Breastfeeding and “the science”

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That woman is not too bright, sorry to say. She has no credentials, her sources are limited and biased, and she is obviously just trying to reason away her own guilt for not breastfeeding …

No, that lactivist is not talking about me. She’s talking about Charlotte Faircloth, another professional who pointed out that the benefits of breastfeeding are far smaller than what advocates claim. Faircloth discusses this response in her paper ‘What Science Says is Best’: Parenting Practices, Scientific Authority and Maternal Identity.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Lactivists don’t read scientific papers, don’t know what they show and don’t care anyway.[/pullquote]

Faircloth explains the meaning of “the science” to lactivists and the paradoxical invocation of scientific evidence by women who are just as likely to ignore science when they feel like it.

Simply put, lactivists don’t read scientific papers, don’t know what they show and don’t care anyway. “The science” is simply a convenient cudgel which lactivists use to metaphorically hammer away at women who do not follow their example:

The scientific benefits of breastfeeding and attachment parenting serve as a (seemingly) morally neutral cannon about which mothers can defend their mothering choices and ‘spread the word’ about appropriate parenting. I noticed that for some particular women, sharing ‘information’ with other mothers … was a source of great enjoyment – as Felicity in the quote above puts it, she is ‘super empowered’ with the knowledge that she has. Amelia, cited above, also said that she felt ‘like a genius on a planet of idiots.’ Any criticisms she has of other women are de-personalised, because science ‘has no emotional content…’

“A mother describes how she responds to those who criticise her decision to breastfeed her son until his seventh birthday, by saying: ‘I mean, do you want to see studies? Because I can show you studies!’ There are laughs and cheers from the rest of the group.”

But lactivists, who have basically no idea what the actual scientific evidence shows, use “the science” in another way:

Arguably, ‘science’ here is not about understanding, but belief. The use of ‘evidence’ has reached the level of the quasi-religious; not in the sense that the beliefs are other-worldly (quite the opposite) but that they are held to be beyond the possibility of doubt and revered as truth.

In other words, belief is described as “science” in order to trade on the reputation of science. As Faircloth notes:

In many ways, however, it is ironic that my informants refer to science, since many attachment parenting advocates are openly sceptical about scientific knowledge… What is interesting then, is the selective use (and mis-use) of scientific evidence to support certain (moral) discourses about parenting. (my emphasis)

Appeals to “the science” are a rhetorical strategy, and a rather cynical one at that. The very same people who ignore the scientific evidence on the dangers of homebirth, who openly spurn the World Health Organization recommendations on vaccination, and who dismiss the scientific evidence on circumcision by insisting it is only relevant in the developing world choose to misinterpret and misuse the scientific evidence on the limited benefits of breastfeeding.

This cynical misuse of science finds ultimate expression in public health campaigns to promote breastfeeding. That’s why these campaigns continue even though they have been failure on their own terms. The activists who create them, run them and promote them are far more interested in promoting their personal beliefs than in increasing breastfeeding rates.

In Faircloth’s words “sharing ‘information’ with other mothers … was a source of great enjoyment.” That’s because lactivists are not “sharing,” they are browbeating other women as a method of enhancing their own self esteem. As Faircloth notes:

When ‘science’ says something is healthiest for infants, it has the effect, for [lactivists], of shutting down debate; that is, it dictates what parents should do.

Critically, for lactivists, it allows them to “moralize” the choice of infant feeding. In the minds of lactivists, “the science” turns breastfeeding from a choice to an obligation, the classic is-ought confusion.

… [U]nder the assumption that science contains ‘no emotional content’, a wealth of agencies with an interest in parenting – from policy makers and ‘experts’ to groups of parents themselves – now have a language by which to make what might better be termed moral judgements about appropriate childcare practices. [But] ‘Science’ is not a straightforward rationale in the regulation of behaviour, rather, it is one that requires rigorous sociological questioning and debate in delimiting the parameters of this ‘is’ and the ‘ought’.

Hence the example with which the piece began, the vituperation directed at Faircloth for pointing out that the scientific evidence on breastfeeding is rather weak, and, at best, shows only a small, limited benefit. Lactivists responded with anger because their own self conception and their ability to feel superior to other women rests on presenting “the science” as firm, strong, unequivocal and dispositive. In the case of breastfeeding, it is none of the above.


The only thing that has changed since this piece first appeared in March 2011 is that more purported benefits of breastfeeding have been debunked while other soon to be debunked benefits have been proposed.

112 Responses to “Breastfeeding and “the science””

  1. Mildredmmccaskill
    July 18, 2017 at 1:09 am #

    my roomate’s ex wife gets $81 every hour on the laptop… she has been unemployed for 11 months but the previous month her profit was $15430 just working at home three hours per day… ➤see

  2. Dr Sarah
    July 15, 2017 at 1:06 pm #

    “A mother describes how she responds to those who criticise her decision
    to breastfeed her son until his seventh birthday, by saying: ‘I mean,
    do you want to see studies? Because I can show you studies!’”

    If someone said that to me, my answer would be an unequivocal ‘Yes’, and I would be willing to bet money on the fact that those studies would not, in fact, be looking at breastfeeding seven-year-old children.

  3. EmbraceYourInnerCrone
    July 12, 2017 at 8:35 am #

    Sorta on topic: I watched this seasons first episode of Adam Ruins everything and it was all about pregnancy and babies. It was great, it covered Why formula isn’t poison! Why we need to talk more about Postpartum Depression! and a bunch of other topics. It was awesome

  4. Petticoat Philosopher
    July 11, 2017 at 10:29 pm #

    I’ve noticed that science deniers tend to fall roughly into two categories: People who disregard the authority or validity of science altogether and people who do believe in science as a concept (or think they do), but think that they’ve got the right science and The Establishment has the wrong science. Far more people seem to fall into the latter category, though they can be inconsistent too, ie. “Science doesn’t know everything but here is a thing that I read on some blogs that Science definitely knows.”

    Also…seven? Seven? Look, I’m aware that, just as women get judged for not breastfeeding or not breastfeeding long enough, other women also get judged if they’re seen as breastfeeding for “too long” and I try not to unthinkingly join the ever-present chorus of women-judging. But seven? I really have to wonder what nutritional or health benefits the “studies” supposedly show for breastfeeding a child that age. I mean, what could possibly be the perks of that in people’s minds? Seems to me that Mom is likely getting more out of the whole thing due to some serious codependency than Kid is–though I often feel that way about Xtreme attachment and “natural” parenting.

  5. yentavegan
    July 11, 2017 at 3:23 pm #

    Can we have a civil discussion concerning a seven year old human being who nurses? I will tell you this, from my experience ( yes, I am aware it is anecdotal) children who continue to latch and suckle at this advanced age often have so much tumult and drama in their lives and in the lives of their parents, that the only thing reliable and dependable is the nursing.

    • Empress of the Iguana People
      July 11, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

      I suppose it’s like my thumb sucking into my teens. Tumult indeed.

    • Focus
      July 11, 2017 at 5:26 pm #

      Long time reader, newish poster here: In One situation I was aware of, the child continued nursing due to fear of consequences. The mom would cry that the child was leaving her when the child would opt not to suckle. The child would then cease playing with friends to go suckle mom. When the child decided they were done night nursing, the mom moved the child from the family bed into their own Room at the same time. The child had never slept alone before. When the child would assert independence, they would be penalized.

      • Petticoat Philosopher
        July 11, 2017 at 10:32 pm #

        This is horrifying but not surprising. I think a lot of these extreme practices are about the parents’ need to be needed, not the actual needs of the children. This crosses over into emotional abuse but its’ hardly unique either. I’ve read some articles about “natural” medicine for childhood illnesses that have made my skin crawl. Some of the writers openly advertise that one of the benefits of natural medicine at home is that your child feels dependent on you, and not some medically trained inteloper, for comfort and healing when they are sick. That’s shudder-worthy enough and that’s not even getting into what some of the “treatments” are…

        • swbarnes2
          July 11, 2017 at 11:48 pm #

          I think a lot of it ties into these women’s very sexist self-identification with the feminine function of their bodies. If they aren’t men, and they aren’t doing feminine body functions, I think they honestly don’t know what value they have. Once they stop breastfeeding, they are no better a parent than Dad is (and I don’t think they think much of Dad’s parenting skills)

          • Roadstergal
            July 12, 2017 at 3:10 am #

            That’s an interesting point. It’s a very small n, but the extreme AP/lactivist parents I know are very ‘dad can’t do anything with the kids’ types. I think they – consciously or not – don’t allow the dad to work on his parenting skills with the kids, so self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s a nice way to be the center of the kid’s life when they’re young, but as you say – when your entire image of a mother is based on vaginal birth and breastfeeding, the experience of being a mother when the birth is way in the past and your breasts are no longer part of nurturing must equate to ‘as useless as a dad.’

            Ugh, there’s so much wrong there.

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
            July 12, 2017 at 8:30 am #

            YUp, the whole “men/boys don’t have the instincts for baby care that women/girls do” ” girls jus naturally know what babies want” ummm NO, I got pushed into caring for my younger brothers at a young age, so did my older sister. She was 9 when my brother was born and was expected to sometimes change diapers or feed the baby if my mother was busy. She and I were both pushed into babysitting first for my brothers and then for the kids of my mom’s friends. You learn as you go. My brothers actually got more experience with baby care than a lot of boys born in the 60s as my mom did some child care at our house and they sometimes had to help out… My husband was about 14 when his older sister had her baby(she lived with his parents) and he was the person who was the best at calming his baby nephew.
            My long winded way of saying yeah if you tell men and boys often enough that they don’t have the “secret feminine knowledge” about baby care and figuring out their kids they will believe you. My other pet peeve is when people call dads caring for their own kids “babysitting”

            I have friends with newborn infants who are already doing the “Girls are this way and have this temperament and Boys are naturally this was and have this temperament” argh

          • MaineJen
            July 12, 2017 at 8:55 am #

            Exactly. You learn as you go, male or female. I didn’t know jack #$% before I had my son, despite having 3 younger siblings…I was too young when they were born to remember anything about caring for them. And guess what? Babies are different from dolls. Who knew?

          • Empress of the Iguana People
            July 12, 2017 at 8:56 am #

            I get people telling me this all the time. BoyBard definitely has a lot of the “boy” attributes but loves -his- babies, both the plastic one and the human one. Someone told me that girls automatically hug their toys and boys automatically play rough. *eyeroll* GirlBard is as attracted to her big brother’s trains and cars as she is to his Snoopy. (Though none of them compare to *her* Snoopy)

          • Azuran
            July 12, 2017 at 9:29 am #

            I don’t think women are inherently better, it’s just that society molds them that way. Older sisters are expected to take care of their younger siblings more than older brothers. A lot of my friends who had babies recently, myself included, voiced the opinion that having a girl as a first child is better because she can help more than a boy with the future hypothetical younger siblings.
            My OLDER brother was absolutely never asked or expected to take care or our 2 younger siblings, I was the one who had to do it.
            We don’t usually give baby dolls to little boys, or plastic kitchens. But virtually every single girl has barbies and dolls. You don’t know what to give to the chill of your friend for her b-day? You get her a doll/barbie and lego for the boy.

            And it just keeps going that way until we have our own baby.
            My SO’s family’s expectation of him are pretty much at the level of ‘don’t drop the baby’
            He’s actually doing good, but he’s more ‘helping me take care of the baby’ than ‘taking care of the baby’

          • Roadstergal
            July 12, 2017 at 10:48 am #

            I agree 100%. Not just for child care, but domestic duties in general. Boys aren’t expected to cook or clean or vacuum or… etc, because boys aren’t good at it, and because they never practice and learn, they never get good at it. Round and round.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            July 12, 2017 at 11:11 am #

            One of our projects this summer is to have our boys (8 and 6) start learning to cook a little. Starting with grilling meat and making mac and cheese for the 8 yo. The 6 yo can grill hot dogs.

            I want to get the 8 yo up to browning hamburger. I figure, browning hamburger and making noodles are fundamental skills that are the start of a lot of things.

          • Petticoat Philosopher
            July 12, 2017 at 11:58 am #

            Scrambled eggs! That’s a good one for kids to learn that serves you for a lifetime. I learned it when I was about 8.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            July 12, 2017 at 2:12 pm #

            Yes, another good one!

            I also need to get him making pancakes. He’s done it before, but it would be good to practice. Considering that he eats pancakes every friggin morning, he could just as well make them himself.

          • Christy
            July 13, 2017 at 10:27 am #

            Roo is 17 months old and one of his favorite things is “helping” his Dad by stirring the pancake batter. :o)

          • Nick Sanders
            July 12, 2017 at 4:06 pm #

            French Toast as well, perhaps.

          • Azuran
            July 12, 2017 at 12:08 pm #

            That’s a good thing to learn. I still remember how my older brother had a breakdown and a fight with my mom because we were eating sandwiches and he didn’t know how to make sandwiches……he was freaking 17….

          • BeatriceC
            July 12, 2017 at 12:13 pm #

            Invest in good quality bowls, utensils and other basic kitchen equipment, that’s comfortable for smaller hands as well as adults. Pretty much the best money I ever spent was making sure I had break-resistant and comfortable to use stuff in my kitchen so little hands could do a lot of helping. Also, if you can afford it, install a small counter at their height. It makes a huge difference.

          • Empress of the Iguana People
            July 12, 2017 at 3:40 pm #

            My assistant chef is all of 3, so he’s helping by picking out vegetables from the fridge and putting things in the pot. It’s a start and he feels *very* grownup. 🙂

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
            July 12, 2017 at 4:00 pm #

            Baking can be fun and you can sneak in math lessons too! Measuring, fractions, How baking is like chemistry(playing around with measurements can lead to BAD results.) Plus you get to eat the cookies as you bake.

          • Nick Sanders
            July 12, 2017 at 4:24 pm #

            Honestly, I’d encourage playing around with the measurements. Yeah, sometimes it can go south, but it can also lead to unexpected delight. For the longest time I was afraid to go so much as a milliliter outside of whatever recipe I was using, and it caused me a lot of unnecessary stress.

          • Dr Kitty
            July 18, 2017 at 5:49 pm #

            Do they like eggs?

            If they do, start with eggs.
            Boiled eggs and how to time them, then scrambled eggs and how not to overcook them, then adding bacon/ onions/cheese/ peppers etc to make omelettes.

            It’s very easy, quick, very safe cookery and it’s cheap if they screw up. If your kid overcooks a fillet steak or burns an entire lasagna it is less fun.

            You can also start them with making salads if you want to hone their knife skills and get them to experiment with different combinations of veggies and dressings.
            Orange, carrot and tomato salad became a favourite of DD.

            My daughter and DH do NOT like eggs.
            He doesn’t cook (well, he does, but you wouldn’t want to eat what he cooks).
            I really enjoy cooking, and find it relaxing so I’m happy to do that in our house.
            My daughter likes to chop onions and peppers and will help stir and season sauces. She also LOVES shaping meatballs for me.

            Probably our one dish that ended up mostly made by her was Chinese pork dumplings- as it involved a trip to the Chinese supermarket it was also a field trip! She grated the garlic and ginger, measured the soy sauce, chopped the scallions, mixed it with the minced pork, shaped it into balls and wrapped it in the wrappers herself- I just did the frying and steaming.

            We had it as a starter for Chinese New Year, so there were menus to be devised, written and decorated and YouTube videos on chopsticks to be watched too. Occasionally I am inspired to do actual Pinterest-worthy parenting, and this was one of those rare occasions.

          • maidmarian555
            July 12, 2017 at 11:27 am #

            I will be forever greatful to my MIL, who raised her son to be a fully functioning adult who knows how to cook and clean. If anything, he’s more domesticated than me. He also (despite the fact he’s the one working full time) splits all the childcare duties with me and there is nothing he does for his son that I would say that I’m ‘better’ at. Hopefully we’ll be able to raise our children with the same attitude but it’s not easy when the messages and lessons you’re giving them at home appear so contradictory to the messages and societal pressure that’s inflicted from outside it though. In 2017. One would have thought we’d be past all this by now.

          • momofone
            July 12, 2017 at 11:55 am #

            I never got to meet my MIL, but like you, I’m incredibly grateful to her for raising her son to be fully functioning. I knew he was the person for me when I came home from work one day while he was visiting and he said he hoped I didn’t mind that he’d taken out the trash since he noticed it needed to be done. He is better than I am at most household things, definitely at keeping things rolling overall; I tend to start something and get distracted, then start something else, and so on. He’s stayed home since our son was born, and the only thing I did for our son that he couldn’t/didn’t do was breastfeed (though he cleaned the pump and packed the bag and put in a lot more physical work than I did), and now he jokes that he’d even have to do that, since he wears the nipples in our family now (mine having left via bilateral mastectomies). 😀

          • maidmarian555
            July 12, 2017 at 2:09 pm #

            I did the breastfeeding, but it was my OH who got up at 3am in the very early days to give wee man a bottle so I could sleep. There was one night where we went up to bed and I was going to feed the baby before putting him down in his cot. His Dad picked him up bare chested and he tried to latch on to his hairy chest! He’s such a Daddy’s boy I think had he been able to choose he’d have rather had boob from his father than me. He’s turning out to be a lovely little affectionate boy, I hope it continues.

          • BeatriceC
            July 12, 2017 at 12:10 pm #

            MrC is 22 years my senior, and of a different generation in regards to gender roles and domestic duties. He does get sad from time to time thinking about his daughters’ younger years. He’s a little bit intimidated by babies, and he did a lot of just letting his first wife take over instead of learning himself. He regrets that. He wasn’t a complete clod, as he did do stuff when asked, and took over a lot of the other domestic stuff, but the actual hands on childcare he didn’t do a lot of until they were a little older (his girls talk about what a great hair dresser he is, and even now he’ll brush out my hair when it gets matted, so I believe them). He certainly wasn’t a bad dad, but he fell to the stereotypes back then.

            Then the shit hit the fan. His first wife passed away when the girls were barely 13. He suddenly found himself a single father having to do *everything*. Let’s just say it really didn’t go well at first, and they pretty much lived off bean burritos, hamburgers, and baked chicken, which were the only things he could cook, until the girls learned how to cook themselves.

            Contrasted to that, I was raised that girls could do anything (there’s some weird gender dynamics in my parents’ house). I’m just as comfortable working on my car or fixing the plumbing as I am in the kitchen. That’s how I’m raising my boys. Hopefully, they’ll never find themselves in the same position their step father was in all those years ago, but if they are, they, at the very least, won’t have to worry about not knowing how to run a house and take care of kids.

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
            July 12, 2017 at 12:26 pm #

            The gender dynamic is not so weird when you think about it this way: Girls are raised(somewhat) now to think they can do anything, “girl” things like child care, house cleaning, cooking and “boy” things like car care, lawn mowing, home repairs, computers repairs. BUT in many cases and places anything that is coded as “female” is seen as lesser. That’s the reason parents who are fine with their daughters liking taking engines apart or learning programming have a freak-out when their sons want to be a dancer, or a nursery school teacher, or play with a doll or a toy vacuum. Mustn’t let our boys be effeminate!!!! what could be worse than that!!! I am 55 and I hear this from people half my age. It’s depressing. Think how much less, female dominated professions are respected.

          • BeatriceC
            July 12, 2017 at 12:49 pm #

            The weirdness is a little beyond that, which is why I call it weird. My father, in high school, looked very much like the linebackers on the school’s football team, and might have actually been more muscled. But he wasn’t on the football team. He played the flute and piccolo in the marching and concert bands. And while my parents had a pretty traditional division of labor around the house, in a pinch my father would do any and all housework except wash dishes and take out trash. He’s also an excellent cook. My brother was put into the same chore rotation as the 5 girls. They didn’t bat an eye at my son’s passion for ballet and then figure skating. They even helped finance it for a while.

            On the other hand, they’re fundamentalist catholics, and the husband rules the home and the wife is expected to submit in everything, and a wife telling her husband no to sex is about the worst thing ever; even worse than sex before marriage. The only reason a girl should get a college education is to support herself before she finds a husband, and then to be a well educated teacher for the children she’s expected to pop out. She’s supposed to quit her job once she gets married. It’s just weird.

          • Petticoat Philosopher
            July 12, 2017 at 5:07 pm #

            Hmm, interesting about the wife telling her husband no to sex being the worst thing ever. I kind of thought that was a significant difference between fundamentalist Catholics and fundamentalist evangelicals–in Catholicism, if you’re doing NFP like you’re supposed to, you have to be saying no a lot! Most evangelicals allow at least some forms of birth control so Wife has “no excuse” to ever refuse.

          • BeatriceC
            July 12, 2017 at 6:15 pm #

            Oh, even if you’re doing NFP, if the man has the urge during a fertile time, that means it’s God’s will, so you still can’t say no.

          • Petticoat Philosopher
            July 14, 2017 at 12:25 am #


          • Empress of the Iguana People
            July 12, 2017 at 3:35 pm #

            I’m trying to teach Demodocus some of this stuff. He cooks on weekends but needs to expand his repretoire. (MIL hates cooking and never taught either kid any; when we started dating, my then 10 year old brother could’ve given my 21 year old boyfriend lessons.) But he’s terrified of putting clothes on the baby and struggles getting the kids buckled up.

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
            July 12, 2017 at 12:17 pm #

            This is why I got my daughter doctor kits, tool kits, Legos, Lincoln logs, tinker toys, chemistry sets and kid microscopes. Also built her a PC of her own when she turned 4. She also got dolls, toy food and cookware, kid cook books, kid Science experiment books, and a geology club membership(they mailed her different rock samples each month.) My sisters youngest boy had a favorite doll for years.

            I try to buy gender neutral toys for kids I don’t know well: coloring books, crayons, blocks, books, art supplies.

          • J.B.
            July 12, 2017 at 11:37 am #

            I loudly exclaimed when I heard my mother in law on the phone with my husband (cell phone, her voice carries) that “it’s not babysitting it’s parenting!” Soon I will be addressing her “glad she didn’t have girls” statement, made in the next room over from my girls. Alex, I’ll take internalized misogyny for $500.

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
            July 12, 2017 at 11:21 am #

            What do these parents do when their kid goes to school and makes friends, listens to teachers, etc? Or do they home school to keep their kids from becoming independent? So many questions…

          • J.B.
            July 12, 2017 at 11:34 am #

            Home school

          • Petticoat Philosopher
            July 12, 2017 at 11:50 am #

            I mean, I don’t want to blame it all on women here. There are plenty of men who are happy to let parenting be Mom’s job…Christ, people still talk about men “baby-sitting” their own children. (RAGE!!!) But things like that only change with increased societal expectation and perpetuating the Doofy Dad trope doesn’t help. But, yeah, some women seem to need it for their own sense of identity. (Thanks for nothing, sisters!)

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            July 12, 2017 at 2:10 pm #

            A little story about the old days on WTE: some woman was complaining about how her husband never did any housework. Then, one time, he did try to vacuum the living room carpet, but he did such a lousy job that she had to go in and do it over.

            My response? Why do you think your husband doesn’t bother doing any homework? If your response when he tries is to criticize him and do it for him, then what you’ve done is to teach him he’s not good enough. The other women weren’t happy, but I was saying, hey, you could listen to a guy perspective or continue bitching that they don’t do anything.

            This same thing will happen with parenting. If the only message the dad gets is that he is doing it wrong, or that he only can do it wrong, then he is not going to do it. Of course, from an AP mom perspective, that’s good, but then again, would Dad really complain? OK, she insists that she is the only one who can take care of the baby…OK, I’ll sit over here and play video games.

          • Petticoat Philosopher
            July 12, 2017 at 2:35 pm #

            I’m gonna push back a little on this because men have agency. You’re kind of framing things like men are children that needs lots of praise and positive reinforcement if they are to be expected to contribute when, actually, that’s just something that an adult ought to understand is an expectation. The way we raise males when they are actual children is at issue here, which is why I get pissed off when when parents treat their boys like they are little princes who never have to help out. (Your sons are going to be dating and possibly living with and marrying people some day, parents! Remember that!) And yes, if your male actual child does a lousy job at some household task, you still praise him to encourage the behavior if the kid is little enough that a lousy job is really all you can expect. (Little kids can be pretty bad at “cleaning,” as I’m sure you know, but they’re still trying, which is to be encouraged.) If they’re a bit older, mix the praise with some tips on how to do a better job.

            But adult women are not obligated to parent their adult male partners in this way and men are not so fragile that they’re just totally not to blame if they slack on contributing to household maintenance because Wife?Girlfriend was a Mean Meaniehead. Plus, some men use doing a sloppy job as way to get out of household maintenance altogether. Hence “You’re just better at this than I am!” or “You just care more than I do, I don’t see anything wrong with this!” Which means a lot of women are just going to conclude that if they want a job done decently, they’re just going to have to do it themselves and Husband/Boyfriend can go on playing video games. And that’s crap. Cleaning is just not so difficult that any adult can’t do an at least competent job if they’re actually trying. Some things you need to actually learn how to do but most cleaning tasks are things I was never actually taught. My parents just decided I was old enough one day and asked me to do them. I was not “taught” to vacuum. I’d seen other people do it, I knew how a vacuum worked, I understood what the purpose of vacuuming was, therefore I figured I ought to push the vacuum around until there wasn’t visible crap all over the rug anymore. Bingo! Vacuuming! So I’m not willing to let dudes off the hook when they slack or are sloppy. Yes, some people do have ridiculously high standards but most people really don’t. And I’m not saying the solution is easy when the guy hasn’t been raised right but it’s not his partner’s job to raise him instead when he’s an adult. I say, stick with guys that have already been raised, or have figured out how to compensate for the gaps they were raised with–there are plenty of those.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            July 13, 2017 at 11:12 am #

            You’re kind of framing things like men are children that needs lots of praise and positive reinforcement

            Praise? Not at all. I agree that should be the expectation that they do it right. But then again, that begs the question of what is right? This is the question.

            Maybe he was raised to participate in cleaning, but the expectations were not that the area pass the white glove test? Maybe what he did for cleaning was acceptable in his household?

            The standards of what constitutes acceptably clean are not absolute. If she has a higher standard, it’s not that he did it wrong, just not up to her standard. It’s real easy to say, “next time be sure to dust the baseboards” instead of “you don’t know what you’re doing, let me show you.”

            The criticism in this case is not that the husband didn’t do the housework. It’s that he didn’t do it well enough. Given that, work together to figure out what standard you both can agree on. Doing it for him because he doesn’t do it to your satisfaction is not working together. You want so that he does it to both of your satisfactions.

          • Kerlyssa
            July 12, 2017 at 3:03 pm #

            lotta dudes do shit badly in passive aggression, to get out of doing the chores. teenage boys generally were ok w learning to clean at the restaurant i worked at, they honestly just never had been given any sort of house chores before and were ok w taking instruction from (an older) woman, but the grown ass men… yikes. the unequal division of home labor is not a female tone issue. if y’all don’t know how to pull your weight in a domestic situation, or to negotiate are chores you don’t like/think you are bad at, the onus is not on the woman to pick up the slack

          • Petticoat Philosopher
            July 12, 2017 at 3:57 pm #

            lol, I remember being a 17-year-old movie theater concession stand employee and having to teach a new teenage male employee how to clean. I mean, I’d been working there for longer and I expected that I’d have to show him some ropes but I didn’t expect those to be things like “This is how you wipe things.” He’d never been taught or expected to do that stuff at home. He learned though.

            If he has a female partner today, you’re welcome, girl!

          • Jeff
            July 13, 2017 at 10:36 am #

            Hey, you’re a racist piece of shit. I hope you get Hep-C. And tell your friend onamission that I would use her mouth as a toilet bowl if she ever opened it to me in real life.

          • Empress of the Iguana People
            July 13, 2017 at 12:21 pm #

            What the hell brought that on?

          • Jeff
            July 13, 2017 at 12:28 pm #

            Her liberal use of slurs

          • Empress of the Iguana People
            July 13, 2017 at 12:33 pm #

            not here she hasn’t,

          • Jeff
            July 13, 2017 at 12:36 pm #

            Then mind your own business. Nobody asked you.

          • LaMont
            July 13, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

            Public comment threads aren’t private business, commenting on one isn’t intrusion into “someone else’s business” in any way – you’ve thrown abusive language at people, and alleged things not in evidence here. Saying so is not equivalent to being a busybody.

          • Jeff
            July 13, 2017 at 12:50 pm #

            I’ve said what needed to be said.

          • Empress of the Iguana People
            July 13, 2017 at 12:52 pm #

            Well, then, do you have something to share about *this* discussion about how some people are getting so obsessed with the (evidently marginal) benefits of breastfeeding that they convince some parents to starve their newborns in the quest for exclusive breastfeeding?
            This is a public blog. Anyone can respond to what anyone else here says. You followed Petticoat here to call her names. If that’s all you have to add to *our* discussion then why don’t you go back to whatever site you’re arguing with her on.

          • Jeff
            July 13, 2017 at 12:54 pm #


          • Petticoat Philosopher
            July 13, 2017 at 8:41 pm #

            The comments are gone, so I don’t know what the fuck happened here. Though I suspect that it may have to do with the fact that I’m a moderator on another blog and yesterday I had to give someone banning warnings when they air-dropped in to aggressively insult complete strangers. (This induced a complete troll melt-down.) He left before either he or one of the other mods had to drop the banhammer but maybe he had other plans.

          • Empress of the Iguana People
            July 13, 2017 at 8:44 pm #

            He called you a racist and some other less nice stuff. Never a good sign when Dr. A uses her delete ability. Dude’s nym was Jeff.

          • Petticoat Philosopher
            July 13, 2017 at 9:00 pm #

            Yep, as I suspected.

            I’m a mod at Love Joy Feminism on patheos, which (as you might guess) is a social justice-oriented blog. Jeff dropped in and started randomly insulting people for reasons that were somewhat mysterious and responded very badly when I and another mod warned him (pretty nicely) and suggested that he read the commenting policy. He decided that we were telling him to “get his black ass out” or something like that and when I sensibly pointed out that we’re on the internet and it’s weird to accuse people of behaving in a racist manner towards you when they don’t actually know your race until you tell them, he told us we were racist. Later on in conversation, at some point, I also began a sentence with “Bro” (Also “dude” and other generic, informal terms frequently applied to men), and this was apparently further proof that I hated Black people, rather than objected to him calling other people on the comments section names and insulting them for no apparent reason. Apparently another mod finally did ban him and I didn’t notice until just now so I guess that’s why he felt the need to vent his spleen here (although this all happened yesterday…)

            I generally take charges of racism seriously and try to remain aware that well-meaning people can be unintentionally racist or offensive and I have no reason to hold myself above that possibility. But I honestly don’t think he actually thought any of the treatment of him was racist. I think he thought it would be a hoot to drop into a progressive space and start accusing people of being racist, expecting them to twist themselves into pretzels of panic and remorse at his feet, since everything else he did was a truly bizarre, incoherent display of extreme, aggressive neediness and attention-seeking.

            Sorry everyone…

          • Kerlyssa
            July 13, 2017 at 9:08 pm #

            i saw and reported them when they were posted- it was some guy you had a modversation w about threats or something on another blog

          • Petticoat Philosopher
            July 13, 2017 at 8:42 pm #

            Not anywhere I haven’t…

          • Azuran
            July 13, 2017 at 12:52 pm #

            So……because she used slurs somewhere else, you stalk her around and come over and use slurs against her?

          • Empress of the Iguana People
            July 13, 2017 at 1:08 pm #

            I wonder if he did the deletes or if Dr. A. did. Certainly that first post was questionable.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD
            July 13, 2017 at 2:15 pm #

            I did.

          • Empress of the Iguana People
            July 13, 2017 at 6:53 pm #

            He stalked me to a baby naming site just to tell me to f^&k off. *snort*

          • Petticoat Philosopher
            July 13, 2017 at 8:39 pm #

            Huh? Apparently, I missed something if this is all about me. (My name has been mentioned.) I make a habit of not using slurs anywhere. The comments have been deleted, so I don’t know what I’m supposed to have said…

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            July 13, 2017 at 10:57 am #

            teenage boys generally were ok w learning to clean at the restaurant i worked at,

            And that is the key. Learning. No one learns to do it if someone just comes in and redoes it for them.

          • Kerlyssa
            July 13, 2017 at 11:07 am #

            yeah, and i’m not being paid to manage a grown ass man anymore. like i said, the grown men were trouble. there’s not a damn thing you need to do around the house that isn’t covered in a youtube video- if you do something and it doesn’t come out right, work on it. yeah, a woman can take a look at a guy who ‘doesn’t know’ how to vacuum or mop or w/e and decide, it’ll be easier to do it myself then have to train and manage and bully him into doing it better.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            July 13, 2017 at 11:22 am #

            there’s not a damn thing you need to do around the house that isn’t covered in a youtube video-

            In the story I related, the problem was not that he didn’t do anything around the house. It was that it wasn’t good enough for her. No youtube video is going to tell the standard for how clean something has to be to be acceptable.

            When I wash the car, I am happy to get most the dirt off the most obvious areas. I don’t clean the undercarriage, and I don’t worry about waxing it. Others might insist on doing that.

            If they ask me to wash their car, I will wash it to the standard that I consider acceptable, and maybe even a little more. They come out to inspect, and consider it unacceptable because I didn’t do all the things they would have done.

            Is that because I am trouble and don’t know how to wash a car? Do I need to watch a youtube video?

          • Young CC Prof
            July 13, 2017 at 1:58 pm #

            Yeah, it’s one thing when someone claims to “help” by doing a chore and does it so badly that things get damaged or it really needs to get redone. In that case, the “helper” needs to stop being proud of himself and learn to do it right.

            It’s another thing when the person who usually does the chore has a really unusually high standard or specific way of doing it and insists on redoing everything because it wasn’t just so. In that case, perhaps person who usually does the chore needs to back off and be a bit more open to help.

          • shay simmons
            July 18, 2017 at 5:05 pm #

            there’s not a damn thing you need to do around the house that isn’t covered in a youtube videoM

            Or boot camp.

          • Azuran
            July 13, 2017 at 11:47 am #

            One time, my SO decided to help me by passing the vacuum. He basically spent 5 minutes vacuuming the corners to remove the big rolls of dog hair that accumulated there, he did nothing else. Then he was super proud of himself when he explained to me that now that he had removed like 25% of the dog hair, I could wait another 1-2 days before passing the vacuum properly.
            He genuinely thought he was being helpful and didn’t understand why I was unimpressed ¬_¬

          • shay simmons
            July 18, 2017 at 5:04 pm #

            This is why I married a Marine. You could eat off our bathroom floors.

            (if you were the kind of weird person who eats off floors, that is).

          • Christy
            July 13, 2017 at 10:02 am #

            My husband was pretty insecure in his parenting role at first. It’s been so sweet to see him really grow into it as Roo gets older. Not to mention giving me more time! Why would anyone would want to shut their (nonabusive) partner out of caregiving? I guess I’m just not the martyr type.

          • Stinger
            July 12, 2017 at 10:20 am #

            Such an a-hole.

      • MaineJen
        July 12, 2017 at 8:53 am #

        Oh jesus. That’s terrible. Paging Dr. Freud….seriously, way to put all your own hangups on your kid’s shoulders, lady >:(

      • StephanieJR
        July 12, 2017 at 9:45 am #

        Can we start a GoFundMe for the therapy this kid will need? That is the incredibly narcissistic actions of an emotional abuser.

    • Merrie
      July 11, 2017 at 11:06 pm #

      My daughter just turned 6 and I can’t imagine still nursing her. I’m just like… no, that is such a BIG KID! We nursed until just shy of 2 and I was starting to get pretty sick of it. Gave it up around 18 months with her brother. He’s now 3 1/2 and I can a little more readily imagine nursing him still, as he still seems a bit toddlerish in some ways. But I was just ready to be done at the point that I weaned them. I know people who nurse kids who are 2 1/2 or 3 but there’s a big difference between there and 7.

      • Young CC Prof
        July 12, 2017 at 8:18 am #

        I kind of think that the arrival of permanent teeth is a good natural upper bound on appropriate breastfeeding age.

        • Petticoat Philosopher
          July 12, 2017 at 11:41 am #

          Yeah, I was thinking “When the kid is on their second set of teeth, it’s time to STAAAAHP.”

        • J.B.
          July 12, 2017 at 11:42 am #

          Or first teeth if they are used for biting mommy.

      • Petticoat Philosopher
        July 12, 2017 at 11:43 am #

        Yeah, I have known a number of people who breastfed until 3 or nearly 3. That seems to be the cut-off and beyond that, you’re in Crazy-town.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa
          July 12, 2017 at 2:14 pm #

          I figure, as ye harm none do as ye will. But when the mom was pulling her kid out of kindergarten to nurse, I figured at that point you might be causing some harm.

          • Petticoat Philosopher
            July 12, 2017 at 3:28 pm #

            Yikes, is this something you’ve seen? I know people do that but I’ve never observed it in the wild…

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            July 12, 2017 at 4:40 pm #

            Heard about

    • StephanieJR
      July 12, 2017 at 9:43 am #

      It’s like something from a Little Britain sketch.

  6. CSN0116
    July 11, 2017 at 2:18 pm #

    Sooooo when is all of the BF literature going to modify itself to fit the current facts? Like, for how long do health departments, hospitals and government entities get to keep pushing inaccurate information – not based on science – and advising patients based off of? (I don’t care what LC’s, allopathics and online sanctimommies peddle. I’m concerned with legitimate health authorities who should be trusted.)

    And serious question: Is there any other modern example of such behavior? Is there any health advice (given by MDs), or disease treatment(s) marketed for which leading medical authorities develop clinical guidelines in direct contradiction of available science?

    • Roadstergal
      July 11, 2017 at 2:20 pm #

      Acupuncture? Our insurance covers it, and I’ve had physicians try hard to sell me on it, despite the fact that placebo-controlled trials are negative and there is a risk of disease.

      • CSN0116
        July 11, 2017 at 2:23 pm #

        Yes. Good one!

      • Dr Kitty
        July 11, 2017 at 3:28 pm #

        My own NHS GP suggested that I allow her to use acupuncture on me for hyperemesis.
        I told her that since I didn’t believe in it, the effectiveness of any placebo effect was unlikely and I’d rather have Zofran.
        She didn’t bother suggesting it with the next pregnancy, and just wrote me a script for *all* the antiemetics without comment.

      • Vast
        July 11, 2017 at 7:55 pm #

        In my state naturopaths have licenses and are covered by insurance. Ugh.

    • July 11, 2017 at 6:14 pm #

      Abortions- some states actually legally mandate giving patients inaccurate information.

      • Young CC Prof
        July 11, 2017 at 8:24 pm #

        Yeah, but ACOG doesn’t endorse any of that made-up stuff.

  7. Roadstergal
    July 11, 2017 at 2:09 pm #

    A very critical part of science is that it’s a dialog. Even if you start with reasonably accurate facts – if you’re not willing to discuss, keep an open mind, and evolve your views, you’re not doing science.

  8. CSN0116
    July 11, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

    LOL check it out

  9. Young CC Prof
    July 11, 2017 at 1:21 pm #

    A lot of them don’t even seem to know what “evidence” is. They link to an article, but it’s actually an opinion piece. Or it’s a summary of a summary of a paraphrase of a study that has gotten most of the details wrong.

    When a study comes out that finds negligible benefits to breastfeeding, the response is that it must be wrong because other studies contradict it. Very often, these “other studies” weren’t measuring quite the same thing, but they don’t seem to notice.

    When they weigh evidence FOR huge breastfeeding benefits versus evidence against, they tend to weigh the against studies individually against the full body of evidence for, find them wanting, and never notice what they look like all piled up together.

    And never mind the advanced stuff like sample size, methodology details and confounding variables. Putting together multiple imperfect studies to get the best possible full picture is HARD, it takes a lot of background knowledge, and it takes suspending your prior assumptions. They don’t know how, and they mostly don’t really try.

    • lawyer jane
      July 11, 2017 at 3:00 pm #

      Yep. I had one lactivist try to debunk the PROBIT study and claim it was “bad science” based on her folk-knowledge understanding of research …

  10. oscar
    July 11, 2017 at 12:53 pm #

    My 16 year old daughter, who has heard me banging on about breast feeding maniacs, medical colonialism, cesarean sections etc for years now, sent me this. Did you have a hand in this, Dr. Amy? 🙂

    • Amy Tuteur, MD
      July 11, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

      No, I didn’t, but I love it!

    • Petticoat Philosopher
      July 11, 2017 at 10:36 pm #

      “I heard formula has autism in it!” ROFLMAO!!!

  11. July 11, 2017 at 12:50 pm #

    Yes, I would like to see those studies about breastfeeding your kid until age 6 years, 11 months and 20-odd days.

    *hums quietly to self*

    Oh, don’t worry; I’ll wait for you to get them.

    *pulls out yarn and starts crocheting the first row of an afghan

    No, I don’t have anything else to do right now. I’ll wait.

    *finishes the afghan*

    You could just give me the citations if you wanted.

    *hums quietly to self*

    • fiftyfifty1
      July 12, 2017 at 11:31 am #

      The closest you might get is a study I read once (I don’t remember the citation) that showed that IQ increased with increased breastfeeding duration…until the age of 14 months after which it decreased with increasing duration.

      Of course the whole thing was confounding.

      • J.B.
        July 12, 2017 at 11:40 am #

        Hmm, that means my oldest kid got peak IQ. My younger child who lost interest and kept biting me at 10 months is not going to be as smart? But determined, very very very determined.

        • Mildredmmccaskill
          July 18, 2017 at 1:09 am #

          my roomate’s ex wife gets $81 every hour on the laptop… she has been unemployed for 11 months but the previous month her profit was $15430 just working at home three hours per day… ➤see

  12. The Bofa on the Sofa
    July 11, 2017 at 12:24 pm #

    But even when the science might be on their side, a lot of people don’t interpret it correctly. Remember Bofa’s 2nd Law:

    All else equal, X is best. However, all else is never equal.

    The problem is that people mistake mean for median. They might see that “X is a little better on average than not-X.” There are two ways that can be. X is a little better for everyone. Or X is better for more people, in varying degrees, than not-X. In this situation, for example, it could be that for every one person where not-X is better, two will be better off with X. So 2/3 of people are better off choosing X. Therefore, X is better than not-X.

    The only question is whether we can identify those 3 people and to know which ones it is better for and which ones it isn’t. If we can’t tell which ones will benefit and which ones won’t, then sure, X is better. However, if there are things that give us a clue, then chose whatever is better given the individual circumstances.

    This is breastfeeding. All the “breast is best” line actually tells us is that more people than not should be breastfeeding during that time when it is true – when breast is actually best. I don’t see any reason to think that isn’t true at the moment.

    • July 11, 2017 at 12:46 pm #

      For preterm infants born prior to 34 weeks gestation who have not reached 34 weeks gestation, human breast milk is best because it reduces the risk of NEC. That’s not the same as “breast is best” since feeding breast milk through a OG tube, an NG tube, a bottle or breast all give the same reduced risks.

      If an infant is term, born after 34 weeks gestation or has reached the equivalent age of 34 weeks gestation, there’s minimal benefit gained from human breast milk compared to formula.

      • Young CC Prof
        July 11, 2017 at 1:15 pm #

        NEC prevention is for real, but if I hear one more person telling mothers of healthy term babies that it’s a reason to breastfeed, I’m going to cry. NEC is a serious threat to micropreemies, but is way crazy rare in term babies.

        • Roadstergal
          July 11, 2017 at 1:50 pm #

          And breastmilk doesn’t prevent NEC. It reduces the risk. So it’s not a foregone conclusion that a preemie with no breastmilk will get it, and it’s not a foregone conclusion that a preemie fed gallons of the stuff will not.

          • jumpygiraffe
            July 11, 2017 at 2:28 pm #

            But there is promising research on a probiotic mixes.

          • Gene
            July 11, 2017 at 5:54 pm #

            True. Last baby I had in the ED with NEC was exclusively breastfed. And I rarely see it (given it rarely happens in either term kids or after preemies are well enough to go home).

        • July 11, 2017 at 4:15 pm #

          It’s crazy rare and often complicated by an additional disorder like a cardiac disorder. In fact, some researchers believe that NEC in term infants is a different disorder than NEC in preterm infants.

          The number of women who would need to breastfeed to prevent one incidence of term NEC would be very, very high.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa
        July 11, 2017 at 2:27 pm #

        there’s minimal benefit gained from human breast milk compared to formula.

        ALL ELSE EQUAL there is minimal benefit. There can be situations where the benefits of breast milk are huge. But these are mostly offset by situations where the benefits of formula are large.

        Population averages don’t work well when applied to individuals.

        • July 11, 2017 at 4:24 pm #

          Exactly. That’s where my annoyance comes from.

          There is an existing tiny group of micro preemies for whom breast milk does have a demonstrated track record of decreasing the risk of NEC from 10% to 5%.

          There is a much larger existing group of infants for whom breast milk has no demonstrated track record of positive benefits and a track record of minimal reduction in two minor negative events: colds and gastrointestinal illness.

          The slogan “Breast is best” represents neither situation correctly.

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