Are lactivists addicted to self-righteousness?

Woman has no Idea

According to scientist and author David Brin:

[S]elf-righteousness can also be heady, seductive, and even … well … addictive. Any truly honest person will admit that the state feels good. The pleasure of knowing, with subjective certainty, that you are right and your opponents are deeply, despicably wrong. Or, that your method of helping others is so purely motivated and correct that all criticism can be dismissed with a shrug, along with any contradicting evidence.

Sanctimony, or a sense of righteous outrage, can feel so intense and delicious that many people actively seek to return to it, again and again. (emphasis in original)

Lactivists are indignant. But then when are they not indignant?

”Righteous outrage can feel so intense and delicious that many people actively seek to return to it”

They’re indignant about breastfeeding rates.

A Swansea University academic has said that breastfeeding levels in the UK are the lowest in the world. She is placing much of the blame on the social pressures and attitudes that many women face and is calling for greater support for new mothers to start and continue breastfeeding.

Dr Amy Brown of the Department of Public Health, Policy and Social Sciences discusses this in her forthcoming book, Breastfeeding Uncovered. She says that breastfeeding has a whole host of benefits, including protecting the health of mothers and babies. Increasing breastfeeding rates would therefore save the UK millions of pounds each year.

It’s hard to see how breastfeeding will save any money since there is NO correlation between breastfeeding rates and healthcare costs. Indeed the UK — where lactivists are indignant about the breastfeeding rate — has one of the lowest rates of infant mortality in the world.

They’re indignant about formula. Oops! I mean artificial baby milk.

They’re indignant when anyone dares suggest that breastfeeding has risks as well benefits.

Melissa Bartick is an assistant professor of medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School who volunteers to help hospitals become designated as baby-friendly. She called it “ridiculous” to draw the conclusion that there’s a link between newborn deaths and skin-to-skin care.

She noted that since 40% of the deaths in the first six days of life were in premature babies, there could have been other health complications. She also said there could have been other factors the study didn’t examine, like smoking or drug use by the mothers.

But most of all, they’re indignant that anyone dares criticize their self-righteousness.

In a piece surely destined to become a classic of the genre, Dear formula-feeding mothers – why are you so angry?, pathologically clueless Stefania Giraldi writes:

Those who give artificial milk feel equally attacked by those who constantly tell them how important and amazing breast milk is.’

Stefania goes on to say that, as a breastfeeding mother herself, she has been wondering why mums ‘who have not nursed their babies feel offended when they hear or read about breastfeeding’.

‘I am aware that this post of mine will unleash a tussle of no small amount but I truly want to understand what happens in the mothers who experience such negative feelings,’ she writes.

You can’t make this stuff up!

Giraldi has no interest in understanding anything. She just wants to bathe in those delicious feeling of self-righteousness.

So I ask myself: What happens to mothers who have not nursed their babies? Why do you feel so guilty? Why do you always feel like your feeding choices are called in question? Why are you offended? And why are you so angry against nursing mothers? Against us.

‘My intent is not, I repeat, to offend or hurt the mothers who have not nursed.

‘Whether you believe it or not, I despise judgment in any shape of form, I believe in support rather than war. What is this battle really about?

Stefania is indignant because she’s so misunderstood.

Perhaps I can help her understand with these gentle words:

Hey, stupid cow! Is your life so pathetic and your self esteem so low that you actually imagine you are “special” because you shove your saggy boob into your 3 year olds’ mouth every day?

Wait, what? Why are you so offended? You can be sure I don’t intend to hurt you because I despise judgment in any shape or form.

Stefania blathers on:

And I wonder why if I, or any one else writes that artificial milk is deficient compared to the maternal one (FACT), we are being crucified by those who accuse us of offending and insulting formula feeding mothers?

‘Basically, as soon as anyone talks about breastfeeding, here comes the army of those who wrongly translate every word you say into a threat, an offense towards those who did not breastfeed.

Here’s a thought, Stefania: maybe no one is offended that you breastfeed; they’re offended by your self-righteousness.

Ask yourself, Stefania, is it pleasureable to know with certainty, that you are right and your those lazy morons who formula feed are deeply, despicably wrong? Do you feel proud that that your method of helping others is so purely motivated and correct that all criticism can be dismissed with a shrug?

Because the truth is that this has nothing to do with breastfeeding and everything to do with the lactivist addiction to self-righteousness. It doesn’t matter to lactivists that the benefits of breastfeeding are trivial. It doesn’t matter to them that insufficient breastmilk is common. And it certainly doesn’t matter that aggressive breastfeeding promotion harms literately tens of thousands of infants each year. The only thing that matters to them it that delightful hit of dopamine that occurs every time they declare their inherent superiority — not, heaven forefend because they are bragging — but because they are selflessly educating formula feeding mothers by pointing out their faults.

Lactivists are addicted to self-righteousness. The question they must ask themselves is whether they are capable of kicking the habit.

  • VillosaFabalis

    I’m a nursing student and I am appalled at how biased my books and curriculum are when it comes to neonatal care and breastfeeding. First my anatomy book goes on and on about how good breastfeeding is for mother and baby and how natural it is. Yes I understand it’s a human anatomy book about natural biological processes and breastfeeding is a natural biological process but I am confused why the same book goes into massive details about other artificial medical interventions such as cardiovascular treatments and most surpringly, birth control options. Yet not a single word is mentioned about formula being a viable option. The nursing textbooks are even worse. They constantly go on and on about breastfeeding support, referencing WHO guidelines on EBF for at least 6 months, mention how infant jaundice is normal (WTF?), and in regards to working mothers, talk about how it still possible to breastfeed or pump if necessary.
    I am certainly not against breastfeeding by any means. I am against pressuring women into thinking this is the only viable option and intentionally omitting any information regarding formula supplementation or EFF. I became a nursing student because I wanted to be an advocate for patient wellbeing and this information being taught to nursing students is an injustice to new mothers.

  • Peter Harris

    This website is a joke, yes?
    What a sick bunch of idiots that populate this site, and the chief idiot is the author of this nonsense.
    Has any fool here studied evolutionary biology, and how it relates to nursing mothers, feeding babies?

  • Tiffany Aching

    I take this opportunity to say that I’m so glad I found this blog long before I had my first child. If I hadn’t read it I wouldn’t have allowed myself to do everything you’re not supposed to according to the lactivist gospel: formula supplements during the first weeks, pacifier, nipple shield…

    I still happily breastfeed my baby 2 and a half months later, exclusively, not in spite of all those sins, but thanks to them: it clearly made my life easier, and I don’t have any idea why it is forbidden by lactivists (except perhaps because easy is bad…). My baby spends most of his days smiling and cooing and even if I know it’s 99.99% dumb luck, I like to think that not letting him feel hungry for the sake of exclusive breastfeeding and finding ways to make things easier helped us build a happy bond. I know what lactivists should advocate for instead of guilt-tripping women, though, if they really want to improve breastfeeding rates: extended maternity AND paternity / partner leave. I was spending all my time breastfeeding during the first weeks and my husband did pretty much everything else.
    Many many thanks to Dr. Tuteur and the contributors of the comments for all I learned reading them !

    • MaineJen

      So happy for you and your little one! I didn’t find this site until after my first child was born, but it definitely clicked for me. I realized why none of the natural childbirth/water birth/hypnobabies stuff had ever appealed to me and why I’d always been secretly annoyed by lactation consultants instead of grateful for their help. 🙂

      • Tiffany Aching

        Thank you! The “insufficient supply almost never happens” trope of the lactivists always seemed very silly to me. I don’t see why lactation would be the only exception to the rule that things can go wrong, at any degree, in a process that’s regulated by hormones.

  • Sarah

    Incidentally, has anyone read this?

    http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/format.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2018/716.html&query=(Rajatheepan)

    Case in the UK where a refugee woman gave birth and then received inadequate breastfeeding support in hospital and was discharged against her will. Baby had injuries caused by inadequate feeding.

    It’s getting some coverage from the right wing rags because she had the temerity to be a fairly newly arrived refugee, not speak English and still sue the NHS anyway, but the judgement is worth a look. I don’t know how much of the negligence can be put down to busyness and understaffing, and how much of it is the oh, it must be fine because they’re breastfeeding mentality.

    • Cat

      I just came on here to check whether anyone else had seen that judgment. It’s heartbreaking, isn’t it? I was an articulate professional woman in my mid-thirties and I’d been reading Dr Amy all through the third trimester, but my daughter still spent most of days two and three of her life screaming non-stop with hunger because the staff on the postnatal ward bullied me into ignoring my gut. How much more vulnerable must you and your baby be if you’re young and can’t speak English?

      (We weren’t just lurking on the same Mumsnet thread, by any chance? It’s incredible that, despite the testimony of so many posters on that thread who went through similar experiences, there are still idiots on there insisting that the child’s mother must either be a liar or else she was so stupid that she didn’t know babies needed milk.

  • Mel

    When lactivist-trolling, it’s helpful to know the difference between a personal opinion of human interactions (which is what I described above) and a phenomenon that is able to be studied for the purpose of an academic peer-reviewed article.

    Or, you know, you could just string four sentences together, miss most of the punctuation and add a few emojis.

    I can see why you chose the second option. Ignorance is good for reducing the monetary and time costs associated with pursuing education. Heck, you can even believe that people write peer-reviewed articles about conversations that occur my life! Best of all, people who know you will never, ever figure out that you lack the logic skills expected of an adult.

    • I agree that Sherri has a little difficulty expressing herself coherently, but she isn’t actually trolling you, I think, but agreeing that the behavior you describe is outrageous. Take a look at some of her other comments.

      • Mel

        @sherri_blossom:disqus I removed my previous comment and replaced it with an apology.

  • Roadstergal

    “So I ask myself: What happens to mothers who have not nursed their babies? Why do you feel so guilty? Why do you always feel like your feeding choices are called in question? Why are you offended? And why are you so angry against nursing mothers?”

    I love how ” Why do you always feel like your feeding choices are called in question?” is literally placed into a long list of questions she’s asking about their feeding choices.

  • Megan

    I ended up switching over eventually with the first two anyway and it WAS BETTER! I am still concerned about PPD as I had mentioned before but my biggest goal was to not have this baby be readmitted so we are going with EFF and if I need extra meds or whatever, I will deal with it. I will be so happy to have a newborn that I know with certainty is not hungry and that I’ve really improved our odds of not being readmitted. I watched the video you posted above and it just breaks my heart. I am so relieved this baby will be fed and content despite my crappy breasts.

  • CSN0116

    BFHI be like it’s OK. He just needs to keep sucking, them drops of colostrum’ll do it ✌

    https://youtu.be/y5ZNluFx-UQ

    • AnotherOor

      Omg why is nobody feeding that baby…!

      • CSN0116

        It’s not the purpose of this video, but this is what insatiable newborn hunger looks like. This is what BFHI dismisses as normal and acceptable. That baby needs OUNCES of milk (breast or formula), not mLs or drops.

        • AnotherOor

          I have a two week old and in our online mommy group some naive woman with stars in her eyes about breastfeeding is advising another mother to stop supplementing because she’s feeding her baby too much, since a one week old’s stomach is supposedly the size of a walnut or whatever. Apparently all you need is to have “confidence in your milk”.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            According to “Walnut Culture in California: Walnut Blight”, the typical volume of a walnut is about 20 cc (the A. Bijou variety is bigger, at 50 cc, but that is atypical)

            20 cc is only 2/3 of an ounce. That person is suggesting that an ounce of fluid is too much for a week old baby?

            That’s nonsense, of course.

            I have related the story many times of, when my oldest niece was born (now 37 years ago), I clearly remember visiting her in the hospital on the night she was born, and one of the first things her dad said was that she had already drunk an ounce of fluid (likely pedialyte or water; my sister had c-section with full anesthesia)

            So if an hour old newborn can drink an ounce of fluid, why couldn’t a 1 week old drink more than that?

            The concept is silly on its face.

          • Megan

            You’d be amazed at how many colleagues I have that believe that nonsense…

          • CSN0116

            My five babies – ranging in size from 5 lbs 12 oz to 9 lbs 1 oz – have all consumed over 1 oz of formula within minutes of being born (we bottle feed in recovery like a nursing mom would latch a baby).

            My bigger ones consumed the entire nursette bottles (2 oz) without issue.

          • StephanieA

            I find that that’s the norm, give or take. Since so few moms at my hospital formula feed from the start, my colleagues think every time a bottle fed baby eats that much it’s abnormal and parents are over feeding. My boys also took over an oz immediately, even though the nurse with my oldest told me not to give more than 15 cc (we didn’t listen).

          • AnotherOor

            Indeed, the baby in question has been downing 120mls regularly (I think that’s about 4oz), which would simply be impossible by this person’s logic. Clearly newborn stomach sizes must have a range, and are often quite a lot larger than a walnut!

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            If it’s not coming back up, it must be going somewhere.

            That would be the response – if it doesn’t come back out, then the stomach is obviously big enough to hold it.

          • Heidi

            I remember the black walnuts in my grandparents backyard. The very outer green shell was as big as a baseball.

            But where have these people been? Stomachs stretch. Obviously unless we’ve had bariatric surgery, we aren’t walking around with stomachs the size of a walnut shell. Everyday my son was able to drink more than the day before a feeding. I’m pretty sure that was normal.

    • MaineJen

      He’s gonna have a great latch when someone finally does decide to feed him. :/

  • Megan

    So, I have decided to just formula feed this third baby, given all the difficulties I had the first two times around. And can I just say that all I really want regarding the BF vs FF issue is just to be left alone? I mean, I got myself through a medical education. I think I can competently make a decision as to how my child is fed. It’s just so old and tiresome at this point. I’ll bring my own formula to the hospital and everyone can just shut their traps, TYVM (unless it’s to ooh and aah over my new baby; I’ll be happy to listen to that!)

    • StephanieA

      I also EFF my two and will also with this third baby. When are you due? I’m due early August.

      • Megan

        I’m due in May, scheduled for RCS on 5/10 at 39 weeks if I make it that long. I have a history of gestational hypertension and delivered my first two at 37 weeks but so far my blood pressures seem better this time around. We’ll see how far I get. I still can’t believe that I may have this baby in as little as two short weeks! I have nothing ready!

        • StephanieA

          Good luck! You sound just like me, I really don’t do much to prepare for my babies ahead of time. I’m just a last minute person. I hope your blood pressures stay down and you get a few more weeks!

  • crazy mama, PhD

    Speaking of self-righteous lactivists, several of them are out on Ask A Manager today (which is not normally a place where one encounters lactivists…).

    http://www.askamanager.org/2018/04/im-frustrated-that-my-employee-didnt-want-the-post-baby-flexibility-i-arranged-for-her.html

    The original letter-writer is obnoxious, but the real gems are in the comments, including the one who straight-up admits that she’s going to ignore newer studies. Plus the ever-classic ‘I guess formula is OK if a woman really CAN’T breastfeed, but it’s bad if they don’t even try.’

    • MaineJen

      Wow, that letter was very very obnoxious. I like the response, though.

      • crazy mama, PhD

        She gets a fair amount of “I did Totally Awful Thing at work and I’m obviously right so why are people mad?” questions and is pretty good at responding tactfully while also pointing out that the letter-writer is clearly wrong.

      • Zornorph

        How many times did she use the work ‘perks’ in the letter? I kept waiting for her to describe her employee’s breasts as ‘perky’.

  • Mel

    *yawns*

    If a writer is needs to emphasize an statement by screaming (FACT) in the middle of the sentence, she should be sure to get the fact right.

    Human breast milk is better than formula if and only if the baby in question is a micro-preemie who has not yet reached 34 weeks gestation. In that case, human breast milk decreases the risk of NEC by 50%. (FACT! FACT!)

    Human breast milk handy for protecting intestines of micro-preemies – but it’s not 100% protective in that group. It’s not been proven to be beneficial in any of the other issues that micro-preemies have like lung disease, closing a PDA, preventing or healing brain bleeds, preventing infections or protecting retinal development. (FACT! FACT! FACT! FACT! FACT! FACT)

    I’m certain Stephania does not have an infant in that category right now because she’d not have time to write such an inane piece between NICU visits.(SUPPOSITION!)

    I may start yelling the word FACT! at the end of each sentence.

    • Gene

      I don’t see NEC that often in my specialty as it is most common before a preemie goes home and not after. But the last case I saw (maybe 2y ago) was in an exclusively breastfed baby.

      And, of course, I admit way more hyperbili and failure to thrive and hypoglycemic babies who are exclusively breastfed than formula fed. (FACT). Ooh, that was fun!

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

        Stephania also forgot to mention that human breast milk is not complete nutrition as it generally lacks enough Vitamin D and iron (a FACT) many lactivists seem to ignore. You are right that was fun!

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3103147/

        • PeggySue

          Yeah, on this one, I remember reading a mommy blog some years ago where the breastfeeding Mom was pretty crushed to find her baby had iron deficiency at some months of age, wondered HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN??? I couldn’t remember at that time if it was true that breast milk is not so good for iron, but suspected so. Even at that the doctor apparently did not suggest combo feeding but actual iron supplements and that caused some drama with upset tummies and the like.

    • lsn

      I’m kind of curious as to whether giving probiotics to premmies changes that though. We were part of the ProPrem study which found giving probiotics decreased the risk of NEC – I should go back and see if they looked at EBM vs everything else as well though.

      • Daleth

        That’s my question as well. I’ve had conversations with people along the lines of, “But why would you want a c-section, it damages the baby’s gut flora!” And I say, “Well, we don’t even know if that’s true because the studies are inconclusive, but even if it’s true, I can fix damaged gut flora with probiotics. But I can’t fix brain damage, and that’s a risk of vaginal birth. I’d pick damaged gut flora over brain damage any day.”

  • Mel

    Honestly, we formula feeders are not indignant; we’re bored.

    Lactivists have been promising that our children would be stunted, maladjusted and categorically deficient compared to breastfeed babies.

    Now, I can’t see a difference at all between the two groups and listening to people create more and more elaborate scenarios about when their babies are totally going shine compared to our babies gets old fast.

    • Megan

      Thank you for this. I totally agree. I’m totally disinterested in correcting these people’s beliefs about breastfeeding anymore. I just want them to stop talking.

  • CSN0116

    Why are health care dollars saved from breastfeeding always pondered about in future tense? We have a massive natural, retrospective experiment right here in front of us: breastfeeding rates have gone up some 80% in the last few decades. Run an analysis, taking into consideration inflation and fluctuations in health care costs, year-by-year over the last ~30 years and SHOW the savings. If it’s going to happen, it should have already happened, big time.

    • Sarah

      I know why…

  • I can’t copy the link now, but Kimberly Sears Allers is on Slate complaining about Anthem cutting reimbursement rates for breast pumps–which isn’t such a bad complaint, except that she blathers on about the marvelous benefits of breastfeeding and how SO MUCH MONEY would be saved if women breastfed more.

    ETA: Here is the link.

    https://slate.com/human-interest/2018/04/insurance-companies-like-anthem-should-be-investing-more-not-less-in-breastfeeding.html

    • attitude devant

      Man, I just don’t get the whole pumping thing. It sounds like sooooo much work. If you’re that dedicated, have at it, but you’re essentially feeding your baby twice, for not such great benefit.

      • I did it for my first two kids; I’m a SAHM anyway and the pumps were covered by insurance, so it did save me money. If I have another and the kid won’t latch, though, I’m not pumping for months on end, because it was a pain.

        • attitude devant

          It is a pain indeed.

      • Mimc

        I did it for the week my little guy was in NICU and a couple weeks after while I tried to get him to latch. Them I have it up. Too time consuming. I only pumped 16oz a day so didn’t have any stored.

        • attitude devant

          It does take a lot of time.

      • FormerPhysicist

        I pumped because the engorgement was so painful if I didn’t, and I had a private office and time between classes.

        • attitude devant

          I get it.

      • lsn

        I did for two main reasons – I wanted to breastfeed when he came home and that was the only way it was going to happen given how prem he was, and it was one of the few things I could do for him when he was too unstable to touch. I never heard about the benefits for reducing the risk of NEC while he was in NICU – for me it was almost an act of faith that he would in fact come home. Which he did – but with a peg, and (by that stage) on a very minimal amount of EBM with the rest being formula (he’d outstripped my supply and cleared out the freezer before he came home.) He also had never learned to suck (missed the window where he still had the instinct due to respiratory issues, which meant a lot of speech therapy down the track.) I kept going out of habit by the end, and stopped when the pump broke (then had to restart and taper a bit more slowly, ouch.) If I’d been back at work I would have stopped a lot earlier – very few places to pump at my former workplace, although current one actually does have a dedicated space which is unusual for here. Being mostly in NICU or at home it was of course much easier, especially as we didn’t venture out much initially due to the risk of respiratory viruses.

        • attitude devant

          Make sense.

      • ukay

        It sucked for me and I would never do it again to that extent, except for a premature baby. Of course I am to blame for not seeing through this earlier. But I will never forgive people who have the education to know better for implying that mothers who do not breastfeed for whatever reason „give less“. If it was not for them I would have spent the 4-6 hours daily on baby and school. I failed tests because of that shit.

        • attitude devant

          I hear you. I’m sorry.

          • ukay

            🙂
            Strangely enough I am not bitter or resentful (excl. towards medical personnel I had to deal with). My baby thrived and no harm done safe some retaken tests. It was made a bit harder than need be, but luckily I made it to the sane side ¯_(ツ)_/¯

      • Sherri Blossom

        That’s true I remember the pumping, breastfeeding and bottle days I actually fed babies 3 times it was a hassle and I had so much depression and anxiety. Honestly if I had known better I would have opted for eff from the start

    • BeatriceC

      I exclusively pumped for my youngest. He was a micropreemie, so there were actual benefits, and I had a massive oversupply so pumping was actually very easy for me. I had a schedule of 4 times per day (with a nice long stretch at night during his NICU days) and got a minimum of 30oz and on rare occasion as much as 60oz (first morning when I was really engorged) in a 10-15 minute session. I could literally lean over and just let a few ounces pour out. I quit a few weeks after he came home from NICU at 6 months because I had so much back stocked in the freezer I really didn’t need to continue.

  • Sheven

    I see it as a natural change as they see their unquestioned superiority slipping away. A lot of the benefits of breastmilk were bogus. The few that remain are trivial. And, whatever you call it, “artificial milk” has saved a lot of baby’s brains and lives. They can’t be self-righteous about breastmilk superiority anymore, but they can be self-righteous about the awful, touchy people who question breastmilk superiority.

  • Cartman36

    The car seat nazis are this way as well. This may be my most favorite post ever!

    • MaineJen

      Yes; I immediately tune out when someone swoops in to ‘educate’ me about car seats (I’ve read the regulations and I’m following them, thanks), breastfeeding (we’re doing fine, thanks), or circumcision (I KNOW. I KNOW.)

      • Empress of the Iguana People

        I hear that. It’s like my landlord’s definition of child abuse and the half-dozen obligated reporters who’ve come to my house’s definitions. Yeah, I need to keep working on the messy house issues and mental health issues, but my kids are healthy and generally happy. The social worker did -not- ask if my son was circumsized nor to see how we buckle them into their carseats.

        • AnnaPDE

          How to buckle the kids into car seats: Upside down and by the neck, I hope?

    • CSN0116

      I think the car seat Nazis are, in fact, lactivists too – with a side hobby. The narcissism, elitism, self-righteousness, and compulsive need to assert their unsolicited “knowledge” to others is all far too similar.

    • Anna

      The funniest thing about those car seat groups is that they are full of anti-vaxxers.

    • Sherri Blossom

      Wait is their such thing?

      • Cartman36

        LOL! oh yes. Don’t you dare forward face your child before age 4. just read the comments on ANY article about car seats and you will find them

        • Cat

          The parent-facing stroller fanatics are bad enough. You know, the ones who believe that, if you put your child in a forward-facing pushchair before they’re three or four, they’ll never learn to talk and they’ll probably suffer brain damage as a result of all the stress hormones released because they can’t see their mother’s face at all times. (For the record, I haven’t been able to get my toddler to use any kind of pushchair since she was 18 months old because she thinks they’re for babies, but that’s just her personality. Pretty much her first two-word phrase was when we were watching some teenagers trampolining at a local shopping centre. I said “not until you’re a big girl” and she drew herself up to her full height and announced witb dignity “I big!).

      • Empress of the Iguana People

        oh yeah. there definitely are.