Breastfeeding advocacy is not about convincing women to breastfeed? Tell me another one.

Baby girl.

Yesterday I came across a remarkable claim.

Pediatrician and breastfeeding advocate Dr. Daniel Flanders wrote this on Twitter.


Breastfeeding advocacy is not about convincing moms to breastfeed; it is about enabling and supporting their success if they choose to.

Really? Really??!! On what planet is breastfeeding not about convincing moms to breastfeed?

Surely not this one.

Consider the philosophy statement of La Leche League:

  • Mothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of understanding and satisfying the needs of the baby.
  • Mother and baby need to be together early and often to establish a satisfying relationship and an adequate milk supply.
  • In the early years the baby has an intense need to be with his mother which is as basic as his need for food.
  • Human milk is the natural food for babies, uniquely meeting their changing needs.
  • For the healthy, full-term baby, breast milk is the only food necessary until the baby shows signs of needing solids, about the middle of the first year after birth.
  • Ideally the breastfeeding relationship will continue until the baby outgrows the need.
  • Alert and active participation by the mother in childbirth is a help in getting breastfeeding off to a good start.
  • Breastfeeding is enhanced and the nursing couple sustained by the loving support, help, and companionship of the baby’s father. A father’s unique relationship with his baby is an important element in the child’s development from early infancy.
  • Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible.
  • From infancy on, children need loving guidance which reflects acceptance of their capabilities and sensitivity to their feelings.

Do you see anything there are about restricting breastfeeding promotion to women who have declared that they want to breastfeed? Me, neither.

Or how about the Ten Steps of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative:

  1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
  2. Train all health care staff in the skills necessary to implement this policy.
  3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
  4. Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
  5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
  6. Give infants no food or drink other than breast-milk, unless medically indicated.
  7. Practice rooming in – allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
  8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
  9. Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
  10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or birth center.

Do you see anything there about limiting proselytizing to those women who have declared their intention to breastfeed? Me, neither.

How about this statement from Diane Weissinger’s paper on promoting breastfeeding:


All of us within the profession want breastfeeding to be our biological reference point. We want it to be the cultural norm; we want human milk to be made available to all human babies, regardless of other circumstances.

It’s hard to be clearer than that.

When called on it, Dr. Flanders began backpedaling furiously. Did he say that “breastfeeding advocacy is not about convincing moms to breastfeed”? What he meant is that HIS personal version of breastfeeding advocacy is not about convincing women to breastfeed.

Would he disavow the statements from leading breastfeeding advocates and their organizations?


The Fed Is Best Foundation was created specifically to counter the relentless pressure to breastfeed on women who can’t or don’t wish to do so. I asked Dr. Flanders if he agreed that #FedIsBest.


He responded:

I do not like how the #fedisbest movement has evolved.

When asked to elaborate, he could not or he would not.

Instead, he used a classic obfuscation ploy which he repeated on Facebook where I posted his initial tweet.


Amy, I have said this to you on twitter and will repeat it here (since you thought it appropriate to bring across platforms without mention to me): talking with u is like groundhog day. I know your views on this well. If you haven’t yet figured out mine then you never will. Although I consider it a waste of my time discussing these matters with you, there are a number of interesting folks on this thread with whom I enjoyed dialoguing and I am grateful for the productive discussion.

Yes, Dr. Flanders, I’ve figured out your position. It’s the same passive-aggressive position of many breastfeeding advocates: Pressure women to breastfeed and then, when called on it, deny that you are applying pressure.

Such passive-aggressive behavior has been tolerated for far too long. It’s time to name it, shame it, and force breastfeeding advocates to treat women who can’t or don’t wish to breastfeed with respect.