The five hungers at the heart of lactivism

top view of word hungry made from cookie dough with flour

Why is a public health campaign that has lasted for more than 25 years and produced ZERO return on investment still being promoted aggressively? I’m referring, of course, to the campaign to increase breastfeeding rates.

There are many reasons including institutional inertia and the fact that an entire group of ancillary health professionals — lactation consultants — arose to facilitate the campaign and they aren’t about to put themselves out of business.

Lactivism is not about the hunger of babies. Each year we let 1-2% of breastfed babies starve to the point that they must be hospitalized to save them.

But the real reason, in my view, is that lactivism satiates a variety of different hungers. Ironically the hunger of babies isn’t one of them.

Lactivism — in its contemporary incarnation — is about satiating five hungers of women.

1. The hunger of traditionalists for women to return to the home

The foundation of La Leche League, the bulwark of the contemporary lactivist movement, lies in the effort to keep mothers of young children out of the workforce.

But even as their previously quixotic cause became mainstream, the founding mothers fell out of step with a new development. In large numbers, women with young children were going to work. Yet La Leche philosophy called for mothers to be available constantly to their nursing babies. The 1981 edition of “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” summed up the group’s opposition to working motherhood: “Our plea to any mother who is thinking about taking an outside job is, ‘if at all possible, don’t.’ ”

In 1956, before the advent of the breast pump, breastfeeding was not compatible with working outside the home. Convincing women to breastfeeding was the first step in convincing women to retreat from jobs and careers.

2. The hunger to punish formula manufacturers

The most powerful impetus for contemporary breastfeeding promotion turned out to be the hunger to punish large multi-national corporations like Nestle. In the 1970’s Nestle and other formula companies engaged in the brutally unethical promotion of infant formula powder to women in Africa. These corporations were aware that many African women had access to only contaminated water with which to prepare it. Tens of thousands of infants died as a result. Even now, 40 years later, the hunger for punishing formula companies remains front and center in lactivist consciousness.

The hunger for a return to the traditional family and the hunger to punish Nestle explain the motivations of those who promote breastfeeding, but it is other hungers that explain why breastfeeding has been embraced so avidly in certain circles.

3. The hunger for reassurance

You love your children beyond reason and want them to grow into happy, healthy, achieving adults. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a recipe that guaranteed you were raising children you would be able to brag about? Natural mothering — of which breastfeeding is an integral part — offers that recipe. Breastfeed your children and you are guaranteed they will be smarter, healthier and thinner than they otherwise would be.

4. The hunger for achievement

It’s not a coincidence that lactivists promote awards and badges for themselves based on how long they breastfeed. Mothering is an anomaly in a society like ours that fetishizes competition. There are no medals for good mothering and while you are doing it, there is often precious little positive feedback. Not many toddlers are thanking their mothers for putting them in time out.

How satisfying then that women anxious to notch achievements can award themselves and each other “silver boobs with diamond nipples” because they breastfed for 11 months.

5. The hunger for recognition

There are some women who have strong enough egos that they don’t need constant rewards to do what they think is right. Other women need to form communities for support. Sadly, all too often these communities “support” their members by encouraging them to believe they — and only they — are good mothers. Is there a lactivist community on social media that doesn’t disparage formula and mothers who choose it? I haven’t found one.

In the real world, if your only achievement were breastfeeding, no one would think very much of you. In contrast, you can become a minor celebrity in the the social media lactosphere for trumpeting your devotion to breastfeeding, normalizing maternal exhaustion and infant starvation and metaphorically spitting on anyone who doesn’t mirror your own choices back to you.

The bottom line is that contemporary lactivism has never been about soothing the hunger of babies. If it were, breastfeeding would not have become the leading risk factor for newborn hospital readmission. Each year we let 1-2% of breastfed babies starve to the point that they must be hospitalized to save them.

Lactivism satisfies the hungers of lactivists. No one seems to care about the hunger of babies.

  • KQ Not Signed In Sees a Troll

    Troll in the dungeon. The over the top, unrelated, threatening and inflammatory content, laced with references to Islam, is very clearly a troll. This is someone trying to sow discord. Let them reap silence.

  • I would like to know your testosterone level: it’s clearly higher than a normal woman, but I wonder: how much more?

    Personally I support FGM in your case, your hatred and misantropy should be properly dealt with, and FGM could solve your mental issues.
    Your consent doesn’t matter not just only since you do support child abuse and you do not recognize other people’s consent, but, more importantly, because being affected by misantropy you’re mentaly ill and therefore you cannot consent.

    • AnnaPDE

      If you want to know what makes it so hard for many to take seriously anti circumcision activism: it’s the fact that people like you represent it.
      Do you really think this kind of post suggests your focus is on children’s and men’s rights and well-being? Because it sure looks like it’s just unmitigated splurging of sexism, frustration and misogyny, with a general tone of violent hatred. You’re hurting the cause.

      • I’m not an anti-circumcision activist, my God impose me to remove genitals of people threatening children (both boys and girls) with genital cut: this is mandatory against people directly threatening my relatives, and optional (but recommended) against people who threat children with genital cut.
        It applies to both boys and girls: they both must be protected, their sex is irrelevant.
        Hatred is deserved for people who claim the right to cut other people’s genitals.
        Violence can be necessary to stop them and it can be an honourable way to act, depending by the situation.
        You have to be a total moron to think that you can threat an afraid 5 yo boy with a blade and at the same time having people just only trying “trying to convince you” to not to do so. Just try to do it with a child I know, and you’ll see what happens to you, horrible monster…you’ll have to call the army to protect yourself…

        My post isn’t meant to suggest that I’m good: it’s meant to make child abusers to feel hatred – that’s the only language they understand, since they’re like dangerous wild animals. They should be aware of the hatred they spread, and about the chance that a day someone could cut them, like they cut children – this is an “argument” they can understand.

        Child abuse is not to be debated, is it to be eliminated.

        The idea that people claiming a right to cut other people’s genitals must be “convinced” is ludicrous, since it suppose that they deserve respect and that they have meaningful ideas. While there’s nothing meaningful or deserving respect about claiming rights over other people’s genitals.

        I discussed the above with two different imams, and they generally agreed with me, stating that genital cut within Islam is recommended but not mandatory, and they would never suggest that my offspring or relatives should be subject to genital cuts, just in case they would recommend to not touch them.
        So, if imams can be respectful and reasonable, even harpies like you and such author can become respectful – you just need to be properly dealt: in real world threatening you with a blade could do miracles, it would be harmful to play soft with you animals, since you claim the right to cut other people’s genitals – you understand power and violence, you do not understand morality and ethics, and you totally lack empathy: just only a monster could approve or EVEN CONSIDER to cut an afraid 5 yo boy. You’re a monster, you’re a terrorist, you’re a child abuser, and I DO NOT NEGOTIATE WITH MONSTERS AND TERRORISTS.

    • MaineJen

      WOW so you’re terrible…

      I see this comment was edited. What was is edited FROM? Was it originally worse than this??

      • Thank you, I try, but it’s an hard work.
        No, I had to expand and correct it because English is not my native language.

        Why do you oppose the right to cut adult offenders while at the same time supporting the right to cut innocent children?
        It seems cognitive dissonance.

        • MaineJen

          This article has nothing to do with your chosen subject. Are you confused?

          • I’m attacking the author, not specifically the article.
            She has defended adults cutting a 5 yo afraid boy, and a judge keeping the mother in jail until she would have signed to cut her child.
            I think that in such case the mother should have answered to the judge: “I’m going to sign the consent form just only when the judge will cut his penis”.
            It seems legit, don’t you think so?

            This author also added that she is not going to care in the slighest until millions boys will have their whole genitals entirely removed with rusty tools.
            She’s full of shit, perhaps some form of FGM could treat her hysterical misandry.
            We should stop to give credit to such monsters, and if instead they deserve to be treated seriously, then violence and shit calls for violence and shit..

          • MaineJen

            What. The fuck. Are you talking about.

          • http://www.skepticalob.com/2015/05/the-appalling-spectacle-of-anti-circ-activists-obsessing-over-the-penis-of-another-persons-son.html

            Author:
            “But the issue here is not, and has never been, parental consent. The issue is whether a circumcision has medical benefits for this specific child, benefits that outweigh the risk of performing the surgery on a child, risks that are greater than when he was a newborn. And that question can only be answered by medical professionals, not by a band of self-appointed foreskin fetishists whose cynicism is exceeded only by their self-absorption.”

            See?
            The issue isn’t the 5 yo boy consent, nor his parents’ consent.
            It’s the alleged medical benefits.
            AND BODILY AUTONOMY DOESN’T EXIST, ACCORDING THE AUTHOR.
            Therefore we should be free to discuss FGM as a solution for the author’s hysterical misandry.

            Then let’s examine the most voted, and featured by the author (her choice to do so), comment:

            “The day millions of little boys have their ENTIRE GLANS PENIS removed with rusty utensils without anaesthetic will be the day we start to take that pathetic pseudo-argument seriously….”

            Do you still think that violence isn’t an acceptable answer to such shit?

          • MaineJen

            That last paragraph? She’s not advocating for that.

            Reading comprehension, dude. I know English isn’t your first language, but even so, you must recognize that she’s making the argument that circ is in no way equivalent to FGM.

            Kind of like “A Modest Proposal.” https://art-bin.com/art/omodest.html Remember that? Jonathan Swift wasn’t really advocating the eating of babies. It was a satirical essay meant to call out the horrible attitudes toward the Irish at the time.

            By the way, the fact that you’re “threatening” Dr. Amy with FGM, even in jest, reveals you are the worst and most dangerous kind of misogynist, and not worth listening to in the slightest. Bye.

          • Yes, gal, I know that bodily autonomy doesn’t matter.

            That’s why FGM can be good to treat both your and her histerical misandry, and we should discuss about that: you should not have bodily autonomy.

            I also love how you think that you have the right to be “satirical” while I don’t have such right.
            Cut your clitoral hood, you’ll feel better, your fetish about vaginal integrity doesn’t make sense.

          • namaste

            Dude, are you on glue? WTF does male circumcision have to do with this topic?

  • I’m so glad I don’t have/never will have children. I’d probably get arrested for assault the first time some LLL person told me that breast is best and that I’d be irrevocably harming my child.

    And here’s more BF BS…

    https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-08-ways-world-empowered-enabled-breastfeeding.html

    • swbarnes2

      Note that the first Swedish example is the only one where they are able to connect the policy to anything remotely positive. They don’t even try to pretend that the other policies are doing anything measurable, let alone clinically relevant.

    • mabelcruet

      It really irritates me that they spout such lies, half truths and utter invention and don’t get pulled up on it. That crap about if breast feeding is delayed by more than 24 hours after birth, there is an 80% risk of death in the first month. That is an utterly perverted and distorted version of the truth. Its deliberately misinterpreting facts and completely unethical. If breast feeding is delayed by 24 hours after birth, the reason why it’s delayed is generally because the baby is seriously unwell and/or extremely premature and unable to breast feed. Very sick and very prem babies die, and it’s got bugger all to do with delaying breast feeding.

      • rational thinker

        That site has a lot of articles on breastfeeding all filled with lies. Most of them all conclude that hiring more lactation consultants is the solution to all breastfeeding problems. These assholes are no different than nestle in the 70’s.

        One of their articles includes this gem =

        “New mothers may believe there is no difference between expressed

        breast-milk feeding and direct feeding at the breast,” says Tarrant.

        “Although expressed breast-milk feeding provides greater benefits than

        infant formula, bottle-feeding may increase the risk of respiratory

        issues, asthma, rapid weight gain and oral diseases”

        I love the asthma claim. Wasn’t there are real scientific study that says asthma is linked to exclusive breastfeeding.

        Rapid weight gain is a risk now? That is a disgusting attempt to normalize infant starvation.

        this is the link for the full article= https://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-12-moms-bottle.html

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          Yeah, I remember when the kids were babies, the real obsession was whether they were actually gaining weight. The idea that one would worry about babies gaining weight too fast never registered. Any baby that gained more weight was just one of those things.

          I’ve mentioned it before, my sister’s 2nd child was 26 lbs at 6 mos. Total Michelin man, with rolls all over. And she was EBF. Good? Bad? Nah, it just was….

        • mabelcruet

          Technically I suppose I am neutral in this whole debate-I’ve no kids, I’ve never wanted them so I have no personal position on breast feeding, and I’m not in a role in which I could influence a mother to breast feed or otherwise.

          But what I have started doing is making sure that every single baby that I get in my mortuary who has died in the community gets sodium levels checked. It’s not something that used to be done routinely-many blood tests can’t be done post-mortem because of haemolysis, but we can do surrogate sodium levels from vitreous humour and we measure it in CSF. It used to only be done whenever there was a concern of Munchausens by proxy/fabricated or induced illness, or if there were signs of potential child abuse, or if there was a history of vomiting or diarrhoea, but now its recommended we do it for all of them.

          Hopefully I’m never ever going to get a case, but given that we get about 250 cot deaths a year here (and many more previously historically), I wouldn’t be surprised if we have missed hypernatraemia dehydration deaths in infants in the past. Many of the cot death cases have stereotypical histories-not quite themselves, not really interested in eating, lethargic. Those are symptoms of hypernatraemia and dehydration too.

    • rational thinker

      That was a disgusting article and the recommended articles listed after that were even worse. They should change the name of that article from

      Six ways the world has empowered and enabled breastfeeding to

      Six ways the world has empowered and enabled infant starvation. Then it would be more accurate.

    • You lack self-control, that’s probably one of the reasons why you didn’t find a man willing to have a child with you.

      However it’s not the end of the world, you can reach happiness by focusing on something else rather than discussing about how to feed the children you do not have.

      • MaineJen

        Serious question: what’s wrong with you?

      • Way to assume buddy. I don’t want a child. I don’t want a man. Not every woman is looking for a man. I happen to be asexual. Not that your little brain would understand that.

        There’s nothing wrong with my self-control. I’ve never hit anyone out of anger.

        I totally agree with the writer of this blog. If I were to have children, fed is best. The fact is so many women are made to feel guilty if they’re not sacrificing their entire life for a child.

        And, btw, I work with children everyday. I’m a preschool teacher but I also work in the infant room on occasion. I have personally seen a mother cry because she couldn’t pump enough milk (god forbid she had to go back to work to support her child) and had to feed formula. She was convinced that her child would grow up harmed. That’s the kind of BS our blog writer is talking about.

        • I didn’t say that you’re looking for a man, I did say that you didn’t find a man willing to have a child with you.
          Being asexual is about not feeling sexual attraction towards other people, it’s unrelated with the desire to have a child.
          Touristic information: I happen to be bisexual, not that your little brain would understand that.

          • Last time I looked, you have to look for something to find it.

            Trolls gonna troll.

            (BTW, which is it, pansexual or bisexual? They’re not the same things. You edited your comment. “A literal dictionary definition of bisexuality, due to the prefix bi-, is sexual or romantic attraction to two sexes (males and females), or to two genders (men and women). Pansexuality, however, composed with the prefix pan-, is the sexual attraction to a person of any sex or gender.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pansexuality)

          • Sure, even guys who can’t get laid usually give similar answers.
            Still you’re here arguing about breastfeeding.

            (My sexuality is what is, it doesn’t necessarily fits the standard definitions, however, given the standard definitions: both and none, my sexuality fits most of both definitions but not exactly one of them).