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Breast Bitch

Well, I guess the boob is out of the shirt now with that last post.  The “breast is best” campaign is a real sore spot for me (which I differentiate from breastfeeding support).  I think whenever we get into the realm of supremacy, feelings are going to be hurt.  And I’m not sure why that campaign works out of a place of comparisons (best!) rather than providing even-handed information.

Especially when their whole rallying cry is that this campaign is necessary because the formula companies don’t pass along even-handed information (and they don’t.  But then again, they’re a business and if you’re smart, you’ll take everything a for-profit says with a grain of salt).  I don’t really enjoy operating in the realm of two-wrongs-make-a-right.

Thank you for the comments — even the ones that disagreed with me because all were done so politely.  At the risk of further offending everyone, I do need to continue this conversation and get this off my chest, because the emails were not quite as polite as the comments.  Beyond writing this, the only other option that felt right to me was silence.  As in walking away from the blog a bit because I literally couldn’t let this go, and it has been eating me alive for the past two days, making me construct long internal arguments with fictional debaters in my head.  And by fuck, I have to let them out and simply hope that further conversation is as illuminating and polite as the conversation that took place in the last comment section.

What I perhaps didn’t convey well is that it’s not about the oh-pity-me-I-couldn’t-breastfeed story.  That’s sort of beside the point.  The reason I am still so emotional about it is because of the tremendous pressure I received to breastfeed — when I couldn’t breastfeed.  That I was told it was my fault and I wasn’t trying hard enough (and please, show me the book that says, “you should have your prolactin levels checked within the first few weeks if your milk doesn’t come in.”  If you can show me this book, I can guarantee you that it wasn’t at Barnes and Noble the night we read through every single breastfeeding book in the store during our hours away from the NICU.  We found a lot of books that said eat more/drink more/sleep more/pump more/take drugs.  But none that gave sound medical advice).

I am angry because the pressure to breastfeed is so great that women take harmful drugs (Reglan has a black box warning by the FDA, and it is a medication that interacts even with Tylenol) in order to try to build supply, when there is clearly a safer way to provide food for your child.  I am angry that the message given is “don’t give up!  People give up too soon!” when the term shouldn’t be “giving up” but rather, “making a different choice.”

Giving up, after all, is another term for abandonment, quit, or admit defeat.

I am angry because people confuse breastfeeding support (of which I have a lot to give) with encouraging people to breastfeed.  And personally, I don’t believe a lactation consultant should come to a hospital room unless called in the same way that I don’t think formula companies should give samples unless they’re requested.  The ball should be in the mother’s court.  And just because one side doesn’t hang back until called doesn’t make it right when the other side rushes in too.  It just makes them both wrong and manipulative.

And I’m angry because the “breast is best” campaign comes from a place of privilege that doesn’t take into consideration a plethora of possibilities, from adoptive situations to socio-economic class.  Yes, this is an argument steeped in socio-economic class, and formula for many working mothers is more insurance against job loss than it is about a choice of nourishment for the child.  Suggesting the expense of milk banks to the working poor (and reminding them that it’s the best!) is simply cruel.  Formula costs on average 19 cents per ounce.  Banked milk costs on average $2.25 per ounce.  Banked milk, even if I would have considered it, was entirely out of our budget.  And sorry, I wouldn’t have considered it.

Especially when we’re not talking about giving your child poison vs. giving your child life.  I — and perhaps you — were formula-fed babies who were able to reach adulthood despite our lower IQs.  And that is why I become emotional when I read posts about deceitful Nestle and how we should boycott their products.  Or how formula companies prey on women.  I see formula as the product that gave me the ability to have six-year-olds instead of corpses.  Therefore, I would never paint the makers of it with the same brush used to discuss tobacco companies or the fast food industry.

And I kind of sort of hate it when other people do it too.

I will happily lend my voice to creating change in the way breastfeeding women are treated in the workplace or public.  And I will happily support the creation of pumping rooms and cover for co-workers if they need to use them.  And I’ll happily eat my salad sitting across from your exposed breasts because hey, I have a pair myself and I’m fine seeing yours.

I will also encourage women to formula feed from day one if that feels best and to stop breastfeeding when the drawbacks (your emotional health, your physical health, your financial stability … and hey, let’s actually consider your happiness) loom larger than the benefits.  I will especially warn women away from taking drugs such as Reglan in order to build supply.  In fact, I’ll support them if they decide not to breastfeed for any reason ranging from I-just-hate-the-feeling to not-worth-my-time.

Instead of condemning formula companies, I’ll say, “thank you, Enfamil” in the same way I’d like to give a little nod of thanks to the makers of Ovidrel and Follistim and G-d knows what else I took.  Did I want to use your products?  Not particularly.  But damn, I am so glad you exist.

And so are our two kids.


1 Erin { 09.22.10 at 8:28 am }

What really pisses me off is when a mother is extremely stressed out TRYING to give her baby breastmilk when there are issues at hand and people step in and say “Don’t give up.” “It gets better.” “You can do it.” “It will get easy with time.”

My baby was losing weight and was sickly looking not to mention he was tongue tied plus I have low milk supply and this is what I heard for 3 weeks….from everyone. The only person that stepped in and said I should give my baby formula was the pediatrician.

When I went to the lactation specialists she observed me breastfeeding my son and told me that I was a SAINT for trying for 3 weeks. She told me to buy a pump and pump because obviously breastfeeding was NOT working. He would latch on and just sit there. He was starving and refused to be off my breast.

So pumping commenced…..I was told that my milk supply would grow and build. PFFT. WRONG. I pumped for 2 months and it was poor hell. My nipples were sore and cracked the whole time and I would get a clog every other day plus I was only pumping 2-4 oz every 2 hours. I was on a machine pumping for 4 hours out of my day when I finally said to hell with this.

Breast is not best. It wasn’t best for my son and it sure as shit wasn’t best for me.

He is on formula now and we are both very happy.

Because of my ordeal, I will never attempt to breastfeed again. That was my second failed attempt. I do NOT produce enough milk and I have no colostrum….my babies just starve. Yet, people on my blog still encouraged me to “not give up.”

There is my 2 cents….


I think breastfeeding makes some woman feel superior to moms who formula-feed and that is a load of shit.

2 Reba { 09.22.10 at 8:50 am }

Thanks again for saying these truths so eloquently. These things need to be said and heard. I think every mama who has tried to breastfeed and it hasn’t worked out has felt all of these things. But it is just too hard to find words–for the rest of us. You do a great job with the words.

3 a { 09.22.10 at 9:09 am }

I wish I knew from where this “formula is poison” idea came. I know there were some issues with Chinese formula a few years ago. I know that all food companies have quality issues at some point. But for the most part, formula has been feeding babies safely and effectively for 50 years (and probably longer – I’m just aware of how long it’s been used in my family).

I suspect that it’s not so much vanity or convenience that leads women away from breastfeeding. I suspect it’s the fact that for many people, it is a difficult, if not impossible, thing to do – and who wants to starve their child?

I got almost no breastfeeding support, and for that I would (not) like to thank my husband (he has control issues, but I eventually beat him into submission – something for which post-natal hormones ARE good), my mother, my mother-in-law, and the nursery nurses at the hospital. I would like to thank my lactation consultant, who told me that it was not going to ruin everything if my daughter got a little formula – that I could still nurse her, but it would take the pressure off both of us to supplement a little – that it didn’t have to be a slippery slope – that I had options.

4 Clare { 09.22.10 at 9:15 am }

I think you’re spot on. Of course we know that breast feeding is healthier and better for the child IF all the right things come into play – but life’s not like that and for some women it’s just not possible whether it be physical, practical, financial – whatever – society is so quick to beat women up who don’t follow the laid out “rules” – you’re right support is what women need not being told what to do, especially when it comes with emotional blackmail.

5 Tara { 09.22.10 at 9:18 am }

Yes, again, thank you! Thank you for not being silent. Thank you.

6 Laura { 09.22.10 at 9:18 am }

As a first time mom in waiting going into the world of BF in the coming weeks, I am so glad I came across your post. In a way the pressure feels the same as when we first started TTC. Everyone tells you how easy it will be and how quickly you will get pregnant. The expectation on you is huge to get pregnant and soon. People don’t tell you that unless you have tried it you won’t know if it will work, they don’t tell you about infertility they just sell you this ideal situation. Well now that I am about to embark in all this BF madness I welcome your point of view and I will keep it in mind. I will also start thinking of the other options available other than BF. Thanks for sharing!

7 TheIdleMindOfBeth { 09.22.10 at 9:18 am }

Oh Mel – Thank you thank you THANK YOU!

Breast is best – if that’s what MOM decides – period. Formula is best, if that’s what MOM decides – period. Why the fuck does this feel like the whole abortion debate fiasco, where people that have absolutely no physical stake in the situation feel the need to express their often uneducated – and almost always unwanted – opinions about what decision a woman and HER trusted advisors (spouse, medical professionals, etc) make about HER body?!?

Thank you Mel, for writing on this topic again. And for discussing the dangers of Reglan (first I’m hearing of it, though I didn’t really research it), and for mentioning the medical aspect of prolactin levels (first I’ve heard of that, even with all the research I did on BF… how sad is that?).

And thank you Similac, for helping my son thrive, and for helping me regain my sanity before it was entirely gone.

8 Amy { 09.22.10 at 9:21 am }

Amen! (Just had to say it!)

9 Mic @ IF Crossroads { 09.22.10 at 9:28 am }

Again, I say “Amen!”

Thank G-d formula exists.

I’m sick and G-d damn tired of feeling like I’m a “bad mother” for feeding my baby formula. I FF trying to *avoid* PPD because I knew that if I failed at BF’ing that I would become severely depressed. I was so confident that I would fail before I even attempted to do it … I don’t know why, but I’m assuming that it had something to do with not trusting my body to do it’s natural function after it failing to conceive naturally.

But now? Now I think I’m struggling from depression because I’m being judged that I’m not nursing. And that, my friend, is just totally fucked up. The thing (depression) that I tried to avoid is now haunting me because of lactavists who just won’t let it go! Hell, at 7weeks PP I think that ship has sailed people – can we stop harping on it now.

Women should not feel like they are bad parents for choosing formula. I just want to be supported in making my choice, just like every mom out there.

Please, stop making FF moms feel guilty. We are trying to do what is best for our child and just because we aren’t feeding breastmilk doesn’t mean that we don’t love our children any less.

10 SassyMama { 09.22.10 at 9:43 am }


I desperately wanted to breast feed. Desperately. And although I produced a decent amount on pumping for the first week after the triplets were born, things went downhill from there. Mine were 29 weekers, and despite the fact that they started off only taking less than 5cc of breastmilk every three hours, by three months of age, I had run out of stored milk for them. We (meaning the lactation consultants and I) tried everything. Including reglan. It is true I wasn’t sleeping enough (3 NICU babies will do that to a person) although I was doing the best I could. The fact is, for whatever reason, despite my best efforts… my body could not support them.

I had women look down their noses at me during that first year if I made reference to the babies’ formula. Rarely did I bother explaining.
I shouldn’t have to.

11 Cathy { 09.22.10 at 9:45 am }

I think the problem with the campaign is two-fold.

1) It assumes *all* women are too stupid to make informed choices and must just be told what is “best” in no uncertain terms and no consideration for circumstances outside the ideal.

2) It does not allow for shades of gray.

It’s a problem that goes well beyond just breastfeeding. So often in dealing with the medical community, I feel the need to tattoo my Master’s Degree to my forehead, perhaps pass out my resume to become part of my son’s medical record as proof of my critical thinking skills.

Most things in life are not black and white, and how we feed our infants is just the first of many times you run into that problem as a parent.

12 ErnieGirl { 09.22.10 at 9:51 am }

The breast is best campaign itself doesn’t bother me because like you said, on average for the average mother and baby, breast feeding has so many advantages over formula feeding. What really pisses me off about your story, and I’m sure the story of so many others, is that when you were having a problem with breast feeding, you were simply recited information from that campaign by HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS!!!! They are the ones that are supposed to be able to look beyond generalized health campaigns and know what is right for you and your baby specifically. That’s what they get paid to do.

Through all of the health problems I have had I am taught time and time again that I have to be my own health advocate. I have to do my own research and tell the doctors what I need. I do not think that is the way it should be, and I really do not think we should all have to learn that the hard way. I am glad you brought up your medical issue with breast feeding, because now I will know what to tell my doctors to do if I have the same problem.

Thank you!

13 Geochick { 09.22.10 at 9:52 am }

I wonder if the same people who label formula “poison” feed their kids processed baby foods? Or are they so saintly that their child never ever ever touches a preservative? Or sugar? Or….need I go on? ICLW 😉

14 HereWeGoAJen { 09.22.10 at 9:53 am }

Very well written, Mel. I am going to print these both out and take them to my next LLL meeting.

15 Melody { 09.22.10 at 10:04 am }

I just love you.

Wanted to add that it was a self-proclaimed lactivist who told me, after my hellish 9-week struggle to breastfeed as a single mom taking my preemie with serious congenital heart defects from specialist to specialist to specialist (other congenital defects than the heart and we were trying to nail down everything we had to worry about– she’s OK now) in the middle of one of the worst Indiana winters on record, that it was OK to put down the pump and call it a day. She told me that the greatest benefits to be derived from BFing had already been derived in the colustrum and the immunities I had provided to my daughter during her first three weeks of life. She told me that I should be proud of the effort I had made and not feel guilty about picking up the bottle. That helped immensely– to be given permission to stop, to be commended for the effort I had put forth, to be told that I was already a good mother and would be EVEN IF my baby was formula fed. And as I said in my comment to the last post, by stopping BFing, I was able to get on the meds I needed to deal with my PPD and to be able to be a loving parent and advocate for my daughter.

16 Quiet Dreams { 09.22.10 at 10:11 am }

Excellent again, Mel.
Erin, in the first comment, said, “I think breastfeeding makes some woman feel superior to moms who formula-feed and that is a load of shit.” I think this mindset is another outcome of exactly what your two posts have been about. Some mothers can say they did what is “best” for their kid(s) (best according to the campaign), and some can’t.

Of course, I don’t think this is true. In many cases, (and the examples are in your posts and the comments) formula may be the best choice. Which is what you said much more eloquently.

17 chloe { 09.22.10 at 10:13 am }

Thanks for raising this issue. It seems like the push not to take epidurals and have “natural” births is similar to the “breast is best” pressure. I have a couple of friends who had c-sections and felt like total failures because of it. At the same time, the tendency of American doctors to want to do c-sections even in situations that don’t warrant it is disturbing. I think it all comes back to the point you made about respecting the autonomy of the mother to make the choices that are right for her. Happy ICLW.

18 serenity { 09.22.10 at 10:21 am }

For me, Mel? It’s not just the breast vs formula debate – it’s EVERYTHING.

I’m finding lately that I’m tired of fundamentalism.

Doesn’t matter what side you take.

I hate is the idea that there are people who judge others for the decision they made because they see things in black and white. Because life ISN’T black and white, it’s shades of grey influenced by circumstances and situations. Who the do you think you are when you can sit on your high horse and judge someone else’s decision? Who made YOU god?

I see it in the media, in politics, in my family (older generation in particular) lately. It bothers me more than I can even say.

So let’s just say that I am FIRMLY in your corner here. I feel exactly the way you do.


19 Dawn { 09.22.10 at 10:34 am }

So this got me thinking. Doesn’t HRS/DCF take children away from parents who don’t feed them? So if a mother is unable and/or unwilling to BF then what alternative does she really have? Oh wait, that is right, there is formula – tested and tweaked and updated throughout the years to meet an infant’s nutritional needs. Oh bad, bad formula! <–sarcasm of course.

20 unaffected { 09.22.10 at 10:35 am }

Will you please infect others with your viewpoints? The TTC/motherhood world would be so much more enjoyable to be a part of!


21 mash { 09.22.10 at 10:41 am }

Kind of off the subject but not really. In South Africa, if you do a medical degree of any sort, you have to do a certain amount of time in community service (i.e. rural hospitals). I met a girl who trained as a physio, and spent time in a rural hospital, where 9 of the 10 women who had given birth were HIV positive. HIV can be passed on in breast milk, and miraculously, some of their babies are born HIV negative. The government provides formula for these women, but many are too ashamed to be seen feeding formula to their babies, in case they are labeled as being HIV positive by other women in the ward with them (the stigma is so great). And so, the nurses threw the formula away, day after day. And most of those little babies went home with HIV, even in cases where it could have been prevented.

22 Calliope { 09.22.10 at 10:45 am }

Flashing my jugs!!!!

(I’ll leave it to you to determine if they are my double D’s or my enfamil jugs…heh)

LJ is flashing hers too.


23 SooSee { 09.22.10 at 10:53 am }

Thank you for not walking away from the blog so as to not write. I could feel the passion as I read. Thank you for speaking up; for your voice, that often says what we want to get out there. Love you for that. 🙂

24 amanda { 09.22.10 at 10:56 am }

Mel, I think you make a lot of good points. I’m pretty much with you on the “best” campaign. But on the LC not visiting unless the mother asks just makes me sad that you think that. I say this as a person that could NOT get help, even though I asked for it. Thankfully, I was VERY persistent and finally got some help (right before discharge). I’m a very vocal person and very determined to breastfeed and most people are not like me. So I feel sorry for the moms that maybe wanted to breastfeed but had to give up because they weren’t offered the support…. Maybe the LC shouldn’t just pop into the room, but her assistance should be offered, multiple time per day, every day until discharge (or the patient says that they are SURE they don’t want to breastfeed) and then follow up help instructions should be made available.

Your situation was unique. You didn’t choose to not breastfeed, it was taken from you by your body (infertility!). You’re right about the books talking about the prolactin levels, I’ve never seen that either. It’s just ASSumed that if you give birth, you’ll have prolactin. But if your twins had been full term and you wanted to BF (and had prolactin) and were exhausted and emotional and had to go out of your way to get help and deal with pushy nurses trying to put bottles in your babies mouths, I think you’d have a very different opinion of LCs in hospitals.

I think the thing to remember here it that those nurses and LC’s failed you, when you needed them. You should be hurt and angry, that stuff wasn’t your fault! Something was clearly wrong and they did nothing! Well, the did something, they made it worse! It makes my blood boil that more wasn’t done to help you. But a good LC can give the assistance needed and save a mom from bleeding, cracked, thrushy mastitis HELL (which I went through). There is just something about seeing your newborn spit up YOUR OWN BLOOD that leaves a mark on a mom… no mom should have to see that. I was failed too. I know you are trying to make the distinction between the campaign and support, but it stands that a more sensitive campaign can do good and help and lead to better support.

I’m really sorry that things went so wrong. And I hope that the angry email people get a sty in their eye! I just want everyone to have the option to enjoy a breastfeeding relationship with their baby and not feel guilt if they choose not to.

25 niobe { 09.22.10 at 11:07 am }

“I think whenever we get into the realm of supremacy, feelings are going to be hurt.”

Luckily for me, I don’t have any feelings.

26 aisha { 09.22.10 at 11:23 am }

This post literally made my stomach hurt. Again. Sigh. It brings back memories of when I was first starting to breastfeed. I had a hormonal reaction to the act of breastfeeding. I would begin crying and feel depressed. It was so strange but true- and because I was feeding him 12-14 times a day the first few weeks of his life are dark days for me. And that hurts because I tried so hard and waited so long to have him. I remember reading all the breastfeeding books looking for advice about how its hard, etc etc NONE MEL! NONE! I am still mad to this day that I purchased books on breastfeeding and NOT A SINGLE ONE mentioned that some women have hormonal reactions to breastfeeding, that its hard. They all said “its easy and convenient and FREE”. Bullshit. Free at the cost of your sanity?

On the other hand, despite the fact that yes, we know formula companies are advertising and have a profit agenda, its hard not to just look at what they push as mere advertising. I remember one day crying about breastfeeding and wanting to stick with it as much as I wanted to give up and an ad came in the mail with a brown baby like mine that said “feeding issues can happen to any mom. . . five dollar coupon inside.” And let me tell you that ad was wrong. Yes, its an ad. Yes I know they have a profit motive. But in the emotional state I was in, it was very manipulative to get an ad like that.

But I think youd’ agree that this is wrong too. It’s wrong for anyone to try to exploit a woman during a very vulnerable time to make a decision out of fear and/or guilt whether it be to formula feed or breast feed.

I stuck with it and I am still breastfeeding my son and I don’t mind it anymore. Whatever my hormonal issues were, they went away, but who are we to judge what anyone else’s choices are? I don’t get it. Why as women don’t we support one another and accept that even if we don’t understand WHY people make the choices they do, its because we’re not in their shoes so lets worry about ourselves?

27 megan { 09.22.10 at 12:02 pm }

I am relieved to hear others have had the experience I have had. Undue pressure and judgment in a time that should be blissful and full of bonding. I am single mother and my son’s first months on this earth were tainted by a lack of milk and a heap of pressure. Looking back I don’t think I had post-partum…I believe I was overtired and full of guilt because I couldn’t pump enough and my child was obviously going to be sickly for the rest of his life. I have a suggestion for those who push their agendas on any mother…grow up, fuck off, and look at your reflection in your perfect glass house.

28 Somewhat Ordinary { 09.22.10 at 12:42 pm }

Bravo! Even before becoming a mother I never understood one pushing their agenda or judging someone for not doing things the way they would ie unmedicated labors, breastfeeding, co-sleeping. Everyone should do what feels right for them and as mother’s we should respect that other mother’s are going to do what they feel is right for them. Now, please feel free to step in if you see someone neglecting or abusing their child, but outside of that we should all support and respect each other’s decisions!

29 Christina { 09.22.10 at 1:15 pm }

I couldn’t agree with you more! I always have imagined that whenever my phantom baby becomes a reality that I will nurse, no matter what. But I’m well aware that there are various reasons that could make it impossible for me. No “I’m right, you’re wrong” argument is ever productive and I do agree that there are very pushy nursing advocates out there that probably make women who can’t nurse feel like completely inadequate mothers. (think- radical abortion posters….do they EVER stop to think, how they are TORMENTING women everywhere who have miscarried or had still births?!?!!) Anyhow, I agree with you and I hope that your head gets cleared soon! 🙂

30 Barely Sane { 09.22.10 at 1:32 pm }

You go girl! I’m behind you all the way on this one.

31 Megan { 09.22.10 at 1:58 pm }

I am a nursing mother. I pumped for 6.5 months with a rented hospital grade and took Domperidone (legal but not FDA approved) in order to nurse our son, whom we adopted. I nursed through mastitis, bad latches, dozens of clogged ducts, all night sessions, and about 6 weeks of biting with his new teeth. He’s now almost a year old and nurses like a champ still. I’m happy to give advice, encourage, and support anyone even considering nursing. In fact, I’ll be speaking at a breast feeding conference in just a couple weeks.

And honestly? I can’t stand the term Breast is Best!

Is breast milk better than formula? Yes, in most situations. All the health benefits are not made up. The fact is, though, if a baby needs food it needs food and if breast feeding isn’t working, for any reason (including choice), then obviously formula or banked milk should be the next step. And really, banked milk SHOULD be cheaper/free, though I understand there are supply issues there.

I think the big problem now is the breastfeeding backlash. For so long the media has shown nothing but formula and women have received so little support for nursing, and now it’s swinging back the other way furiously. In your situation, formula SHOULD have been suggested immediately, prolactin levels should have been checked after a week of no milk, and domperidone (NOT REGLAN OMG!) should have been made available. Seriously, I wouldn’t touch Reglan with a 4 foot pole, and Dom is completely legal and available at some pharmacies and compounding pharmacies, it doesn’t have all the nasty side effects, and it works much faster and with better results. I understand that a lactation consultant is there to help with, well, lactation but any medical professional should have the best interests of the babies at heart and when it’s becoming obvious that breast milk isn’t coming in then yeah, formula. Yeesh, even I’ve talked about the benefits of formula with other nursing moms and nursing mom groups, where all of us nursed exclusively. Not that big a deal…

I think the problem now is finding a balance. How do you still support breast feeding, even encourage it, without manipulating or hurting feelings? How do you let people know that breast milk is the most beneficial and prepare a pregnant woman to nurse but at the same time prepare her for the possibility of it not working? I’m sure one day we’ll figure it out, but obviously we’re not there yet!

32 meghan { 09.22.10 at 2:24 pm }

I love the title of this post and think maybe you should change your name from Lollipop to Breast Bitch. Maybe just because it reminds me of the time I was lucky enough to sign them 😉

Kidding aside, once again, I agree with every word you say. It comes down to people either not willing to see something from someone elses point of view or not being able to. There is nothing in the world that is unilaterally better. Life is about shades of grey and making choices.

33 Chickenpig { 09.22.10 at 2:28 pm }

Mel, once again you’ve hit the nail on the head. If formula feeding two babies wasn’t so damn expensive I probably would have thrown in the towel. But I left my job because putting twins in daycare AND trying to pump enough milk for them while working was impossible, so putting them on the formula just didn’t seem an option to me. The breast is best campaign IS all about social class. It is hard to believe, that most of the people from the lower socioeconomic class do not breastfeed, still, most don’t even try, and many have been raised to believe that breastfeeding is dirty. Sad but true, this campaign is not aimed at anyone reading this blog.

I feel a little bit conflicted with this post. It DOES take time to learn how to breastfeed. Determined women DO need to know that it can take 6 to 8 weeks to get over the hump. I kept a journal when my twins were newborns and it took 8 weeks for D to get the whole latching thing down. When I was about to give in my husband held my hand and said honestly that I could quite trying if I wanted to, but that it would be a hardship to pay for the formula. It got easier, it did, and I enjoyed breastfeeding. If I hadn’t stuck with it I would have felt like a quitter, because I would have been a quitter, giving up just because it was hard and I didn’t want it to be hard. When it comes down to it, the breast is best campaign just doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t help women. Wouldn’t it be nice if along with their slogan they had posters saying “It may take up to 8 weeks to get the hang of this.” or “It may hurt like a bitch and that is completely normal” or even “If you are too exhausted and need a break it’s ok to give your baby some formula, really, you will still be a breastfeeding mom, no harm no foul.”

34 Beautiful Mess { 09.22.10 at 2:51 pm }

I get SO frustrated with the breast vs. formula debate, just as much as I get frustrated over the abortion debate. It is a PERSONAL choice. We, as women, should be supportive of each other, not judge each other. There should NOT be judging of a new mother because she chose to feed her child formula instead of breast feeding, just as there should be no judging of a woman who had IVF to have her children.

Great posts, as always!

35 stephanie { 09.22.10 at 3:30 pm }

I’d like to thank Similac, myself, as they moved our infant son from very concerning, rapidly dropping weights to a very healthy weight. My boobs weren’t up for the task. Thank God Similac was.

36 StacieT { 09.22.10 at 4:05 pm }

Thank you for writing this! This is a topic that is fresh on my mind again, I am trying to figure out what I’d like to do now that I may get a second chance…

When I was pregnant with my boys, I never once wanted to breastfeed. I really didn’t. I did talk to my OB about it, and we did discuss the quality of the formula made today at length, so I felt fine with my decision.

Then my boys were born at 28 weeks. I had no sooner made it into the postpartum room when a hospital grade pump arrived. Then the lactation consultant arrived and started in on how I needed to pump for my prescious babies…and well I soon felt horrible for not even wanting to bf and worried about how that decision would kill/make my children ill.

I pumped every three to four hours for their first month. Most days I never made more that 30ccs a day. I was severely depressed, scared, and overwhelmed.

The lactation consultant at the hospital told me I needed to sleep more. (I did need to, but come on.) The NICU nurses kept telling me that every drop helps my babies thrive. The OB sent me back to another lactation consultant. The internet told me I needed to go find drugs. I continued to feel like a failure because once again, my body wouldn’t do what so many other women’s bodies did without problem. I couldn’t even do this one thing for my babies.

28 days after my boys were delivered, I managed to pump 5 ccs all. day. long. That night, my period started. My husband convinced me to stop all the craziness. He told me it would be okay…so I did. I stopped. Thankfully. But I still “tried” to put both boys to my breast one day after they came home. They both looked at me like I had grown a horn out of my head. 🙂

I was fine with not bfing before the boys were born. The propaganda of “Breast is Best” made me nearly drive myself insame trying to do the right thing. I wish I had the strength to realize that what I intended to do in the beginning was the best for me and my boys.

And still, all this time later, I have that “Breast is Best” campaign running through my head as I think about what to do this time. Sigh.

37 Kristin { 09.22.10 at 4:36 pm }

Preach on Mel! I wish so much that people would stop being so damned judgmental when it comes to choices we make as parents. As a mom who was blessed enough to be able to breastfeed, I say Breast is Best is bullshit. How about Sanity is best. Do what works for you!

38 meggo { 09.22.10 at 5:12 pm }

I just want to say thank you for writing these two latest posts. You’ve opened my eyes, and I haven’t been able to get your posts out of my head. I wouldn’t consider myself a lactivist; but as I prepare to (hopefully) breastfeed my newborn next month, I have caught myself looking haughtily on those who formula feed— and not taking circumstances into consideration. [VERY] Guilty as charged.

I watch a 5 1/2-month old, son of a very good friend of mine. This good friend was forced to wean her DS from breastmilk because pumping at work (though her work was extremely accommodating) was just not cutting the mustard. She was pumping only half of what her DS drank on a given day— luckily, she did have a freezer stash from when he was in the NICU, which helped him float to 5 months on breastmilk. But she dried up. And his stash is gone. And she HAS to work. So formula it is, simple as that.

And now today, I hear that many cans of Similac have been recalled due to the possibility of contamination by beetles, their parts, and their larvae. My good friend’s DS’s formula was part of this recall. I posted the recall on FB to alert my friends… and in return, those who did or are breastfeeding replied with the very “breast is best” rhetoric your blog posts address! And all I can think about is my very good friend, and how stressed she is already with this recall and life in general, and how strapped they are for $$ already but have to buy yet another can of formula, and how she might be struggling with guilt because she couldn’t continue giving her DS breastmilk like she wanted, and how, instead, he might have ingested beetles. And when she gets home from work, she’s going to see my FB status attempting to supply helpful information to formula-feeding parents… and see the unhelpful, arrogant comments left by successful breastfeeders who… THANK GOD… are feeding from the breast. “And btw, this is why breast is best!!!” As if my very good friend didn’t know the benefits of breastfeeding. As if it was my very good friend’s FAULT that her son might have ingested beetle parts in his milk…!!! (And do I take the status down? or leave it up because people need to know of the recall?) And so today, I finally understand. And I feel sick for you, for my friend, and for everyone else who is/was battered by so-called breastfeeding “support”.

39 Jen { 09.22.10 at 5:15 pm }

Seeing that I’m 3-5 weeks from giving birth, this has definitely been on my mind. Yes, I want to breastfeed. But all of us know how “plans” go! If I can’t, I’ll buy up the formula and be happy that it is there. Life is not perfect as we all know. I would have preferred to get preggo by jumping in bed with my husband too…but, I don’t regret my use of donor eggs in the slightest. The use of the word “best” doesn’t work for me as there shouldn’t be a stigma or sense of failure if you can’t breastfeed. Just like my attitude towards infertility, I refuse to be defined as a good mom based upon whether or not I can breastfeed! xoxo

40 Flucky Mom { 09.22.10 at 5:28 pm }

So glad you didn’t walk away from your blog. We would have missed you terribly. Especially when everything you say here is so sensible. The only thing I sort of disagree with is not allowing lactation consultants in the room unless called. There are too many mothers who could very easily breastfeed but b/c of whatever reason (their moms didn’t breastfeed?) don’t even consider it. I think sometimes you have to be “encouraged” to breastfeed to make an educated decision about whether you actually want to or not.

And yeah, I am so glad for all the IVF drugs. They sucked. I didn’t want them, but am so very grateful.

41 Vee { 09.22.10 at 5:40 pm }

Well said Mel. I didn’t get around to commenting on the last post, but I too was giving the guilt trip about breastfeeding. I tried and tried but he wouldn’t latch on and was losing so much weight it was a real concern, not to mention the screams from being hungry. I pumped and pumped for weeks, took meds my milk was just so slow. I so stressed about it, Max was stressed because I was so stressed. It was actually a huge relief to decide enough was enough and I really had tried my best. I was then happy and so was my boy.

I too thank the formula makers, he is dairy intolerant so he wouldn’t have lasted on breast milk anyway. He is on an amino-acid-based, hypoallergenic formula and became a new boy once he started it at 3 Months. So yeah breast isn’t always best.

42 Kristin (Msfitzita) { 09.22.10 at 6:13 pm }

Beautifully said. I never had the privilege of getting to choose either bottle or breast, but I DESPISE fanaticism, no matter where it’s coming from, which is why lactivists make me cringe, squirm and simply want to scream.

Anyway, well said. And thanks for saying it.

43 Jill { 09.22.10 at 6:50 pm }

In agreement with your first comment, breastfeeding ABSOLUTELY makes some women feel superior to women who formula feed. Thank you for trying to show people, in an eloquent and thoughtful manner, that women who choose formula for many valid reasons are not horrible mothers.

After reading an article yesterday about a kerfuffle over a “Formula Powered” onesie, I stumbled upon a blog, with all kinds of extreme parenting beliefs, that seeks to make women feel guilty for many mothering choices. I am apparently harming my 2 month old child in more than a half dozen ways already (ultrasound, epidural, formula, diapers, vaccines, non-SAHM, etc). I felt compelled to blog about it because I want women to know that there are those that will seek to feel superior by making the rest of us feel guilty for the child rearing choices we make. And that is wrong. And sad.

44 TasIVFer { 09.22.10 at 7:12 pm }

I have nothing new to say that others haven’t said but decided that’s no reason not to weigh in. I don’t understand the attitude that making people feel worse and keep trying to do something they can’t is a reasonable way to treat people. And not just anyone – a mum with a infant who has so much they’re trying to learn and teach and cope with and recover from. . . 🙁

45 Bree { 09.22.10 at 7:15 pm }

1) Thank you. I feel like you’re doing battle for all of us who formula feed our babies, whether by choice or by circumstance.

2) Having recently gone through the struggles of low supply (thanks to hypoplastic breasts and probably PCOS too), I’ve become an apologist for supplementation. I feel like women who need to supplement receive undue pressure from the breastfeeding community, when what they really need is support.

3) Because here’s the thing: we wouldn’t call it “supplementing” if we had planned to exclusively formula feed from the beginning, now would we? The women going through the supplemenation discussion are seeing their babies’ weights drop or stall out, they’re pumping for hours with little to no output, they’re paying out of pocket for someone to do a weighted feeding and to listen to them as they cry. These are the women who should be getting support and encouragement, words like “You’re doing the best you possibly can. You’ll make the right choice for yourself and your baby. No matter how your baby gets their nutrition, they’ll know that you cherish them,” yet what they often get instead is “If you MUST supplement, make sure to use and SNS and pump 2,000 minutes a day and throw out that evil formula as soon as humanly possible.”

4) Thanks again.

46 Ms. C { 09.22.10 at 7:44 pm }

A few things:
1) When you write about your experiences as a new mother it really makes me wish you had blogged back then!
2) While I know this isn’t about a pity party for you- my goodness woman, my heart goes out to you for all that you went through with breastfeeding the twins.
3) I think “Breast is Best” is entirely too in your face. On this issue, like an another controversial one, I am entirely pro-choice…
3) You writing “I see formula as the product that gave me the ability to have six-year-olds instead of corpses” gives me the shivers. But it sure drives the point home.
4) Thank you for always talking about the hard stuff in the most mature way.

47 Waiting Lisa { 09.22.10 at 8:23 pm }

Just read through both posts. Excellent.

I think my favorite thing is the title of this one 🙂

48 Tigger { 09.22.10 at 8:27 pm }

Thank you, Mel. You wrote the first post just in time, and the second one just confirms me. 🙂 You see, I had an appt yesterday with WIC and the person giving me my appt was a lactation consultant. And shockingly enough, even though I’m barely 13 weeks, I got asked my breastfeeding plans. Thanks to your post, I had the courage to tell them that while it was my plan, I was not going to put stress on myself if it didn’t work or was too hard. I was not going to stress myself out trying to feed my child while it starved, because people were insistent that I breastfeed. I had the courage not to break down in the face of her insistence. I hope I can hold on to that courage once this child is born and there is an LC in my room, harassing me. Thank you, for writing these.

49 Mad Hatter { 09.22.10 at 11:08 pm }

I’m with you on this one, Mel. New campaign: Don’t Judge the Milk.

50 Sara { 09.22.10 at 11:23 pm }

Hi Mel,

I wrote most of this after your first post, so I apologize if it doesn’t take all of your newest post into consideration.

It’s so interesting how emotional we all seem to get about these things. I definitely learned something from your post, which was that the “breast is best” phrase is specifically hurtful. While I have known many people that weren’t able to breastfeed or to do so as they chose, none of them have ever taken issue with the argument that breastmilk is best in most situations in which it is an option. But then again, that’s not what the slogan says, is it? I hadn’t really thought about the fact that the shorthand also changes the meaning. Good point.

Having said that, I think that you might underestimate how much pressure there is the other way also. I’ve had several friends driven to tears by family members pressuring them to give their children formula when their milk hadn’t come in with 24 hours. Seriously. 24 hours. One of these friends got the most grief from her mother, who is a pediatrician and really should have known better. I got very little support with my decision to breastfeed, especially after my daughter turned about 6 months old, and I started to get odd looks, and then indirect comments, and eventually very direct criticism (thanks Mom ). I breastfed until my daughter was 2 years old anyway, and am glad that I did, but it wasn’t easy, and I did sometimes feel like screaming “breast is best” at the busybodies who seemed to think that I was damaging my child by feeding her the way that our foremothers have fed us for tens of millions of years. It’s nice to think that everybody is intelligent and well-informed, but you know what, there are a lot of people who are not well-informed at all, and I think that the “breast is best” campaign was intended for that audience. After reading your posts, though, I can see that it missed its mark. Maybe “breast is often best,” would be better.

And here’s the thing, if breast isn’t best, if it’s just a purely optional lifestyle choice, then why should my employer have to put up with the minor disruptions in my work performance that my breastfeeding caused? Why should we bother to agitate so that women who don’t have the privileges that I have (i.e., a private office, albeit one without a door) are given the facilities that they need on the job to support exclusive breastfeeding if they choose to do so? When I was breastfeeding, I felt as if the people around me viewed it as weird, disruptive, and entirely optional, and therefore as something that I was imposing on them by doing, rather than as a biological necessity.

So, I don’t think that the damage of the 50’s is over, and that is the lens through which I have always viewed the “breast is best” campaign. I thank you for showing me another way to look at it. (Don’t get me wrong, I was never a judgmental ass that criticized other moms for their parenting decisions, but I had just not understood how hurtful that specific phrase can be.) I also hope that you’ll consider that there is a considerable amount of baby left in the bathwater of “breast is best,” so let’s not just the whole thing out, but rather find more inclusive and supportive language so that everybody’s individual needs are respected. I certainly don’t think that society should pressure women that would prefer to breastfeed to accept a substitute. And it does, by our working conditions, our social expectations, the standards that we set for healthy childhood development (growth charts being based on formula-fed babies, expecting very young babies to sleep for long periods of time), etc. Society also puts pressure on the other way, but I still think that at least in the US, we are still set up as a formula-feeding culture. But I also totally agree that nobody else’s choices about their breasts are any of my business. Their body, their choice. Period.

Oh, and you probably know this, but the formula companies got their bad name in large part by actively promoting formula as a preferable infant feeding option in countries and communities where income levels were very low (so formula was a major expense), and where access to clean water was not available. Under these conditions, families suffered severe economic stress, and babies died. My husband is from a very poor country and the women in his village were shocked to hear that I breastfed, because they assumed that all “rich” (relative to them, we are, even though we’re barely middle class in US terms), educated women formula-fed, and felt ashamed that they had to breast-feed. That is quite a legacy of harm that the formula companies have to live down. Of course that doesn’t in any way reflect upon the nutritional qualities of infant formula, but it does still leave a bad taste in my mouth, that’s for sure.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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