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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Response to "The Case Against Breast-Feeding"

The latest installment from the "don't judge me" argument has been published in a new article, "The Case Against Breast-Feeding." In this article, the author sets out to describe the discrimination and social pressure that non-breastfeeders must face, and how the evidence that supports the health benefits of breastfeeding is exaggerated or non-existent.

Naturally, this has the breastfeeding community up in arms. Let me explain to you why.

Hanna Rosin begins her article talking about the cool reception she met from moms at the park when she mentioned weaning her child at one month old. She describes the other moms as trendy types, who breastfeed as a "signifier" of their trendy status. She also goes on to describe how she herself came to breastfeed her own child, after reading several magazine articles about how easy it would be, and the health benefits of it. Now on her third child, she has become disenchanted with the idea of breastfeeding, and wrote this article to show us why she doesn't want to breastfeed anymore, and why we should not judge her for doing so.

This time around, nirvana did not describe my state of mind; I was launching a new Web site and I had two other children to care for, and a husband I would occasionally like to talk to. Being stuck at home breast-feeding as he walked out the door for work just made me unreasonably furious, at him and everyone else...When I looked at the picture on the cover of Sears’s Breastfeeding Book—a lady lying down, gently smiling at her baby and still in her robe, although the sun is well up—the scales fell from my eyes: it was not the vacuum that was keeping me and my 21st-century sisters down, but another sucking sound.
Her primary motivating factor seems to have been the feeling of being shackled by the chains of motherhood. She spends a bit of time talking about the feminist movement, and how breastfeeding is the modern equivalent of indentured servitude. To women who want to have careers, who want to be liberated from our biological imperative, that sounds great! But there is an easier solution:

DON'T HAVE KIDS.

You don't want to "do" the wife and mother thing? Then don't get married and have kids. We are designed by God (or nature, if you prefer) to carry our young for 10 months, to birth them vaginally, and to suckle them at the breast. That is why we are classified as mammals. I will never understand why women want to have children, but don't want anything that goes along with having children: birthing them, nursing them, and being home to raise them. But I digress. Let's move on to the meat of the article.

The author's moment of "enlightenment" came while reading another magazine. The results of this study that she read about prompted her to do further research into the alleged benefits of breastfeeding, which caused her to conclude that the benefits were exaggerated, and that knowledge helped her to feel less guilty about not wanting to breastfeed.

One day, while nursing my baby in my pediatrician’s office, I noticed a 2001 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association open to an article about breast-feeding: “Conclusions: There are inconsistent associations among breastfeeding, its duration, and the risk of being overweight in young children.” … The breast-feeding advocates’ dream—that something in the milk somehow reprograms appetite—is still a long shot.
This statement is just one of the many statements she makes about the benefits of breastfeeding, without looking at the comparison to formula. Yes, it is true there is no direct correlation between breastfeeding and its ability to prevent obesity, but why would there be? It's not a weight-loss drug or anything. It's just food. However, if one looks at formula:

A Scottish study concluded that formula feeding is associated with an increased risk of childhood obesity. (Armstrong, J. et al, 2002)

A German study found a 40% higher prevalence of obesity among children who were formula-fed, over children who had been breastfed. (Von Kries, R, 1999)

and so on. While breastfeeding by itself doesn't prevent obesity, when compared to formula feeding, the rates of obesity are significantly lower. So her statement about how breast milk doesn't "reprogram appetite" is not pertinent to the discussion, if her point is that formula is not necessarily worse than breast milk.

The author is a product of her generation, equating infant formula with scientific progress, and paying little heed to the history or science of formula creation itself. She states, "Formula grew out of a late-19th-century effort to combat atrocious rates of infant mortality by turning infant feeding into a controlled science." Infant feeding was NOT a controlled science in the late 19th century. The first infant formulas were just cow's milk. Period. It was considered a last-ditch attempt to save babies for whom human milk was not available. Most of the babies died anyway. Later on, someone developed the ability to condense and store milk for delivery and shelf-life, and hence mass-marketed infant formula was born. Infant formula was still just evaporated cow's milk. Infant formula did not become a "science" until it became marketable. (For more information about the history of infant formula, please read the book Milk, Money and Madness.)

She comes to this conclusion about all the "evidence:"
What does all the evidence add up to? We have clear indications that breast-feeding helps prevent an extra incident of gastrointestinal illness in some kids—an unpleasant few days of diarrhea or vomiting, but rarely life-threatening in developed countries. We have murky correlations with a whole bunch of long-term conditions. The evidence on IQs is intriguing but not all that compelling, and at best suggests a small advantage, perhaps five points...

Breast milk is not magical, no, but it doesn't cause any negative effects, which cannot be said for formula. And her conclusion also does not factor in that breastfeeding in comparison to formula feeding isn't just better - it saves lives. Her concluding statement illustrates this point perfectly: "So overall, yes, breast is probably best. But not so much better that formula deserves the label of “public health menace,” alongside smoking."

In fact, the author is careful to not include any studies about formula - maybe because studies about formula paint a much darker picture? The author neglects to put up any studies about the very real dangers of formula, including increased risk for asthma, allergy, respiratory disease, reduced cognitive development, infection from contaminated formulas, childhood cancers, nutrient deficiencies, chronic diseases, diabetes, ear infections, environmental contaminants, and death. (ref) How is it that a product that causes death does not deserve the label of public health menace?

Ay, there's the rub! The elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. Formula causes death. Sure, most babies use formula and live. I formula fed my first child, and she grew up to be quite healthy and very intelligent. But then, George Burns smoked cigars until the day he died, at the ripe old age of 100 - does that mean that tobacco doesn't kill people?

According to this article,"between 1982 and 1994 alone, there were 22 significant recalls of infant formula in the United States due to health and safety problems. Seven of these recalls were classified by the FDA as "Class I" or potentially life threatening." In fact, powdered formula is not sterilized at all, and subject to contamination by any source. According to this article by the FDA:

As background information for health professionals, FDA wants to point out that powdered infant formulas are not commercially sterile products. Powdered milk-based infant formulas are heat-treated during processing, but unlike liquid formula products they are not subjected to high temperatures for sufficient time to make the final packaged product commercially sterile.

Google e. sakazakii, melamine contamination, or BPA.

This article finds that formula use doubles the US infant mortality rate.

A 1989 study conducted by the U.S. National Institue of Environmental Health Sciences estimated that four of every 1,000 infants born in the United States each year die because they are not breastfed. In 1992, 4.1 million American children were born. If half were bottle-fed (which is a conservative estimate), there would have been 8,168 unnecessary, preventable deaths.

And it doesn't just kill babies - it kills mothers. According to phdinparenting:

The Canadian Cancer Society reports that in 2008, an estimated 22,400 women in Canada will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,300 will die of it (source: Breast Cancer Stats). It has been well documented through research that breastfeeding lowers a woman’s chance of contracting breast cancer (for other ways of lowering your risk see It’s Your Health - Breast Cancer). In fact, studies have shown that if women breastfed for at least 16 months over their lifetime, the incidence of breast cancer might drop from 6% of women to 3% of women (source: CBC article “Breastfeeding protects against breast cancer, study confirms”).
So if infant formula kills babies, is subject to contamination, increases health risks, and harms mothers, why is it still marketed to women as their "right to choose?" As if choosing to breastfeed or use formula is no more important than choosing Coke over Pepsi?

...in any case, if a breast-feeding mother is miserable, or stressed out, or alienated by nursing, as many women are, if her marriage is under stress and breast-feeding is making things worse, surely that can have a greater effect on a kid’s future success than a few IQ points...The debate about breast-feeding takes place without any reference to its actual context in women’s lives. Breast-feeding exclusively is not like taking a prenatal vitamin. It is a serious time commitment that pretty much guarantees that you will not work in any meaningful way...

...Given what we know so far, it seems reasonable to put breast-feeding’s health benefits on the plus side of the ledger and other things—modesty, independence, career, sanity—on the minus side, and then tally them up and make a decision. But in this risk-averse age of parenting, that’s not how it’s done...

...We were raised to expect that co-parenting was an attainable goal. But who were we kidding?... Even in the best of marriages, the domestic burden shifts, in incremental, mostly unacknowledged ways, onto the woman. Breast-feeding plays a central role in the shift...

...In her critique of the awareness campaign, Joan Wolf, a women’s-studies professor at Texas A&M University, chalks up the overzealous ads to a new ethic of “total motherhood.” ...Choices are often presented as the mother’s selfish desires versus the baby’s needs. As an example, Wolf quotes What to Expect When You’re Expecting, from a section called the “Best-Odds Diet,” which I remember quite well: “Every bite counts. You’ve got only nine months of meals and snacks with which to give your baby the best possible start in life … Before you close your mouth on a forkful of food, consider, ‘Is this the best bite I can give my baby?’ If it will benefit your baby, chew away. If it’ll only benefit your sweet tooth or appease your appetite put your fork down.” To which any self-respecting pregnant woman should respond: “I am carrying 35 extra pounds and my ankles have swelled to the size of a life raft, and now I would like to eat some coconut-cream pie. So you know what you can do with this damned fork...”

It's all about M-E. This summarizes the tone of the whole article, and I would submit, the tone of our culture today. I don't want to breastfeed because I am too busy. Because it's uncomfortable for me. Because I want to work. Because I want to have an exclusive relationship with my husband. Because I want a life that does not include children in a significant portion of it. Because I don't want to be inconvenienced

Now, far be it from me to judge someone for not wanting to be a parent. If someone wants to live a life free of constraints, to be able to go wherever they want when they want to, to have a career to dedicate themselves to for their entire lives, more power to them. No one is forcing anyone to have kids. But once you have children, you have already chosen your life! You cannot have your cake and eat it too.

Most importantly, once you have children, you cannot take away THEIR right to choose. Your right to choose ends when another life is affected by your choices. Infant formula is potentially harmful to babies. Period. You cannot "choose" to use formula simply because it suits your lifestyle better - you must breastfeed because it won't kill your baby!

The final word today's culture is about being judgmental. The phrase "don't judge me" has the same weight in today's culture as calling someone a pinko in the 50s.

What’s most amazing is how, 50 years after La Leche League’s founding, “enlightenment from the laboratory”—judgmental and absolutist—has triumphed again. The seventh edition of The Womanly Art, published in 2004, has ballooned to more than 400 pages, and is filled with photographs in place of the original hand drawings. But what’s most noticeable is the shift in attitude… The experience of reading the 1958 edition is like talking with your bossy but charming neighbor, who has some motherly advice to share. Reading the latest edition is like being trapped in the office of a doctor who’s haranguing you about the choices you make.

The shift in attitude of which the author speaks isn't a change in the book; it's a shift in the attitude of today's women - that of entitlement. When the book was first published in 1958, women didn't need to "harangue" each other about breastfeeding. They only needed to educate and support each other, because they assumed that women would naturally want to assume their proper role as mothers to their children.

Make no mistake - this article is not about the health benefits of breastfeeding. This article is about women who don't want to breastfeed, despite knowing the benefits of it, and despite knowing the risks of formula, without reproach or judgment. You will have no such luck with me. I judge you. I judge you for choosing something dangerous for your children for your own convenience. I judge you for trying to make other women feel good about their choice not to breastfeed, so you don't feel alone in your selfishness. I judge you for making the commitment to have children without having the integrity to follow through with everything motherhood entails.

In the end, the author finds

I’m not really sure why I don’t stop entirely. I know it has nothing to do with the science...My best guess is something I can’t quite articulate. Breast-feeding does not belong in the realm of facts and hard numbers; it is much too intimate and elemental. It contains all of my awe about motherhood, and also my ambivalence. Right now, even part-time, it’s a strain. But I also know that this is probably my last chance to feel warm baby skin up against mine, and one day I will miss it.

Author: this is your biology calling. Please answer.

** I wish we were all adults and I didn't have to make this disclaimer, but such as it is...I obviously don't judge anyone for whom formula feeding is not a choice, such as adoption and those with certain medical conditions. That is why formula was invented, after all.

130 comments:

A Place To Dream said...

this is a great blog entry!

Valerie Otto said...

Thank goodness you wrote this response. You have put all my thoughts about this womens ridiculous, self serving article together very well, and much more eloquently then I ever could have. I would also like to ask the women who wrote "The Case Against Breastfeeding" why she didn't cite the sources of the "so called" studies she same across that claim breastfeeding is not a beneficial as once thought. Why didn't she list the studies in her article? Is it because she knows she completely mangled the actual findings and evidence in the studies to suit her taste? I love how she made it so no one could comment on her article... I guess she didn't want people to tell her what and idiot she is.

Melodie said...

Thank you and Bravo for responding to that atrocious article in such an articulate thoughtful way.
Hey! I have given you an award. You can pick it up on ym site. It's to say thanks for all your inspiring posts and support of my blog too. I really appreciate what you are doing over here.

Katy said...

I found your blog through Melodie. Wow - this was amazing. That woman is beyond me. She should come and look at my spot-free home.....with thinking she's a slave to a breastfeeding baby and can't get anything done. My newest is 13 weeks and we've been fine from the get-go and let me tell you - my FAVORITE time of the day is waking up with a sweet suckling baby in my bed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm adding you to my blog list. Take care! ~Katy

Tanya said...

Ya know, the whole time I was reading (well skimming by the second page lol) this article, I was thinking what the hell is the point of this article? "I judge you for trying to make other women feel good about their choice not to breastfeed, so you don't feel alone in your selfishness"<---this right here is EXACTLY the point! She has NO basis for anything she's saying. She just wants to bitch about breastfeeding and try to make it sound like an evidence based article. What a waste of 3 pages! lol. But as always, you have such an eloquent way of writing.

Judy - MommyNewsBlog.com said...

Excellent post!! Well said!! I have been trying to think of how to respond to this article and have been at a loss for words - your response is perfect! Thank you for articulating it so well.

Wendy Armbruster Bell said...

Thanks to Judy from MommyNews for RT'g a link to this post on Twitter. So glad to have found you! I was also at a loss after reading this article. It was just so W-R-O-N-G and pointless and full of mis-truths and half-truths. Thanks for setting the record straight!

FrogleyMom said...

Wow, Emily!!! Very well written. One of my favorite parts was near the beginning, "She spends a bit of time talking about the feminist movement, and how breastfeeding is the modern equivalent of indentured servitude." As you pointed out... I don't think it's breastfeeding that's the modern equivalent of indentured servitude... but motherhood in general could easily be categorized as such. If you don't want to live by the terms of motherhood... DON'T HAVE KIDS!!

Gina said...

That's all it boils down to: breastfeeding is not superior nutrition. Formula is inferior nutrition. People don't want to accept that they have given their child an inferior product. That lack of honesty is what causes the whole "controversy."

Lane and Katie Eyre said...

I saw the interview of this lady on the Today show. While I don't agree with what she wrote in the article I feel it's important to point out that she is currently breastfeeding her baby. Also, I love that the Today show talked about that really this should just be a push to show that as mothers we should support other mothers- not tear them down or make them feel bad for NOT breastfeeding, and likewise not making them feel bad for breastfeeding!

As always, great information for all- breastfeeders and bottlefeeders (like me)!

Gabrielle said...

This post and the responses are rather offensive. You make it sound so clear-cut, but the sibling study linked in the original article shows just how much uncertainty there is when it comes to the benefits of breastfeeding, because of the selection bias implicit in all the observational studies. And frankly, wanting to have a career and a good relationship with your husband are not some wacky dreams that only selfish evil mothers have. Breast is best, but giving your baby some formula doesn't make you a terrible mother, and is extremely unlikely to have negative effects.

The author of the original article was just trying to point out that the effects of breastfeeding have been overstated somewhat, that we need to weigh other factors when deciding to breastfeed, and that we shouldn't make mothers feel like failures if they cannot or choose not to breastfeed. You, on the other hand, are not serving anyone with this scornful, spiteful, hateful response.

Emily said...

"You make it sound so clear-cut, but the sibling study linked in the original article shows just how much uncertainty there is when it comes to the benefits of breastfeeding..."

I didn't say the benefits of breastfeeding by itself were phenomenal. The awesome-ness comes in comparison to formula feeding, which is not only inferior, but potentially dangerous.


"And frankly, wanting to have a career and a good relationship with your husband are not some wacky dreams that only selfish evil mothers have."

I didn't say that either. I said having a career is fine, but don't have kids. If you want kids, you become a mother. That's part of the deal. If you don't want to do all that mother-stuff, don't become a mother.

And I didn't say having a good relationship with your husband, I said having an *exclusive* relationship with your husband. When you have children, your children come first, at least in the early years. If you're not willing to commit to that, don't have kids.

"Breast is best, but giving your baby some formula doesn't make you a terrible mother, and is extremely unlikely to have negative effects."

Maybe unlikely, but still possible. I don't care that most children come out okay after being fed with formula. SOME BABIES DIE. I'm not willing to take that chance, unless as a last resort, and certainly not for personal convenience.

Gabrielle said...

"I didn't say the benefits of breastfeeding by itself were phenomenal. The awesome-ness comes in comparison to formula feeding, which is not only inferior, but potentially dangerous."

What do you think the breastfeeding studies are comparing against?


"I said having a career is fine, but don't have kids. If you want kids, you become a mother. That's part of the deal. If you don't want to do all that mother-stuff, don't become a mother."

Baloney. Women can successfully have children and careers, at least if our children's fathers would do their share of "father-stuff."


"And I didn't say having a good relationship with your husband, I said having an *exclusive* relationship with your husband. When you have children, your children come first, at least in the early years. If you're not willing to commit to that, don't have kids."

For many couples, this has proven a recipe for a bad marriage... and that has a worse impact on the kids than formula.


"I don't care that most children come out okay after being fed with formula. SOME BABIES DIE. I'm not willing to take that chance, unless as a last resort, and certainly not for personal convenience."

This is totally irrational. Some babies die of lots of things. Many babies die in car crashes (even with car seats), but will you stop using your car? It sure is a convenient way to get to the pediatrician's office. On the other hand, SOME BABIES DIE in the car. Maybe you should pay to have a doctor come to your house, if you really care about your baby?

Please... I only want us to support each other, and not be so quick to call each other lazy liars for pointing out that raising a child is an extremely complicated affair, and there's no need to vilify women who can't or decide not to breastfeed. As a mom of twins, with latching issues, sore bleeding nipples, mastitis, low supply, and no sleep, I really appreciate knowing it's okay to give some formula once in a while, instead of hearing trash like "you're a lazy failure of a mother who will have stupid, fat, asthmatic children if you don't exclusively breastfeed."

The author of the Atlantic article is a mom too, and a breastfeeding one at that. For heaven's sake, let's support each other!

Emily said...

Gabrielle: I don't buy the car crash argument. The difference is, people don't usually have a choice to drive in cars. Formula is a choice. Unless someone is physiologically prevented from nursing, formula is a choice. Even then, it's still a choice, because one could get donated breastmilk or a friend to donate. There are ways to make it happen.

I formula fed my first. I had latch problems, food allergies, bloody nipples, soreness, yeast infection, and sleepless nights with my second. But I made it work, because I didn't want to use formula as an excuse.

The author is a part-time breastfeeder who supplements with formula despite the fact she admits she works at home and has 24-7 access to her own child. I do not believe it is okay to give formula "once in a while." I don't think formula should even be available except by prescription only. Formula should be a last resort, not a fall back.

This is all I have to say about it. I refuse to apologize for saying some things are just plain wrong.

Tanya said...

"This is totally irrational. Some babies die of lots of things. Many babies die in car crashes (even with car seats), but will you stop using your car? It sure is a convenient way to get to the pediatrician's office. On the other hand, SOME BABIES DIE in the car. Maybe you should pay to have a doctor come to your house, if you really care about your baby?"

It is interesting you said this because I always notice that people who justify formula (or epidurals, or early solids, or whatever) say that they were formula fed (or whatever) and they are "fine". By that same reasoning, we could say "well my parents didn't use carseats and they are fine" but if a mother said that she wasn't going to use a carseat, those formula feeding moms would have a fit! A child is MORE LIKELY to die if not in a carseat so, even though it is a small amount, I will do the LESS RISKY thing and put them in a car seat. A child is MORE LIKELY to die if giving formula so, even though it is a small amount, I will do the LESS RISKY thing and breastfeed. There are always extenuating circumstances which will make it MORE understandable, depending on who you are talking to. Everyone has their own level of comfort with making the riskier choice. (Like "I couldn't put the baby in a carseat because she needed to go to the hospital NOW and I didn't have one" or "I couldn't breastfeed because I have to be on high doses of medication for a major health issue.") You may find more reasons acceptable to FF than we do.

Gabrielle said...

"This is all I have to say about it. I refuse to apologize for saying some things are just plain wrong."

Well, you're entitled to your beliefs, I guess. But you're not entitled to making mothers feel terrible if they can't exclusively breastfeed.

I really don't understand why some mothers try to make other mothers feel like shit because they give some formula, get an epidural, use a crib, etc. Do you need some affirmation that you're a good mom? I'm sure you are, but everyone's experience is different, so please don't generalize your experience to us all.

Naomi said...

Emily, You articulated perfectly. Thanks for adding your sources. I was astonished when I originally read "the case against breastfeeding". Of all the times I've been completely exhausted and needed to get out of the house, I never once thought about leaving my breastfed baby behind! I have four boys under the age of 5 so I am a busy mother and my relationship with my husband IS existent! I have easily discovered the art of breastfeeding in public without an inch of skin showing, why has the author not thought of that?

Cate said...

Thank god for Twitter; I needed to find another intelligent blog on this woman. She makes a "good" argument. In that, she was looking for a reason to quit, so she made the research look dubious at best.
I also blogged on this:
http://blog.thenatureschild.com/2009/03/preemptive-attack-on-breastfeeding.html
Because we need more smart, sassy women being proud to BF (no matter where) AND be feminists!

Jen said...

Gabrielle, your argument is that we should not judge each other, and that we don't have the right to judge each other? If that is the case, are you saying that the Americans had no right to judge the Nazis for gassing an entire mass group of people? So as humans we have no right to judge in your opinion? Without the freedom to judge whomever and whenever we please, then evil can continue as it likes.

My honest opinion: Thank god there are women like me judging mothers who don't breastfeed (except with medical reason, of course). If a million + women and myself weren't there to judge you and tell you that you aren't being a good enough mother then more people would formula feed. Sadly, a percentage of women probably only breastfeed because they don't want to be looked down on, and if so, GOOD, I'm glad I could help.

I agree formula should only be available by prescription.

If you had SOOOOOO much trouble breastfeeding, then that's Darwin's theory - you weren't meant to have babies, and your baby was meant to die, because you are incapable or UNWILLING to feed that child. End of story. But these days there is formula, which saves millions of babies. That's fine. But if the world didn't have formula, it would be a natural means of population control. Don't get me wrong, I think EVERY woman on Earth deserves the opportunity to be a mother- it's the most amazing thing on earth. But if you aren't able or willing to nurse your child, that is NATURES way of saying you weren't meant to have babies.

One last note just to demonstrate how deeply I do judge for FF,I would be very disappointed in my son if he married and conceived with a woman whom breastfeeding was not a top priority. I hope my son marries a woman who was breastfed, who plans to breastfed their child.

Jerichos_Mommy said...

Thank you for this post. I absolutely agree with you. The things that irritated me most about her article was saying if you BF you are a slave chained to your home and baby. I love being with my baby and do as much now as before he was born, and I never have to go to the hasall of making a bottle.

Of course there are those who think a SAHM does nothing and has nothing to show for it. I have the best job in the world. And I would not trade one moment of breastfeeding my baby for all the gold in the world.

Lane and Katie Eyre said...

Wow, I thought "crunchy" moms were peaceful, fun loving, non-judgemental mothers... I know now that my thought was false!

Just one thing Jen, "One last note just to demonstrate how deeply I do judge for FF,I would be very disappointed in my son if he married and conceived with a woman whom breastfeeding was not a top priority. I hope my son marries a woman who was breastfed, who plans to breastfed their child."

-I pray for your future daughter in law and I'm more than glad that I bottle fed my daughter if it will keep her away from a MIL as judgemental as you. Aren't there worse things in this world? REALLY!

bottlecappie said...

I really appreciate your analysis and response to Rosin's article. One point you made though, about not having a career if you want to be a mom, made me think. That's fine if working is optional - but there are mothers that have to work.

We have no guaranteed maternity leave, and no workplace protection for lactating mothers. Moms have been harrassed and fired for needing extra breaks to pump, or they give up because there is no place for them to pump in private. Very few employers allow nursing moms to have their infants with them at work.

Not all families can survive on one income, even living frugally. Sometimes motherhood happens in less than ideal circumstances. But working-class women and shouldn't be shut out of motherhood. These pressures also contribute to mothers deciding to formula feed. These are systemic issues and blaming the mothers and judging them for these situations isn't productive.

Pressure needs to be brought to bear on employers to give sufficent leave to new moms and then to provide a supportive environment for mothers who want to continue to breastfeed.

I know the article you were responding to was about upper-class women who have more choices, and I hope your judgement doesn't extend to mothers in the situations I've described above.

Abby said...

I haven't read the entire article, just the snippets you presented. But from what I have read, it seems like you hit it right on the nose.

An interesting thought that formula should only be available by prescription...

I personaly know of a mom who weaned her 4 month old so that she could start taking a diet pill and lose some weight so that she could get pregnant again right away. Since she has put her son on formula he has faced numerous health issues and has had to be supplemented with various medications. It is sad to see her child suffering for her own selfish choices. How can I help this woman see that her priorities are majorly screwed?

When a mother is faced with a situation where she desperatley does not want to breastfeed anymore, she needs to look for support. From her husband, parents, and friends. The solution is not to turn to formula and give your baby an inferior product. The solution is to lift yourself back up and continue being a mother.

Emily said...

bottlecappie - you are absolutely right. I was referring to women who have a choice about working. The author herself whines about being a working mother and the woes of pumping at work, then reveals at the end of the article that she works from home. And she still supplements?? *shakes head*

Legislation and community support for working women in this country is abysmal. Women in other countries see our country as so backwards and oppressive in that regard. Our country does not value motherhood, and it shows in our lack of options for women today, from lack of birthing options to lack of nursing options. So much for women's lib.

But that is another post for another day. ;)

dukygurl said...

well, I commented elsewhere about this before I read your comments and thoughts. I did not know that formula was unhealthy. I nursed my children because I understood it to comfort them and to be healthy. Now, I am even more happy to have done so. I have two daughters,both nursed past a year. I hope to have more children and care cor them as well. Thanks for your post!

SandraRh said...

I love it emily!

hey Jen! Your son could marry one of my three daughters...LOL...

Paula said...

First of all, anyone can stay home with their kids if they want to. It is just a matter of giving up things to make it work. Being on a dual income is not as great as it sounds. Day care costs are high and you don't get the same tax break as single income families. We made it when my husband was making 35K. We just didn't go on vacations, we at only at home, we didn't have cable, and I made a lot from scratch. It can work if you want it to. So I don't accept that as an excuse to not be able to nurse or be with your kids.

This all goes back to what you say - if you want to have kids you HAVE to make sacrifices. Your husband CAN NOT be number one. He's a big boy now, but your kids have no one but you.

And another thing not yet mentioned: if the husband feels left out then he can give the baby a bottle of breastmilk. It doesn't have to be formula! Plus, like I said, the husband is a big boy now he can deal with not getting his wife all to himself anymore.

I LOVE the idea of formula being by prescription only. The other problem is that women who are on welfare get tons of coupons for free formula so it is super easy for them in the beginning. Then when those coupons stop coming they are all of the sudden stuck with paying high prices for formula. Many of them switch to plain old cow's milk as a consequence. Not good!

Let's also not forget the emotional connection breastfeeding allows. When Rosin made all the references to there being no differences she forgot about all those babies that "don't waste" their mother's time and take a bottle propped up in their crib or car seat. What a shame when i see that! Breastfeeding forces a mother to connect with her baby even when she may not have naturally. It is necessary for a good relationship.

Now, one more thing, women's breasts are made to produce milk. The only women who can not either have had some kind of augmentation being done, or have some kind of medical condition such as a thyroid disorder. But, usually those with medical conditions that lead to the inability to breastfeed don't allow a woman to get pregnant - so that is a moot point. My point is that women like to give all sorts of excuses why they can't breastfeed, but normally it is WON'T.

One more thing, I like what Jen said about Darwin's theory. I've often thought about that.

Thanks for posting this Emily - I saw this from CafeMom. I was debating this with a friend on Facebook who posted this saying it was a wonderful article. She of course is a FF who "chose" it because she felt too much anxiety being the only one to feed her baby.

This leads me to one last point I'd lilke to make (I know this is getting long). A big problem is that women are raising kids by themselves. We are supposed to rais children with our whole family. Humans are not meant to be nby themselves all day. We as a society need to go back to a community raising kids - not just a parent. Then maybe some of us wouldn't feel so trapped by breastfeeding or so much anxiety.

Emily said...

Paula - thanks for your comment. I wanted to add:

- I stay at home with my kids while my husband works and goes to school. We make it just fine on $27k a year. We have one car and don't have a lot of fancy stuff, but it is important to us for me to be a mother right now.

- I had a breast reduction 10+ years ago and am still able to breastfeed.

- ITA about community parenting.

The LIbrary Lady said...

You know,saying "you want a career, don't have kids" is a slap in the face to every working mother in the world.

Contrary to the myth, there are some of us working mothers out here who don't drive fancy cars and live in McMansions. We don't feed our kids nothing but takeout food, have nannies and not know which end of a baby's bottom is up.

I have a career so I can afford to feed my kids. And if you are well off enough to be able to afford to stay at home with your kids, good for you. Don't judge me or mine accordingly.

And while we're at it, don't judge us on whether or not we breast fed our kids any more than you would how we gave birth. Every woman's body is different. Every woman's life is different!

TheFeministBreeder said...

Hear, hear Sister.

I chose to address the less "medical" argument she was making, and address the more "convenience" based argument she tried to make.

Someone sent this article to me on Facebook, and I had a reponse drafted within twenty minutes - THAT's how offended I was.

I think she's lazy and trying to bring other mothers down with her. Her arguments are ridiculous at best, and damaging at worst.

http://thefeministbreeder.typepad.com/the_feminist_breeder/2009/03/my-response-to-the-case-against-breastfeeding.html

TheFeministBreeder said...

"First of all, anyone can stay home with their kids if they want to."

Yeah, sorry - I do NOT agree with that.

I have to work. HAVE TO. Does that mean I formula feed? Absolutely not. My 10 month old is STILL breastfed despite my 60-70 hour a week work/school schedule. It's hard, but he's WORTH it.

I can't stand when other mothers who are able to stay home sit around acting like ANYONE can do that. That's insane. How do you not know at least ONE mother who is 100% in need of her income? Do you only know wealthy people, or people who live in rural areas with a rock-bottom cost of living? Hey, if you can figure out a way for me to lose my income (and health insurance right along with it) then come on over to my house and make it happen.

I think it's dangerous to say that a woman is a bad mom because she's forced to work. Would you rather I had an abortion when I accidentally got knocked up? Is that better for you?

It's also dangerous to imply that staying at home automatically makes you a great mom. Hello? Most of the women on the news that you hear about killing their kids are SAHMs. Staying home isn't clinicly proven to make better parenting.

I can do both. I can work AND breastfeed --- AND be an wonderful mother to boot. To imply any different is selling us all short.

Paula said...

I'm talking about moms that have a secondary income such as their spouse. Our taxes here in New York state are ridiculous, so no, it isn't cheap to live here. And no, I live in a town where there are more people on welfare than earning a living. Of course single mothers have to work and I totally commend anyone in that position and still breastfeeds. I'm sure it makes the day a little longer with all the pumping you have to do. But, with that being said if we could make it on a single income then anyone can.

Now, health insurance always makes this trickier. Some husbands can't get insurance for whatever reason and the mother is forced to work full time in order to get insurance. This is F***'d up. And that is the only way to say it. Hopefully Obabma gets his way and health insurance no longer becomes the reason so many mothers have to leave their children behind.

Anonymous said...

Jen,

I hope you never go to a doctor because, you know, disease, sickness, strokes, heart attacks, etc... are all a part of natural selection and population control. If you do go to a doctor when you are sick, I hope you can live with your hypocrisy.

As a mother that breastfed her two children -- and encourages other mothers to do the same -- I still support a woman's right to feed her baby what she wants. Personally, I'm just thankful they didn't abort the baby or, even worse, wrap it up in a trash bag and toss it in a dumpster.

Gabrielle said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Emily said...

For future reference: obscenity and attacking is not allowed on this blog. Argue all you want, but please do so respectfully and without vulgarity.

mel817ski said...

~Melissa
www.nursingbirth.com

Rosin's article and her appearance on the Today show deeply saddened me. The only thing I agree with Rosin about is that mothers need to stop judging each other and support each other. But the agreement stops there. Rosin's research is shoddy, incomplete, outdated, and inaccurate. If it was complete she would have written about a meta analysis published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (AHRQ) in 2007 entitled “Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Developed Countries,” which reviewed over 9,000 abstracts, 43 preliminary studies, 43 primary studies on maternal health outcomes, and 29 systematic reviews or meta-analyses that covered approximately 400 individual studies on breastfeeding and concluded with the following:

“A history of breastfeeding was associated with a reduction in the risk of acute otitis media, non-specific gastroenteritis, severe lower respiratory tract infections, atopic dermatitis, asthma (young children), obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, childhood leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and necrotizing enterocolitis [for the child]. For maternal outcomes, a history of lactation was associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, breast, and ovarian cancer…Early cessation of breastfeeding or not breastfeeding was associated with an increased risk of maternal postpartum depression.”

If you are a woman who decides breastfeeding is not a choice you want to make, then fine. Even pro-breastfeeding health care providers and educators will agree that there are plenty of reasons why a mother might have to feed her baby pumped milk or formula via bottle. But for Rosin to go on national television and say that "the scientific literature regarding the benefits of breastfeeding is thin" is just WRONG. She thinks this article is an "I've got your back" to all the mothers who choose not to or can’t breastfeed. But in reality it is just going to hurt the breastfeeding community by spreading a doctrine that tells women, their families, their bosses, and their legislature that "it's unnecessary to support the rights of breastfeeding mothers." Healthy living takes a time commitment. Being a parent takes time and sacrifice. If you are a mother who doesn't want to make the sacrifices necessary to breastfeed OR if situations beyond your control prevent you or your baby from breastfeeding OR if you just bond better with you baby by not breastfeeding , that's your choice and you’re right, you shouldn’t be “judged” for it. But to call breastfeeding an "instrument of misery that mostly just keeps women down" is sickening.

~Melissa
www.nursingbirth.com

Lane and Katie Eyre said...

Melissa- great comment!!! I could not agree more with what you said!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Knitted_in_the_Womb said...

I had to wonder why it was that the author of the Atlantic piece seemed to feel that bottle feeding would take less time than breastfeeding??? I don't spend any time mixing formula or warming up bottles--which is especially nice for those 2 a.m. feedings. I rarely wash bottles. My husband warms up the occassional bottle of pumped breastmilk...like about once every other week.

Yes, I do most of the infant care in our house. But I've heard of a study (wish I knew where it was) that found that after 2 months of age, even bottle fed infants were almost exclusively fed by their mother when they weren't in daycare.

And my husband does a heck of a lot with the older kids. In fact, I often use the need to nurse (or even "I've been nursing for the last 20 minutes, can't you take care of this?") as an excuse to "get out" of doing things I don't feel like doing, and leaving it to my hubby.

Knitted_in_the_Womb said...

As to the health insurance issue...I'm a mom of 5 kids, and even with that, I'm not against moms working outside of the home--I did it after my first 4 were born. Oh...and I've never used formula. Actually, I've donated hundreds of ounces of milk to adoptive moms...because I'm blessed with an over-supply of milk.

Of course during those years either my husband was staying at home OR we worked opposite hours so one of us was at home at all times. There are ways to "make it work" with a mom who works outside of the home.

But last July I got laid off when I was 6 months pregnant, and since my husband is self-employed, that means I was carrying health insurance for the family. I have not pursued a new job since being laid off.

And here is the news flash. Paying for our children's "well care" out of pocket is MUCH cheaper than having health insurance. Granted, we have healthy kids (haven't had a "sick child" visit in over 4 years now), and for a family that has sick kids their experience will be different...but for the majority of families...

THE INSURANCE COMPANY ALWAYS COMES OUT AHEAD.

I strongly believe that the idea that everyone should have health insurance paying for routine medical care is a big part of the spiraling cost of medical care. In addition to adding an added layer of expense to every single medical procedure (after all, someone has to pay for the insurance company employees who spend time processing your claim!), there is just no real market component to the prices Dr's charge.

Just looking at the cost of birth shows that. While cleaning his parents attic, my husband found the bill from his brother's birth in 1960, and it was about $500. Assuming 4% inflation per year (which is a high rate), that is just under $3300 in today's dollars. For that price, my mother-in-law spent 5 days/4 nights in the hospital following a vaginal birth. Yet today's bill for a 2 day hospital stay following a vaginal birth is over $10,000.

I believe that health insurance should be more like auto insurance--high deductable coverage to keep you from being wiped out from a catastrophic situation, with routine care paid out of pocket.

Lisa said...

"The author herself whines about being a working mother and the woes of pumping at work, then reveals at the end of the article that she works from home. And she still supplements?? *shakes head*"

I didn't see where she said what her child care situation is. I work from home, but my daughter goes to child care full time outside our home. I get paid to WORK, not to watch my daughter -- and she has a lot more fun with someone who is paid to make sure she has fun than she would if she were stuck home with me while I tried to work.

Yes, I'm one of those awful moms that works. Actually, I'm TRULY awful, because I work because... I want to. We could easily make it on just my husband's salary, but why should we? I love the "mother-stuff," but I also love my job and the career I've spent the better part of a decade building and will spend many more decades continuing to grow. I drop my daughter off with a wonderful woman each morning, and she gives me a big hug and says "bye-bye!" and goes to chase after the dog. She greets me in the afternoon with another big hug and a huge smile. We goof off at night and go to the zoo on weekends and have an absolute blast on our vacations. She's happy, I'm happy... so tell me, what exactly are we doing wrong?

Oh, and she's 21 months old, never had a drop of formula, and is still nursing. So I don't really understand why working motherhood has been dragged into in what is ostensibly a response to an article about breastfeeding -- like working mothers can't nurse?

Janeen said...

Wow, great response to that article. I think you make some VERY excellent points and I agree with many, if not all of them. I think society has forgotten what is important. We focus on ourselves and not others. We're more focused on personal happiness and I really do think that this is why things are so messed up in the world. Just think, if we as humans were focused on what was best for others, not ourselves, if we focused on NEEDS, not WANTS, would this world not be a much better place?

My younger sister recently had a baby. She had formula fed her older two and was going to formula feed this one after trying to nurse her daughter for maybe a day. When she realized her daughter was going to have the same issues with constipation her older daughter STILL has (after being off of formula now for two years and it WAS caused by the formula), she relatched the baby. Fortunately, her daughter had only been off the breast for a week and she's got the supply up. Another nephew of mine also has VERY SEVERE constipation issues, again, due to formula. His is even worse than my niece's. It's so bad, he refuses to eat, goes for DAYS without pooping, is just totally stuffed up. His stomach sticks out and sometimes, he even throws up because he's so stuffed up. He's two and a half, so a good year past when he would have been weaned from formula.

I went through a lot to nurse my daughter and it wasn't easy but it was worth it, oh SO very worth it. She doesn't have half of the medical problems her cousins did. It was the fact that I myself had issues on formula that really made me make sure to breastfeed. I was sick on it until my mom switched me to soy. She had my younger sister on raw goat's milk because of the issues I had.

I do think that society's need for instant gratification has a lot to do with why breastfeeding is SO difficult for many mothers to achieve. We as humans are also out of touch with each other. Many of us do NOT want to be close to other people. We're not as social as we once were. Heck, most of us have friends that are virtual only. Things need to change in our society but I don't see that happening anytime soon unfortunately. We're too obsessed with how much we can get and we've forgotten about the things that really matter, the things that SHOULD matter. We just all get caught up in the rat race.

Emily said...

Lisa -

"I didn't see where she said what her child care situation is."

From her article, pg. 3: "I work at home and don’t punch a clock, which is not the situation of most women. Had I been more closely tied to a workplace, I would have breast-fed during my maternity leave and then given him formula exclusively, with no guilt."


"I get paid to WORK, not to watch my daughter"

Nice.

"So I don't really understand why working motherhood has been dragged into in what is ostensibly a response to an article about breastfeeding -- like working mothers can't nurse?"

Working motherhood really got dragged into the comments section. I didn't have time to get into it in my post, but I'm fine with women working, so long as children don't suffer for it. Kids always come first. If your child is still getting breast milk, KUDOS!

Lisa said...

Oh, she's very clear on her work situation. Not on her CHILD CARE situation. I was responding to your criticism of her for supplementing even though she works from home:

"The author herself whines about being a working mother and the woes of pumping at work, then reveals at the end of the article that she works from home. And she still supplements?? *shakes head*"

Forgive me if I misunderstood your comment, but you seem to be implying that breastfeeding should be a breeze if she works from home. It's not -- especially if her baby is cared for outside her home (like mine is), in which case, she'd need to make time for pumping just like a mom who worked out of an office.

""I get paid to WORK, not to watch my daughter"

Nice."

Do you disagree? I work at the same job and make the same salary (actually, a little more) that I did before I became a mom. Are you saying that taking care of a child is *so* easy and takes *so* little time that I can effectively do the same job *while* taking care of my child? Personally, I think my daughter deserves better than that.

Outside of working hours, totally different story -- I put the work away and I'm Mom, 100%. But from 9-5 Monday-Friday, yeah, I get paid to work.

"Working motherhood really got dragged into the comments section. I didn't have time to get into it in my post, but I'm fine with women working, so long as children don't suffer for it."

Really? I thought that your earlier comment of "having a career is fine, but don't have kids" kind of implied otherwise. Again, forgive me if I misunderstood.

Emily said...

Lisa - I differentiate between working and having a career. If a woman works and still manages to parent effectively and breastfeed, I'm okay with that. If a woman wants to have a career, OTOH, and doesn't have time/inclination to deal with parenting, including breastfeeding, I think she should not have kids and concentrate instead on her career.

FWIW, I believe motherhood *is* a career, and that unless financially mandated, all women should stay home with their children while they are young. It is what we were designed for, after all. But this is wandering WAY off-topic.

Rob said...

"If a woman works and still manages to parent effectively and breastfeed, I'm okay with that. If a woman wants to have a career, OTOH, and doesn't have time/inclination to deal with parenting, including breastfeeding, I think she should not have kids and concentrate instead on her career."

I'm curious, Emily. Low socioeconomic status is correlated MUCH more strongly with poor outcomes for children than being formula fed. Should poor people have children?

Single moms really don't have a choice other than to have a career. Should a mom give up her children if she and her husband split up right after the children are born?

Really, breastfeeding is such a small part of being a good parent. I think this paper describes you to a tee:

"Risk, however, is grossly misunderstood. Research suggests that cognitive
limitations, skewed media coverage, and misconstrued personal
experience distort the process of risk calculation, even among the well
informed, and that “people systematically violate the principles of rational
decision-making when judging probabilities, making predictions or
otherwise attempting to cope with probabilistic tasks” (Slovic 2000: 36,
152 – 153). Accurate risk assessment is even less likely to occur in situations
in which the stakes are high. When strong emotions, such as fear,
are involved, “people tend to focus on the adverse outcome, not on its
likelihood. They are not closely attuned to the probability that harm will
occur. They emphasize worst-case scenarios”
(Sunstein 2005: 64 – 65), as
in the common fear that any exposure to a carcinogen is likely to lead to
cancer (Kunreuther and Slovic 2001: 338). ... [This attitude] masks the reality that risks are unavoidable, that ostensibly
risk-averse behavior creates new risks in other contexts, and that
any decision has multiple and lasting effects that determine the range of
options in the future. Rather than determining hazard or safety, in other
words, risk calculations are evaluations of trade-offs or choices between
imperfect options."

Emily said...

- I was a single parent for 10 years. I worked and my child was in day care. I hold no grudges against mothers who work. I have my own personal philosophy about it, but don't judge others for it.

- I formula fed my first child. She turned out fine. I have no problem with women for whom formula is not a choice, even though there are other, safer options. You do what you have to do.

- While the risks of adverse events associated with formula use are rare, they do exist. In cases where a woman has no choice but to use formula, then "risk calculations are evaluations of trade-offs or choices between
imperfect options." However, many women choose to use formula REGARDLESS OF RISK and without imperative to do so, simply because of societal pressure, work constraints, formula advertising, dislike of breastfeeding, you name it. This is what I disapprove of.

- Lastly, breastfeeding is NOT a small part of being a parent. Natural childbirth and breastfeeding both get the short shrift as being "such a small part of parenting," when, in fact, how you begin your parent-child relationship affects everything else about you and your child's life. Certain emotional and physical skills learned in childbirth and nursing are not replicated in any other environment. Regardless of the health benefits or risks of infant feeding choices, how you approach these two basic aspects of the beginning of your child's life will have a ripple effect for everything else. It makes for better people, period.

Does that mean people who choose not to do those things are lesser people? No. But they may never know their full potential.

This is the whole point of my response to Rosin's article. Breastfeeding is so much more than just measurable health benefits. Formula is so much less than measurable health risks. It's not just a matter of choice; it describes one's entire philosophy on life, family, children, etc.

Jennifer said...

"- I formula fed my first child. She turned out fine. I have no problem with women for whom formula is not a choice, even though there are other, safer options. You do what you have to do."

I am curious what the "other, safer options" are?

I had supply issues due to a medical condition and simply couldn't give my son enough milk. Without access to a breast milk bank (I tried!) what other alternatives are there to formula for a 10-week old baby? Supplementing with formula was essential to my son's health.

For the record, my son will be 21 months this week, and he is still breastfeeding. I am definitely very pro-breastfeeding but don't believe that my choice to BF is going to determine my son's future.

Emily said...

The best alternatives are donated breast milk, either local or from a breast milk bank, or a wet nurse (i.e. if you have a nursing friend who can help nurse your baby.) In this country, those two options are hard to come by, so most women have to use formula.

If one must use formula, they should use liquid formula instead of the powdered kind. They both are subject to industrial contaminants, but the liquid kind is at least sterilized, so highly unlikely to have bacterial contamination.

According to the WHO, formula is the last-resort infant feeding choice, behind breastfeeding, wet nursing, and donated milk.

Rob said...

"While the risks of adverse events associated with formula use are rare, they do exist. In cases where a woman has no choice but to use formula, then "risk calculations are evaluations of trade-offs or choices between
imperfect options." However, many women choose to use formula REGARDLESS OF RISK and without imperative to do so, simply because of societal pressure, work constraints, formula advertising, dislike of breastfeeding, you name it. This is what I disapprove of."

I don't think I was clear enough, then. I think the other things you mention are the trade-offs; that women who choose to supplement with formula or use it exclusively understand and appreciate its (slight) risks. I think you exaggerate them in your original post:

"Formula causes death. Sure, most babies use formula and live. I formula fed my first child, and she grew up to be quite healthy and very intelligent. But then, George Burns smoked cigars until the day he died, at the ripe old age of 100 - does that mean that tobacco doesn't kill people?"

The comparison to tobacco is overblown.

Gotta go feed a baby now...

Anonymous said...

i just wanted to say that as a mother who conceived children with fertility treatment and struggled to breastfeed exclusively (even though I tried with both), I felt so sad reading your response to this article. It made me feel bad about myself as a mother, despite being one who would certainly have received a prescription from my pediatrician for formula if it was only available that way (I basically did receive a prescription with both--I was told to supplement so they could gain weight after exhausting other options).

Reading the comments section, however, made me feel mad. While you seem to have a bit more sympathy, many of your supporters have written things that are beyond hurtful and so one-sided that it makes them appear silly, frankly.

I sincerely feel sorry for all mothers (and fathers) out there who are so convinced they know beyond a shadow of a doubt the 'right' way to do things not only for her (their) family, but for all families.

A real lack of graciousness, in my opinion, shown all around.

Lisa said...

"I differentiate between working and having a career. If a woman works and still manages to parent effectively and breastfeed, I'm okay with that. If a woman wants to have a career, OTOH, and doesn't have time/inclination to deal with parenting, including breastfeeding, I think she should not have kids and concentrate instead on her career."

So, if I quit my career -- which I love, which fulfills me in so many ways, which sets a great example for my daughter about how women can succeed in male-dominated fields -- and take a job flipping burgers at McDonald's, THEN it'll be OK for me to work (as long as I keep breastfeeding), because I'll have a job rather than a career?

I don't understand how you equate having a career to not having the time/inclination to parent. Yes, I love my career. I love my family more, and if I had to choose one over the other, it wouldn't even be a choice: Family, all the way. I'm lucky to work at a wonderful job with flexible hours and loads of other family-friendly benefits. I don't feel like I have to choose one over the other.

"FWIW, I believe motherhood *is* a career..."

Agreed. At least, it can be.

"...and that unless financially mandated, all women should stay home with their children while they are young."

I guess this is where we disagree. I believe that unless financially mandated, each woman should make the choices that are right for HER FAMILY -- not for herself, or her kids, or her husband/partner, but HER FAMILY. That goes for breastfeeding, too, BTW.

Anonymous said...

isn't there quite a bit of evidence out there, at least as much, medically speaking, I'd assume that says COSLEEPING CAUSES DEATH, too? Just sayin'.

(I'm cool with cosleeping AND formula feeding by choice, for the record.)

Jennifer said...

"According to the WHO, formula is the last-resort infant feeding choice, behind breastfeeding, wet nursing, and donated milk."

I would be interested in seeing where in the WHO publications they called formula a "last resort." I am not disputing the health benefits of breast milk. But the comment that "infant formula kills babies" is a scare tactic. Leaving aside the possibility of contaminated formula, improper mixing or mixing with contaminated water, what is it about formula that kills?

If the infant mortality rate among formula fed infants is twice as high, I can believe that statistic without too much trouble, given what we know about breast milk's ability to boost immunity. But what is it that is wrong with formula? I read the article published by Dr. Linda Folden Palmer, and while she states that "A multitude of studies demonstrate that when breastfeeding is accompanied by formula supplementation, illness and death rates are much closer to those of babies who are fully formula-fed," she doesn't cite any of these studies.

Does the "breast is only" crowd think that by making parents afraid of formula they will somehow shock us all into continuing to try and exclusively breast feed regardless of the implications for our children? How is that helpful?

Breastfeeding is one of the best things I have ever done. I struggled and it was worth the effort, but in the end I succeeded because I got support from people, including a very kind lactation consultant who told me it was OK to supplement with formula, and that my son was benefiting from whatever breast milk I was able to give him, and that has kept me nursing long past when is common to wean. Being told that formula kills babies, or perhaps that my son was meant to die because I couldn't produce enough milk is just plain cruel.

Emily said...

Ummm...no. To the contrary, studies show that cosleeping, when done responsibly, reduces the risk of SIDS. But this isn't exactly the forum for debating cosleeping.

Anonymous said...

not all studies show cosleeping reduces the risk of sids, others show it increases the risk of infant death. I'm sure you know that. Just like not all studies show that formula 'kills babies'.

so you see it just seems silly because clearly you're making choices and then using only the medical studies that support your choices and citing them and only them when you are clearly intelligent enough to know that there are other studies out there.

i wasn't trying to start a debate on cosleeping, which I'm also sure you know, I was trying to point out what I asserted in the above paragraph - - That you make your own mothering choices and then use medical studies that support your choices or are critical of other choices and use them to support what are really not medical decisions, but personal decisions, while ignoring the studies that are against your decisions or using them to make people who disagree (personally) with you feel like they are killing their babies.

you are out of line.

Emily said...

Anonymous - not all studies are created equal. If 9 studies show a conclusion that supports your point, and the one study that shows a conclusion that contradicts your point is flawed, of course you would reject that one study and keep those that support your point, and are methodologically sound.

Besides that, they don't need studies to show that formula can kill babies. It HAS killed babies. Reread my post for refs.

Jennifer said...

Formula, or at least crap that wasn't supposed to be in the formula in the first place, has killed babies. Sure. But I'll ask my question again:

"Leaving aside the possibility of contaminated formula, improper mixing or mixing with contaminated water, what is it about formula that kills?"

It may sound as though I'm trying to be argumentative, but I'm looking for a real answer here. I have heard from at least one well-respected expert that formula is harmful, although he couldn't or didn't wish to provide any explanation of why, and I haven't found anything in my searches.

Emily said...

Jennifer - "The vast majority of mothers can and should breastfeed, just as the vast majority of infants can and should be breastfed. Only under exceptional circumstances can a mother’s milk be considered unsuitable for her infant. For those few health situations where infants cannot, or should not, be breastfed, the choice of the best alternative – expressed breast milk from an infant’s own mother, breast milk from a healthy wet-nurse or a human-milk bank, or a breast-milk substitute fed with a cup, which is a safer method than a feeding bottle and teat – depends on individual circumstances.For infants who do not receive breast milk, feeding with a suitable
breast-milk substitute...should
be demonstrated only by health workers, or other community workers
if necessary, and only to the mothers and other family members
who need to use it; and the information given should include adequate instructions for appropriate preparation and the health hazards
of inappropriate preparation and use. Infants who are not
breastfed, for whatever reason, should receive special attention from the health and social welfare system since they constitute a risk
group."
http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/infantfeeding/gs_infant_feeding_eng.pdf


You said, "Leaving aside the possibility of contaminated formula, improper mixing or mixing with contaminated water, what is it about formula that kills?"

Do there really need to be MORE reasons why formula can be dangerous?

But since you asked, no, formula does not contain cyanide. It does, however, contain cow's milk (not recommended for infants under 1 year), DHA/ARA (recently found to pose potentially life-threatening risks to babies), and MSG (not recommended for infants.)

Tanya said...

Jennifer-here is some info I found
This is a list of the ingredients in Enfamil: Reduced Minerals Whey, Nonfat Milk, Vegetable Oil (Palm Olein, Soy, Coconut, and High Oleic Sunflower Oils), Lactose, and Less than 1%: Mortierella Alpina Oil [a Source of Arachidonic Acid (ARA)], Crypthecodinium Cohnii Oil [a Source of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)], Mono- and Diglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Carrageenan, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D3, Vitamin E Acetate, Vitamin K1, Thiamin Hydrochloride, Vitamin B6 Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12, Niacinamide, Folic Acid, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Sodium Ascorbate, Ascorbic Acid, Choline Chloride, Inositol, Calcium Phosphate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Cupric Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Citrate, Potassium Citrate, Potassium Hydroxide, Sodium Selenite, Taurine, Nucleotides (Adenosine 5'-Monophosphate, Disodium Guanosine 5'-Monophosphate, Disodium Uridine 5'-Monophosphate).

I looked up a few of the ingredients and here is some info I found:

http://www.notmilk.com/carageenan.html

Carrageenan is about as wholesome as monosodium glutamate
(MSG), which is extracted from rice, and can equally be
considered natural. Aspartame (NutraPoison) is also natural,
as it is extracted from decayed plant matter that has been
underground for millions of years (oil). So too are many
other substances such as carrageenan that can also be
classified by FDA and USDA as wholesome and natural
food additives.

http://www.jtbaker.com/msds/englishhtml/f1802.htm

WARNING! HARMFUL IF SWALLOWED OR INHALED. CAUSES IRRITATION TO SKIN, EYES AND RESPIRATORY TRACT. AFFECTS THE LIVER.

Ingestion:
Low toxicity in small quantities but larger dosages may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and black stool. Pink urine discoloration is a strong indicator of iron poisoning. Liver damage, coma, and death from iron poisoning has been recorded. Smaller doses are much more toxic to children.

Chronic Exposure:
Severe or chronic ferrous sulfate poisonings may damage blood vessels. Large chronic doses cause rickets in infants. Chronic exposure may cause liver effects. Prolonged exposure of the eyes may cause discoloration.

http://www.jtbaker.com/msds/englishhtml/m0793.htm

Ingestion:
May cause abdominal pain and nausea. Although they are poorly absorbed through the intestines, inorganic manganese salts may produce hypoglycemia and decreased calcium blood levels should absorption occur.


Chronic Exposure:
Chronic manganese poisoning can result from excessive inhalation and ingestion exposure and involves impairment of the central nervous system. Early symptoms include sluggishness, sleepiness, and weakness in the legs. Advanced cases have shown fixed facial expression, emotional disturbances, spastic gait, and falling. Illness closely resembles Parkinson's Disease. Kidney effects, blood changes and manganese psychosis also may occur as a result of chronic exposure. Chronic inhalation exposure can cause lung damage.

Jennifer said...

"Do there really need to be MORE reasons why formula can be dangerous?"

This gets back to the question of risk probability. Assuming that I live in North America, purchase liquid formula concentrate, mix it properly with sterilized water, and feed it to my baby in a sterilized container, we're talking about an extremely LOW risk of contamination, and an even lower risk of death from contamination.

Whether all of the ingredients in formula are ideal for an infant is debatable, but I still don't buy the "formula kills" argument. My son was at greater risk from not getting enough to eat.

As for the WHO article, thanks for the reference. I'll likely use it next time I have a question from someone about why I'm "still nursing". However, saying that breast milk, whether from the mother or another woman, is best and indicating that a professional should instruct in formula preparation is not the same as saying that formula is a last resort. Considering that one sentence you omitted from your quote mentions "a
home-prepared formula with micronutrient supplements" I don't believe that is what the WHO publication was implying.

Tanya, I am not suggesting that formula is perfect. I'm saying that the "formula kills babies" argument is alarmist and, unless someone can explain to me otherwise, just not true.

What I'm looking for is evidence that supplementing with formula kills babies. That is all.

Emily said...

"What I'm looking for is evidence that supplementing with formula kills babies. That is all."

I'm only going to say this one more time, as I already answered it in the OP.

Melamine contamination killed babies in China.

E. sakazakii
http://www.fsai.ie/publications/factsheet/factsheet_enterobacter_sakazakii.pdf

Formula and infant deaths
http://babyreference.com/InfantDeaths.htm

Just to name a few. The proof that formula can kill babies is that IT ALREADY HAS. That, coupled with the admission by the FDA that it is not possible to sterilize powdered formula, *even with boiling water*, is plenty of information to say that it is possible. It can happen; it has happened.

Is it likely to happen? No. But the possibility exists.

Is it a "scare tactic" to say that formula can kill, no matter how rare the possibility? Absolutely. Women should be scared. This isn't like choosing between Coke and Pepsi. Women need to think long and hard before choosing formula. Formula has risks that are COMPLETELY PREVENTABLE. Except for those rare situations, such as adoption or medical issues, in which the benefits outweigh the risks, formula should never be available when breast milk is. Period.

Lisa said...

Jennifer-
"Without access to a breast milk bank (I tried!) what other alternatives are there to formula for a 10-week old baby?"

You could have purchased breastmilk online! Oh wait...

Health Canada says it's risky to buy human milk
http://www.canada.com/topics/bodyandhealth/story.html?id=b51b86eb-6fc2-4b48-9ef0-307a1163a1b9&k=47629
"The major problem with purchasing human milk online or from individuals is that little if any medical information is known about the milk's donor. That means it could be laced with numerous viruses and bacteria, including HIV and the bacteria that causes food poisoning. Traces of prescription and non-prescription drugs can also be transmitted through breast milk from humans. Another problem is that poor hygiene, improper storage and handling can also contaminate the milk and make people sick without their knowledge."

But do you REALLY want to give breastmilk anyway? According to the link that Tanya posted:

http://www.notmilk.com/carageenan.html
"Carrageenan is a thickening agent. It's the vegetarian
equivalent of casein..."

Casein is found in breastmilk, so if carrageenan is bad, does that mean that casein is bad too?

And a few more pages from the Jtbaker.com site that Tanya referenced:

http://www.jtbaker.com/msds/englishhtml/i7500.htm
"An overdose of iron may cause vomiting, abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, vomiting blood, lethargy, and shock. In severe cases, toxicity may progress and develop into an increase in acidity in the blood, bluish skin discoloration, fever, liver damage, and possibly death... Repeated iron ingestion can produce cardiac toxicity."

http://www.jtbaker.com/msds/englishhtml/l1044.htm
Talking about lactose: "As part of good industrial and personal hygiene and safety procedure, avoid all unnecessary exposure to the chemical substance and ensure prompt removal from skin, eyes and clothing... If large amounts were swallowed, give water to drink and get medical advice."

Iron and lactose, of course, are also present in breastmilk.

Uh-oh, I guess breastmilk kills, too.

(Before everyone jumps all over me, this is meant to be tongue in cheek. I'm just trying to show how a little Google action can make you think that just about ANYTHING will kill your baby.)

alisaterry said...

Emily - thanks for the laugh. I love how defensive formula-by-choice mothers get. "Stop judging me for my opinion while I stand here and judge you about yours!"

The worst part about this article is the equation of breastfeeding to shackles. People who bottle feed because they want to "have a life" or "get more fulfillment at work" don't get it. They aren't parenting right if they feel that way about their kids.

Children aren't inconveniences to be managed or "putting your life on hold." These are little human beings, designed to imprint on the adults in their lives in order to learn how to become adults themselves. These are the future, and their importance cannot be overestimated.

To feel bored with spending your days with them, or constantly needing time away from them to feel refreshed, or not wanting to breastfeed because it's anti-feminist or archaic, shows that you do not yet understand how miraculous and important your children are.

Parenting isn't "life on hold." It's an amazing, sacred and essential life!

And if you don't feel that way, you aren't doing it right. You aren't valuing your children the way they should be valued. You aren't valuing motherhood the way it should be valued.

This mom doesn't know who her children truly are and how important her job is, or spending time breastfeeding a child would be as fulfilling as climbing a mountain or running a company. She is in the presence of deity and doesn't know it or believe it.

Jen again said...

Formula kills babies when there are natural disasters. When there is no fresh water to mix with your precious formula, what are you going to do? My body can make milk for a lot longer without fresh water then you can mix that junk up without fresh water. And for me to drink contaminated water is safer then for you to mix it directly into their bottle. Oh wait- natural disaster- what if you can't even get ANY formula!? Point made: FORMULA KILLS BABIES.

It has happened many times before, it WILL happen again. What did the news not cover during Katrina? Mothers clutching their lifelessly dehydrated babies. During the tsunamis in Sri Lanka?

There are a plethora of stories out there of nursing mothers saving five of more children each in situations where formula feeding was not an option. Thank god for those milk filled mothers willing to share their breasts with all those babies and too bad for the babies who did not get saved.

Jennifer said...

lol. Okay, well, in the event of a natural disaster, I'll just talk my body into producing more milk. Since my medical condition precludes that, I guess I'm SOL. Oh, but didn't you say that means I shouldn't have had a baby in the first place? All the people that love my son would probably disagree with you.

Here is my question for everyone who is so anxious to point fingers and enthusiastically yell, "I judge you!" or would like to tell women that what they are feeding their babies is killing them? What are YOU doing in your community to promote breastfeeding? What are you doing to undo 40+ years of "formula is just as good or better" (it's not) programming that women have been exposed to? I'm not talking about clicking your tongue when you see someone buying formula, but what are you actually DOING to encourage women to start breastfeeding and keep up with it when it is difficult?

If the answer is nothing, then shame on you.

alisaterry said...

My sister gave birth three days before my dad died, and the shock dried her up. She had to formula feed, and formula saved her child's life. No one disputes that sometimes it's necessary.

What we are saying here is that it should be a last resort, because breastmilk really is better. Cow milk is designed for baby cows, not baby humans. The make up is different. It's not ideal. It's there when you need it, but if you don't need it, don't use it.

In fact, I couldn't if I wanted to. My son is severely allergic to dairy. If butter even touches his cheek, he gets a rash. Formula would kill him.

And my group (which includes Emily) does LOTS to promote breastfeeding and help mommies who have problems breastfeeding. Some of us are LLL leaders. Some of us are doulas. One of us organized a facebook nurse-in, and then she and another of us spoke about breastfeeding at Brigham young University.

We share books and advice and comfort and assistance with birthing and breastfeeding mothers. And we donate breastmilk.

We don't just talk the talk. We are women on a mission to help moms understand how amazing their bodies are and how amazing their babies are.

But this isn't about women who can't breastfeed. It's about women who won't. If you can't, then this isn't about you. Stop taking nit personally.

I tried to give birth at home twice and ended up with c-sections both times. I am still against routine c-sections, especially now that I've had them and experienced the pain and damage. I'm glad it was available, but people who choose to get cut open voluntarily without a reason are taking an unnecessary risk.

That's what this is about. Don't take the risk if you don't have to.

Jen said...

Jennifer- good job completelt miscomprehending what I said. No, I never said you shouldn't have had children, I said perhaps that is what nature intended was for you not to breed, and that if you did your babies were meant to die if you were not capable of feeding them. I was only musing about natural selection and what breastfeeding problems could be interperated as. I assume that if we all lived around campfires, then yes, I guess you shouldn't have babies, because NATURALLY you would be incapable of raising them. I never said that I didn't think you should have kids. I just said that maybe you weren't meant to. Thanks to your lack of reading comprehension I just had to waste 5 minutes explaining myself to you, and I am sure you still will take whatever I just said and screw it up in your mind and get all bent out of shape, so have fun.

Jennifer said...

Hmmmm. Yeah, I'm not terribly likely to get bent out of shape over anything you have to say. You might want to go back and read what you wrote:

If you had SOOOOOO much trouble breastfeeding, then that's Darwin's theory - you weren't meant to have babies, and your baby was meant to die, because you are incapable or UNWILLING to feed that child. End of story. But these days there is formula, which saves millions of babies. That's fine. But if the world didn't have formula, it would be a natural means of population control. Don't get me wrong, I think EVERY woman on Earth deserves the opportunity to be a mother- it's the most amazing thing on earth. But if you aren't able or willing to nurse your child, that is NATURES way of saying you weren't meant to have babies.

I assume you are an expert on evolutionary theory, then? Because this certainly sounded like your opinion.

And please, don't bother wasting any more of your time explaining yourself to me. ;)

Britt said...

What really gets me are the women who don't even see the correlation to women leaving their kids in day care and crime rates. I'm being very serious here. Look back to the women's liberation movement and what times were like then. What did your parents see on the news? Was it anything like what we see now? Look at the over populated prisons. I wonder how many of those people would be in there if their mothers were home nurturing them and showing them right from wrong consistantly. I wonder how many people sitting in hospitals with lifestyle related diseases would be sitting there if their mothers were home to teach them some morals. What I REALLY can't stand are the women who try to justify every stupid decision they make with their children. Sorry to inform you but yes, epidurals are dangerous. The information is out there, it's not our faults that you are naive enough to trust your doctors. Who are you more likely to trust, someone who HAS read the information or someone who is payed by a pharmesutical company every single time they administer a doseage of that companie's drug? Of course then many of you would rather believe it's just some big conspiracy than to actually do the leg work and see for yourselves. But hey, I can sleep very easily at night knowing that I have done as much research as I could possibly fit into 24 hours and as a result chose to birth my son at home, no drugs, and to choose to mother him the way I do. Oh and I don't get paid to watch my son either, well, in my case I don't get paid to MOTHER my son.

Lisa said...

*sigh* So we're back to criticizing working moms again? Can we at least get our facts straight here?

"What really gets me are the women who don't even see the correlation to women leaving their kids in day care and crime rates."

What correlation?

Here are statistics on the percentage of kids under age 5 in various forms of child care: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p70-101.pdf

From 1985-2002, the percentage of those kids cared for by their parents dropped, but only slightly, from 23.8% to 20.7%. The percentage of kids in daycare centers went up slightly, from 14.0% to 18.3%.

Here are statistics on the US crime rate, based on the FBI's Uniform Crime Report: http://www.delmar.edu/socsci/rlong/data/CrimeData/History-rates.htm

Over the same period of time, the US crime rate DROPPED slightly, from 5225 per 100,000 population in 1985 to 4125 per 100,000 population in 2002. The table breaks down different types of crime; every category was lower in 2002 than in 1985 with the exception of assault, which went up from 304 per 100,000 in 1985 to 310 per 100,000 in 2002, so an increase of roughly 0.006%.

So again... what correlation?

Look, kids who have good, active, involved parents are more likely to be successful. Kids who have bad parents are more likely to be unsuccessful. But you do not HAVE to stay at home -- or breastfeed, or have a natural childbirth -- in order to be an active, involved parent. For starters, if that were true, it would automatically mean that fathers cannot be good parents, and I vehemently disagree with that sentiment.

Also, I've seen plenty of stay-at-home moms who are terrible parents. One stay-at-home mom I know has three kids, and she refers to her oldest (5 years old) as her "nanny," because she sends him off to watch the younger two while she does her own thing. Yeah, she's home, but she's not exactly nurturing. Are you really trying to say that her kids are better off than my daughter, who spends her days with an ECE-degreed sitter who watches only her (no other kids) and her nights/weekends with her two parents who cherish every precious moment with her? Do you really think that the world would be a better place if there were more moms like her and fewer moms like me, based solely on the fact that she stays home and I don't?

Anonymous said...

I rarely comment on blogs, but my wife sent me this after I spend two whole days ranting about this stupid piece. Here are some things you may not know.

She thinks her husband doesn't do enough around the house, it seems. Why is that a reason to not breastfeed? Maybe he needs to do more? In his defense, her husband is David Plotz, the editor of SLATE, and he seems like a really busy guy.

Also, people should understand that Rosin has the best job a mom could ever hope to have. She doesn't write often; it pays well and is high prestige; she does it at home; and she does a very good job of never having to travel, as most journalists do.

The people I really blame are editors of the Atlantic. She pitched this, they thought is sounded like something everyone would want to argue about, and they let her write something that, if it were about something else--say the science of memory or cancer or the space program--would never have been published, because it's just not up to snuff.

It should also not surprise you know that the entire staff of the Atlantic is male, and that few of the writers and editors have kids.

Lastly, it outrages me that she would notice that employers don't make it easy to pump in America, and blame that on anyone other than our laws about what businesses have to do for mothers.

If I have one issue with this post it's that you can't pretend studies of breastmilk and studies of formula are two separate things. In every case, you're just testing one group that's nursing with one that's bottle feeding.

And it is true that it's hard to medically prove (in the developed world) that breastfeeding is better. But it's worth noting that in a hundred years, the formula people have worked the science non-stop, trying to fix things that studies can show, and still failed to make a better progress.

But I think most people commenting could agree that if science revealed there's no clear advantage to hugging people, reading Dr. Seuss, feeding ducks at the park, or eating pizza, would you stop doing those things?

Emily said...

Anonymous - You said:

"Maybe he needs to do more? In his defense, her husband is David Plotz, the editor of SLATE, and he seems like a really busy guy."

My own husband works 60 hrs in management and goes to school 3 days a week, so I understand about being busy. And yeah, some days he could def. stand to step it up a bit. But for the most part, parenting is my job. At least in the case of SAHMs, I don't think it's fair to ask him to go to school, work 60 hrs, then come home and do half my work too.

"If I have one issue with this post it's that you can't pretend studies of breastmilk and studies of formula are two separate things. In every case, you're just testing one group that's nursing with one that's bottle feeding."

I made this point very poorly in my post. I understand they are compared to bottle-feeding infants, but my point was that what was being compared was benefits to benefits, when what she failed to demonstrate was risks to risks. Susan Burger said it exactly right over on the US Food Policy response: "Breastfeeding is the normal state of feeding an infant. It confers no benefits --- it is the norm. The risks and costs of alternatives are what need to be assessed."

River Eden Doula said...

I totally love this! I completely agree. I'm young but I plan to breastfeed my future kids.

T. said...

I agree and wrote my own response:

Don't Tell Me Motherhood Sucks

She has managed to piss off everyone from the conservatives to the progressives. Almost like she planned it..controversy sells.
T.

Anonymous said...

Wow. The comments on here from the pro-BF, anti-formula-unless-ABSOLUTELY-NECESSARY folks really make me sad. Do you guys even realize how narrow your worldview is? Why must your definition of "good" parenting be so narrow? So you feel like you're in an exclusive club?

For all the ones on here saying that they don't buy that a parent (preferably Mom, apparently) can stay home as long as the other parent is working, no matter what: what if the one parent who is working only makes, say, $18-19,000 a year? How about $12,000? What if they look at their finances and even if they cut out EVERYTHING that isn't ESSENTIAL to just staying alive, they still couldn't pay all their bills on one income? It's not all about "We just didn't go on vacations, we ate only at home, we didn't have cable, and I made a lot from scratch. It can work if you want it to." Because outside of your world, these kinds of situations actually exist, so please, check your privilege.

"The difference is, people don't usually have a choice to drive in cars."

If someone were to take the same extreme stance alot of you have taken on BF when it comes to this analogy it would sound like this:

"Driving is a choice. Unless someone is physiologically prevented from walking, driving is a choice. Even then, it's still a choice, because one could ride a bike or use a wheelchair. There are ways to make it happen."

If all the automobiles mysteriously stopped working tomorrow, we'd still find ways to get places and transport goods, just like we did "in the good old days" (ya know, the same good ol days where all women Bf'd or had wet-nurses).

So, "Driving is for those who are too lazy to walk, when that is obviously the SAFER thing to do for your BABY, and the NATURAL thing (I mean, really, what do you think your legs are for?? Attraction of the other sex??). I don't care that most children come out okay after riding in an automobile. SOME BABIES DIE. I'm not willing to take that chance, unless as a last resort, and certainly not for personal convenience. And I don't buy that not everyone can do it! Just move into town, where everything is within walking distance. And if you can't, just make the best of it, and walk anyways. Or ride your bike, if you really really have to. But there are ways to make it work. If I did, then you can too!You just don't WANT to. You bad, selfish mommy!"

That's what all this judgemental commenting sounds like to me. Just silly, and dividing women instead of uniting them. And we wonder why we still have to struggle with sexism and inequality to this day!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous- The only difference is, I completely agree with you, I should be walking or biking or doing what I can to to get around without cars BUT I can admit I am lazy and in the wrong for using cars in a society that makes it hard not to. On the other hand, formula feeders will fight tooth and nail to not admit formula is the lesser option, or that they could have BF but they weren't up for the challenge.

My only point is, Most people will admit that they are too lazy to walk or take a bike, FFs wont admit it, so I don't like your analogy.

BTW, we live on one income, of $24,000 a year, in one of the most expensive places to live in the USA. And we make it work :O) But I guess if we were only making $19,000 we wouldn't have chosen to have any children.

Anonymous said...

“The only difference is, I completely agree with you, I should be walking or biking or doing what I can to get around without cars BUT I can admit I am lazy and in the wrong for using cars in a society that makes it hard not to. On the other hand, formula feeders will fight tooth and nail to not admit formula is the lesser option, or that they could have BF but they weren't up for the challenge.
My only point is, Most people will admit that they are too lazy to walk or take a bike, FFs wont admit it, so I don't like your analogy.”

Ok, now imagine you were hounded by almost all the mothers you know (and some random strangers and the media for good measure) and pretty much ostracized and shamed for NOT walking or riding everywhere, and when you admitted it was just because you were lazy these same people verbally attacked you, saying you don’t deserve to have children, you’re gonna kill your children etc. Imagine they say “I judge you. I judge you for choosing something dangerous for your children for your own convenience. […] I judge you for making the commitment to have children without having the integrity to follow through with everything motherhood entails” (in this example, it would be keeping your children safe).

Now, do you honestly think it would still be easy for you to say “Yeah, I know I should walk or ride my bike, but, eh, I’m too lazy” when asked? Or perhaps you would start to make excuses, or find reasons to justify your choice? Because honestly I don’t think a woman needs to make excuses or justify her choices. Because it’s really NO ONE ELSE’S BUSINESS (unless, of course, those “choices” include knowingly harming or abusing the children).

“BTW, we live on one income, of $24,000 a year, in one of the most expensive places to live in the USA. And we make it work :O) But I guess if we were only making $19,000 we wouldn't have chosen to have any children.”

I’m glad you can make your lifestyle work on one income (especially in high-cost-of-living areas!), that’s great! Kudos, honestly. However, with your comment “if we were only making $19,000 we wouldn't have chosen to have any children” you’re letting your privilege show again. You HAVE the luxury of CHOOSING when to have children. Not all women have this luxury. Rape, no access to condoms or BC, not knowing how to use condoms or BC, having a partner who refuses to use condoms, not knowing how to do NFP (if so inclined in the first place), BC (artificial or otherwise) failure…there are plenty of instances of not CHOOSING to have children, and then oops! here we are. So, unless you believe all of these pregnancies should be aborted, what do you do? Put them all up for adoption? They’ll almost certainly be getting formula, left to CIO, and only having their basic needs met unless they’re adopted right away to loving family (even then, of course, they could still be FF and left to CIO).

Anonymous said...

Now, do you honestly think it would still be easy for you to say “Yeah, I know I should walk or ride my bike, but, eh, I’m too lazy” when asked? Or perhaps you would start to make excuses, or find reasons to justify your choice? Because honestly I don’t think a woman needs to make excuses or justify her choices. Because it’s really NO ONE ELSE’S BUSINESS (unless, of course, those “choices” include knowingly harming or abusing the children)."

First off, making excuses is lying to yourself in my book. And I don't need that fake self assurance.

If I was being hounded by everyone I knew, strangers and even the media - THEN I WOULD WALK! LOL If I was getting so much stress over the fact I use a car - I WOULD STOP USING MY CAR and listen to EVERYONE telling me I shouldn't be driving. Sheesh. Seriously though. I mean, if enough people are telling me what a bad idea driving is, I would listen. Especially if it were my family and friends. They love me, and sometimes, they might know what is best for be, beyond what I know. And then even strangers telling me too? Wow, they must be concerned to go out of their way to try and get me to do something else! I mean, most people these days don't care what you do. So once again, your argument DOESN'T hold up with me, sweetie.

no access to condoms or BC, not knowing how to use condoms or BC, having a partner who refuses to use condoms, not knowing how to do NFP (if so inclined in the first place), BC (artificial or otherwise) failure…there are plenty of instances of not CHOOSING to have children, and then oops! here we are. So, unless you believe all of these pregnancies should be aborted, what do you do?


Oops, I didn't know IGNORANCE was an option in having children. Obviously if these people don't know how to use a condom they probably shouldn't be having kids. And if they can't get BC or figure out how to put a condom on, I'm sure they can't afford formula. So not only would their kids not survive if formula didn't exist (because if they can't figure out how a condom works, they probably can't figure out how to use a breast) but since it does they can't even afford it. So the government has to buy it for them. I would actually prefer there was no formula just so these people would try harder not to procreate.

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree!

Anonymous said...

Y'know, it's amazing to me that this blog--and the ensuing comments--seem to have missed the entire point of the original article. The article doesn't poo-poo on breastfeeding itself or say that formula feeding is the sole salvation of mothers who want a career too. It doesn't even dictate what people should or should not do to feed their children (an interesting contrast to *this* page).

The article points out the culture of breastfeeding that has arisen in this country, and the near-religious zealotry to which its adherents attack anyone "not of the faith." Such as found on this page.

Instead, this blog--and its ensuing comments--have automatically jumped to the conclusion that Rosin's article criticized breast-feeding now foments some kind of internet jihad to bring the sinner before the altar of a politicized opinion on motherhood.

*This* is what the article writes against. Congratulations, many of you just proved her right.

Awaiting comment deletion.

Emily said...

Anonymous - why would I delete your comment? You can read for yourself that dissenting opinions are welcomed here.

In any case, no, that's not what her article was about. Her article was a (poor) cursory review of a few vanilla studies that she used to support her point that breastfeeding is nice, but not necessary, and that using formula isn't that bad.

And if breastfeeding advocates are zealous, they are because they have to be. In order to support breastfeeding, you must go up against multi-billion dollar corporations with all the media at their disposal, a government which has no sympathy or support for breastfeeding moms, especially working ones, a culture which despises all things natural, the sexualization of normal body functions, subsidized artificial everything, and a medical community that has the wrong information and no incentive to get the right information.

Breastfeeding isn't special. It's NORMAL. And the fact that we are even debating that should explain why breastfeeding advocates are necessarily zealous.

Jen again. said...

Emily- Thank you. You may or may not have agreed with my many "over zealous" opinions, but I think you have said it perfectly. As a pro-breastfeeder, I do have to be over zealous to compete with all the: "formula is just as good", "No one has been hurt by it yet", "I turned out just fine", "Everyone has the right to choose", "It's no one elses business" bull out there these days.

Anonymous said...

“First off, making excuses is lying to yourself in my book. And I don't need that fake self assurance.”

Awesome. I feel the same way.

“If I was being hounded by everyone I knew, strangers and even the media - THEN I WOULD WALK! […] and listen to EVERYONE telling me I shouldn't be driving. [...] I mean, if enough people are telling me what a bad idea driving is, I would listen […] they might know what is best for be, beyond what I know.”

I have a hard time believing this is completely true (I only took snippets in order to save space). Because that would mean you would listen to a lot of other things that people were telling you to do. What if it was formula feeding that everyone was hounding you about? As in, everyone was telling you to FF because it would be better, safer, more convenient etc. (NOT saying that I believe any of that, it’s only a hypothetical). Would you then say the same as above? And start FF? Or is it only when people hound you about something you already kinda WANT to do, so people hounding you is really only a push to do it?

To go back to the walk/drive example; what if walking for you was very difficult? What if, for whatever reason, you would get huge painful blisters on your feet and very sore ankles every time you walked more than, say ¼ mile? Well-meaning friends have tried to help you, getting you better shoes, showing you exercises they think will help, etc, but it’s just not working. Do you walk anyway, so that you save your child even the POSSIBILITY of being killed in a car accident? Or do you, at some point, stop and think “This just isn’t working for me. I have to give up walking, find another way.”

So, in this analogy, one could say “Well, I can still ride the bike right?” I would compare that to getting donated BM, and hopefully more women become aware it’s available. Not all of them do, and believe FF is the only other option. Plus, not everyone has it available to them. So, if a women wants to BF but is lazy, afraid, confused etc., then, yeah, hounding may be the push they need, although I would argue that caring support might be a better idea.

But for those women who have BF issues (low supply, recurrent mastitis, “ground hamburger” nipple from bad latch, etc.) and decide that they’ve reached THEIR threshold for pain, suffering or stress, hounding them and calling them bad mothers, or saying they never should have had children, or that formula can KILL YOUR BABY, is just ridiculous. And rude. And helps to further divide women.

“So once again, your argument DOESN'T hold up with me, sweetie.”

WHY whenever I get into a discussion/debate with another woman on the internet, at some point someone always calls me “Sweetie” or “Honey” or something as equally patronizing? I am not a child. I don’t know you. Do NOT call me by a pet name, it is rude and detracts from an intelligent exchange of ideas. Not to mention that it is taking a play out of the sexist/patriarchy handbook (men have constantly done this type of thing to dismiss women, and reduce them to children-like status/positions). Please be better than that.

“Oops, I didn't know IGNORANCE was an option in having children”

Again, you’re talking about OPTIONS, as if everyone has the same options you do. Saying that because they don’t know how to use a condom, they shouldn’t be having kids…they’re not TRYING to. A lot of teenagers living in poverty (or extreme religious communities) don’t even necessarily understand that sex is what gets you pregnant (especially with some of the “abstinence only” education out there)! It’s not like they’re saying, “well, I can have sex with the condom and not worry about getting pregnant. Or I can have sex without the condom and just take my chances” (although some probably do, lol). They either don’t have access to condoms, don’t know the full consequences of having sex, don’t have a choice (in the case of rape, or abusive relationships where the man refuses to wear one), etc. And saying they wouldn’t be able to afford formula is completely beside the point. Again, we’re not talking about people who are DECIDING to have children, even though they’re not able to provide for them (very irresponsible in my opionion). We’re talking about people who, through ignorance, accident, or force, got pregnant when they didn’t want to, and can’t afford to provide for the child unless both parents work (and sometimes, not even then). To pass judgment on the mother because she can’t stay home full time to care for the children is, again, just ridiculous. And rude. And helps to further divide women.

Anonymous said...

I said, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, sweetie.

Anonymous said...

"I said, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, sweetie."

*Sigh* So much for an intelligent exchange of ideas and views, huh? Instead, I get more patronizing condescension and refusal to discuss further. How disappointing. I was looking forward to your answers. Without discussion, how does anyone expect progress?

Anonymous said...

I'm totally with the Anonymous that has issues with "sweetie." I think it's very derogatory and condescending when used in that manner.

I haven't done any major research on this particular subject, but I would have to say that the majority of women getting pregnant are those that DO have options.

A quick search of CDC.gov revealed the following 2005 birthrates by age group per 1,000 women...

15-19: 40.5
20-24: 102.2
25-29: 115.5
30-34: 95.8
35-39: 46.3
40-45: 9.1
45-49: 0.6
total number of births to women 50-54: 415

The average age of women giving birth for the first time was 25.2

From these (slightly outdated, I admit) statistics, we can all see that the majority of women giving birth in the US are in the 20-29 range. You canNOT tell me that these women don't know about birth control, or that they don't have access to it. Teen pregnancy is tragic, but they are not responsible for the majority of births in the US; therefore, one of the other Anonymous' comments about not having kids if you can't afford them is quite valid. The same also goes for rape and abuse; they happen and it's sad, but they do not account for the majority of pregnancies. In discussions like this, I believe it is important to speak in terms of majority. That said, I also believe it is important to realize that there are always exceptions -- but that still doesn't mean that we should get hung up on them.

I'm not completely buying the ignorance theory, especially when many states start introducing sex ed. in 2nd and 3rd grade. Are there pregnant women out there that didn't fully realize the consequences of sex? I'm sure there are. But again, not the majority.

BC failure is also something I'm not completely buying. When used properly, hormonal BC is 99% effective and condoms (alone -- not additional foams or gels added) are about 89% effective. Now, understand, that's with CORRECT usage. How many women out there remember to take their pill at the same time everyday? How many make sure their partners use condoms properly? That doesn't mean they didn't have options, that just means they weren't being responsible.

I am, by no means, a feminist, but I think the "woe is me, I had no choice" argument is selling women short and is dis-empowering. I also believe it takes away too much accountability. They made a choice to have sex (remember: majority) and a pregnancy resulted. At that point, the who, what, when, where, and why is completely irrelevant. Please note that I have purposely left out the men -- not enough time or space here for that! lol

"The article points out the culture of breastfeeding that has arisen in this country, and the near-religious zealotry to which its adherents attack anyone "not of the faith." Such as found on this page."

Not THIS COUNTRY -- Rosin's community and social circle. I feel sorry for her and her experience with those playground "zealots," but that is not the norm. In this country, breastfeeding is still very much looked down upon as a poor, Third World means of feeding a child. If it weren't, more states would adopt legislation that allows time to pump at work. It's sad when smokers can go out several times for a smoke-break, but pumping moms have to fight for time to express milk to feed their kids. Does that spell nationwide zealotry to you? Not to me.

In my own personal experience, I have been confronted with more opposition than support. I breastfed both children for 14 mos and, during the collective 28 mos of nursing, was subjected to numerous looks of disgust as well as several suggestions to take "it" into the bathroom. As I recently told a friend, I can hardly bring myself to pee in a nasty public restroom, why would I want to feed my kid in there? I'd like to add that I was always very discreet while nursing -- not an inch of skin would show.

Even though I'm a big advocate of breastfeeding, I would never, ever criticize a mother for choosing to formula-feed her child. It may not be my choice, but, then again, it isn't my baby, is it? That brings me to my inability to understand how some hard-core breastfeeding advocates can be Pro-Choice, yet anti-formula. It's OK to abort a baby, but a mother who chose to keep her baby, let it develop in her womb, and then go through the pain of childbirth can't choose what to feed that baby?

I look forward to discussing this further and, I promise, I won't call anyone "sweetie!" LOL! :oP

- The March 17th Anonymous

Anonymous said...

Oops! I forgot to mention...

Just for the record, in the same way I don't judge formula-feeding moms, I dont' judge working moms either. It's their life, their marriage, and their baby -- as long as they aren't hurting anyone, they should be able to work if they need to. The above comments regarding birthrates was simply to show that the majority of women do have choices in regards to getting pregnant.

- The March 17th Anonymous

Joy said...

Emily, Hathor linked to you on her comics blog about this article:

http://www.mama-is.com/a-little-more-about-the-case-against-breastfeeding/

Just thought I'd let you know since I'm not sure if you read her stuff.

Anonymous said...

“we can all see that the majority of women giving birth in the US are in the 20-29 range. You canNOT tell me that these women don't know about birth control, or that they don't have access to it.”

Well, actually I can. Your point about the majority almost certainly holds true, and the vast majority of women in that age category no doubt at least knew how to prevent pregnancy, and most probably had access to some type of BC. That does not mean they ALL did. And that is my point.

Ignorant teenagers can absolutely get to their early twenties still being ignorant about basic facts, if no one has ever told them different. It’s not like it’s innate knowledge that will suddenly dawn on them as they age.

“Teen pregnancy is tragic, but they are not responsible for the majority of births in the US; therefore, one of the other Anonymous' comments about not having kids if you can't afford them is quite valid.”

It may be valid in the majority, absolutely. My point was simply that it is not true “that a parent (preferably Mom, apparently) can stay home as long as the other parent is working, no matter what.” So, I pointed out instances where it COULD be the case that one parent can NOT stay home. When the response to that is “But I guess if we were only making $19,000 we wouldn't have chosen to have any children,” I feel obligated to point out that that kind of statement implies that everyone CHOOSES when to have children, which is obviously false. I never said, however, with what kind of frequency these types of situations occur, because I don’t have any kind of concrete numbers. I just can’t help crying “foul” when I see mothers wanting to pass judgment on other mothers in general, without any room for exceptions or real life experiences that don’t match their own.

“In discussions like this, I believe it is important to speak in terms of majority. That said, I also believe it is important to realize that there are always exceptions -- but that still doesn't mean that we should get hung up on them.”

No one has to get hung up on them in order to still concede that they exist. For instance, instead of saying things like this: “First of all, anyone can stay home with their kids if they want to. It is just a matter of giving up things to make it work […]It can work if you want it to. So I don't accept that as an excuse to not be able to nurse or be with your kids,” one could say “First of all, ALMOST anyone can stay home with their kids if they want to. It is USUALLY just a matter of giving up things to make it work […]It can USUALLY work if you want it to. So, FOR MOST FAMILIES, I don't accept that as an excuse to not be able to nurse or be with your kids.” Easy. Just add a few words to what you’re saying to make exceptions for people in extreme/unusual situations. Otherwise, you sound like you’re making judgments on ALL families/parents/mothers, and that you’re living a rather sheltered life if you don’t realize the life situations which can make these things impossible to do, no matter how badly one might want it.

“I'm not completely buying the ignorance theory, especially when many states start introducing sex ed. in 2nd and 3rd grade.”

Well, according to this link: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_sexEd2006.html

“• By 2002, one-third of teens had not received any formal instruction about contraception.[9]
• More than one in five adolescents (21% of females and 24% of males) received abstinence education without receiving instruction about birth control in 2002, compared with 8–9% in 1995.[10]
• In 2002, only 62% of sexually experienced female teens had received instruction about contraception before they first had sex, compared with 72% in 1995.[11]
• Only one out of three sexually experienced black males and fewer than half of sexually experienced black females had received instruction about contraception before the first time they had sex.[12]
• One-quarter of sexually experienced teens had not received instruction about abstinence before first sex.[13]”

Federal Grants are denied to states that don’t teach an abstinence only program, “The latest grant announcement also required states to provide assurance that funded programs and curricula “do not promote contraception and/or condom use.” In addition, in an effort to ensure that funds would not be spent on pre-adolescents, the targeted population was redefined as “adolescents and/or adults within the 12 through 29-year-old age range.” The newest age definition also included “other adults such as parents or professionals that desire training in how to support decisions to delay sexual activity until marriage.” “Focal populations” under this newer definition included: students at local universities, colleges, or technical schools; single adults involved in a local community or community-based organization; and single parents in their 20s.” (all bolding mine)(http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/factsheet/fshistoryabonly.htm - a lot of good info at that link and site).

“I promise, I won't call anyone "sweetie!" LOL! :oP”

Thank you! LOL.

Emily said...

Okay team, huddle up. We are wandering so far off-topic even I forgot what you were talking about. This isn't about whether moms work or plan pregnancies or choose to adopt, or anything else. This article is about how breastfeeding relates to feminism, and the relative benefits of breastfeeding and risks of formula feeding.

Anonymous - you said:

"No one has to get hung up on them in order to still concede that they exist."

Excellent point. So you concede that formula can kill a baby, no matter how remote the risk?

Anonymous said...

"Excellent point. So you concede that formula can kill a baby, no matter how remote the risk?"

I concede that contaminated formula (or water or bottles) can potentially kill babies. Also, sickly and/or premie babies that are being FF and die, MAY have survived on BM (no way to know for sure). But, I can't find any reason, so far, to believe that full-term, healthy babies fed clean, sterile formula (so, the liquid forms) are at any risk of death. I'm not saying it's not possible, simply because I don't know for sure. But the links you had didn't seem to suggest that was the case.

And, although you didn't mention it here in the comments, saying that BM appears to have protective effects against breast cancer is NOT the same as saying formula kills mothers.

Of course, I would really need to go follow your links to the actual studies (assuming they link to them) and then read the studies and see what I can find. I can't just take someone else's word on what the studies actually show. (BTW, the "ref" link following this sentence in your post: "[...]ear infections, environmental contaminants, and death." wouldn't work for me, don't know why).

I would make the point, however, that just because a risk exists doesn't mean something is dangerous. Anything can have risk. Drinking too much water can kill you, for crying out loud. So, I still fail to understand why you (and others here) seem to think it is so dangerous.

Emily said...

Anonymous -

"I would make the point, however, that just because a risk exists doesn't mean something is dangerous. Anything can have risk. Drinking too much water can kill you, for crying out loud."

Okay, now you're back-pedaling. So a statistic, no matter how slight, is important enough to support your argument against the other Anon. re: whether or not people have special circumstances about having kids, but not important enough when it contradicts your argument about whether using formula is a risk worth taking?

"So, I still fail to understand why you (and others here) seem to think it is so dangerous."

I already answered this statement. I didn't say formula is "so dangerous." I said formula has inherent risks, which should not be taken lightly. And that because the risks are serious, even if slight, it is not something that should be allowed to be a choice for just anyone to use when they don't feel like breastfeeding.

Emily said...

Oh, and I forgot to add for Anonymous - the link that did not work for you is this:

http://www.worldbreastfeedingweek.net/wbw2006/pdf/Risks__Final.pdf

Anonymous said...

Emily,
I’m sure you noticed the last half of my post was, in fact, addressing breastfeeding and the Rosin article! :o) I can understand, though, how it would be hard to keep track of a “conversation” with so many different anonymous comments! lol I’d like to point out that I agree with your comment about society sexualizing normal body functions. Do you remember the public outcry when a baby/parenting magazine had a nursing baby on the cover? There was a very small portion of the mother’s breast showing and people just went nuts. They show more than that on TV, yet many mothers were sending letters to the editor asking what they should say to their children if they happened to see the magazine.

Anonymous said:

“Well, actually I can. Your point about the majority almost certainly holds true, and the vast majority of women in that age category no doubt at least knew how to prevent pregnancy, and most probably had access to some type of BC. That does not mean they ALL did. And that is my point.”

I was referring to the majority of women in that age group. I almost always refer to the majority and I thought I had made myself clear -- I could have been even more specific, though. I actually think most people subconsciously refer to the majority. When someone says “anyone can do it,” I take it with a grain of salt and assume that they possess enough common sense to realize that there are always extenuating circumstances. In reality, not absolutely 100% of the population can do it and I honestly think they know that. Some people are just more sensitive (I don’t mean that in a bad way -- seriously) to seemingly absolute statements, so I can understand your need to point out that there ARE exceptions.

I think your sex ed references were great, but I’m afraid they are a little misplaced. They were in response to my ignorance comment, but you left out an important statement...

“I'm not completely buying the ignorance theory, especially when many states start introducing sex ed. in 2nd and 3rd grade. Are there pregnant women out there that didn't fully realize the consequences of sex? I'm sure there are. But again, not the majority.”

Your references are in regards to contraception education in schools, but my comment wasn’t about contraception; it was about your assertion that there are still those that aren’t fully aware that sex is what causes pregnancy. Regardless of whether or not contraception is introduced into a sex education program, “sex=pregnancy” is the major tenet.

- The March 17th Anonymous

Anonymous said...

“I would make the point, however, that just because a risk exists doesn't mean something is dangerous.”

from dictionary.com:
risk = the possibility of suffering harm or loss; danger

If the definition of risk is danger, then the existence of a risk does mean that something is dangerous.

- The March 17th Anonymous

Anonymous said...

"Okay, now you're back-pedaling. So a statistic, no matter how slight, is important enough to support your argument against the other Anon. re: whether or not people have special circumstances about having kids, but not important enough when it contradicts your argument about whether using formula is a risk worth taking?"

I didn't have an argument about whether "formula is a risk worth taking" and I never said the small risks you noted weren't important. I said I didn't understand why some here seem to think it is as dangerous as they imply - nothing about whether it would be worth it. I didn't say anything about if formula was "a risk worth taking" because that is a completely subjective, personal choice. A risk worth taking to me, is not one worth taking to you and neither is wrong. It's a matter of one's risk threshold.

My point in the conversation about having a parent stay home was to simply point out the exceptions (and I specifically stated that I didn't have concrete numbers, ie. statistics) to broad generalizations that some were making here. When talking about risks, my point is that the mere existence of a risk doesn't decide whether or not something can be considered "safe" or "safe enough" (by "the majority" or the medical/scientific community)...it has to be considered in the context of likelihood and confounding factors.

To say that exceptions prove absolute statements (like "anyone can do it") wrong and that small statistical risks must be considered in context is not contradictory, illogical, or back-pedaling. They really don't have much to do with each other, from what I can see, except they both happen to be "small". If I had said that we should ignore the small risks and claim formula 100% safe (thus making an absolute statement that didn't take into account exceptions), then I would have been contradicting myself and back-pedaling.

"I didn't say formula is "so dangerous." I said formula has inherent risks, which should not be taken lightly."it is not something that should be allowed to be a choice for just anyone to use when they don't feel like breastfeeding."

You didn't say it was "so dangerous", but you did say:
"studies about formula paint a much darker picture"
"very real dangers of formula"(followed by long list I won't copy here)
"How is it that a product that causes death does not deserve the label of public health menace?" (almost anything can cause death, do we label them all?)
"Formula causes death." (although I still don't see where formula causes death. Contamination, underlying medical conditions etc. yes. But those aren't directly attributed to the formula itself)
"And it doesn't just kill babies - it kills mothers."( I covered that already)
"infant formula kills babies, is subject to contamination, increases health risks, and harms mothers"
"Infant formula is potentially harmful to babies. Period. You cannot "choose" to use formula simply because it suits your lifestyle better - you must breastfeed because it won't kill your baby!"
"I judge you for choosing something dangerous for your children for your own convenience."
"SOME BABIES DIE."
From which I inferred you thought it was pretty dangerous. More dangerous than I am able to understand. And it seemed like you thought they were more than "slight." However, just because I can't understand it doesn't mean I would then assume you are "wrong" or that I should convince you that it's safe. Your risk tolerance is obviously lower than mine.

"it is not something that should be allowed to be a choice for just anyone to use when they don't feel like breastfeeding."

And I see no reason why it shouldn't be a valid choice for whomever wants it. Meat contamination kills. I don't think we should force everyone to be vegetarians (and even then, what about the people who died from contaminated spinach? Spinach kills! Guess we should get rid of that too). Sorry to get a little snarky there, I just can't wrap my head around this point of view.

Anonymous said...

"Your references are in regards to contraception education in schools, but my comment wasn’t about contraception; it was about your assertion that there are still those that aren’t fully aware that sex is what causes pregnancy. Regardless of whether or not contraception is introduced into a sex education program, “sex=pregnancy” is the major tenet."

Point taken, sorry about that. Yes, the ignorance about sex=pregnancy thing would certainly be a very very small portion of the population (even given the extremely poor state of sex education in this country). But, of course, they're still there :-)

Anonymous said...

"If the definition of risk is danger, then the existence of a risk does mean that something is dangerous."

Yes, literally. I was using the word in the more common context of something being "likely" to cause harm. I apologize, I should've picked my words better. Perhaps: "I would make the point, however, that just because a risk exists doesn't mean something is likely to harm you."

Emily said...

"although I still don't see where formula causes death. Contamination, underlying medical conditions etc. yes. But those aren't directly attributed to the formula itself"

How is it not directly attributed when formula is the carrier? If you mean formula does not contain poisonous materials itself, then you're right. Sort of. (see above response) But if a child drinks contaminated formula and dies as a result, how is formula not directly responsible? Okay, the contamination, not the formula itself killed the baby. Now you are mincing words. But the end result is the same: child drinks formula - child dies. The same can never be said of breastfeeding.

"And I see no reason why it shouldn't be a valid choice for whomever wants it. Meat contamination kills. I don't think we should force everyone to be vegetarians"

I'm not talking about forcing moms to drink breast milk either. Meat contamination kills, yes. And every adult has the right to decide for themselves if they're willing to risk eating contaminated meat. But we're talking about the choices parents make for their kids, who are not able to decide which risks they would like to take.

I'm not even advocating making formula illegal or unobtainable. I'm just saying that breastfeeding has -0- risk of killing babies, while formula has -slight- risk of killing babies. Breastfeeding is free and almost universally accessible. For these reasons, I am advocating that formula should have restrictions. Women should be taught that breastfeeding is the default feeding method, and that formula is only the last-resort, or special-case feeding method.

If a parent abuses their child, should we not say anything because it is their right to parent how they see fit? (And before everyone jumps all over me, NO I'm not comparing formula feeding to child abuse. Work with me here.) If parents are doing something potentially harmful to their children, do we not, as a community, have a responsibility to speak up and try to change that?

Anonymous said...

"I would make the point, however, that just because a risk exists doesn't mean something is likely to harm you."

It might just seem like semantics, but I think you have a good point there. The difference between possibility and plausibility is clearly demonstrated here, I believe. Is it possible for formula to cause harm? Yes, the possibility does exist. Is it plausible, or likely? I don't believe so. Again, I am speaking in terms of majority. There are cases of serious harm or death, but the majority of formula fed babies are alive and healthy.

All that said, I don't think it's right for anyone to trivialize the health benefits (to mom and child) of breast milk, nor do I think it's right for anyone to claim formula is equal to breast milk. Time and again, formula has proven inferior. Anyway, that's essentially what Rosin did in her article and a big reason many are upset about it.

Personally, I think Rosin was bitter about being the main caregiver (furious with her husband) and upset about her experience with those in her social circle -- basically, it was a way to lash out. I think she was grasping for something to blame and, quite conveniently, she chose breastfeeding. I also think it's ironic and a little hypocritical that, at the end of the article, she still admits to breastfeeding (although not exclusively). In my opinion, if you are going to take a stand like that (formula is just as good -- don't let breastfeeding shackle you to the house) then you should have enough gumption to stand behind it. Breastfeeding is overrated, but I still do it? That's just not cuttin' it with me.

I think breastfeeding is the most wonderful, natural thing in the world, and that the benefits of breast milk should be enough to convince most people to breastfeed, but I still think women should be able to give their babies formula if they want to.
Prescription-only formula seems wrong to me for so many reasons...

- It's still legal for a pregnant woman to smoke and drink alcohol.

- It's still legal for parents to smoke around their kids (although some states have passed laws against smoking in cars with kids).

- To my knowledge, there hasn't been a parent in the US that has been prosecuted for feeding her children such a bad diet that they become obese and develop diabetes.

- Many states don't have mandatory helmet laws.

- It is not mandatory to have your car seat professionally inspected to ensure that it is installed properly.

- Abortion is still legal.

There are so many more things out there that parents do to harm their kids that the division caused by the breast vs. forumla war seems very unnecessary. Give them information, encourage them to do the research, help them when they have difficulties or run into opposition, but in the end -- let them make their own choice. As I said on the 17th, I'm just happy they chose to keep the baby instead of aborting it or throwing it in a dumpster somewhere.

Emily said...

"There are so many more things out there that parents do to harm their kids that the division caused by the breast vs. forumla war seems very unnecessary."

I agree with you that parents are doing plenty of things that are harmful to their children, including using drugs during labor. Clearly you cannot legislate people's choices, esp. where it involves their own bodies. (Which is also the crux of the debate about what pg. women should/shouldn't be allowed to do, b/c there are 2 bodies involved. Whose rights trump whose? But that's another topic.)

I'm still not talking about making formula illegal though.

I'm just saying access to it should be restricted. I believe the same thing for pain medication in labor, tobacco & drugs, etc. Ultimately, it doesn't matter how much you restrict something, people will do what they want anyway. But I don't see how being fatalistic or laissez-faire will change or help anything. Can we not try to make a change? Can we not voice our opinions? Can we not try to educate women and encourage them to make a better choice?

Sure, my approach to education is more "in your face" than others, but that's okay. There's room enough in the world for all personalities. But change will never happen without people pushing for it.

Anonymous said...

Emily said: “Can we not try to make a change? Can we not voice our opinions? Can we not try to educate women and encourage them to make a better choice?”

Most of those questions, although I perceive them to be rhetorical, have already been answered…

I said: “Give them information, encourage them to do the research, help them when they have difficulties or run into opposition, but in the end -- let them make their own choice.”

Voicing your opinion is your First Amendment right and I totally support it; however, that doesn’t mean you can’t be criticized (in a constructive way -- not in the most usually associated negative way) for the way that opinion is expressed. Neither does it mean that everyone is going to agree with you! lol :o)

I’m assuming that it was the previously quoted statement that lead you to believe I was taking a laissez-faire position (please correct me if I am wrong), but I’m not taking that position at all. I’m sure it could have been more fully articulated, but oh well. I don’t think we should totally butt-out and mind our own business -- there are still many, many women out there that are not fully educated about the benefits of breastfeeding, so making it a point to get that education out there is a very commendable task. I don’t even think there’s anything wrong with confronting a formula feeding mother about her feeding choice as long as it is done with respect and without judgment. What I don’t agree with, however, is the hounding that goes on. And I don’t agree with a lot of the tactics used to try to guilt women into breastfeeding either (I’m not accusing you of doing this, though, so please don’t take it that way). Laissez-faire? Nope. Respect and common courtesy coupled with the realization that women are going to make their own choice regardless of what you say? Yes! Support for women regardless of their feeding choice? Definitely! Motherhood isn’t super simple, so it’s important that, although we have differences, we help each other out and lift each other up as much as possible.

Emily said: “Sure, my approach to education is more "in your face" than others, but that's okay. There's room enough in the world for all personalities. But change will never happen without people pushing for it.”

The more you push, the more people push back. It has been my experience that most people respond to the “in your face” approach with rebellion and that they get so angry with the approach that whatever education is presented is totally ignored. There’s certainly enough room in the world for all personalities, but you have to understand that people’s acceptance of your message will be affected. I’m not saying you shouldn’t push -- not saying that at all. I agree that change doesn’t happen unless we call for it and, yes, demand it. I’m just saying that it’s going to be a bit more difficult to gather in more troops if you push too hard -- you might just end up pushing them away.

I said: “I'm just happy they chose to keep the baby instead of aborting it or throwing it in a dumpster somewhere.”

I wasn’t being fatalistic -- just semi-facetious.

Emily said: “I'm still not talking about making formula illegal though.”

I read a much earlier comment (March 16: “I don't think formula should even be available except by prescription only.”), so I know you weren’t suggesting that it be outlawed -- I don’t believe my post suggested that you thought otherwise, though. :o)

I think it’s important to further clarify the comment I made about the division caused by breast vs. formula. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to disagree and have our own opinions, but to be so vehement about our position that we alienate our fellow women and make them feel as if they are less than we are b/c they made different choices is a bit ridiculous (again, not accusing you personally -- just unhappy with the overall state of division that results from this particular debate).

Emily said...

"I wasn’t being fatalistic -- just semi-facetious."

Sorry, I wasn't referring to your comment about the dumpster. I was referring to the general attitude of "Oh well, people are going to do what they want to, so there's no point in trying to change."

"Emily said: “I'm still not talking about making formula illegal though.” I read a much earlier comment so I know you weren’t suggesting that it be outlawed -- I don’t believe my post suggested that you thought otherwise, though."

Well, every example you gave for other bad things parents do were in reference to legislation, so I assumed you were referring to legislating that as well.

"I think it’s perfectly acceptable to disagree and have our own opinions, but to be so vehement about our position that we alienate our fellow women and make them feel as if they are less than we are b/c they made different choices is a bit ridiculous."

No one can make someone else feel "less-than" by simply stating their own opinion. It doesn't hurt my feelings when someone says they prefer to birth in a hospital for whatever reason. That's their opinion. I have enough confidence in my own choices that I don't feel insecure when other people talk about theirs.

Now, if we were all at a dinner party, and someone brought up the fact that they decided to use formula just because, would I be as outspoken? Not likely. Because we are expected to get along in social situations, and not make others feel uncomfortable.

But this isn't a party. This is my blog - my corner of the internet, where I choose to put my thoughts and ideas out there. No one is being forced to click the link, or read my blog. If one doesn't feel my style suits their tastes, they can move on. I don't go trolling blogs that extol the virtues of c-sections and start arguing about why home birth is better. (Not saying you are trolling, just making the point.)

Besides, while many people may learn better with gentle promptings, others may learn better with a shove into the deep end. There is enough "can't we all just get along" out there; I think there's room for "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it any more."

Catherine L. said...

I have been researching "crunchy" mothering lifestyles, to see what it is all about. I have children and want to make sure I am making the best choices for them. However, after reading this, and a few other blogs, I am finding the attitude of "my way or the highway" with BFing, cosleeping, SAHM, etc very disheartening. There seems to be a lack of respect for personal choice.
I like to think that most mothers do the best they can in the situation they are in. And if that means she needs to FF, so be it. I would hope we as mothers would support and uplift each other, rather than say that their formula will kill their child. To me, that isn't "educating"- that is berating and scaring parents that are trying to do they best they can. Resources on infant nutrition are plentiful and I trust that grown adults are able to come to their own conclusions and should be respected for that.

I guess being a crunchy mom isn't for me after all :(

Anonymous said...

"Okay, the contamination, not the formula itself killed the baby. Now you are mincing words. But the end result is the same: child drinks formula - child dies."

I don't see how it is just "mincing words." It seems rather an important point to me whether we blame the formula for the death and thus restrict access to it to try and lower the risk, or, ya know, try and decrease the contaminations and educate about proper use and lower the risk. You seem to want to equate the contamination with the formula itself, because you seem to have a vendetta against formula (you want access to be severly restricted), but it's not a logical equation. The same way that it's not logical to equate contamination with spinach, even though some people died. We don't react to that by saying we should severely restrict people's access to all spinach, we find where the contamination came from (and see if anyone is at fault), get rid of the contaminated products, and be more careful in the future. How is this different from the formula contaminations?

"I'm just saying that breastfeeding has -0- risk of killing babies, while formula has -slight- risk of killing babies. Breastfeeding is free and almost universally accessible. For these reasons, I am advocating that formula should have restrictions. Women should be taught that breastfeeding is the default feeding method, and that formula is only the last-resort, or special-case feeding method."

I don't think we'll ever see eye to eye on this (and that's ok), because I agree with everything in this paragraph except for where you get to putting restrictions on it. I believe that women are smart enough that IF they are fully educated about BF and FF that they are able to make their own decisions. I respect other human beings enough to believe they should make their own choices when it comes to things that have small risks.

"If parents are doing something potentially harmful to their children, do we not, as a community, have a responsibility to speak up and try to change that?"

That's a hard question, because I don't think it's yes or no. Depends on what is meant by "potentially harmful." Where do we draw that line? And why there? There are obviously clear-cut cases, such as abuse, but then there's a lot of grey. People differ on where that line is drawn, so then, who gets to decide? I don't really know the answer (although, I have to say I lean towards most decisions being left up to the family, including formula).

Anonymous said...

The March 17th Anon:

I have to say I agreed with pretty much everything you said in your last two posts. Well said! Especially this:

"Respect and common courtesy coupled with the realization that women are going to make their own choice regardless of what you say? Yes! Support for women regardless of their feeding choice? Definitely! Motherhood isn’t super simple, so it’s important that, although we have differences, we help each other out and lift each other up as much as possible."

Catherine L.:
I'm sorry you've come across such "lack of respect for personal choice" (which I agree is prevelant), but please know that you can still be a "crunchy" mom and have plenty of respect for other's choices. I say take what you can from the world of crunchy parenting and leave what doesn't fit. Just find what works for you :-)

Anonymous said...

Emily said: “Sorry, I wasn't referring to your comment about the dumpster. I was referring to the general attitude of "Oh well, people are going to do what they want to, so there's no point in trying to change."

You must have misunderstood something somewhere b/c I have never said that. I don’t think any of my comments implied that either.

I said…

“I’m not saying you shouldn’t push -- not saying that at all. I agree that change doesn’t happen unless we call for it and, yes, demand it.”

“…making it a point to get that education out there is a very commendable task.”

“I don’t think we should totally butt-out and mind our own business…”

“I don’t even think there’s anything wrong with confronting a formula feeding mother about her feeding choice as long as it is done with respect and without judgment.”

“Give them information, encourage them to do the research, help them when they have difficulties or run into opposition, but in the end -- let them make their own choice.”

All of the above quotes say, “Yes, give it a try! Get the education out there! BUT understand that women are still going to make their own choices.”

Emily said: “Ultimately, it doesn't matter how much you restrict something, people will do what they want anyway.”

Isn’t that being a little fatalistic yourself?

Emily said: “Well, every example you gave for other bad things parents do were in reference to legislation, so I assumed you were referring to legislating that as well.”

Yes, my examples were in reference to legislation, but I preceded those examples with “Prescription-only formula seems wrong to me for so many reasons...”

Emily said: “No one can make someone else feel "less-than" by simply stating their own opinion. It doesn't hurt my feelings when someone says they prefer to birth in a hospital for whatever reason.”

To quote Jenna Elfman from Dharma & Greg -- “Therein squats the toad.” I agree that simply stating your opinion doesn’t usually make someone feel “less-than,” but, seriously, have you read most of these comments? Not just comments on this blog, but on many other pro-breastfeeding blogs/sites/whatever as well. They aren’t just stating their opinion, they are being hurtful. Should we go back to Jen’s statement on here about how maybe a woman that couldn’t breastfeed wasn’t meant to have children? That maybe her baby was meant to die? That’s what brought me to this blog in the first place! lol A friend of mine told me that she had just read the stupidest comment on the internet, so naturally I had to come here and check it out. Many other comments (not quite as many here, thank goodness, but on other sites) make it a point to accuse women of being bad mothers b/c they choose to do things differently. While it’s great that your feelings aren’t hurt when someone tells you that they prefer hospital births, how would you feel if they told you that you were a hippy nutcase? You’re a bad mother b/c you chose to have a baby at home where it would be more difficult to treat complications. How dare you take such a chance with your baby? Wouldn’t you be upset? Wouldn’t you get defensive? That’s totally different than just saying “Well, I prefer hospital births.” And that’s the point I was making. It’s perfectly fine to disagree -- I have already said that -- but to get downright nasty during the disagreement is what I have a problem with. To say such mean and hurtful things to women about their choices that it makes them feel like bad mothers is what I have a problem with. Again, I’m not accusing you of doing this -- I actually think you’ve been pretty respectful and tactful while presenting your opinion -- but others ARE and I think it’s wrong.

- The March 17th Anonymous

Emily said...

"It seems rather an important point to me whether we blame the formula for the death and thus restrict access to it to try and lower the risk, or, ya know, try and decrease the contaminations and educate about proper use and lower the risk."

In the case of powdered formula, it is not possible to sterilize, and therefore, you can never remove the risk of contamination entirely, even with clean, boiled water. But it is the cheapest (both to manufacture and to buy) and most widely-available form available. I don't think anyone will be able to convince the formula companies to shut down that most lucrative part of their operations.

But setting aside the risk of death, you are feeding infants under 1 year of age cow's milk, MSG, and a host of other chemical and synthetic substances. Study after study after study show formula is unhealthy and contributes to a host of other long-term health problems.

Formula is not without risk, and will never be. Breast milk is.

"The same way that it's not logical to equate contamination with spinach, even though some people died...How is this different from the formula contaminations?"

The difference is that spinach consumption is up to the adult. Formula consumption is a decision that is up to the adult, but affects the child. The child has no ability to decide for themselves if they want to take that risk, but they must bear the ill effects.


"I believe that women are smart enough that IF they are fully educated about BF and FF that they are able to make their own decisions. I respect other human beings enough to believe they should make their own choices when it comes to things that have small risks."

I don't believe formula has small risks. The risk of death may be small, but the multitude of all ill effects are significant and well-documented.

In most other areas, I agree with you that adults should be left to make their own decisions. The difference with formula is that it is being shoved in our faces. No woman in America can easily make an unbiased decision about infant feeding.

They don't have this debate in much of the rest of the world. Why? Because they have a culture that respects women, that values breastfeeding, that sees no shame in nursing in public, that considers birthing and nursing natural, acceptable processes, and that views breastfeeding as the way it should be. Formula exists in those countries, too, but there is no "debate" as to its merits or risks - it's just common sense to breastfeed.

Women cannot be expected to make an unbiased, fully informed decision about formula usage in America for these reasons:

- we have an entire culture built around artificial feeding. Thanks to the glorification of science, and the media campaign against breastfeeding in the 30s-50s, we are now coming on *generations* of women who have been taught that breastfeeding is gross, dirty, and imprecise, and that formula is safe, clean, and measurable.

- our culture disdains public breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is still seen as gross and dirty, and in many cases, inappropriate.

- the symbol of the bottle for feeding infants is ubiquitous, from toys to television.

- our culture has no policy regarding working and breastfeeding, and in fact, actively subverts it.

- formula is subsidized by the govt. WIC does not provide cigarettes to pregnant women who choose to smoke or alcohol to pregnant women who choose to drink. Yet the US Govt. is the largest purchaser of formula, handing it out to every woman on WIC.

- The US Govt gets money back from their purchase of formula for WIC, and the FDA has a vested interest in not putting restrictions on formula as well.

- Doctors and hospitals all get money and incentives from the formula companies, and push their product on pregnant and nursing women at every turn.

- The US Govt refuses to participate in the ban on unethical marketing practices by the formula companies to women.

- Despite the existence of the Baby Friendly Initiative, designed to help hospitals maximize breastfeeding success rates, only a handful of hospitals in the entire US have implemented those measures.

- Anyone who advocates for breastfeeding or against formula is labeled as "nazi," "offensive," "scornful," "spiteful," "hateful,"
"judgmental," etc. etc. In fact, saying anything negative about formula is construed as "making others feel bad."

Now you tell me. Why is it that Americans have one of the most dismal breastfeeding rates in the world? Can American women really be expected to make fully-informed decisions about infant feeding in such a climate?

Decisions are not made in a vacuum. If we lived in a culture where breastfeeding was supported and formula was available without pressure, then sure, women can make their own choices. But in this culture, breastfeeding is devalued, advocates for breastfeeding are scorned, and formula is being shoved in everyone's faces every minute of the day, from everyone from the US Govt to our health care providers.

While it may seem that "boob nazis" are pushing their agenda on unwitting moms going about their daily business, the truth is that formula is what is being pushed on American women. At around a 10% exclusive breastfeeding rate at 6 months, who is the marginalized group here?

Women think they are making an educated decision about infant feeding, but the truth is, women are being corralled into choosing formula, and conditioned to put their frustrations on women who call them on it.

Emily said...

"How would you feel if they told you that you were a hippy nutcase? You’re a bad mother b/c you chose to have a baby at home where it would be more difficult to treat complications. How dare you take such a chance with your baby? Wouldn’t you be upset? Wouldn’t you get defensive?"

I have been told all those things. I've been told that breastfeeding my baby is gross and inappropriate. I've been told that choosing not to circumcise my boys, if I ever had any, would cause them to get STDs, to have sexual dysfunction, and to be ostracized. I've been told that choosing not to vaccinate my children will make everyone else's kids sick and will kill my kids.

Does it hurt my feelings? No. I made an educated decision and I stand by my decisions. I don't need to get defensive when I feel that I made the right choice.

And yet, women who say all those things about "crunchy" people don't seem to see anything wrong with their brand of judging. I guess judging is only wrong with it comes from the minority?

I have also noticed that most crunchy people like to state facts, and get bashed for being "judgmental" (i.e. formula has risks), and yet many mainstream people make flat-out rude comments, and it is seen as acceptable (i.e. women who nurse in public just want to flash their titties.)

I'm not going to debate this point further, but I wanted to point out that there is nothing inherently offensive in stating facts. I never said, "you're a lazy failure of a mother who will have stupid, fat, asthmatic children if you don't exclusively breastfeed." But I hear comments like that about crunchy parenting all.the.time.

Anonymous said...

Emily said: “- our culture disdains public breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is still seen as gross and dirty, and in many cases, inappropriate.”

I completely agree with you there and I think this goes along with sexualizing normal body functions. “Boobs=sex objects” is what most people think; therefore, using a breast to feed a child in public is considered inappropriate.

Emily said: “Anyone who advocates for breastfeeding or against formula is labeled as "nazi," "offensive," "scornful," "spiteful," "hateful,"
"judgmental," etc. etc. In fact, saying anything negative about formula is construed as "making others feel bad."

I’m going to have to disagree with this one. It’s not the information that makes it seem spiteful; it’s the manner of delivery.

- The March 17th Anonymous

Anonymous said...

Emily said: “And yet, women who say all those things about "crunchy" people don't seem to see anything wrong with their brand of judging. I guess judging is only wrong with it comes from the minority?”

I think it’s wrong for people to say hurtful things about “crunchy” people, too.

Emily said: “ … (i.e. women who nurse in public just want to flash their titties.)”

No, that is not acceptable. Rudeness and disrespect -- from mainstream folks or from crunchy folks -- is completely unacceptable.

Emily said: “…there is nothing inherently offensive in stating facts.”

I agree.

- March 17th

Anonymous said...

"In the case of powdered formula, it is not possible to sterilize, and therefore, you can never remove the risk of contamination entirely, even with clean, boiled water. But it is the cheapest (both to manufacture and to buy) and most widely-available form available. I don't think anyone will be able to convince the formula companies to shut down that most lucrative part of their operations."

I, for one, think that since this seems to be the case, we need to do away with powder formulas (and up production of liquid forms to compensate)unless we can find a way to sterilize them. I think this is a much better option than restricting access to it. Probably won't happen, but just thought you should know I mostly agree with the powdered formula thing.

"The difference is that spinach consumption is up to the adult. Formula consumption is a decision that is up to the adult, but affects the child. The child has no ability to decide for themselves if they want to take that risk, but they must bear the ill effects."

Well, unless you're feeding your child ONLY BM until they're an adult, I don't know how that works. Kids get spinach too (well hopefully, anyways, lol). So, should we restrict whether or not kids get the spinach? Should we overrule the parents' risk analysis and tell them they can't give it to their kids? If not, then how is this different from deciding to give your child formula after deciding the risks are tolerable for you and your family?

I just really cannot agree with the line of thought that wants to limit others people's choices based on their own comfort levels (or risk tolerance). What's next? Only allowing Organic food? No plastic, ever? Epidurals not allowed? It just seems silly, not to mention disrespectful.

"The difference with formula is that it is being shoved in our faces. No woman in America can easily make an unbiased decision about infant feeding."

I'm not sure what's that hard about it. Some women will find it difficult, for sure, but to say that "no woman" can easily make it? It just doesn't seem that way to me. I think the BF message is mostly coming through loud and clear (better in some parts of the country than others), and getting louder all the time. It's rather easy to find out about the benefits of BF.

And, I'm curious, do you even think it's possible for a mother to read all the research and still come to the conclusion that formula is "safe enough" for her family, and you think that it was unbiased? I kinda get the vibe that you feel if a woman had "unbiased" information, she would of course choose to BF(I apologize in advance if I've misread you).

Anonymous said...

"Formula is not without risk, and will never be. Breast milk is."

Ok, since this seems to be a big point for you, I have to disagree, but just a little.

http://blogs.webmd.com/health-ehome/2009/03/benefits-of-breast-milk-outweigh-any.html :

"On the other hand, the chemical contamination of breast milk is not a trivial issue. When it comes to persistent organic pollutants, breast milk is the most contaminated of all human foods. It typically carries concentrations of organochlorine pollutants, such as dioxin, PCBs and DDT, that are ten to twenty times higher than those in cow's milk. And children who were breastfed as babies have higher levels of chemical contaminants in their bodies than those who were formula-fed. (Remember, in spite of this fact, breastfed children are healthier, less prone to cancer, and smarter.)

Breast milk is particularly vulnerable to chemical contamination because it exists one rung higher on the human food chain than the food that we adults eat. For chemicals that magnify as they move up the food chain - and the most serious toxins do - our breasts offer the poisons one more chance to concentrate.

DDT and PCBs remain the most widespread contaminants in human milk around the world. Other common contaminants of mother's milk include ingredients of flame retardants, pesticides, wood preservatives, toilet deodorizers, and dry-cleaning fluids."

Now, there have been studies done that show that the benefits of BM FAR outweight the risks of contaminated BM...but the risk is still there. So, not all BM is 100% risk-free. And, yes, formula's risks are still higher, from what I can tell, not arguing that.

Emily said...

"I kinda get the vibe that you feel if a woman had "unbiased" information, she would of course choose to BF"

No, of course not. Not everyone makes healthy choices. The risks of smoking while pregnant are indisputable, and cigarettes are pretty highly taxed. But some women still choose to smoke during pregnancy. Even countries that culturally support breastfeeding have those that use formula. Having the information doesn't guarantee that a woman will make a healthy choice.

However, this climate makes breastfeeding nigh on impossible, such that even women who want to breastfeed are often unable to for various reasons, and those who speak out against the use of formula are subject to these types of asinine debate.

"Now, there have been studies done that show that the benefits of BM FAR outweight the risks of contaminated BM...but the risk is still there. So, not all BM is 100% risk-free."

You've got to be kidding me. You all are taking equivocation to whole new level. I dare you to find me ONE CASE of death due directly or indirectly to breastmilk, or any studies that show an increased long-term health risk due to breastmilk.

Anonymous said...

http://www.savebabies.org/diseasedescriptions/galactosemia.php

"Galactosemia usually causes no symptoms at birth, but jaundice, diarrhea, and vomiting soon develop and the baby fails to gain weight. If not detected immediately, it results in liver disease, cataracts, mental retardation, and even death. Death can occur as early as one to two weeks of age from severe escherichia (E. coli) bacteria infections. E. coli infections are common in untreated galactosemic infants...Ingestion of galactose, whether through regular formula or breast milk, can produce sepsis in an affected child. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed for all galactosemic children who have ingested galactose to prevent sepsis. Even after a galactosemic child has been switched to a soy based formula, sepsis can still develop if the child has previously ingested galactose."

Emily said...

Galactosemia has nothing to do with the method of infant feeding; it is a congenital disease that has to do with the body's ability to process galactose, which is equally affected by *any* milk-based product, including standard formula.

That's like saying peanuts are potentially harmful because some people die from eating them. It has nothing to do with the inherent quality of the nuts themselves, and everything to do with an individual's genetic make-up.

I believe that's called equivocation.

I'm getting tired of wasting comment space on these ridiculous "arguments." If anyone has anything helpful or pertinent to add to this discussion, by all means, keep commenting, However, any further pointless misdirections will be deleted.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,

The thought of contaminated breast milk has never occured to me, so I did a quick search and came across an essay by Sandra Steingraber (http://www.sightline.org/research/pollution/res_pubs/steingraber_essay). The essay was very interesting and very pro-breastfeeding.

- March 17th

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I just now realized that Steingraber was the guest blogger in the link provided by Anonymous.

- March 17th

Emily said...

You know, anonymous(es), it would be much easier to have a discussion if you all at least put a nick in when you submit a comment.

Yes, it is the same author, but a little more in-depth article. I think her point is worth considering, but not from a infant feeding perspective. ALL people are contaminated because of the effects of chemicals, preservatives, pollutants, etc. That's just one aspect of green living: how to reduce our exposure to environmental contaminants.

Breast milk will have any contaminants we have in our own bodies. Duh. And any food we feed our children will also be subject to whatever pesticides, chemicals, or preservatives they were exposed to. I guess the point is to limit our own exposure so as to reduce our kids' exposure.

But that could be said for all people: eat whole, organic foods. Don't feed your kids crap, artificial stuff (like *ahem* formula), etc. This has more to do with the idea of healthy living in general than it does with infant feeding choices.

And I still would like to know whether there exists anyone who can show me that breast milk has established risks?

Anonymous said...

Emily said: "You know, anonymous(es), it would be much easier to have a discussion if you all at least put a nick in when you submit a comment."

I have always signed my posts in order to distinguish myself from the others.

Emily said: "And I still would like to know whether there exists anyone who can show me that breast milk has established risks?"

I don't believe that is possible. Looking at all of the material I found on chemically contaminated breast milk, NO ONE has concluded any sort of risk factor involved in breastfeeding. I searched through many, many articles about contamination and they all said the same thing: breast milk, even chemically contaminated, is still a better choice than formula. Steingraber demonstrated that herself by breastfeeding her son on stage while educating women about contamination. So no, Emily, I don't believe they can show you any established risks associated with breast milk -- because they don't exist.

Emily said: "I guess the point is to limit our own exposure so as to reduce our kids' exposure."

I agree.

Dr. Landrigan said (http://www.pbs.org/now/transcript/transcript117_full.html): "Breast-feeding is still absolutely, unequivocally the best source of nutrition for a human infant. It has factors that can't possibly be replicated by cow's milk or formula. But we have to reduce the use in American society of toxic chemicals that have the potential to accumulate in breast milk.

- March 17th

Anonymous said...

"I dare you to find me ONE CASE of death due directly or indirectly to breastmilk"

Ok, you did say "indirectly," which is good, because I was discussing mostly indirect deaths with formula too (ie. contamination). So here's one(and there are more, almost all seem to be from drug contamination):

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/122889/cocaine_tainted_breast_milk_kills_infant.html

So, in the same way that tainted formula can cause deaths, tainted breastmilk can too. I will absolutely concede that formula has a higher risk and frequency for contamination. I wasn't able to find any kind of correlation between (non-drug) tainted BM and long-term health issues (which is a relief, honestly!).

So, wrapping up, because I've spent far too much time here when I should be working, lol; I, personally, feel that women/mothers need to unite and support each other instead of divide over silly things like formula vs BM (and, yes, I think it is a silly thing to argue over in the grand scheme of things). My main contention with this post (and especially the comments) was the judgment flung at fellow women/mothers without trying to consider the circumstances/lives/viewpoints/risk thresholds of others whose worlds may look very different from your own. And the arrogance that seems to think you (general) should be able to make these choices for others (formula by prescription only).

On a more personal note, I think I was shown some possible risks of formula that I was not aware of (which isn't really surprising, since I've not had reason to do any real research into the topic before), but I still find the amount of importance and fear that many mothers here put on these risks to be out of proportion to how I view them. Which is fine, really. It's the judgment (and division) that follows that I have the real issue with.

I really hope women move toward unity and cooperation, in all things, parenting included. Farewell!

Emily said...

"So, in the same way that tainted formula can cause deaths, tainted breastmilk can too."

The difference here being that drug-contaminated breast milk is something that has to be done on purpose. Powdered infant formula can contain bacterial contaminants, such as e. sakazakii, without anyone having put it there. And there is no method that can sterilize powdered infant formula at this time.

So yes, while you succeeded in finding me a case of death by contaminated breast milk, once again, it had nothing to do with the inherent quality of breast milk, whereas (at least powdered) infant formula does carry that risk.

"I, personally, feel that women/mothers need to unite and support each other instead of divide over silly things like formula vs BM (and, yes, I think it is a silly thing to argue over in the grand scheme of things)."

I don't think it's silly at all. I think it's more important than people realize. Time will tell.

"My main contention with this post (and especially the comments) was the judgment flung at fellow women/mothers without trying to consider the circumstances/lives/viewpoints/risk thresholds of others whose worlds may look very different from your own."

The reason why I am not considering women's individual circumstances is because, for the sake of this argument, it doesn't matter. Breast milk is better and safer than formula, by a long shot. There's no disputing that, regardless of how a woman came to use formula in the first place.

Now, do I think a woman is a horrible, ignorant, lazy mother for choosing to use formula? No, of course not. That's her choice. However, I am in no way obligated to support that choice, especially when there are no extenuating circumstances that necessitate the use of formula. I love my children. If they choose to rob a bank, does that mean I love them any less? No, I still love my children, if not their choices. One can support the woman while disagreeing with her choice.

Anonymous said...

Yummy- Rocket Fuel! Press Release from EWG yesterday:

1. New risk for babies

A new report by scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found perchlorate contamination in 15 brands of powdered infant formula.

The CDC team warned that mixing perchlorate-tainted formula powder with tap water containing "even minimal amounts" of the chemical could boost the resulting mixture's toxin content above the "safe" level set by the EPA. Click here to read EWG's analysis.

2. Rocket fuel in your state's drinking water

Perchlorate pollution has also been found in the drinking water of 28 states and territories - and areas of California are contaminated.
3. This is the moment

Add your voice to ours, and call on California state officials to protect our most vulnerable populations from exposure to rocket fuel chemicals.

But no, lets not judge moms who DECIDE to use formula for no other reason then that they don't want to breastfeed, I mean heck, it's their decision to give their kids all the melamine and rocket fuel they want. lol.

Anonymous said...

Perchlorate and Iodide in Dairy and Breast Milk:


http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es048118t

This is a widespread problem - affecting our food and water supply - or rather, affecting all of us.

Jen said...

I have a $600 reverse osmosis water filter on my sink and it runs to my freezer as well, where our ice is made. So no, perchlorate doesn't affect ALL of us. And I don't drink dairy :O).

Anonymous said...

Jen, I'll have to get one of those! But if untreated water is used to grow our fruits, vegetables, etc., how is this not getting into our food supply - even for organic food? Yikes!

Anonymous said...

Ooo, you're right- that's scary.

Francis Medela said...

Great arguments here, very informative! Formula milks nowadays are not that good anymore, some chemical mixtures are found in it. Melamine is a great example. Bookmarked this one! Thanks!

Gr3tch3n said...

thoughtful, smart post...good job!

L O V E L Y D E S I G N said...

Thank you, so much for this.

I will never understand why women want to have children, but don't want anything that goes along with having children: birthing them, nursing them, and being home to raise them.

Amen!

Lana said...

Lets all try and be supportive of each other! I know you put your "disclaimer" at the end of your post, but as one for whom breastfeeding was not an option, I occasionally get glares and snide remarks when I out with my son, or even well meaning lectures on breast feeding benefits! I fully support breast feeding, and it was very difficult for me to not be able to do it for baby, and I shouldn't have to explain myself to strangers at the park. When you see a mom and jump to conclusions, no matter what the situation, we all need to remember that we don't know their particular hardships or circumstances.