Why are breastfeeding advocates so mean?

You are a loser

A Breastfeeding-Family-Friendly City designation?

According to the Daily Tar Heel:

Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents will soon see local stores with signs welcoming breastfeeding mothers and information encouraging the practice of breastfeeding.

The towns are set to become two of the first cities in the country to receive the Breastfeeding-Family-Friendly City Designation. “It’s a pilot for the world,” said Miriam Labbok, director of the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute and UNC professor of maternal and child health.

“There has never been a city that set out to say ‘Hey, we welcome the family.’” Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle announced their support for the Breastfeeding-Family-Friendly City Designation, led by the Carolina Breastfeeding Institute, on Aug. 6. The campaign is in conjunction with the United States Breastfeeding Committee’s National Breastfeeding Month in August.

[pullquote align=”right” color=”#adde25″]It isn’t enough for lactivists to promote breastfeeding; they want to rub formula feeding mothers’ faces in it.[/pullquote]

What does it take to earn the Breastfeeding-Family-Friendly designation?

Providing a welcoming atmosphere for breastfeeding families? Check.

Promoting breastfeeding education? Check.

Humiliating mothers who fomula feed?

Wait, what??!!

I kid you not:

Local groceries also must not promote commercial brand baby formula by preferential placement in the stores or direct advertising.

Labbok, who has been involved in encouraging breastfeeding since the 1980s, said she doesn’t expect all stores to stop selling formula after the launch of the initiative because of the regulations regarding chain grocery stores …

So let’s see if I get this straight: Being friendly to breastfeeding mothers means inconveniencing and humiliating formula feeding mothers?


Because it isn’t enough for lactivists to promote breastfeeding; they want to proclaim their superiority as mothers and then rub formula feeding mothers’ faces in it.

Let’s try a little thought experiment.

Imagine if the “Abstinence Friendly Institute” created a designation for an Abstinence Friendly City, and as part of that designation mandated that condoms, spermicides, and pregnancy tests be hidden from view. Imagine if a professor of abstinence went on record declaring that she doesn’t expect all stores to stop selling contraception and pregnancy tests because of regulations, but wishes she could mandate it.

Most people would be up in arms, as they should be. And I suspect that their anger would not be assuaged by claims that abstinence is safer and healthier than sexual activity, even if that were true.

Why would they be so upset? Because they would recognize such actions as a not so subtle attempts to interfere with a woman’s right to control her own body, and attempts to humiliate women who don’t toe the line.

Similarly, the efforts to hide away or even remove infant formula from stores is also an attempt to interfere with a woman’s right to control her own body and reflects an urge to humiliate women who don’t toe the line.

Who will be hurt by it?

  • Women who can’t breastfeed
  • Women who choose not to breastfeed
  • Poor women who must return to work immediately
  • Victims of sexual abuse who find breastfeeding triggering
  • Adoptive mothers
  • Foster mothers

Why is hurting these women “breastfeeding-friendly”?

It isn’t.

It is, like most supposedly breastfeeding friendly practices, not particularly friendly to breastfeeding, but profoundly friendly to the self-image of lactivists. It isn’t enough for them to breastfeed their own children. Under the guise of promoting infant health, they want to wound anyone who doesn’t mirror their own choices back to them.

And like most purportedly breastfeeding friendly practices, it was created by wealthy, white women and will disproportionately burden poor women and women of color. Who could have seen that coming?

Why are lactivists so mean? Because their self-esteem is bound up in their lactating breasts. It’s apparently not enough to feel superior to formula feeding mothers; the opportunity to rub other mothers’ faces in their supposed inferiority is simply too delicious to pass up.

What should lactivists be doing instead?

First and foremost, they should BACK OFF! The benefits of breastfeeding for term infants in first world countries are trivial. There is absolutely no public health reason to promote breastfeeding so vociferously.

Second, they should take a look in the mirror and they’ll see the woman above, sneering, mean and committed to labeling other mothers as losers. It’s an ugly picture.

Third, they should IMMEDIATELY remove any punitive measures from their breastfeeding promotion efforts. That includes renaming the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative to the Breastfeeding Friendly Hospital Initiative, ending the hiding of formula in hospitals, and stopping the hard sell of breastfeeding within the hospital environment, among other things.

What should the rest of us do?

We should recognize the lactation industry for what it is: an industry committed to increasing profits by increasing market share. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that; it’s capitalism. They have every right to try to increase their profits, but that doesn’t mean that hospitals and public health officials have to help them in what is essentially a business building effort.

We should demand an accounting of return on investment for the tens of millions of dollars already expended to promote breastfeeding. Is there any evidence that lives have been saved? Is there any evidence that money has been saved? If not, we should divert hospital and taxpayer dollars to health initiatives that actually make a difference in health.

Most importantly, we should never give the imprimatur of medicine and public health to efforts to shame other women in order to boost the self-esteem of lactivists.

Lactivists are mean. The rest of us don’t have to be mean, too.