Alison Stuebe’s no good, very bad analogy between formula and tobacco


Sometimes I wonder if lactivists think what they say before they say it.

Consider this tweet from Dr. Alison Stuebe of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.


Parallels between big tobacco tactics and big formula tactics – look how doubt it being peddled to mother

That tweet is offensive on so many levels that it is difficult to know where to begin.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]I hereby invite Dr. Stuebe to debate me.[/pullquote]

1. The comparison of formula to tobacco is grossly irresponsible. Whereas tobacco is always dangerous and never saves lives, formula is almost never dangerous and saves tens of thousands of babies’ lives each and every year.

2. It is meant to be vicious. The tweet not so subtly implies that women who choose to formula feed are knowingly and willfully harming their babies.

3. It implies that women who don’t breastfeed are dupes. This is not merely an insult to women who choose formula, but it is a denial of their moral agency. This is how lactivists justify ignoring the reasons women give for choosing formula since those women “didn’t choose” to use formula, they were tricked into it.

4. It is an attempt to libel the Fed Is Best Foundation. The implication is the Foundation — which is drawing attention to the very real and deadly risks of relentless breastfeeding promotion — is in the pocket of the formula industry. If Dr. Stuebe has evidence of this, she ought to present it. Otherwise, she ought to stop libeling the Foundation.

5. It is, ironically, projection. Perhaps Dr. Stuebe is not aware that in the wake of the Surgeon General’s report declaring that tobacco smoking causes lung cancer, the tobacco industry tried to deny and induce doubt about the scientific evidence. Now, in the wake of mounting scientific evidence that relentless promotion of breastfeeding is leading to infant injury and death, it is the breastfeeding industry that is trying to deny and induce doubt about the scientific evidence.

How can we address the attempts of the breastfeeding industry to demean women who can’t or don’t wish to formula feed?

I have a suggestion:

I hereby invite Dr. Stuebe to debate me on the issue of the risks of breastfeeding.

We can conduct an debate in print simultaneously on my blog and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine blog so that everyone can be sure that both sides are accurately transmitting the views of the other.

I propose that we address three issues:

  • The risks of breastfeeding, complete with actual incidence figures.
  • The moral agency of women who can’t or don’t breastfeed and their right to be respected.
  • Accusations of collusion between those highlighting the dangers of breastfeeding and the formula industry.

How about it, Dr. Stuebe? Surely you can step outside the lactivist echo chamber to engage briefly with those you criticize.