Fed is minimal? That’s what all the mean girls say!

Girl crying

Janis, one of the characters in Mean Girls, says:

There are two kinds of evil people in this world. Those who do evil stuff and those who see evil stuff being done and don’t try to stop it.

There’s actually a third kind: those who see good stuff being done and harrass those who do it.

That’s what came to mind when I saw this mea culpa written by a midwifery student, desperately trying to survive in a profession dominated by lactivist bullies.

Lactivists subject one of their own to a re-education campaign.

According to 19 year old Sophie, she had posted her support for the #FedIsBest campaign on her Instagram account:

Originally, I had understood that ‘Fed is Best’ was a concept about babies receiving correct nutrition and perhaps if you didn’t support the campaign, then you were implying you didn’t care about the feeding of babies.

That IS the concept of the Fed Is Best campaign. It rests on the premise that being fully fed with formula is much better, healthier, and safer for babies and mothers than starving on breastmilk. If you don’t support it, you care more about the promotion of breastfeeding than the promotion of infant and maternal health.

Poor Sophie didn’t realize that on Wednesday all the followers of the mean girls wear pink and she dared to wear a different color.

The mean girls subjected her to a re-education campaign and she is apologizing as frantically as she can:

Following my original post, some of my followers contacted me directly with links to articles and information which gave other viewpoints on #FedisBest. I am so grateful that these messages were sent to me with respect and kindness. I was not belittled, or sent hateful comments, even though I’m sure I offended many of my followers. A positive of this situation has shown me how social media can be used in a kind way – I have learnt so much, and if I hadn’t posted about the campaign, I would probably still be in my naïve bubble of confusion and misconceptions. I am the first to admit that as I am so new to midwifery, there are huge gaps in my knowledge and skills. I have so far to go, but we all must start somewhere. This is what my blog is about – sharing honestly about each step in my journey, whether it’s forwards or backwards.

Who was responsible for her re-education? Prof. Amy Brown, the Regina George of lactivism.

The article that really helped me learn was written by Professor Amy Brown; ‘Why Fed Will Never Be Best: The FIB Letting Our New Mothers Down’

Amy’s article also made me realise that at no other point in our lives do we accept fed as best, rather than an absolute minimum.

See? Fed is minimal! That’s what all the mean girls say and Sophie desperately wants to be part of the in crowd, not on the outside getting bullied by the mean girls. And if there is one thing that the mean girls are absolutely, positively sure of is that anyone outside their group deserves to be bullied.

Rosalind Wiseman, author of the book Queen Bees and Wannabees on which Mean Girls is loosely based had this to say on the topic of mean girls:

The hazing experience and then the subsequent participation in the group forces its members to maintain the status quo and traditions at all costs. It demands mindlessness and unquestioned loyalty, resulting in boring people who have little ability to think for themselves or have an opposing viewpoint from those who have the most social power.

Sadly, that seems to be true for lactation professionals. They demand mindless, unquestioned loyalty and bullying of anyone who disagrees.

And it’s hard to protect yourself. As Wiseman notes:

Sometimes bullies are your friends and very rarely do bullying prevention tips acknowledge this fact or what to do about it.

And poor Sophie is exquisitely anxious that her “friends” within the midwifery and lactation professions consider her one of the group.

She can’t prostrate herself enough!

Although I feel embarrassed about publicly sharing my misunderstandings and may have led to others unintentionally being misinformed too, I’ve learnt lots in a positive way, thanks to social media and my followers. I plan to do more reading of articles and research about infant feeding. I will also investigate what the organisation where I work does to support infant feeding and I’ve got Amy Brown’s ‘The Positive Breastfeeding Book’ on my must-read list!

Hopefully Regina George Amy Brown has been pacified.

But Sophie, if you read this, I want you to consider something else:

You should NEVER apologize for being compassionate! You should NEVER apologize for refusing to take part in bullying! You should NEVER apologize for thinking for yourself and reaching your own conclusions!

Only mean girls would expect that from you.

As someone who endured my share of hazing during medical training, I know how very, very hard it is to maintain compassion for patients within a system that encourages treating them shabbily. I don’t expect you to resist the pressure now; you have no choice but to go along to get along.

But be assured that your first impulse — to be kind and respectful toward women and babies suffering from pressure to breastfeed — was correct. Don’t let the mean girls bully the compassion out of you.

EA0DB20A-2207-46C7-B980-0B7053F547DD

  • Desiree Scorcia

    “Fed is minimal.” This comes from the same crowd that thinks raw goats milk is an acceptable infant food. Minimal is all they’ve got.

  • AnnaD2013

    Lactivist taunting others with “Fed is minimal” are being hypocritical. If “Fed is minimal”, then there shouldn’t be such indoctrination with “Breast is best.” If fed really IS minimal, then how a baby gets fed should not be such a big deal, and lactivists need to stop pushing their agenda on families.

    They are parroting “Fed is minimal,” because, while common sense says “Fed is best,” the lactivists want to focus on the mode of feed (breast vs formula) instead of the action of feeding a baby. What Fed is Best really means is that whatever way the baby has adequate nutrition and the parents are comfortable doing is what should be done in the family. What lactivists want to do is coerce mothers into breastfeeding by playing on their vulnerabilities and fierce love of their infants. Also, as mothers themselves, lactivists want to draw attention to themselves and be able to say “See, I am a better mother than her!” It’s this kind of 6th grade attitude of tearing others down to make yourself look better that is poisoning female friendships.

  • rational thinker

    This may be off topic but has anyone else read about infant formula on Wikipedia? I just did and I am pissed. There are so many people that use that site for reliable information. If you read the entire thing it looks like a lactivist wrote it. A large part of it was explaining about all the dangers of infant formula. They need to edit that page. If a woman is struggling to breastfeed and looks to that site for reliable information she wont get it and that is dangerous. Dr. Amy and anyone else interested could you please read it and let me know if I am over reacting or if I am right and they need to update that page.The page is
    “Infant formula” on Wikipedia.

    • rational thinker

      this one was on the Wikipedia page “Baby friendly hospital initiative” = Women who don’t breastfeed have increased risk of developing heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and hip fractures in later life. Hip fractures REALLY?

      • space_upstairs

        Like the more out-there benefits of breastfeeding for babies, most of these are probably social class effects.

        • AnnaPDE

          Or age effects. People who die before they get really frail have a much lower chance of breaking a hip…

      • Merrie

        Or people who are physically able to breastfeed are a biologically distinct group in some ways from those who aren’t physically able to produce milk, and some of those ways impact on this.

        These seem to overlook the fact that a lot of mothers who quit breastfeeding do it because they’re having some sort of physiological problem with it, which makes them somehow dissimilar to mothers who continue without incident, and so it’s not a good comparison.

        I’m not sure how you’d do a study with that. You could compare moms who breastfeed to those who decided not to breastfeed beforehand for non-medical reasons. But even then, some of the moms in that second group might have had problems if they’d tried, and there’s no way to know.

        Or a sibling study. I had no issues breastfeeding my three children. My sister has no children and doesn’t want any, but if she had had some, she’s presumably more likely than the average to be able to breastfeed, since I and our mom both did so successfully. So 50 years from now, how do the sisters who breastfed compare to those who never had children?

        Except not having your children sapping calcium from your bones would also skew the outcomes, so probably the women who never had children would do the best.

        Perhaps combine those studies–compare the sisters who breastfed with the sisters who had kids but didn’t breastfeed for non-medical reasons. I feel like you’d have a hard time finding a lot of people to enroll in this study.

    • StephanieJR

      I’ve read it before and was absolutely appalled by it. I know the accuracy of Wikipedia is hit and miss, and no one should rely on it completely, particularly for medical conditions, but it seems utterly irresponsible to report such lies as facts. Someone should edit it to correct information.

      • rational thinker

        Wikipedia absolutely is hit and miss. The majority of people who read it don’t realize that and consider it to be the absolute authority.

    • space_upstairs

      Consider the kind of person who would write for Wikipedia regularly: someone of the educated elite with lots of spare time. This is the same demographic that invented and adopted “natural parenting.” Also, “breast is best” is still the dominant paradigm even if newer science and Gen X having turned out ok have put cracks in it. Therefore, I suspect that if an article on formula didn’t read as if it were written by a lactivist, it would be labeled by a regular editor as reading like it were written by a formula shill and thus, if left up, would have some kind of warning label for poor sources or suspected bias.

    • Daleth

      Change it. Create an account so you can become a contributor, and change it.

  • yentavegan

    There is no rational justification for allowing an infant to be underfed. Infants thrive on copious and plentiful breastmilk. Infants thrive on commercially produced formula. Thriving is not a minimal, it is the goal of nutrition for a developing human being. Are mothers being coerced into underfeeding their babies? YES they are! Mothers who leave their expressed milk for a caregiver are routinely told to teach the caregiver “paced feedings” to make the 2 ounces take a longer time to be finished….rather than allow the caregiver to feed a hungry baby more!!!!

  • mabelcruet

    Just had a wee scout around Twitter-there’s a couple of people raising concerns, principally along the lines that this seems to be a retraction published at the suggestion of the student’s mentor, rather than her genuine belief, and that the original article about Fed Is Best is no longer available, and only the retraction remains. Byrom is suggesting that she liaise with the student directly (because the student isn’t on twitter) and that any questions people want to ask are filtered via her-so what do you think the chance of getting an original and unedited reply would be if that happened?

    Someone has raised concerns that the references in the piece are extremely limited and one-sided (all Amy Brown and the lactivist crew), and Byrom is now wondering why this person is so interested in this student’s reflective piece. I’m just waiting for her regular ‘tell me who your manager is because I’m going to tell on you’ tweet, as she’s done several times before when she was challenged. And Milli Hill (who else?) is demanding that tweets are retracted because they are inaccurate (at the suggestion that only certain books are approved of by certain positive birth movement groups).

    It’s like a soap opera-I’m away back to my stories….!

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      I think it’s funny when they complain that people are “so interested in this student’s reflective piece.”

      I mean, she apparently thought it interesting enough that she put it in a place for everyone to see. But now that people see it and comment on it, oh no, that’s just her own personal thoughts.

      You want your own personal thoughts? Have a journal. But if you broadcast it for the world to see, you can’t complain if the world sees it.

      • mabelcruet

        Byrom is now asking the person raising concerns (who seems to be a university educator) to contact her via email, not on Twitter. She’s done that before-she was very critical of a piece by a journalist in relation to the normal births initiative being stopped, and after demanding to know who the woman’s editor was, wanted an email address to talk to her, although the journalist said she preferred to discuss publicly, because Byrom’s insults and insinuations were public.

        Isn’t it scary that her behavior is so stereotypical each time she’s challenged? It’s the same routine of denial, being upset because you’ve misunderstood her position, alleging all she wants to do is all get along together whilst sending out backhanded insults disguised as compliments, then claiming she’s being bullied and harassed.

  • mabelcruet

    ‘The formula industry desperately needs regulation’???

    It’s the most tightly regulated industry out there-they aren’t even allowed to advertise. Their own user instructions have to state that breast feeding is the ideal.

    I feel very sorry for this student-she’s talking about having huge gaps in her skills and knowledge. At this stage, you don’t have skills and knowledge, you’re still acquiring them, so you can’t be said to have gaps. If you were 20 years qualified and didn’t know breast feeding could be complicated by dehydration and hyponatraemia, that’s a knowledge gap. Has Sheena Byrom started putting the boot in? She’s the grandmaster of two-faced twinkling about sharing light and love whilst bitching about someone.

  • Leticia

    Wow, the quotes sound like the public confession on a re-educated dissident of a communist regime… It’s really scary .

    • CanDoc

      YES. That was my absolute first thought also.

  • fiftyfifty1

    “at no other point in our lives do we accept fed as best, rather than an absolute minimum.”

    Wow, blinded by privilege! Think of all the mothers through the ages who struggled to keep their babies alive when lactation failed–the gruels that provided calories but insufficient protein and vitamins, the unrefrigerated goat milk teeming with bacteria. The desperate mothers who really DID have nothing more than the absolute minimum. And she implies that commercial formula is the same? What an idiot. Babies THRIVE on commercial formula. Commercial formula, and the clean water used to prepare it, are both modern miracles.

    • Merrie

      Honestly, feeding my kids and myself is kind of a minimum process some days. Some days, if we have enough food and it’s kind of sort of balanced, that means we’re doing pretty well. Keeping fed is hard. I don’t think we need to strive for perfection to be valid human beings, as long as we are good enough.

      • fiftyfifty1

        Agreed. Past infancy, it is also unclear what “ideal” is anyway. People in the Arctic ate little other than fish and marine mammals. In other places, humans followed a vegetarian diet. Both thrived as long as there was no famine. We are not like pandas where our idea diet has to be just so.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          I think I saw it pointed out here, the problem with the Irish potato famine was not that the Irish diet consisted of mostly just potatoes, but that when there were no potatoes, they didn’t have anything else. They were doing fine just eating potatoes…

          • Actually, the Irish diet consisted almost entirely of both potatoes and milk/butter, which is not that bad, nutritionally. But with absolutely no potatoes at all, and in 1845-46 the failure was total, no one got even the barest nutrition; there was no money to buy feed for the animals that produced dairy products; the animals had to be sold to pay rents unless the Irish were to be evicted — even at the height of the famine, food was actually exported from Ireland by the mostly absentee landlords who couldn’t pay their own bills without the tenants’ income.

  • TsuDhoNimh

    It rests on the premise that being fully fed with formula is much
    better, healthier, and safer for babies and mothers than starving on
    formula.

    Did you mean starving on breastmilk?

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Yes!! Thank you for pointing that out!!

  • space_upstairs

    I sometimes wonder if a pro-formula position constitutes science denial, insofar as the (mostly small and inadequately controlled) strongly pro-breastfeeding studies still dominate the science and define the current paradigm in medical practice. But formula and bottles can be defended not only on the basis of newer information challenging the old paradigm, which sounds indistinguishable from alt-health fanatics’ tactics, but on the basis that infant nutrition or any nutrition must be considered in the wider context of a person’s life. (In commenter lore, this would be Bofa’s Second Law.) It would be ideal, perhaps, if all adults followed a Mediterranean diet and all infants lived on breastmilk (preferably “on tap”) and vitamin D drops, and all youth exercised an hour a day and all adults a half-hour a day. But every person and family needs to do a cost-benefit analysis for “best nutrition” vs “pretty good nutrition” considering budget, work, personal values, and so on. There are many reasons not to make ideal body care a top priority, and you can get a lot of mileage out of “good enough.”

    • fiftyfifty1

      Except that breast vs. formula is nothing like Mediterranean diet vs. fast food diet. It’s nothing like exercises an hour daily vs. couch potato. In discordant sib studies, they cannot find a difference between breast and formula. Formula is not about “there are many reasons not to make ideal body care a top priority.” Formula is ideal body care. It is outstanding nutrition. Babies THRIVE on it. Fed (whether it is sufficient breastmilk or commercial formula prepared with clean water) literally is Best.

      • space_upstairs

        Since you’re “that kind of doctor” I would trust your judgment over mine, but the science saying formula is pretty much just as good as breastmilk for most babies and in some aspects (e.g., vitamin D, lack of supply concerns, standardization, availability of hypoallergenic options) better – while it does seem to be better controlled – is newer and does not yet seem to have convinced many of your colleagues. So conservatively, I see it as *at worst* like a Mediterranean diet followed carefully vs. someone trying to eat healthy staple foods but fairly often indulging in junk (like I do). Thus, it’s not the huge deal warranting bullying of patients that your most zealous colleagues make it out to be, it’s more a matter for gentle advice at best: “IF you can and it doesn’t conflict with your values and other needs, give it a try, as it may help your kid digest better and be a bit less likely to feel under the weather.” And for what it’s worth, I pump by choice, which is probably akin to “Mediterranean diet content-wise but via eating out and frozen food” for my kid, when the ideal would be like home-cooked-from-scratch Mediterranean diet. But I feel no more inclined toward being the only one who can feed my baby and gritting my teeth through cracked nipples than I do toward home cooking all my own food. It conflicts with my feminist values and other priorities.