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8 Reasons Why Breastfeeding is Overhyped.

8 Reasons Why Breastfeeding is Overhyped.

The pressure to breastfeed can make you miserable.

I wasn’t able to breastfeed my son. Not at first anyway. He was a tiny preemie who couldn’t latch on and my body had no idea it was supposed to be producing milk. I had an awful pregnancy starting with constant nausea followed by extreme anxiety and ending with pre-eclampsia and a c-section, so my inability to breastfeed felt like just one more way in which my body was a failure.

I tried all sorts of methods to make breastfeeding work — from the bizarre (re-birthing) to the expensive (lactation consultants) because for whatever reason — peer pressure, sheer stubbornness, or some combination of the two — I wanted this one thing about my new-mother body to work. When it finally did (hooray for nipple shields!), I was both relieved and overcome with joy. From that moment on, I loved breastfeeding and relished in earning my natural parenting bonafides.

Because of my success as a breastfeeder, I often found myself giving advice to new moms who were struggling. But not every mom’s story ended like mine. I met plenty of moms who ultimately couldn’t breastfeed, wracked with guilt over their “failure” to give their baby the best start in life.

Seeing their pain and grief made me wonder — is all of this pressure worth it? I began to look more closely at the evidence and what I found surprised me.

breast is not best

#1 – The science is not conclusive on “breast is best.”

Breastfeeding propaganda makes it sound so simple. Breast is best. Breastfeeding is normal. Breastmilk is the perfect food. But when I reflect on my experiences as a breastfeeding mother, it feels much more complicated.

Sifting through studies and stories about breastfeeding leaves me with a similar feeling. Although it’s practically gospel that breastfeeding makes for healthier babies — you hear it from the American Academy of Pediatrics, lactation consultants, breastfeeding mothers, medical professionals, childbirth educators, doulas and even food writers like Michael Pollan — the evidence for most of those claims is weak and unreliable.

That’s because most breastfeeding studies aren’t large-scale, randomized trials. From the World Health Organization’s 2013 Report, Long-term Effects on Breastfeeding:

Randomized controlled trials, if properly designed and conducted, provide the best evidence on a causal association between an exposure – such as breastfeeding – and a health or developmental outcome.

In practical terms, that means randomly assigning women to breastfeed or formula feed, but that’s considered unethical given the conventional wisdom that breastmilk is the better choice.

An alternative approach is to strongly encourage breastfeeding to a random group of the study participants, but it turns out that pro-breastfeeding messaging doesn’t translate into high numbers of breastfeeding mothers anyway. So for almost all studies in which a benefit to breastfeeding has been measured, we don’t know if that benefit comes from breastfeeding or if there’s another explanation.

For example, a Danish cohort study from the late 1960s measured duration of breastfeeding as a baby and intelligence test scores in adulthood and found a link between breastfeeding and higher scores. But that doesn’t necessarily prove breastfeeding increases intelligence. Although the study’s authors measured other factors such as social class and how much the mother smoked, it’s almost impossible to account for all other explanations. For example, no one thought to measure maternal IQ.

#2 – Breastfed babies are not proven to be healthier.

To hear it from your local La Leche League leader, breastmilk means:

  • fewer colds
  • lower obesity rates
  • fewer ear infections
  • lower rates of diabetes
  • a super-boosted immune system
  • increased intelligence.

Why are breastfed babies so much healthier? Because breastmilk and colostrum are full of maternal antibodies, of course, and those antibodies go right into an infant’s bloodstream. Well, that’s half right.

According to pediatrician and clinical professor of Pediatrics at Yale University School of Medicine Dr. Sydney Speisel:

Human babies are never able to absorb maternal antibodies from milk or colostrum into the bloodstream, except perhaps in the minutest amounts. Maternal antibodies in milk and colostrum protect against infection—but only locally, working inside the baby’s gastrointestinal tract.

Babies get those maternal antibodies through the placenta prior to birth.

Breastfeeding advocates claim that breastfed babies have fewer colds and ear infections, but there are no large-scale randomized trials that show this to be true. The one robust study that we have showed only less instances of eczema and diarrhea. Breastmilk has also not been proven to have a long term impact in reducing rates of obesity or diabetes. Finally, the claim that breastmilk can increase IQ has been pretty thoroughly debunked.

#3 – Where access to clean water isn’t an issue, differences between breastfed infants and formula-fed infants diminish.

Breast is indeed best, in some circumstances, but it’s important to be clear about what those circumstances are. In the developing world, breastfeeding is critical because it means infants won’t be drinking contaminated water. Any feeding option that doesn’t require an infant to drink contaminated water is life-saving and critically important.

Breastfeeding advocates often gloss over the role that contaminated water plays in infant mortality and morbidity in the developing world. Where access to clean water isn’t an issue, differences between breastfed infants and formula fed infants diminish. One exception is prematurity. For premature babies, breastmilk can provide certain benefits, most notably preventing necrotizing enterocolitis or NEC. For full term infants, breastfeeding makes less of an impact in preventing illness.

#4 – Breastmilk still requires supplementation.

Breastmilk is an excellent source of nutrition, but it’s not “perfect.” Breastfed babies need the same additional Vitamin K as their formula fed counterparts to prevent hemorrhagic disease, and later on iron and Vitamin D supplementation as well.

#5 – Breastmilk is not always readily available.

It’s also far from perfect when it’s not readily available. First of all, not every family comes with a lactating parent. That’s not to say that an adoptive parent can’t get his hands on some breastmilk. But that can be a difficult and expensive endeavor.

Other mothers are unable to breastfeed because of supply issues or other physical challenges. We often hear the claim that only 1-5% of women are physically unable to produce enough milk, but that statistic apparently comes from one very limited study of healthy, motivated mothers feeding full-term healthy infants. The actual statistic is unknown.

There are many physical conditions occurring in either mother or baby that can hinder breastfeeding — low supply, nipple shape, cracked nipples, latch difficulties, tongue tie (to name a few) — any one of these conditions can make for a breastfeeding relationship that’s far from “perfect.”

#6 – Formula is just as “normal” as breastmilk.

If breastfeeding is normal, so is formula. There is this widely held myth about breastfeeding that but for the invention and corporate marketing of infant formula, all women would be willing, able and happy to breastfeed, and happy to breastfeed exclusively. That’s just not true.

We have records of women seeking out alternative feeding methods from as far back as 2000 BC, including both wet nurses and a variety of breastmilk substitutes. The first commercially available infant formula was developed in 1865. Over the years, both the formula and feeding mechanisms have been improved to better approximate breastfeeding. So why not just breastfeed then? Because it’s just not that simple.

Not every parent can breastfeed and not every parent wants to. But the demand for alternative feeding methods has always been there.

#7 – Whether we like it or not, breasts are seen as sexual, and some women do feel awkward breastfeeding in public.

Even our feelings about breasts are kind of complicated. Every time some controversy erupts over a mother’s right to breastfeed in public, lactivists are quick to say that breastfeeding is natural and breasts are not sex objects. I support a woman’s right to breastfeed wherever, whenever and however she pleases (I rarely if ever used a cover myself), but it’s overly simplistic to pretend that breasts are in no way sexual or to expect that every woman will find it “natural” that her body parts are now producing and serving milk.

Breasts are sexual, for most of us, and there are women who will have mixed emotions about breastfeeding or who won’t want to breastfeed at all for that very reason. Discomfort around this issue puts breastfeeding women in an awkward position too. Their breasts are a food source, no matter how anyone else feels about it. But pretending there isn’t some complexity around this issue is just dishonest.

#8 – Breastfeeding isn’t free.

Another common refrain from breastfeeding advocates is that breastmilk is free. Well, the truth is a little more complicated. Many women struggle to establish a healthy breastfeeding relationship, along the way requiring the services of a lactation consultant. Those consultants can be very expensive. Often the more experienced and successful LCs can charge a hefty fee.

Most women will need or want a breastfeeding support pillow of some kind, nursing bras and nursing clothing. Many women will need or want a breast pump. Thankfully, the Affordable Care Act has mandated some coverage for breast pumps and lactation assistance, but that still leaves the cost of bottles and breastmilk storage systems.

Beyond those hard costs, you also have the complicated subject of how we calculate the value of our time. If you happen to be someone who bills a client by the hour, you may already have a tangible sense of what your time is worth and whether you want to spend it breastfeeding.

If you aren’t used to pricing your time so literally, consider that your time is valuable — whether you spend it (in no particular order) working, with your spouse or partner, with your other children, volunteering, pursuing a creative passion or any number of ways you might want to spend your time. Not every woman can or wants to spend that much time breastfeeding or pumping breastmilk.

Please Back Off About Breastfeeding. Because The Truth Is That It’s Complicated

Why do people continue to make simplistic, unproven claims about breastfeeding, and why are parents so eager to accept those claims? Well, parents are human. We just want to feel good about our choices.

We want to feel like the long hours, frustration, pain and persistence were absolutely vital and necessary. And there is a vast network of professionals, organizations and businesses that depend upon our collective belief that breast is normal, perfect, free, easy and, of course, best.

Am I saying that women shouldn’t breastfeed? No. Breastfeeding is a wonderful choice for many women and their babies. For some women and babies, it’s even critical. But for many women and babies (sometimes even those very same women and babies), so is formula.

We need to be honest, accurate and specific about the benefits of breastfeeding. We need to stop hyping those benefits without being honest about the quality of the evidence. We need to be clear that breastmilk isn’t a magical elixir but is instead simply a nutritious option.

It’s time to do a better job supporting the full range of infant feeding options. Let’s stop telling all women that they really must breastfeed. Let’s be honest about breastfeeding’s bottom line because the truth is that it’s kind of complicated.

Do you think breast is best? Did you struggle with breastfeeding? Do you wish there were more support for formula feeders? Leave a comment below.

 

References

AAP Policy on Breastfeeding and Use of Human Milk
Bernardo L. Horta, Cesar G. Victora, Long Term Effects of Breastfeeding: a Systematic Review, World Health Organization 2013
Erik Lykke Mortenson et al, The Association Between Duration of Breastfeeding and Adult Intelligence, JAMA. 2002;287(18):2365-2371
Neil E. Simister, Placental Transport of Immunoglobulin G, Vaccine, Volume 21, Issue 24, 28 July 2003, Pages 3365–3369
Mark A. Underwood, Human Milk for the Premature Infant, Pediatr Clin North Am. 2013 Feb; 60(1): 189–207
Kramer MS et al, Promotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial (PROBIT): a randomized trial in the Republic of Belarus, JAMA 2001 Jan 24-31;285(4):413-20
Kramer MS et al, Effects of Prolonged and Exclusive Breastfeeding on Child Height, Weight, Adiposity, and Blood Pressure at Age 6.5: evidence from a large randomized trial, Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Dec; 86(6): 1717-21
Von Stumm S, Plomin R (2015), Breastfeeding and IQ Growth from Toddlerhood through Adolescence, PLoS ONE 10(9)
Neifert M et al, The Influence of Breast Surgery, Breast Appearance, and Pregnancy-Induced Breast Changes on Lactation Sufficiency as Measured by Infant Weight Gain, Birth, 1990 March 17(1):31-8
Emily E. Stevens et al, A History of Infant Feeding, J Perinat Educ., 2009 Spring; 18(2): 32-29

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  • kim

    What a load of rubbish.Was going to write an essay explaining how wrong you are but figured anyone with more than 2 brain cells will see that without my explanation!

    • From my experience, it seems that people who are invested in breastfeeding are willing to overlook the weakness of the evidence.

      • ArmyChick

        Of course. How else would they feel superior? Of course they have to deny the evidence. How else would they be able to shout from the roof tops how much better they are as mothers?

        • Erin Lewis

          I am sad to see that so many people really believe that nursing moms only breastfeed or that lactation support people only help mothers in order to feel superior. We are all just trying to feed our babies, breast or formula, not trying to show others up or prove anything – and lactation consultants are just trying to help the people who come to them for help with breastfeeding.

  • Melisa

    There is no debate. Of course breast milk is more nutritious and better for the baby. But formula is a great substitute for those who can’t breastfeed. Without it, many babies would go hungry. So although formula is a brilliant invention, ultimately, breast milk is best.

    • Tigger_the_Wing

      Breast milk is best when the amount and type of breast milk is correct for the infant, and that is by no means always the case.

      It is NOT universally ‘more nutritious and better for the baby’ than modern formula, which is the crux of the article. We simply do not have any good quality data to support the assertion that breast is *always* best, or ‘ultimately’ best; it very much depends on individual circumstances.

      I was fortunate that my breasts were very keen to produce milk – so keen, in fact, that they started producing colostrum just three months into pregnancy with my eldest, and didn’t dry up until nearly two decades post-menopause.

      However, although I breast fed all five of mine for a minimum of six weeks, and would have fed all of them for much longer if I could, I had to switch to formula after six and twelve weeks, for health reasons, for two of them.

      And I am jolly glad that there are brands of formula that aren’t exactly the same as breast milk; when you have a baby who is allergic to one of the major components of breast milk, being able to get formula without it is hugely important.

      And there are mother who have viruses that they don’t wish to pass on, or are on medication which could be injurious to infants; their breast milk is the last thing that their babies need.

      The article is superb. It properly balances something which has been out of balance for far too long; the formula/breast milk debate.

  • melanie

    There are large scale studies. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ht4cKLGH7v4

    • Is that a randomized trial?

      • Doc

        It’s on youtube, it must be true.

  • sarah

    I wonder how much the $$$ the author gets from formula companies. Sheesh! If this is not formula propoganda, I don’t know what is.

    • Vanesss

      How original of you. Are you an anti vaxxers too that claims anyone speaking up for vaccines must be paid by Big Pharma?

    • Doc

      So if I get it right, anyone with an opinon that opposes allegedly natural choices is a paid shill? It’s customary to sustain your accusations with evidence. Otherwise, shut up.

      • Tigger_the_Wing

        Annoying, isn’t it? Anytime anyone says to a lactivist “Hey, I think that the subject might be a little more nuanced than ‘Breast Is Best!!!!’, out come the accusations that the author has been bribed.

        No; not annoying. Disgusting.

    • Tigger_the_Wing

      How many $$$ (or €€€ or £££) do you get from lactivists to accuse the writer of being bribed, eh?

  • Michele

    In this day and age of the Internet, ignorance is a choice. Sadly, there is much misinformation out there and not enough International Board Certified Lactation Consultants in hospitals. I sincerely hope new moms reading this are smart enough to realize there’s a reason why the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization say “breast is best”. Because it is. Formula is an alternative but in no way is a breastmilk substitute. Here are some articles to get moms started researching this stuff.

    http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/hormones/reproductive-history-fact-sheet

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/22350049/

    http://kellymom.com/pregnancy/bf-prep/how_breastmilk_protects_newborns/

    http://www.thealphaparent.com/2011/07/virgin-gut-note-for-parents.html?m=1

    • Tigger_the_Wing

      It was pointed out in the article (had you read it) that the reason that the WHO is onboard with ‘breast is best’ is because of the difficulty of finding clean water in so many countries in the world to make formula safely.

      In modern, comparatively wealthy countries, where water is very carefully treated and sterilising it is a simple matter of plugging in a kettle and turning it on, then formula is just as safe as breast milk, and for particular infants is often the better choice.

      • Kristen B

        It’s also “safe” to eat donuts and fried Twinkies. Doesn’t make them at all nutritious.

        • Tigger_the_Wing

          So what? We aren’t discussing non-formula foods.

          That snacks aren’t particularly nutritious is as irrelevant to formula as the fact that other bodily excretions like sweat and urine aren’t as nutritious as breast milk.

          No-one is suggesting we feed infants on snacks.

          • Kristen B

            Obviously, people wouldn’t feed infants adult junk food. I was merely making a point that just because formula is “safe”, doesn’t make it healthy.

          • Tigger_the_Wing

            Of course formula is healthy – my point was that it is ALSO safe, provided the person making it into a drink has access to clean, sterile water – which is the case in first world countries, not so much in third world countries.

  • Elisabeth Gratz

    its sad to see that a mum who struggled with BF contributes to this silly fight about who is the better mother. It would have been nice to read an article that tells us about your journey and how it might help other mums to achieve their goals of breastfeeding. There is no questions that we are all trying to do the best for our babies and that formula is a good choice for those who need it (if chosen or out of necessity).

    BUT there is also no question that mother nature provides THE BEST, there simply is and never will be anything synthetic thats even closely as complex as what nature has invented for our babies and other mammals for that matter. Each mother provides exactly what her baby needs (human or animal).
    I have to say that I trust the recommendations of the non bias World Health Organization over any trial that is published anywhere. Those are often funded by big corporations from the formula industry and just by researching the internet for a couple of hours you won’t get the real picture presented.

    I am sorry you didn’t get the right help at the right time to make BF work for you and your baby. I hope that in the future you will teach your children (boys or girls) that supporting breastfeeding is a good thing and that if they learn about BF and the help that is available in advance, a good BF relationship is not out of reach for 95% of us!

    • Doc

      I’m not sure you read the same article as I did. She’s not saying BF didn’t work for her. She says the opposite. She’s not saying that formula is better. She’s just saying that it’s a mistake to oversimplify such a complex issue, and that’s different families (aka mother-child) have different needs. I don’t know why such a “commonsensic” statement seemed to touch a nerve on so many women… It’s not an exact science, and what’s best for one is not necessarily best for another.

    • Tigger_the_Wing

      Reading the article for what it says, rather than what you assume it says, is a very good idea.

      And Doc – not just mother-child families, but families where the mother died in childbirth and adoptive families of any gender. Even for those families where the birth mother is a member, it could be that she has to be on medication which is dangerous to an infant, or had breast surgery which severed the connections to the nipple, or the baby has an allergy to one of the ingredients of breast milk…

      I was able to cut out pig products from my diet during breast feeding; it was a small price to pay (ham, bacon, pork caused colic pains in all of mine, starting 24-48 hours after I ingested them; I’m now vegetarian b/c of my own GI issues), and for three of them that was sufficient. But for the one where we had thrush at five weeks? I had to give up after six weeks, since she was getting more blood than milk. And the one with a lactose allergy? If I hadn’t put him on a lactose-free formula, he would have been extremely ill.

  • Christine Kangas

    I understand that it doesn’t work for everyone, but to actually claim breast milk is NOT better than formula is absolute absurdity. I sincerely hope new and expecting mothers don’t read this. Breastmilk provides so much more than just nutrition, and things that formula cannot provide (like antibodies). Yes, it’s not always possible to breastfeed, and yes, some women don’t make enough. Sadly, many women mistake clusterfeeding as them not producing enough, and articles like this are just going to convince them they should give up and formula feed.

    • Tigger_the_Wing

      Clusterfeeding? My eldest lived in a sling from dawn to dusk for the first few months, attached to one side or the other. And yet I had to pump milk (I donated it to the hospital milk bank) because I was producing so much, and he was gaining 8-10oz a week (he was a BIG premie, and is now 6’2″).

      It isn’t the amount or frequency of feeding, or the number of feeds, that convinces mothers that they aren’t producing enough. It is a baby who is failing to meet projected growth curves, who is obviously underweight/starving. Hungry-all-the-time is NOT the same as starving.

      • Christine Kangas

        And yet I’ve heard/seen numerous women who claimed they weren’t producing enough because their baby always wanted to nurse. That was their ONLY thing they were basing it off of… and those women will see an article like this and think they were correct.

        • Tigger_the_Wing

          Really? Did none of these women ever get their babies weighed? Sorry, I find it very hard to believe that, in the 21st century, things are *worse* than they were in the 19th. Unless, of course, they have fallen for the propaganda of the lactivists that all babies are the same, all breasts are the same, all nursing *should’ work the same way…

          This article does *not* say that constant nursing is a sign that the mother isn’t producing enough milk. Nowhere is that mentioned.

          The only thing that such women will think if they read the article in full is likely to be “Whew, I’m not really a failure for giving my baby some formula milk. I’m actually a success, because my baby is well-fed and happy, and breast milk isn’t so much better than formula milk that I need have any worries about it.”

          • Erin Lewis

            I have never heard a breastfeeding support person claim that “all babies are the same.” Have you ever been to a La Leche League meeting? You hear over and over there about trusting yourself, trusting your baby, following your baby’s cues… not that something will work the same way for 100% of mothers and babies.
            Working with nursing mothers, I know many have the concern that frequent nursing means the baby is not getting enough… i think that is all the original comment was trying to say.

    • Adri

      Educate yourself a little. Antibodies are naturally produced in the body. Babies first get antibodies in the womb and then later on they start producing their own antibodies. No breastmilk needed. Breastmilk does provide some antibodies but they don’t pass through the intestinal tract. They only help if there is an infection in the intestinal tract but a healthy non breastfed baby is also protected by their own antibodies.

      • MandiLingo

        Babies don’t produce their own antibodies until closer to a years or beyond, so yes, actually breastmilk does help with this. Breastmilk produces little waste as the components are bioavailable and more easily distributed and absorbed through the body than artificial infant milk.

  • Andrea Riley

    “We need to be honest, accurate and specific about the benefits of breastfeeding. YES

    We need to stop hyping those benefits without being honest about the quality of the evidence. YES

    We need to be clear that breastmilk isn’t a magical elixir but is instead simply a nutritious option. YES

    It’s time to do a better job supporting the full range of infant feeding options. YES PLEASE, LONG OVERDUE

    Let’s stop telling all women that they really must breastfeed. YES, how about we start supporting their choices whatever those may be?

    Let’s be honest about breastfeeding’s bottom line because the truth is that it’s kind of complicated.” FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY, YES.

    Well done. Thank you for bravely trying to insert some reality into a largely one-sided discussion, though from the usual comments I see it is an entirely thankless job. Despite that fact, keep talking, please.

  • Petulant

    As I read this article, nodding my head in agreement at so many points I had a chuckle to myself that I couldn’t wait to get to the comments section to read all the lactivists freaking out. I wasn’t disappointed! I’ve done a lot of work on this topic and the author is correct. The science behind breast feeding is mixed at best and more research that is being undertaken, the results show little to no difference. I’ve also long argued that breast feeding is just as expensive, if not more than formula depending on what issues arise.

    I’ve thought long about why breast feeding mothers get so crazy at the claim that formula really isn’t as bad as they make out. At first I thought it was being misguided and passionate. But I have realised it’s about maintaining their sanctimony. Breast feeding, preferably extended is an automatic pass into the Good Mother Club. Because good mothers breast feed. Then there is the added perk of being able to look down on those lazy excuse-ridden bottle feeders. That really bolsters their desperate need for internal and external validation. Now all these horrible people are saying all that effort and the 6 extra months of unpaid leave they took to continue to breast feed had little more value that using formula. That pious advantage they had over the lazy formula feeder is gone. *runs off to the internet to desperately try to debunk*

    • Tigger_the_Wing

      Ha. I found breast-feeding far more ‘lazy’ than bottle-feeding, and was disappointed when I had to switch one of the twins to the bottle, as I could no longer just drop everything and rush off on a job; I had to be organised, with all the bottle-feeding paraphernalia ready the day before, at a time when I was unlikely to get an urgent call out.

      As for extended feeding – after they are getting most of their nutrition through solid food, there is no reason to carry on simply as a live comforter – unless you really, really enjoy having to eat lots, and considering your wardrobe from the point of view of discretion (and preventing leaks).

      I’m still close to all my children, now adults, and I defy anyone to tell, by looking, which of them was fed by what method and for how long.

      If they are loved, growing and healthy, that is all that matters.

    • Erin Lewis

      It is disappointing to hear breastfeeding mothers lumped into a category and called names such as “sanctimonious” and needing to validate themselves. I am sorry if a breastfeeding mother ever called you lazy for using formula because clearly that is not the motivating factor in why mothers use formula. I hope you will extend the same courtesy to others rather than assuming that the nursing mothers around you are all breastfeeding just for the “perk” of “looking down on you.” Please. They are just trying to feed and nurture their babies, the same as the majority of mothers are doing. Can we stop the “good mom bad mom” talk and respect the way others feed their babies?

      • Petulant

        Oh come on. This article is clearly pro formula. There are a million articles heralding the wonders of breast milk where breast feeders can post and they do. Yet every single time I read anything that even slightly hints that formula isn’t evil the lactivists all jump on the band wagon spamming the article with angry retorts that breast milk is SO much better blah blah and this article has been a great example. I’m well aware not all breast feeders are like this, clearly I’m referring to the crazy ones as I said. Yes, some women are just trying to feed their child and could really give a crap if another random uses formula. And then some women are militant, nasty and most definitely use it to bolster their own need for self worth by putting others down. I’ve seen it in real life, but mainly online. If you are a breast feeder that loves it but believes formula is still a great choice then no need for you to feel insulted, I’m not talking about you. The others how posted rudely however….

        • Erin Lewis

          I still don’t think it is right of us to judge others on either side as using things like how we feed babies to “bolster our own need for self-worth.” I swear that is not why people breastfeed or why lactation support people help people! let’s choose to assume the best intent of others rather than assume they are making their own choices as a way to judge others. Think positive, unless somebody actually says to you, “Gosh, I breastfed my baby because I care about him more than you do yours” or some awful comment like that. “Lactivist” doesn’t mean jerk – it means somebody who wants to help mothers achieve their breastfeeding goals. i never want to assume that somebody else is nasty or militant – and I certainly haven’t seen any comments in this article that would fall into those categories.
          I also don’t believe formula is “a great choice” – I believe it is a valid one in a variety of situations and for differing reasons. This does not make me nasty or sanctimonious; it just means I believe that what nature/God designed our bodies to do is the optimal choice. Many women would have rather breastfed and were unable to get enough support, and we do them a disservice when we tell them that formula is a “great” choice or that it is just as good. What is more validating for them to hear is that they tried hard, they didn’t have an ideal situation (single mom? unsupportive family? medical issues that interfered?) and that in a perfect world, they could have met those goals, and that the important thing is that they are nurturing and feeding their babies. And that if they didn’t receive the right help and support when they were trying to breastfeed, that you empathize with them and hope that if they have another baby they can be in a better situation, but if they aren’t they are still a good and loving mother. 🙂 We are all just doing the best that we can.

  • Nick Klender

    Lactobacillus bifidus factor is the number one reason why breast milk is far superior to formula. I am not saying that formula is not healthy for a child, but the healthy bacteria in the babies gut will never occur without this factor, that is only found in breast milk. This article does not mention this at all unfortunately.

  • Erin Lewis

    This article failed to mention this, as stated in one of the links it provided: “The use of animal’s milk for infant feeding is noted as far back as 2000 BC. Since then, alternative milk sources have evolved to include the synthetic formulas of today. *The use of artificial feeding substances grew rapidly and was significantly influenced by advertising campaigns. This had a profound negative effect on breastfeeding trends, despite research that revealed many discrepancies between breastfed and artificially fed infants (Greer & Apple, 1991; Wolf, 2003). Although artificial or formula-feeding of infants is presently much safer than it has been in decades, breastmilk is still considered the best source of infant nutrition (Leung & Sauve, 2005).*”
    It is disingenuous to act like people have always historically wanted to find alternate methods of feeding their babies. Historically, this was done only out of last-resort sheer necessity, as in the mother of the baby died and there were not other lactating women nearby.

    On the claim that babies already get maternal antibodies through the placenta – breastfeeding advocates do not deny this, but they do tell people how breastfeeding mothers produce antibodies to whatever illnesses they and their babies are exposed to, thus delivering these antibodies to the nursing child. Antibodies from the placenta aren’t going to protect the 6 month old from whatever current strain of cold virus is going around. Mothers do deserve true info on this, and this article has presented a half-truth.

    And vitamin K? Babies aren’t “supplemented” with that; it is given as a shot once after birth. Parents can and do decline it as well. I’m not sure why a one-time thing was even mentioned as if it is needed as an ongoing supplement.

    The bottom line is that breastfeeding is the *biological norm* – and that is why I breastfed – not because it is “best,” but because it is what my body normally does to produce food for my baby. I’m not one to argue with mother nature – however, if a biological norm doesn’t work for whatever reason, then by all means, we should be thankful for alternative ways of keeping the human species alive. Me, I always start with the biological norm, and when that is failing for lots of people, we need to look at *why* that is instead of hailing it as being within the range of “normal.” That is why breastfeeding support people are helpful to us, and I am thankful for their efforts in trying to help women!

  • Pepper Culpepper

    What in the world do you think women fed their babies for nearly 200,000 years before the invention of formula?