Let’s be honest: breastfeeding DOESN’T matter

Fact text

On the eve of World Breastfeeding Week 2018, I’m reminded of the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes:

…about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent – while in reality, they make no clothes at all, making everyone believe the clothes are invisible to them. When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new “clothes”, no one dares to say that they do not see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as stupid. Finally, a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

Sadly, the story of lactivism is similar: professionals promise women that breastfeeding is a better way to feed their babies, provides massive benefits, and has no risks. They tell women that anyone who questions those benefits is stupid or incompetent, while in reality, the benefits of breastfeeding are trivial and the risks — of dehydration, hypoglycemia and jaundice — are significant. This has been going on for nearly three decades and there’s no evidence that increased breastfeeding rates have any impact on mortality, morbidity or healthcare savings for term infants. Breastmilk does reduce the risk of death from necrotizing enterocolitis in extremely premature infants, an exception that serves to prove the rule.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Everyone knows that breastfeeding has massive benefits, just as everyone knew that the sun revolved around the earth.[/pullquote]

It’s time to cry out the obvious: breastfeeding DOESN’T matter!

Why do we keep pretending it does? For the same reason that the emperor’s subjects were afraid to tell him he was naked: peer pressure. No one dares accept the evidence of their own eyes for fear of a powerful backlash.

In the case of the emperor, his subjects feared that he would punish them for insulting his dignity. In the case of breastfeeding, everyone is afraid they will be demonized by lactation consultants and their medical allies. Why? Because lactation professionals, whose dignity is apparently insulted by the truth that the promised benefits of breastfeeding have never appeared, react by vilifing, slandering and shunning.

Everyone “knows” that breastfeeding has massive benefits, just as everyone once “knew” that the sun revolved around the Earth. That wasn’t true, either, but there were religious leaders with a vested interest in promoting the biblical view of the solar system; because they had access to the levers of power, they were able to suppress the truth for generations. It was more important to religious leaders to maintain their belief system regardless of what the evidence showed. Anyone who opposed them faced draconian penalties.

The situation is not as bad for breastfeeding. A doctor like myself who dares point out the obvious does not face a trial and potential execution for heresy, just withering criticism. It is babies and mothers who suffer because those who hold the levers of power in the world of public health have a vested interest in suppressing the truth. It is more important to lactation professionals to maintain their belief system regardless of what the evidence shows and regardless of how many babies and mothers are hurt in the process.

It would be pathetically easy to prove me wrong if I were wrong:

Just show me how the infant mortality rate has dropped as breastfeeding rates have risen.

Just show me how the rate of serious medical illness has dropped as breastfeeding rates have rise.

Just show me how the rate of healthcare spending on infants has dropped as breastfeeding rates have risen.

Wait, what? No one can demonstrate even one of those things, let alone all three of them?

Of course not, because the emperor has no clothes.

No amount of pretending by his subjects could change the fact that the emperor was naked. Similarly no amount of pretending by lactation professionals changes the fact that breastfeeding doesn’t matter for term infants.

I will continue to point that out; vilification, slander and shunning won’t stop me. The only thing that will convince me otherwise is if someone demonstrates that breastfeeding has an impact on term infants in the real world, not just in the unvalidated theoretical models beloved of lactivists.

I’m not holding my breath.

110 Responses to “Let’s be honest: breastfeeding DOESN’T matter”

  1. Eater of Worlds
    August 3, 2018 at 8:08 pm #

    Dr. Amy recently posted a big study done (or an aggregation of studies, I don’t remember otherwise I wouldn’t be asking) that show the benefits of breastfeeding. It’s a new one that came out fairly recently. Does anyone remember what this study was or its location?

  2. maidmarian555
    July 31, 2018 at 11:30 am #

    Anyone else notice the weird correlation between cutesy handles being most likely to be used by utter fuckwits that drivel absolute poison? You can pretty much guarantee that if someone is called “LovelyPuppySnuggles” or “BeautifulRainbow” or “Sweetpea somethingorother” that the inevitable wall of text they post is just going to be deranged, unpleasant ranting, usually with some bigotry thrown in for good measure.

    • Russell Jones
      July 31, 2018 at 12:18 pm #


      That’s absolutely true. Cutesy wootsy user names and ham-handed knobbery go together like inebriated hillbillies and explosives.

      • August 1, 2018 at 4:19 am #

        You mean “Antigonos CNM” isn’t cutesy-wootsey? Gee whiz.

        • August 1, 2018 at 7:45 am #

          You should go with “Princess Snowball Snuggums.” Much less medwifey.

          • August 1, 2018 at 10:17 am #

            I’ll think about it. I was rather thinking of calling myself “Hathor” and getting a mask with cow’s ears….who knows? It worked for the ancient Egyptians and you know they’ve got that old black magic…

          • August 1, 2018 at 1:08 pm #

            That would make prenatal visits interesting.

        • Eater of Worlds
          August 3, 2018 at 8:09 pm #

          I could have gone with Galactus instead of the cute Eater of Worlds…

  3. crazy mama, PhD
    July 30, 2018 at 9:52 pm #

    Ugh, it’s World Breastfeeding Week again already?

  4. Amazed
    July 30, 2018 at 9:47 pm #

    I love the coven of bitches on the page of the VBAC rupture mom page Dr Amy linked to at facebook. This Cassandra Rose is a gem. So loving and understanding of these poor deluded women who feel under attack from her and her fellow bitches! These poor creatures just “retreat into their “but the OB saved my life!” mentality” and they don’t understand that said OB caused the problem in the first place but she’s so understanding!

    If I could reach through the screen and give her and the VBAC success shits a good kick in the mouth, I would have. I bet Cassy Rose is a doula or midwife, in addition to being garbage.

    • Madtowngirl
      July 30, 2018 at 10:21 pm #

      She’s a real harpy. People who laugh at someone else’s horrific experience are the toilet scum of humanity.

      • Amazed
        July 30, 2018 at 10:25 pm #

        She just screeched that listening to your OB was more likely to lead to problems in your VBAC.

        God! When internet came along, I never imagined that it would give all the stupids in the world a place where they could unite.

    • BeatriceC
      August 3, 2018 at 4:46 pm #

      My conflict anxiety and need to focus on my PPD group members, many of whom are having a very difficult time with world breastfeeding week, has kept me from doing much more than reading this blog and some of the articles Dr. Amy is posting on FB, but not reading the comments. In this case it is a very good thing. I have a young friend who calls me her “extra mom”. Her baby died after a VBAC attempt went catastrophically wrong. Because of ongoing litigation, I can’t go into details, but this topic brings out the mama crocodile in me.

      • Amazed
        August 4, 2018 at 6:54 pm #

        Oh, yes, it’s a very good thing indeed. They are crazy. Right there, they are trying to silence VBAC loss moms and the author because she’s “scaring women off”. One of the worst offenders is a pig of a woman who thinks that her three midwives on her glorious HBAC made her completely safe and aggressively insist that the author writes the way she does. Others are trying to find out what the author did wrong to cause the rupture because it could never be a fault of the process itself. Zero compassion to anyone, just savage desire to break and mould them into the narrative they desire.

        Fucking rabid bitches. Why can’t they find a hobby that doesn’t include endangering lives?

        I am not even a mama and certainly not a group administrator but reading this, it made two mama crocodiles – you and me.

      • PeggySue
        August 4, 2018 at 7:14 pm #

        I am so sorry for your friend. Encountering the crazy crap must be so hard for her.

      • demodocus
        August 4, 2018 at 9:58 pm #

        The one I think she is? The poor woman and her poor baby.

  5. Sweetpea Stevens
    July 30, 2018 at 6:39 pm #

    It’s articles like this that belittles the real importance of breastfeeding. There are very real advantages to breastfeeding that cannot be replicated in Formula or even breast to bottle feeding. These articles are meant to coddle those who feel guilty about or want to justify choosing formula over breast out of convenience, or to console those who are distraught over being unable to breastfeed their babies. It’s akin to calling those who are disgusted by obese people fat shamers. We all know being obese is unhealthy and most of us find it unattractive, but to protect the feelings of the obese people, we are no longer allowed to acknowledge those thoughts.

    Babies benefit from more than just the milk. Babies dont simply nurse for nutrition. They nurse for comfort, bonding, hormones, antibodies, and so much more than just the nutrients in the milk. 1/3 of breastmilk is indigestible to babies. But it supports and nourishes the gut bacteria living in their intestines that prevents harmful bacteria entering the blood stream. Breastfeeding is absolutely worth the effort and should be encouraged wholeheartedly. Those who choose not to try should feel some level of guilt for denying their child the benefits that they cannot recieve from a bottle. Not to say that those children wont live long healthy lives in spite of their parents poor choice, but they will have missed out on so much that we don’t even fully understand yet. Those who try and are unable to should definitely feel some level of disappointment. Not in themselves, but just in general. Its ok to feel those feelings. We shouldn’t be protecting people from natural, normal, acceptable feelings. We should be investing time, effort and resources into figiring out why so many women are unable to breastfeed instead of trying to convince them that its not important.

    • Megan
      July 30, 2018 at 6:45 pm #

      Don’t shed too many tears for me (an adopted person and thus formula fed) and my three formula fed kids. We’ll be alright.

      • Sweetpea Stevens
        July 30, 2018 at 7:00 pm #

        No worries .I don’t have time to shed tears for all the closed minded, stubborn, unwilling to accept that their beliefs may be wrong people in our world. Instead, i spend my time trying to enlighten thise who are willing to learn and open their minds to deeper understanding of how babies and children develop. Your formula fed babies will absolutely be alright. And so will my breastfed babies. Mine were simply given more attention, better nutrition, higher quality of sleep, more benefitial hormones, are more likely to maintain a healthy weight through adulthood, more likely to handle their emotions and stress in healthy ways, less likely to develop diabetes, depression, hypertension, and a sleu of other health issues, and be more likely to give their own children a higher standard of care than their bottle fed peers. But those are minor differences obviously that aren’t important to those parents who strive to raise children who are simply “alright”.

        • Megan
          July 30, 2018 at 7:06 pm #

          So kind and compassionate to those of us who can’t breastfeed. Such a selfless caring soul. Thanks for showing your true colors. That was easier than I thought it would be.

        • FlyingAspidrista
          July 30, 2018 at 7:54 pm #

          Dr. Michael Kramer’s PROBIT cluster-randomized trial tested the actual outcomes of breastfeeding. Here is a list of his most recent publications: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Kramer+Michael+breastfeeding

          Here is an abstract from an article which summarizes the findings of the PROBIT study:

          Although the benefits of breastfeeding in reducing morbidity and mortality from gastrointestinal and respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome, and (in preterm infants) necrotizing enterocolitis are well-established, long-term health effects are more controversial. The evidence is conflicting concerning the “programming” effect of breastfeeding in protecting against child obesity, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and atopic disease. Accelerated neurocognitive development has been associated with breastfeeding in many studies, although doubts remain about the potential for residual confounding due to cognitive and behavioural differences between mothers who breastfeed (or those who breastfeed for a longer duration or more exclusively) and those who do not. Most of this paper will summarize the methods and results of a large, cluster-randomized trial of a breastfeeding promotion intervention in the Republic of Belarus. Its experimental design and intention-to-treat analysis have yielded important findings bearing on several of these longer-term health and developmental outcomes.


          • swbarnes2
            July 30, 2018 at 10:41 pm #

            Sweatpea, this is how an honest grown up cites evidence. You are a dishonest baby.

          • Who?
            July 30, 2018 at 10:49 pm #


            ‘…dishonest, judgemental, shallow baby.’


        • Who?
          July 30, 2018 at 8:15 pm #

          Save your tears for your self-righteousness the day

          your life runs off the rails you believe you keep it on.

          Let’s hope for all our sakes your children get out in the world and pick up a little humility, since it is clearly not modelled, and probably not preached, at home.

          A question-if you lined your kids up with some bottlefed kids from the same socio-economic group as you, what would make your kids stand out to a disinterested stranger asked to select which of the group were breastfed and which formula fed?

        • aurora
          July 31, 2018 at 12:32 am #

          This has to be a joke?

        • Chi
          July 31, 2018 at 4:26 am #

          Higher quality of sleep??? Are you fucking JOKING????

          It is a FACT that breastfed babies wake MORE often than formula fed ones. So NO, they do NOT get a ‘higher quality of sleep’.

          Also, seeing as you haven’t provided any conclusive proof as to all the CRAP you just spouted, you can take your smug, self-righteous ass out the door. People like you contributed heavily to my postpartum depression, and I am so fucking DONE justifying a decision that saved my mental health and my failing-to-thrive baby to people like you who look down on me with fake pity because I tried and failed to live up to your impossibly high standards.

          TL;DR – No on here fucking cares that you stuck your tits in your kids’ mouths and they got fed. You breastfed successfully, great, just because you DID does NOT give you the right to sneer at and belittle those of us who made different decisions for whatever reasons.

          Kindly fuck off now.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            July 31, 2018 at 8:50 am #

            I would also note that the “higher quality of sleep” might apply for the FATHER, but for the breastfeeding mother? Not so much.

            With formula feeding, parents can take turns, so even if it were the case that the baby wakes up more often (it doesn’t), parents taking turns only have to get up for every other feeding.

            What’s better: waking up every 2 hours to breastfeed, or waking every 3 hours to formula feed (because the partner got up at 90 minutes)?

            And that is even assuming for the sake of argument that breastfeeding babies sleep better.

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
            July 31, 2018 at 12:14 pm #

            And why do these people think that one can only “bond” properly/completely as a mother if one breastfeeds??
            Having the kid attached to you phisically is not necessary to bond at all, and from what I have see, sometimes seems to make it harder because the mom gets “touched out/babied out” And does that mean that NO one except the breastfeeding birth mother can bond right with a baby….such bulllshit.

          • Megan
            August 1, 2018 at 12:34 pm #

            Not only that, but she literally said that I pay less attention to my kids than her because she breastfeeds. Apparently if your child isn’t latched on to you, not only aren’t you bonding, you aren’t even “paying attention” to them. Like us bottle feeders put the baby in a corner with the bottle propped up on the sleeping dog or something. These people are nutters.

          • BeatriceC
            August 3, 2018 at 3:55 pm #

            To be honest, I paid less attention to the babies who were nursing from the tap than from the babies who had formula (middle kid after 6 months when my supply tanked when I got pregnant with the youngest), and expressed milk in a bottle (youngest never learn how to latch directly to the breast and since I had an oversupply and pumping was easy for me, that’s what he got) in bottles. I latched baby on to my boob and surfed the web, read math journals, graded papers, did lesson plans, etc. while breastfeeding, but needed both hands to bottle feed, so I couldn’t do much else.

          • seenthelight
            August 1, 2018 at 7:22 pm #

            Yeah… I played with my phone while breastfeeding both babies 🙁 granted, if I could go back, I’d ONLY do it for night feedings (it kept me from passing out and smothering them), but I’d venture a guess that many bfing moms just stare at their phones most of the time. Much better for a developing baby to get a bottle for that specific reason – mom can’t pay as much attention to a phone when she doesn’t have a free hand, so baby’s naturally going to get good eye contact and interaction, while baby may not from bfing mom like myself

          • BeatriceC
            August 3, 2018 at 3:52 pm #

            To give my ex-husband what little credit he deserves, he was great when it came to the overnights. He would always get up, change baby’s diaper, bring baby to me, wait while I fed baby, then put baby back to sleep. He shared the workload to the best of his ability in those early days, and that was definitely a good thing.

          • HailieJade
            August 1, 2018 at 7:36 pm #

            That’s literally what they want- praise for sticking their tits in their kid’s mouth. It doesn’t even matter if the kid was fed or not.

        • Sue
          July 31, 2018 at 10:56 am #

          Come on – this person has to be a Poe, right?

        • Cartman36
          July 31, 2018 at 11:00 am #

          LOZ! Sweetie, you might buy this crap but no one else here does. What exactly qualifies you to enlighten people? Its quite clear that you don’t conduct research yourself (since you linked to a university press release as “evidence”). Do you just read things online and then regurgitate them with no critical thinking of your own? Sounds legit.

        • space_upstairs
          July 31, 2018 at 2:28 pm #

          See, that’s where I think the problem lies: the fact that in certain circles – those near the top aspiring to the top especially, but also those on the top driven too far by the profit motive – “alright” is no longer acceptable. Anxiety, depression, insecurity, boom-and-bust economic cycles, inequality, superstition, increasing difficulty with managing resources long-term….I think a lot of these issues could be substantially reduced if more people could just pick their battles (for themselves) and focus on a few ways to engage with their corner of the world that make the best use of their particular strengths and weaknesses. Too often, we’re being goaded to take on the whole world, have our battles be picked for us by the conventions of our culture and class (or the culture and class to which we aspire), trying to cultivate all the same strengths in ourselves and our children, and trying too hard to fight weaknesses that maybe we’d be better off simply working around. Granted, if some people didn’t push hard to improve things, we wouldn’t have the wonders of civilization that we have today. But if everyone, regardless of their talents and circumstances, pushes hard to try to improve the same few things, such as physical health, profit, or skills that can lead to a few specific “marketable” jobs, I suspect a lot of effort will be needlessly duplicated and a lot of other areas in which good can be done will be needlessly overlooked.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            July 31, 2018 at 2:51 pm #

            But jeez, if I want my kids to be more than just “alright,” breastfeeding vs formula is so friggin far down the list of things I need to do.

            I mean, in our society, you start with money. You want your child to be “better than everyone else”? Have money. The more, the better.

            OK, there are limits to what you can do in terms of money, I realize. So what can parents do that they control? Read to your child. Who is going to turn out better? The child that is breastfed and never read to? Or the formula fed child who gets read to every night? This isn’t even close.

            We often use the test here, can Kindergarten teachers tell the difference between the kids who were breastfed and those who weren’t? Not in the least. OTOH, can they tell the difference between the kids who have been read to through their lives and those who haven’t? You damn straight they can. That makes itself very clear.

            These types of things are far, far, far more important in making your child “more than alright” than breastfeeding could ever do.

            So, in contrast to her statement,

            But those are minor differences obviously that aren’t important to those parents who strive to raise children who are simply “alright”.

            it’s actually more of the case that, those like us who strive to have their child reach their best realize that those “minor differences” really are minor. Trivial, in fact, compared to the other things we do.

            In terms of making our kids great, it’s true, breastfeeding just doesn’t matter.

          • space_upstairs
            July 31, 2018 at 3:16 pm #

            Well, I imagine that a lactivist like Sweetpea would argue that, overall, breastfeeding would make at least the same difference as reading, if not more, because it’s supposed to have physical health benefits as well. So someone who really cares would do both, by that logic. However, not everyone can or wants to do everything, so the rest of us are left to pick what we think are the best bets based on our interests, talents, information sources and beliefs, and situation. And if it means our kids’ lives will be less than some ideal…well, in a world that will probably have a good 10 billion people by the time our kids grow up, what would the odds of reaching an ideal be, anyway?

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            July 31, 2018 at 3:27 pm #

            My son in the “High Ability” class at school has a classmate who is diabetic and others who are probably considered obese. Hasn’t prevented them from succeeding.

            I think that is the bizarrest part of the post. That the risks of not breastfeeding (diabetes, obesity, should they actually be true) are major issues for children becoming “‘more than alright.” You can have diabetes and still be amazing. You can not have diabetes and not be amazing. And I don’t think there is much of a correlation between the two.

            However, not everyone can or wants to do everything, so the rest of us are left to pick what we think are the best bets based on our interests, talents, information sources and beliefs, and situation.

            This is absolutely true, and that’s the whole point: you could try to do everything, but since you can’t, you focus on those things that matter the most.

            And it ain’t breastfeeding.

          • space_upstairs
            July 31, 2018 at 4:09 pm #

            I think the notion that someone with physical imperfections is not alright, or not more than alright in the balance of things, comes from an almost superstitious notion of personal control and perfectibility that tends to occur in certain corners of the affluent world. The idea is that if you, or your parents or guardians when you were a child, were truly more-than-alright mentally, you or they would know how to prevent or cure physical imperfections, would implement that solution, and it would work because perfection is possible if only you want it badly enough. Some of us have come to suspect that such a notion is spread by self-proclaimed winners of a conveniently-defined game in order to keep the rest of us feeling like losers and trying harder to win, rather than, say, questioning the game itself.

          • Who?
            July 31, 2018 at 5:07 pm #

            Quite so. If someone is a member of a group and writes the rules for that group, why wouldn’t they write them so they and their circle were on top?

            Also interesting that back in the day, rising above health or other issues to achieve your potential was seen as something special, to be acknowledged. In these groups, it’s all about something you don’t control-whether you were breastfed. Even with that, I’m sure there’s a spectrum of what is good enough breastfeeding.

            I’ve seen enough little apples fall further from the tree than their well-meaning parents ever imagined possible to wonder how the Sweetpeas of the world will cope when their perfectly primed child chooses (or is afflicted by) something outside the circle of perfection.

          • PeggySue
            August 4, 2018 at 7:22 pm #

            It’s basically humanism dressed up with a scientific word or two. I have wondered if a lot of the legitimate bad press religion gets is due to the humanism and nationalism that has infused so much of American religious thought and practice.

          • seenthelight
            August 1, 2018 at 7:18 pm #

            Yeah, fat-shaming is not my favorite. If you haven’t heard of her, you may be interested in Dr. Ellyn Satter’s work on feeding families and promoting normal growth in kids. It’s blown my mind.

          • fiftyfifty1
            August 1, 2018 at 8:20 pm #

            I’m ambivalent about Dr. Satter. On one hand her principles certainly do make meal times more pleasant and help ease fears about the big bogeyman Obesity Epidemic. On the other hand there are too many people who take her advice like religion, that as long as you provide the “what, where and when” and let the kids do the “whether and how much” that everything is bound to turn out healthy. This may be true with an average kid, but is not true with a lot of atypical kids. The other thing is there is a real lack of any good research to back up her claims. All the studies I have seen don’t control for chicken and egg problems, e.g. sure moms who are more “controlling” at the table are more likely to have a child with eating problems, but what came first? As a mom of one very normal eater and one child with feeding problems from day 1 due to a host of issues, I can vouch that it is really easy to feed a normal kid and really NOT easy to feed a kid with issues. One kid will make you look like the most chill mom ever, the other can make you look like a total helicopter freak as you try to keep your kid on their growth curve.

          • August 1, 2018 at 9:33 pm #

            Wish I could like twice. I feel precisely the same way.

          • fiftyfifty1
            August 1, 2018 at 10:04 pm #

            And the thing is that overall I think her method is a good one that has helped many kids and their families. I just wish it were presented as “Hey, this is one way of structuring meals that can often be real helpful and may work for you” vs The One True Infallible Way.

          • Megan
            July 31, 2018 at 5:41 pm #

            I bristle a bit at the talk about “making kids more than just alright” because it talks about kids as though they are products. I mean, sure I try to provide a good foundation for them as far as food, love, economic resources and developmental opportunity, like reading, but ultimately, kids are people who have interests and proclivities of their own and will do what they want. These lactivists act as if their kids are products and perfection can be created with all the “right” ingredients.
            They worry about doing all the “right” things because ultimately, they see their kids as a reflection of themselves instead of being their own little persons. It is their narcissism that drives them as parents in creating their “perfect child product.” It’s obvious that Sweetpea above is only interested in feeling superior given how easily I baited her into telling her real views on those who don’t breastfeed. She needs to feel superior about breastfeeding, probably partially because she likely put a lot of effort and time into it and therefore can’t admit that it probably isn’t that big a deal.
            I don’t even bother with trying to science these people anymore. They only care about trying to be smug. It’s not worth the time. I mostly feel bad for them and their kids.
            At one time I tried to breastfeed really really hard and when I saw the primary literature that showed that it didn’t matter much, at first I was angry and resentful but then I realized my beliefs had been wrong and I moved on and was much happier for it. Now that my kids are a bit older, it’s really obvious how little it matters. It’s a tough pill to swallow to realize that you put a lot of effort into something that doesn’t matter and some people double down instead of changing their beliefs when presented with facts.
            Narcissism + cognitive dissonance

          • space_upstairs
            July 31, 2018 at 6:12 pm #

            from Megan: “I bristle a bit at the talk about “making kids more than just alright” because it talks about kids as though they are products.”

            This is precisely the objection I’ve been developing to the culture of “intensive” parenting and also, in the adult viewing him or herself as a product, to the related cultures of wellness and self-help. It’s not that I won’t make some reasonable attempts to take care of my child once (s)he’s born, or to take care of myself or my fetus until then. Knowing how much misery I cause myself and even pass on to others when fussing over whether I’m smart enough or whether I’m doing enough for my physical health, I think an essential part of raising my child will be to resist this kind of perfectionism and minimize the risk of passing it on to my child. (Though, as happened with me, (s)he might learn it from society anyway and have to find ways to unlearn it.) That means that, whether I formula-feed as I am currently imagining so as to share the work with my husband and conserve some physical and mental energy to enjoy my child, or pump as I will do if the baby is highly premature and as I was imagining before I read more about the limited nature of breastmilk benefits for term babies, or even combo-feed or breast-feed, I am committed to teaching my child that it’s alright to be “just alright.” Because most of us are in every or almost every respect, when it comes down to it, and to see that as a problem would be to see most people’s lives as a problem, which is…scary.

          • Who?
            July 31, 2018 at 6:30 pm #

            ‘Good enough’ is, actually, good enough.

            The idea that a child is a perfect, blank canvas and if they don’t come out ‘exactly right’ it is the parents’ fault is so damaging.

            Our children aren’t perfect, and we aren’t either.

          • fiftyfifty1
            July 31, 2018 at 8:43 pm #

            My view of the matter is somewhat different than yours in that I am not worried about the kids. I live in a community where intensive parenting is the norm, and extremely intensive “Tiger Mother” type parenting is not uncommon. Unlike some people, it doesn’t upset me. I don’t think it’s abuse. A few of my kids’ friends are parented on the extreme end, and if they are “products” then they seem to be reasonably happy and well-adjusted products.

            No, my main objection is just personal. The thought of standing over a child scraping away at a violin, or driving all day to attend a spelling bee, or frankly driving anywhere at all to watch any sort of child-accomplishment-pageant-type-activity sounds absolutely god awful to me.

          • Who?
            July 31, 2018 at 9:47 pm #

            My (now adult) daughter was talking about her friends with parents who constantly do everything with/for their kids. She said that the kids came to feel that their parents’ time/effort/money was not that valuable, because otherwise how could things be just tossed to one side with so little thought?

            As the kids became adults they thought what they were doing was important, and not to be lightly tossed aside: what they couldn’t see was that their parents might actually take some things seriously because that had never (really never) happened.

          • space_upstairs
            August 1, 2018 at 12:15 pm #

            I’ve read that there are many kids raised by intensive parents who end up being nervous wrecks by their mid to late teens, but fake being happy and well-adjusted for as long as they can in order to impress the adults in their lives. Regardless, though, of whether such nervous wreck status is more common in these kids than others, it’s still legitimate to reject intensive parenting on the basis of it not being suited for one’s own life priorities or temperament.

            I’m just inclined to guess that if I was so affected by perfectionistsic messages from society while younger without being raised by intensive parents, I’d likely worsen a possible pre-existing genetic tendency in my own child if I were to become an intensive parent. There’s that, and the fact that it’s also not suited to my life priorities or temperament either. I cannot see myself being entirely fulfilled by doing everything in my power to get my child the fanciest college admissions and first job possible, not just for lack of enjoyment of recitals and practices and kids’ homework assignments and what-not, but also lack of faith that it will actually work to make my child’s life wonderful. My natural pessimistic tendencies are incompatible with the level of drive and ambition that upper-middle-class late capitalist culture, which includes intensive parenting, expects of people.

          • HailieJade
            August 1, 2018 at 7:26 pm #

            Ah but see breastfeeding is free, therefore women who breastfeed have more money, therefore breastfeeding is actually capable of making people rich and anyone who is poor has obviously just not breastfed hard enough!

            Also, books were invented by the Illuminati to brainwash us and our children. The only thing that will bring you true enlightenment is this barely legible article written in Comic Sans I found on a natural mama forum yesterday.

            *I’m actually surprised this argument hasn’t been used before by the likes of Sweetpea up there. It seems about the level of logic and critical thinking they’re capable of.

        • Monica
          July 31, 2018 at 5:11 pm #

          Only if your genetics and social economic status allow for that Sweetpea. That has more impact on our children’s outcomes than whether or not a child was breastfed. Have you ever thought why don’t schools ask if my child was breastfed as an infant when they started, or why doctors don’t ask about how you were fed as an infant when they take your medical history? It’s because it does not matter that much. You nourished your child the same as everyone else did. So good on you for not letting your baby starve, but outcomes are not improved simply because you breastfed.

        • NoLongerCrunching
          July 31, 2018 at 9:10 pm #

          Your local IBCLC (who supports ALL mothers)

        • seenthelight
          August 1, 2018 at 7:07 pm #

          Superiority feels like the warmest blanket on a cold winter day, doesn’t it? Have you tried curiosity? It’s the feeling one has when one wonders if she could be wrong about something, and is open to new information. I myself used to rely on superiority, but have learned that curiosity is a much more pleasant way to move in the world.

          Let’s use curiosity here. For instance, the sources telling you that you’re giving all these benefits to your children while formula/bottle fed kids are missing out – do they talk about confounders? I’m no scientist, but it makes sense to even me that all the listed benefits (“more attention, better nutrition, higher quality of sleep, more benefitial hormones, are more likely to maintain a healthy weight through adulthood, more likely to handle their emotions and stress in healthy ways, less likely to develop diabetes, depression, hypertension, and a sleu of other health issues”) could come not at all from feeding method, but instead from much more powerful factors, like family income level, single-parent or dual, and race. On the population level in America, wealthy white women breastfeed much more often than other groups, and so the listed benefits are easily attributable to those factors. You may not want to believe that, which I understand. I’ve been there. It’s hard to let go of such an accomplishment – because when you do, you realize you put in a lot of effort for half-truths under someone else’s agenda. It’s not easy, and I imagine you’ll tell me to eff right off, and that’s fine, too. The internet is a fun place, isn’t it?

          Also, my mom breastfed the first two of us, but had lactation failure shortly after the third was born. Of the three of us, he does the best on your list of benefits. My other bro and I – the fully breastfed ones – we’re each a mess. We’re not overweight, but that’s about all we can say… Of course, we don’t make scientific study out of single anecdotes, but it’s helpful to see that breastfeeding isn’t a magic bullet.

        • MaineJen
          August 3, 2018 at 2:28 pm #

          WOW. You are a piece of work, sweet pea. Like, a walking illustration of why lactivists are terrible. Do continue!!

    • swbarnes2
      July 30, 2018 at 7:04 pm #

      We are all grown-ups here. So argue like a grown-up, and not a baby. Show us the peer-reviewed papers (which MUST control for differing socioeconomic conditions between families) that show the enormous benefits of breastfeeding.

      “But it supports and nourishes the gut bacteria living in their intestines that prevents harmful bacteria entering the blood stream. ”

      An honest person would provide a peer-reviews paper showing this. (not a link from a parenting site)

      A dishonest hack will run off crying.

      It won’t take long to see what kind of person you are, and I predict we will see that you feel zero remorse in proving yourself to be thoroughly dishonest.

      • Sweetpea Stevens
        July 30, 2018 at 7:10 pm #

        Google.com you can find the same information I have access to. Someone truly interested in learning, and not simply trying to prove how right they are wouldn’t rely on having someone provide those articles for them. I dont have time to try and force feed freely available information to an unwilling audience.

        • namaste
          July 30, 2018 at 7:22 pm #

          Oh good God, a fucking google search?! The citations to which we are referring are professionally conducted scientific studies that correct for confounding variables such as race, socio-economic status, education level- to name a few- and are published in reputable, peer-reviewed journals. That is the standard. You can compile evidence that the earth is flat if your pathetically low standard is a google search. And since YOU made the claim, YOU bear the burden of proof. The null hypothesis, wnich is basically the claim that whatever variable you’re studying, makes no difference whatsoever is the default in any scientific study. It’s the researcher’s job to compile enough evidence to reject it. So go ahead, show me the studies, and I am more than happy to reject the null hypothesis. Happy hunting!

        • namaste
          July 30, 2018 at 7:29 pm #

          That’s a journalistic article. Not a scientific one. A scientific article consists of the following: an abstract, methods, in which a detailed discussion of exactly how the experiment was conducted and on whom, so that anyone reading may replicate it exactly, the results, in other words the raw data and then the relevant statistical calculations to determine if it’s significant or not, effect size, ect, conclusion, I.E. what do the numbers tell us and are those conclusions a product of an actual effect or random chance, and then a discussion. They must be published in a peer-reviewed academic journal.

        • FlyingAspidrista
          July 30, 2018 at 7:41 pm #

          Google is not the ideal tool to use to search for peer-reviewed research publications. “Essentially, the search engine reinforces your pre-conceived biases as a side effect of the way its algorithm parses your question” (https://qz.com/1194566/google-is-finally-admitting-it-has-a-filter-bubble-problem/). Also, most peer-reviewed journal articles are only available behind paywalls.

          • demodocus
            July 30, 2018 at 11:35 pm #

            I can get some surprisingly different results and i’m usually looking for a freaking quilt pattern.

          • Cartman36
            July 31, 2018 at 10:54 am #

            Excellent point! Sweetpea doesn’t have a clue how to do legitimate research as exemplified by her linking to a university press release as “evidence” of her research skillz. I legit CANNOT stopping laughing that she did that. it might be my favorite thing ever.

        • FlyingAspidrista
          July 30, 2018 at 8:02 pm #

          Here’s an interesting article about how Google reinforces biases depending on how you phrase your search: https://qz.com/1194566/google-is-finally-admitting-it-has-a-filter-bubble-problem/

          The latest peer-reviewed publications with high-quality research are mostly found through pay-walled publisher databases available through your library.

        • Julanar
          July 30, 2018 at 8:07 pm #

          Just because you can find something in a search engine doesn’t mean it’s accurate. Search engines don’t differentiate between reliable information and pseudoscience.

        • Russell Jones
          July 30, 2018 at 8:32 pm #

          Your complete inability to support anything you originally wrote is noted, as is your laughably ungainly attempt at burden shifting.

          Also, lol@”I don’t have time”

          • Who?
            July 30, 2018 at 9:15 pm #

            And I love how the only thing she has time to forcefeed is breastfeeding.

            Her irony meter must be broken.

        • Amazed
          July 30, 2018 at 9:33 pm #

          But you have the time to come here and spout your bullshit to this same unwilling audience?

          It’s so sweet to think that Google is the answer. Not even the professional medical sites which are behind paywall. Kind of reveals the extent of benefits your being breastfed provided you with. Me, I ascribe my good health and achievements in a trade that is highly intellectual not to the mere fact that I was fully breastfed but the fact that the milk was coming from the boob of a very intelligent, accomplished woman married to a very intelligent man. The result is… I know what Google is good for. You, not so much.

          So sorry that you only had breastfeeding going for you. I am so sympathetic to those who have nature and genetics work against them.

          TD; DR: You’re despicable, dumb, and totally uneducated. Oh, and cruel as well. Go shove your boob into your kids’ mouth. I hope you’re good for this, at least.

        • Sarah
          July 31, 2018 at 9:49 am #

          I love it how they suddenly get all busy when it comes to proving their claims.

        • momofone
          July 31, 2018 at 10:10 am #

          You had time to write a novel as a comment. Also, you might want to try something more professional than Google for reliable sources.

        • momofone
          July 31, 2018 at 10:14 am #

          “Someone truly interested in learning, and not simply trying to prove how
          right they are wouldn’t rely on having someone provide those articles
          for them.”

          Someone who understands intellectual discourse would understand that he who makes the claim provides the evidence to support it.

        • Russell Jones
          July 31, 2018 at 10:22 am #


          So, when Google directs us to a source asserting that vaccines cause autism and/or the Holocaust was a scam concocted by Jews to extort money, the source is inherently reliable.


          • Sarah
            July 31, 2018 at 10:53 am #

            Come to mention it, I’m actually surprised I’ve never seen anyone accuse the Jews of having invented formula before. It seems like that would be tinfoil bingo.

          • PeggySue
            July 31, 2018 at 6:48 pm #

            Actually Sarah, I think it was the gays… Along with all the tornados and earthquakes and whatnot.

          • Sarah
            August 1, 2018 at 3:06 am #

            I think it was the gay Jews in the Vatican.

        • Sue
          July 31, 2018 at 10:53 am #

          I have access to Google. It tells me that some of the countries with the highest breastfeeding rates also have the highest infant mortality from infectious diseases. They clearly didn’t get that memo about breast milk supposedly stopping infections entering the blood stream, did they?

        • Jesse John
          July 31, 2018 at 2:56 pm #

          You linked to a small scale study that looked at individual components of breast milk, not a study that affirms real-world benefits to breastfeeding. If you are a scientist, you are being deliberately misleading. If you are not, then I can assume with great confidence that you aren’t intelligent enough to vet your own sources.

        • kilda
          August 1, 2018 at 10:49 am #

          ah, the ever popular “I’m too busy to do your work for you” response. The grownup’s version of an 8 year old saying “I totally know the answer to that but I’m not going to tell you.” So predictable.

      • Sweetpea Stevens
        July 30, 2018 at 7:18 pm #


        But I’ll humor you for a moment. This article turned up on the first page of a simple google search. Literally took me 30 seconds. Happy learning.

        • swbarnes2
          July 30, 2018 at 10:38 pm #

          So you can’t back up your claim about breastmilk keeping bacteria out of the bloodstrwam. Dishonest, just like I predicted. Also, babies cite press releases, you are too dishonest to post a link to a real paper.

        • Cartman36
          July 31, 2018 at 10:46 am #

          Did you just link to a press release? Hahahahaha! that is awesome! Thanks for taking the time to prove what everyone else was saying, that you don’t have a clue how research works or what is required to prove a claim.

          • PeggySue
            July 31, 2018 at 6:47 pm #

            But maybe it was a peer reviewed press release. After all, it was on the first page returned from her Google search.

        • Cartman36
          July 31, 2018 at 10:51 am #

          And since you lactivists love to cite the WHO, here is a meta-analysis (you can use google to look up what that is) that explains the problems of confounding and shows that some of the most often claimed benefits are not true.


        • carovee
          July 31, 2018 at 6:03 pm #

          That is an impressive press release. I don’t know anything about biocatives but this jumped out at me.

          In September, the UC Davis Milk Bioactives group was awarded a $4.2 million grant, funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National
          Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
          , to further study milk’s role in gastrointestinal health. In October, the group was also
          given a $2.7 million award from the NIH’s National Cancer Institute to address the gut inflammation that leads to liver cancer. Yu-Jui Yvonne
          Wan, vice chair for research in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine., leads this latter study.

          First, NCCAM is pretty notorious for their null findings. A lot of the alternative medicine just doesn’t have an effect when studied properly. That doesn’t mean this study won’t show significant findings, of course. Second, studying gut inflammation is not the same as studying bioactives in breastmilk although the two are somewhat conflated here, imo, through bioactives as yet unproven benefits to the infant gut.

    • namaste
      July 30, 2018 at 7:08 pm #

      It gives citations for its claims, or else it gets the hose again.

      • Sarah
        July 31, 2018 at 9:48 am #

        Ohhhhh, we all need to start using that one whenever any dimwit parachutists rock up!

    • ArmyChick
      July 30, 2018 at 8:04 pm #

      I am sorry to rain on your parade…but as a woman I made the CHOICE to formula feed my child. I have not an ounce of guilt over it. My body, my choice. The best part? My identity and self-esteem don’t revolve around my ability or desire to breastfeed. I am sorry you don’t feel the same.

    • ArmyChick
      July 30, 2018 at 8:05 pm #

      I am sorry to rain on your parade…but as a woman I made the CHOICE to formula feed my child. I have not an ounce of guilt over it. My body, my choice. The best part? My identity and self-esteem don’t revolve around my ability or desire to breastfeed.

      PS: You have failed to prove your claims…but you wasted no time passing judgment. What a sad existence you lead.

    • Madtowngirl
      July 30, 2018 at 9:25 pm #

      “Those who try and are unable to should definitely feel some level of disappointment.”

      And it’s commets like this that ensure many of us who “tried and are unable” develop PPD. Take that sentiment elsewhere. We don’t need your low-key shaming here.

      • Amazed
        July 30, 2018 at 10:14 pm #

        It isn’t even this low-key…

        • Madtowngirl
          July 30, 2018 at 10:25 pm #

          You’re right. I was just seeing so much red when I typed this, that it was either a long stream of obscenities, or this. The idea that I should somehow feel bad for being unable to breastfeed even though I tried is beyond disgusting. Even the most vile lactivists I have encountered haven’t crossed that line.

          • Who?
            July 30, 2018 at 10:40 pm #

            Sweetpea is a piece of work. Assuming it’s a real person behind the over-scented facade, I feel sorry for her kids. Pity help them when they fall off the mother wagon.

    • PeggySue
      July 30, 2018 at 9:53 pm #

      Where the hell do they even GET this crap? Who dreams this stuff up?

    • fiftyfifty1
      July 30, 2018 at 10:01 pm #

      Tell me more about these beneficial hormones, I’m interested.

    • Anna
      July 30, 2018 at 11:21 pm #

      She seems nice!

    • Sarah
      July 31, 2018 at 9:48 am #

      I feel guilt that I just wasted my precious time reading your post, when I could’ve been doing something more valuable like scratching my arse.

    • Russell Jones
      July 31, 2018 at 10:39 am #

      It’s a two-way street, Cochise. Please feel free to express your disgust for fat people as often and as vociferously as you want, but you’re not allowed to get all bent out of shape if some people respond by calling you a malevolent douchebag. If you can’t handle a bit of verbal rough-and-tumble, perhaps you should retreat to your safe place.

    • Sue
      July 31, 2018 at 10:50 am #

      Breast milk “prevents harmful bacteria entering the bloodstream”? How is it, then, that the countries with the highest breastfeeding rates, like Rwanda, also have high infant mortality from infectious diseases? Oops!

    • momofone
      July 31, 2018 at 11:17 am #

      Of course you’re “allowed.” And other people are allowed to say they find you to be a jerk. It’s that old thing of being free to say whatever you choose, but not being free of the consequences.

    • StephanieJR
      July 31, 2018 at 12:24 pm #

      Fuck you. Fuck you and the self righteous horse you rode in on. Fuck you for your sociopathic disregard for womens’ mental health. Fuck you for your callous indifference to babies starving and suffering. Fuck you for your incredibly damaging ‘shaming’ language and the oh so subtle prejudice. Fuck you, you piece of shit, and fuck off to whatever hole you crawled out of.

    • FormerPhysicist
      July 31, 2018 at 1:13 pm #

      Aren’t you lovely? I REGRET how long I breastfed. And I’m going to go have a donut without regret, even though I’m fat. Oh, and I’m super disgusted by you, and readily acknowledge that fact.

    • Allie
      August 1, 2018 at 11:43 am #

      This is satire, right?

    • seenthelight
      August 1, 2018 at 6:51 pm #

      Across the population, overweght/low obesity is not the awful health risk it’s cracked up to be, either. For more info, check out Dr. Ellyn Satter’s body of work as a jumping-off point.

    • MaineJen
      August 3, 2018 at 2:22 pm #

      “…calling those who are disgusted by obese people fat shamers.” Well, um…what would YOU call them?

      Listen. I breastfed both of my kids, and enjoyed doing it. I don’t think ANY LESS of women who formula feed. Why is that so hard for you? Why is your whole identity tied up in how you fed your kid? Inquiring minds want to know.

    • rosewater1
      August 3, 2018 at 8:22 pm #

      My mother died in February. We were as close as could be. I was at her side when she died. She had a long, complicated life with plenty of things that she felt guilty about…but I don’t think that formula feeding myself or my older brother was one of them. It was HER choice and HER right to do so.

      A dear friend of mine had a rough pregnancy and a complicated delivery and postpartum. She barely made it to six months of breastfeeding. Oh…and she’s a lactation consultant. It simply didn’t work for her.

      Please do consider how your words sound. Please consider how your words are shaming and blaming the very people you claim to champion.

      Time should be spent on supporting mothers. Regardless of how they feed! There is so much that goes into raising a child besides how they are fed for an infant.

      Imagine the changes if women had the support and passion that lactivists throw towards breastfeeding in ALL areas of prenatal care and child rearing.

  6. demodocus
    July 30, 2018 at 5:04 pm #

    It’s pretty obvious that it isn’t a big deal. So many boomers and xers were bottle fed. Breastfeeding was at its nadir but intelligence and health were not. Something else, or more likely several somethings, have more impact.

    • Veronica
      August 3, 2018 at 12:18 pm #

      This has always been a sticking point for me. I assume that both my grandmothers breast fed their baby boomer/gen x babies mostly because they were fairly impoverished and were in the home (one was a SAHM in a city, the other lived on a dairy farm so would have done farming work but been able to be around her babies all the time). Their children have had VASTLY different outcomes of health as adults. The thing is, I have no way of actually knowing whether or not my hunches are correct, because as was pointed out further up in the comments, there is no way of reliably tracking or telling this long term. The thing is, as far as I know (and I certainly will look through old studies when I get the chance), no one was bothering to conduct such studies in the 40s-70s because they realized that if babies were not dying and were growing, they were going to be fine.

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