Breastfeeding Bullies Debunked

Breastfeeding Bullies Debunked February 27, 2014

Is breast best? Maybe not — at least not in the long run.

A study published in the journal Social Science and Medicine followed children, some breast fed, some bottle fed — and found that there is not much difference in how the kids turned out after babyhood. According to Slate, breastfed and bottle fed kids were measured for “11 outcomes, including BMI, obesity, asthma, different measures of intelligence, hyperactivity, and parental attachment.

And there just wasn’t much difference.

Huh? That’s not what we’re used to hearing.  We’ve been told that a child who was breastfed as a baby is practically guaranteed to edge out his bottle fed peers in almost every area. So why does this study tell a different story?

Here’s why this study is different:  it didn’t compare breastfed children with bottle fed children; it compared breastfed children with their bottle fed siblings.  The way they were raised — the education level of their parents, their economic status — was the same in every way. The only difference was how they were fed.

In previous studies, bottle fed children scored lower than breastfed children because bottle fed children tend to be less advantaged in many other ways, which accounts for things like poorer health, lower scores in school, behavior problems, etc.  Slate explains:

When children from different families were compared, the kids who were breast-fed did better on those 11 measures than kids who were not breast-fed. But, as Colen points out, mothers who breast-feed their kids are disproportionately advantaged—they tend to be wealthier and better educated. When children fed differently within the same family were compared—those discordant sibling pairs—there was no statistically significant difference in any of the measures, except for asthma. Children who were breast-fed were at a higher risk for asthma than children who drank formula.

Why is this important?  Because, in some circles, there is enormous pressure put upon women in difficult situations to breastfeed no matter what the physical or emotional cost to baby, mother, or family.  I’ve written about breastfeeding bullies before, and I’m reprinting that post here.

Breastfeeding is lovely, breastfeeding is a gift, breastfeeding is practically a miracle. I have breastfed for something like 150 months of my life, and my 26-month-old toddler isn’t weaned yet. I know why women breastfeed, and I believe that, in general, it’s good for women and for families, as well as for babies. I know why it’s important. But I also know a good many mothers, excellent, dedicated, generous, tenderhearted mothers, who feed their babies with bottles.

It’s wrong to tell women that the only way to be a good mother is to breastfeed.  It isn’t right. It isn’t compassionate. And now, we discover, it probably isn’t even medically sound.

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  • Eileen

    Thank you for posting this. The bottom line is babies used to die before formula was available. Not every woman can easily breastfeed.
    I know it’s anecdotal, but the more I breastfed each of my children, the worse their asthma is today. Really. My poor daughter (my oldest, for whom I did everything by the book to the best of my ability) suffers terribly with it. Primarily bottle fed youngest, premie-est bio child? Asthma free and smart as a whip. No focus issues. Adopted bottle fed kids? Healthy as horses. Actually much healthier than any of my inbred Irish children.

    • Nancy

      Eileen, I breast-fed all of my children. My two eldest are SUPER healthy, but my third child has asthma (it is all over both sides of my husband’s family). I was intrigued by this study and delved a bit deeper into the breastfeeding/asthma link. It isn’t completely clear, but it looks like *some* children are more sensitive to the antigens in their mother’s milk. When my third was constantly ending up in the hospital with asthma issues, they tested his blood for immunity issues…he definitely has minor ones that make him more susceptible to ear and respitory infections. Check out this journal article and the references. It says that children higher in birth order might also be more susceptible to asthma (which wasn’t true in my case). http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/154/2/115.full Thanks for drawing our attention to this study, Simcha. When I had my first child, I was led to believe that breast milk was this “magic serum” that would keep my child healthy forever. My third child taught me that that is simply not true…genetics trump everything! Would I breastfeed them again? Absolutely, but there is definitely no need to make anyone who doesn’t breast feed feel guilty.

      • Eileen

        Wow! Fascinating study. I’ve long believed genetics trumped all and have always figured the relationship to how much I breastfed each of my kids to their level of asthma was just a weird coincidence, but now I’m starting to wonder if there’s more to it. Asthma runs rampant on my side of the family. My sister (who also has inbred Irish children) was an exclusive breastfeeder with her first three. By the time she had her fourth she was well into her forties and her milk just didn’t come in so she resorted to formula. That child is the only one of her kids not afflicted with asthma. Only her oldest (premie) has the life threatening type of asthma that my two oldest (both premies) have.
        Of course, this could all be genetics paired with coincidence and breastfeeding may not be an aggravating factor for our family’s asthma at all. But I’d like to know. If they figure out there is a definitive link, I hope they figure out a test to show if a child will be made more susceptible to asthma from his mother’s breastmilk.

  • I pumped around the clock for my tubie for 16 months (hands down the hardest thing i’ve ever done–aside from handing her over and watching her suffer through surgeries).

    I fully 1000% support a mother to care for her child however she can best and deems best for her family. There are LOTS of factors and only a mother can really weigh those and even still she will probably doubt herself to a degree.

    That said, I do know breast milk was the only thing my daughter could digest without hours of retching (especially after some rough surgeries), and I know it helped her underdeveloped immune system (no thymus).

    I’m not saying, therefore clearly this article is wrong. And I get the point. I was formula fed. My mom was formula fed. No bashing, and I don’t feel bashed. I’m just bringing up another perspective — I do feel just a twinge of a need to defend why I went through hell to pump that long — especially in light of this study.

    Believe me–I would have loved to have fed her by mouth, by bottle, if only I could have. My heart broke having to feed her strapped into a chair so I could use both hands on the syringe, hoping I paced it slow enough this time.

    I totally get why this is such a heated issue. I mean, it shouldn’t be and everyone should be respectful and kind and show love. But my heart broke and I still carry around the loss of being able to orally feed my daughter and she’s about to be 6.

    Feeding your infant is so very maternal. So much so that women define themselves as lactivists and get very wounded on both sides of the “debate.”

    Compassion is definitely needed. Totally agree. I would never, ever make anyone feel badly about not being able to breastfeed (or bottle feed for that matter) for any reason at all. I consider myself extremely blessed and fortunate to have a good milk supply and only one baby and a part time job to attend to. I know that is very often not the case.

    I just wonder when I’ll ever feel like I can let that pain go and why this is so tied to our worth as mothers.

    Hope this comes across ok. <3

  • Lisa Cook

    When we were adopting, I read all of this stuff on adoption and breastfeeding and WHOA was it overwhelming! We decided that just bringing a new baby into our home was enough to worry about without adding other pressures like making my never-pregnant body learn to lactate. I’ve always been a big fan of breastfeeding and moms who choose it, but I have learned that it just doesn’t work for everyone. My kids are healthy and freakishly athletic and strong (due to genes I couldn’t have hoped to give them), and I doubt that their bottle-fed infanthoods will hold them back at all. Families should really be empowered to educate themselves and make the decision that is best for their situation.

  • disqus_NAVsMmJ24g

    I wonder why a greater risk of asthma for breastfed kids?

    Here’s my story. I have two boys. The first was tongue-tied and had a sucking disorder that required occupational therapy and it was a saga. Three expert lactation consultants (one was my pediatrician on the board of the La Leche League.) I wept for 3 months trying to get him to nurse and he never could. I pumped for all that time and got little milk, tried everything including Habermann feeders and nothing worked. He could barely suck on a bottle, which had soy formula because he did not tolerate the regular kind. (Want to talk embarassment – bottle feed your newborn in a breastfeeding class or La Leche League meeting!) I was heartbroken and only stopped trying because I was beaten. And even today (18 years later) it brings me to tears that I could not give him the gift of such a precious thing as my breast. I had never thought of breastfeeding before being pregnant, but it became a visceral, undeniable desire that could only be biological.

    My second one I prayed would be able to suck the chrome off a bumper hitch on the delivery table. He did. And I nursed him for almost 5 years. And it was a complete joy for both of us. While the last couple of years he probably got little milk and only did it for a few seconds at a time a couple of times a day, it was a time of connection. He’s almost 11 and both boys are healthy.

    While this is one study, I think there is definitely a difference in a lot of ways. Breastfeeding and co-sleeping go really well together and our house was such a more peaceful place because of it. I think my younger son and I have a connection perhaps my oldest and I don’t. Who knows, that could be temperament. But I think that we are designed to breastfeed for a reason. I admit I feel sadness seeing a baby bottlefed because he is not getting the intangible something that makes breastfeeding special, but I don’t fault anyone for doing what they need to do. Every family and mother/child unit is different and has different needs BUT there is more to feeding than just the milk and while children are judged by illness or school achievement, there are other things to measure.

    • $1028912

      You say, “I admit I feel sadness seeing a baby bottlefed” — I feel sadness whenever I see a hollow-eyed ghost of an exhausted woman breastfeeding. Perhaps the breastfeeding itself isn’t causing her exhaustion, so if I speak to her, I’m careful to only be generally supportive, and not criticize her choices. But whenever I see someone like that, I can’t help but think back to the time my own kids were tiny, and wish I had given them formula instead of exclusively breastfeeding them. I’m sure it would have helped me preserve a little more of my cheerfulness, and I would have been a better mother to them in those early years. Did I “need” to give them formula? Arguably, no, since I didn’t — but the fact that I am consumed with regret, all these years later, really tells me something!

      • Ezbs

        Umm….Giving your baby a bottle instead of breast feeding, would not have prevented you from being “a hollowed-eyed ghost”. It comes with the territory Lisa.

        With babies comes a lack of sleep and them being constantly dependant because, well, they are babies!

        They wake up at strange times and cry for inexplicable reasons.

        Bottle feeding would have made no difference- except that it would have made you work harder sterilising and preparing bottles. Something I still hate doing.

        Breast feeding will always always be the line that will be towed. It’s a biological fact that your boobs make milk, when you have a baby. No escaping the fact that they’re meant to feed your bub with those milky boobs!

        I was so sad when I was forced to wean my 6 month old daughter to start treatment. She loved breast feeding too! I wish I could have fed her longer like her sisters.

        If you can’t breast feed, bottle feed. Who cares! As long as you give it a good try.

        • $1028912

          That’s true — sleep deprivation comes with the territory, with certain babies. But formula would have given me a break. I don’t believe reluctant women (like me) should feel obligated to “give it a good try.” It’s worth doing if a mother wants to do it, and it does appear to have some potential health benefits — but if a mother hates it, then she should never feel that she MUST continue at all costs, if physically possible.
          That said, I’m sorry you had to wean your daughter early. If both mother/baby were doing well with breastfeeding, it’s tough to have to stop for any reason.

          • Ezbs

            I get you Lisa. Happy mother means happy children and a happy family life.

            And a good state of mind is so important for a new mother. It makes all the difference.

            I remember when I had my first daughter and was clueless about breast feeding, the “lactation consultant” nurse was helping me attach my baby and I swear that everytime my daughter would open her mouth, she would slam her head against me to latch on. I was so angry but speechless. So I made a good point when I left the hospital to make an official complaint against her.

            Honestly, learning to breast feed is so hard. So how do these “experts” expect to encourage women to feed when they are so aggressive with their methods? I don’t blame women who give up. I have a big issue with these sort of “bullies”.

            But on the flip side, if you just persevere and get that rhythm going, and have positive encouragement and someone to listen to you when you are cursing your head off at the thought of doing this day-in-day-out, you will try with your second child and third and so forth. And the pride you feel when it gets easier and more predictable is awesome!

          • $1028912

            I fed all three of mine — weaned the first one “early” (10 1/2 months) but the other two for more than a year each, and neither of those two ever tasted formula. I never had any major problems (the usual pain, raw bleeding sores at first, and a couple of bouts of mastitis, but never anything serious). I even pumped after returning to work with the third. But I was not just “positive” about breastfeeding — I was utterly brainwashed. I did it because I truly believed “breast is best,” and I would be a bad mother if I didn’t do it, because formula was second best, and only second best mothers resorted to it unless there were serious health problems involved. I thought women who had to use formula deserved sympathy.
            Now I think, encouragement and support for women who want to breastfeed — yes! Encouragement for women who have a nagging voice in their head that they ought to cut down, or even stop — also yes!

          • Ezbs

            I refuse to feed after a year. That’s just me. Babies are ok with cows milk and good variety of solids by then.

            If it was that bad, you didn’t have to feed beyond a year…especially since you were working…

          • $1028912

            My regret was breastfeeding exclusively — once I got the breastfeeding going, I should have given my babies a bit of formula now and then, instead of shunning it as it were cola. My first baby was particularly difficult, and I would have been a much saner new mom if only I had been able to leave him with my husband for longer periods of time and just gone out by myself………..well, or even just have gotten a full night’s sleep on weekends now and then.
            I really went nuts that first year, and for no good reason.

            And as soon as my third one started cow’s milk, I stopped pumping at work and only fed him when he woke up at night. It was a great way to get him back to sleep quickly. All kids are different, as mothers with more than one know!

          • Lydia

            Lisa, I’m sorry that you did not have a positive experience nursing. Having an infant is just hard all the way around and we all think of things that would have made it easier or that we would have done differently. We all do the best we can, especially if one is working.

          • $1028912

            Overall, I have to call it positive — I don’t regret doing it, I only regret doing it exclusively, with no formula ever. I didn’t particularly like it, even though I wasn’t working when I had the first two.
            Whenever younger friends ask me for advice, I tell them breastfeeding is worth doing if they want to do it, and it’s worth persevering through problems if they want to do it. But if they can’t do it, or if they don’t like doing it, or even if they want to just cut back and do it only some of the time — that’s okay, too, and they shouldn’t listen to anyone else who tries to give them a guilt trip about their personal decision.

          • anna lisa

            Well, maybe my husband and I can only produce tough nuts. I’d just bet my last dollar that none of our lovely little monsters would have gone back and forth between formula and breast. They thought my chest was heaven on earth. When they started to turn into toddlers, my husband would say, “listen buddy, your lease is up.” But really he was the biggest softy in the world, because he knew how much they loved it. He was always so amused over that little anticipatory laugh they would do when I started to unbutton my blouse. He loved watching how their little eyes would roll back in pleasure. And I’m so glad that he lacks an inhibition gene (I got two), because when they started to root around in public, he’d say things like “come on Mama, whip it out!” I always tried my best to be discreet, but the little monsters hated fabric over their faces, and would rip it away. I’d have to firmly use my hand.
            Ah well, it became a way of life, and I ended up doing everywhere. The sling really helped with that.. Frankly, I think it does the public a service, because other than seeing pregnant women (the most beautiful women on earth) there is nothing more tender, and beautiful too. How sad that the puritans had to ruin that. Puritans are perverted.
            Haha, I just did the math yesterday–I nursed an average of about two and a half years each, so that makes 240 months. If God had whispered that little factoid in my ear at 21, my brain would not have been able to process the info. come to think of it, it still can’t.

          • Claire

            Annalisa, I’m very glad that you breastfed in public. It infuriates me when I read about nursing mothers who are harrassed in public and asked to stop nursing. A hungry baby has every right to be in public, and every right to eat when hungry.

          • anna lisa

            Thanks Claire. In the beginning I was a sodden, timid, mess. Ugh. I’m glad I didn’t let awkwardness continue to ruin things. How could anyone expect women to just check out of life for an extended period of time? I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to contain myself if I saw a Mom being harassed. I think most people are pretty respectful though. –That reminds me of a funny story about cultural differences-
            In our old hometown my husband and I would walk from our house to the little downtown,to have a dinner date. Charlotte was a newborn, and sleep-nursing in my sling. There was a nice Italian place run by a couple of really edgy dressing Italian brothers. They were usually all super sophisticated and aloof, but when I walked in the door, one of them exclaimed “Oh! You have your baby! Let’s see!” The baby was still latched on, so I had that terribly awkward, deer in the headlights moment, when I tried to make excuses. I finally said “she’s nursing.” …Any *American* would have taken a quick step back and maybe blushed a little that exposed body parts were involved. But not them. They just made extra sounds of happiness and leaned in even further. Old me would have made a run for it, with a quick explanation over my shoulder. There was this long pause while they waited expectantly. I finally rolled my eyes and said “Fine!” and took the blanket off,– “But only because you’re Italian!” My husband, (knowing how I am), laughed so hard it made heads turn. The Italians weren’t embarrassed in the least, as they oohed and ahhed. Of course they weren’t! They’re Latins! I was still mortified over having to show two strange men my boob, but couldn’t help but laugh too.

          • Claire

            That is hysterical! Honestly, I’m glad you brought up the whole nursing in public issue, because it really puts things in perspective. I’ve seen bullying on Catholic websites (how sad) toward bottle feeding mothers, but I think harassment of nursing mothers in public–while rare– is more common, and in my opinion is more reprehensible.

          • Ezbs

            You can only feel bad if you allow others to make you feel bad.

            That’s not a reason to expect others to stop giving their advice or opinion on breast feeding or any other matter.

            There will always be that pressure to breast feed exclusively or even mostly, because frankly its the natural consequence when having a baby.

            If you can’t bf, then that’s a matter for itself- ie. not enough milk, health problems etc…

            But if you don’t want to bf because you dont like it, but you have the ability to bf, then that is selfish. But at the end of the day it is that persons choice, obviously, I just don’t think someone should expect to be patted on the back for that choice.

            But I will repeat, it is your choice. And if you are happy, then good for you. Just don’t expect advocates to shut up about it.

            (I said “you” as a plural, I did not mean it specifically to you)

          • $1028912

            You say, “But if you don’t want to bf because you dont like it, but you have the ability to bf, then that is selfish.” The problem with statements like this is, there is no clear definition of what is “selfish” behavior, and what is something that someone is really better off doing, for the benefit of the family as a whole.

            As I said in another comment here, my pediatrician told me I had “no excuse” to wean my daughter “early” — she implied I was selfish because I didn’t do it for the full recommended 18 months. I had the ability, I just didn’t want to do it anymore, and I believe continuing to feed when I really wanted to stop would not have done my family any favors.

            I regret exclusive breastfeeding. In my case, I think using formula sometimes would have helped me, and helped the overall mood in our home when my older two were infants. Someone could easily say,

            “But if you don’t want to exclusively breastfeed because you don’t like breastfeeding, but you have the ability to totally avoid formula, then using any formula at all is selfish.”

            Statements like that can also be applied to other situations as well:

            “But if you don’t want to stay at home with your kids because you prefer working outside the home, but you have the financial ability to stay home, then that is selfish.” etc.

            I don’t except advocates to shut up about anything. But as long as babies are fed, I will equally not shut up about defending women’s choices — even the “selfish” ones like mine!

          • Ezbs

            Yes Lisa, “selfish” is not an ambiguous term. Selfish encompasses women who dont breadtfeed because they don’t want to get floppy boobs, who say it hurts too much, who can’t be bothered because they want to retain a life that was similar to their pre-baby days so bottle feed etcetera etcetera etcetera

            There is no ambiguity to selfishness. It’s putting your comfort before your babies needs.

            Selfishness is not ill health, or the need to work because you need to do so financially, or not enough milk so baby needs supplements, or bad mental health.

            The difference is very clear.

            Good strong women should have the ability and maturity to take sound advice or direction from the healthcare community in the form of “breast is best”. Because it is.

            I understand you didn’t like breast feeding exclusively. Well you shouldn’t have. And you didnt have to for more than a year.

            Even my father tells me that women bottlefed back in his days for various reasons, so Im not sure it was that taboo in your generation Lisa, to bottlefeed beyond a year- especially if you needed to for work purposes.

            Ultimately, you can’t blame others for the choices you made.

            Breast is best. Sue me! Haha

          • $1028912

            Oh, I don’t blame others for my bad choice to breastfeed exclusively — I blame myself. But I do whatever I can now, so that other women aren’t taken in by the same lies that deceived me. “Breast is best sometimes BUT not always!”

            Yes, I am selfish. My reasons for weaning my kids all had to do with the fact that I was soooooooooo over it, and wanted to move on, and put it all behind me — not at all for “work purposes,” just my preference. So I guess I’m not one of those “good strong women” to whom you refer. I wasn’t strong enough to say NO to exclusive breastfeeding instead of letting people browbeat me into doing it, so you’re right, I was weak. I wish I had done what would have made me a happier, more relaxed mother, and not tortured myself with something that was wrong for me.

          • Ezbs

            We will agree to disagree.

            Sorry to break it to you….

            But you are a good woman, and a strong woman. And have no doubt, a wonderful selfless mother!

            God Bless you Lisa.

          • $1028912

            HAHAHAHA!
            I’m sure you are, too.
            Seriously, motherhood is not a role that comes naturally to a woman like me, and my children are amazing, undeserved blessings.

          • Ezbs

            I hear you. 🙂

          • Lynn

            Yikes! Weaning because of pain might be “selfish” in the sense of self-preservation, but it is also a sign that our culture has no idea how to support nursing moms, because breastfeeding properly simply DOES NOT HURT. If it hurts, something is WRONG, and a good IBCLC can help fix that. I hate that in our culture moms think they have to grit their teeth and figure a way through the pain the first few weeks, that breastfeeding in just awful for the first few weeks, when it doesn’t have to be that way!

  • Laura Christine

    Thank you for sharing. I nursed my first for 1.5 years. I weaned my second “early” at 9 months, for various reasons. As hard as I try not to, I still feel a little guilty about it, but this helps.

  • Claire

    I think that when all things are equal, breast is best. As I posted on another blog just yesterday, humans couldn’t possibly design a better feeding system than the one God planned for us. Also as I mentioned on the other blog, I think it’s outrageous that formula companies charge a fortune for their product and then use subtle marketing techniques to discourage breastfeeding. As an adoptive mother, I see a parallel between bottle feeding and adoption: they are both plan B. In a perfect world, there would be no need for either. Every mother would be able to conceive and parent a biological child, every child would be raised by his or her biological parent, and everyone would be able to successfully breastfeed. Since we live in a fallen world, thank God that he can make plan B a success. I am all for increasing support for mothers who have breastfeeding challenges, and I applaud mothers who are able to overcome those challenges. And I support efforts to make our society more breastfeeding-friendly. But individual mothers should not be criticized for making the decision to bottle feed. As far as the non-nutritive aspects of breastfeeding, God also has a plan B for bottle-feeding mothers to be able to bond. My son was held for every bottle he every drank, and we have an incredibly strong bond.

  • $1028912

    Exclusive breastfeeding is one of my biggest regrets, in retrospect, but I’m sorry to admit that I fell for the lies.
    I thought of formula as liquid junk food and felt nothing but sympathy for other mothers who had to fall back on “second best.” If I had to do it all over again, I would do it very differently, and would choose to use formula myself sometimes.

    • Eileen

      I also would do things very differently if I had my first two kids to do over again. There would be a lot less nursing and a lot more bottles of formula. Perhaps the biggest change would be that I would be more open with my choices. The pressure to breastfeed from family was so intense with those first two kids that whenever my husband and I did give them a bottle we felt we had to sneak it past the women. With my later children, I was much more at ease to go back and forth quite openly between the bottle and breast. Of course I got the disparaging looks and comments, but when you’re 40, you stop caring about what other women think of your mothering skills. But the looks of sympathy always took me back a little bit. I’d inevitably feel compelled to tell those women that really I was ok with the bottles.

  • Kristen inDallas

    Great article. I breast fed my first son for a while, and was pretty lucky in it being a fairly easy thing with him. But he was a big eater, and I had a full-time carreer to get back to. So it wasn’t long before he needed an extra bottle here and there or breastfeeding just became a before-bedtime thing, with bottle feeding providing the majority of his nutrition. Now pregnant with #2 – it seems like there’s a lot more people out there waging the breast vs. bottle war. When I tell them I “plan on breastfeeding, if all goes well” some take it as a slap in the face. I agree that breast feeding has some great short-term benefits 1) it’s free (me likey free) 2) it jumps start my metabolism and helps me feel physically better post baby-weight 3) its a great way to pass anti-bodies and keep your little from getting as many (minor/temporary) illnesses (and baby puke is gross) and 4) I’m the type jerk who likes thumbing my nose at the bit of society that thinks boobs are only for oggling, and I get a little high imagining what I’ll say to anyone who suggests I should feed my kid in a public restroom.

    BUT all that said, if your kid is fed and loved, well done. If someone struggles to breastfeed – I’m guessing the bottle is going to do a lot less emotional damage than mommy crying every night over being made to feel like she’s failing at motherhood. I’m lucky to have been able to breastfeed, and luckier still to have a good strong sense of not-giving-a-hoot what other women think about my parenting choices. But I have seen some friends really struggle over this. Be nice to those folks. Be nice to the adoptive parents who can’t breastfeed. Be nice to the dads who take up the task when their wives are suffering post-partem deppression or otherwise out of the picture. And if anyone is still really concerned about the toxicity of certain formulas… ease your conscience by buying your friend a can of the overpriced organic stuff and/or a nice water filter. Because nagging doesn’t help anyone.

  • Elizabeth Yirak

    I have diagnosed IGT and couldn’t breastfeed my children (I was able to produce some milk, but more like I supplemented the formula with a little bit of breastmilk). I struggled for quite some time with the guilt that was associated with not being able to nurse my children, something that ultimately led to severe PPD after my first child. But it has dawned on me that 1) I fed my kids!!! That means I took care of them and provided for them 2) I have such an amazing bond with both of them and don’t believe we suffered any amount of lost love due to bottle feeding 3) both my bottle fed babies are healthier in general than my two breastfed nephews, and in fact my eldest is incredibly healthy compared to my second who had more breastmilk in his early months.

    I’ve been saying for months now that there is no way to eliminate all of the outside factors to determine if breast truly is best. I believe God intended us to breastfeed and it certainly is a gift, but it isn’t something to shame others over if they CHOOSE not to do so. In fact, I find that many women use it to pretend to be better moms, martyrs even, for their children; that they suffer so much to do the best for their child and should be highly praised (while those who bottle feed should be scorned for taking the “easy” route).

    Anyway, I have high hopes of being able to provide slightly more breastmilk this time around mostly because I hate having to pay so much money for formula, but I also will have no guilt if I can only provide a small amount and my child is mostly formula fed. I believe there is so much more to a child’s health than just how it is fed and we should be way more concerned with helping women raise their children when they don’t have the proper resources than in shaming them for not making the “best” choices.

    • Jordan

      I happen to have fed both my sons using both breast and bottle, and I think what really grinds my gears the most (and about the only thing that can make me dirty my hands with the mind-numbingly stupid “mommy wars”) is when fellow women of faith go down the moral issue/God and the Church said this is what you are supposed to do, and you aren’t trying hard enough route. With how awful it can feel if you tried for any length of time to nurse and ended up stopping for whatever reason (nevermind those who choose not to do it at all, whom, I’ll be honest, I also do not think it is appropriate, correct, or any of my business to slap an “obviously selfish” label on), this just rubs hot, holier-than-thou salt in the wound, and it is utter crap. I would probably agree that this was the initial plan for everyone, but then again, I’d wager it was also the original plan for us not to fall ill, break bones, or have any other kind of the setbacks humans encounter on a daily basis. Fortunately, our infinitely wise God gave us incredible minds and talents to circumvent many of the setbacks we encounter, so that when we put our gifts to use, great good can come of it, such as ever-improving breast milk substitutes. I don’t doubt or begrudge anyone pride in a long, successful breastfeeding relationship, because it is an accomplishment (who doesn’t love doing something they’re good at?), but your pride and belief in its benefits (which, as this study reminds, can be acheived to one degree or another by other means, meaning that no, breastfeeding is not *absolutely* essential) should not compel you to point out “Well, this is a good thing, so, obviously, you must be missing something important if you don’t do it”. If you can’t be secure and proud of your accomplishment without making sure someone who is happy with their alternative choice to bottle feed knows they will always be missing something no matter how good their child turns out, then it’s time to look inward.

      • Claire

        Well said, Jordan!

  • I really loathe the “historically every baby can be breastfed” party line. It’s a self selecting statement – babies that couldn’t died! But I equally loathe the “breasts are just for sexy-time, and nursing is icky.”

    On the other hand, one of the best designed studies I’ve ever read was investigating WHY women who breastfed had less long bone breakage during old age. They looked at bone mineral content first, but it wasn’t responsible. Then they realized that a nursing hormone also promoted bone thickening, and that was it. Women who breastfed long term had thicker bones all around. Statistically the dividing line was at 33 months of cumulative (not necessarily consecutive) breastfeeding. It was a beautiful little piece of science.

  • Melissa

    Hearing this alleviates so much guilt that I’ve had for 6 years. When my first son was born, my milk supply was very low and slow to come in. The doctor we saw offered no help and I didn’t know to ask for it, so when I was told to start him on a bottle, I did. I watched my friends around me nursing their babies and I felt awful that I wasn’t doing the same. For the next few years, every time someone would post an article about the benefits of breastfeeding on Facebook, I took it personally. When my second son was born, there were no problems with supply and he nursed for 18 months, which helped me some, because now I was able to nurse, but I still felt guilty that he was getting something his brother didn’t. With my third son, I did have supply issues again, but this time had a more supportive doctor and the experience to seek out help. He’s still going strong at 17 months and my strongest connection seems to be with him. Reading this and now knowing that my oldest isn’t necessarily at a disadvantage compared to his brothers, I felt as if a weight was lifted off my shoulders.

  • anna lisa

    Oh man this again. This is such an emotionally charged issue. “Breastfeeding Bullies” is inflammatory, and everyone knows that this issue goes to the most tender part of a woman’s soul. That doesn’t help. Rush Limbaugh uses those kinds of screaming headlines.

    I think I could probably write a whole book about why breastfeeding was good for my family. Breastfeeding had far more benefits than just what it provided nutritionally.. On the flip side it was also a ball and chain for the wild thing in me It enormously challenged my vain inclinations, as I’m not the nature- woman type and hated being leaky and “on call” 24-7. I think breastfeeding created a kind of symbiosis in my life, physically, emotionally and spiritually. ( It also taught my husband a few hard-won lessons about a woman’s role in marriage, because his Mom was a big glamour queen with a battalion of people to wait on her–What a wake-up call!) Breastfeeding was so many things, on so many levels. It was huge in spacing my babies and helping me to stay thin, but that balance needed to be carefully attended to. I always watched my calories, and when I gained an extra 10-15 pounds my fertility went up remarkably and exponentially. This is why statistically, lean African women have more predictable fertility rates than “wealthy” Westerners. We can bellyache all we want, but the correlation is there. This is why the W,H,O *re-introduced education on breastfeeding as a population control approach in third world countries. Personally, I’d rather be a freak about breastfeeding than enslaved to NFP charts but that’s just me. When my husband and I used NFP, it was the rockiest point of our marriage.
    That said, who could argue with the fact that there are as many ways to mother as there are women? God designed something wonderful and mystical in breastfeeding but He blesses us wherever we are under every circumstance, sometimes superseding the natural order with even greater blessings for those who submit *all* to Him despite the complications and hurdles they experience. Can bottle feeding be a huge blessing? Of course! Is it wrong to share our personal war stories about how we struggled too, and overcame? (became oxytocin junkies in our crazy lives?) Why would it be? Nobody needs to be that thin skinned, and unfortunately, I don’t think anyone even *cares* enough to be a bully about it. Maybe it’s a California thing– that nobody except the super-beyond-crunchy hippies treat it like a religion here. I never question that God can sanctify and make anything holy for all those that love him.

    • $1028912

      I wondered how much of it was a California thing. My older two were born in LA in the mid-90’s, and it was pervasive.
      When I told our pediatrician that I planned to wean my daughter at 13 months, she said that because I wasn’t working fulltime and had no medical problems, I had “no excuse” not to do it for at least 18 months! I really hope that was just a hippie-dippy Santa Monica mentality.

      • $1028912

        Oh, and regarding the use of the word “Bullies” — they do exist. Just like radical obnoxious man-hating feminists do exist, on the fringes. I think it’s fair to use hyperbole to describe extremism of any kind.

        • anna lisa

          Yeah, I can relate when it comes to other things that I have been bullied over. I was too much down with the program to get it on this front. The only Moms I ever heard of who didn’t were a couple of cousins; one had an inverted nipple and the other one had preemies. Bummer.

          We were in Santa Monica last weekend and had a great time. I think that’s the only part of LA I would ever consider living in. We walked through that blocked off street where they have stores/cafes/farmer’s market and had some of the best sushi of our lives at Sugarfish. I love people watching in LA. It’s the best. 😀

          • $1028912

            I haven’t been back to LA in a long time (we lived in Brentwood from ’94-’98) , but I remember that side of town being very nice but too pricey — and I don’t think we could afford a home there now.
            Look, I can post photos in comments! I did not know that until now. That’s me and my mom and daughter in ’98. My mouth is smiling, but look at my scary eyes: 15 years later, I don’t have dark circles like that. I wish I had judiciously used a little bit of formula now and then, to give myself the rest that I can see in retrospect I so clearly needed. That was the hardest time of my life….and I didn’t even realize that I was making it harder on myself than it had to be.

          • anna lisa

            Sweet! Your daughter is so adorable, healthy and happy. I don’t know, I can’t see the circles. Maybe it’s because I’ve had them myself my whole life due to an Irish complexion. I’m kind of laughing a little about the “little bit of formula” idea. Oh gosh, I tried a bunch of times with my first one or two kids, for emergencies/special occasions but they would act utterly outraged and spit it out like I’d played the dirtiest trick in the world on them. Same thing with pacifiers. I could have probably succeeded with dogged determination, but at the end of the day, I couldn’t deal with their complete freaking out over it. My sister nursed a couple of my kids under some trying circumstances. There was also that issue of milk supply and demand if you miss feedings. Also, there is that issue of breakthrough fertility if the baby doesn’t suck enough.
            .
            So how *does* one post a photo anyhow? I’m too lame to return the favor.

          • $1028912

            There’s a little rectangle in the lower left of the comment box — click that, and you can drag or upload a photo to post. Coincidentally, I just posted the old photo above on Facebook this morning, so I had it handy.

            As for the “little bit of formula,” it’s definitely an acquired taste for some, and I wish I had introduced it to my kids. When my third one started public daycare when he was almost one, I proudly told the facility’s nurse that he had never even tasted formula — and she said that was nothing to be proud of. She recommended that even exclusively breastfed babies taste a little formula now and then, in case the mothers suddenly developed any medical/logistical problems that might interfere with nursing, and I thought this was a very good point. She described a mother who had to suddenly stop breastfeeding for a week because she needed to take strong antibiotics, and her baby cried and cried for a day and a half, and then finally accepted a bottle of formula only when he was hungry/desperate enough.

          • anna lisa

            Just seeing if it works. I trust nobody is looking anymore.

          • anna lisa

            nope, photo didn’t appear. I’m a tech failure.

          • $1028912

            Instead of dragging, try first saving the photo to your desktop and uploading it, maybe?

          • anna lisa

            We did indeed have to use formula once when I was hospitalized. You are right, an infant will drink it if he is desperate enough. This idea of going back and forth from breast to bottle must be difficult for the breastfeeding mother to accomplish. If the baby needs to be weaned he will obviously become accustomed to the new reality in his life. A baby being dropped off at daycare would have to quickly learn that a different care-giver meant formula, Eventually however, unless she pumps, the mother’s milk supply will significantly dry up. If she pumps at her place of work then it’s logical that she would give that milk to her baby in the place of formula. Frankly, I’ve never been that successful with pumping. Maybe the new pumps are better than the ones I used to use.
            I believe that separating a nursing baby from his mother is a very traumatic experience in his life. This separation produces a high level of the stress hormone in the baby’s blood stream and is linked to disorders even in adulthood. My heart goes out to the mothers and babies that have to deal with this extra stress in their lives. If this necessity is to put food on the table it is completely understandable. Unfortunately this has become a grim reality for more and more mothers, who are pushed into this position against their will, and I feel grief for them. I also feel grief for the hard working fathers who feel powerless to stop this forced separation of the maternal bond because most men are no longer paid a living wage for a their full time job. I believe this is a crime that calls our for justice.

          • Claire

            I totally agree, Annalisa. I think it’s a shame that any mother, and child, breastfeeding or not, should have to be separated against their will, and I think it’s really sad that our society has come to a place where this is common. My husband is an example of a husband who barely earns a living wage, and I think it dates back to the pressure that was placed on women to have it all. So many fell for that myth through the years that now the workplace is supersaturated and often one salary is no longer high enough to support a family, so now many mothers have no choice but to separate from their babies. I was one of them, and it was excrutiating. I’m thankful to be home almost fulltime now, but I feel awful for other mothers who don’t have this opportunity.

          • anna lisa

            Claire, I think this is the secret agony of so many families. It gets worse with every generation. I was just reading yesterday that in the city of San Francisco, the price of even the cheapest, smallest apartment is too high for the salary of a teacher.
            .
            A month ago I was talking to a nice girl who sold me my cell phone, She (a 25 y.o. college graduate living with her mother) was telling me that her mother runs the day care center at our hospital. There is so much demand from the employees that the need far exceeds the hospital’s ability to provide space for everybody. She said that the women rush to put their names on the waiting list as soon as they can provide proof of pregnancy.

            A two bedroom one bath home in our city that isn’t in a high crime area will run you about 800k. Investors rushed in to buy distressed homes in the recession, and drove prices back up to the bubble era.
            College grads can’t afford to get married and have a home, much less have a baby on top of that. Escaping to a lower priced area isn’t necessarily the solution either as companies adjust wages to the cost of living in that local economy. A lot of people that work at the company my husband works for commute from long distances away. The cheaper areas have undesirable school districts. So some of the women not only have to work, but are seriously geographically separated from their children as well, not to mention the toll two hours of commuting takes on their family time. My husband tries to accommodate the mothers of children but they are clearly stressed.

          • $1028912

            Some of us work by choice, though — I could have afforded to stay home, but earning income has always been very important to me, for exactly the same reason it’s important to my husband: I provide for our family, and I think this is an important role that I have always embraced. (I would never presume to tell a woman who feels as if she should be home with her kids that she’s making the wrong choice for her family, because she’s likely making the right choice for them. But it’s amazing how many people over the years — some of them total strangers — who don’t hesitate to let me know they think that any mother who works entirely by choice must be “doing it wrong!”)
            I was unemployed when my first two children were small, but I went back to work fulltime when my third one was only 14 weeks old, and I pumped milk for him. He has never had any formula — he went right to cow’s milk when he was old enough.
            But it’s really the older two that I regret exclusively breastfeeding the most, and I wish I could go back in time and do over those years!

          • Claire

            Absolutely Lisa, there are very valid reasons for a mother to choose to work outside the home. Like breastfeeding vs bottle feeding, there are no absolutes when it comes to staying at home vs working outside the home. It is up to each mother to prayerfully discern what is best for her family, and the rest of us need to give mothers the benefit of the doubt that they have made the best decision for their family. My objection is to the shift that started occurring in the 70s (and persisted for decades) that put pressure on mothers to remain in the workforce, and that subtly implied that staying home with kids is a waste of their talent. That mentality has changed the structure of our workforce to the point where it is so saturated that salaries are often not high enough for one income to support a family, so now mothers who would rather be with their kids have no choice but to work. I think that’s sad. I think it’s great that there was a movement to fight for women’s right to work if they want to, but it went way too far to the point where now it is often not a choice.

          • $1028912

            Yes, it’s sad when a mother (or father) wants to stay at home, or even be at home more, and can’t. But even in the “good old days,” this was always the case — my grandmother went off to work nights as a waitress after her husband came home from his job at the factory. The upside now is that women have more options and access to education and opportunities — but still, there’s a long way to go. (And more support for women who pump breastmilk at work would be one way to help!)

          • Claire

            Yes, I think that was one of the big errors of the women’s movement. The first one that I mentioned earlier was pushing for a standard that working mothers should be the expectation, the second being less effort to push for more family-friendly workplaces.

          • $1028912

            Yes — the “women’s movement” was never an organized campaign with unified goals, and it still isn’t. Feminism to me means allowing equal opportunities to people, based on preferences and abilities, and not restricted by gender — I suppose to some people, it would appear to mean getting all women in the workforce.
            Workplaces should be family-friendly for fathers, too. I’m always encouraged when I see young dads pushing for this, because it helps both men and women, both inside and outside the workforce.

          • Jordan

            Thanks for this! I do enjoy the Catholic blogosphere a good amount of the time, and I sincerely hope anyone who wishes to stay home is able to do so, but whenever I hear the concept of mom working outside the home discussed as if it were always something to regret, I feel like an outsider, because I love my job, and our chosen childcare center (affiliated with one of the Catholic churches in town) is excellent, run like a school (which my two-year-old loves because he likes to stay busy and be very social). I suppose a lot of that is my personality, drive (which my husband has always told me that he honestly appreciates), and the fact that I work for a very good company, compensation and benefits-wise.

          • Claire

            Jordan, I think it’s awesome that you love your job and have a good childcare arrangement. Other than motherhood, I have never found a job that I can honestly say I love (although there are aspects of my job that I love, but overall that wouldn’t be the adjective I would choose). I’m actually a little jealous of your situation! It is definitely not one that should conjure up feelings of regret!

    • Heather

      Not all breastfeeding enthusiasts are bullies, but I think it’s fair to use the word to describe those who have inflicted the severe guilt trips and anxiety described in some of the comments here and in the other thread. Like Beadgirl’s story of the woman who would “talk with pride about approaching strangers who were bottle-feeding babies to lecture them.” That is absolutely bullying, and identifying it as such (and therefore as something that should not have happened)can be comforting and empowering to someone who has been subjected to it.

      • anna lisa

        O,K. Fair enough. I’m thankful I’ve never seen it or experienced it. Not in the least My pediatrician was old school and told me I’d lose teeth if I nursed past four months. My Mom was a big breastfeeding cheerleader, and I couldn’t have seen light at the end of the tunnel without her. I figure it’s the least I can do to spread the word after experiencing breastfeeing go from the worst thing on earth to the honey that turns the wheel. What I can’t fathom is when a Catholic mother is giggling (freaked out) about having bottle fed, being bad at NFP and has five kids under the age of six, if I venture to say, “um, maybe try ecological breastfeeding?” Or, “um, I don’t think having that many kids in such a short amount of time is consequence-free for your body.” She acts like you tried to put a hit on her, when you are only concerned for her well-being and the tenability of the trajectory she is on. Questioning this course of action is like code for: “Send out the cavalry and the footwomen! Number #Abc-69 of politically correct internet ethics has been VIOLATED.” The insinuation is that you are somehow gloating over something, and that your intentions are rooted in something other than altruism. If this is the way being “nice” should all go down, then we should just be secretive about everything, and not make a peep if anything appears problematic to us.

  • For a while I attended La Leche League meetings after Beadboy1’s birth, and the support was very helpful, for a lot of reasons. But some of the members rubbed me the wrong way, particularly one who would talk with pride about approaching strangers who were bottle-feeding babies to lecture them. How could she possibly know what was going on? What if the child was adopted? What if the mother was on medication contraindicated with breast-feeding? What if she had to go back to work? What if she tried breastfeeding and it just didn’t work? What if she wasn’t even the mother at all, but another caregiver?

    There are lots of stupid reasons to bottle-feed, and lots of really good reasons. We should give expectant mothers the info and support they might need, and then mind our own business.

    I pumped breast milk for Beadboy1, supplementing with formula when needed. Looking back on it now, I don’t know I lasted four months doing it, except that I was really committed to helping the poor guy out because of all his medical and genetic issues. The one thing I do feel guilty about is that during the first three months I tried everything to get him to nurse, every gadget and trick, and decided that he was too stubborn or that he got spoiled by the bottle in his NICU stay. Shortly before his fourth month he had open-heart surgery, and after he recovered I decided one day (I don’t know why) to put him to my breast to see what would happen. He began nursing like a champ, as if he had been doing it since birth. Here I was blaming him for not nursing, and it had been too much of a strain on his heart. I *still* feel guilty about that, ten years later.

    • LiveOaksandSpanishMoss

      She “approached strangers” to berate them about feeding their child??!! Who are these people? What on earth gave her the right to think that was OK?

      • Right. I wish I had found a way to gently confront her about that.

        • Jordan

          That’s really unfortunate. Those are the people that take the good that can come from those positions (assisting those who want to try to get around breastfeeding obstacles), and throw it in the trash by making a bad name for their colleagues who are much more level-headed.

      • Ella Warnock

        A guy I used to work with said that whenever he saw a woman feeding a baby with a bottle, he would say, “That’s YOUR milk, right?” Well, yeah, if it’s formula and I bought it, it would be mine, wouldn’t it? Also, nunya.

        • $1028912

          Ick — that’s just creepy.

    • anna lisa

      Oh how heartbreaking! Poor little guy, and poor Mama that had to go through that tough, rocky road. I’m always amazed over how strong the maternal spirit can be.

  • anna lisa

    BTW Simcha, yesterday I was doing some research on the optimal amounts of wine that a man or woman should consume. I was really surprised by all of the conflicting information and studies. I finally stumbled upon the blog of a psychiatrist who made fun of a lot of those supposedly scientific studies, and made some pretty level headed observations and conclusions.
    .
    That’s my long winded way of saying “don’t believe everything you read in the Slate.” (The Slate???? Seriously?)
    “Debunk” is a pretty conclusive word.
    sigh
    Which is *not* to say that I don’t HOPE that the study is accurate…
    Shoutout to good Moms everywhere who feed kids.

    • Sus_1

      Here’s the link from Ohio State who conducted the study:

      http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/sibbreast.htm

      • anna lisa

        “Some examples of differing benefits: Breast-feeding’s beneficial influence on BMI decreased by 66 percent between siblings across families and siblings within families. The magnitude of the beneficial effects of breast-feeding for math, reading, vocabulary and intelligence declined by between 69 and 29 percent, respectively, when comparing data across families to data from within families.”

        ***
        Interesting. So in this study, within families, the perceived *benefits* of breastfeeding decreased by those percentages. That last spread is a little troubling. I would be interested to see if they could pin point that a little more accurately with a bigger group of families.
        The other study which would be very interesting to see, and certainly on a wider scale than this single study done at Ohio State (perhaps the researcher was not totally unbiased?), would be a study of the impact on intelligence and attachment on children in the same families that were raised at home until say, the age of three, vs. being put in day care.
        *
        BTW I was on a serious hunt to get some good stats on the health benefits of wine consumption, and I couldn’t believe what a disparate range of results there are across studies and countries. I ended up scratching my head wondering why the heck there was such a wide range of evidence, from a zero tolerance of alcohol (no way!), to those stating that two glasses of wine a day had a myriad of health benefits to those that stated that there are *eight* servings of wine in a single bottle (oh really.) You’d think that with such a basic ingredient as WINE, you could come up with a better consensus and more accurate studies. It’s a little bit dizzying when you compare this to past studies that condemned/extolled everything from butter to milk consumption to meat to paleo diet to macrobiotic…
        My gut tells me that health has to do with *getting the closest* to purity and balance in an adulterated world. THAT is the challenge, and the equation that each individual needs to ponder.

        • anna lisa

          Oh, and one other little thing. The Slate comes up with all kinds of b.s. studies that they trawl the internet for to support their Free to Be You and Me agenda. Just wait for the studies that prove that childless, homosexual unions lead to a higher state of zen tranquility. (It could be true, especially if Obamacare supplies the pharmaceuticals). Only they’ll say that there is “no measurable difference” in fulfillment quotients between gay and heterosexual unions.
          The next study might insert the word “happiness” for “fulfillment”, and up the ante to Happier!
          This is when I resort to a grain of salt, and what Simcha describes as “the Spidey sense” for how gullible I’m willing to be.

        • $1028912

          I wonder about the daycare/bonding factor, too. I was unemployed when I had my first two, and I was home most of the time with them — I put them in daycare just for one or two afternoons a week, so I could look for a job/do some freelance work (because I got pregnant right after we moved to LA, where I had no friends or family I could have asked for help). I was home with them most of the time until my oldest son was almost four and my daughter was almost two, and I was depressed, exhausted and overwhelmed for most of that time.
          Contrast this with the youngest — I was working fulltime, and I went back to work when he was only 14 weeks old. He had a nanny for his first year, and then started spending much of his day in a public daycare center. At nearly 12, he is the most cheerful of the bunch, and my mother-in-law often jokes that “the one you didn’t raise is turning out the best.” Go figure!

  • momofthree3

    Well…breastfeeding has been shown to be good for mothers. It reduces their rates of breast cancer.

    • Claire

      Breastfeeding has many benefits. I don’t think anyone here is disputing that. What we’re disputing is the bullying tactics that are sometimes–not always–used against women who do not breastfeed for whatever reason.

  • jenny

    Hi, can you write more like this one? Yes, producing milk should not be taken for granted , that is hard work for the mother’s body…..

  • Cam

    Simcha, before declaring that this study debunks anything, please take a look at the many breastfeeding metaanalysis evaluating decades of research and thousands of studies which overwhelmingly show the serious benefits of breastfeeding over formula. When a study is newsworthy for going strongly against established science, that is a reason to examine it closely, not declare that it has put the matter to rest. And when the study is directed by a sociologist whose stated objective is to make it easier for moms to work outside the home (a laudable goal but obviously one which might taint her findings), then we should really question it. This study purports to be novel because it theorizes that breastfeeding rates differ among socioeconomic classes–which has been widely-known for many years–and tries to control for this variable–which dozens of other studies have done. It then uses retrospective data (relying on respondents’ recollections, rather than objective data). Then it measures results using a strange set of criteria, mysteriously omitting the most serious metrics such as iinfant respiratory illness and death (which most studies show are substanially higher for formula-fed babies). Sure, the study is interesting, but it should serve as an interesting footnote, not a watershed moment in the field.
    No one should be bullied and the anxiety and guilt that felt by parents who cannot breastfeed is real (my wife and I have been there.). But the breast is best idea is well-established by sound evidence, and this study is not going to change that, regardless of its potential emotional impact.

    • $1028912

      The “breast is best idea” can be damaging, too, which is also backed by “sound evidence.” — exclusive breastfeeding is not best for every baby. There are plenty of us who deeply regret breastfeeding, and don’t want to see others believe the lies, and make the same mistake we did.

    • MewCat100 .

      Research shows that the benefits of breastfeeding are exceptionally small and that formula is equivalent in almost all measures. The long and short of it is that women should feel comfortable doing whatever is right for them and the baby at the time and not feel that they are bad parents if they don’t do one or the other.

  • Lynn

    Okay, bullying is bad. Absolutely! I’m an IBCLC, and far too many of my clients have stories about people who confronted them in the grocery store when they were buying formula necessary to supplement a baby who wasn’t nursing well. It makes me so mad, because moms sacrifice so much for their babies and nobody ought to give them grief. EVER.

    But here’s the deal with this study, and every other study I’ve ever read that tries to minimize the benefits of breastfeeding: They lump together in ONE category, every baby who has ever been breastfed. So you have babies who nursed a couple times in the hospital before heading home, babies who nursed for a few weeks during maternity leave and then switched to formula, babies who drank formula at daycare but nursed when home with mom, and babies who mostly nursed but had a few bottles here and there, plus the very small group of babies who drank nothing but breastmilk for six months. That is a huge, broad categorization of “breastfeeding,” and we should not be surprised that there is little difference seen between exclusive formula feeding and “some-amount-of-breastfeeding-sometime.” All this study can tell us is that some breastfeeding is better than none, to some extent, and only according to the categories chosen by the researchers, which as someone has already commented, are kind of weird.

    Even if somebody someday manages to pull off the perfect study, with well-designed categories and outcomes and huge sample sizes and irrefutable statistical significance, no one ever has any business bullying mothers. Every mother does the very best she can to care for her family with the tools she has and the situation she finds herself in, often in a culture that devalues motherhood in many aspects, never mind infant feeding.

    • Amy O’Crowley

      I was going to write almost the exact same thing! I’m also an IBCLC. I don’t think this one (poorly framed IMO) study should all of a sudden override all the other thousands of studies stating the opposite just because it supports what many women want to hear. (That their choices won’t really affect their children in the long run, which they may or may not). And she didn’t really clarify between “some breastfeeding” and “exclusive breastfeeding” which is a detriment to her study, I think.

      BUT, that being said, I don’t think it’s breastmilk that makes happy, healthy children. I think breastmilk and breastfeeding obviously help. But I think happy, healthy parents make happy, healthy children. So if they need to use formula to do that (and it truly is a better choice for them than breast), I’m all for it. We do have formula for a reason, and thank goodness for it, but we shouldn’t keep trying to say it’s the same as breastmilk. It’s not, and it won’t ever be, but that’s OK.

  • anna lisa

    I don’t usually click away on those up vote arrows. I clicked so many of them on this thread that I realized that it almost implied that I didn’t agree with the ones I didn’t click up on. That’s not the case. There is so much nobility here, and a desire for good. It’s inspiring.

    • Claire

      I’m the same way! Sometimes I forget all about those arrow buttons, and other times I remember to click them on a comment that I like, and then I remember that there were lots of other good comments that I should go back and vote for, but sometimes I get sidetracked.