Five Things Breastfeeding Advocates Need to Stop Doing

I consider myself a breastfeeding advocate. I breastfed all three of my children through toddlerhood. My mom was a La Leche League leader when I was little and recently retired as a professional lactation consultant. I grew up knowing the ins and outs of breastfeeding benefits (or the risks of not breastfeeding, if we want to go with that spin). I’ve written multiple posts explaining and defending extended breastfeeding and breastfeeding in public. Big honking breastfeeding fan, right here.

However, reading through the comments and debates that inevitably pop up when breastfeeding is discussed, I’ve become a bit disenchanted with some recurring themes in breastfeeding advocacy. I’m not usually one to police someone else’s way of doing things, but when advocacy turns people off . . . well, that’s not advocacy. Obviously, some people are going to be turned off no matter what you say, but if your goal is to support mothers, to improve breastfeeding rates, to help normalize breastfeeding and create more comfort in seeing/discussing/doing it, make sure your advocacy is actually turning people in those directions, not away from them.

Here are five habits those who consider themselves breastfeeding advocates need to check:

1) Arguing with moms who say they were unable to breastfeed.

The fact is not all women are able to breastfeed. Yes, most are. Yes, most issues that keep women from breastfeeding are fixable. But there’s no way for you to know with certainty whether or not a mom’s issues fall under that umbrella. There are some conditions that make breastfeeding impossible. There are some conditions and circumstances that make breastfeeding so unbelievably complicated/painful/overwhelming that moms choose their sanity over breastfeeding. It’s not anyone’s place to judge another mom’s breastfeeding experience.

If a mom asks you what she might do next time to make it work, that’s the time to suggest some options. Telling a mom who was unable to breastfeed—for whatever reason—what she should have done or not done is neither productive nor kind. Most of the time, it will just make that mom feel guilty or resentful or defensive—which is not the goal of breastfeeding advocacy.

2) Acting like formula is poison.

Aside from the few times that formula has actually been poisoned, formula is not going to kill a child. It’s really not. Yes, it’s nutritionally inferior to breastmilk. Yes, it’s lacking many things beyond mere nutrients that breastmilk offers. Yes, breastmilk is the optimal food for a baby. Yes, formula manufacturers have some major marketing ethics to answer for and are by no means on my list of favorite companies.

But in some cases, formula saves lives. It is the most acceptable alternative for those who, for whatever reason, don’t have access to breastmilk. And it’s hurtful to those who feed their babies formula to insinuate that they are poisoning their child. We don’t have to demonize formula in order to celebrate the awesomeness of breastmilk. Let the facts speak for themselves.

3) Assuming that someone who didn’t breastfeed doesn’t know the facts.

Speaking of facts, some breastfeeding advocates seem to feel that bombarding someone with information will surely be the key to changing their mind about breastfeeding. But there are some moms who know all the facts about breastmilk and breastfeeding and choose not to breastfeed anyway. I know that’s a hard one to swallow, but remember that there are some very private, totally understandable reasons a woman may choose not to breastfeed. (Sexual molestation, mastectomies, nipple issues that couldn’t be resolved—just to name a few.) Women may not want to go into detail about why they aren’t breastfeeding, even when they know all of the facts. As an advocate, making sure information is available is vital. Providing facts when asked for them is commendable. Hounding someone with facts in the hopes of helping them see the error of their ways is presumptuous and a bit rude.

4) Refusing to sympathize with people who are uncomfortable with breastfeeding.

This one might come as a surprise, considering how vocal I’ve been about breastfeeding in public. I don’t think that it’s a breastfeeding mom’s responsibility to make sure people are comfortable, but I also don’t think that being uncomfortable with breastfeeding means you’re evil. I think discomfort with breastfeeding is an unfortunate but perfectly understandable reaction to our society’s lack of exposure to normal, non-sexual breast function. I feel for people who are uncomfortable seeing a baby breastfeed. I really do. They are part of the reason I think moms should breastfeed in public—not to force people to deal with it, but to hopefully, gradually normalize it.

I said it before and I’ll say it again—people who grow up seeing breastfeeding do not see it as a big deal. That discomfort is totally a result of not seeing it, or of only seeing it on rare occasions. I can sympathize with that discomfort. I don’t think it should be coddled, but it wouldn’t hurt to be understanding of it. And since a lot of women don’t breastfeed because of that discomfort, a listening ear and some diplomatic discussion about it will go much farther than browbeating.

5) Letting your passion about breastfeeding come out as snark.

This is really the biggest one. Whooo boy, I’ve seen some super snarky comments on all sides of breastfeeding debates, but it makes me cringe when breastfeeding advocates are the ones doling it out.

Most of us who feel strongly about breastfeeding can slip into snark every once in a while. Sometimes it’s out of sheer annoyance at having to defend something normal and natural over and over again, sometimes it’s because an argument is so over the top that snark just slide right out, and sometimes, frankly, it’s out of self-righteousness. We need to check that and remember our goals as advocates.

Snark can feel satisfying as it comes out, but it doesn’t convince anyone of anything. Snark rallies those who are already in agreement and alienates everyone else. If our goal is to increase breastfeeding rates and help women feel comfortable and empowered to breastfeed, getting snarky with those who are not there yet will not help them get there.

Snark is counterproductive in almost any advocacy situation. It puts people on the defensive and causes people to dig in their heels out of instinct. Not exactly a productive way to help someone get comfortable. And if your goal is to change someone’s mind or shift their view or expand their horizons, well, snark isn’t the way to do that, either.

As advocates, we have to be clear about what our purpose is and ask ourselves whether the comment we’re making, questions we’re asking, or information we’re sharing—as well as the manner with which we are expressing ourselves—is truly helping move people toward or away from breastfeeding. I know that it can get tiring to constantly have to fight ignorance and defend the simple act of feeding a baby, but we can’t let our defense run roughshod over our offense. Effective advocacy attracts people; it doesn’t turn them away.

(Hey! Check out this $19 online breastfeeding class from certified lactation educator Stacey Stewart that tells you everything you need to know about how to successfully breastfeed your baby. Learn more from my affiliate link here.)

For more posts on breastfeeding, see:

What’s So Hard about Covering up to Breastfeed in Public?

Is it Immodest to Breastfeed in Public?

Digital Lynchings, Feminist Tyranny, and Other Travesties of Breastfeeding in Public

Why Would You Breastfeed a Child Who’s Old Enough to Ask for It?

So Long, Breastfeeding

5 Things Breastfeeding Advocates Need to Stop Doing

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

Comments 56

  1. Linda Paul

    I agree with this article. I consider myself an advocate as well. I breastfed my children and am a retired labor & maternity nurse. We need to educate but not judge.

  2. Julia Stone

    Wow thanks for the tips! the only problem that I have is that my breasts are kind of droopy now, I was thinking on getting a boob lift surgery but a friend recommended me boobpop treatment and the results are amazing. Besides that I started to exercise and now my breast look as pretty as they where.

  3. Sick and Tired

    I can’t believe you’re trying to make your point by saying formula has been poisoned. Shame on you. How about you advocate for yourself. Mind your own business. Who made you the mommy police? Passive aggressive article at best.

    1. jeanne

      I think you misread her sentence; she points out that apart from the rare cases wherein formula contained poison, that baby formula “will not kill your child.”

  4. Rosalind

    I appreciate this article very much and really enjoy your take on the subject. As a breastfeeding advocate myself, I do agree with you in all of these cases.
    However, I do not agree in the case where women who choose not to breastfeed blame society (and breastfeeding mothers). I think that if you and in yourself know that you are choosing to not breastfeed, for whatever reason that may be, that you should be confident in your decision. The problem is that the majority of these women are easily OFFENDED by other women who do breastfeed and proudly do so WITHOUT any actually shaming going on. In turn, breastfeeding mothers are constantly shamed and demeaned for “offending” these women who supposedly chose not to breastfeed for “real” reasons.
    Just saying. It’s a double edged sword and without breastfeeding advocacy, the womanly art of breastfeeding will surely die in this ludicrous era of “Instagram” and rampant narcissism.

  5. Jennifer R

    We are in a war. The formula industry wants to expand its markets, not decrease them, and they will stop at nothing to do so – including recruiting women to pose as mothers who had to use formula, or making up false accusations against breastfeeding advocates. Using logical fallacies and emotional triggers to turn everything in their favor is something they will and are doing. Playing nice won’t help stop them – no matter how kind, respectful, and throttled back breastfeeding advocates are, they will twist our words, put words in our mouths, and keep playing victim – until breastfeeding is relegated to the dustbin of history. I really don’t have a lot of optimism about breastfeeding at this point. The formula industry is well-funded, well-organized, and can leverage public opinion that already is biased against breastfeeding to their advantage. Tone policing will not win the battles, or the war. Sorry.

  6. Sapana

    Can not agree more. I am one of breastfeeding promoters but I agree that it should not pushed on those who can not or could not do it. My friend had a heart surgery just 5 days after her delivery. She was under heavy medications and could not breastfeed her baby after surgery. I know it was very hard for her. Women like her go through so much pain and if some one goes n show their shocked faces reacting on her failure to breastfeed her child would make her more depressed. People should not push their opinions and advice on others. A mother knows her child best, she would not leave a chance to make him/her healthier.
    Sapana recently posted…Can Breastfeeding Prevent Pregnancy?My Profile

  7. Natty

    Breast IS best. Breast milk is betterm. Your situation was hard. But you reacting emotionally and saying it isnt wont make it so. So you had to give baby formula. You were disappointed. But dont try and change facts because you were hurt.

  8. Natty

    Sorry but i continue to judge those who could breastfeed but ‘choose’ not to. It is a bit insulting to those who have tried real hard to bf and only had to use formula out of neccesity. At least you could of pumped. Its your decisons. But my judgement is totally warranted if you choose to give formula despite having breastmilk available. Its choosing something less than. Why would you choosr somethibg that is less good for your child on purpose?
    Im not trying to shame youm but i do judge you and i have evey right to. You do what you want. But your decisions will make others think or feel a certain way. Dont get all upset when this happens.

  9. Heather

    Oh my, what a great post! I love the down-to-earth voice you have, and the realistic advice you have for those of us advocating for breastfeeding. There is definitely a line between raising awareness and shaming others. Thanks for sharing your views! 🙂
    -Heather @ milkmomology.com
    Heather recently posted…Bump Day: Let’s Do This!My Profile

  10. skye

    Thank you! We chose to formula feed, and the attitude I got from the militant lactivists was insane. I was quite educated on the subject, starting my research two years before we even started trying to conceive. I actually read the studies, not the cherry-picked propaganda taken out of context and found that the benefits were negligible at best in a first world country, especially when the family happened to be white, well-educated and between middle and upper-middle class like we are.

    There needs to be more support for women who wish to breastfeed, that is not even debatable. But advocacy needs to be focused on those women: women who don’t think they can for whatever reason and help provided for them, and support continued to be provided if that breastfeeding is just not going to work and they have to switch to formula. For us who choose formula, we have our reasons. They may not be good enough for some lactivists, but that’s not your concern.

  11. amo

    Everything in this article needed to be said.

    Women who are passionate about breastfeeding, please understand: not everyone has had your experience. Even if you struggled at first, there’s the possibility that someone else went through an even tougher situation that drastically affected their ability (physiologically and emotionally) to breastfeed. It’s not just about that supposed 2% who “can’t make milk.” There are mothers who went through traumatic NICU experiences; those for whom breastfeeding/pumping aggravates already dicey PPD/A situations; sexual assault survivors who are too triggered by it; women for whom essential medications are not compatible with breastfeeding; and yes, women who simply choose *not to* and it doesn’t mean they are uneducated or terrible parents! I have been that one formula feeder in a room of bf’ers and have gotten the dirty looks from women who don’t me and the trauma my child and I went through after his birth (NICU and major, emergency surgery for him); even if we hadn’t experienced that, the dirty looks would still be uncalled for. Don’t tear other women down because you are so enthralled with your own experience of breastfeeding. It doesn’t make you superior, you are a parent feeding her child alongside another parent feeding her child.

    1. amo

      And I forgot to add: babies who cannot tolerate milk or food proteins in any form and have to be on elemental formulas for survival! Babies with metabolic disorders that need special formula as well. These parents often struggle to get a correct diagnosis and pay for costly formulas. The last thing they need are bf advocates assuming they are dumb and lazy.

      1. Isabel Jude

        Thank you for this post! I was just going to ad this comment, I have three children and two of them have milk intolerance. I can’t stress enough how hard it was physically and emotionally to stop breastfeeding. The last thing we need is someone being judgemental without knowing all the facts, I believe that breastfeeding is the best in most cases and that’s why I tried it with all my three children but is not the best for all unfortunately.

  12. CassieKjar

    Thank you for this article! I am a woman who choose to bottle feed. As a feminist, I wholly support either option and advocate the right for women to be allowed to breastfeed in public uncovered, if they so choose, but breastfeeding wasn’t right for my family.

    Sadly, I lost a relationship with my aunt who is a breastfeeding consultant after she continually heckled me about not loving my child after I failed to provide a reason good enough for her as to why I chose formula.

    This article could help that not happen to other families. Again, thank you.

  13. First time Mum

    My experience was the feeling of failure after my hind waters broke and labour failed to start followed by a doomed oxytocin induction where the consultant obstetrician warned me that I would probably need to have a cesarean which is exactly what happened and it turned out that baby was in the ROT position. Then after a time spent in recovery separated from my baby and husband a nurse tried to help baby latch on while I was in a drug induced hase and felt like I had been hit by a truck. My breastfeeding journey only lasted four days as my nipples became sore cracked and bleeding and my breasts hard and painfully engorged and meanwhile baby was struggling to latch and stay latched and lost over 10% of her birth weight. An incompetent nurse kept going on about dehydration and jaundice and poor baby had to undergo a blood test to check for dehydration which turned out to be fine. The same nurse told me that the pink stains in her nappy were a result of dehydration which was incorrect. It was as I thought pseudo menses. My phn later told me that they would have been rust coloured. My confidence and sanity were totally knocked and by the timevi saw a lactation consultant I was close to getting mastitis and suffering with the baby blues and feeling like a total failure I felt that I had to stop. I have since discovered that along with my flattish nipples as one nurse described while i was in hospital my child has an upper lip tie so I believe that this may have been the cause of all the problems despite doctors arguing to the contrary. Unfortunately the lactation consltants work a nine to five five day week in my hospital so by the time I saw one I was at the end of the road. My chld has been happy and healthy despite the bottle feeding but I will always have a sense of failure and hurt over my experience.

    1. Amy

      Hi, I had a similar experience to you and felt compelled to comment. I virtually lost my sanity over extreme pain and difficulties breastfeeding. My daughter lost weight, had several bloodtests and we had to stay back in hospital at one point. She had a tongue tie too (snipped twice) but the damage was done early on. It wasn’t until I started combination feeding that I felt I could begin to bond with her. Those first few weeks were exceptionally frustrating and stressful, and led to a bit of PND as I did my best to latch in agony, watching her fade away before my eyes. I hate the sanctimonious attitude I’ve experienced from some breast feeding advocates – that I didn’t try hard enough, didn’t educate myself enough (I have read everything there is to read!), etc. I’ve also experienced great patient support from lactation consultants that did enable me to continue to combination feed and wean her at one. But I fully empathise with the nightmare that can be breastfeeding!

  14. Lauren

    I have always wanted to be a mother, I’ve wanted kids as long as I can remember. We tried to get pregnant for years before having our daughter last July. Breastfeeding was pure torture. My daughter fought latch every feeding from day 1, drastically affecting my supply. I tried everything to make it work but every feeding was painful, frustrating and felt like punishment. I HATED being a mother, I HATED holding my daughter, I HATED myself for failing her as she lost more and more weight. I smiled and faked it so people wouldn’t think I was a monster. When my daughter stopped sucking at the breast at 3 months it was like a prayer had been answered. I didn’t even ask my breastfeeding group and LLC for suggestions on how to get her to suckle again. It wasn’t until then that we started bonding, that I could hold and feed her knowing I wasn’t failing her and she would be satisfied and happy.
    I resent being told by BF advocates that I should have tried harder. That I didn’t do enough, if you can hold your baby down while a nurse pricks your baby’s heel for the umpteenth time to test her blood more power to you, I couldn’t anymore. That I went to formula ‘too quickly’ and ‘too easily’. It’s a knife in the heart to be told I ‘poison’ my daughter, that she’ll be overweight, sickly, and slower than her BF’ed peers. To hear some advocates talk it’s almost like they would have prefered if I had just let my daughter wither away and die.

  15. BF Grandma

    Wonderful article! My daughter posted on FB. My dad convinced my mother to breastfeed us kids when no one did it in the late 50s and early 60s — he just thought it was natural. My brother was a preemie and her milk dried up before he came home. Dad begged her to keep trying and her milk came back in 2 weeks later. Needless to say, in those days, she had the opposite experience of what is expressed here: Back then ‘everyone’ knew that formula was better! She was practically a heretic.

    When I had my kids in the 80s, breastfeeding was still pretty rare. The nurses at the hospital tried to show me how to get my son to latch on but they were clueless. Since he was a c-section, they felt I should rest and let him have formula. Finally an older night nurse that actually knew what she was doing showed me how to latch him on. I wanted to breastfeed for 9-12 months. However, he ate so much (20 minutes every 2-3 hours) that after 4 months I struggled to produce enough milk for him. My husband supplemented him until he was off breast milk around 7 months. I was disappointed but I just couldn’t handle the physical drain anymore.

    My daughter was the exact opposite. She ate for 5 minutes every 4-5 hours and I told the pediatrician I was worried she wasn’t getting enough. He said he would agree except that she was perfectly healthy and not underweight. I breastfed her for about 16 months until she started unbuttoning my shirt in public!

    I got some grief from some family and friends about breastfeeding in public. I covered up and most people just thought the baby was sleeping. Most of my friends bottle fed and I didn’t judge them although some judged me.

    I’m happy that the stigma of breastfeeding appears to be gone but sorry to hear that the judgmentalism has gone the other way now. As this article points out, it’s ok to give input but not ok to be judgmental. My daughter so wanted to breastfeed but 4 months after her first child was born she got very ill. She lost a ton of weight and her milk dried up. She was terrified of formula only because she herself was allergic to some of the ingredients in formula and was worried her baby might be also. So her husband made formula himself out of goat milk from a recipe online. The baby thrived on it. She was diagnosed with Crohn’s and was given the go ahead to breastfeed her second child which she really enjoyed. Both are very healthy and happy.

  16. Jenny

    As I’ve grown into mothering over the last 11 years ,one thing that I find glaringly absent is women supporting women. The majority of the time women are pitted against one another in the media on opposing sides of an issue that they feel strongly about. When was the last time we saw a lifestyle/parenting forum comprising of all men? When have we seen men “hashing” it out over their choices as parents? Once in a while we see it in comedic scenes in a movie but other than that it just doesn’t happen. I completely agree with everything said in this article. No matter what our stance is on a given topic, we need to make advocating for all women to feel support, the priority.

  17. K

    My suggestion – just stop talking and writing. To use formula and poison in the same sentence is exactly what you SHOULD NOT say. To then go on and on about how great Breastmilk is – is contradicting what your title indicates you are trying to accomplish. Just stop, please.

  18. Judy Schwartz Haley

    Thank you for this. I find it interesting that I was never – not once – harrassed for breastfeeding in public. But as soon as I had to stop breastfeeding because I was diagnosed with breast cancer and needed surgery and chemotherapy, I had all kinds of people coming at me and arguing with me about how I was feeding my baby. They took a difficult time for me, and made it much more stressful than it needed to be.
    Judy Schwartz Haley recently posted…When cancer complicates body image and parentingMy Profile

  19. Ashley

    I was pretty much forced out of breastfeeding with my son at three months by a pediatrician who felt that unless he was fat, he was failing to thrive. Formula it was and not only was a crushed because I did know the benefits of breastmilk. Onto child number two and she just hit 18 months and still going. I was in the mothers room while at church and a new mom walks in with a seven week old. We started talking and she said she wanted to breastfeed but it didn’t work out. I said “don’t worry, if you really want to, you can always try again if you have more children”. I knew the feeling of watching other moms nurse when I wanted it so bad and it didn’t work out.

  20. Lindsay

    AMEN. Thank you for posting this. I was traumatized by my breastfeeding experience. Physically and emotionally. I never had a concrete answer of why I couldn’t breastfeed but that never stopped the missionaries from telling me what I could or should have done. And giving me the stink eye when I took out a bottle for my son. Who would be dead if it were not for Formula.
    Please add to this list spreading misinformation about formula feeding. Like my child will have an inferior immune system or a lower IQ or learning disability. Can you look at a room full of children and pick out the ones that were breast fed? No. No you cannot. So spare me the guilt and second guessing and yourself the self righteous embarrassment.

  21. No Judgments

    This article is well written and puts into words so much of what I have seen and experienced. I have breastfed my 3 children and wanted to be a support to friends, but found myself saying “Don’t worry – I am not one of those Judgey Breastfeeders” – because there are many!

    I think all the attitudes you described definitely turn women off to the idea and can even add confusion to the situation. I like your comment about letting the facts speak for themselves and lending gentle support to other moms.

  22. Anna

    You know what’s awesome? FEEDING YOUR KID(S), however you may choose to do so. Everybody needs to just mind their own damn beeswax.

  23. Diane

    Completely agree, reading the comments wondering if I’m the only one who felt the very subtle SNARK! This article is riddled with condescension.

  24. Heather

    THANK YOU! I have three children, and one of the most devastating experiences of motherhood was my inability to exclusively breastfeed my children. With each attempt, a team of midwives, lactation consultants, doctors, and support groups was enlisted to support me and my baby, we’ve never found the answer as to why, but the end result was I could not make enough milk. The most difficult part was being judged by those I supported and was trying my hardest to be one of.

  25. Bethany

    I would add to the list: Stop ostracizing exclusive pumpers. Not that every breastfeeding advocate does this by any means, but it does happen all too frequently. I unfortunately had a la Leche league leader who was not supportive of women even pumping at work for their otherwise bf baby because there were “other ways”. I am the mom of a micro preemie who now has a g tube. I pumped for 19 months and provided 100% of his nutrition for 16 of those months. Yet still there are people who have tried to shame me because pumping is constantly said to be inferior. Thank you for this article!

    1. Katie

      I can’t believe anybody would ostracise exclusively pumping mothers. In fact, I think they should be held on a pedestal because it’s twice the work! First to pump, then to feed. Exclusively pumping mamas are awesome!

  26. Best for my baby

    Another comment I would add is about how advocates continually state breastfeeding is the best way to bond with the baby. Just because my baby isn’t getting milk from me doesn’t mean we don’t have skin to skin contact. Both my babies were formula fed after 2 months of trying to breastfeed. They are now 7 and 9 and are rarely sick, not overweight, above average in school and are active. We also have a very close relationship. In the long run I was happier and have no guilt. I hated when I was judged and that made me feel worse than not breastfeeding.

  27. Frances

    Could not agree more. I hate Articles that says formula/gerber are poison. I breastfed my baby for 3 mos. I tried ebf’ing my baby for days/week but it felt like he’s not satisfied every feeding. He had jaundice and I was traumatized for him being dehydrated for the first few days of his life cuz my milk wasn’t enough. Yes bm is d best for babies, only if you have enough bm.

  28. Kelly S

    Good post! I would add #6: Don’t act like breastfeeding is super easy.

    Nursing my first daughter was so hard. I remember after 1 month, thinking “Okay, if I’m going to do this for a year, I’m 1/12 of the way there…” and practically counting down the days – it was painful, we had to supplement with formula and pumping… (of course, by a year old, it was no problem at all, and we continued to 23 months!!)

    But, before she was born, we took a class at the hospital where the teacher had everyone list the problems/challenges they’ve heard of with nursing, and she just disagreed with each one of them and made counterpoints, and so I thought it was going to be really easy… what a surprise when it wasn’t! I was willing to do the hard work I needed to in order to be able to breastfeed…. but I sure wish I wouldn’t have felt swindled into thinking it was super easy!

  29. Linda Hartbarger

    I so agree. I breastfed 2 and didn’t 2. It was my loss for not knowing what I was doing with my oldest and vowing to never try again with my 2nd. but 3 and 4th was wonderful. I would never put anyone down for deciding against it.

  30. Linda Hartbarger

    I so agree. I breasfed 2 and didn’t 2. It was my loss for not knowing what I was doing with my oldest and vowing to never try again with my 2nd. but 3 and 4th was wonderful. I would never put anyone down for deciding against it.

  31. somedayamother

    Thank you for this post. I’m still a couple of years away from motherhood, but as a combination of being a facebook user in her late 20s and working in grade schools where I am surrounded by moms and female co-workers of child bearing age, I’ve heard enough debates to keep decisions like these in my mind. For the most part, I feel embarrassed that my medications might require a choice where the best choice is to bottle feed (the other options being to certainly damage my own health or possibly risk my baby’s). Additionally, I’ve recently been diagnosed with a condition which might make that decision moot. I appreciate hearing a BF advocate who can empathize with someone who has heard all of the facts, but who has a few more decisions to make than the average Jane.

  32. Eulie

    I tried, didn’t work, can’t stand to see another woman breastfeeding in public (and the belief that women in other countries so it freely is a lie), and am annoyed that I was forced to learn to breastfeed only mere hours after my daughter’s birth by an overzealous nurse. As a matter of fact, the mommy wars are about 45% o the reason I am one and done.

  33. Isabela

    I gotta say that I grew up seeing people breastfeed and it was no big deal. However now as an adult woman I’d rather not see it. Not because I find it wrong or any of the ridiculous reasons people put out there, but simply because I feel uncomfortable. Never in a million years will I ask someone to not feed their child in order to accommodate me, and I plan on breastfeeding once I am a mom. But just because you grew up around it doesn’t automatically mean you’re completely chill with it. This was a great article and I really appreciate the points you made.

  34. Isabela

    I gotta say that I grew up seeing people breastfeed and it was no big deal. However now as an adult woman I’d rather not see it. Not because I find it wrong or any of the ridiculous reasons people put out there, but simply because I feel uncomfortable. Never in a million years will I ask someone to not feed their child in order to accommodate me, and I plan on breastfeeding once I am a mom. But just because you grew up around it doesn’t automatically mean you’re completely chill with it. This was a great article and I really appreciate the points you made.

  35. Louisa

    I’ve been a breastfeeding advocate for 11 years and most of the topics you address seem silly to me. I have gone to many LLL meetings and have never heard any leader disparage formula. I’ve never met a leader who didn’t agree that formula was necessary in some situations. I’ve know leaders who used formula. And every meeting I ever went to I heard women praised and supported for the breastfeeding choices, even if they were only able to breastfeed for one week. However, as a feminist I will NEVER sympathize who are “uncomfortable with breastfeeding”. I was twice asked to stop breastfeeding and it is a very unpleasant experience. When behave oppressively towards me or other breastfeeding mothers and babies I will assert myself mightily.

  36. Melissa Charles

    Yes!

    I nursed 4 of my 6 kids. Last two I wasn’t able. The criticisms I received, ranging from, “You must not love these kids as much!” to ‘formula is poison’ and other ‘lovely’ comments (seriously, it was a decision made w/info from my Dr. Why do I need to defend it to strangers?) made me want to dump a bottle of formula on their feet.
    Melissa Charles recently posted…Rules From THAT HouseMy Profile

  37. Louisa

    I’ve been a breastfeeding advocate for 11 years and most of the topics you address seem silly to me. I have gone to many LLL meetings and have never heard any leader disparage formula. I’ve never met a leader who didn’t agree that formula was necessary in some situations. I’ve know leaders who used formula. And every meeting I ever went to I heard women praised and supported for the breastfeeding choices, even if they were only able to breastfeed for one week. However, as a feminist I will NEVER sympathize who are “uncomfortable with breastfeeding”. I was twice asked to stop breastfeeding and it is a very unpleasant experience. When behave oppressively towards me or other breastfeeding mothers and babies I will assert myself mightily.

  38. Louisa

    I’ve been a breastfeeding advocate for 11 years and most of the topics you address seem silly to me. I have gone to many LLL meetings and have never heard any leader disparage formula. I’ve never met a leader who didn’t agree that formula was necessary in some situations. I’ve know leaders who used formula. And every meeting I ever went to I heard women praised and supported for the breastfeeding choices, even if they were only able to breastfeed for one week. However, as a feminist I will NEVER sympathize who are “uncomfortable with breastfeeding”. I was twice asked to stop breastfeeding and it is a very unpleasant experience. When behave oppressively towards me or other breastfeeding mothers and babies I will assert myself mightily.

  39. KE

    This article fails miserably, it still has such judgmental undertones. Very clever, but completely lacking any empathy.

    Example:
    Making your own baby food vs. buying it from the grocery store.

    It is a mothers right to feed her child whatever she feels comfortable with. Never mind that pre-made baby foods have tons of additives in them.

    SO CONDESCENDING!!!

  40. Wendy

    You have absolutely failed to acknowledge the context in which these discussions about infant feeding take place and how this will shape the content and approach of women’s exchanges.

    Your role involves support and counselling of individual women who are struggling to breastfeed. Clearly in this context certain types of discussion are inappropriate and unhelpful.

    But that’s not what you’re discussing here is it? You’re not talking about what goes on in a support and counselling context. You’re talking about the way the issue of infant feeding is played out on internet discussion forums and through blogs and social media, and you are suggesting that exactly the same ‘rules’ apply to these sorts of dialogues as apply to the sort of discussion women have in a support and counselling context.

    Can you not see that?

  41. Jeff

    As a baby I was allergic to breast milk and got violently ill immediately. I kept formula down, but not breast milk. What was my mom supposed to do?

  42. Cee

    As an adoptive mother, I did not breast feed my baby. I’m amazed how many people who didn’t know me made some kind of comment. My child’s birth history and how we came to be a family was not their damn business. Yours is the best advice ever – don’t judge people (for anything, not just breast feeding or not) because you have no clue about their story and you just end up sounding like an offensive idiot.

  43. Amanda

    I think a good rule of thumb is: you can’t argue your way to being right. When bf advocates start telling women that their choices are poor parenting, that if they just tried harder they could do it, and then engaging in arguments with moms who don’t bf over whether or not the Breast is Best philosophy applies to all moms in all situations 100% of the time and shaming choices that we don’t know the background for, then ears and minds are closed to the message entirely. I physically could not nurse my daughters (breast reduction, too little glandular tissue to produce more than 1-2oz a day), but I 100% support breast feeding as the best way to feed your baby if you can do it. If you can’t do it, then it’s clearly not the best, regardless of what any amount of research or anecdote would say. And if you just flat out don’t want to, that’s ok, too. When bf advocates fail to give all feeding choices that result in healthy children choices legitimacy, they alienate a big portion of the audience. Formula, used as indicated, isn’t poison. Choosing to bottle feed isn’t poor parenting. When women have empathetic advice and information given to them in a non-judgmental way, that’s when you’ll see the rate of women bfing at birth and for as long as possible increase. You can’t bludgeon your way to what you want other people to be doing.

  44. Mandy

    I have a small issue with point 2, yes formula is not poison per say but formula does cause the deaths of many babies around the world.
    Incorrectly prepared formula, watering down of formula, there have been studies linking formula feeding to an increased risk of SIDS, other studies show formula increases risks of necrotizing enterocolitistitis, otitis media, gastroenteritis, and pneumonia.
    We can’t white wash the risks of formula and formula feeding just for the fear of making someone “feel bad”.
    We need all the facts to make an informed choice.

    1. Kit

      I think what she’s trying to get at is, if it’s done right, it’s a good option for those that can’t breastfeed. I tried for six months (pumping, power pumping, vitamins, supplements, diet changes, multiple trips to the lactation consultants, LLL meetings, lactation cookies and smoothies…you name it), and was only getting drops. If I had been bombarded with “formula is poison” when I was going through that, I would have starved my child because I would have stayed away. Thankfully, even the LLL leader said that he needed more while we tried to up my supply and tried to get him to latch. Milk bank milk was out of our price range, and none of the other groups had donors in my area. If it weren’t for formula, my son would be malnourished, maybe even dead.

    2. Kit

      I think what she’s trying to get at is, if it’s done right, it’s a good option for those that can’t breastfeed. I tried for six months (pumping, power pumping, vitamins, supplements, diet changes, multiple trips to the lactation consultants, LLL meetings, lactation cookies and smoothies…you name it), and was only getting drops. If I had been bombarded with “formula is poison” when I was going through that, I would have starved my child because I would have stayed away. Thankfully, even the LLL leader said that he needed more while we tried to up my supply and tried to get him to latch. Milk bank milk was out of our price range, and none of the other groups had donors in my area. If it weren’t for formula, my son would be malnourished, maybe even dead.

    3. Judy

      You’re leaving out a huge part where these things happen in underdeveloped nations. Of course, it can happen in developed countries, but here in the US, most women have access to potable water and are educated enough to follow the instructions on the formula can. With WIC formula can be made available to those who cannot afford it, reducing the risk of watering it down.
      So, you are not correct. Using formula does NOT kill babies. Living in poor health conditions with little access to formula and not having support is what kills babies.

    4. Roxanne Sapra

      Breastfeeding causes many infant deaths around the world too. There are some mothers who aren’t producing enough milk, but the ‘breast is best’ campaign, and ‘formula is poison’ people make them think that a tiny amount of breastmilk is better than an adequate amount of formula, and there you have a baby, starved to death. Congratulations on doling out such terrible judgement.
      Also, think about the HIV-positive mothers breastfeeding their baby’s in Africa, think about how many babies are dying from that, and other diseases that babies catch through breastmilk.
      Not to mention the fact that breast-fed babies are always smaller and weaker than formula-fed babies, and i am speaking from experience here.

      My baby wouldn’t latch, and the lactation consultants, midwives, healthvisitors, family and friends advice was regurgitated stuff that i tried over and over again. Nipples too sensitive to pump, so i massaged, and my milk flow lessened. I had to formula feed my baby, or she would’ve died.

      So i’m just gonna rebut all of you ‘breast is best’ ‘mothers’ out there right now, and say that breast is not best. Every mother, and baby are different, and formula is a live-saver, dare i say, a ‘god’-send.

      Quash the judgement, you haven’t been where we are, you’ve had it easy, so you have no place to judge, or even comment, in my opinion.

    5. Roxanne Sapra

      Breastfeeding causes many infant deaths around the world too. There are some mothers who aren’t producing enough milk, but the ‘breast is best’ campaign, and ‘formula is poison’ people make them think that a tiny amount of breastmilk is better than an adequate amount of formula, and there you have a baby, starved to death. Congratulations on doling out such terrible judgement.
      Also, think about the HIV-positive mothers breastfeeding their baby’s in Africa, think about how many babies are dying from that, and other diseases that babies catch through breastmilk.
      Not to mention the fact that breast-fed babies are always smaller and weaker than formula-fed babies, and i am speaking from experience here.

      My baby wouldn’t latch, and the lactation consultants, midwives, healthvisitors, family and friends advice was regurgitated stuff that i tried over and over again. Nipples too sensitive to pump, so i massaged, and my milk flow lessened. I had to formula feed my baby, or she would’ve died.

      So i’m just gonna rebut all of you ‘breast is best’ ‘mothers’ out there right now, and say that breast is not best. Every mother, and baby are different, and formula is a live-saver, dare i say, a ‘god’-send.

      Quash the judgement, you haven’t been where we are, you’ve had it easy, so you have no place to judge, or even comment, in my opinion.

      1. LA

        ANNNND there she is. I was waiting for you to show up Mandy! I didn’t know your name when I clicked on this article and then went to the comments section, but I knew you’d be here. I knew you’d be here lurking in chat rooms and mommy blogs waiting to be Sanctimommy! I knew you’d be here to contradict the very point the author was trying to get across.

  45. Second Time Mom

    This is a fantastic article! I breastfed my first baby for 11.5 months, just shy of our main goal, and may have continued longer if it weren’t for pregnancy complications. That being said, those months weren’t all flowers and rainbows and I really appreciate this article.

    I would add for advocates to be open and understanding of Moms who are hesitant about breastfeeding again or who are on not repeating it. I dealt with severe postpartum depression and anxiety, as well as PTSD but I’ve had advocates try and tell me that breastfeeding helps with those hormones. They might have made things better, They might not have, but I was suicidal for months and couldn’t connect with my child for 13 months. If I say I might have to stop for my mental health, don’t tell me that breastfeeding will help.

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