How much should a baby be forced to suffer to establish breastfeeding?

Crying newborn infant in white blanket

Readers often ask me why I breastfed my four children despite the fact that the benefits of breastfeeding are trivial.

The simple answer is: because I could. Sure, I had problems with pain and mastitis, five bouts including two with a temperature of 104 and shaking chills. Sure it was often inconvenient; I was working 70 hours per week when my first child was born. Moreover, it was before a myriad of studies made it clear that lactation professionals were grossly exaggerating the benefits.

A baby shouldn’t be forced to suffer at all!

But there was never a moment that I worried that breastfeeding was making my babies suffer.

It was obvious that they were satisfied by breastfeeding. They nursed vigorously 5-10 minutes per side and always from both sides. They fell off the breast “milk drunk,” with milk dribbling down their chins and slept for several hours between nursing sessions, and even longer at night. They were fat and happy, growing like weeds.

I was lucky; that was just how I was told it would be. Had there been any sign they were suffering from hunger, or worse, failing to gain weight, I would have supplemented with formula immediately.

So here’s my question for lactivists, lay and professional:

How much should a baby be forced to suffer to establish breastfeeding?

Here’s my answer: A baby shouldn’t be forced to suffer at all!

I’m appalled at what lactation professionals recommend for women who aren’t making enough breastmilk, counseling them to breastfeed every two hours PLUS use a SNS breastfeeding assist system PLUS pump their breasts afterward to further stimulate milk production. That leads to tremendous maternal sleep deprivation and suffering and is nothing short of barbaric. Yet because mothers love their babies, and because we have lied to them about the benefits, they are willing to put themselves through this torture.

But it also involves tremendous infant suffering. It means these babies are spending most their waking hours experiencing gnawing hunger. They are never, ever fed to satiety. They never, ever drift to sleep content with a full belly, but rather cry or nurse themselves into exhaustion. Their suffering is made manifest in their failure to gain weight and their failure to thrive. It’s heartbreaking because it is not their choice to suffer and it is infuriating because their suffering can be alleviated easily with a few ounces of formula.

But isn’t breastfeeding dependent on a feedback loop? The more you nurse, the more milk you produce, right?

That’s the way it’s supposed to work, but it has a high failure rate. Up to 15% of first time mothers can’t produce enough milk to fully support an infant in the first few days. More pumping can’t change that.

Insulin production depends on a feedback loop, too, but no one would suggest giving a diabetic a candy bar in order to produce more insulin. If the pancreas can’t produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar, flogging it with more sugar isn’t going to do the trick. Similarly, if a woman’s breasts can’t produce enough milk to support her baby, flogging them with extra nursing and pumping isn’t going to solve the problem.

How did we get to the point where we are allowing babies to suffer hours of hunger and cry themselves into exhaustion? We got here because lactivists have an obsession with exclusivity. There are countless articles produced by the lactation industry to scare women into believing that “just one bottle” dooms both the breastfeeding relationship and infant health. There is precisely ZERO evidence for these claims. They have been fabricated by an industry of extremists who value process (breastfeeding) above outcome (healthy babies). Indeed, the evidence shows the opposite, that judicious formula supplementation can save a breastfeeding relationship.

This is especially important to keep in mind in the face of mounting evidence that inadequate breastfeeding has significant risks and aggressive breastfeeding promotion leads to significant harm. The study I wrote about a few days ago, Health Care Utilization in the First Month After Birth and Its Relationship to Newborn Weight Loss and Method of Feeding by Flaherman et al. shows that breastfeeding doubles the risk of newborn hospital readmission. With 4 million births in the US each year and more than 75% hospital breastfeeding rates, that means we could expect 60,000 excess newborn hospital admissions at a cost of more than $240,000,000 each and every year — nearly a quarter of a billion dollars. And that doesn’t even count the downstream impact of brain injuries, a consequence that was beyond the purview of this study.

Think about that. Aggressive breastfeeding promotion could causing the suffering of tens of thousands of babies each year, suffering so great that it requires hospitalization. That’s a lot of suffering and all of it unnecessary. It could easily be alleviated by formula supplementation.

Don’t get me wrong: there are times when parents must make their children endure suffering for the benefit of their health. There’s no doubt that vaccinations cause babies to suffer for at least a few moments in order to give them years of protection from deadly childhood diseases. But that’s a small amount of suffering for a big benefit. In contrast, forcing babies to suffer for hours or days at a time, becoming so ill that they need to be admitted to the hospital, just to preserve exclusive breastfeeding is trading a large amount of suffering for a trivial benefit.

How much should a baby be forced to suffer to establish breastfeeding? A baby shouldn’t be forced to suffer at all!

  • Laura Claricoates

    It was other mums who were the worst to me tried to make me feel like I hadnt tried hard enough. Like others I just couldnt produce enough in the end I pumped and used formula till I just dried up. Im duemy second and this time just going to pump what I can and top up after with formula no stress for me or baba and dad can help too

    • Claire Secrist

      Hell is other moms. A fair amount of the time, at least. I can’t forgive people who had no breastfeeding problems who dared to condescend to me about mine. They did nothing to earn functional lactating breasts. And i ldid nothing wrong and neither did you. Fuck them.

    • ukay

      Those are the women Madeleine Albright was talking about.

  • Lynn Cooley

    I myself tried breastfeeding but suffered from low production my baby lost over a pound of weight and was jaundice. I had no choice but to supplement formula for my babys health was important. I used formula and pumped milk to give to him when i had it. At two weeks i stopped produceing all together and now i formula feed. Im thankful that i supplemented when i did cause his life would of been at stake. Im not upset about outcome he got a good week of breastmilk and i still have my beutiful baby with me which is happy and content that is how it should be. All of us moms should not be sleep deprived and streesed out just so our babys can feed off the breast. That is more dangous to a child then just giving them what they need.

    • And no one should be making you think that “giving [children] what they need” is dangerous. At all. Quite the contrary, in fact.

  • oscar

    This post really resonates with me because I saw the baby of my friend starving because my friend really really wanted to breastfeed but had hardly any output. It went on for months and the child was yellow and had no body fat, you could see the veins all over his body, including his face. He was constantly crying and searching and restless. He went from being in the 80% percentile body weight to 7%. It was really agonizing to witness.

    My friend even took domperidone. She and her wife went through an enormous effort to conceive the child, she didn’t eat ANYthing that could even vaguely affect the child’s health (including peanuts), she birthed the child without any painkillers (“for the baby’s sake”) — and then she took a drug that had not been studied for the long-term effects on breast feeding children! She also wanted to get her son’s tongue tie (diagnosed by a lactation specialist) snipped but the four doctors she went to refused because he didn’t have a tongue tie, there was nothing to snip. They went to so much effort, they became utterly exhausted, and clearly the child was suffering. All of it was because she so wanted to breastfeed. It was really bizarre and I was scared for the kid.

    I approached her very gently about it, I could tell she was very resistant. I think the maternal health nurse was also pushing, perhaps not as gently. I respectfully sent her the recent Joan Wolf article “Is breast really best?” I also told her that formula is really not poison and pointed smilingly to my own child, who was a few weeks older than my friend’s child, was exclusively fed with formula, and looked like a contented pink maggot (especially when lying next to the mewling skinny yellow son of my friend).

    Finally, one night, at about 3 months, the son refused the breast completely. In desperation after hours of screaming, they fed him a bottle of formula. They were stunned at how quickly he gulped it down. After that, he screamed so much at even the sight of the breast that my friend and her wife gave up and fed him formula exclusively.

    I spent a long time wondering about the whole thing. My friend is a lawyer and a very clever logical person, you certainly don’t want to get in an argument with her if you’re not sure of your facts. And she adores children, in fact, she specializes in child protection law. But the whole breast feeding thing really got to her, it made her crazy. It’s amazing, and sobering, how powerful the “breast is best” trope is.

    • Daleth

      Oh god. That’s horrifying. Is her son ok?

      • oscar

        I moved continents when my kid and my friend’s kid were nearly two, so I haven’t seen him for a long time. Compared to my baby, he was really advanced physically, he was already rolling over at 3 months and climbing everything at about 8 months. He was never as verbal as my kid though, although that could be due to personality (and gender?) differences. From the photos, he looks like he’s doing well. Hopefully he’ll be fine in the future as well.

    • crazy mama, PhD

      That’s such a good point about domperidone and the lack of logic around medication use. (Relieving pain during labor with well-understood, approved drugs? Terrible mother! Taking an unapproved drug to boost lactation? Great! You’re promoting breastfeeding!)

    • Madtowngirl

      Yep. I was your friend. I got sucked into the trope, too. My daughter’s “tongue tie” was “diagnosed” by a lactation consultant. Unfortunately, I had it done. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to have caused any long term issues, but I am pissed that I was coerced into doing something unnecessary all for the sake of breastfeeding. I drew the line at domperiodone, but it was offered to me. It’s scary how far it permeates into otherwise intelligent people, including health care providers.

  • Who?

    Entirely off topic, but Ursula Le Guin has died.

    A great loss.

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/23/ursula-k-le-guin-sci-fi-fantasy-author-dies-at-88

    • namaste

      Very sorry to hear this news. It’s a great loss for the literary world.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      Sad indeed

    • Melissa Wickersham

      I love Ursula Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle books. The Left Hand of Darkness is one of my favorite books. I am really sorry to hear that she has died.

  • BeatriceC

    A friend and I were having a discussion last night from the point of view of the adult who was starved as a baby. Both of us had issues. According to my baby book I lost 21% of my birthweight and took over a month to gain it back, then gained very slowly until I was switched to formula (because my mother got pregnant again) around 7 months. My mother was a huge LLL proponent and EBF’d even in the 70’s. My friend is an 80’s baby, but her mother simply neglected her kids. She nearly died and CPS removed her and all her siblings from her mother’s care. She was eventually adopted by a different family.

    Anyway, both of us have inexplicable fears of food shortages. Both of us start overeating as soon as the thought of having to skip a meal or scale back on meals starts forming. Both of us struggle with weight as adults due to the compulsion to overeat. There could be a ton of reasons, of course, but we were wondering aloud if any of those inexplicable actual fearful feelings had anything to do with early starvation as infants.

    • PeggySue

      I’m so sorry to hear what happened to you and your friend. How awful. I wonder too about the impacts in later life of insufficient food in infancy.

    • The Kids Aren’t AltRight

      I was also a starving baby (combination of my mom’s hippy inclination and an illness) and I also struggle with weight issues because I basically can’t tell when I am full, so I have yo-yo dieted since my teens. I have always suspected they were related, but obviously don’t have much evidence.

      • BeatriceC

        My friend and I came to the conclusion that this was a topic worthy of further study. We know that animals (dogs, cats, parrots) who have experienced severe food scarcity are far more likely to be food aggressive or food hoarders and/or overeat if allowed than animals who have never experienced food scarcity. It’s not unreasonable that the survival instinct is primitive enough that early infant starvation could somehow impact subconscious reactions towards food.

        That said, there are, of course many other possible explanations, but still still an interesting hypothesis.

        • ukay

          Why be shy? In this thread alone we have three hungry contributors who were starved as babies, four counting your friend. In the world of breastfeeding ‚advocacy‘, that counts as rock solid evidence.

          • BeatriceC

            As tempting as that would be, I prefer not to lower myself to that level. 🙂

    • Emilie Bishop

      I’m so sorry this happened to both you and your friend. As a mom who starved her baby, I can say that it also took a mental toll on me. Every doctor’s appointment I questioned whether to pack an overnight bag (until maybe his 4-month well-check). He subsisted largely on formula for his first year, even after he was comfortable with solids, because I knew it was nutritionally complete and I was terrified of him losing weight again. And I fear he’ll develop food-trust issues as he gets older, even if he doesn’t remember why.

      • BeatriceC

        Of all the terrible things my mother did, this is one thing for which I hold her blameless. She clearly bought a he LLL party line and thought she was doing the best thing. I was a huge baby and she is so very tiny, and she also bought the explanation that I wasn’t growing well because her gestational diabetes made me bigger than I should have been and the slow growth was just nature correcting for the excessive fetal growth. As an adult it is clear that I inherited my father’s linebacker build and not my mother’s Twiggy build, but she had no way of knowing that at the time. She has also been vocally “fed is best” since at least 1988,long before LFed is Best” was a thing, which is the first time I heard her go off on a person for talking smack about her feeding my then newborn baby sister (adopted) formula.

        All that to say this: even if here are long term effects, you are not at fault. You did the best thing you knew how to do given the supposedly professional advice you were given. No reasonable person can hold you at fault for that.

    • ukay

      For what its worth, I was starved thanks to a not even crunchy midewife telling my mom that infants take what they need. Now Im ravenous. Why not claim causation, as lactivists love to link obesity and bad eating habits to formula feeding?

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      I don’t know for sure, but I wouldn’t be shocked if I was also a starved baby. My mother had (has) a lot of issues about, well, a lot of things. An example that I believe I shared here once before is that, according to a (reliable) family friend who helped care for me at the time, she didn’t think it an issue to leave then-three-month-old me with Dad and Friend for the entirety of Election Day in order to work the polls…but didn’t leave any pumped milk and did insist that I not be given formula, which they didn’t have on hand anyway.
      She was gone for at least 12, probably more like 14-15 hours. (I’ve worked as an election official–polls were open 7-7, had to be there all day, and also had to set up before/close down afterward.)
      Yeah…
      Mother was (is) also OBSESSED with keeping her kids from being overweight, something she saw as a personal and moral failing.
      I believe I have overcome much of this as an adult in the last year; lost a fair bit of weight (healthily!), have come to accept normal portion sizes and not eating all the time, etc, but it is still a struggle, if less of one than a year ago, to be able to say “Okay, I ate the perfectly reasonable portion on my plate, I feel physically sated and full, I don’t need to go back for seconds.” Or to see fruits and veggies as anything but wasted eating time and space, vs foods that will, indeed, help fill me up, especially if paired with good protein and some complex carbs. My brain was basically set to “eat as many calories as possible as fast as possible before they vanish” all the time. So not healthy, either mentally or physically.

      • BeatriceC

        I need to figure out how to control food. I gained 50 pounds when I quit smoking and every time I think “I’m going to follow this very reasonable menu that provides a more than adequate 1600 calories per day”, I wind up binging 3000 calories in a single sitting. My brain doesn’t know how to process this at all.

        • Valerie

          I hear you. I wish I my body/brain had a good heuristic for selecting and consuming an adequate amount of food. For whatever reason, it doesn’t. I don’t tend to binge, but unless I am vigilant (counting calories and restricting), I will overeat, and it adds up over time.

        • Who?

          That’s so tough. Giving up smoking is such a wonderful achievement, maybe don’t get too worked up about the food thing at this stage. One major life change at a time!

        • guest

          I have started following a group “Healthy Habits, Happy Moms” who have a very sensible program to help women develop a healthy relationship with food and implement small, lifelong habits to help them lose weight. You basically start with a tiny new habit that is very easy to do and as it becomes automatic to do, add another habit. Also, the focus is on adding, not taking away things. For example, I am adding a cup of tea each evening to my routine instead of telling myself that I can’t snack after dinner. It’s amazing how the shift in the mindset makes it so easy to do and I don’t feel deprived. The Facebook group is the most supportive I have ever seen and really work on building each other up, not putting anyone down.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          I think that’s something that’s going to be different for each person.
          For me, keeping busy helped. (I have a 3 year old and 1 year old, so not hard.) Substituting something for my stress-binge-eating foods was also helpful: “Kids are screaming yet again? No, I’m not going to hit up the chocolate, but I will make myself a cup of tea, maybe with a splash of milk.” Frankly, I had to stop keeping certain foods in the house over which I have no self control (corn chips are eeeevil).
          Lastly, I weigh every single day and record it, which helps me stay accountable, and I focus more on “I am going to eat this Healthy Food which will make me feel better overall, and won’t that be nice?” vs “but I really, really waaaaaaant to have ice cream for lunch.”
          I still have off days (today, for example…), but they’re off days, not off months, and I can pick myself up and get back to it the next day, generally.
          No idea if that helped, but know that I wish you well!

  • Dr Kitty

    OT:
    My friends’ Micro preemie update.
    BB is off ventilator and on CPAP.
    Other than expected occasional apnoeas, no other complications as yet.
    As well as can be expected.
    A long road ahead but continuing to hold his own.

    • The Vitaphone Queen

      <3

      • Dr Kitty

        This time last year a relative and a friend both lost little ones born at 26W.
        We are really hoping for the best for B.B.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      I am so glad to hear this! It made my evening.

    • Tigger_the_Wing

      Thank you for the update! He’s off the ventilator already? I’m over the moon! <3

  • Sheven

    What’s weird is, if you don’t produce enough breastmilk, your baby is getting all the possible benefit it can get out of the breastmilk you produce. You aren’t withholding anything from your baby if you give them formula–you’re giving them adequate nutrition and feelings of satisfaction. Even assuming that breastfeeding has substantial benefits, which it doesn’t, once you’ve maxed out the benefits available to you, why do you want to starve your kid?

    • Sarah S

      Exactly! Combo feeding is a great way to nourish a baby…

    • Roadstergal

      It really is religious. Even if you’re atheist, it’s religious. Formula is ‘sin,’ and the wages of sin are passed on unto the 7th generation, etc.

      In reality, in scientific terms, we can note risks and benefits, and we can identify acceptable levels of even extremely poisonous substances. Only in the black-and-white thinking of the irrational is a perfectly healthy substance like formula demonized to ‘just one drop’ will ruin your child for life, and your child’s children.

      Breastmilk is so perfect and magical that one drop of formula will undo its good effects forever.

      Doesn’t make sense to me, but I’m not in the cult.

    • swbarnes2

      But you are “damaging” their virgin gut flora…

      • The Vitaphone Queen

        Don’t you DARE damage the Virgin Gut Flora®️!

  • MaineJen

    Typo in 2nd to last paragraph: “deadly childhood vaccinations” should be “deadly childhood diseases.” Lest the raptors descend…

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Thanks!

    • Who?

      We could have been treated to the unedifying sight of cia quoting Dr T as an unassailable source of truth on that one issue, while being a lying scoundrel on all others.

  • Shirley

    I think you meant “years of protection from deadly childhood diseases” in the 2nd to last paragraph.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Oops!

  • I hope that someday when mothers say they’re formula feeding, they won’t feel compelled to explain why. “Oh we tried nursing, but she never latched…pumping didn’t make enough milk….” No. Mothers should not have to explain feeding choices unless it’s relevant–as to caregivers looking after the child, pediatricians when the child might be having some sort of digestive issue, etc.

    If anything needs to be explained, it’s why a mother is willing to put a tiny infant through suffering in the name of breastfeeding, and the answer usually is that they were sold a bill of goods.

    • Roadstergal

      I remember being at a company lunch, and my co-workers were talking about their kids. One of them with two adult-ish (late teens/early 20s) kids was talking about having to give one of them a special formula while the other one took regular stuff. It stood out to me because, as you allude to, this is the only time I can remember hearing someone talk about formula without the obligatory ‘why I didn’t breastfeed/how much I tried to.’

      • MaineJen

        I catch myself doing this sometimes. “I went back to work and couldn’t keep up with his appetite any more!”

        • Roadstergal

          I mean, her kids are alive – and very healthy and happy to boot. What more do you need?

      • BeatriceC

        It was commenting here, and a comment one or another of you made a couple years ago, that got me to stop saying “and it was breastmilk in that bottle!” when I recount the story of the woman in the grocery store who told me I should have my kids taken away and it was obvious I didn’t love them because the baby was eating form a bottle. Now I’m like “eff it. It doesn’t matter what was in the bottle. The story is relevant regardless.”

        • The Kids Aren’t AltRight

          And how does she suppose your baby would have been fed once taken a way? Christ, what an asshole.

          • BeatriceC

            Oh, it actually gets even better. This was the kid that was born at 24 weeks and was discharged from the NICU after six months on oxygen, an NG tube (he only took some of his meals via a nipple…it still took too much energy to get all of his food that way), and cardiac and respiratory monitors. There was clearly cause to think maybe he couldn’t latch normally. He never did manage to learn to latch to the breast, and eventually came off the NG tube a little under a year old, when he got better at nippling and eating solids.

            That baby is 15 now, and while he doesn’t have very many noticeable effects of his prematurity, he does have some. We actually just got back from the children’s hospital for part of his neuro work up for suspected seizure activity. Turns out what I though was just a teenager zoning out looked a little different to his doctor. Yippie.

          • The Kids Aren’t AltRight

            Oh no! I hope it doesn’t end up being too serious. That all sounds very scary!

          • BeatriceC

            Thanks. 🙂 And at this point I’m pretty laid back about non life threatening issues. The kid is alive. I can’t say that about three of my kids. Everybody was premature and only three of my six survived my body’s terrible baby manufacturing skills. I’m fairly certain he’s either just a space cadet or something super minor and easy to treat is going on. Or there’s something like ADHD causing him to lose focus or zone out. We shall see what neuro has to say.

          • Tigger_the_Wing

            Even if it is absence seizures, they aren’t as scary as the word ‘seizures’ might make them seem. One of my sons had them back in the old days, when they were called ‘petit mal‘. He’s been seizure-free for over twenty years now, and is learning to drive. The only accommodation we made was that everyone froze in place when he had one, because the seizures themselves were far less disorientating to him than the lack of continuity in his perception. Tempting as it was to rush over and hug him the moment I saw him ‘switch off’, that just gave him the impression that I could teleport, so I’d wait until he ‘switched on’ again.

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            Those boys of yours. *hugs*

          • PeggySue

            Oh dear. Wishing him and you well.

        • StephanieJR

          New motto: “if they care that much about something so little, they can fuck off”.

        • ukay

          Disgusting! Some peoples‘ minds and worlds are so small that they try to insert themselves into other peoples’ private business lest they get suffocated by their own viciousness.

          Glad the suspected seizure activity turned out to be a false alarm.

      • ukay

        Lactivists basically imply that women, who do not breastfeed exclusively, do not love their children. Who would not get defensive over such a hideous accusation?

        • pinktulip

          Formula feeders, at least some of them, love to say that “lactivists” imply that women who do not breastfeed exclusively, do not love their children.
          It is absolute codswallop.

          • Quite right; it is codswallop to assert that parents who give their kids formula do not love their children as much as breastfeeders do.

          • pinktulip

            it is codswallop to say that people assert such things. I have never seen anyone – in real or online – say “you don’t love your children because you formula feed”. I have never seen it implied either. I have seen plenty of incidences of it being alleged that is what “lactivists” think, but as I said before, it is pure codswallop.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            You have never seen it so it doesn’t exist? Are you for real?

            This comment and similar ones have been posted to my Facebook page in the last few hours. You need to get out of your echo chamber and look around!

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a899d1422aa259f340a1f97a655857ec80a328b18119773ba08bfe7d8d5a00af.jpg

          • attitude devant

            POS mother? How very sweet. Codswallop indeed!

          • sdsures

            #shitmomsunite! #fedisbest

          • Oh, good! I’m so glad to hear it. I’ve always thought that there were people spouting crap like “Why do formula-feeding mothers feel “guilty” or “judged” – people are resonsible for their own feelings. How they choose to react to scientific evidence and facts is up to them,” but I’m delighted to hear that such nonsense is not in fact posted on the internet.

          • ukay

            Are you kidding me? You cannot even buy formula without a mandated „Breast is best, but if you are an inferior being please at least ask your ped or midwife before poisoning your child“ on the box. (paraphrase mine, the real phrasing is more veiled)

            Dr Tuteur has already proven you wrong further down. Breastfeeding „promotion“ sites are full of aggressive and condescending lactivists.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      I do overshare at the moment if anyone actually asks. Mostly because my filter is akilter. I’m still depressed after all, and bf’ing figured into that depression.

      • Oversharing is the default at the moment, I think, even without figuring in the effects of depression; there’s a society-wide assumption that breastfeeding is normative, and that if you are not within that norm, you must have a Good Reason for it. I don’t fault mothers for responding to that assumption. If it isn’t too painful a subject, could I ask how the management of your depression is at the moment? We all wish you well!

        • maidmarian555

          Speaking personally I was grilled by every midwife, nurse, doctor and health visitor I had the misfortune to come into contact with in the first couple of weeks after my daughter was born. They all wanted to know how she was being fed and when I said we were combo-feeding, I was immediately asked *why*. After a few weeks of that, I think your default position is defensiveness and to immediately explain why you aren’t EBF if anyone asks. I try not to do it any more but it’s really hard, we’ve moved on to EFF full-time and I can’t tell anyone that without an explanation of why, it’s like it’s been programmed in. It’s really frustrating.

          • fishcake

            This sounds very familiar to me.

      • Emilie Bishop

        I often overshare too. I want people to know how awful our “breastfeeding journey” was so they can see things that legit go wrong despite “support” and maternal motivation. When I started intentionally sharing more, I learned that many people I knew struggled in some way and felt awful about it. One woman went through almost the same thing with her now-18-year-old as I did with my now-3-year-old (minus readmission, because hers was supplemented earlier). Some variation on the theme of “breastfeeding was less than perfect for us” is way more common than anyone led me to believe when I was actually breastfeeding.

    • CSN0116

      I have an idea for an obnoxiously offensive photograph and I need Annie Leibovitz’s contact info (hit me up if you have it /sarcasm).

      So picture this, I’m thinking B&W — a beautiful, late-20’s, woman sitting criss-cross on the floor, holding a newborn baby close with her breasts subtly but also clearly exposed. However, she is feeding the baby she holds a bottle. She is looking down at the baby.

      The caption underneath is in direct contrary to the iconic Time piece, and reads, “Are you woman enough?”.

      The point is to illustrate a young, healthy woman for whom it can be assumed “makes milk” but she is radically and intentionally foregoing the act of breast feeding for one of her own choosing. Her breasts are there, present and capable. As is her baby. But she’s taking the road less traveled, with pride.

      This is the shit I think about… lol

      • While I like it a lot, I don’t want to swing the pendulum too far the other way. There was a lot of shame attached to breastfeeding at one point, so lets not make it seem like bottle-feeding is The Right Way either.

        • CSN0116

          Oh, I agree. I guess I see it more as boldly decrying an oppressive state, not decrying it as better. But its all been so moralized, so I see your point.

          • Dinolindor

            Replace the clearly defined image depicting any specific method of feeding with something designed to be frustratingly unclear on how that woman is feeding the baby. Because the cultural goal, I think, should be that the viewer should not even attempt to figure out which the baby is eating, just that the baby is fed.

          • Roadstergal

            A feeding baby in the crook of mom’s arm, with her forced-perspective Stop In The Name Of Love hand put out towards the camera to obscure how the baby is being fed, with None Of Your Damn Business on her face? I wonder if that would work?

      • Emilie Bishop

        I like the few shots I’ve seen with mom’s breastfeeding and bottle feeding alongside each other, both connecting with their babies, both babies looking healthy. I wish it weren’t such a big deal, because those pictures really are a microcosm of the real world.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          Yes!!!
          My SIL and I just might do this someday: she breastfeeds and loves it. I bottlefeed because even the idea of breastfeeding again causes me a lot of anxiety. We both love our kids (and one another’s). When I have a baby, she helps me make up bottles, and when she has one, I send her nipple cream. It’s all good. And that’s how it should be!