Here’s the problem with lactivist claims about Fed Is Best: they miss the forest for the trees.


Lactation consultant Wendy Wisner has written a piece for Scary Mommy criticizing the Fed Is Best movement. The piece is instructive, but not in the way she intended. Wisner demonstrates that lactation consultants continue to miss the forest for the trees.

The forest is a set of deeply disturbing statistics about the harms of aggressive breastfeeding promotion:

One in every 53 breastfed babies is readmitted to the hospital for complications of breastfeeding.

That’s tens of thousands of babies each year at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Exclusive breastfeeding on discharge is now the LEADING risk factor for newborn hospital readmission.

Wisner acknowledges the forest — that breastfeeding isn’t best for every mother and every baby:

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The forest is the tens of thousands of babies readmitted to the hospital for insufficient breastmilk; the trees are the theoretical and largely debunked benefits of breastfeeding.[/pullquote]

There were times – like when a baby was failure to thrive, or when a mother was deep in the throes of postpartum depression – where it was my job to actively encourage formula supplementation or full weaning. I didn’t hesitate to do that either.

Besides crisis situations like these, there are so many reasons why a mother might decide not to breastfeed: a history of sexual abuse, medical issues that prohibit breastfeeding (like a need for cancer treatments), military deployment, or simply no desire to pursue breastfeeding.

But then she obsesses over the trees — the purported benefits of breastfeeding:

I recently wrote an article for Scary Mommy about a newly discovered benefit of breastmilk: that it protects mothers against liver disease. It was based on a study published in a reputable medical journal and carried out by physicians and experts in the field. I also included quotes from physicians not directly affiliated with the study, backing up the claims in the study.

And yet, the comments section was filled with Fed Is Best supporters trying to take apart the research, saying that it must not to be true, that the results were overblown, and that there really isn’t a discernible difference between breastmilk and formula.

Tens of thousands of babies are being readmitted to the hospital. Some are sustaining permanent brain injuries. A few have even died as a result of dehydration or severe jaundice. And Wisner thinks what we really ought to concentrate on is small studies that propose benefits that aren’t yet proven and have not been demonstrated in large populations? Really?

Wisner insists:

The fact is, breastmilk is a healthier food for babies than formula. It has immune and disease fighting factors that formula is simply unable to replicate. It has benefits – some of which science has only scratched the surface of – that last a lifetime for both moms and babies.

No, the fact is that aggressive breastfeeding promotion is responsible for thousands of hospitalizations and countless brain injuries and no lactation professional can demonstrate that even a single term baby has been saved or made healthier by breastfeeding.

Wisner and her fellow lactation professionals have become so entranced by individual trees that not merely have they lost sight of the forest, they ignore the fact that the forest is on fire!

Wisner writes:

Especially these days, we need to rely on scientific evidence as we make health choices for our families – and not all the pseudoscience mumbo jumbo that seems to be at our fingertips all the time. What’s more, we need to be able to talk about these things clearly and thoughtfully, without worrying that we are automatically shaming someone just by stating facts.

I agree, so let’s look at what a comprehensive review of ALL the scientific evidence about breastfeeding shows.

A 2018 paper, Is the “breast is best” mantra an oversimplification?, summarizes the evidence that the benefits have been overstated and the risks ignored.

The authors could be talking about Wisner:

Recommendations about breastfeeding — absent critical analysis and removed from context — may overvalue its benefit…

The benefits of breastfeeding for infants have long been touted as numerous and supported by overwhelming evidence…

The truth is that most of the benefits originally claimed by breastfeeding researchers have been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked as caused by confounding variables like maternal socio-economic class. Breastfeeding is socially patterned; higher educated, higher income women are much more likely to breastfeed than their lower educated, lower income peer. A lot of the benefits that appeared to come from breastfeeding are actually benefits of being wealthier and having greater access to healthcare.

The authors review the data to answer the critical question: does breastfeeding save lives? A detailed review of the entire breastfeeding scientific literature shows that no clear association has been found between mortality and breastfeeding status in developed countries, except for the association with SIDS. And pacifiers reduce the risk of SIDS more than breastfeeding does.

Critically, breastfeeding has serious risks:

…[E]xclusive breastfeeding at discharge from the hospital is likely the single greatest risk factor for hospital readmission in newborns. Term infants who are exclusively breastfed are more likely to be hospitalized compared to formula-fed or mixed-fed infants, due to hyperbilirubinemia, dehydration, hypernatremia, and weight loss …

Many of these hospitalizations and events could be avoided with appropriate monitoring and medically indicated supplementation …

The bottom line?

The evidence for infant breastfeeding status and its association with health outcomes faces significant limitations; the great majority of those limitations tend to overestimate the benefits of breastfeeding. Nearly all evidence is based on observational studies, in which causality cannot be determined and self-selection bias, recall bias, and residual confounding limit the value or strength of the findings.

Wisner declares:

Women should be able to make informed choices when it comes to whether to breastfeed or not.

But women CAN’T make an informed decision when lactation consultants like Wisner are making claims about breastfeeding that simply aren’t true and refusing to provide detailed information about the risks.

Wisner concludes:

Mothers are smarter than that, and don’t like to be lied to. I believe that mothers are more powerful than they know, even when they are at their breaking points – and the way to fully empower mothers is to give them good, clear information, along with honest, non-judgmental, deeply loving emotional support.

Yes, mothers ARE smarter than lactation consultants think and they don’t like lactation consultants to LIE to them. That’s why nearly 700,000 have joined the Fed Is Best Foundation in promoting the message on Facebook and elsewhere.

If we want to give women good, clear information we must tell them the truth: Fed IS best! That’s the forest. Lactation consultants should stop obsessing about the trees of purported (and largely debunked) benefits and take a good look at what they’ve been missing.

76 Responses to “Here’s the problem with lactivist claims about Fed Is Best: they miss the forest for the trees.”

  1. mabelcruet
    April 22, 2019 at 11:52 am #

    I’ve been musing a bit about love (its Easter, we have public holidays here for Easter so I’m not working and I’ve done all the gardening I feel like doing, plus I’ve run out of potting compost).

    In the article above, Wisner talks of providing ‘deeply loving’ support. It’s a term I’ve seen used repeatedly by midwives, lactation counsellors and doulas-they talk of providing love and support to their patients/clients/mothers (whatever term is preferred now for expectant/breast feeding women), and the twitter threads of prominent midwives are full of declarations of love for their sister midwives.

    I’ve been working full time for almost 30 years. I can safely say I’ve never spoken of loving my colleagues, or loving my patients. I love my job, in that it provides me with a sense of achievement, I think I’m quite useful, and I feel like I’ve made a contribution to health care, plus I find it intellectually satisfying, so does that mean I love it for selfish reasons, for what it gives me as an individual?

    Is it professional to speak about providing ‘deeply loving’ support? What does she mean by ‘deeply loving’? Is it a fancy way of saying she provides care and support in a way that makes the person feels safe, secure, protected and informed? If so, that’s what any health care provider should be doing-why should that be considered ‘deeply loving’?

    In my line of work, I’ve seen many doctors very badly affected by losing a patient-my neonatology colleagues frequently attend the autopsy of a baby that they had treated-they saw this as a final service for the baby so that they could go back and tell the parents that we looked after their baby, and tell them exactly what was found and why their baby died. I’ve had anaesthetists in tears after an autopsy on a small child who was admitted moribund and couldn’t be resuscitated despite everything they tried. I’ve had oncologists sobbing on my shoulder when a child died suddenly-who seemed to be coping well and doing well, and then suddenly was stricken with sepsis or something similarly awful. Many of these were doctors who came in on their off-duty day, or who stayed on for hours after the end of their shift, simply to see it through.

    On a happier note, I have a neonatology colleague who posts photographs of the NICU graduates that come back to the hospital (with parents permission, of course). All the tiny micro-premies that eventually get big enough to go home, and he remembers every single last one of them, and his smile (and the smiles of all the other staff seeing these little scraps all grown up and off to school) simply shine from the pictures. In the children’s oncology centre, there is a ‘passing-out’ ceremony for any child who is declared as being in remission-there’s a big bell rung and a party and all the oncologists and oncology nurses wave the child out of the front door.

    But I have never heard any of my colleagues talk of providing loving support. I’ve seem them provide it, every single day, but they don’t talk about loving their patients or providing loving support. To me, the way Wisner uses it in the article, it is a meaningless term, and used to make it sound as though the care provided is somehow better than just ‘support’. I commented ages ago on a copy of some maternity notes I’d been sent (with a baby who was stillborn). In the notes were comments like ‘sensitively asked if X and Y wanted breakfast,’, ‘respectfully explained to Y how to get to the canteen’, ‘compassionately explained about how the cold cot worked’. It was as ridiculous as that-saying that something was provided compassionately or lovingly doesn’t make it so, it makes it sound as though you’re more concerned with looking like you’re providing appropriate support rather than actually doing so. Maybe I’m cynical and cold-hearted (I’m British, after all), but I get immediately suspicious about any health care provider who starts talking about providing loving care or loving support.

    • StephanieJR
      April 22, 2019 at 2:33 pm #

      I’ve often thought, if you have to keep repeating something, like a guilty partner declaring their love right before they cheat, or lactivists insisting how magical breast milk is, you don’t really mean it. All this talk about ‘loving support’ sounds like they’re trying to convince everyone, including themselves, that it really is better than ‘just support’. It’s not.

      • mabelcruet
        April 22, 2019 at 3:19 pm #

        Exactly. And when you read comment after comment on here and various other fora online, its clear that very many women did not feel supported by their lactation professionals, that they felt pressured, bullied, lied to and harassed. Meanwhile, the lactation crowd are bleating endlessly about ‘we need to support these women more!’ and refuse to accept that their behaviour is a huge part of the problem. Support is pointless if women don’t feel supported or listened to. There’s no point prattling about deeply loving support if you can’t or don’t actually provide it.

        • rational thinker
          April 22, 2019 at 5:24 pm #

          I have seen this technique used many times in cults. This is called “love bombing” and when used on a vunerable person it is quite effective. They make the person feel loved and secure and then the brain washing can begin. Lactivism and home birthing are very much love bombing cults, but probably more so used in the home birth setting. So when tragedy strikes at a home birth the parents will defend the guilty midwife because of all the love bombing that has taken place.

  2. Holly
    April 17, 2019 at 1:00 pm #

    I just read your book “Push Back” and it is everything I have been looking for since my first child was born 2.5 yrs ago. I did everything the “non conventional” way. Had a scheduled C-section and chose beforehand not to breastfeed – in part because of medications I take, but also because I just didn’t want to. I have zero regrets about what I chose to do – and will do again come July with baby #2! – but I just can’t get over the overwhelming cultural messages ALL AROUND US from “providers”, friends, family, social media about the values of natural childbirth, breastfeeding, and attachment parenting, all the while shaming mothers and contributing to unnecessary guilt. I have had bouts of terrible guilt myself about my choices, despite how confident I was at the time, based on these messages. Thank you for being a voice of reason in this chaotic world!

    • Ayr
      April 18, 2019 at 7:40 pm #

      I did the exact same thing, even before being on certain meds, I had no desire to breast feed. Baby #2 is due in June and I plan to do the same again, my dad tried to give me a guilt trip the other day about not breast feeding, my own father! I just looked at him and said I had no intention and no desire to breast feed, he was somewhat taken aback by the firm resolute nature of that statement. With my first I had people from all sides telling me I should at least try, one friend actually said ‘Promise me you will at least try to breast feed.’ It was all I could do not to tell her it was none of her business, but then I remembered she is a somewhat flighty person who rarely thinks before she speaks and is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet, so I just blew off the statement and smiled.

      • rational thinker
        April 19, 2019 at 7:53 am #

        If it were my friend I would be so tempted to say ” Ok, as long as you promise me you will at least try anal sex once before you decide you dont like it”.

        • Ayr
          April 19, 2019 at 10:26 am #

          Lo! If I had said something like that to her, she would have looked at me like a deer in the headlights or even a bit confused. She is an incredibly naive person.

  3. BH
    April 17, 2019 at 12:07 pm #

    I found your blog after dealing with massive guilt from low-supply as my daughter was starving and dehydrated and I thank God it didn’t get to the point where she needed to be hospitalised before supplementing. I did everything “right” ie. unmedicated VB, immediate skin-to-skin, immediate BF after birth, 24 hr rooming in, etc,etc but it didn’t make a difference. I have all the markers of insufficient glandular tissue (IGT) with almost no breast changes in pregnancy (trying to get that officially diagnosed though is next to impossible). I was never warned by anyone even in breastfeeding classes that low-supply could be an issue. My community child maternal health nurses (who are qualified as midwives and some are LCs) keep blaming the fact that I had a post-partum hemorrage on my low supply and dismiss my concerns that I’ll likely have the same issues next time. I am 95% certain that any future babies will need formula supplementation regardless of birth outcomes. About 50% of my females relatives have also had supply issues but that fact is also ignored. It’s like setting me up for the same disaster and putting yet another baby at risk. It is so irresponsible to be lying to women not only about the benefits of BF but also putting babies at risk by lying (omitting) about how often BF fails.

    • rational thinker
      April 17, 2019 at 1:11 pm #

      Dont worry if you cant make milk come out of your breasts you may be able to get it out through your armpit. -(yes, they actually say this).

    • moto_librarian
      April 25, 2019 at 2:08 pm #

      So I had primary lactation failure with my first child, and I was told that it could be related to the pph that I suffered. My son’s pediatrician was the only person who provided me with that information; none of the LCs saw fit to mention it. But I’m also fairly certain that I have IGT (my breasts didn’t change that much during either pregnancy, and I never experienced the sensation of let-down). With my second child, I agreed to try breastfeeding again with the understanding that I would be combo-feeding. To be honest, I didn’t really want to try it again, but I caved to pressure. At least I was more gentle with myself and didn’t put myself through the pumping regime from hell again.

  4. Amazed
    April 17, 2019 at 5:51 am #

    OT: Yesterday, we had an anniversay, kind of. 84 years since the greatest terrorist act of its time. On 16 April 1925 (the Orthodox Holy Thursday, no less!) Bulgarian Communists blew up the major church in our capital, Saint King. With all the generals, thousands of people, including women and children, and all the ministers in attendance. The monarch himself was expected to be there but he was late from the funerals of his two companions, murdered a few days earlier in an attempt against his own life. The Communists killed a very respected retired general in the centre of the capital, with his wife and little granddaughter nearby, to attract everyone of importance in the church. In the chaos of a country with no leadership, Soviet power would have been established.

    14 generals died this day. The people who lost their lives were 213. As I said, there were many women and children among them. Over 500 were wounded. The numbers of the victim record (a world one, at the time) was matched only 63 years later. But I can’t think of anyone matching the record of cynism and treachery. These were Bulgarians. On foreign pay. A few months later, in Moscow, they (the ones who survived) lamented the results – for themselves, I mean. They are on record (their own conference documented it) saying, “We thought that for 15 days, an unborn yet child will shriek in their mother after the assault. We did not think that there would be a martial law, a curfew at 7.30, arrests all around… In the beginning, I wanted to kill them off with poisonous gas. And indeed, many of the wounded died later due to the poisoning…”

    Happy anniversary to us. And while people are still ranting (rightfully) about Nazis, spare a thought about the crimes of Communism, OK?

    • Inmara
      April 19, 2019 at 4:20 am #

      Thank you for sharing this tough part of your history! Ashamed to say that I haven’t heard of this event, though in my country we like to point at crimes of Communism as much as possible (because we also feel overlooked in this regard).

      • Amazed
        April 19, 2019 at 6:36 am #

        Oh, I didn’t think you would have heard of it. I suspect you have your own “why dwell in the past” guys, right? Alas, they abound here. I don’t know much about their heroics in your country either – it’s pathetic that only last year, the first history of the Bulgarian Communust Party written by an anti-Communist was published. 30 years after they supposedly fell from power!

        How can anyone not feel overlooked in this regard is beyond me but at the same time, it’s very logical that the crimes of Communism are overlooked. The President of the Party of European Socialists is our very own Sergei Stanishev, the son of a man who enforced “the people’s power” some 70 years ago. They’re here, they’ve never left and they’ve climed to the European tops now.

        Crimes of Communism will always be overlooked as long as the default insult is Nazi (Fascist, here). Personally, I use Commie.

        I am not religious at all – thanks, Commies! They unseated God to have Lenin and the local versions take His place, so who could have taught me? But even so, I find it beyond disgusting to blow a church on Holy Thursday, with such a crowd in it. Or kill a decent person only to have said crowd gather for his funeral service. But as I said, as long as Nazi is the insult, here we are.

  5. GreySweater
    April 16, 2019 at 11:01 am #

    When I delivered my baby, which was an absolute (preventable) disaster from which I am still recovering physically and emotionally (because my randomly assigned doctor would not relent and do a c section) I was attacked by nurses and lactation consultants immediately, after going through emergency surgery. I didn’t protest because I didn’t know better. I was woken up every two hours even though I was hallucinating and nearly dropping my poor baby on the floor. They would NOT leave me alone, grabbing at my breasts when I asked them not to, forcing me to pump though there was no need, insisting that everything they did was facilitating nursing which I had to do or else my baby would be at severe disadvantage. All this insistence on intervention when I have never had one issue with nursing. I enjoy it because it is super easy, cheap and convenient for me. I would have done it even without these mean women scraping their fingernails against my nipples for three days.

    I wondered why until I got the bills. Lo and behold, these women are not benevolent volunteers who love babies and want them to nurse. They are paid consultants who charge lots of money for their nonsense! That pump I explicitly did not want? Hundreds of dollars. Teaching me to use he pump I didn’t want and could have easily figured out with the instructions? Yep, billed again. The lactation consultants who borderline assaulted me? Billed for their services even though I asked them to leave.

    When people yammer on about how “big formula” or whatever pushes formula feeding for profit, I wish someone would respond by asking if lactation consultants are free of charge. These people damaged me so much in ways I am still trying to cope with five months later. Apologies for the tirade, I just can’t handle the sanctimonious nonsense.

    • rational thinker
      April 16, 2019 at 11:42 am #

      You have every right to be upset. What they did to you was unforgivable and I hope you and baby are doing well. Most lactavists will go on about how much cheaper breastfeeding is. For women with a good supply and no issues it may very well be cheaper for them, but more than half may have issues and if you have seen a lactation consultant 4 times you have just spent more than what it costs to feed a baby for the first year with formula not to mention all the extra crap you dont need for breastfeeding that they tell you that you must buy. So yeah those big bad formula companies that take your money is nothing in comparison to a lactation consultant and all those accessories.

      • Laura
        April 16, 2019 at 12:19 pm #

        This is so true. I spent thousands on pumps, lactation consultant home visits, and aids to help the first time. If I mention this to anyone in the breastfeeding muck, I get “well you didn’t HAVE to do it that way to get help” type answers. Maybe I didn’t, but at the time, getting to the hospital (50 minutes away, with newborn twins no less) for a scheduled group class felt like a whole new form of torture, so the home visit thing felt like it was what I needed to do.

        • GreySweater
          April 16, 2019 at 12:32 pm #

          And at my hospital, those classes sure weren’t free to attend. So that wouldn’t have helped you financially either. Those nice helpful lactation consultants sure know how to make a buck.

      • GreySweater
        April 16, 2019 at 12:31 pm #

        Thanks for the well wishes! And the lactation consultants at the hospital billed for more than two years worth of formula, so you’re right about that claim. The pump they billed me for was about ten times the exact equivalent at Target, marked up because it was for sale in the hospital. Out hundreds of dollars for something my insurance would have paid for.

    • Amazed
      April 16, 2019 at 12:05 pm #

      I’m so sorry you were subjected to this. It angers me that they DARE talk about “big formula”.

      There is an anecdote that happened about a year ago that really illustrates how pervasive this breastfeeding uber alles mentality is. My friend gave birth to 30 weeker. No need to say, straight to the NICU she went. But they were unable to keep mom’s blood pressure down without strong meds (she was severely preeclamptic, hence out at 30 weeks the kid went). She said she’d like to pump and try to keep some supply for when the baby would go home. They looked at her and said, “Very well but PROMISE you won’t try to feed this milk to her, right? PROMISE that you’ll throw it away.” You heard that right. They actually thought a mom would try to feed her NICU baby her drug-ridden milk because it was milk. I don’t want to know what made them think anyone would.

      It’s madness.

      • GreySweater
        April 16, 2019 at 12:29 pm #

        Nipple confusion was harped on so much while I was in hospital. Funny how breastfeeding is supposedly the most important and natural thing on earth yet a baby can’t nurse if it has even one bottle. Thanks for your reply, in my “real life” I’m not exposed to anyone who didn’t breastfeed at any cost so it amazes me that I’m not alone in this struggle.

      • Cristina
        April 16, 2019 at 3:37 pm #

        I think it’s because in the NICU they actually care about the health of the baby

    • MaineJen
      April 16, 2019 at 1:03 pm #

      I cringed at the “fingernails.” How awful!!

      My sister just had an emergency c section at a baby friendly hospital too. She went through the same thing, including the guilt when things didn’t go perfectly! (Because: breastfeeding is a learned skill that takes practice for both the mom and baby, even under the best of circumstances.) I’m so mad that they do this to you guys, and THEN bill so much money for it.

      I had a vaginal birth with few complications, and even *I* got impatient with the constant attention from lactation helpers. After surgery?? Forget it. Hugs!!

      • GreySweater
        April 16, 2019 at 1:57 pm #

        Ah I feel for your sister! And yes. Even if everything went perfectly and painlessly, I would have still been super irritated by two women yanking off my hospital gown without asking and yammering on and on about “breast is best”. It’s odd to me that they don’t want to even see a problem before starting to intervene. Oh wait! That method isn’t billable. Hugs to you!

    • PeggySue
      April 16, 2019 at 5:30 pm #

      I am so so sorry. This sounds like a nightmare from start to finish.

      • GreySweater
        April 16, 2019 at 5:37 pm #

        Thank you! It was definitely not what I’d hoped for but I’m doing my best to move on.

    • moto_librarian
      April 25, 2019 at 2:11 pm #

      I’m so sorry that this happened to you. I had a “textbook” natural childbirth that turned into a total shit show as soon as the placenta was delivered. I had a manual examination of my uterus without pain medication, a pph that nearly required a transfusion, and surgery to repair a cervical laceration. I went through the same bullshit with the hospital LC. She also grabbed my breasts without asking and put me on the pumping regime from hell. I was too unwell and exhausted to advocate for myself, and this bullshit ruined the newborn period with my son. I almost had a nervous breakdown. This should not be happening to women.

      • GreySweater
        April 25, 2019 at 4:51 pm #

        I find the whole process so morbidly fascinating. No one would EVER do any of those painful medical procedures on a man without some sort of pain mitigation. No one would think it was morally or legally acceptable to grab a patient’s breasts without warning or explanation. Why is it okay to treat pregnant woman like this? I was just speaking to a friend who delivered a few weeks ago. She was induced and they didn’t even tell her until she delivered and a nurse mentioned it. She just thought the IV was a precaution or for hydration.

        I almost (maybe did?) have a breakdown during the newborn period with my daughter and I am still not able to get past everything that happened. I filed a complaint with the hospital and they “investigated themselves” and actually found that things were done poorly, but everything was explainable medically. So I guess you can treat pregnant women however you want, as long as no one actually dies.

        Sorry for the rant and for what you went through. Commiseration hug if you want one.

  6. Amazed
    April 16, 2019 at 10:56 am #

    OT: My mom has been talking to Amazing Niece in English quite a lot recently. “Careful here,” I told her. “This stuff was one of the reasons I grew up disliking English. You were just too overwhelming.” She was thrilled. “You mean I had THIS much time for you when you were growing up? Wow! So I was basically a supermom!”

    Perspective is a wonderful thing, guys… I really can’t say her way of thinking ISN’T valid.

  7. Amazed
    April 16, 2019 at 10:38 am #

    I had a look at the scarymoomy facebook page and it left me faintly sad. So many women who had to formula feed still go to such pains to say that they KNOW breastmilk is superior. Makes me wonder how many of them would have become rabid lactivists themselves if their boobs had worked as they intended. Honestly, they read as “I did my best, I’m a good girl” to me. The only difference is, they had to use formula at the end.

    I wonder how mothers who CHOSE to FF felt reading this. Both sides slam them as worse mothers than the posters themselves – never mind that only one side makes it open-ish-ly.

    As to the posters who insist they aren’t about shaming FF mothers but are “for science”, they just make me laugh. Do they think it’s some complicated theoretical game? If so, they should have given up when it became clear they were hurting people. But they didn’t. Because they want these asspats. And they’re scientifically illiterate. (Not that I consider myself a scientist, mind you. But this level of ignorance would have made my mother wonder what she did wrong. Except for not breastfeeding me which she, err, did. Easily, happily, with no LC to tell her how natural and hard it was and pat themselves on the back when her boobs worked.)

    • GreySweater
      April 16, 2019 at 11:07 am #

      I am kind of one of those women right now. Breastfeeding is easy for me but my baby is just a sleep hater and is up every hour all night and has been for two months (she’s five months old). I’m beyond exhausted and depressed but can’t bear to let my husband feed her with a bottle. I blame the indoctrination at the hospital. I feel simultaneously so so stupid and so afraid to stop nursing exclusively. I’m a highly educated professional person and cannot even begin to understand why I can’t break this thought pattern. I keep remembering the lactation consultants and their threats and then I get up hourly one more terrible night and just hope the next one is better.

      • Laura
        April 16, 2019 at 11:50 am #

        Just writing to say you aren’t alone. Also a doctorate-level professional who logically KNOWS it doesn’t matter, and had a hard time breastfeeding the first go-round. I had all but decided to just formula feed from the jump, and then ordered an Elvie pump. And called insurance about the Spectra just in case. I feel like a crazy person. I also can’t seem to break the pattern even though I have read enough to know better.

        • Amazed
          April 16, 2019 at 11:55 am #

          Is the second kid here already? Good luck to you too. Recognizing the poisonous pattern IS a step in the right direction.

          • Laura
            April 16, 2019 at 12:15 pm #

            Not until summer! I’ve got some time to work it out and I am definitely committed to my sanity – if it’s not relatively easy this time, I will just be done with it.

        • GreySweater
          April 16, 2019 at 12:35 pm #

          It’s amazing what the indoctrination can do to us. I guess they have a captive audience, I literally couldn’t walk away from them for three days if I tried, and I was so weak and out of it I would have probably become a Scientologist if one had been proselytizing around the maternity ward. From one crazy person to another, I’m rooting for you.

          • Laura
            April 16, 2019 at 1:50 pm #

            I’m rooting for you as well!

          • PeggySue
            April 16, 2019 at 5:35 pm #

            I’m rooting for you both.

      • rational thinker
        April 16, 2019 at 11:51 am #

        It may take awhile to get over the kind of mental abuse you were subjected to. I would say just try one bottle before bed to see if if it keeps her asleep longer. Seeing it for yourself will help with the mental stuff, and you cant keep going exhausted like this it is not good for you and if its not good for you it is not good for baby either.

        • GreySweater
          April 16, 2019 at 12:33 pm #

          My husband bought formula and insisted we try tonight. So here’s hoping the weird cycle can be broken. Thank you for the advice.

          • KQ Not Signed In
            April 17, 2019 at 3:35 pm #

            Just wanted to check in and see how you’re doing. Hoping you’ve had a good solid sleep and a little less guilt <3

          • GreySweater
            April 17, 2019 at 11:31 pm #

            Thank you! My husband fed her pumped milk last night and she was better than usual so I got a couple chunks of three or four hours of sleep, which truly felt like a miracle. I’m so thankful I commented here, it has been so much support during a very trying time. Really appreciate it <3

          • KQ Not Signed In
            April 18, 2019 at 12:13 pm #

            Just a little sleep makes so much difference! I hope you are able to continue on the path of less guilt and more sleep! You are doing a fantastic job!

          • GreySweater
            April 19, 2019 at 7:44 pm #

            Thank you! I’m sort of overwhelmed by the kindness here. XOXO.

          • Inmara
            April 19, 2019 at 4:28 am #

            Good to see that you’re feeling better! I’d say that these are lactation hormones wreaking havoc on your ability to make rational decisions (maybe Nature’s way of ensuring that moms push through with breastfeeding even if it hugely inconveniences or even harms them?) I had hard time starting to supplement, too, despite being aware of possible insufficient supply and reading SOB prior to birth (so I was not into the “formula is poison” mindset). Anyway, it took 3 weeks to start supplementing and I didn’t stop occasional breastfeeds up to almost 5 months, despite them being quite worthless at that point (baby was fussy at the breast and got most calories from formula). Only after ceasing breastfeeding my mind cleared and I couldn’t understand why I was so irrational with feeding choices. Sleep deprivation may have impact as well, so take as much sleep as possible when your husband gives baby a bottle!

          • GreySweater
            April 19, 2019 at 7:51 pm #

            I don’t think I realized how off the rails I’d gotten til I slept four hours in a row for the first time in probably nine months. Holy moly does sleep deprivation take a toll. I feel like a new person. I realize now I was also irrational and placing a weird importance on “powering through” like being a martyr somehow helps my baby. I think there’s an unhealthy competition with moms. Who sacrifices the most and is the most miserable? Not a healthy contest. Def doing a bottle tonight and getting a nice (hopefully!) six hour chunk. Hope you are sleeping well now 🙂

          • rational thinker
            April 19, 2019 at 8:40 am #

            I am so happy you got some sleep. Feeding pumped milk is a great first step. If you want to try half formula and half breast milk that may keep her fuller also.

            This is a trick that I did with mine, you can put a tablespoon of baby cereal (the flaky kind) in the before bed bottle. That will make it thicker and also let her sleep longer and it does not matter if it is added with breast milk or formula and she is old enough now for it. So if you want to you can give that a try too. And remember happy mommy = happy baby.

          • GreySweater
            April 19, 2019 at 7:46 pm #

            I think I will try this especially since she is more than five months now. It might help her reflux too! Thank you <3

          • rational thinker
            April 21, 2019 at 11:31 am #

            Hi I just checking in. I wanted to make sure you are doing ok and getting rest.

          • GreySweater
            April 22, 2019 at 11:11 am #

            So much better, thank you. She has slept from seven to 1:30 and then two til 5:30 two nights in a row. I feel like a new woman! My husband being able to give her a bottle has also been a lifesaver. Thank you for checking in. Things are looking up in my household!

          • rational thinker
            April 22, 2019 at 5:47 pm #

            Thats so great! I hope things continue to go well for you and family. Remember if you ever need advice or to talk or just vent me and the others who spoke to you are always here.

          • GreySweater
            April 23, 2019 at 5:44 pm #

            Thank you so much. I may take you up on that. This seems like a very unique community and I’m thankful I found it when I did.

          • rational thinker
            April 30, 2019 at 8:24 am #

            Hi, are you still doing ok and getting enough rest.

          • GreySweater
            May 5, 2019 at 9:15 am #

            Much better! I think I just really needed permission to prioritize my needs, as well as the needs of my baby and husband. Things aren’t perfect but MUCH better. Thank you for checking in <3

      • Amazed
        April 16, 2019 at 11:54 am #

        I wish you good luck in breaking the pattern. Don’t forget, it’s normal to place your daughter’s need before your own in this particular period of her life. But to have YOU being the sole food source isn’t a need. Her need is to be fed. Your need is to get sleep.

        • GreySweater
          April 16, 2019 at 12:41 pm #

          I’m really trying to remind myself of this. Thank you for the encouragement!

      • Daleth
        April 16, 2019 at 1:30 pm #

        Honestly it may be the sleep deprivation that’s messing with your ability to think straight. What if you told your husband to please feed her with a bottle and let you sleep, and then see how you felt?

        Actually DOING the thing that you rationally know makes sense, and then seeing how you feel, is often a much more effective approach than waiting until you FEEL LIKE doing the thing that you already know makes sense.

        • GreySweater
          April 16, 2019 at 1:58 pm #

          That’s good advice, thank you. I pumped a bottle so maybe that is a good first step. I’m going to repeat your second paragraph throughout the day to remind myself. Months of no sleeping makes you crazy, and then you’re too tired to remember that you’re crazy. Oy.

          • Daleth
            April 17, 2019 at 9:29 am #

            Yay! A bottle! That’s a great first step.

            Be easy on yourself. You need sleep. Your daughter needs a sane, reasonably well-rested mother.

    • E.C.
      April 16, 2019 at 12:31 pm #

      I planned to exclusively formula feed right from the start. I brought formula (and nipples and pacifiers) to the hospital. My birth plan banned lactation consultants from my room. When I hear the lactivists yammering on and the “I’m a good girl, I tried, pat me on the head” wannabees, I feel so happy to be me and relieved that I protected myself from all of that.

      • GreySweater
        April 16, 2019 at 4:41 pm #

        If I ever have another baby my birth plan will be: don’t wake me up for the love of god and please leave me alone

      • Amazed
        April 16, 2019 at 6:09 pm #

        Yes, it’s the “I’m a good girl, I tried, pat me on the head” wannabes that make me feel uneasy. Why don’t you state the truth, namely that the stuff you’re feeding/had fed to your kids isn’t worse in any significant way than the sacred breastmilk? Why trying to find middle ground with those who think you’re LESS?

        You did protect yourself. You should be proud. Breast is best is such a pervasive mentality that it’s hard to escape feeling bad.

    • mayonnaisejane
      April 17, 2019 at 8:39 am #

      I’m sad for these moms, but I can’t even really blame them. My recent experiences with a supposedly formula/breast agnostic Discord channel has made it clear to me that even in places where people claim to support formula feeders, they really mean they support only “good girls” who “did their best” but had to resort to formula. Coming in as someone not even pregnant yet, but already unashamedly planning to formula feed, got me driven off in force by oversensitive breast feeders who felt that expressing my confidence in my choice was, in and of itself, an attack on breast feeders. “It’s great that you’re confident in your choice, but for many others it’s an agonizing choice.” Well yeah, of course it is. Because you MAKE it agonizing by only supporting those formula feeders who show sufficient remorse for their ‘failure.’

      • rational thinker
        April 17, 2019 at 11:10 am #

        I think what I hate the most is when they say at least try it. If you tried then you are a good mom and you can join our club and get a back pat from us lactation godesses but if you did not try at all you are a piece of shit,

        • mayonnaisejane
          April 17, 2019 at 11:38 am #


        • Cristina
          April 17, 2019 at 10:08 pm #

          Yeah, you’re *allowed* to use formula if you at least try and then tell everyone you still know breast is best. Fuck. That. Noise.

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
        April 17, 2019 at 12:36 pm #

        I gave birth to my only kid in 1994, it was already (at least in California) worming it’s way into “conventional wisdom” that Breast is Best and You should at Least TRY!1!11 As I was already exhausted and had gotten a preview of the attitude from the nurse running the hospital’s Lamaze/child-birthing class, I just told them I was going to try breast feeding and see how it went (cuz i did not have the nerve to tell them off). I really had no intention of breast feeding once I got home as I was active duty military and in the middle of an international move ten weeks after her birth and I just DID NOT WANT TO.

        I had LC coming into my room and grabbing my breasts, etc, etc. Thankfully they still included ready to feed nursettes and sterile nipples in the rolling baby cribs so I just fed my kid and when I went home enjoyed the fact that I could sleep and have my husband take the night feeds for the first two weeks.

    • Daleth
      April 17, 2019 at 9:31 am #

      the posters who insist they aren’t about shaming FF mothers but are “for science”

      I’m sure you could blow the minds of some of them by enthusiastically advocating for vaccines, because science. “Science says vaccines are safe and very important!” Yes, it does, and you don’t get to cherry-pick the science you like and then claim to be “for science.”

  8. Leading Zero
    April 16, 2019 at 9:22 am #

    Let’s take this statement at face value: breastfeeding protects against liver disease. Would Wisner suggest that women who do not intend to become pregnant (or cannot become pregnant, or young women who do not plan to be pregnant for many years) ask for drugs to induce lactation and then pump, in order to receive this protective effect? If not, why not?

  9. rational thinker
    April 15, 2019 at 4:38 pm #

    “Mothers are smarter than that, and don’t like to be lied to”. Then I suggest YOU stop lying to them Wendy, because one human life will always be more important than the size of your bank account, and you need to get that through your freaking head.

  10. April 15, 2019 at 11:21 am #

    How much of a protection is breastfeeding against liver damage compared to not drinking much alcohol? Or avoiding liver-toxic drugs? Or never having contracted any of the hepatitis viruses?

    Did we mistake that women who breastfeed are probably less likely to have
    liver insults in the first place – or at least a longer break from alcohol than formula feeding moms?

    • Cartman36
      April 15, 2019 at 11:25 am #

      Excellent point Mel!

    • fiftyfifty1
      April 15, 2019 at 2:26 pm #

      I went to the original article. I don’t have access to the full text but the only confounding factors that the abstract says they corrected for were “age, race, education and baseline BMI.” So it seems they did not correct for diet composition, exercise or other lifestyle factors. Also seems they did not correct for things mentioned above (alcohol etc.) Another problem (big in my opinion) is that they didn’t correct for the reason women stopped breastfeeding. Low breastmilk production is a common reason to switch to formula. Low milk production can occur in metabolic syndromes such as PCOS/insulin resistance etc. These are the same metabolic problems that are associated with NAFLD (fatty liver.)

      • Merrie
        April 16, 2019 at 8:05 am #

        I’d love to see some sibling study of women who breastfed their babies, versus their sisters who fed formula for non-medical reasons. There’s a difference between women who have babies and those who don’t (anything from fertility differences to just the effects of months worth of gestation), and there’s a difference between those who can produce milk and those who aren’t able to, and these studies never control for those things.

    • rational thinker
      April 15, 2019 at 5:09 pm #

      I think it has just gotten to the point that they will claim anything. The next one will be “breastfeeding gives you regular bowel movements” and these dumb asses will believe them without evidence…again.

    • Cristina
      April 15, 2019 at 9:50 pm #

      I’ve heard people say drinking beer helps milk production, so maybe they aren’t getting a longer break than formula feeding moms, lol

  11. Cartman36
    April 15, 2019 at 10:37 am #

    “Mothers are smarter than that, and don’t like to be lied to”. Yes Wendy, they are. Just imagine how pissed off a mother would be if she busted her a$$ to breastfeed for four months to the point of a near nervous breakdown and then later, after finding Dr. Amy, FIB, Courtney Jung, etc learning that lactation consultants like you withhold critical information about the validity of the claims made about the benefits of breastfeeding. That is what happened to me with baby # 1 so forgive me if I am more than a little skeptical of any claim made about the benefits of breastfeeding or anything coming from the mouth of a LC.

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