Babies are dying because breastfeeding advocates are lying


The original photo that got me banned from Facebook is here.

Breastfeeding has a death toll.

In itself that’s not surprising because breastfeeding is yet another aspect of reproduction and all animal reproduction, including human reproduction, has very high rates of wastage from miscarriage, death during childbirth and death in the early months of infancy. What’s surprising is that deaths from breastfeeding, which in industrialized countries had been reduced to zero with the advent of infant formula, have begun to rise again.

The scientific literature contains new and disturbing reports of infant deaths due to hypernatremic dehydration as a result of inadequate breast milk consumption, deaths from falling out of mothers’ hospital beds as a result of pressure to room-in to promote breastfeeding, and, most recently, reports of hyponatremia due to dilution of breastmilk with water. It’s only a matter of time before there are illnesses and deaths from contaminated breastmilk bought and traded on the internet.

Why are these babies dying? They’re dying because lactivists are lying, exaggerating the benefits of breastfeeding far, far beyond anything in the scientific literature. And they’re lying about non-existent “risks” of formula to the point that mothers are afraid to use it even when supplementing with formula is a matter of life and death.

The biggest lie and perhaps the one that has done the most damage is the claim that “breastmilk is the perfect food.” To understand why that claim is a lie we need to consider what characteristics a perfect food for infants would have.

Here are the 3 characteristics that a perfect infant food would have:

1. It should contains all the nutrients and other factors that an infant needs.

2. It must be available in sufficient quantity to promote vigorous growth of the infant.

3. The infant must be able to access it easily.

Any food that does not meet ALL THREE criteria cannot, under any circumstances, be a perfect food for that child. Breastmilk may be the perfect food for some infants, but it is highly imperfect for many others.

Lactivists routinely ignore critera 2 and 3, and babies die as a result. They get around the need for an adequate supply of milk with a claim that is manifestly a lie, the claim that all mothers produce enough milk. It’s pretty clear that up to 5% of mothers cannot produce enough breastmilk to fully meet a baby’s needs. That’s hardly surprising since no biological process is guaranteed to work perfectly. If established pregnancies can have a 20% miscarriage rate, and they do, it is hardly surprising that breastfeeding can have a failure rate of only a fraction of that amount.

Lactivists get around the third criterion with another lie, that every baby is capable of efficiently extracting milk from the breast. Some babies just can’t do it for anatomical reasons, because of weak muscle tone, or because they simply never get the hang of it. It is a serious problem that lactivists simply fail to address.

Those are the critical foundational lies that lead to deaths, but the are accompanied by a myriad of other, smaller lies about the benefits of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding does not prevent asthma, allergies, diabetes, obesity or anything beyond mild respiratory and mild gastrointestinal illnesses. Breastfeeding does NOT increase IQ.

The latest lie to enter the lactivist catalog of lies is the claim that breastfeeding is a public health issue. There has never been EVEN ONE STUDY that has demonstrated that breastfeeding benefits public health. The studies that make the claim of public health benefits or healthcare saving are all theoretical and are based on the ASSUMPTION that breastfeeding provides benefits that are in reality unproven.

Why are lactivists lying? Lactivism is a business and breastfeeding is their product. True, lactivism does not yield multimillion dollar profits, but for lactation consultants and lactivism advocacy groups it yield 100% of profits. Consider the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative that credentials hospitals based on whether they meet specific breastfeeding promotion criteria (criteria that ironically have never even been shown to improve breastfeeding rates). The credentialing organization charged more than $10,000 per hospital for the privilege. Extolling and exaggerating the benefits of breastfeeding improve the bottom line.

Lactivists and their organizations are not lying knowingly, of course. Their belief in the benefits of breastfeeding is akin to religious devotion and like religious devotion is not affected by the actual scientific evidence. They believe, they want everyone else to believe, and they will say nearly anything to convince people to believe, that breastfeeding is critical whether it is true or whether they merely believe it is true.

That wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the dead babies. The deaths make a vet big problem indeed. So let’s be very clear on some important facts.

Breastmilk is NOT the perfect food.

In first world countries, the benefits of breastfeeding are TRIVIAL.

And, most importantly, infant formula is LIFE SAVING for many babies.

The truth is that there has never been a single identified infant death from properly prepared infant formula. In contrast there are quite a few babies who have died as a result of exclusive breastfeeding.

Unfortunately, babies will continue dying until breastfeeding advocates stop lying, so they should temper their rhetoric immediately. Otherwise future deaths will rest on them and their irresponsible, damn the consequences, efforts to promote breastfeeding.


Addendum: I’ve gotten numerous request for citations to the breastfeeding related deaths so here are several:

Breastfeeding-Associated Hypernatremia: Are We Missing the Diagnosis?

The incidence of breastfeeding-associated hypernatremic dehydration among 3718 consecutive term and near-term hospitalized neonates was 1.9%, occurring for 70 infants…

Conclusion. Hypernatremic dehydration requiring hospitalization is common among breastfed neonates…

Neonatal hypernatremic dehydration associated with breast-feeding malnutrition: a retrospective survey

Hypernatraemic dehydration and breast feeding: a population study

Deaths and near deaths of healthy newborn infants while bed sharing on maternity wards

Although bed sharing with infants is well known to be hazardous, deaths and near deaths of newborn infants while bed sharing in hospitals in the United States have received little attention … These events occurred within the first 24 h of birth during ‘skin-to-skin’ contact between mother and infant, a practice promoted by the ‘Baby Friendly’ (BF) initiative … We report 15 deaths and 3 near deaths of healthy infants occurring during skin-to-skin contact or while bed sharing on maternity wards in the United States. Our findings suggest that such incidents are underreported in the United States and are preventable…

In eight cases, the mother fell asleep while breastfeeding. In four cases, the mother woke up from sleep but believed her infant to be sleeping when an attendant found the infant lifeless. One or more risk factors that are known or suspected (obesity and swaddling) to further increase the risk of bed sharing were present in all cases. These included … maternal sedating drugs in 7 cases; cases excessive of maternal fatigue, either stated or assumed if the event occurred within 24 h of birth in 12 cases; pillows and/or other soft bedding present in 9 cases; obesity in 2 cases; maternal smoking in 2 cases; and infant swaddled in 4 cases.