing world who can’t afford to stay on it.

        Let me know when you’re done leaping to stupid conclusions.

        • Empress of the Iguana People

          Not everyone’s breastmilk is plentiful, and for me it is not free, it comes at the expense of some pretty serious psychological issues.

          • Werrf

            Okay. Thanks for sharing?

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Okay. Thanks for sharing?

            Why the question mark?

          • Werrf

            Because I don’t understand the relevence.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            The relevance is that is a counter-example to the benefits you claim. “Breast milk is free.” “Breastfeeding comes at a psychological cost.”

            You don’t understand how that’s relevant to the question of the benefits of breastfeeding?

          • Werrf

            You’re continuing to argue against a position I never held and never stated. Which makes it totally irrelevant.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            So you do you actually have a point in this conversation? Other than the triviality of “breast milk doesn’t cost anything to produce” which is marginally true but completely meaningless in itself.

          • Werrf

            “I recommend every parent (who is a biological female and physically capable) try breast milk”. That’s the only point I’ve ever had. Everything else has come from you.

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            But not whether they’re psychologically capable?

          • Why do you recommend this? There are extremely minimal health benefits to the baby. There are some potentially severe psychological effects to the mother. It hurts, it takes time, you have to eat a lot more, and it can lead to dependence on the mother instead of coparenting. What are the reasons you think everyone should try it, just because she physically can?

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            Probably doesn’t believe psychological problems exist.

          • swbarnes2

            To whom are you addressing this? American mothers are not ignorant about the possibility of breastfeeding. You don’t have to mansplain to them that breastfeeding is an option that might be convenient.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            But why bother? Why not, “I recommend every parent try breasfeeding,*** unless they don’t want to, for whatever reason.”?

            That would be a lot more appropriate, and you wouldn’t get the feed back you are getting. Of course, it would not be all that meaningful, and you wouldn’t be able to come here and get all pretentious, so it’s got that problem.

            ***Again, your distinction of “breast milk” is really silly; how do you expect them to get breastmilk? Pumping? Nah, just be honest and let everyone know you think they should breastfeed.

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            Because for some women, breastfeeding has a psychological cost. Breastfeeding triggers suicidal ideation in me, never mind sexual assault survivors who can’t either.

          • Claire Secrist

            Here’s the relevance, dude. If mom trashes her psychiatric state in service of a feeding method, it doesn’t just affect her. It affects her kids development, when she doesn’t fully emotionally interact with the baby. It affects everyone in the house when one person is severely and preventably mentally ill. It affects everyone if she commits suicide because breastfeeding hormones trigger PPD (which nearly happened to me). And perhaps least important to you of all, the mother is a valuable human being who matters as more than just a milk dispenser.

            ETA: Ooooh I thought of another thing. It’ll sure affect the baby for the negative if breastfeeding triggers the kind postpartum psychosis that results in her killing the baby.

        • Daleth

          Breast milk is free and plentiful.

          Breast milk isn’t plentiful for everyone. Easily 10-15% of women simply cannot produce enough milk to nourish a baby. Many more could nourish one baby but have twins, and can’t produce enough for them both.

          It also isn’t free, unless you think a woman’s time is worth nothing? Also, many women need to buy things in order to make breastfeeing possible or less unpleasant: nursing bras, nursing shirts, nipple pads, nipple creams, $100/hour appointments with lactation consultants, etc.

          • Sarah

            Of course women’s time and energy are worth nothing. Didn’t you get the memo?

          • Werrf

            You’re projecting an awful lot of baggage onto one person’s opinion here…if nursing is difficult or ineffective, stop, obviously. Suggesting ‘give it a try’ is not the same as “YOU MUST BREAST FEED EXCLUSIVELY!!!”

            It’s free in the sense that a mother’s body (normally) produces it automatically, without additional expenditure. The time spent nursing would be spent feeding the baby by bottle anyway. Any parent’s time is at a premium, male or female.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            The time spent nursing would be spent feeding the baby by bottle anyway.

            But anyone can do that, including a care-giver.

            As I said, exclusive breastfeeding would have cost us more than $10000.

            Breastmilk may be free (ignoring the expenditure for the extra calories needed to produce it).. But breastfeeding is a process, not a product, and is not free, unless you assume a woman’s time is worth nothing.

          • Werrf

            Yes, and I said breast milk. Not breast feeding. And if it’s ineffective, or too expensive, of course you stop. And I never said anything about IT MUST BE EXCLUSIVE BREASTFEEDING OR NOTHING AT ALLL!!!!!! Again – you’re projecting a lot of baggage that JUST. ISN’T. THERE.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Yes, and I said breast milk.

            The cost of milk replacment was trivial compared to benefits of my wife being able to work.

            BTW, you ignore the cost of the extra calories needed for the mother to maintain supply.

          • Sarah

            Additionally, it’s not necessarily true that the time spent nursing would be spent feeding by bottle anyway. That would only be the case if formula fed babies took as long to feed as breastfed babies. That sort of claim requires evidence.

          • Sarah

            And why would we ignore that expenditure, anyway?

          • Daleth

            Suggesting ‘give it a try’ is not the same as “YOU MUST BREAST FEED EXCLUSIVELY!!!”

            It is, however, the same as “You must attempt to breastfeed,” i.e., you, Werrf, think that all mothers should do a particular thing with THEIR OWN BREASTS, despite the fact that other women’s breasts are not even remotely your business.

        • Breast milk is free and plentiful if 1) women’s time has no value, 2) the woman is lucky enough to have enough milk, 3) the woman has access to adequate food at no additional cost.

          Seeing as #1 is flat-out false, #2 is random, and #3 is false, I’m going to have to rate your claim as false overall.

          • Werrf

            Breast milk is free because nobody has to pay for it. Parenting is automatically a massive drain on the time of both parents – unless you want to be an absentee parent, of course. Why do you object to a comment that it’s worth trying to use a resource that bodies generate anyway? What is so offensive about that?

          • Lilly de Lure

            Well I can’t speak for Feminerd but for myself its that nasty little word “should”. Who exactly are you to tell other people what they should or should not do with their breasts? You may say its only your opinion but you don’t seem to question what makes your opinion worth anything when discussing other people’s bodies (hint: saying that you think breastmilk has benefits that formula milk does not is one thing – assuming that women should take a certain course of action on the basis of that thought is quite another).

            Just FYI I actually fit your criteria of “proper” breastfeeding behaviour – I initially tried to breastfeed but switched to formula when it didn’t work out – I just dislike someone assuming that their opinion has some relevance to choices that are mine to make rather than theirs. Ditto with your patronising “there is no shame in that” comment about formula feeding when breastmilk is not an option. Leaving aside the issue that the implication is that you believe there IS shame in formula feeding if you do not try to breastfeed first – who are you to tell me, or any other lactating woman, whether they should or should not feel ashamed of their feeding choices?

          • Werrf

            My wife described nursing our two sons as ‘one of the most fulfilling experiences in her life’. I use the word ‘should’ in the same sense as someone might say “Everyone should try foreign travel at least once in their life!” It’s something that in my experience was extremely beneficial to my wife and my family, so I recommend it. That’s it. Anything else you’re reading into it is your baggage, not mine.

          • Lilly de Lure

            Happy for your wife, but her experiences are not relevant for anyone else. Please do not assume all women are just like her in future.

          • Werrf

            Please do not assume that I give a shit what you think, you patronising bitch.

          • Lilly de Lure

            Temper, temper. Coming from the person describing every woman who has disagreed with him on this thread as carrying “baggage” that response is laughable in its hypocrisy.

          • Werrf

            You told me that my opinion is “Not worth anything”, and that I’m trying to tell people what to do for expressing an opinion. You’ve been condescending and insulting the whole time, and you have, indeed, brought an enormous amount of your own assumptions and prejudices – aka “baggage” – to an idle comment, most of which was about a totally different subject.

            Stop embarrassing yourself.

            (Oh, and for the record, I’ve told a lot of *PEOPLE* they are bringing baggage to the conversation – in most cases I neither know nor care their biological sex)

          • Lilly de Lure

            Invest in a mirror.

          • Sarah

            I think you are not getting that many of us feel anyone telling us what we should do with our bodies, which is what you’re doing, is unacceptable. The fact that you’re a man, so you’ve never tried the thing you’re recommending, doesn’t help either. Nor does you having added inaccurate comments about the benefits, but even if you hadn’t, the ‘should’ alone is problematic.

            I say this in a spirit of helpfulness, so as to give you the best chance of understanding why you have caused offence. What you do with this information now is up to you.

          • Claire Secrist

            A man telling women what they should do with their bodies, in the guise of moral superiority. He “should” be embarrassed to be acting out such a sexist cliche.

          • Azuran

            I still don’t get how you can say that everyone should breastfeed, you don’t mean that everyone should. You just don’t make sense.
            So your wife found it beneficial, good for her, but that’s her experience, there are many reasons why women might not want to even try breastfeeding
            To keep using your own metaphor about foreign travel: What good is telling a poor, single mother, who can barely get by that she should go travel across the world? Some people are afraid of plane or travel. Some people have medical condition that makes it very difficult and dangerous to travel. And some people just don’t like travelling and don’t care about trying a foreign travel. Some others will find it to be a big waste of money.
            Just because you like travelling doesn’t mean everyone wants to or can do it. And they shouldn’t be made to feel bad about it by someone else telling them they ‘should’ do it because they liked it.

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            This reminds me of a friend who casually explained that she collected experiences, not things, when doing one of those facebook things (Name 10 concerts you’ve been to, one of which isn’t true, guess which) Now, I’ve been *in* 10 concerts but those were as a student in school, and the only thing I needed to collect for that was my flute. One flute versus least 18 rock concerts.
            It’s a kind bragging in its own way. She’s not ushering so she can see most of a concert or something, which is what I do to see my husband’s. I don’t think she realizes thats a kind of privilege too. I’m privileged enough to have a lot of mostly 2nd hand stuff. She’s privileged enough to not worry if the winter’s unusually cold and she needs that spare blanket or 3.

          • maidmarian555

            Sometimes you do need a bit of a kick up the bum to remind you of your privilege tho. I’ve been to a lot of concerts/gigs. Some of that is fortunate geography (I don’t live far from London so it’s not too difficult/expensive to physically get to some of the huge stadium tours) and my home town has an excellent live music scene. Some of it is because I’ve been in bands so have been technically working whilst getting to see some great live music too. I even got paid to see Elton John some years ago when he did an open-air gig at a local country estate and I worked the car park.

            However, you’re completely right that a big chunk of that is privilege. I had the money to throw away on concert tickets in the first place. Sure, I went without other luxuries but that’s not really the same as ‘going without’ in order to do something. I’m not sure I’ve really thought about it in those terms before.

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            Aye, i was priviledged enough that my parents could afford a flute, among other things. This town is rich in concerts and plays, but the one i grew up in was a fair trip away.

          • Daleth

            I use the word ‘should’ in the same sense as someone might say “Everyone should try foreign travel at least once in their life!” It’s something that in my experience was extremely beneficial to my wife and my family, so I recommend it. That’s it.

            If that were the sense in which you were using it, then we should be able to replace “breastfeeding” and related terms with “travel” and related terms in all your posts, and have it not sound judgmental. Similarly, we should be able to replace the alternative (“formula”) with the alternative to foreign travel (“only traveling domestically or not traveling at all”). Let’s see how that works:

            From your first post: “Foreign travel should be the first option a person tries for traveling…. at least give it a
            shot….” Wait, why should it be not just an option, but THE FIRST option? Insisting that something should be the first option, and everyone should at least give it a shot, implies that it’s probably the best option. It’s inherently judgmental.

            You also said, “Formula manufacturers use unethical tactics to generate sales, like pushing formula on mothers in the developing world…” How about, “Domestic travel destinations use unethical tactics to generate sales, like pushing patriotism as a reason to do it…” Again, if you say something like that, you are judging the alternative negatively.

          • Food costs money- someone has to pay for it. Parenting is time consuming, for sure, but breastfeeding is a lot more time consuming that bottles, and one can share the feeding burden if one is not breastfeeding.

            It’s worth trying to breastfeed if a woman wants to. If she doesn’t want to, then there is no reason she should be shamed for not doing so. She’s not doing parenting “wrong”, she’s feeding her baby in the way that works best for her.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          I have explained here before, exclusive breastfeeding would have cost us more than $10000 between our 2 kids.

          • Werrf

            I said nothing about ‘exclusive’. Please quit projecting.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            I said nothing about ‘exclusive’. Please quit projecting.

            But if breastfeeding is free, why shouldn’t that apply to exclusive breastfeeding?

            The large money difference was because we could formula feed. Without being able to formula feed, it would have cost us more than $10000.

        • Sarah

          Even if it were true, which it’s not, your claim isn’t evidence that you weren’t moralising. This is a logic fail on your part.

          Breastmilk could be the freest, easiest, most abundant thing that’s ever existed and you’re still moralising when you tell women what they should be doing. That’s literally what it is. You aren’t refuting that point by offering a justification for your moralisation. It doesn’t become Not Moralising because Nestle are scrotes.

          I also note with interest that you didn’t take me up on that offer to prove your claim about a lot of benefits.

          • Werrf

            I expressed a personal opinion – that it’s worth trying. THAT’S IT. Everything else is you projecting.

          • Sarah

            You expressed a personal opinion that breastmilk should be the first option a new mother tries for her baby. That is moralising. You can’tr play the but it’s only my opinion card when you’re saying people should do certain things with their bodies.

            If you don’t like being accused of it, don’t do it.

          • momofone

            Perhaps it’s worth trying for you or your wife, and maybe for some, even many other people, but not at all for others. You are only in a position to decide what’s worth it for you.

        • Who?

          Does breastmilk come from thin air? Does it not cost the mother’s body something to produce it?

          Sometimes it’s plentiful, sometimes there’s enough, sometimes there’s not enough, sometimes there’s none.

          Or is breastfeeding the only physiological process that always works exactly as it should?

    • my breasts, NOT yours

      Nope. I’ll be delivering in a “Baby Friendly” hospital, so I’ll be going with formula right from the start. It’s my best shot at keeping the lactivists out of my room and away from my breasts.

    • Kim

      The ethical objections to meat farming are not really to do with people not being able to bear the thought of other creatures dying. If you want to learn a little more, Yuval Noah Harris’s article is a good place to start. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/sep/25/industrial-farming-one-worst-crimes-history-ethical-question

      • Werrf

        My ethical objections to meat farming are very much about the terrible conditions some meat animals are kept in; I don’t refuse to eat meat because of them, instead I try to source locally produced meat from ethical producers.

        My wife is vegetarian because she can’t bear the thought of animals dying. My comment is aimed at those kinds of people who think leaving animals in nature is somehow kinder.

  • Karen in SC

    Baby zebras are also killed if there is a new Alpha male. He will destroy all foals bred by the previous Alpha. How this is known is still a mystery. Nature!

    • Zornorph

      There is a zebra Maury Povich who wanders around the Savannah.

    • Eater of Worlds

      I wouldn’t be surprised if they smelled wrong. I dated people by their smell among other things. Certain people never smelled right to me. They didn’t stink or anything and were perfectly nice people. Something just didn’t click smell wise. Pheromones, man.

  • Emilie Bishop

    When my son was readmitted to the hospital, one of the few thoughts I remember having in my postpartum stupor was that maybe this was why babies died so much, because their moms didn’t make enough milk but didn’t realize it. This was before learning about Landon Johnson and others like him, but I realize through their stories that I had more clarity in that moment than I knew. Praise God for modern medicine and modern food!!!

    • swbarnes2

      Though for a lot of human (pre-)history, there were a lot of lactating women around who might be able to help in a pinch. Or someone would give the kid a pre-lactal feed of ..something. I think the idea of a baby having mom’s breastmilk or nothing is fairly new.

      • Busbus

        I read that there are even prehistoric artifacts that archaeologists believe were used to feed babies (kind of like prehistoric “bottles”), and in 17th century France, for example, supplementation (in addition to or instead of breastfeeding) was very widespread. Unfortunately, supplementing with non-optimal substances very often led to the babies dying back then (infant mortality was generally high, but with non-breastfed infants, it was sky-high—something like 3 in 4, if I remember correctly…).

        Anyway, just goes to show that breastfeeding was never a problem-free endeavor, and that even having other lactating women around did not magically solve the problem for all affected babies. Yes, in 17th century France, there were wet nurses, but first you needed to be able to afford a wet nurse. And the wet nurses themselves often had to choose between feeding their own baby enough or the one they had taken in. If they were living in the rich person’s household they usually had to give their own baby to another wet nurse (who may or may not feed him/her enough). Wet nurses who took in other people’s babies but remained in their own home (which was the cheaper alternative) would naturally give their own baby priority if their milk was insufficient for two, and mortality rates were generally high for the babies they had taken in. What I’m trying to say is that it’s easy to imagine a “perfect past”—until you actually start to look at what it was really like in various places at various times.

        Nothing beats having easy access to safe and nourishing infant formula—it is literally a life-saver.

        • Sarah

          Indeed, and much earlier than 17th century France too. The Ancient Egyptians were at it.

        • Tigger_the_Wing

          I expect that the wet nurses who were most in demand by wealthy households were those who had lost their own babies, and so had no competing interest.

          A lot of stories about wealthy people, written a couple of centuries ago, feature the nurse as a fixture in such households; indeed, their charges were kept in the nursery. It must have been a boon to the wife of a baron to have a wet nurse for her offspring. She could keep up with the social demands of her station, and keep producing more babies, ensuring an heir to the estate.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        And a lot of those lactating women who were around had available milk because their own babies had died…

      • Young CC Prof

        It was invented in the 1970s. Granted, they meant well, it was in response to babies in low-income countries becoming seriously ill due to being fed unsuitable substitutes or weaned onto formula and then underfed because the family could not afford formula.

        The problem is, there was never any follow-up. No one asked what the unintended consequences might be, they just assumed this was the natural way that babies feed and would result in the lowest mortality rate.

  • swbarnes2

    My guess is, there is very very little difference in the fitness of most healthy zebra foals. It’s not just genetics, it’s mostly luck.

    • fiftyfifty1

      Probably true. I bet luck is 90+%. But the tiny genetic differences that account for the remaining few percentages are enough to lead to evolution over time.

  • Heidi_storage

    “Oh, if these new pagans would only be old pagans, they would be a little wiser! The old pagans knew that mere naked Nature-worship must have a cruel side.”

    “The Eye of Apollo,” G.K. Chesterton

    • Krista

      Chesterton is a favorite in our house <3

  • fiftyfifty1

    ” surviving childbirth is entirely independent of surviving childhood, adulthood and old age”
    So true. My good friend from medical school says the exact same thing. Her 3 births were all as good as it gets: spontaneous labor at term, perfectly positioned babies, ample pelvis, 4 hours or less of labor, easy pushing, no tearing.
    She also happens to be so myopic that she is well past legally blind without her coke bottle glasses. Without modern ophthalmology she would have been eaten by a tiger long before she could have grown up to prove her obstetric superiority.

  • namaste863

    I visited South Africa a few years ago and witnessed a pride of lions feeding on what might have been a baby giraffe at one point. Their muzzles were smeared with blood, and they were grunting and growling. It was a very impressive sight, let me tell you. Sure the lions look like cuddly overgrown teddy bears, but they can kill you very dead as easily as snapping a twig.

  • Mel

    I saw two turkey hens with their combined 3 billion poults a few days ago. (Flying poults are adorable, fyi.) I bet the turkey hens would prefer that all of their babies grow up, but racoon pups gotta eat, too.

    The circle of life involves a lot of dead babies and many dead moms.

    I like the fact that obstetrics has figured out how to save a lot of babies and moms. I like the fact that modern medicine is figuring out more ways of saving babies who never would have had a chance.

    • Amy M

      We were watching a robin’s nest in one of our bushes a few weeks ago. Robins do go pretty quickly from chick to fledgling, but in this case, I think something got them before they left the nest. I looked in and the nest was empty, just a few days after seeing the baby chicks, still naked of feathers. There are certainly cats, raccoons, foxes and skunks in our neighborhood and this particular nest was lower to the ground than the one last year that we watched go from egg to fledgling. Year after year, robins choose to nest in that bush, because it’s probably a pretty good home for them—-but just like zebras, only a small percentage make it to adulthood.

    • BeatriceC

      We have a pair of doves that return to our back porch every year to lay a clutch of eggs. Last year, they laid two clutches. Why? Because the first clutch got eaten by a cat while they were still in the nest.

      • yentavegan

        Sigh….pet cats kill so many birds needlessly. Cats can live happily indoors. Cats left outside to roam the neighborhood upset the balance of nature.

        • Mattie

          Not all cats can live happily indoors, and not all outdoor cats are vicious murderers. They are part of nature too.

          • Claire Secrist

            They’re considered invasive and destructive species by wildlife biologists. My cat stays indoors.

          • Poogles

            Not only can not all cats live happily indoors, but it’s not always possible to do anyway; we have 2 dogs and 2 cats and live in a rural area, so we have a dog-door leading to a fenced-in yard for the dogs to use the bathroom. There is no way to keep the cats in when there is a dog door they can use and the fence, of course, does nothing to keep them contained to that area.

        • Empress of the Iguana People

          Most of the birds around here are invasive species.

        • Roadstergal

          We have a woman living down the street from us who used to work for the SPCA and retired. In her retirement, she captures, fixes, and releases feral cats. It helps to keep the population down. (As do the local coyotes.)

      • Valerie

        I watched a pair of cardinals build a nest and raise their young right outside my window. Then I found both of their little fledgling corpses on the ground because somebody in the neighborhood lets their cat out. It was so upsetting- the parents kept returning and calling to them.

    • StephanieJR

      I had a rabbit that was actually wild born but hand reared, because his mother was killed by a dog and the woman took him and his siblings in. There’s a reason why rabbits breed like rabbits.

  • Sullivan ThePoop

    Why would nature prefer humans over viruses and bacteria?

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Yep. This is my response to those who claim “Mother Nature is a bitch!” I’m like, no, she’s not. It’s just that Mother Nature doesn’t prefer humans over viruses, bacteria, or even the laws of physics. She’s not a bitch at all – she just doesn’t play favorites.

  • Empress of the Iguana People

    And despite the all-nacheral crowd’s beliefs, evolution and nature clearly don’t care to make it so women and babies eventually get to the point where everybody survives childbirth. Millenia have not changed our rates of difficulties, only our inventions in the last century or so has changed our rates of surviving.

    • Kelly Palmer

      If that’s true, why does the US have the highest rates of maternal mortality in the West, yet you have the most intervention? And studies show the two are undeniably linked?

      • Sarah

        Studies show? Which studies? Also, have you thought about ways in which the US population are different from the rest of the West?

        • Kelly Palmer

          See the above link. Its pretty comprehensive on the disparities in the US population. And still overuse of intervention is linked to high mortality.

          • LaMont

            They also directly point the blame at the racism in our system that ends up with black women suffering the same rates of complications but dying at 4x the rate of white women. Maybe if HCPs could be trained out of the general bias towards believing black people are Terminators whose pain cannot be taken seriously, we’d do better. But if you think interventions cause bad outcomes, please do explain specifically which interventions should be limited and for whom – what indicators that generally lead to c-sections (for example) should no longer do so?

          • Kelly Palmer

            I think unnecessary induction is a big issue; I’m from the UK though so your stats will likely be very different from ours. I’m here to learn not to argue – we are taught here (medical staff as well as lay workers) that unnecessary intervention leads to adverse outcomes and the US is always cited as an example. I’m only saying unnecessary intervention is an issue, and the cascade of intervention that often happens, so for example a C-section becomes necessary because of earlier bad decisions.

          • LaMont

            Is there a proposed mechanism by which induction leads to problems, or how a “cascade of interventions” happens? Maybe a failed start or progression of labor *in itself* is what leads to the c-section, leading to serious confounding? Also, why is a c-section necessarily bad in itself? Do you consider pain relief a negative intervention? Operating from a place of “treatment must be avoided” is dangerous! And yes, the US stats are different, which we’ve explained through many other legitimate mechanisms such as racism, failure to offer broadly accessible prenatal care, an aging and less healthy population than most European nations, etc. You explained it it as “the interventions are the problem” and now are trying to say that you just realize the two nations are different. Yes, they are, but not *because of* the interventions.

          • Kelly Palmer

            Induction is offered routinely here at 40+4 weeks, with no indication of foetal distress and in low-risk pregnancies and the induction process involves a cascade of intervention. This is often unnecessary as full term is not until 42 weeks of course. C-sections are associated with greater risk of haemorrhage, higher rates of PND and birth trauma and lower Apgar scores. If they’re necessary, I’m all for them, but if not, a safe vaginal delivery is obviously a better option; though it can’t be achieved in all cases. I don’t consider pain relief a negative thing; I think that’s down to personal choice and I never advocated treatment must be avoided. Unnecessary treatment should be avoided as its linked with adverse outcomes. This is all common sense surely. And I do believe unnecessary intervention is one of your problems, as I said that seems to be the general view here

          • LaMont

            The risk of stillbirth goes way up after 40+4, who wants to risk that? “Not necessary” does not equal harm – sure, most of those babies might survive till 42 weeks and beyond, but letting a baby go to 42 weeks could surely grow a baby too big to give birth to! And C-sections being correlated with Apgar could also be seriously confounded with the causes that *led to* the C-section – if a baby is suffering from serious decelerations or stalled labor, then gets a C-section, its distress was solved by the C-section, not caused by it, surely? But the stats would call that a C-section baby and make C-sections look worse.

          • Kelly Palmer

            The stillbirth risk here at 41 weeks is less than 1%. So its tiny. The NICE guidelines don’t advise induction before 42 weeks. Genuine macrosomia is rare here too, even at 42 weeks. Too often unnecessary intervention does equal harm – I see it every day.

          • LaMont

            How much less than 1%? Is it lower than the risk of neonatal death by induced labor or c-section at 40+4? Most parents would not want to send their children to an activity that had a 1/200 chance of killing them – if your school had 400 kids/year and 2 or 1 of them died every day, you’d be pretty upset and that’s <1%. And what do you call "genuine macrosomia"? And besides "causing a c-section," (which again, is likely confounded by the pre-existing condition leading to the intervention in the first place), what harms have you seen intervention cause "every day"?

          • Sarah

            You don’t get to decide what’s tiny and what isn’t. You make that call for yourself, and no other.

          • Kelly Palmer

            I’m learning a great deal from some of the info that’s been shared here. What I find strange is the real polarisation of attitudes – so on here, homebirth is portrayed as always always bad, whereas here in the UK that’s just not the case. Then the diehard NCBs seem to advocate this at all costs, which is nuts. I understand midwifery is very different in the US?

          • BeatriceC

            That’s not exactly accurate. Home birth in the US with poorly educated and trained “home birth midwives” is a bad thing. Home birth with a low risk mother, strict risking out criteria, and well trained midwives would be a reasonable decision for many women. But in the US we don’t have well trained home birth midwives. We have fake midwives who, until a few years ago, didn’t even have to have a high school diploma, who care more about stunt births than the safety of women and babies. That’s what we find to be “always bad”.

          • Sarah

            Where in the UK are you where induction is routinely offered at 40+4 weeks? I had never heard of anywhere. I thought most Trusts it wasn’t until 40+10 unless other indications. I know some midwives will offer a sweep at term, but wasn’t aware of anything else.

            Also, the induction process doesn’t necessarily involve a cascade of intervention at all. It certainly can do, but it’s also quite possible for there to be one intervention only, the pessary, which then starts labour from there and no further intervention required.

            Lastly, who decides what’s ‘necessary’?

          • maidmarian555

            40+12 where I am. Sweep at 41wks (but only if you want one).

          • BeatriceC

            But ask yourself: Did the induction cause the “cascade of interventions”, or did the reasons why induction was necessary cause other interventions to also be necessary? In studies that have been properly controlled, judicious use of induction actually reduced the rate of further intervention and increased the rates of live birth.

          • swbarnes2

            Full term is 40 weeks. Look at the curve in this post. past 40 weeks, it gets ugly

            http://www.skepticalob.com/2013/02/two-new-papers-raise-serious-questions-about-banning-elective-deliveries-before-39-weeks.html

            And of course C-sections are associated with bad things…most women don’t get one unless something is wrong.

            See the paper mentioned here:

            http://www.skepticalob.com/2014/09/elective-induction-improves-maternal-and-neonatal-outcomes.html

            About the benefits of elective induction. Again, if a woman is getting an induction becasue they need the baby out pronto, of course it’s more likely there are problems…they wouldn’t be inducing otherwise!

            This is basic logic and statistical understanding. A person working with patients in the medical field ought to understand how to analyze all of this already.

          • BeatriceC

            The US is a bad “example” for this sort of thing. Citing our intervention rate as proof that they cause poor outcomes is putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. It is far more reasonable that our lack of access to healthcare for a huge segment of our population leads to the interventions in an attempt to prevent even worse outcomes than are already happening. We simply do not have adequate healthcare for a sizable percentage of our population, which increases all manner of bad outcomes, with or without intervention.

          • Sarah

            Your statement isn’t proof of the argument you were trying to make: it absolutely is interventions in the last century or so that have increased our survival rates, and US high maternal mortality rates for a cascade of reasons are not in any way, shape or form evidence against that.

            That comparison could only hold good if other Western countries weren’t using interventions from the last century and still had higher maternal mortality rates. But we are.

            And indeed, some of us still have worse or comparable perinatal mortality and stillbirth rates despite our extensive advantages over the US population. I expect you agree with me that’s rather important too? Those of us in the UK might usefully ask ourselves why our perinatal mortality and stillbirth rates are similar to those in the US, when we enjoy so many advantages over them in other respects. When the US has so many more obese mothers and mothers with serious health conditions that went untreated before their pregnancy due to insurance, logic would suggest they’d have much worse stillbirth and perinatal mortality rates than us wouldn’t it? Yet they don’t. But we are not asking ourselves whether it’s their higher rates of intervention that do it…

      • Kelly Palmer
      • swbarnes2

        Because huge numbers of American don’t have access to health care before and after birth. If they had that care, maternal mortality rates would drop.

        We’ve been over this:

        http://www.skepticalob.com/2015/12/world-health-organizations-optimal-c-section-rate-officially-debunked.html

        If you want the best chance for you to survive childbirth, you want to be in a country with a 15-19% C-section rate. If it’s lower than that, your odds of dying are higher.

        • BeatriceC

          To be specific, that 15-19% is a *primary* c-section rate. The overall c-section rate should be higher because of subsequent pregnancies.

      • Empress of the Iguana People

        A) we also have a higher rate of obesity
        B) for a bunch of reasons African American women have higher than average mortality rates.
        C) Our homebirth midwives are generally much poorer quality than those of Europe and Australia.
        D) As someone else said, we have highly variable rates of coverage here, what with our non-socialized medicine and all. Many women cannot afford prenatal care and show up at the ER in labor and having developed eclampsia or something.
        E) even having the worst rate among the developed nations is far better than midwifing like it’s 1799 for those of us who’re high risk.

        • Kelly Palmer

          Thank you for this information; I’m learning a lot here. Can I ask why midwifery isn’t standardised?

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            We do have Certified Nurse Midwives, who’re the equivolent of your British ones, but as for the others? Probably for the same reason why we do not have universal healthcare and we let people with serious psychological problems buy guns. We have a strong libertarian flavor to our national idea of freedom.

          • Mel

            In reply to Kelly’s question about why:

            Short answer: It’s not standardized because licensing – including whether one is needed for midwifery and the requirements therein – are done at the state level. In the US, that gives us 50 states, the district of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, N. Mariana Islands, the US. Virgin Islands and American Samoa that all have different rules.

            Long answer: The US Constitution reserves for the state any powers not specifically given to the federal government. There’s nothing about licensing medical professionals in the Constitution so that bumps it back to the state level.

            It’s a method to prevent the federal government from becoming too powerful – but also is based in the fact that the US covered far more distance than information could travel from the capital quickly. Better for state governments to deal with local problems quickly than deal with moving information and people hundreds of miles by foot or horse.

            Practically, having state governments deal with licensing issues benefits national organizations like MANA (Midwife Alliance of North America). If any given state wants to move legislation making midwifery standard tighter, midwives from all over the US can work on pressuring the legislature in one state.

          • Petticoat Philosopher

            *sigh* Obligatory reminder that mentally ill people are more far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it, that most mentally ill people are not violent, and that most violent crimes with guns are not committed by mentally ill people.

            People with “severe psychological problems” having access to guns is far and away not our biggest problem with guns in this country.

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            I know. I was thinking of the tendency for those of us who’re suicidal to shoot ourselves if we have access to guns.

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

        Maternal mortality statistics also include deaths caused by homicide and suicide:
        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3428236/

        Also a pregnancy question was only added to death certificates in the U.S. in 2003, and some states did not adopt the new reporting standard for quite a while which lead to inconsistent numbers. Additionally some states pregnancy question on their death certificates was not consistent with what had been requested leading to further inconsistencies.
        Additionally improved reporting may make it look like the number is increasing when what is happening is that something that was happening all along is now being properly reported.

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5001799/

        How do other countries keep track? How they gather their own numbers can affect what numbers they get.

        “A supplemental data system, the Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System, collects data on pregnancy-related deaths (within 1 year of pregnancy), and has found recent increases in these deaths (14–15). However, since this system is based in large part on official vital statistics data (together with supplementary reports), these data could also have been influenced by the improved ascertainment of maternal deaths in the National Vital Statistics System.”

        • Kelly Palmer

          Thank you for this information.

      • Young CC Prof

        Can you keep some perspective? The USA’s childbirth outcomes are not what they should be, mostly due to poverty and unequal access to care, but they are WORLDS better than ANY society without access to interventions has ever seen.