Breastfeeding Bullies

Breastfeeding Bullies February 27, 2014

[This post originally ran on the National Catholic Register in December of 2011.]


At my last prenatal visit, I saw a new midwife.  Her exam room had all the usual distracting mobiles and soothing photos of crocuses and placid water birds.  It also had, right on eye level as I leaned back on the paper-covered table, this photo  (WARNING:  not for sensitive viewers).

I was stunned—first, from the incredible insensitivity of displaying the image.  At 38.5 weeks, I am barely keeping my head above the flood of a thousand anxieties about my baby, myself, my family.  Maybe I’m a pampered American brat, but when I recline to hear my baby’s heartbeat, I don’t expect to be confronted with horrors.  But there was a suffering child, one who was not saved, and the image of her suffering was six inches away from my head.

Even worse was the message the image implied:  that formula kills.

Now, I am the breastfeedingest mother ever.  I’ve spent nearly a third of my life doing little else besides producing milk.  Sometimes it’s easy (people tend to give my babies nicknames like “pork chop”) and sometimes it’s very hard; but I am thoroughly convinced that breastfeeding is physically healthier for babies and mothers alike, and that the little ones are drinking in more than nutrition when they spend hours and hours folded in their mothers’ arms, fading in and out of sleep as they are fed.

So why would I object to the pro-nursing message of the photo?  Because—yes, this particular child probably died because she was given formula.  But she also died because because the water was likely contaminated; because formula is expensive and was probably diluted to save money; because if she had other medical needs beyond basic nutrition, these were likely ignored, because she was just a girl.  The third world is flooded with medical technology that promotes sex-selective abortions, perpetuating a disastrous societal preference for baby boys.

Formula didn’t save this baby girl’s life; but it was ignorance, extreme poverty, and cruel sexism that caused her death.

So in rural, impoverished countries, formula can kill, and in most cases, breastfeeding can save lives.  But showing this picture to an American woman who is already receiving prenatal care, the picture is a lie, and a cruel, manipulative one.  The hand-lettered caption explained only that the mother was told she could not breastfeed both twins, and that the bottle-fed baby died.  The message is clear:  don’t want a skeleton for a baby?  Then you had better breastfeed.

This is simply not true in most of modern America.  Mothers have a moral obligation to take good care of their children, and good care very often takes the form of offering them the best possible nutrition, which very often takes the form of breast milk.  But not always.  It is shameful and irresponsible to tell attentive mothers who use formula that they are slowly killing their babies.

There are mothers who want desperately to nurse, but have horrible difficulties, either physically, emotionally, or logistically.  There are moms who were sexually abused, and cannot see their bodies as nourishing.  There are moms who get no joy or peace in the first several months of their babies’ lives, because they struggle so long and fruitlessly with trying to breastfeed.

For me, breastfeeding is easy and pleasant.  But there are lots and lots of moms who are just different from me—they have different lives, different attitudes, different needs, different priorities.  They love their babies as much as I do; they simply take care of them in a different way, which makes more sense for them, for where they are in their lives right now.

I remember vividly the crushing guilt and pain I felt when, four years ago, I brought my newborn preemie in to be weighed, and the nurse gently told me that, once again, the little one had lost ground.  She was losing weight on my milk, not gaining.  Despite all the care and sympathy and support I was given, I felt worthless, useless.  I COULDN’T EVEN FEED MY OWN BABY.

I’m glad I persisted with breastfeeding (aided by pumping and finger feeding and a round-the-clock nightmare of written schedules, trips to the hospital, and a thousand tiny silicone bits of machinery to sterilize).  But if, in the midst of this ordeal, I had seen that picture of that poor skeletal baby girl whose mother COULDN’T EVEN FEED HER OWN BABY, I think I would have thrown myself in front of a truck.

Breastfeeding should be encouraged and promoted, and mothers should be given generous support by family, doctors and employers when they are trying to nurse their children.  Breast is best.  But there is a difference between educating women and bullying them, and many well-intentioned breastfeeding activists cross the line, in their eagerness to promote good health.

Bottle-feeding moms deserve encouragement and support, too.  Caring well for our babies is a moral issue; breastfeeding is not.


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  • This brought tears to my eyes. Five years ago I gave birth to my daughter Rowena, and I just couldn’t get the hang of breastfeeding. She was a month early, wouldn’t latch, and I lacked the support that I (thankfully) have now. On top of it all, I was in the midst of crippling postpartum depression. I ended up pumping exclusively for ten months. I still feel guilty for not pushing through and nursing my sweet girl. This post helps. Thank you Simcha!

    • Valerie Finnigan

      Pumping exclusively for that long actually is pretty darned good! It’s the people who didn’t support you who should feel guilty.

  • Claire

    God bless you, Simcha. I remember the first time this article was posted, and I’m as thankful for it today as I was then. Thank you for speaking the truth.

  • Ginkgo100

    I couldn’t breastfeed my last baby beyond a few weeks because of medication I have to take. This was what his pediatrician advised.

  • Clorinda Madsen

    I know someone who was severely malnourished by breast-only zealots who kept shaming the mother with “only breast or you’re a bad mom” attitude (the in-laws, unfortunately), despite no milk ever coming in, until caring family members from mom’s side took mom and baby to the store, bought some formula and took them home for several weeks to get the baby eating.

    Historically speaking, “milk mothers” came in to being because women either didn’t want to (usually upper class) or couldn’t (lower class) breast feed. Those who can, do it. Those who can’t, find a way that works for you.

  • KarenJo12

    I failed at breastfeeding, so badly that my son required an extra day in the hospital because his blood sugar was out of whack at age 2 days. I gave up, went to a bottle, and had no further problems. Also, I know the source of that picture. It’s in Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s excellent book “Mother Nature,” which analyzes mothering practices around the world and back in history, especially in poor countries. She included that picture to demonstrate what happened to girl babies in rural Pakistan, based on the fact that women are worthless in that culture. The picture demonstrates pervasive and lethal sexism, not the virtues of breastfeeding.

    • Valerie Finnigan

      Actually, that picture demonstrates both. You might be interested to know that formula companies like Nestle made lots of money on sexism, telling women that they can’t trust their own bodies and their ability to tell when a baby’s well fed, and/or promoting the idea that breastfeeding is somehow sexual or immodest.

  • jenny

    Wow, well said…..

  • Amy O’Crowley

    As an IBCLC, I 100% wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments. I just saw this picture at a continuing education conference last week and it really rubs me the wrong way. Like you said, the formula isn’t what killed her, it was the lack of breastfeeding coupled with the lack of clean water and health care, and I think that is a very important distinction. I have never, ever tried to make women feel bad about using formula. I’ve absolutely offered support and suggestions to help with breastfeeding, but I always tell women that the number one thing is to feed the baby, and second that I am here to help whatever their breastfeeding goals are, whether it’s 2 days or 2 years. Thank you for your writing!

  • Valerie Finnigan

    What needs to be known is that that there are options besides breastfeeding only or formula. A woman who can’t breastfeed could feed her child donor milk. And yes, perhaps the age old practice of wet nursing needs a resurgence.

    What also needs to be known is that even in the US, there are cultural factors that discourage breastfeeding- particularly among the poor. Also the top reasons women bottlefeed or choose to stop breastfeeding early are not medical in nature. The vast majority of mothers can produce enough milk, but face obstacles like inadequately trained health care providers, lack of support at home, stigmas against nursing in public, and (reason number 1) lack of support in the workplace.

    • Claire

      Donor milk? I would consider it if it were affordable and more accessible than it currently is. Wet nursing? No thank you. As an adoptive mother, I prefer to feed my baby (formula) myself rather than having him be fed by someone else. Really, formula is not the end of the world.

      • Valerie Finnigan

        A wet nurse can pump, you know.

        • Claire

          You were talking about the age-old practice of wet nursing. That age-old practice did not involve pumping and bottle feeding. Getting pumped milk from a wet nurse doesn’t sound any different from getting donor milk from a milk bank. Which would be great if there were enough of that available to negate the need for formula, but there’s not. And really, that’s okay. As I said, formula is not the end of the world.

          • Valerie Finnigan

            Except if you go to a friend who can pump for you, you’re not dependent on a milk bank.

            Formula is not the end of the world, but it’s not the only alternative to breastfeeding. It’s not even the best, and as long as moms who can’t breastfeed settle for forumula, milk banks will not become more available. It may be okay for you, but are you willing to say that a lack of donor milk is okay for everyone else in your situation?

          • Claire

            I don’t have any friends who would be willing or able to pump enough for me to have been able to feed my baby breastmilk exclusively, or even close to exclusively. And I can’t imagine that many friends would be willing or able to do that. And yes, formula was my only alternative, and if I hadn’t “settled” for it (I didn’t really consider it “settling”), my baby would have starved. And yes, I am willing to say that a lack of donor milk is okay for everyone else in my situation, because formula is more than adequate to nourish a baby. It might not be ideal, but it is more than adequate. If you want to advocate for more donor milk, that’s great. But you don’t have to try to make adoptive moms and other moms feel badly when they use formula because it is their only choice. (Note I said “try” because personally I refuse to give you the power to make me feel badly, but my heart goes out to any overwhelmed newly adoptive mother who might read comments like yours and fall victim to your attempts.)

          • Valerie Finnigan

            Formula is not “more than adequate.” If it were, formula companies wouldn’t be trying so hard to make it more like breast milk.

            A lack of donor milk is unconscionable, especially for parents who want to give their children the best possible. (Yes, I understand in rare instances, the “best possible” may indeed be formula, but if donor milk were more readily available for babies who need it, formula would not be anybody’s first choice at all- but more like the food of last resort. Even adoptive mothers have lactation induction and supplemental nursing systems as options, besides donor milk and wet nursing.

            I’m not trying to make you feel badly, just presenting facts. There are more options than breastfeeding or formula. Formula also should never be presented as the default option for adoptive parents, because it plain and simple is not true. Whoever let you believe the only option for adopted babies is formula is flat-out ignorant and perpetuating only ignorance.

          • Claire

            You’re the one who’s ignorant, Valerie, and you definitely qualify as a breastfeeding bully. Formula is more than adequate. Babies thrive on it all the time. I didn’t say it’s as good as breastmilk, but it is certainly more than adequate. No one “let me believe” that formula is the only option. For the majority of adoptive mothers/babies, it is the only option . Even mothers who attempt to adoptive breastfeed are very rarely able to produce all the milk their baby needs, and end up needing to supplement with some formula, either via a bottle or a SNS. Donor milk and wet nursing are absolutely not available to the majority of adoptive mothers. If you think the lack of donor milk is unconscionable, then go ahead and donate milk to banks or be your version/definition of a wet nurse by pumping every three hours so your best friend has enough of a breastmilk supply that she never needs to give her baby a bottle of formula. And go ahead and encourage other women to do the same. I don’t think it’s very realistic to think that enough women will do that to make the need for formula obsolete, and they shouldn’t be forced to do it or made to feel guilty if they choose not to. Nor should someone who gives her baby formula rather than letting her adopted baby starve in order to take a stand against “settling for formula”. And furthermore, it is incredibly arrogant of you to presume that you know more about adoption and its associated options (including feeding options) than I do, or to assume that I am just some passive adoptive mother who was allowed to believe certain myths by those around me. I have researched pretty much every adoption issue extensively and have lived it firsthand, and I don’t need you to enlighten me with your self-serving agenda. And since no one else here has bothered to respond to you, I’m assuming that your words of wisdom aren’t terribly impressive or useful to them either. So maybe you should save your pearls for an audience that you can actually impress and therefore make yourself feel superior.

          • simchafisher

            Right on, Claire. When I was pumping to supplement breastfeeding when my baby was born prematurely, it was EX-HAUS-TING, and demoralizing, and painful. It was almost more than I could handle, and it only went on for a few weeks. There’s a reason the use of wetnurses was common among slaveowners and the rich elite.

            Valerie, I would be extremely interested to hear your personal experience. How much pumping have you done? How many special needs newborns have you cared for — perhaps while also working and raising other children?

            Thank you for demonstrating so thoroughly what I meant by “breastfeeding bullies.” You’s it, lady.

          • Claire

            Thank you, Simcha, for empathizing with my situation.

          • Valerie Finnigan

            I’ve had two kids of my own, the first of whom was a NICU baby for whom I needed to pump regularly until she was released. My husband and I also had to rent an apartment next to the hospital so I could nurse her regularly as they stopped the IV feeding.

            Both of my kids tended to refuse bottles and would not tolerate being made to eat under a blanket. I ended up being denied a job- despite my willingness to put in the same hours as anyone else and make what compromises I could- because that law banning workplace discrimination against nursing mothers hadn’t yet been passed and to this day is still not sufficient.

            So how does seeing a borderline inappropriate picture that makes somebody uncomfortable about their parenting decisions compare to being denied employment? And has anyone ever been called a slut for bottlefeeding a baby in public? Has anyone tried to force bottlefeeding moms to hide in a bathroom? Have you ever been kicked out of an establishment for giving your child a bottle? If you are offended by a poster, try putting yourself in a nursing mother’s shoes.

            Also, regarding nursing in history, way back when, the aristocracy tended to hire wet nurses not because women so hated nursing, but because of the crazy importance placed on heirs- specifically sons. Especially if an aristocratic woman had a daughter, she was often made to pass the baby off to a wet nurse and start trying to get pregnant again as soon as possible.

          • Claire

            Your lack of empathy speaks volumes, Valerie. Instead of acknowledging that there is insensitivity and bullying on both extremes, you would rather have a competition about which type of bullying is worse. That picture is more than borderline inappropriate (as well as irresponsibly misleading. Simcha (who has nearly exclusively breastfed 9 babies) gave many examples about how it could be emotionally devastating to women for a variety of reasons, few of which are simply a matter of parenting decisions. It’s ironic that I, who have never nursed a baby, am quick to come to the defense of nursing mothers who are discriminated against, yet you have no compassion or empathy for the feelings of a mother who is unable to nurse. I’m glad that there are pro-breastfeeding mothers like Simcha who have found a way to advocate for breastfeeding without pointing the finger at other mothers.

          • Valerie Finnigan

            Insisting that a poster is not equivalent to the discrimination nursing mothers frequently face is not a lack of empathy.

            I have plenty of compassion for women who aren’t able to nurse as well as for those who are able but end up choosing not to. Those who can breastfeed but don’t (who make up the majority of bottlefeeding moms) often are subject to socio-economic factors that could be eliminated if our society cared enough about proper breastfeeding education (which is much more than just a class) and support.

            I don’t have any for the status quo or for people who choose to overlook reality for the sake of not offending someone. If you’re angry about how bottlefeeding moms are treated, you should be even angrier on behalf of nursing women, as we have indeed gone through worse.

            Should I get offended every time I see a formula ad? Those are much more pervasive as well as full of misinformation, after all.

          • Claire

            Actually Valerie, I am angry when breastfeeding mothers (and, more importantly, babies) are treated unfairly, as I have mentioned. And I am no champion defender of formula companies. I totally agree that they are misleading and that they subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) discourage breastfeeding), and I also advocate for more breastfeeding education and support in this country, and that is something that I actively advocated for in a previous job. But I am not going to get into a competition about who has gone through worse, because that is going to vary among individual women. And no one here is overlooking reality.

          • Valerie Finnigan

            Unfortunately, some women are offended just by hearing that formula generally is not as good as breast milk- even though it is the truth.

            And while things will vary from one individual to another, the truth also is that formula feeding moms don’t encounter discrimination in the workplace or in public to the degree nursing women do. Like I’ve said, nobody accuses bottlefeeding mothers of being perverts, demands they feed their babies in a bathroom, or kicks them out of establishments. You won’t engage in a contest about who has it worse because you can’t. There is no contest.

          • Claire

            No Valerie, I won’t engage in a contest because I’m not petty. When I see a blogpost about nursing mothers who have been discriminated against, I don’t post a comments telling them about all the discrimination that bottle feeding mothers face. There is a time and a place for everything. Contests are for football fields. Using discrimination from one angle to justify it from another is something I outgrew a long time ago. I’m sorry to hear that some women are offended about comments that formula is not as good as breastmilk. I am not one of those people. What I said is that in most cases, formula is adequate. I don’t think anyone on this thread has indicated that a comment like that would offend them, just as no one on this thread is overlooking reality.

          • Valerie Finnigan

            I didn’t justify anything. You’re again reading into my posts something I didn’t write. I just don’t think this poster is an example of bullying. Inappropriate, perhaps. There’s no denying that people who see it would feel uncomfortable. But I don’t see any intent there of insulting or otherwise hurting anyone.

            BTW, I feel it’s worth pointing out that access to clean water is not always guaranteed even in the US. Consider how formula-fed babies are at especially high risk when a natural disaster affects water supplies. It’s an unpleasant truth that might make formula feeding moms feel uncomfortable. But it’s not bullying if a breastfeeding advocate points that out as another reason why breastfeeding is better. It’s not an insult to women who bottlefeed. But I do see how it can come across as such to someone who feels bad about not nursing and is likely to jump too quickly to the defensive.

          • Claire

            Why is it worth pointing that out here, Valerie? Once again, you are posting a comment on a blogpost about breastfeeding bullies. If you’re teaching a class of prenatal mothers and want to point that out as another reason why breastfeeding is better, fine. But this article wasn’t about the benefits of breastfeeding. It was about giving support to women who have been the victims of breastfeeding bullies. Clearly you don’t think that’s a valid issue (which is why you feel the need to repeatedly post examples about things that might seem like bullying but they’re actually not bullying) But it is an issue and it does happen, whether or not bottle feeding mothers are bullied as much as nursing mothers. So this really isn’t the place to list all your statistics about why breastfeeding is better, or to tell adoptive mothers that they shouldn’t “settle” for formula when banked breastmilk is a viable option for them (which it currently is not, in most cases).

          • Valerie Finnigan

            What I’m saying is it’s not that big an issue. If you’re offended by a picture that shows the incontrivertible link between formula feeding and sexism in the Third World because you give your baby formula, you’re being way to defensive.

            Yes, there are self-righteous sancti-mommies who think everybody should do things their way. It’s part of our culture. No matter what we do, someone somewhere is going to think we’re screwing up our kids. But if someone is offended by a poster, they should really put themselves in the shoes of a nursing mother before complaining about “breastfeeding bullies.” There are times when you have to show some empathy if you want any yourself. Think about how complaining about a somewhat inappropriate picture comes across to someone who encountered real workplace discrimination and harassment. That’s like complaining about peas in your salad to someone who’s starving.

            Nobody’s trying to stomp on the rights of bottlefeeding mothers here, so don’t pretend otherwise.

          • Claire

            You’re the one who is pretending, Valerie. Simcha wrote this blogpost. She was offended by that poster, and she does not feed her baby formula. She was offended about it because of the context, not the image itself. I didn’t say that you were trying to stomp on the rights of bottlefeeding mothers. I said that it was inappropriate to come to an article about breastfeeding bullies and post misleading comments criticizing adoptive mothers who “settle” for formula instead of using pumped breastmilk, which is not a viable option for the majority of them. And then you went on to pursue a contest about who has experienced the worst harassment. Based on your logic, the next time I hear someone “complaining” about secondary infertility, I should wag my tongue at them about how they have no business complaining because secondary infertility is nothing compared to primary infertility. Or maybe the next time I encounter someone who is grieving a miscarriage, I should tell them that they have no right to complain because at least they have had live births. Or maybe the next time I “complain” about my miscarriages, my single friends should tell me that they have it ten times worse because they are in their 40s and single and running out of opportunities for motherhood. Now those would be some really productive contests. Better yet, maybe I should go, unsolicited, to a blogpost about one of those topics and enlighten them with my wisdom and “facts”, as you have done here. Then I could be a bully and a troll just like you. Then maybe we could be friends, except that I’m sure you could never be friends with someone who “settled” for formula instead of paying $5/ounce for banked breastmilk or made up for it afterwards by dedicating her life to lobbying for more milkbanks and more “encouragement’ of women to donate their milk.

          • Valerie Finnigan

            I said nothing about letting a baby starve, and you’re in no position to accuse me of being a bully if you even suggest otherwise.

            Rather, it is fairly reasonable to assume that most new mothers- adoptive or otherwise- are not fully aware of what their options are regarding feeding their babies- as a lot of supposed breastfeeding literature comes from formula companies- people who stand to make huge amounts of money off of keeping women ignorant.

            Just think of how many women assume they can’t breastfeed at all because they work. In fact, work is the number one reason why women cut short breastfeeding. Think about how many women have given up on breastfeeding because of latching issues, never knowing that they could have been because of correctable lip or tongue ties. Think about how many women don’t seek second opinions when a doctor says to not breastfeed. Think about the fact that breast pumps manufactured by formula companies don’t work well. Think about how many women get formula samples but no breastfeeding support in hospitals.

            Then add to that how women are still treated in public for daring to breastfeed their babies. Ever been called a slut or exhibitionist for feeding your child? Ever had to fight to not have bottles shoved in your child’s mouth? Ever been denied a job for bottlefeeding? Ever been kicked out of an establishment for giving your child a bottle? I also know that no formula fed baby is forced to eat in a bathroom or with his or her head under a blanket. If you think citing breastfeeding facts and statistics is “bullying,” you don’t know anywhere near the half of it.

            There are valid reasons for using formula. I never said otherwise. But if you think citing facts about breastfeeding is “bullying,” what do you have to say about you putting words in my mouth, making false accusations against me, or acting like you’re being bullied by mothers who actually, in general, are being treated worse than you?

            I never said I knew more about adoption than you, but it takes a whole heap of arrogance on your part to act like I know nothing when you don’t know squat about me. For all you know, there are adoptees in my own family. And there are. For all you know, I’ve seen family and close friends go through a variety of adoptions, and researched options for me to do likewise when I found out I could not have more children. And I have.

          • Claire

            Valerie, I have no problem with facts. What I have a problem with as
            your accusation that adoptive mothers “settle” for formula. It’s not
            “settling”, and just for the heck of it I decided to invest some time in
            researching the going rate of banked breastmilk these days. It costs
            between $3 and $5/ounce. This is not a valid option for most mothers.
            If they wanted to buy breastmilk privately via the internet (breastmilk
            that is unscreened), they might be able to get it for $1/ounce. Still
            far out of reach for the average mother. You might not have said
            anything about letting a baby starve, but if I didn’t “settle” for
            formula, that’s what would have happened. And yes, that kind of
            language is bullying. And I realize that breastfeeding mothers are also
            the target of bullying, and I speak out against it every time I hear
            about it. In fact, I have argued with nursing mothers who are opposed
            to anyone breastfeeding in public. Just because bullying occurs on one
            side doesn’t justify it occurring on the other side. I’m not “acting like I’m being bullied”,
            I have been bullied. I don’t know whether the women who have bullied
            me have been bullied worse than I have, and even if they have, it
            doesn’t justify them treating me that way. I am not the one who bullied
            them, and I would never bully a breastfeeding mother, and I would always defend a mother’s (and baby’s) right to breastfeed anywhere and anytime the baby is hungry. If breastfeeding had been a viable option for me, I would have done it. I
            would have loved to have done it exclusively. I grieve for the fact
            that that was not an option for me, just as I grieve for the fact that a
            fullterm pregnancy was not an option for me. (And, by the way, that
            does not mean that i love my son any less or am any less bonded to him.
            In fact, if going through infertility and miscarriages and an inability
            to breastfeed is the only way he would have ever been in my life, then
            I’m glad to have missed out on those experiences. I might grieve for
            them, but it is worth it to have my son. But it still hurts when people
            like you make comments about adoptive mothers “settling for formula”
            and imply that banked breastmilk and wet nurses would have been viable
            options when, in fact, that is not the case for most people.

          • Claire

            I’m sorry that the format of my comment came out so weird. I’m not sure what happened.

          • Other Claire

            I sympathize with Claire and I know her as an educated woman who definitely did her research and did what was best for her child and her situation. I have three children, one of whom had to go on formula after months and months of breastfeeding and her wasting away with MSPI. A milk bank and other options would not have solved her problems, but formula did. If I regret anything about it, it was that we didn’t do it sooner.

          • Claire

            Thank you Claire! How are you?! I’ll send an email…

          • Valerie Finnigan

            Actually, you are settling if you’re not pushing for the options that were denied you and your child. Given the fact that donor mothers don’t get paid for the work they put in (and it is work. Even an overproducer like me ought to know.), the expense of donor milk is unconscionable. Granted, it does cost a lot to ship donor milk, but that is because, at the moment, there aren’t anything like enough milk banks. Think about it. If we pushed for a milk bank or two in every town rather than a measly sixteen in all of North America, if we normalized breastfeeding, and if we treated donor milk as normal food rather than as prescription drugs, the demand for formula would likely plummet. If you don’t need a prescription to feed a baby cow’s milk or soy milk, nobody should need one to feed a baby human milk.

            You can grieve lost options and opportunities. I do as well. However, it doesn’t help anyone else unless we do something to make sure other mothers and children have the options that were denied us.

          • Claire

            And exactly who do you think you’re helping by your comments here, Valerie? And if I didn’t “settle” for formula, what else would I have fed my son while I pushed for a milk bank in every town? And if a milk bank opened up in every town, how would those banks get enough donations? By pushing lactating women to pump and donate? Sorry, it is not my place, or anyone else’s, to do that. And the options and opportunities I grieve are my miscarriages and infertility. There is nothing I can do to prevent other women from being denied those options; that is up to God. (Although I don’t consider it denial; I consider it his way of sending me my son in a way that is equally miraculous, which is why my grief is secondary to my rejoicing.) The “facts” that you have offered here have evolved to very subjective and questionable opinions.

          • Valerie Finnigan

            If a milk bank existed in every town, that would make it a heck of a lot easier to donate milk. (As a prospective donor, I found the idea of shipping my milk hundreds of miles both ridiculous and daunting- especially when babies in my own community were in need.) It would also cut shipping costs as well as make donated milk more readily available. Imagine being able to obtain donor milk as easily or almost as easily as going to the store for formula.

            And if you don’t think it’s your place to encourage milk donations, I suppose you don’t encourage blood drive participation either. The only trouble is that while giving blood is more difficult physically than regularly expressing milk, giving blood is considered heroic and therefore fairly highly encouraged- especially if you’re O negative. Giving milk is still considered “weird” rather than virtuous despite the fact that milk donations also save lives.

            If we don’t push harder for proper breastfeeding education and support and increased availability of donor milk, other mothers will be denied options and opportunities to do better for their children. I don’t know about you, but I want better for others than the status quo I faced.

          • Claire

            Well Valerie, I mentioned that i have pushed harder for breastfeeding education and support. And I am happy to encourage milk donation; what I said is that I’m not going to push for it. Wanting to donate breastmilk is a very personal decision and not one that I would ever pressure another woman to do.

          • Mary S

            Valerie, I am not going to even tell you my view on breast feeding v bottle feeding, but you are by definition a bully.

            Definitions from Merriam Webster

            3bully verb
            : to frighten, hurt, or threaten (a smaller or weaker person) : to act like a bully toward (someone)

            : to cause (someone) to do something by making threats or insults or by using force


            Full Definition of BULLY

            transitive verb


            : to treat abusively


            : to affect by means of force or coercion

            intransitive verb

            : to use browbeating language or behavior : bluster

            brow·beat verb ˈbrau̇-ˌbēt

            : to use threats or angry speech to make (someone) do or accept something

            brow·beatbrow·beat·en or brow·beatbrow·beat·ing

            Full Definition of BROWBEAT

            transitive verb

            : to intimidate or disconcert by a stern manner or arrogant speech : bully

          • Valerie Finnigan

            I honestly didn’t know pointing out facts and flaws in logic was considered abusive, coercive, threatening, or browbeating.

          • Claire

            The only flawed logic here is yours, Valerie. Your facts are questionable, and they are way outnumbered by your numerous questionable opinions.