Hallelujah! Public health officials begin to push back against the breastfeeding industry


It’s about time!

The USPSTF (US Preventive Services Task Force) has changed its approach on breastfeeding.

According to MedPage Today:

Primary care clinicians should “support” patients who wish to breastfeed their infants, said a draft recommendation statement from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), in an effort to avoid the impression of pressuring women into breastfeeding against their will…

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The breastfeeding industry overplayed its hand.[/pullquote]

.. Alex Kemper, MD, of the USPSTF, told MedPage Today that there has been a slight change in wording from the last statement: using the word “supports” in place of “promotes” to describe the Task Force’s position on breastfeeding.

“The reason the Task Force made this slight word change is to recognize the importance of a mother doing what she feels is best for her and her baby and not wanting to, for example, make mothers feel guilty or bad if they decide not to breastfeed,” he said. “It’s really a personal choice that needs to be made based on her own personal situation.”

It’s a small change, but it is very significant. It’s a sign that public health officials are beginning to push back against the breastfeeding industry.

Breastfeeding has benefits, but in countries with clean water those benefits are small. Nonetheless, doctors, hospitals and public health officials have given the breastfeeding industry free rein to enact an ugly agenda, shaming and harassing women who can’t or don’t breastfeed.

Doctors, hospitals and public health officials allowed La Leche League and related organizations pressure them into:

  • Massively exaggerating the benefits of breastfeeding.
  • Implementing the Orwellian named Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, which is not friendly to babies and remarkably punitive to mothers.
  • Closing well baby nurseries even though there is no evidence it improves breastfeeding rates and a growing body of evidence that it leads to babies being smothered or falling to their deaths from hospital beds.
  • Banning formula gifts, though the burden fell disproportionately on poor women (many of whom were women of color).
  • Concealing the fact that anywhere from 5-15% of women can’t make enough breastmilk to fully nourish a baby.
  • Banning small amounts of formula supplementation in hospitals despite evidence that it is necessary and does not harm the breastfeeding relationship.

The breastfeeding industry never hid its desire to shame and humiliate women, and even as leaders like Dr. Alison Steube acknowledge that the industry’s tactics are both ineffective and based on inaccurate information, many lactivists are howling that their days of humiliating women who don’t mirror their own choices back to them are coming to an end. Comments about Dr. Stuebe’s article on shaming language on the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine’s Facebook page include:

… So we’ll just sit back & watch more & more rampant, aggressive & unethical marketing of infant formula & lie to mothers & babies about risks so as not to hurt their feelings & when their health falters due to the ill effects of formula feeding what will we tell them? …

How about we ban formula advertising? …


… So this is like the 5th really horrific article posted recently. I expect better. The FACT is that most breastfeeding mothers are medically mismanaged in the US and that’s why they “need” to supplement. Let’s chat about that.


… I feel by not shouting from the roof tops the risk of not breastfeeding we are complicit in the resultant diseases that can be acquired. Not responsible but complicit in the vale of silence.

The news that the USPSTF will now support breastfeeding instead of promoting it has been greeted rapturously in some quarters. Melissa Willetts writing for Parents explains:

As a mother who encountered difficulties with breastfeeding, I cannot say how much I love this new approach. Because it’s not necessary to remind me that I’ve “failed” at breastfeeding with language and actions that make it feel like a failure to choose formula. When doctors pressured me to try again, try harder, try more, they only fed into my fear that I sucked as a mom.

I’d much prefer a supportive approach, no matter how I choose to feed my baby. I realize this is a lot about a specific doctor’s bedside manner, but it’s comforting to know a medical task force is finally embracing the notion that breastfeeding isn’t going to work for every single mother on Earth.

The breastfeeding industry is not going down without a fight:

… In response to the new guidelines, which still very clearly say that breast is best, Diana West of breastfeeding advocacy group La Leche League International said, “Women need to understand all of the risks of formula, and benefits of human milk.” She added, “What we really come to understand is that far too often, women feel tremendous regret because they were not given adequate information and support [about breast-feeding] when they needed.”

And what about the women who feel tremendous regret when pressured by the breastfeeding industry even though they can’t or don’t want to breastfeed. Ms. West apparently doesn’t care about them.

The breastfeeding industry overplayed its hand. When given the opportunity to dictate breastfeeding policy it used its power to humiliate and harass women who can’t or won’t breastfeed, instead of concentrating on supporting women who request help.

The decision by the USPSTF to change its language is only a small step, but it is hopefully the first step in doctors, hospitals and public health officials extricating themselves from the clutches of the breastfeeding industry, an industry that has placed promoting breastfeeding ahead of the health and wellbeing of babies and mothers.