No, Kimberly Seals Allers, formula is not McDonald’s

Fast food and unhealthy eating concept - close up of fast food snacks and cold drink on yellow background

It’s almost as if lactivists can’t help themselves.

The mainstream media is suddenly full of mothers sharing the guilt of not being able to breastfeed and their anguish over nearly starving their babies. Over and over again new mothers have shared their stories about being wounded by the shaming language favored by lactation consultants: “artificial” baby milk, “risks” of formula feeding, comparisons of formula to tobacco.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Seals Allers and her colleagues appear to believe that everyone (millions of mothers, tens of thousands of doctors) is an ignorant dupe but themselves.[/pullquote]

I’ve learned that it is too much to expect lactation consultants to apologize as any healthcare professional would be ethically obligated to do, but is it really too much to expect them to stop using shaming language? Apparently it is.

Three days ago lactation consultant Kimberly Seals Allers posted this gem on Twitter:


No one would accept a nutritionist trained at a’McDonalds Health Institute’ but every day mamas face pediatricians only trained in breastfeeding by infant formula industry. The ones who financially benefit from failure of breastfeeding. We deserve better!

When called on it, Seals Allers resorted to that favorite lactivist tactic, gaslighting.

I speak facts. Shaming is your language not mine. My tweet is about where and how pediatricians receive training and who is best to do it. Commercial industry or non partisan medical authorities. All other assumptions about derision are made up and are your own.


So few words, so much lying and shaming.

1. The comparison of formula to McDonald’s is grossly irresponsible. Whereas certain McDonald’s products have lots of calories and little nutrition, infant formula is the PERFECT food for infants with the perfect amount of calories and the perfect amount of nutrients, indeed more nutrients than breastmilk.

2. It is meant to be vicious. The tweet not so subtly implies that women who choose to formula feed are knowingly and willfully choosing a nutritionally empty food for their babies.

3. It is a lie. Pediaticians are not trained by formula manufacturers. Indeed, I challenge Ms. Seals Allers to name 5 pediatrics residency programs where formula manufacturers are in charge of breastfeeding education.

4. It implies that pediatricians who value infant health over ideological purity are dupes of the formula industry. A growing body of research shows that the aggressive breastfeeding promotion campaigns favored by lactation consultants are injuring and even killing babies. Exclusive breastfeeding doubles the rate of neonatal hospital readmission, leading to tens of thousands of babies who are readmitted to the hospital and hundreds of millions of dollars of healthcare spending each year. Babies are being brain injured and are dying from dehydration, hypoglycemia, kernicterus and smothering in or falling from their mothers hospital beds because well baby nurseries have been closed.

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

This is not the first time that Seals Allers has struck out aggressively and viciously against women who use formula to feed their babies and the health professionals who support them.


I suspect it reflects extreme frustration with the ongoing failure of lactivist efforts. While breastfeeding initiation rates have gone up dramatically, rates of extended breastfeeding have not followed suit. Lactation professionals could look at the situation and ask, “What are we doing wrong?,” but that involves introspection and taking responsibility, both apparently too uncomfortable to contemplate. Instead lactation professionals ask, “Who is doing this to us?,” and embrace the conspiracy theory that formula manufacturers are behind lactivist failures.

What are lactation professionals doing wrong?

  • They value ideological purity (exclusive breastfeeding) over combination feeding.
  • They demonize formula to a ridiculous extent, making themselves look foolish.
  • They lie about the fact that insufficient breastmilk is common.
  • They recommend barbaric regimens of feed/pump/supplement without any evidence of efficacy.
  • They ignore the harms (sometimes deadly harms) to both babies and mothers.

Instead of acknowledging their own mistakes they prefer to blame the formula industry:

They claimed easy access to formula in hospitals the prevented breastfeeding so they banned formula; breastfeeding rates didn’t change appreciably.

They claimed formula gifts given to new mothers prevented breastfeeding so they banned gifts; breastfeeding rates didn’t change appreciably.

They decried lack of hospital based lactation support so they created the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative; breastfeeding rates didn’t change appreciably but readmissions and injuries rose.

Now, as neonatologists and pediatricians scramble to save the brains and lives of babies harmed by aggressive breastfeeding promotion, Seals Allers has the unmitigated gall to float a monstrous lie, that pediatricians are trained by formula companies.

It’s almost as if Seals Allers and her colleagues believe that everyone (millions of mothers, tens of thousands of doctors) is an ignorant dupe but themselves.

Of course there’s an alternate possibility: mothers and doctors are caring individuals who have discovered through experience or scientific evidence that breast isn’t best for every baby or every mother and a few thousand lactation consultants are the ones who are dupes. They’ve been duped by a philosophy that values ideological purity over infant and maternal health.

But lactation professionals never, ever consider the possibility that THEY are the ones who are wrong. Far easier to lie and shame others than to take responsibility for their own misconceptions, misinterpretations and mistakes in promoting breastfeeding above all else.