Why breastfeeding is overrated - Macleans.ca

Why breastfeeding is overrated

Author Joan B. Wolf in conversation

Author Joan B. Wolf in conversation

"Telling a woman that the only feminist position is to breastfeed is antithetical to feminism" | Photography Brandon Thibodeaux/Getty Images

Joan B. Wolf is an assistant professor of women’s studies at Texas A&M University and the author of the controversial new book Is Breast Best? Taking on the Breastfeeding Experts and the New High Stakes of Motherhood.

Q: The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. In your book, you argue that human breast milk is being falsely touted as a magical elixir.
A: The discourse surrounding breastfeeding is extraordinary. We’re told it can protect against everything from ear infections and diabetes to leukemia and heart disease, and can even improve social skills.

Q: Various studies have concluded that babies fed “non-human milk” have a higher incidence of respiratory disease, including pneumonia and bronchitis, diarrhea and other digestive illnesses, ear infections (up to four times more), urinary tract infections, meningitis and sudden death syndrome. One study says that during a baby’s first three months, exclusive formula feeding increases infant mortality by 61 per cent. Can all these studies be wrong?
They are all misleading because they are based on associational or observational research. You look at two variables and realize there is a connection and make the case that the connection is causal. But the leap to causal inference is in most cases not justified by the evidence.

The primary problem with breastfeeding research is this: these studies compare babies who have been breastfed with babies who were formula-fed. But they can’t control for critical confounding variables—something associated with breastfeeding that is itself also associated with better health outcomes. For example, one thing we know is that women who are middle class or more highly educated are more likely to breastfeed. So more recent studies say, let’s control for class and education and see if they make a difference, and in some cases they do. But none of the studies have been able to control for the decision to breastfeed. This is to say that mothers who choose to breastfeed usually do so because they have been persuaded that it has health benefits. These are the kinds of mothers who are willing and able to go the extra mile to provide the healthiest environment for their child.

Q: So you don’t believe breastfed babies are healthier?
I’m willing to go on record saying that on average breastfed babies are healthier. But that doesn’t mean breast milk causes better health. Women who breastfeed are more likely to do other things that will make their babies healthier. In the developed world, the differences in health outcomes are small enough that it’s reasonable to believe that differences in maternal or caretaker behaviour can cause them.

For example, if babies who are breastfed are less likely to have ear infections, is it the benefit from breast milk or the behaviour of the caretakers? If I make sure that anyone who comes to my house is not sick, that they wash their hands before they handle the baby, and if I don’t take my kids to the grocery store when it’s packed full of people on their way home from work and I sanitize the grocery cart, I am doing all sorts of things that could prevent my child from contracting a virus. Ear infections usually come after a virus that causes fluid to build up in the ear. So the question is: what is beneficial, that I am undertaking healthy behaviours or that I am breastfeeding? If I adopted all those behaviours and fed my baby formula, would you see any difference? We don’t have the answer to that question.

Q: Are there any medical benefits to breast milk itself?
We do have very good evidence that breast milk reduces gastrointestinal infections. The milk is ingested, goes into baby’s gut, and antibodies from the mother’s milk fight the bacteria in the gut. What we don’t have is any evidence that those antibodies have any effect anywhere else in the body. And whether reducing GI infections in itself justifies the discourse about breastfeeding—that if you don’t breastfeed all these terrible things will happen to your baby—is a question we need to ask.

Q: You write that the modern pressure on women to breastfeed “literally embodies social anxieties about risk, health and motherhood”—many of which have little to do with infant feeding per se. What do you mean?
I think we are a society that is consumed with risk. There is a degree of scientific sophistication in our lives that we don’t understand. That breeds, paradoxically, anxiety and a sense that we can control anything if we can just have the right information. The idea that we can prevent terrible things from happening to our children is very appealing. Science tells us how to behave, how to be the healthiest, and the information we get on breastfeeding is in keeping with that. What we don’t seem to realize in the case of breastfeeding is the science does not provide evidence for the claims that are made.

Q: Nothing I’ve ever written has received so much emotional response from readers as the time I wrote about my struggles breastfeeding my first son. My point was to say, this can be hard; take the breastfeeding class before the baby comes. But I was accused of discouraging people from nursing. There was a lot of anger in the letters. Why is this topic so emotional?
There is a certain defensiveness about the “natural” element of it. If you have to explain that it isn’t natural, there is work involved, then part of the force of the argument for why you should breastfeed disappears.

Q: You write that in recent decades we’ve replaced “good enough” mothering with “total motherhood”—a moral code in which mothers are exhorted to “optimize” every aspect of their children’s lives, beginning with the womb. Part of this is the “all-encompassing physical and emotional commitment” that it takes to breastfeed an infant every few hours, night and day. Are we putting too much pressure on mothers?
Yes, we are holding mothers accountable for outcomes that are completely beyond their ability to control. We expect mothers to work to prevent any risk to their children, regardless of how marginal the risk or what the cost or trade-off is to the mothers themselves. Every mother is out there trying to demonstrate that there is virtually nothing she wouldn’t do for her child.

Q: It’s interesting that you use the word “demonstrate.” One difference I’ve found between having a baby this past year and having my first five years ago is that now all my mommy friends are Facebooking while nursing. Not many status updates about bottle-feeding, though. Who are we demonstrating to?
We are demonstrating it to other mothers and also to ourselves. The more we sacrifice, the better the evidence that we are doing the best for our child.

Q: Are you against breastfeeding?
I am not against breastfeeding in principle. I want to stress that there are women who adore breastfeeding, for whom it does feel natural, and the baby is born, put to the breast, and there is nary a problem. There are others who have struggled and ultimately found a good place. But there are life circumstances that I think will make [either] breastfeeding or bottle-feeding a better choice. And the medical evidence in the developed world is certainly not strong enough to be telling mothers that breastfeeding is the greatest gift they can give to their babies.

Q: Under what circumstances do you think breastfeeding is a bad idea?
When a mother doesn’t like it. When breastfeeding is a very stressful situation for mothers and they know in their hearts that they’d rather feed with a bottle, I don’t think the medical evidence is strong enough to tell them that formula-feeding is risky. For women who are very invested in their work, the idea that everything else in the universe stops because only mother can feed her baby, regardless of when or how often that is—that can be very disorienting, and the scientific evidence simply doesn’t warrant it.

Q: You also write about social class. That it might be one thing for a woman with an office job to pump milk in a special lactation room—I once used a very nice one in a U.S. Senate office building—and quite a different matter for a woman who does shift work or is a waitress.
Imagine you’re a waitress on a shift and your breasts are engorged. You can’t tell people who’ve come in that you need to leave for 45 minutes to pump. Women who work in factories or retail face similar issues. If there is a great breastfeeding room in the Senate or on the campus where I work, I’m not opposed in principle. But I am concerned that these rooms reinforce the misperception that breastfeeding is much healthier. I also strongly believe that all kinds of changes could be made in the workplace to make life easier for people with families and I’m not convinced that scarce resources are best used on lactation rooms.

Q: What was your own experience breastfeeding?
I made a decision that I am going to leave my own kids and my own experience out of it. My concern is that when people have asked that question it’s almost always out of a desire to pathologize: “What on earth would compel someone to make this case? Shame on her! She’s condoning child abuse!”

Q: Has someone actually said that?
Yes! And I’ve been compared to a Holocaust denier and an advocate of cold fusion. The implication is that what I am arguing is shameful and should be dismissed in the same way we dismiss people who say there were no gas chambers in the Second World War.

Q: So what brought you to this topic?
Intellectually, in looking at feminist research on reproduction—and there are tomes—it is striking that there is relatively little on breastfeeding. And very few people have intimated that the science may not be as compelling as we are led to believe.

Q: I’ve always thought of breastfeeding to be a feminist act. It takes control away from doctors and formula manufacturers and empowers the mother and her female support network of other mothers or lactation consultants. Is breastfeeding feminist or anti-feminist?
It’s both. It really does depend on the context in which you are making the decision. For a long time, doctors told women they didn’t make enough milk or that it was of poor quality, so women turned to the bottle. And there is no question that breastfeeding advocates have done a tremendous service by demonstrating that this was bunk. So breastfeeding is very much a feminist act in that sense. But not when we latch on—no pun intended—to breastfeeding as the only way to feed. Telling a woman she must breastfeed when she doesn’t want to or when she wants her partner to be equally engaged with the baby, to tell her that the only feminist position is to breastfeed, is antithetical to feminism.

Q: When neither of my kids gained any weight for two weeks on exclusive breastfeeding, the pediatrician told me to supplement with formula. I felt like such a failure that I cried in the doctor’s office. You write that “infant feeding is a fateful moment, one fraught with consequences for self-identity and opportunities for shame.” How did the stakes get so high?
It has to do with the risk culture I talk about—the belief that if we micromanage our lives and make responsible choices, nothing bad will happen. But I also think the high stakes come from total motherhood, the belief that mothers are uniquely responsible for preventing risks to their babies.

Q: I didn’t eat tuna for 10 years before I got pregnant.
Exactly. You try to design the optimal womb. What soap do I use, is Diet Coke okay, can I still dye my hair? And the truth is that in most instances, there is no evidence that what you do has any impact on the fetus.

Q: What do you think about the movement of women donating breast milk to each other through Facebook groups or milk banks?
There are clear risks to feeding with unscreened milk. But there is no risk-free way to feed your baby, including breastfeeding. Breast milk is loaded with pollutants whose long-term effects for either mom or baby we don’t know. Mothers who breastfeed when they’d rather not are more likely to be depressed, which is bad for them, for babies, and for an economy that depends on productive workers. Mothers who are marginalized in the workforce because they care for babies and small children are at greater risk for economic hardship when they are older, particularly in the case of divorce. So when making the feeding decision, parents need to decide which risks they can live with.

Q: Throughout your book, there is a concern that mothers are treated as a means to an end (the healthy child). But haven’t parents always sacrificed? Where does motherhood end and subservience begin?
That is the big question. Of course parenting is about prioritizing the needs of children. But at what point is a mother allowed to say, enough! At what point is she allowed to say the benefit that might come to her baby is not worth the cost to her?

Think of it this way: cities are polluted and children who live in them are more likely to get asthma. Can you imagine a public health campaign to get everyone who is considering having a baby to move out of the city? It’s an absurd suggestion because it’s too big a sacrifice. The reason we find breastfeeding to be so obvious is because we expect mothers to sacrifice. It’s part of our understanding of what motherhood is.


Why breastfeeding is overrated

  1. It only makes sense that the infant mammal thrives best when it consumes its own species' milk. That is why breast feeding is the best choice for human babies. It is also affordable at a time when a mom is at home with her infant. Formula costs more that $200.00 per month. It is convenient as it doesn't require any preparation of equipment. It is a learned skill for both mom and babe and sometimes it does not work out. No one should make anybody feel guilty if the do not do it but if you can do it, it is a great option.

    • A few more best-choice reasons: easily available on a moment's notice, clean, no bottle parts to wash, always the right temperature. But we were hounded (with good reason – this is sun-deprived Canada) to *add vitamin D drops* to the exclusive breast-milk menu.

      There are certainly drawbacks. Mom needs to be easily available for the breast to be easily available. Pumping and storing and freezing and thawing has its risks and ruins the no-dishes-to-wash advantage. And the guilt trip laid on real thick for those who choose to supplement or replace with formula is disgusting.

      But it's still a really good choice.

    • Ahhhhh american health care advise. See what you need to do, is find a company that sells breast milk to pay this "scientist" as much as Nestle does so that THEY can use her as a puppet on a string to argue ridiculous points like this.

      Id love to get a disclosure statement from this "scientist" to see how much money she and her "research" is making from Nestle, or some other formula companies.

      Good work, macleans. Why dont you transcribe an article about back pain from a inventor-surgeon? (whos new and expensive fusion instrumentation obviously works every time and without a doubt cures back pain) Or an article on the glory of the 2-tier health care system from a guy or gal who owns a private clinic?

      Im so glad i waste my time on your website and getting your magazine. Maybe its time i cancelled. or time you actually started doing more balanced journalism.

      • I agree with you !The rise in the knowlege in epigenetics shows that nurture and nature are very important. There are many epidemiological studies that shows that this window of development is crucial for the health of the baby and can prevent disease in adulthood. Today's epidemic of obesity , metabolic syndrome, depression, hypertension, type 2 diabetes is a consequence of malnutrition during gestation and lactation. If you change the quality of the diet after birth you predispose the individual to disease. As an example is the prevalence of early onset of diabetes type 2 in boys early as young as 7 years of age, because of overeating as a compensation of emotional needs. Not only quality, quantity of nutrition but the ties that are developed during brestfeeding are very important for the prevention of disease in adulthood. I recommend to read about DOHAD. Epidemics of metabolic syndrome in the developed world and the impact in the economy. I'm very sorry when the public reads this kind of articles and promotes confussion. I think this article needs to be debated with the scientic community and straight up the poor message provided.

      • I don’t see how this article is unbalanced. The benefits of breastfeeding, while there may be some, have been hugely overblown. It’s gotten to the point where women who can’t or don’t want to breastfeed are made to feel like bad mothers. So much for women’s right to make choices. I’ve been on both sides. I have exclusively formula fed a child and exclusively breastfed, and the purported benefits of breastfeeding didn’t materialize. My breastfed child had and gets more infections, has more health problems, and more learning difficulties than the formula fed child. It’s not about saying “don’t breastfeed.” It’s about realizing that, while there may be benefits to breastfeeding over formula, the potential benefits are not so great that we should be treating mothers who formula feed like child-abusing criminals.

    • I've priced formula recently, and you can formula feed for $48 a month using generic powdered formula. Sometimes there is no "choice" and also not a lot of money, and that formula is the same as the pricey ones.

    • But do take the point of the article. Breast milk does not magically appear in your hand, ready to give the baby. Breastfeeding requires an incredible output of effort and pain tolerance for many women, and can even pose risks for the baby if it is not getting enough. The stress can cause depression. So while breast milk might always be the best food for a newborn, there are circumstances under which breast feeding is definitely NOT the best choice for mother and baby.

      • Patrick, in all things we want to be accurate. If you have Reynaud's Syndrome, you may experience more pain than most women. However, for the majority of women, there is a mild to moderate amount to discomfort. The milk is there in the breast. You have colostrum to strart with, which is highly nutritional for the babe. The babe sucks and the milk comes on demand because the baby sucks. Every mother experiences postpartum blues about day three. Postpartum depression is a biological problem that can be exacerbated by stress but is usually caused by an inbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. There are cirumstances when mothers cannot breastfeed. They are usually because the babe due to some sort of physical problem cannot feed properly, the mother does not have adequate breast tissue or the mother is on medication that makes breast feeding contraindicated.

        • Every single mother I know found breastfeeding to be painful at first, tiring and stressful because of worries about whether the baby was getting enough. These women are educated, had plenty of support and great determination to succeed. The question is not whether women CAN breastfeed, of course most can, but whether it is in fact the best option in each individual case. Just because breast milk is the best food doesn't make breastfeeding the best option. Most of the women I know overcame their initial difficulties and had success. Some didn't, and their kids are doing fine.

          • Yes Patrick, there is some discomfort. There is stress about whether the babe is getting enough to eat but we just have to trust if the babe is wetting enough diapers and gaining weight, it is okay vs. seeing the ml in a bottle. It is usually the best option – if the mom is okay with hanging out at home and not being to hard on herself. The best motto – if you got a shower – it is a great day. Don't try to accomplish more than that. Just feed yourself and your baby.

          • again self education can prevent alot of this.

    • Very well told….I have been saying this for years in attempt to support moms who felt like failures because breast feeding does not work for them. The emotions connected with breast feeding often defeat the pleasure and benefits of breastfeeding …..Breast feeding has been used as a control mechanism by society (and husbands) for some females.

    • But starting your post "it only makes sense" makes everyone who has difficulty with exclusive breast feeding feel guilty!

      • Matt, I think you want to read the whole first sentence….I myself could not nurse my second child for very long due to taking medication that was contraindicated. That does not mean that human milk is best suited to humans. As I said….that just makes sense. No mother who does the best she can do for her children should ever feel guilty.

    • I'm really upset that this article was even considered from publication. It not only affects the public credibility, it also confusses people. This professor in her research did not include any scientific facts, although today if you review the literature in PUBMED she would had found thousands of articles showing the importance of breastfeeding as and important factor in the phenotypical development of the offspring.

    • Affordable? only if you consider the cost to the individual mother to be a mute point. Nevermind the cost of breast pumps, extra calories for the mom, extra washes when things leak, bras and pads. What is the value of a woman's work which is lost during this time? This is NOT just a capitalist argument, a woman's work in her community or family also counts, the work taking care of an emotionally or physically disabled child who needs her more intensively or the work saving her marriage or financial existence in troubled times. Yes a baby is work, and one which has a lot of value in sharing too. This is also a wonderful plus point of the bottle. Others can attach to the baby and that could be very important in volatile family situations.

      • its not about convenience for ourselves, its about whats best for the baby. if you are worried about yourself/whats convenient for you, than you maybe should reconsider having children. Please explain to me how formula is better. i have an arsenal to prove you wrong. and alot of programs offer free pumps and or loaner programs for HOSPITAL GRADE pumps…so lets do the math. FORMULA, BOTTLES, NIPPLES, NURSERY WATER, TAMPONS/PADS EXTRA HOSPITAL COSTS FOR SICK BABIES TIME OFF OF WORK FOR SICK BABIES and the list goes on compared to NURSING PADS, A NURSING BRA, AND A PUMP…..yea its pretty easy to see that there is a HUGE difference in price. not to mention breastfed babies poop less (yes its true look it up) so ur saving on diapers and as far as mothers doing extra work….walk yourself thru a 3am bottle feeding vs. a 3am breastfeeding….the bottles require much more work. and just in case you are confused about the pads/tampons, it is typical for an exclusively and even partially breastfeeding mother NOT to have a period for at least 6 months. me personally i have not bled in 21 months. very happy about that. talk about convenient!!!! so its a win win situation for me and the baby. also i did my own study with my daughters, one formula, one breast….the formula fed baby hit developmental milestones much later. and was also sick very often, and was hospitalized with PNEUMONIA at one year of age. the breastfed baby has NEVER been sick =) and she is about to be a year old…started to walk at 9 months and again the list goes on. I dont mean to be rude but ladies educate yourselves!!!

  2. I'd just like to point out that I will never find pure flour or beetle parts in my breastmilk…

    • And how did you get a chance to test that breastmilk? Get off your high horse, please.

      • a test? how about, there is no flour or beetle parts in my breasts, ergo, neither will be found in my milk? you ARE a high horse.

      • = FAIL

    • So…how about all those toxic chemicals we read about that are in such surprising levels in most Canadians bodies.

      Passed on through your breast milk by the way…

      Kind of makes little crushed up beetle parts sound appealing.

      • So where do you get the milk to make the formula? The MOON? Those cows (or soybeans) live on our planet, drinking our water, breathing our air.

      • exactly, elizabeth – cows are force fed antibiotics and pesticide laced corn and then force them to breed over and over again, their calves not getting breastmilk from their own mothers but some sort of toxic sludge. those cows then grow up to make the milk being fed to babies – and because those cows are over milked and diseased from crowding and never seeing the sun, that's not just milk, but blood and puss going into that milk. it is then taken to be processed, stripping whatever goodness was left from it, adding corn syrup to the amount of about 42% of the liquid and add mercury laced tuna sourced RHA as well as whatever else is making it have 40X more aluminum than breastmilk. yeah, that sounds a LOT better than human breastmilk.

        • Don't forget about all the genetically modified soybeans, generously sprayed with roundup pesticides. Mmmm mmm mmm – delicious, babe, drink up!!
          And then we wonder why our kids are developing cancer…

    • What about all that mercury you've eaten by accident over the years?

  3. I'm guessing that breastmilk vs. formula debate depends greatly on the brand and quality of the formula you use.

    How do I know which formula is of good quality ?

    As for improvement of social skills, I think it has more to do with being pressed up against mummy for so long, it makes the child feel more secure. If you can't breastfeed, make sure to spend extra time holding your baby up against you.

    • Actually as long as you are not choosing between black-market chinese crap and any legal supermarket brand, the quality is all the same. You can pay premium for the labelled brand names, or pay about a third for a pharmacy brand, which is made in the same factory, same time, same batch, same standards, everything. There is no reason for the increased cost except for the pretty picture on the can. Theres beetle parts in one, theres beetle parts in all.

      Now, if you are buying imports however… yeah theres a much more dangerous quality issue. Melamine, anyone?

      • how about spending nothing by using donor milk(not from a milk bank, they discriminate and charge heartily). you can flash heat it and get all of the hypothetical germs out while maintaining the nutritional integrity. raw is best, though. please don't waste time with the hiv "argument". flash heating kills the virus. it would work with humans, but obviously you can't flash heat a person.

    • No, all formulas are almost identical to each other. Studies have proved that some so called Organic formulas are actually worse than regular formulas.

    • There are no current legal regulations on infant fomula. They can basically put any "food-grade" substance they want to in there.

  4. See…and I am starting to think feminism is over rated

    • Agreed!

  5. i take issue with the author's assertion that breastfeeding is not natural. the only reason it is such hard work for many mothers is because mother's do not KNOW about breastfeeding anymore. 200 years ago, it was information passed from mother to daughter because EVERYONE DID IT. the problem is that because many mothers are NOT doing it anymore, the knowledge is being lost. it does not make it less natural.

    • Exactly!!!!!!!!

      • Seriously people…it should not be this difficult. If an individual human being (as mothers are humans and have the same right to choose as any other human) makes the choice to formula feed then that is her choice..who are way to tell her she is wrong. I support anyone who chooses to breastfeed but I also support anyone who chooses not to breastfeed. Have had alot of experiene with mothers who have made the choice for formula and let me tell you how they were made to feel is disgraceful. We preaxch about ignorance, racism and inequalities….why is the mother who chooses not to breastfeed any less important??? My mother did not breastfeed me and I take great offence to those who infer she was not a wonderful mother. I grew up to be a very well educated individual and productive member of society…and I can walk and chew gum at the same time. She must have done something right. Lets deal with the bigger problems of the world like the WAR IN IRAQ!

    • Yeah and 200 years ago you also had a 30 percent infant mortality rate, including babies that couldn’t feed properly. You can’t compare this. Do you think someone invented formula for thei personal gratification? NO. There was a need to be able to give babies an alternate whether their mothers were sick or the babies were sick. Thank god that we have formula.

      • you completely missed my point. i wasn't saying that formula hasn't saved lives. i was talking about the knowledge we have lost when several generations of women choose to formula feed instead of breastfeed.

      • you missed the point of what i said – i didn't say anything about formula and yes it is true it has saved lives. my point was that the knowledge is disappearing because so many more women formula feed.

        • Yeah, that's also why wet nurses were invented. I came from a long line of breastfeeders, had tons of education, lots of advice and consultants, and still "failed" to breastfeed despite battling wih it for months. So sorry, it is not always "natural". Had my child been born back then, without formula or a wet nurse he would not have survived.

          • How is the knowledge disappearing? We have more information available to us from more places more easily than ever in human existence. It may not be passed on from one generation to another as much these days as many of our mothers (or grandmothers) may not have BF, but between maternity nurses, public health units, midwives, lactation consultants, online communities, la leche…need I go on? The information to support women who wish to BF is alive and well.

            Incidentally, formula was "invented" a very long time ago, but it just wasn't as nutritional – stuff along the lines of gruel, flour and water mixtures, clear soups, that sort of stuff have been offered to babies for a long, long time. If mum had no milk and there was no cow or goat or wet nurse, people would give other stuff a go as well. Gotta get baby to eat something!

          • look, i was having problems breastfeeding and my mom couldn't help me because she never did it. so i went and found a lot of the resources and spent three months trying to figure out what was wrong and we finally did. but do you think all mom's will look for those resources or know to look for them? i know many who have told me that it didn't work, so they bought formula. i ask them if they looked for LLL or LC's, etc, and no, they rarely do. but if their mother had been able to help them, i bet they would have been breastfeeding still.

          • i am sorry you had problems, but that doesn't make it not natural. people, naturally, get sick or have other issues that mean their body doesn't perform at optimal levels. it happens, that's life and yes, that's natural.

        • I agree Cricket, I lived in a poorer area of Nepal for a year, every mother breast-fed, they wouldn't of had the money to formula feed. Young Mom's picked it up quickly. They also had no issues feeding their babies whenever they were hungry. At the school where I taught, the accountant had the baby in the room with her, she fed her whenever. No one ever worried about hiding themselves while breast-feeding, moms just fed them on the bus, on a wall, under a tree.

          When I got back to Canada, I took my baby out – for my sanity, and fed him wherever I was; the mall, car, or park. I didn't worry about others. I had a baby blanket, but he pulled it off, so I hid him under my shirt. Did the same for my other kids afterwards. The less you worry, the easier it is. My kids have had many meals in the car, on the side of the road, when traffic was bad. I also knew that where I went, my kid would come – movies, restaurants, friend's homes (even the lawyers office to get the new house). To this day, my kids will sleep at anyone else's home when we visit, since they got used to going to bed at our friends houses early on.

          It is a life-style, but we took our first kid for a 4 day kayaking trip at 12 weeks (Broken Group), camping at 3 and 5 weeks also, we couldn't have done all that if I was bottle feeding, too much fuss and equipment.

      • Formula is now a multi billion dollar business. Don't be fooled into thinking it is just about altruism. Formula companies want you to fail at breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is sometimes a lot of work and effort, but for some it comes pretty easily and without pain. Society always focuses on the negatives. Parenting in general is a lot of work and effort. What you do with your child is an investment. The work is worth it!

        • Amen!!

        • "What you do with your child is an investment". You mean "What the mother does is her status symbol" and what she can't do is her own personal failure. Fathers anyone??? Formula may be a business but there has always been a demand for breastfeeding alternatives which were answered with wet nurses, paps and animal milks. Formula companies didn't invent the need for a breastfeeding alternative, they capitalized on it. We need formula, even the most radical breastfeeding advocates such as Gabrielle Palmer have had to concede this in Milk, Money and Madness, but I would prefer to see the government regulating it and investing in its improvement.

    • I am an Rn and I took the lactation consultants course. I also breastfed two kids. Needless to say, I was better the 2nd time. When the author says, it isn't natural, she means it isn't instinctual…not for mom or babe. It is a learned skill. When they say, if you are doing it right it won't hurt, that isn't really right either. Those nipples are tender. What they should say is…you will both catch on and it won't be easy but it will be worth it if you stick with it. After all, what in life that is really great, is easy?

    • No not everyone did it, hence they had "wet nurses". It does NOT happen to everyone, it is a lot of work. Clearly, you dont know what you're talking about.

    • I agree! back when there was NO formula mother's ALL breastfed their infants…if they could not then they got a wet nurse to do it for them. Breastmilk is the best healthiest way to feed a baby. Formula is JUNK.

      • Wrong. Throughout history there have always been women who sought alternatives to breastfeeding. Wet nurses, paps, animal milks, etc. Ancient bottles have been uncovered dating back thousands of years. There is also the interesting case of Iceland where for 300 years women chose to give their infants raw sheep's milk. Formula is a very good alternative to breastfeeding especially in cultures like America where the government uses pushy breastfeeding campaigns but provides little real support in the way of maternity leaves and liveable welfare. I recommend books by Pamela Carter and Linda Blum for those who aren't aware of the injustices of pushing women to breastfeed and a more balanced history than socially constructed "nature" arguments.

  6. For the first days of my son's life, I was breastfeeding but convinced it wasn't going well. Every day, the midwives visited us and insisted I keep breastfeeding and that he was fine. At five days old, a couple of hours after being visited by a midwife who said he'd lost a bit too much weight and to try to give him a bit of formula out of a cup (not a bottle, don't you dare feed him from a bottle! nipple confusion!), we had to call an ambulance because my son stopped breathing. All the signs should've been extremely obvious to a healthcare professional, but they were blinded by their own agenda: my son was critically dehydrated because, for the first five days of his life, he hadn't been fed almost anything. My instincts were right, I wasn't producing enough milk, and my son almost died because of it. I know breastmilk is best, but in my experience it's being pushed at mothers regardless of their circumstances or ability to produce enough to feed their children.

    • You have to do what feels best for you, the most important thing to do is be educated about your options and always listen to your instincts!

      I hope everything was OK with your son!

    • My son was also VERY dehydrated from me not producing enough milk. I spent the first night home listening to his screams and finally took him to the ER. He had to be hooked up to an i.v. at 4 days old. After a month of pumping 2.5 hours a day I finally realized that it was taking away my time with my son. He wasn't even gaining enough weight. I was doing it for myself and I had to swallow my pride and give him formula (the hardest decision ever). He then shot up to the right weight and was the picture of health. It took away my stress to start using formula and I was able to get back to enjoying my baby. I agree that each mother has to follow her instincts. Breastfeeding is an amazing gift to give your child, but its not the only one you can give them.

    • Did you contact a lactation consultant or an LLL leader? Breasts work on the concept of supply and demand so if you are not feeding on cue or throughout the night and are instead trying to schedule feedings or if your infant has latching issues your supply might diminish. It surprises me that they would suggest formula supplementing after only 5 days instead of diagnosing the real problem. Not all midwives (and nurses!) are properly educated on breastfeeding mechanics unfortunately. It saddens me that you were not able to enjoy nursing your son but you did what any loving mother would do: found a suitable alternative.

      • Having had a similar experience, with low supply, I am proud to say that I both breastfed and formula fed for a year. Of course, solids were also introduced at 6 months. I then continued to breastfeed until my daughter was 3, giving her all the benefits of breast milk without fretting about my low supply.

        But when I was a new mother, I was made to feel like a total failure for having low supply. The culture of insisting that all women can breastfeed fully if only they don't supplement has become dogmatic and it marginalizes mothers who really, really CANNOT produce enough milk. It does happen, and it feels like a major failing. However, it's not always because of supplementation. Sometimes it's medical, hormonal, etc.

        Doulas and lactation consultants never told me this. I had to learn the hard way, after feeling that I'd done something 'wrong.'

        If I had another baby, I would do the same thing again, and supplement my breastfeeding in an instant if necessary. But this time, knowing what I know, it would be totally without the sense — propagated by lactivists — that not fully breastfeeding implies that you have not done enough.

        I think it's fair to say that most well-intentioned new mothers do more than enough. Sometimes too much. And we pay the emotional price of feeling less-than.

        Just stop it. Please.

        • Congratulations on doing the best for your child. I am appalled at the idea of breastfeeding fanatics approaching women they have never met, in public places, and criticizing them for feeding an infant with a bottle. Besides the reasons you mention, the mother might have had a mastectomy at an early age, be an adoptive mother or an aunt or caregiver, or simply prefer modesty in a public place.

        • The great thing is that there are medications that your family doctor can give you to increase your milk supply so if you didn't want to supplement you would not have to.

          • But those medications are not a silver bullet. They are worth trying if you are committed to trying to avoid supplementing, but to say "if you didn't want to supplement you would not have to" is not entirely true.

      • This is the perfect example of what Wolf is talking about. A woman tells her story of how the culture of the nipple Nazis nearly cost her child his life, and your reaction is to come in here and suggest SHE is to blame for not believing fervently enough. The only words I can think of for you will get my post deleted.

        Are you even paying attention? This woman's child NEARLY DIED because she felt so much presssure to stay on the breastfeeding. How can you say the system is informing women properly when that sort of thing is as common as it is? Is promoting breastfeeding so important to you that you would see babies die to make it happen?

        Breastfeeding must be presented as an option, period. No pressure. No sermonizing. No insistence that if it isn't working, the mother just isn't trying hard enough. People like you make me sick.

        • I couldn't thank you enough for your comment. These women need a reality check. It's none of their damn business what choice other people make. Do what you feel is best for you and your family and don't care what other people think. Frankly, if a stranger came up to me and told me I was a horrible parent for formula feeding my child, they might just get an earful. Do it, I dare you.

        • Patrick, I don't think anyone nearly cost this lady's baby to die. The truth is that we women want to breastfeed our babies and we ourselves see it as a failure when we aren't successful. I do think that women need to stick together and be more supportive of each other whatever choices we make. We also need to be informed of all the options that are out there for us.

          • Healthcare Insider,

            "The truth is that we women want to breastfeed our babies…"

            I had my first baby at age 16 and I can assure you that breastfeeding was not something I wanted to do… At that age, the idea of it was "gross". My second child was born when I was 21, and again I chose not to breastfeed, not because I thought it was gross, but for other reasons. Both my daughters (now 34 and 29) are happy and healthy individuals. Breastmilk is NOT the only option.

        • "nipple Nazis" . Who is blaming who? Difficulties with breastfeeding start before birth. Birth practices impact breastfeeding initiation. We have all had at times encountered professionals who gave incorrect information. To blame breastfeeding is wrong. These women need better and more consistent support and guidance not "name calling". Most times women fail at breastfeeding because they've lacked this kind of support.

          "People like you make me sick" how polite and respectful of you!

          • "fail at breastfeeding"??? Nice choice of words.

        • I think I love you Patrick Flannery. Well said! This woman's story is valid, and certianly not unique, but the breastmilk pushers will just continue to dismiss and diminish the points being raised. They refuse to hear what they don't want to hear. Some of them clearly believe that they are being open about the issue and sensitive to the concerns raised by these women who couldn't breastfeed, but then, so confident in their convictions that breastmilk is the best, and only, option, they can't help themselves from providing some "helpful advice" about how these women could have done better. Makes my blood boil.

      • I am so tired of the preaching on breastfeeding. I had similar experiences to both NKL and Candi and while I chose to continue breastfeeding both of my children, the pressure and the judgment that I experienced/felt when I was struggling were almost unbearable. I think your comments are meant to be kind but there is still a judgement there, an assumption that she may not have been doing enough or that the midwives failed her. I think a mother should be encouraged to trust her own instincts when it comes to feeding her child. Perhaps if she was given this kind of unconditional support, the experience she and her son went through wouldn't have been so traumatic.

      • Sometimes. There. Isn't. Enough. Milk. No matter what you do.

    • I second that NKL. Living in a progressive city I feel like the only resources for new moms is breastfeeding classes and LA Leche leagues that only push breastfeeding nothing else. My first son was similar to yours but luckily we got pediatric help quickly. When my second son arrived I knew I was going to give him a little formula until my milk came in. Don't you know I was reprimanded by every single nurse in the maternity ward. My son nursed got some colustrum and then I gave him some formula (<1/16 of an ounce). He was happy, I was less stressed, and we went home soley breastfeed and he lost no birth weight and gained 14 oz. in 5 days. My child was healthy and thats the only thing we should care about, not whether we formula feed or breastfeed or both.

      • You are right Addie, you needed some support and more teaching. The reason the nurses were against you giving your baby formula until your milk came in was because unless you nurse your baby at the breast, you won't produce enough milk to feed him. It is a supply and demand situation. If you keep supplementing him with formula, you won't produce enough milk, especially in the first 6 weeks.

    • Happily, we only had to wait 56 hours before the same sense kicked in and we were allowed to supplement. Sometimes the milk just isn't there in sufficient quantities. And the guilt-laden rhetoric from all over about how supplementing with formula in that circumstance constitutes letting down your child (when, in fact, it is precisely the opposite) is everywhere.

    • This must have been a terrible experience for you.

    • Did you try using galactagogues or supplementing with donor milk when your instincts were telling you there wasn't enough milk?

      • Yes, NKL as you were adjusting to your new, drastically altered life, totally sleep-deprived, struggling to just stay awake, feed yourself and your newborn baby, did you go on the internet and spend a few hours researching what galactagogues might be and how you could find yourself some donor milk? actually, if you were a GOOD mother, you would have done the research before you gave birth, so that you would never have been in this horid postion to have to give your baby formula.

        Seriously, Andrea, do you realize that this article was written directly for you. If not for the insensitive and judgemental comments frequently made by people like you, there would be no need for people to even debate the benefits of breastmilk!

        • It's not really so much to ask… it's pretty easy; I managed to do it while I had a newborn and a low milk supply. :/ Why would that be considered insensitive?

    • My experiences with my second and third children were exactly the opposite. They were both c-sections and the nursery staff (despite my direct 'order') gave them bottles of formula while I was in recovery and when they were taken for testing and immunizations. This was in the first 4-6 hours after birth; no danger of dehydration. This made it much harder for me to get started breastfeeding them. Both because they already filled their little bellies and the introduction of the bottle nipple. Very frustrating.

  7. I understand what is taught in a statistical analysis course, and I also understand that you cannot remove every confounding variable. But the evidence supporting breastfeeding is overwhelming. I can't imagine willingly feeding my baby an inferior food source.

    This assertion is flimsy and I'm failing to see the point: "It has to do with the risk culture I talk about—the belief that if we micromanage our lives and make responsible choices, nothing bad will happen…I also think the high stakes come from total motherhood, the belief that mothers are uniquely responsible for preventing risks to their babies." I'm sorry, but actually, yes – mothers ARE responsible for protecting their children. Plain and simple. Bad things can still happen, but you educate yourself on what is safest and healthiest and you try your best to eliminate risks and encourage healthy behaviors. The stakes ARE high – for the child!

    Oh, and FYI – SHOCKER!! – your exposure to pollutants and toxins DOES matter during pregnancy: http://pubs.acs.org/cen/news/89/i02/8902news1.htm

    • What if feeding the baby a very slightly inferior food means Mom is more relaxed, not in pain, better rested and enjoying her time with her child? There is more to chilld rearing than feeding, you know.

      And it is true that the risk culture is out of control. It is positively desirable to expose children to some levels of risk in order to let them develop into independent, capable adults. Always doing everything you can to choose the safEST and healthiEST course turns your kids into helpless whiners who are still living at home when they are 30.

  8. Actually Jason, it sounds like you're being a bit jumpy here.. I don't get that she hates anyone. I think she's just trying to say that a mother should do what's best for both her and the baby (and to find out what that is on her own – NOT just go with breastfeeding because its the new minimum standard). You also don't have any proof that she's related to any wolves in any fairy tales. Finally, there's nothing here that indicates her sexual orientation either – and it's not even relevent here anyway. You're not using your factual mind at all.

    • Breastmilk, if available, is always "best" for the child — end of story . Find one credible research study that soundly claims that formula is 100% as healthy and beneficial for children. Throughout Wolf's ramblings, you can sense her ostensible distaste for breastfeeding and breastfeeders. "I am not against breastfeeding in principle" sums up the whole of her ambition: to litter an already cluttered, heated discussion with even more bra-burning "let's overturn the establishment just because it's the establishment" rhetoric.

      She provides literally no sources for a majority of her claims, least of all her claim that a mother's actions during pregnancy have little affect on the fetus (I see a link below that literally destroys her credibility, by the way). Why do I presume she's a lesbian? Simple. Because she expresses open disdain for traditional mothering and she's a Women's Studies PhD. Experience gives me a percent-chance analysis that leans in a certain direction. If I'm wrong, so be it — but it IS relevant, if a lesbian (or) aggressive feminist (which she clearly IS) is shouting from the rooftops an ironic diatribe about how my wife and other breastfeeding mothers are high-and-mighty or inappropriately heralded as battered heroes (see: pot calling the kettle black).

      Let me tell you something with all certainty: my wife, who works 4-6 hours per day from home while caring for and breastfeeding our two young children, is a better mother than one who works 8-10 hour per day, picks her infant up from daycare, and stuffs a bottle of cow milk in her mouth before filling her up with cereal so she sleeps longer.

      Offended? Well, you don't get to be "mother of year" without making actual sacrifices. I know we like to dole that title out to every woman who gives birth anymore… but it's just words on the side of a coffee mug if your child doesn't come first in absolutely every conceivable situation.

      PS: Don't try and tell me that even 5% of formula-feeding mothers do so because it is medically necessary. Get real. The vast majority do it because it's easy and less uncomfortable.

      • I hate to even get sucked in to your trolling, but I can't seem to resist.

        So, since your wife is Super Awesome Breastfeeding Super Mama, is it safe to say that you don't have much experience with formula feeding? That you can't really speak to the convenience or inconvenience of it?

        Probably safe to say that you've never gotten up in the middle of the night, spent ten minutes heating up a bottle while your child screams, just to find out that the bottle is still cold after its cycle in the bottle warmer? Or that you don't spend your evenings sterilizing and mixing a day's worth of bottles for a newborn that eats every two hours? Or tried to figure out the logistics of storing and heating bottles if you need to go out and run errands with your child? You probably don't have to bring a thermos of hot water to the ped's office so you can have a bottle ready after your baby gets shots. You've probably never had to worry about how to heat up bottles should your power go out in a snowstorm.

        Yep, that formula feeding sure is convenient and easy.

        • By the way… you let your baby scream for 10 minutes of hunger while you heat up a bottle of cow's milk?


          • By the way … Do you ever feed your kids McDonalds, processed, boxed, nonorganic food, Jason?

            I am guessing….. yes.


      • "PS: Don't try and tell me that even 5% of formula-feeding mothers do so because it is medically necessary. Get real. The vast majority do it because it's easy and less uncomfortable."

        So what? People need to mind their own business. If I choose to bottle feed formula, that's my choice and I'm not a bad mother for it. Perhaps time spent chastising those parents who take their children to McDonald's every week would be a better use of this forum's time…
        You breast-is-best people need to get off your high horses and accept that either choice is fine.

        • i am trying to figure out how one does not see the similarities in taking a child to mcdonald's once a week and feeding an artificial milk substitute that is 42% corn syrup EVERY DAY.

          • Look at the ingredients on a can of formula sometime instead of just repeating lies you’ve read on lactivist websites. Most of it doesn’t have corn syrup anymore.

        • In a short sentence, yes you are. You are selfish.

        • Well Said!! :D

        • It's alarming that you think either choice is 'fine'. Formula is for babies who NEED it, not for the lazy mom who just doesn't want to 'deal with' the so-called hardships of breastfeeding. The scientific evidence proves that formula is not just 'fine', how can you just disregard that? I guess you think it's just 'fine' to feed your baby roach and beetle parts, huh? Because that's only some of the crap in formula.

      • You sir, are an ass. You have no right to an opinion because you have not made a sacrifice. Easy for you to sit there and declare formula feeding mothers to be inferior. What would you feed your child if something happened to your wife?

        • At a guess… expressed breastmilk from another woman, the choice of motherless babies for hundreds of years. Eats on Feets exists for that purpose.

      • Hey Jason,

        Talk to me the next time you have given birth.

      • yeah? What sacrafices have you made? Oh, that's right, none. Your argument has so many falacies, I cannot even address them all. However, unles you have hooked yourself up to a pump, then please dont tell me it is EASY. it is not easy. For women who are malnurished, breasfeeding is not beneficial.
        And you know what? I am a great mother, I am showing my daughter that working hard is part of life. Glad it is working out for your wife, but I rather teach my daughter that life DOES NOT end with children, it begins. I didnt lose my MBA or my salary to have her, she is the MAIN reason i work.

        Get of your high horse, buddy. Reread the article, she never makes claims, she states her OPINION.
        For the record, I also breast fed.

  9. Breastfeeding is great. It's healthy. It's natural. My problem is when the breastfeeding fanatics criticise those who don't. I have friends who feel totally guilty about their milk not coming in and having to use formula to supplement. Or what about adoption? Are those parents terrible because they can't breastfeed? The whole "natural" kick crack me up. If everything was totally natural, women would be having 10 babies each and some of them would likely die. We wouldn't give our kids medicine when they were sick either. Natural isn't always best for all people! So stop making women feel guilty for everything they do or do not do!

      • Men CAN also breastfeed. We just don't expect them to but it seems okay to talk about adoptive mothers lactating. If we started putting men through arduous re-lactation techniques and pumped them full of hormones then mothers would only have half the burden. BUT we would never expect men to go through that, it is more fair for us to tell women to breastfeed and they are just being wimps if it OUCH OUCH hurts, or leaks, or makes them tired.

      • Lets be honest Cricket, they cannot totally feed their chidlren. It is a way of bonding but they cannot be ria sole nutritional source. As a lactation consultant I can tell you that the only way that an adoptive parent could provide full nutrition to an adoptive babe is if they also had a very young infant that they were nursing.

        • That is untrue. I do breastfeeding support as well, and have known mothers who were absolutely able to provide their adoptive children with a full supply of breastmilk. Yes it takes a lot of work and galactagogues, but it can happen! What kind of lactation consultant are you, anyway?!

    • I was "chastised" by quite a few women I knew in my birthing class because I was choosing to stay at home instead of going back to work….I was actually told that I "wasn't furthering the feminist agenda"…and that I was NOT living up to my potential…..I had to leave the class because it was disturbing….I am a stay at home mom and I am PROUD of it……we have made sacrifices for it….one car….no fancy clothes…a vacation once every two years….and we rarely "eat out"….I used to descibe myself as a feminist but no more…..I believe in equal pay for equal work……and would LOVE it if "this "feminist" writer with NO medical degree would BUTT OUT

      • i can't see anything more ultimately feminine than becoming a mother. i feel that these modern day feminists are actually trying to become as masculine as possible, which really has nothing to do with the feminine.

        • There are all kinds of feminists. I am a feminist, and I choose to stay at home with my children. The point is that I have the RIGHT to do either! Stay-at-home dads are also awesome.

        • Modern day feminists are about ensuring that all women can make the choices which suit them meaning that they can stay at home or have a career but many women do both and that is fine too. BUT being a feminist is also about not accepting terms like FEMININE and MASCULINE as fixed but rather as culturally, often male-defined, and in need of questioning.

      • regarding sacrifices: I work. so does my husband. but we only have one car. we don't have a cell phone. we dont' have cable tv. we don't eat out.

        And I think that the abuse heaped on this SCHOLAR is ridiculous. She is taking a sociology of health perspective, an approach that is readily recognized and academically sound. She doesn't say women *shouldn't* breastfeed, what she is saying is that there is more wiggle room than has ever been suggested. And she's right.

        For the record, I breastfed both of my children. For a year each. I hate the dogma then; I still hate it now.

        Putting her down because she's a feminist and therefore 'cam't be trusted' smacks of ideology.

        • abuse?!…….I disagree with her….she put her opinion out there and I disagree with it….'kay?

      • This writer is NOT a true feminist. If she were, she'd care more about equal parenting regardless of the parent's sex, and less about her anti-breastfeeding agenda which is absolutely un-feminist. You can equally parent regardless of whether you are the breastfeeding parent or not. The person who birthed has a responsibility to breastfeed, and the other parent has a responsibility to support breastfeeding, or induce lactation.

        • Huh? Why can't each family define their own responsibilities? Since when are parent roles written in stone? As Ms. Wolf made clear, she is not anti-breastfeeding but urges us to consider the difference in experiences which women have. She rightfully questions the structures within which we make our infant-feeding decisions which is what a TRUE feminist should do. Over a hundred years ago other women dared to ask such ridiculous questions as "why can't women vote"?

          Do we get the list of responsibilities before conception or after delivery?

    • The feeling of guilt occurs when one goes against something they feel strongly about. No one can 'make' anyone feel something that the person doesn't already agree with. When it comes to nursing, most of the issues surrounding women's inability to produce enough milk or sustain their volume are because of ignorance on the mechanics of breastfeeding and parenting choices that sabotage the natural progression of the nursing relationship including birth choices. Though it is sad that many women feel like failures, it calls to a bigger problem of our cultural ignorance surrounding the mechanics of feeding our children the way were were designed to do.

      • let's look at the history books – not all women were designed to nurse children with their own bodies. This is why there was a huge network of wetnurses in previous centuries. It is equally the case that not all mammals can nurse their own young, and if they are domesticated (like horses, say), then these young get bottlefed. And when we consider 'ability' then we must consider both physical and psychic ability. Both matter.

        The bigger issues that need to be addressed in this debate: why is it that breastfeeding is so hard for women to do – why haven't we dealt with issues like – flexible work, workplace pumping rooms, women who pay a professional price for time away from work, recognizinng the value and benefit of pumped milk. And why haven't we tried to undo the problematic stereotype that breastfeeding = good motherhood. Even though the breastfeeding mom down the road also smokes and feeds her kids cheezies? there are a lot of bigger social issues that need to be addressed before we start blaming women for the 'choices' they make.

        • Thanks for pointing out nature's ability to fail. And another good point about all the things which a parent can do to ensure a healthy child. The media, as Ms. Wolf pointed out, makes it sound as though breastfeeding is the ticket to health. If that were so then infant mortality in third word nations would not be tenfold what it is in Canada. Not many people ask what chances a child has of growing up successfully when the father takes off or spends no time with their children. Nor does the government ask companies to pay parents decent wages and limit working hours to 9-5 so they can parent.

  10. You all need to stop judging mothers who bottle feed. It’s not even a “choice” most of the time. It’s more of a decision. “hmmm either I bottle feed or my baby dies or I get really sick”. All mothers want whats best for their babies and anyone who judges them when it comes to this topic should be ashamed of themselves.

    • I actually know of several mothers who CHOSE to formula feed because they didn't want their breasts to sag or because they view their breasts solely as sexual objects. Breastfeeding is a feminist issue, to be commented on by any human mammal (yes, men have mammary glands, too!) & should be supported. Which ads are new parents bombarded by these days? Formula ads or breastfeeding ads? The bottom line is money. No one gets rich when a mother decides to be a mammal & breastfeed, but the formula industry, with its lack of regulation (batch ratios can vary greatly) & health standard corner-cutting, is a very lucrative business.

      • i also know many women who did not even bother trying for no other reason than appearances and one who did not want to feel tied down. i was so sad that the mothers were more concerned about themselves than their babies.

    • I think if more energy is spent on helping mom's such as yourself either to work out their bf challanges, and if all else fails find you a healthy, screened human milk donar. We all may be a lot better off.

  11. "one thing we know is that women who are middle class or more highly educated are more likely to breastfeed", "This is to say that mothers who choose to breastfeed usually do so because they have been persuaded that it has health benefits…"

    …over bottle feeding. Don't misquote health practitioners, please.

    I have your opinion a shot but you ended up sounding like a 50's doctor selling the benefits of smoking.

  12. The fact that you assume formula feeding is done for convenience or simplicity shows your ignorance of this subject. Formula feeding is in no way as convenient as breastfeeding. The decision to feed formula instead of breastfeed is an extremely personal one with many determining factors. It is not something that can easily be summed up as being "for convenience."

    And if I might offer my entirely honest, non-PC response: I find it disgusting that you — a man — are commenting on this article like you have extensive personal knowledge of breastfeeding, considering it is not something you will ever attempt, nor will you ever personally struggle over a decision regarding breastfeeding. You will never be called a quitter because someone else assumes you just didn't try hard enough. You will never be called a liar when you talk about supply issues.

    • Isn't this the ultimate irony? Half the time, you hear "Breastfeeding is too hard, mothers shouldn't try to be martyrs, it's not worth the sacrifice, bottlefeed and 'enjoy' your baby." The other half of the time you hear "Breastfeeders have it easy, they're nursing because they're lazy, formula feeders are working harder and sacrificing more."

      Breastfeeding is a learned behaviour. It is natural but it is not a flawless instinct. It is much more difficult at the beginning, and then for most mothers it becomes a much simpler way to parent their babes. Bottle feeding is the opposite – simpler at the beginning but more work comparatively at the 3 or 6 month mark. The sad thing is that so many mothers struggle at the beginning and, without enough support, quit before they get the hang of it. They are convinced that it will always be hard – they need supportive people around them who will say "We've been through this, it gets better." not people who say "It doesn't make a difference, don't be a martyr, just give a bottle, it will make your life easier."

  13. So let me first state my credentials: I breastfed/am breastfeeding my kids exclusively until they wean (age 2+), and overcame more than my share of problems to do so (mastitis, vasospasms, overactive ejection reflex, oversupply – when my oldest was a baby she would shriek during the entire breastfeeding session because I had too much milk, and we'd both end up getting soaked from head to toe). But I slogged through because I thought it was best, because I loved the closeness, and because I loved the convenience. I also believe that the science shows that breast is indeed best, and that I think Ms. Wolf is doing a lot of rationalizing to obscure this fact.

    That said, motherhood is tough enough that I strongly support the right of moms should do whatever they feel is best, without being hounded by guilt. Formula may not be as healthy, but it beats having a miserable, depressed mother any day. I am lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mom, and I can't imagine being a working mom and having to sneak off furtively to the bathroom during the day to pump my milk – not to mention that this increases the length of the working day, because you have to make up the hour or so you spend pumping during work hours. Not to mention that you must be perfectly exhausted to begin with, having been up much of the night breastfeeding. As mothers, we are always performing delicate balancing acts, weighing risks and benefits, and this is no different. So while I may not agree with many of her assertions, I agree with her conclusions.

    • Yes, a happy mom is the most important thing. I think what the author missed out on – perhaps because her experience wasn't the greatest, was that breastfeeding and hanging out with a baby can be the most wonderful time in a woman's life. Once you get past that time when your nipples hurt and when milk is flooding all over the place…if you can just jump in the car, with the kid in the car seat and a spare diaper. I drove with my daughter all around Calgary. We were new to the city and we got lost everywhere. I was breasfeeding so lunch was on tap. We got lost everyday but we had a map and we learned the city. It was a great time.

    • FYI BubbleCup: do not be confused. You ARE a working mom. You just work inside the home. Just because you do not get paid, does not mean it is not work!! Please do not shortchange yourself.

    • I totally agree with you! I believe that breastfeeding is best BUT there's only so much a woman/mom can do and if bottle feeding or formula feeding gives her more peace – so be it. I do not judge women on their decisions.

    • This is why we should lobby for better maternity leave, not why a woman shouldn't be able to breastfeed!

  14. yep, it's called detachment parenting.

  15. Funnily enough, but eating and drinking the "natural" way, puts us in a state of natural digestive health. Should it not then be said that "formula feeding is the less healthy alternative to breastfeeding"? Really, saying Breastmilk has health benefits is like saying conceiving through sex is more pleasurable than conceiving through IVF. And yes, I chose that analogy knowing full well that most people who choose IVF have not been able to conceive naturally. Its the reason I chose it.

  16. I think the tone of this discussion shows the high stakes involved in the decision to breastfeed or bottle-feed. I'm reading Professor Wolf's book and am finding it thought provoking. Why do we get so worked up about this decision contrasted to others? Even if breast is best, why are we arguing so much about this instead of other aspects of parenting? Does this issue matter more to the health of our children than other issues? From what I've read so far, it seems doubtful.

    • "Why do we get so worked up about this decision contrasted to others?"

      Because it shouldn't be a decision. THAT is what we're worked up about, and nothing else. It's not a personal attack when we cry foul over formula's foothold in modern parenting; it's simply that we (or I, at least) cannot stomach the notion that mother's are "choosing" whether their baby deserves breast milk or not — under the guise of "comfort" or convenience.

      Wolf states, herself, that a mother shouldn't breast feed when "[she] doesn't like it."

      By extension, I'm going to refuse to exercise, because I don't like it. I'm going to stop walking the dog in the Winter, because I don't like it. Hell, think I could really get used to just not doing whatever I don't like to do — consequences be damned.

      • And I will not have anything to say about your decisions to stop exercising or walking your dog because…

        Wait for it….

        Your personal life is none of my g.d. business.

        Honestly Jason, you have got to be one of the rudest, most arrogant, most sanctmonious posters ever seen here.

        • It was an analogy.

          And… wait for it…

          It is my business that parents are neglecting their children with the support of the grubbing medical/pharmaceutical industry — and, apparently, women's studies militants.

          • It was a poor one.

            And no, it isn't your business, because it isn't it isn't "neglect", and calling it so is pure histrionincs.

            You tip your hand I'm afraid, when you refer to "the grubbing medical pharmaceutical industry" – you just join all the other paranoids who believe "Big Pharma" is behind everything with a nefarious plot.

            And by the way, you also dismiss Joan Wolf as having "no medical training" (oh, and your original rant decrying her as a lesbian was charming… ) – do you have any medical training?

          • Two topics guaranteed to attract self righteous militants … god and breastfeeding.

            Honestly, Jason, it is none of your business.

            And just so you know, people that don't feed their children are neglecting them. People that feed their children are taking care of htem.

    • I agree, Sophie! While I do certainly think that breastfeeding should be the norm (it's what boobs are for, after al!), I do think that it is just one choice of many parenting choices that affect our children. I struggled with a baby who could not latch and felt like a horrible failure for not being able to exclusively breastfeed (I pumped and supplemented). But eventually I came to the conclusion that while breastmilk is the ideal food for my baby, there are other options for those who need them and there are much bigger parenting choices that will affect my child past the first few years of life. Also, while nothing is as good as breastmilk, I think the health issues associated with formula feeding are rarely life threatening (at least in developed countries) and can probably be mediated by other life style choices.

  17. I think we should be far less worried about the guilt that mothers feel when they are unwilling or unable to breastfeed, and a lot more concerned about the reasons why. Breastfeeding should be a reproductive right, equal to pregnancy, and afforded the same protections under the law. All women, no matter their class or working status, should have adequate time home with their babies and adequate time to pump during the work day. This concept extends into countless other parenting decisions as well, and I think we need to be more concerned with changing societal views and constructs to support mothering and families in general.

    • Beautiful, Clare. Thank you. There should be way more support for families than there is. The reason why so many people fail at breastfeeding is a total lack of support from their community, their government and their (usually misinformed) health care "professionals". It truly astounds me how little many parents know about breastfeeding successfully.

  18. We 'breast is best' people aren't saying formula feeding mothers are bad mothers. We are simply saying that breast IS best, because it IS BEST. It's what babies were designed to eat. Trying to normalize it isn't trying to make you feel bad or guilty, you are doing that all on your own.

    • Well said!

    • Maybe you're not, but a lot of people are. I've actually heard women say that they were better mothers than mothers that bottle fed just because they breastfed. Saying that breast IS best is not always the case either. In my case, formula is better for my son than my breastmilk since I'm a PPCM survivor and have to take medication for my heart that is harmful to him and passed through breastmilk.

      • It's called "donor milk".

    • The whole point of the article is that there are many circumstances under which breast is not best.. Read it again if you didn't understand the first time.

      • Patrick, what I get from the article is that maybe breast isn't as great as it is made out to be but I don't think she is in anyway suggesting is isn't the better alternative to formula. I think you just have to accept that breast milk is the best option for human babies and that is it. I nursed my oldest daughter until she was 8 months old. I could only nurse my 2nd daughter until she was 2 months old. I don't feel any guilt that I didn't do it longer. I did the best I could. I am a good mother. End of story.

        • And mothers who bottle feed are also good mothers. End of story.

    • A lot of people do indeed say or at least imply that mothers who formula feed are bad mothers. Just read over the comments on this article to see for yourself. Even the government says it. Have you ever heard of the US Department of Health Campaign? The one which shows a pregnant woman ridding a bull implying that formula-feeders are this bad!!! And the government continues to give only a few weeks of mat leave but blames moms.

  19. This woman donates her CAREER to convincing mommies that breastfeeding 'ain't all its cracked up to be'. Can we call this woman a hero? In the feminists inverted reality world : yes!

    • you are no third wave feminist.

  20. Women should be freed from the slavery of having babies all together. Sterilization should be govt promoted and subsidized. Babies should be decanted and farmed by the state, then professionally raised by university-certified caregivers. Then we can achieve equality.

    • that was hilarious! and honestly, i think she would approve of it … especially if men did the child care so women would be free to be truly productive for some corporations profit margin. personally, i think her attitude marginalizes women's contribution unless it is a dollar sign. greed driven humanity is already our global reality.

  21. Hmm… I am a member of the burger slinging proletariat smack in the middle of school. I have an unplanned yet well loved two year old. My job is icky and full of morons yet I can pump milk right in the middle of the dining room without a hitch. (lactation room in a burger king? get real!) I have never got any grief from a customer- only praise. Besides, they are eating the soilent green that we serve so all opinions/ issues they have are rendered moot. As far as milk expression, I hardly say getting to sit on my butt on the job 10-30 min daily is a hardship- If I was not pumping, I would get no break at all- only smokers get breaks. I never joined the cancer stick parade. Hell, I get knitting and reading done to boot! I am no martyr/ Mommysarus Rex. Breast feeding has treated me well- open shirt, attach baby. Instant mute button and no clean up.At night, there is no getting out of bed to mix a bottle- no getting out of bed at all. There has been no sacrifice on my part to breastfeed, though I am proud to do so. It is every baby’s birthright to receive human milk. Breast is NOT best, it is merely the biological norm. I have tested the medicinal qualities of breastmilk- weekend pinkeye outbreak. I gave the three of us a hearty squirt to the eyes and guess what? All better by monday, though I hauled babycakes to the doc just in case.

    • Yes, this is the right attitude. Breastfeed because you are equipped to do it and you make the right stuff. It is very uncommon that a woman does not produce enough milk. It is a supply and demand issue – if the baby sucks, the milk comes. There may be reasons the baby is sucking well – short tongue syndrome is one. Now if you do not have adequate breast tissue, you may not produce enough milk and then thank goodness, formula is available. If you are on certain medications, you cannot breastfeed because they are harmful to the baby. There is a great organization called "motherrisk" that can tell you the scoop on that. In the 1960's we drank carnation evaporated milk because breastfeeding was looked down upon. Most of us are okay. The important thing is to be supportive of one another in whatever choice we make.

      • I was born in the 1950s, was breastfed, and have had health problems all my life. Many of my contemporaries were adopted children who were bottle-fed and were healthy children who grew into healthy adults. I'm not saying the scientific studies are wrong, just that they don't jibe with the experiences of people I know. Also, of the six or seven women I know who have had breast cancer, all except one have borne children. All to say that I agree with your last two sentences about most of us are okay and being supportive of different choices.

      • Sorry Healthcare Insider–you are wrong. We are NOT okay. I hate that you use the name "healthcare insider". We are facing an epidemic of ILL health. Diabetes is rampant. Bowel diseases are rampant. The future wave of Azlheimers is truly frightening. Auto-immune diseases are increasing. If you think that these have nothing to do with how we feed our infants and children you are WRONG. Read the science .

    • I have to say I laughed about your 'lactation room in burger king' comment. I work at Mcdonalds part time, have since high school. It is a smelly job but as a mananger I get most of my health care covered and a decent wage. I won't be leaving there until I finish college this year at least. I am enternally grateful that my bosses wife breastfed her children… he totally 'gets it' and when I came back to work he made sure I had a place to pump and time to do it. yes, I pumped in the employee restroom for over a year, sounds yucky but it worked out wonderfully. They had an outlet put in specifically for me (and a few other mothers have followed me now!) and made sure there was a place for me to sit and put my pump (folding table/chair). Not ideal but it is the only room in the building with a door and a lock and it is kept as clean as possible. While I was pumping I never had to worry about when I would get breaks, I just said boobs are full, gotta go and that was it. It was hard at first (thrush!) but we made it. Thank the good lord too. turns out our son is intollerant to dairy. can't imagine how expensive special formula would have been!

      • Good for You!!!! That is awesome that your work, a mcdonalds, provided you space and time! You have made amazing choices for you and your child!

    • Kudos, Nicole!

    • What a fantastic comment! Loved this. Ms. Wolf is about as credible as a flat-earther.

      As an incidental manner, I've always found it infuriatingly unfair that in restaurant work, nonsmokers are penalised in terms of breaks. I have had relationships with two women (including one that I married) who worked as waitresses and who STARTED smoking as a direct result of wanting to join the smokers on their breaks! And then of course they couldn't kick the habit even long after they moved to other employment. Ugh.

  22. This comment was deleted.

    • You're crabby and self righteous. I'm glad you're not my mother.

      • maybe… but quite right…

      • totally. I make 6 figures, and am the breadwinner for my family. It is NOT worth it to me when there is a perfectly good alternative feeding method out there that will still allow me to support my family.

        FTR, my kid hasn't been sick and at age 2, speaks in full sentences with 3-syllable words. She also goes to daycare, which is probably Satan's den from your perspective.

        Be a SAHM and enjoy it, but don't assume everyone wants to be like you.

    • Well said.

    • I have to agree with "I Nursed .." The vitriolic "shouting" is extremely alarming. It reads like some of that religious fundamentalist stuff you see on the internet. It's quite frightening to think of T L Hall with a babe in arms. I'm sure feeding your baby formula is no where near as dangerous to a child as a high strung parent.

    • Wipe the froth off your lips and at least try to understand that many women have a lot of trouble breastfeeding. Not a little trouble, a lot. They aren't being wimps. Do you really think it is better for mothers to be depressed than for babies to get formula (as almost everyone in my generation did)?

      • Actually, many of them *are* being wimps, but it's mainly due to a lack of support and lack of knowledge about what to do about low-supply and latch issues. People turn to formula much more quickly than is necessary.

      • it really shows..

    • How old are your children for you to know that they are smarter, happier and healthier?!? My mom didn't breast fed me and at 25, i never had any major health problems, I made it trough law school while learning 2 new languages almost perfectly, being active, working, doing volunteering, travelling and having an amazing social life… Now let's wait and see how your children will do!

    • T.L. Hall may seem a little zealous, but I believe she is right to criticize Wolf for her use of the words "sacrifice" and "burden". If one is not prepared for some lifestyle changes upon having children, then don't have them. There is a period of intense breastfeeding in the first weeks, with interrupted sleep, but ensuring safety with bottles and formula can be a burden.

      In the 1940's, living on a farm without electricity, my mother had to fire up a stove in the middle of summer to make home-made formula from cow's milk and corn syrup. There was no refrigeration. Now that was a "burden" ! I survived, but I find it very strange, that given these conditions, she did not get more support from doctors or relatives to breastfeed. It would have been so much easier.

    • Mammals are actually not defined by their ownership of mammary glands. They are defined the fact that they breathe air and have three middle ear bones.

  23. Breast isn't best, it's just the norm… ;)

    • I read through your response. It's thoughtful but it does not address the author's primary criticisms of the science – most notably that other factors may be the primary contributors as to why breast-fed babies are healthier.

      You imply that this is impossible to prove with research (it isn't) and that it doesn't matter anyway because it's more natural and better to breastfeed (not an analytical argurment).

      So while I appreciate your thoughts on the matter and am very open to you or any other commentator providing a link to a study that addressess Wolf's analytical arguments, so far nobody has addressed them directly.

    • I think I address the "other factors may be the primary contributors":____As for the "it's parenting style that makes a difference to outcome" – this may sound perfectly reasonable, until you look at all the constituents of breastmilk http://www.analyticalarmadillo.co.uk/2010/10/ask-…. Protein that cause cell suicide in over 40 types of cancer, stem cells that develop into many different cell types in the body, serving as an internal repair system. Lymphocytes that kill infected cells directly or mobilise other components of the immune system, enzymes, immunologlobulins and a whole lot more, that actively seek out and destroy harmful pathogens, sweeping them from the body and regulating immune response. Anti infective factors, hormones, growth factors, anti-inflammatories and more.____We KNOW this stuff is there, beyond any research discussing outcome – we know fundamentally of the massive differences. So – how about people get to work proving that going without all this stuff, doesn't cause a whole host of problems? The Thymus (central organ in the immune system) has been found to be up to half the normal size in artificially-fed infants

      • Nobody's arguing that Breat Milk isn't good for babies armadillo. But your description of the good stuff in breat milk still is not an analytical comparison between breast milk and formula raised babies. Nor does the ingredient list you just provided above provide an assesment of the importance/severity/overall impact on health.

        Not saying you are wrong – just that you haven't made an analytical case and that your moniker is misleading.

        • Read the last sentance… "The Thymus (central organ in the immune system) has been found to be up to half the normal size in artificially-fed infants." I believe that it is "an analytical comparison between breast milk and formula raised babies," albeit a short one. Plus there are MANY studies out there that show time and time again that people who were breastfed are generally in better health than those who were fed artificial baby milk. It is already obvious. I don't know how people can be so ignorant as to deny this fact.

      • Well put!

    • I would never try to prove that. I agree with the asertion that most of the time breastfeeding is best. However, there are situations where it is not (ie where the mother does not nurish herself well, etc).

      I think the point of this article was that there shouldnt be a stigma associated with formula feeders. Neither situation is easier, both are hard. And people who judge mothers who formula feed are the issue. They dont know the particular situation or the reason. Bottom line is, we all do what we think is best for our children.

      I wonder if the breast feeders ever take their kids to McDonalds, or feed them non organic food, or processed food?

      • man will NEVER replicate breastmilk – it cannot be done.

  24. What can be better than feeding your baby from sterilized and processed milk from another mammal? Humans drinking human milk definitely overrated! Congratulations Joan Wolf! You have just saved me the trouble of thinking of something stupid today. I am appalled at this article's shameful display of anti-feminism from a feminist's mouth. Let's give us ladies another reason to NOT celebrate this gift of motherhood by calling it overrated. It's one thing if a woman can't breast feed, but another to tell them that it's “overrated” and a waste of time. Thankfully savage women never thought about it and just did what came naturally; otherwise the entire human species wouldn't survive past the first decade. Jane hunny, take your advice back to the bank because intelligent women (and most of us are) aren't going to buy it. Oh and by the way, I have NEVER told my children to wash their hands before touching the baby, she's now 13 months old and has NEVER had a fever.

    • "I am appalled at this article's shameful display of anti-feminism from a feminist's mouth. Let's give us ladies another reason to NOT celebrate this gift of motherhood by calling it overrated. It's one thing if a woman can't breast feed, but another to tell them that it's “overrated” and a waste of time."

      I agree wholeheartedly. I had trouble establishing my nursing relationship with my son due to latch issues because of our method of birth but I persevered and educated myself and he's now 6 months old and is still breastfeeding exclusively. It wasn't easy and there is a lot of bad advice out there (mostly from nurses and pediatricians..no, really) but it was worth it.

    • What do you think the infant mortality rate was back when "savage" women were doing everything naturally? Just asking.

      Is a gift, be it motherhood or otherwise, a gift when it causes pain, resentment and depression? Not in my books.

      How can you call yourself a feminist? You are presuming to speak for all women and attacking those that reject your self-described "gift." Your clear desire is to define motherhood in your own terms and oppress anyone who disagrees. You are the opposite of a feminist.

  25. So basically you're just a crappy mom if your kid gets lots of ear infections, right? Cause it couldn't be the formula. And it doesn't matter what you're exposed to when you're pregnant (go ahead and keep dousing yourself in chemicals if it makes you feel good) but breastmilk is full of toxins and should be avoided. SMH. : /

    • seriously!! this woman CLEARLY never even tried to breastfeed and is taking out her mother guilt on the rest of us who did nurse our babies. i am SO SICK of hearing how inappropriate it is for me to feed my baby in public, or talk about nursing (because that is "bragging") and so on and so on. oh yeah formula-feeders are the REAL victims here, lest we forget. keep feeling sorry for yourselves. i'm sick and tired of your little pity-parties when nursing moms are the ones who are giving the only natural food to their babies, and yet we are expected to be ashamed of it, feed our babies in bathrooms and act as though bfing is some big secret out of fear of offending a ffing mom. give me a break.

    • Unfortunately, formula is heavy with mercury, aluminum, pesticides and other nasties– in much higher levels than breastmilk. The fact that our earth is swimming in contaminants doesn't make breastfeeding bad- you have your logic backward. Fix the problem. Breastmilk has all the good stuff– and there's a lot– plus a little bad, sadly. Formula is a lot bad, plus some added vitamins and proteins. You can survive ok on both, but there's a gamble you shouldn't take unless you have too. People got to eat one way or another, why not do it the way we have evolved to do it, if possible? There are so many biotic factors in breastmilk we are just beginning to understand. That's why premies to so much better on it.

  26. Could new posters kindly limit their comments to the arguments made by the article? Attacking the author advances no credible position.

    What Wolf fails to account for is the known biomechanics associated with some of the "benefits" she lists. Infants are born immune compromised. This is well established in medical literature. That they receive immunity support from human milk is well established. I have never encountered a mother that breast feeds and behaves like a germaphobe in her ordinary encounters. Our babies have healthy immune systems! We don't have to!

    • Naomi, are you the moderator? if so, thanks, if not – go boss your two year old around!

    • Joan Wolf and other feminist critics have been trying for years now to point out the problems with all this "medically established" information. The research is inherently flawed due to ideology and methodology. Additionally, most breastfeeding research is being conducted under the assumption that breastfeeding is best and that is clouding what researchers look for and ignore. Sibblings research such as that by O'reilly significantly downplayed the benefits of breastfeeding.

  27. I agree with the above poster. Having a career interruption (and by then I mean a baby) is a CHOICE. Even if your contraceptive method failed you still wouldn't have to care for the little bugger if you took a short stroll down the road named 'Closed Adoption'.
    I also think you're ungrateful that you live in a place that you even HAVE the option to drink diet coke or dye your hair. Its not a freaking human right! So what if you have to give up a few things for a while, you have the rest of your life to poison your body with whatever chemicals you see fit. Current life expectancy is somewhere around 70, a baby only asks for approximately 2 of those years (preconception, pregnancy, one year of breastfeeding) and in exchange you give him or her the best thing someone can give, health benefits that last a lifetime.

  28. I am a strong supporter of breastmilk for babies, have a masters degree in nursing and 20 years of clinical experience yet I can see the value in questioning the risk culture involved in this debate. No name calling here….it is an interesting look at the issue from a sociocultural perspective. Ms. Wolf is pushing the envelope as many have done before. As always, we must question our motivations for decision making. Does the evidence clearly support ALL the claims that __breastfeeding research has made? I am sure not. Just as I am sure that human milk IS the best choice for babies, the delivery and absorption of the milk is the challenge. Not all babies feed well and this is the problem, not the milk itself. Should mothers be made to feel like bottle feeding is child abuse…NO! I think we need to continue to question our evidence and reconsider our rationale for adopting a certain feeding philosophy.

  29. So breastfeeding goes Marxist too? Cool.

  30. +/*/*-I am thankful that Ms. Wolf is willing to step up and explore the other side of this controversial debate. I am a supporter of breastfeeding, did it myself for a short period of time because I thought it was best, and I am glad that so many people find it easy and enjoyable. Not everyone does. I was one of those people. And to tell those people that they are selfish, unfit mothers who are feeding their children an inferior food source doesn't help. Education about breastfeeding is important. Supporting those who truly want to breastfeed is important. But making mothers who can't or just plain do not want to for whatever reason is counterproductive. Demanding that the manufacturers of formula use higher quality ingredients would be a great place to start. I just do not feel it is my place or helpful to judge an already stressed out Mom who is questioning herself and trying to do the best she can with the resources available to her.

    • A mother that chooses to feed her baby formula is not "unfit." However, if she is fully aware that formula is inferior to breastmilk and that formula is increasing her child's risk of numerous diseases, and the mom is choosing to formula-feed anyway simply because she "doesn't like" breastfeeding, then this mother deserves the title of selfish. This isn't about the mom – it is about what the baby deserves. I had an aunt and uncle that found it much more convenient to add a little Jack Daniels to my cousin's bottle – it helped him to be quiet and sleep, so my aunt and uncle wouldn't be bothered. Yes, this probably resulted more relaxed parents, and I guess you could say that helped the baby feel more relaxed? But this doesn't negate the fact that they were some crappy, selfish parents that were feeding their child unhealthy things.
      Also, formula manufacturers cannot use higher quality ingredients that would match breastmilk without using – wait for it – HUMAN breastmilk. You cannot reason away the fact that formula IS inferior to breastmilk, no matter how much easier it may be for you.

      • No one is saying that formula is better than breastmilk – not even Wolfe. She's just questioning the culture around breastfeeding vs. formula feeding. What's wrong with asking questions? Equating formula with giving ababy alcohol is totally out of line. Bfing can be easy, hard, next to impossible, or not an option at all – thank goodness we have a healthy alternative in formula so we don't have to resort to things like condensed milk and corn syrup anymore.

      • I love this response. It refutes the "more convenient" argument completely.

  31. Not only is breast best, it's normal. That is the actual reason they were put on a women's body believe it or not. Human milk was specifically designed for humans. Obviously it's the healthier choice.

  32. Kudos to Luisa Ch. Savage for asking wonderful smart questions.

    Wolf says mothers should not bother to breastfeed if they are uncomfortable.

    I think the more interesting and helpful sociological argument to look into would be just WHY women dislike or are uncomfortable breast-feeding, when it is clearly the easiest, most natural, convenient and healthy choice for the child. WHY don't women see their breasts as the best way to feed their babies — because they see breasts as sexual toys for their partners or feel confused about having their nipples sucked in a non-sexual way, or is it vanity — don't want them to be saggy, or what? Have we progressed to the point that we don't understand the biology of our own bodies?

    For the record, I breast fed both my children for a year each — until they had varied and nutritious solid food diets. And I consider myself to be feminist. Personally I think all mothers should be prepared to make all kinds of sacrifices to try to make their children's lives as happy and healthy as possible.

  33. I find this article to undermine everything doctors, researchers and breastfeeding activists have been trying to prove for years. I would be interested in seeing her sources to back up her arguments. I could claim that drinking bleach every day for 10 years will make you healthy and thin but that doesn't make it true. She also neglects to mention all the bacterial and chemical components in formula which are present in many of the ingredients, processing and packaging. She also neglects to mention the contaminants present in many bottles. How did the human race survive soo long without formula? That brings me to my next question which formula companies are sponsoring her?

    • The human race survived so long because women had up to 20 children and with luck, two or three of them would survive childhood.

  34. It's critical to recognise the point that Ms Wolf is attempting to make that surrounds her points about breastfeeding – total motherhood. The pressure that mothers feel to achieve whatever version of child-rearing perfection that the media and society has created is the actual greater concern, in my opinion.
    When I was a new mother I was living with an abusive partner, and as any mother out there knows – stress does not help bring the milk in. After more than a week of trying and a baby whose weight had dropped almost 2 lbs, I ended up resorting to formula. While I might get a bit of sympathy for my decision given the situation and perhaps fewer of the condescending "oh you're formula-feeding" looks , I felt like a failure. I felt like like I wasn't trying hard enough, and like I would most certainly be allowing my child to be exposed to horrible illnesses.
    I really feel like this issue is about choice, and like the other issue related to choice, it can be fraught with emotion and fanatics and greatly differing opinion. My sincere hope is that we return to a society of normalized parenting (yes, I realize that has no definition), a society that doesn't involve "helicopter parenting" and extreme pressure to achieve an impossible goal of perfection.

  35. Humans ignore the links to their biological past to the detriment of their future wellbeing


    On the one hand, in the interview of Joan B. Wolf by Liuza Ch.Savage, we found the interviewer to have conducted an admirable job in the attempt to draw out Ms Wolf.

    On the other hand, there was the impression that Ms. Wolf was being purposely evasive at times; or at least, hopefully, ignorant of the facts surrounding breast feeding in the 21st century. If, for whatever reason, she was intentionally pandering to the powers at be with her rhetoric, she was being patently irresponsible to all women and indeed the wellbeing of all future humans .

    Breastfeeding is certainly a choice that women can consciously make in today’s society. However, these choices do need to be based on Informed decisions supported by the facts at hand that are in turn footnoted as to their source. The following cluster of factlets are such. Many footnoted sources are given to substantiate their positions and allow the reader to access and read the actual research that support the positions made.

    Puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and breastfeeding are all a continuum of development for all mammals, including humans, since our time began. To miss any of these invariant steps in nature is to ignore one’s collective, protective genetic history from the past and cut all future generations off from its supportive nature. Resultant complications to one’s health, one’s childrens’ health and all future generations is the consequence… Bummer, but true.


    1) In pretechnological times, children were immunized by antibiotics in breast milk for 3-7 years. In current developing nations, most still breastfeed until 2-2 1/2 years. Nipple stimulation with consistant nursing for 15 months provides contraceptive as well as breast cancer protection. The longer the period of breastfeeding, the lower the risk of breast cancer for the mother AND her female offspring. Every baby breastfed lowers the breast cancer risk by 7%. Every year earlier a woman has her first child lowers the risk by another 3%. Every 12 months of breastfeeding lowers the risk by 4.3%. As well, there is a further 24% lowered risk if a woman was breastfed by her mother.
    Lactation lasts longer in primates than all other mammals of similar size. What is nature trying to tell us?

    Reference: The Lancet 2002;360:187-206 (over 140,000 women, 30 countries, and 47 epidemiological studies on breastfeeding and breast cancer)

    2) Breast feeding was the norm in America until the 1930’s. The push to use formula / milk substitutes from 1940 – 1975 caused a drop in breastfeeding to 25%; which coincides with the greatest increase in breast cancer in human history. This rate has remained unchanged to the current day.

    References: 1) Datha C., Social Forces, Feminism, and Breastfeeding, p 556-61
    2) American Cancer Society Surveillance Research 2001

    3) A 1999 Swedish study found that a protein called alpha-lacalbumin that is found in all mammal milk induced the destruction of many forms of cancer cells, but had no ill effect on healthy cells. Every cancer cell type experimented with was affected…lung, throat, kidney, colon, bladder, lymphoma, leukemia.

    References: 1) J. Bio Chem 1999; 274: 6388-96
    2) Adv Exp Med Biol 2002; 503: 125-32

    4) 85% of babies born to mothers infected with HIV escape the disease, if breastfed.

    Reference: J Virology 2002; 76: 7365-73

    5) Nuns have the highest percentage of breast cancer of any group of women in the world.

    Reference: Greaves, Mel; Cancer, the Evolutionary Legacy, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2000 pg 144-145

    6) Reproductive Endocrinological References define any pregnancy after the age of 28 to be a GERIATRIC pregnancy as 30-40 years of age is in fact old in nature. The majority of humans did not live past the age of 45 years just 100 years ago. Infertility treatment results support this as there is a 35% success rate at age 30, a 15% success rate at 35, and only a 2% success rate at 40.

    References: 1) N Engl J Med; 1982: 306: 404-11
    2) Fertil Steril 1986; 46: 989-92

    7) A pregnancy before the age of 20 turns on or upregulates the gene for apoptosis called p53 in every of a woman’s 1 trillion plus body cells nuclei, thereby reducing the risk for cancer in any part of their body permanently for life.

    References: 1) Proc Natl Acad Sci (USA) 2001: 98: 12379-84 ; 11755-59
    2) Ann NY Acad Sci 2001 ; 952: 23-35
    3) Am J Epidemiol 1994; 139: 819-35
    4) Epidemiol Rev 1993; 15: 256-63

    8) Breastfeeding protects children from Lymphoma, Diarrhea, Ear Infection, Bacteremia, Meningitis, Botulism, Urinary Tract Infections, Necronizing Enterocolitis, SIDS, Type 1 Diabetes, Crohn’s Disease, as well as a miriad of allergies.

    References: 1) J Biol Chem 1999; 247: 6388-96
    2) Adv Exp Med Biol 2002; 503: 125-32

    The sheer reality of life dictates that the existance of the human race up to now has evolved on the fact that childbearing was a woman’s sole perogative and ultimate responsibility.
    Women need substantiated facts to help recognize the gravity of this incredible responsibility so that they make their decisions based on solid, well researched knowledge.
    The future wellbeing of our species depends on it.

    Paul Weitzel — Winnipeg, Manitoba

    • if i could give this a billion thumbs up, i would.

    • THANK YOU! I agree with everything you said 100% – this is not something people are even considering.

      I began to realize the disconnect when I read about a study of bottle-feeding vs. breastfeeding and it's effect on cosleeping. Breastfeeding mothers assumed instinctual "C" positions, curling around their babies in bed, and placed the babies in positions that inherently protected their airways. Bottle-feeding mothers lacked these instincts altogether.

      The mothers who didn't breastfeed were lacking basic maternal instincts, and I wonder how far we can take that. Into childhood? Adulthood? How much and for how long does it affect one's mothering behavior? I think the repercussions are likely much larger than one might think. I think the result is a very troubled society, riddled with disease, violence, psychological disorders, and humans who are divorced from their biological selves.

    • It saddens me and many women, as did an article released just after New Years, that a pregnancy after a certain age is considered geriatric, though I don't deny it, as you have citations to back you up. This is coming from a place of emotion, and I just finished telling people in another cause I advocate for that we can't let that happen, but I'm not angry or bitter (yet), just sad… perhaps a bit frustrated.

      What saddens me is that many women never find Mr. Right, and most men wait till they're older to have kids because they can (although, and I don't have citations, studies have shown that sperm degrade in quality as a man ages up to and into his 40s). Because society has placed consumerism so high that the cost of living is too great to have kids until you have a career. We're told having kids younger is a problem because you have to live life. I don't deny this either, I've learned so much of late. My Mom would have been overjoyed if I'd had kids early, but, again, on the other end of the spectrum, had I found someone willing to have kids prior to this when I lived home in a, less progressive, I'll say, "city", I would have been miserable and fallen into the hospital machine of interventions when I gave birth.

      That said, I will be 32 in March and unless I start soon, my fertility is going to decline (though my Mom had me at 35, but I don't want to follow in her footsteps), and at 35 I'll be considered high risk, thus I may have to subject myself to hospital interventions, and there are no midwives left here where I am.

      Sorry to get off on a rant. But doing things when and how it's biologically optimal isn't always possible, I think that's my point.

    • Hello Paul — At first glance your comment seemed better structured than most of the others and all citations made it seem authoritative, so I started reading. However, when I got to your 'factlets', the very first one turned out to be wildly inaccurate ["In pretechnological times, children were immunized by antibiotics in breast milk for 3-7 years"…]

      Here are the facts:
      1. Children were never "immunized by antibiotics in breast milk". Antibiotics do not immunize, they kill germs.
      2. Although there are antimicrobial substances in breast milk (e.g. lysozyme), their effect is transient.
      3. Breast milk does contain secretory IgA antibodies which transfer passive immunity from the mother to the baby, providing protection from gastrointestinal infection. These antibodies are not absorbed, have a short half-life, and only provide protection for the duration of breast feeding.
      4. There is also transfer of maternal IgG antibodies across the placenta during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, providing the baby with passive systemic immunity that lasts 3-7 MONTHS (not 3-7 years!).
      5. There is a dip in total serum antibody levels at 2-4 months of age as maternal IgG antibodies fade away and before the baby's own immune system begins actively producing antibodies. Babies can be vulnerable to infection during this time.

      I'm afraid Ms Wolf seems to have a better grip on the facts than you do!

      • he meant antibodies, not antibiotics. i thought that typo was rather obvious. also obvious (at least to anyone who took an intro bio course in college) is that you don't know what you are talking about. antibodies have a VERY short shelf life, and there is no possible way that they would survive for months (much less years!) after pregnancy. do you work for nestle?

  36. All mothers want what is best for their children, and most mothers want to breastfeed (which is why breastfeeding initiation rates are high). Many women stop breastfeeding however, in the first few weeks after birth. This is not because mothers are failing at breastfeeding, or because breastfeeding isn't natural. It is because society is failing mothers. Doctors and other health care providers have little to no training about breastfeeding, there is a lack of publicly funded support for breastfeeding mothers, formula marketing and misinformation about breastfeeding are rampant, and mothers are made to feel ashamed to nurse their children in public. To me it is the opposite of feminism to be trying to fit ourselves into our patriarchal society rather than demanding that society change to welcome and include mothers.

    You can read more about my thoughts here: http://blog.nurturedchild.ca/index.php/2011/01/12

    • I don't agree. Some people don't want to breastfeed just because THEY DON'T WANT TO. Society could have told me that BFing is the best thing ever and I still wouldn't have wanted to do it.

      For some that may be the case–but not mine. I was given flak because I didn't want to breastfeed–and guess what? Despite pressure, I didn't anyway. My child hasn't been harmed at all by this decision–she's amazing, healthy, and smart.

    • Now you, Nurtured Child, are are true feminist. That was a wonderful post. *off to read your blog*

    • I agree that society has to ensure that breastfeeding is a real possibility for mothers by ensuring that they do not pay a financial or career price for doing so. Governements are more interested in investing money in telling mothers to do it rather than back their words with real laws, maternity leaves and ensuring the promotion of mothers at work.

      Having said that, I also feel that what Ms. Wolf is doing is very important. She is challenging the way which society views the risk of not breastfeeding and this is important for women who make informed decisions about how to organize their lives. It is also very important to confront the culture of total motherhood which is taking over.

  37. Wow. Clearly you all have a lot of money.

  38. Wow, I'm only upset that your wife married you before I could!

  39. Seriously? I am sick and tired of all these people whining that too much emphasis is put on breastfeeding.

    WHO CARES?!?!?

    If you don't want to breastfeed, you don't have to try to justify it, just don't do it. If you do, then do it. OF COURSE it's better. It's natural and it's how our bodies are made. Do it if you can. If not, no need to feel guilty.

    Sheesh. So sick of these publicity stunts. Shut up and move on with your life.

    • So you read through an entire interview/article and about 100 relatedl comments only to realize people are agreeing or disagreeing with its assertion? And then you whined about it?

    • Spoken like someone who has never been told to cover up while breastfeeding. And also spoken like someone who has never been told that she should have tried harder to breastfeed and her baby has no future now. Women's issues are important and deserve a place in the media. If you don't want to read them or help improve the lives of women then you can move on.

  40. I love this article. Too many moms feel pressue to breastfeed and feel guilt for switching to bottle. I have 2 children, one breast fed, one bottle fed. In hindsight, I was happier and freeer with my first (bottle fed baby), even though I felt guilt at the time. Breast feeding was easy, but is not the only option. With bottle feeding a father is more likely to participate in the feeding, and the freedoom I felt from not being connected to my baby every hour created a wonderful parenting experiance for me.
    Let's stop judging other women as mothers. Let's trust that every mother is doing the best she knows how to provide for her child and survive the first few years of her baby's life. There are way worse behaviors to rant about than whether a baby is formula fed or breast fed.
    Half the women bottle feeding today likely gave breast feeding a good try and the decision to stop probably didn't come easy. Smile at the next mom you see bottle feeding her baby – she might be feeling guilty.

    • "and the freedoom I felt from not being connected to my baby every hour created a wonderful parenting experiance for me."

      i don't even know what to say to that.

      • Good. You've already made enough sanctimonious comments. You should sign the rest.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience. Don't let others tell you how you should have felt. Every woman is her own individual experience and people need to realize that what felt natural for one mom didn't work at all for another woman.

  41. Jason, you and your wife sound like martyrs. I've been breastfeed for over nine months now and have been getting full nights sleep for the last 7.

    Why are you so judgmental of others? Do you have a deep jealousy of your wife's ability to breastfeed so you feel the need to attack women who choose not to? Maybe its the lack of sex that you are getting since you've been bedsharing for so long. You sound like you need to get laid to get rid of that anger!

  42. Breastfeeding is a choice made by the mom. If she doesn't WANT to breastfeed so be it. She should NOT be put down for her choice. Most likely its healthier to breastfeed than to bottlefeed – but I know a lot of people who have been formula/bottle fed and they are fine. They had the usual childhood colds etc but again so be it – it is all part of growing up. As for when to stop breastfeeding – that is a whole other choice. I DO NOT think it is appropriate to breast feed a child once he is old enough to ask for "boobie" There are other ways to comfort your child than to boobie feed at the age of 3 and above. For the love of goodness do not breastfeed your child of that age (3+) in public. They do not need it – bring a cup to give him his milk or juice or whatever.

    • Excuse me? You just said that bottle feeders "should NOT be put down for their choice." then you go on to judge people who nurse beyond age 3. What a hypocrite! You can't have it both ways. Respect all choices as equally valid, or do some thorough research and discover the facts,

      As well, for your information, there are immunological benefits to nursing beyond the age of 3 years. Have you read the research? No? Then keep your opinions to yourself, you are uneducated.

    • I know a few people in their 80s who have smoked throughout their lives, and are happy with no smoking related illnesses. Should I sprout that smoking must be ok then? Anecdotal stories are void and unhelpful.
      As for full term breastfeeding, you are way off base with no reputable claims other than your own insecurities to back you up. My child said boobie at 11months? Your ascertain would mean I should have weaned then, going against the WHO, please walk away before you humiliate yourself with fallacies any further.

    • Well I am afraid that even good old Joan wolf would disagree with you. You my dear should get your head out of cosmo mag and re-read the article…then provide us with a constructive opinion.

    • my 8 month old has just recently started asking for milk via sign language. so is she too old? oh yeah, aslo, she cries in a particular way when she wants milk, has since birth, so she was asking for it then…is at birth too old too?

    • My 2 year old has a feed before going to sleep. Last night she was poorly and woke up asking for boobie. She had a feed, was comforted and went back to sleep. Are you suggesting that I should have ignored her and subjected the whole family to a sleepless night? What other ways of comforting would you suggest? She WANTS it, NEEDS it and WILL continue to have her nightly boobie until SHE decides she doesn't want it anymore. NOT when opinionated people such as yourselves decide!!!

  43. Breastfeeding is normal and artificial milk or substituting the milk of another animal is not. This is not an inflammatory statement, this is fact. Without debating the various reasons women choose not to breastfeed (and certainly it is almost always a choice), articles like this are infuriating to me because they do a huge diservice to women and babies. All babies deserve to be breastfed and all moms should at least give it a try, it's not a parenting "decision" to be made beforehand, like what colour to paint the nursery. To have the importance lessened, by a non-expert with no scientific back up in a mainstream publication is NOT feminism. Those little girl babies are female too, and they all deserve an equal start in life.

    • Ms. Wolf is an expert in feminist issues. She and her colleagues are working on improving the way to choice and safety for all women regardless of infant feeding option. They are challenging ideas such as yours about what is normal or natural because these have been defined over time and mostly by men. There is more to breastfeeding than science and more at stake than just a baby getting fed. the scientists and doctors used to endorse bottle-feeding as the better way based on misconceptions about women and sanitation. Feminists with no scientific background changed their minds and brought about the push towards breastfeeding. Why should we ignore feminists now and believe all we hear from scientists? Having said that, we have only heard what a few scientists have to say about breastfeeding anyhow because the press is biased in that they only publish the most extreme results not all the studies which show little or no difference.

  44. You are probably just trolling, but I feel sorry for your kid. Even though the child is being breastfed, he or she is being raised by someone with major issues.

  45. I guess Joan thinks she is wiser than the World Health Organization. Who needs them when we have a Joan to advise the world? Besides the medical points of view on breastfeeding, what about the emotional connection for infants and mothers that breastfeed.

  46. Ugh….people need to keep their nasty comments to themselves….it doesnt make a difference who breastfeeds and who bottle feeds. Every mom is going to do whats best for them and their baby. Formula fed babies grow up and thrive just like breastfed babies do.
    I am a breastfeeding mom and my son has HORRIBLE reflux, was hospitalized at 6 weeks for a 105 fever and a viral infection, had tubes at 5 months and countless ear infections. I breastfed my DD too and she was sick alot as well.
    I dont care who FF's or who BF's….moms need to choose whats best for their baby…not whats best for society or their family…

  47. It's quite clear that the author did not do her homework. You can't combat science with opinion.

  48. I find it sad that in our society, we are "prochoice" in favour of abortion, but not "prochoice" for infant feeding. The prochoice argument goes that a woman has the right to determine what she does with her body. The same apparently is not true for breastfeeding. Most adults today were formula fed. Which choice is the lesser of the two evils?
    Which choice would you prefer YOUR mother made?

    I also don't like that a lot of men or women who haven't experienced childbirth or bf feel free to comment in a theoretical fashion spouting statistics and studies. The issue is personal, and involves the mental, physical, and psychological wellbeing of infants AND mothers.

    mother of 5 children, breastfed, and "all natural" type.

  49. I am a mother of 5 children and breastfed every one of them. Each situation and baby was different. However, I had some horrible experiences with bf and childbirth that I wouldn't wish on anyone. In the end, I had to use modern technology at times, having c-sections and supplementing with formula. If not for these modern inventions, possibly my children and/or me would have died.

    This is what insisting on entirely "natural" brings. We are animals, yes, but obviously intelligent ones. Animals don't always birth or breastfeed "naturally" and without intervention by humans , the babies and/or mothers die. Just as it happened to us in the pioneer days.

    I am about to be a grandmother and will support my daughter's choices and not push bf or cloth diapering on her, as they are not even possible/practical in her situation.

    • Thank you so much for offering an opinion based on experience and perspective. A few weeks before I became pregnant, I had a bleeding ulcer. After I found out I was pregnant, my immediate concern was the medication I had to take, which I continued to take throughout my pregnancy, or as my doctor put it – 'you risk losing the baby and your life without it.' Without a great deal of studies to draw on, I was worried about possible birth defects, but was pleased my son was perfectly healthy. However, because there was further exposure in breastmilk, I chose to formula feed. I can't express the disdain and disgust some women hurled my way for my choice. Two different nurses in the maternity hospital gave me differing opinions – one said I was making the right decision, and the other said 'well, you took it through pregnancy, so there's nothing to worry about'. I opted to not make my son a guinea pig.

      I still believe this was the best decision for my son. He's now 5, very healthy, active and bright. He rarely gets ill, and has so much energy and enthusiasm, I wish I could bottle it. You are 100% right that natural doesn't always equate to safe.

      • I was born in the '50s and many of my parents' friends were unable to have children, so they adopted babies and of course fed them with whatever was prescribed at the time for bottle-fed babies. Every one of them is a healthy adult.

        • Adoptive parents can breastfeed.

  50. I am very very surprised at the ignorance of the woman behind this article…wait, no Im really not. I certainly hope she isnt spreading her madness very far. Quite honestly she sounds like my ex mother in law who once informed me that if God had intended for babies to be breastfeed, then he wouldnt have made formula. So, that lead me to wonder…does that mean we should all take arsenic??? I mean, that was invented…why not???

    • That is hilarious… God didn't make formula, humans did. Humans however were made with the ability to produce milk and thus feed our children, formula hasn't been around since the beginning of man kind how on earth did we survive?

  51. Do you know they weren't taking anti-depressants or some other medication that made breastfeeding unadvisable? Why are women so unsupportive of one another? We judge things that are essentially none of our business and we always think the worst of each other. No wonder we have never reached equality. We don't deserve it.

  52. If I may just push this one step farther, Not only is breast feeding beneficial for the baby it can have some pretty great second hand effects for mother as well. I have MS, and with the birth of my second Son, I was encouraged to breastfeed for as long as I was comfortable due to new research on the hormone prolactin which is released during pregnancy and breastfeeding and has been found to cause remission and even possibly repair damage done to the nerves caused by MS. Although my start to breastfeeding was a little rocky , I was blessed to enjoy a year of nursing my son which I treasured greatly, and following that, almost THREE years of remission from my disease. If there can be benefits like that for me, I doubt greatly that the they are not tenfold for my son including protecting him from getting the same disease. Did it ever occur to you that you are not just cheating your children but yourself as well when you choose bottle over breast? The postpartum help is well docoumented. Breastfeeding is not overrated at all. In my humble opinion.

  53. I find it interesting that the majority of negative comments on here are from people who have not bothered to read Ms. Wolf's book. She ABSOLUTELY has "done her homework"; she's researched this topic for several years. Her assertions are backed up by science and facts. There's a thorough and lengthy bibliography in the back. You know how I know this? Because I took the time to read the book, rather than assuming things about the author and her work based on one interview. It's fair to rage against what she's said in this interview; yes, the points she makes are controversial, and I understand that regardless of the content of her book, her statements here will raise eyebrows (although for the record, I tend to agree with her, but I'm sure that's obvious by my screen name). However, the character assassinations are unfair, petty, and take all the wind out of any argumentative sails you may have. Not to mention that this has, as always, turned into a Mommy War, third wave vs second wave feminism vitriol-fest.

    And seriously? It's getting really old that every time someone dares to question the breast-is-best rhetoric, they immediately get accused of being in the pockets of Big Formula. Yes, having mammary glands is part of what distinguishes us as mammals. But one of the things that distinguish us as HUMAN is the ability to reason, debate, and make choices. Is it so hard to accept that there might be room for some intelligent debate about this issue? I think Wolf took it to an interesting level… this isn't simply a case of arguing that breast isn't best. She brings up valid points about how motherhood and risk are seen in our culture. Again, if you read the book… you'd see that.

    • No I didn't read the book, and I don't plan on it either. Motherhood is what makes us superior, human existence depends on it. It should be celebrated, we should be empowered by it, I truly am honored to be a mother and after I die, I will be remembered mostly as a mother…by my children and their children. The greatest imposition on women is first of all the over sexualization of our bodies….we are so much more than that. An secondly the roles that society has imposed upon us. The author has a right to any opinion and I suppose before I became a mom I would most definitely agree with her. Also, to me personally, any book as such is again explaining to us ladies how to be a "good girl" – in lay mans words. I don't need to be told how to be a good girl or how to look at the world by any body. I get enough of it from public media, religion, and society in general. I am proud of my body and all of it's parts, and i for one am not letting any old cow and plastic bottle take part in that. As women our attention should be on the future of our children and the life of this planet. One thing that has gone very wrong in western society is that we've stopped caring about what is important, we are poisoning ourselves, our planet….people are getting sick and dying because of our careless overconsumption of the planets resources. How many cows does it take to produce formula, land,and wasted plastic and packaging….what kind of future will there be left for our grand kids. At the end of the day, when it's all done…and mothers sway away from what comes natural to us and distract ourselves with sexy clothes, being a good girl or high profile careers: I open the paper to read about a woman who was shot by her husband with a hunting gun, right in front of the police station:( we are fighting a losing battle, unfortunately. As a woman, and human being I can't help but feel sadness.

    • Formula Feeder, I have not read Ms. Wolf's book. My oldest child is in her early 20's. I have nieces and nephews in there late 30's. My sisters felt it necessary to go into another room to breastfeed. Malls didn't have mom's rooms. You had to sit in a stinky women's bathroom in a restaurant after she was asked by staff to leave the table when she was nursing her son, even though she was covered. Women in the last century have not received a whole lot of support for breastfeeding and the ones now are not going to let anyone challenge them. Ms. Wolf has picked a very controversial subject. She'll sell more books – remember no media exposure, whether positive or negative, is bad exposure.

      • Sorry I meant to say My one sister had to sit in a stinky womens' bathroom…

    • The problem with Ms. Wolf is some of her comments fly in the face of much, well documented research. The real problem is that she is taking this issue at the sociological level and dismissing and/or minimizing the importance at the biological/medical level.

      It basically boils down to this, people have the right to make an INFORMED choice.

      In this regard, Dr. Wolf in THIS article has made comments that distorts and misleads the reader from the scientific evidence. So when she says breastfeeding is overrated without putting her sociology qualifiers on it, it puts the issue into controversy because she is misleading the reader and by extension, preventing informed choices to be made. I have no problem with her opinions, but she has made several general statements that are simply not accurate. It behooves us to then look at what possible biases she may have in making these inaccuracies and she simply must be more precise in her arguments.

      Naturopathic Doctor

  54. I was very deeply upset by reading this interview. Yes, there a mothers who have trouble breastfeeding. Well, and if you don't like it, you probably won't be successful doing it anyway. But no matter what, formula is just the second best choice for your baby. That said, I don't think that mothers who don't breastfeed are necessarily bad mothers, neither do I look down on them. In fact I have heard many heartbreaking stories about mums trying so hard and it just didn't work out. But mothers who don't get it that having a baby changes your whole life and yes, what comes with it is quite often inconvienient and being a mother just means giving up a lot.
    Due to the invention of formula Breastfeeding is a skill which was allmost lost in our western world. So it is sometimes no wonder why it is so hard to find doctors or nurses or anybody else for that matter who can help teach a young mother how to nurse.
    Finally we started realizing the importance of mothers milk for babies and then somebody decides to write a book against breastfeeding – what a service. And about nursing and working. Well, at least here in BC mothers can get 12 months of maternity leave – so much for pumping during work.

  55. How many thousands of years have mothers been breastfeeding babies??? Formula was only invented about 100 years ago!!!!

  56. I remember when we had our first daughter. We were in the hospital in Windsor right after she was born, and my wife was struggling to learn to breastfeed. She was being helped by a steady stream of nurses, all intoning the same mantras we had heard for the last nine months about the importance of breast feeding, the superiority of breast milk and the importance of avoiding even introducing a bottle for as long as possible due to "nipple confusion." Then one nurse came into our room, and said, flat out, "You want my advice? Start giving her a bottle every other feeding right now. It is a nice break for you and it will make it easier to transition her to a bottle full-time later."

    Of course, at the time we were mortified and even considered complaining to the hospital about this person who was distributing such heretical advice. But we found out she was absolutely right, at least in our case. Our first daughter had a terrible time adjusting to a bottle when we tried to introduce one at two months, then did have problems going back and forth between the breast and the bottle until we finally just had to cut off breast feeding altogether earlier than we wanted to.

    For our next daughter, we followed the nurses advice and I gave her one bottle every night to let Mom sleep longer, right from the start. Mom greatly appreciated the break, Charlotte never had the slightest problem going back and forth between breast and bottle and she actually got to breastfeed longer as Mom was able to gradually phase out the breast.

    • Patrick, if the nurse for your first daughter told you to give her a bottle "every other feeding" she did give you bad advice. The only way to establish a good milk supply is to let the baby suck. Had you given her a bottle every second feed, there is a good chance your wife would have thought she didn't have enough milk to feed the baby. Giving the baby "one" bottle a day, is far different than one every other feed.
      If your daughter didn't want to take a bottle at 2 months, another option is to cup feed. You feed the baby slowly out of a cup. You just make sure you don't let her go too long between feeds so that she isn't supper hungry and upset.

  57. Oh Jason, why so angry? Good for you and your wife that you have been able to breastfeed exclusively – especially since you have such strong opinions about it. But understand, not everyone's experience with breastfeeding is the same as yours. If parents are loving, caring, attentive and informed, that is what really counts.
    It's interesting to me that you are so worked up on this subject, particularly when you will never know all that it takes to breastfeed properly. When you give birth and grow a set of breasts with which to breastfeed, then you can comment! Until then, you should count your lucky stars you have a wife who will put up with you and your over the top and uninformed opinions.

  58. This is a one of many decisions parents must make for their child. And when they do, they find they must be able to explain themselves to others who decided on something else. As well we look for others who made the same decision to feel confident with our decision. As a parent we are only looking to make the best decision for our child.
    With anything we must be open to the other side and respect each other. Parenting is very personal that why there is so much emotion involved.

  59. As a Canadian working in Texas, I observe this: Texas (where this author lives), is a Republican state where the almighty dollar is worshipped. Mothers dump their 6-week old babies in strip mall daycare centers so they can hurry back to work to pay for their big SUVs, weekly mani-pedis, breast implants, massively huge houses and take-out restaurant fodder in styrofoam containers. Shopping and dining out are major past times, and breastfeeding is a huge inconvenience to this lifestyle. Is there any surprise that over 20% of the students at our (very well to do) high school in Dallas' metroplex are special ed kids with emotional/mental/behavioral problems? Texas needs people like this author to invent ways to justify their excessive and self-centered existence. I'm surprised this woman doesn't advocate a Mexican illegal alien wet-nurse to do the job while cleaning the house for $2 an hour.

  60. Reading this article actually makes me take Macleans a whole lot less seriously.

  61. As a new mother, I don't always have time to watch the news, or to read the daily newspaper. As such, I have depended on MacLean's to provide me with a balanced and well researched view of current affairs. I was very disappointed to see that this interview was published at all. Breastfeeding is recommended by the WHO, by the Canadian Paediatric Society, and by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Personally, I would rather take health and child rearing advice from these sources then from an assistant professor in Women Studies. Hopefully, your other readers feel the same.

  62. Overrated? This is ridiculous. We make milk for a reason; our body is doing what it is intended to do. Are all the other miraculous things the human body is capable of doing overrated too?

  63. Ever wonder why we have kids and adults with so many food allergies and intolerances? It's because food companies have BRAINWASHED people to think that chemically altered milk is better so they can make MONEY! Breast is best. If women weren't ment to breastfeed then we wouldn't have breasts! Babies need the colostrum that is produced within the first week to help thier immune systems so the baby won't develope allergies or intolerances! Only once ever have my kids had ear infections and that was long after they were done with breastfeeding.

  64. I nursed all 3 of my children because I enjoyed it and it was free. I honestly put little thought into the health benefits, it just seemed normal and natural. I have a sister who wasn't able to nurse for whatever reason. She made herself crazy with guilt because she wasn't able to do it. I think as women we need to stop judging and criticizing. I really doubt that 100 years from now society will be divided into the healthy, intelligent breast fed population and the stupid weak formula group. I find any of these articles that are not impartial and open minded are a waste of time. Do what your going to do and leave it at that. Now who wants coffee?

  65. Thanks Julie, I think you nailed it. I agree that there are times when woman can't breast-feed (including depression), and the children will probably do fine on formula, but if you can, you should. Parenting is about sacrificing and I am all for parents being given more support by employers. Work area breast-feeding rooms are hardly expensive – try mat/parenthood leaves, subsidized day care and increase to health benefits once jr. arrives more expensive.

    She not only questions our motives for breast-feeding (I am lazy and cheap and know that in the long run, breast-feeding is easier – and I have had mastitis which developed into an abcess that the breast-feeding specialist doctor missed, that got infected and I ended up on IV antibiotics and still continued to breast-feed), but tries to justify her claims by misleading us, questioning the benefits over formula and throwing out facts. If woman can breast-feed, they should be encouraged to do it. Society should recognize that breast-feeding is normal and NOT sexual.

    In the late 1800s women hid their pregnancies in shame, now we hide breast-feeding. The answer to feeling trapped and isolated is to go out with the baby and feed them wherever you are. Parenting in general is not about getting back to work right away, but having time to bond and raise your own kids.

    The article doesn't explain that breast-feeding is a benefit in poor countries, where uneducated, dirt poor woman do it for economic reasons – they are poor yet the WHO studies support the claims that babies do better when breast-fed – so that negates her middle-class/lower-class argument.

    I wish she would have been more honest. There are benefits for the babies – and woman should be encouraged to breast-feed if they can. We need to be more supportive of breast-feeding in North America, not less.

    • "I agree that there are times when woman can't breast-feed (including depression)…"
      Breastfeeding actually helps to fight depression. [So does placentophagy. ;)]

  66. As Joan Wolf suggests that breastfeeding is overrated, there is some danger that she might undo some of the effort to normalize breastfeeding. It is the very understanding that breastfeeding is good, nutritionally and psychologically, that has led to the normalizing of breastfeeding. This in turn has allowed women to comfortably breastfeed in public. If women feel that they must hide away, they may not be successful breastfeeding. Unfortunately, there is still some embarrassment and intolerance regarding breastfeeding in public. Joan Wolf's attitude doesn't help.

  67. Joan Wolf questions the purported health benefits of breastfeeding by arguing that mothers who choose to breastfeed are more likely to be more health conscious in other ways, and therefore breastfed babies are healthier, not because of the breast, but because of the practices of the caregiver. She makes it seem like breastfeeding moms keep their children in a cocoon, while, keeping with this logic, bottle-feeding moms would be more careless. Having both an adopted child and a birth child, I have bottle-fed and breastfed. When I was breastfeeding, I was not worried about germs, but when I was bottle-feeding, I was a germophobe. I really didn't like worrying about the sterilization of bottles. Breast is easier.

  68. I wonder if there is research showing to what extent the discomfort or problems with breastfeeding relate to societal attitudes, rather than physical issues. If a woman doesn't feel comfortable breastfeeding just about anywhere ( anywhere another woman would bottle-feed a child), then she is more likely to fail. I just can't imagine trying to mother an infant while going to work and pumping milk during breaks. Public policy should support breastfeeding in public. Feminists should be demanding maternity benefits so that women have time and energy to concentrate on nursing and nurturing their infants. In this respect Canadian women are better off than many American women. Perhaps Joan Wolf's view is influenced by the fact that she is in Texas.

    • I completely agree with you. Women should be allowed to nurture their babies. Thank you for the post.

  69. I wish I understood what all the hoopla is about. Ms. Wolf isn't trying to stir up a breastfeeding or bottle feeding debate. She is certainly advocating that women make choices, and that if the choice is informed and something that works for the mother and her family then do so! As a Parent Educator, I inform women/mothersof their parenting choices, and what the literature (or best opractice) says. At the end of the day, what they do is THEIR choice. It may not be what I would do, but does that make it wrong?
    My point is: if it's done in a safe way and mom is caring for her child, then refrain from judging. Bottom line.

  70. I read this article with disbelief. There is a need to remember that we are MAMMALS. The argument isn't "breast is best". Or that mother's need to be ready to sacrifice. The point is we are mammalian mothers who are meant to nurse and nurture our young. There are instinctual processes in both mother and babe that make feeding at the breast possible. Babies have primitive reflexes that allow them to make this step. Read Suzanne Colson's work on "Biological Nurturing". It doesn't have to be such hard work. You don't have to be a Lactation Consultant to be successful at breastfeeding.

    Women should feed empowered to be women and mother's. Are we really "pressured" into it, or are we continuously marketed at to do the alternative. When was the last time you saw a breastfeeding mother on TV? When was the last time you saw a formula advertisement on TV. Wolf is assisting the formula companies. Wonder if she is getting some financial incentive?

  71. I heard much about post-natal depression, while growing up in an environment where most babies were bottle-fed. I never saw anyone breastfeeding; it never really occurred to me that breasts were for that purpose. Before giving birth, I just assumed that with my emotional make-up and family history, I might easily succumb to post-natal depression. When I gave birth, even though I was older, even though I was very upset by a bad birth, with no sense of personal control, even though I was unbelievably exhausted, nursing my child gave me comfort. Even though, it was a very bumpy period, I don't believe I was ever depressed. I nursed for a couple of years, and when I finally weaned my child, I did feel a transient depression, which passed easily, since I felt it probably was related to the weaning process. Since then I have been wondering if the absence of breast-feeding or very early weaning is more likely to lead to serious post-natal depression. Is there any research on that?

  72. I am a mother and a health care professional and I have many concerns when it comes to this constant debate. The formula companies must be elated to see articles such as this be published. Our work in the area of breastfeeding is firmly based in evidence based practice. The research that supports the benefits of breastfeeding, not only for the baby but also for the mother's own health benefits, is so extensive that it really is discouraging to see such emphasis put on one feminists perspective. I advise reading this article with caution. Remember the tragic results that Andrew Wakefield's study had on MMR vaccination only to be proven years later he was a fraud. As a breastfeeding advocate we are moving 2 steps forward and then an article such as this can move us 1 step back again. My final comment is this: What ever happened to the baby's choice? Do we consider what the baby wants? or only what is best for the mother? I want to conclude that I feel very fortunate to live in Canada where many working mothers are supported with 12 months maternity leave unlike our neighbors to the south that have between 6 weeks to 3 months. Twelve months is supportive to the breastfeeding relationship between mother and child.

  73. There are some facts about breastfeed and breast milk worth mentioning: 1) There is nothing under the sky better for a new born and infant that breast milk. 2) The Breastfeeding rates in North American have never been lower since they have been measured. 3) The only ones interested in lowering breastfeeding is breastfeeding substitute manufacturer, to the point that they are not refer as formulas anymore and have been denounce by health organization to promote them in deter of well being and health, to the point that these (or this) manufacture(s) use this type of bizarre notes to keep validating their profits. Thank you to McLean's to give us this opportunity to point out these facts.

  74. Part A:
    There is a major problem with Wolf's argument here. In the beginning of the interview, she says that evidence shows that breastfed babies are healthier, but says the reason why can't really be known because women who breastfeed are also more likely to be middle class or more highly educated. Wolf goes on to say that placing emphasis on breastfeeding puts unnecessary pressure on working-poor women because of the hurdles they face to breastfeed. However, with the examples she cites, namely that working-poor women aren't afforded adequate time or an appropriate place to pump, Wolf does not address the total absence of any kind of system that would afford working-poor women a humane length of time as maternity leave in order to have enough time and closeness with their babies to actually be able to nurse them. (Con't… See part B)

  75. (…Con't from part A)
    Part B:
    A major argument that Wolf is making is that we shouldn't promote breast milk as being ideal because not all women want to or can afford to do it. But in making this argument, does Wolf not realize that she is actually making it harder for working-poor women to EVER obtain the necessary conditions to be able to nurse their babies? If there were real support for working-poor mothers to be able to nurse and care for their children, maybe we would see similar outcomes for them as we see for 'middle and better educated' women who nurse their babies. But if we follow Wolf's logic, we'll never find out. Working-poor women will be condemned to return to 'waitressing' or 'shift work' shortly after giving birth, and will continue to spend large amounts of their wages on infant formula. Wolf suggests that her argument is in favour of 'choice', when in reality, saying that breastfeeding is not important will essentially condemn working-poor women to NEVER have the CHOICE to breastfeed. And that is a travesty.

  76. (…Con't from parts A and B)
    Part C:
    Whether it is the actual milk that produces better outcomes for children, or the anti-bodies, or the skin to skin contact, or the closeness, or the responsiveness, or the bond, or the mutual enjoyment that most mothers and babies share in the process, or even the extra time that mothers in higher income brackets are afforded to spend with their children – or some combination of the above – the bottom line is that if Wolf's argument gains any traction, working-poor women will never get the chance to find out whether breastfeeding would have been a positive experience for themselves and their babies.

  77. Her next book will make the argument that feeding your child healthy meals at home is overrated compared to McDonalds. After all, there is no scientific proof that home cooking is any better than those Happy Meals, since you are free to make home meals out of anything in the kitchen, right? Who knows what horrible toxins, chemicals and dangerous substances lurk in mom's lasagna! At least MacDonald's food is consistent… And think of the feminist perspective. It is too much of a burden to expect women to sacrifice their valuable time preparing healthy food in the kitchen (insulting, really). Three meals a day at McDonalds for your 3 year old?! Absolutely?! And don't feel guilty about it.

    • the most interesting thing about this article is that it's authors are funded by the infant formula industry.

    • the most interesting thing about this "study" is that it's authors were funded by the infant formula industry.

      • You may be right. I'm not a mother or a baby so I'm an outsider to this debate except for the fact that I was breastfed and I have had severe allergies all my life.

        • p.s. My reply was too short and I didn't mean to imply a definite causation. Severe allergies can be inherited. My biggest concern about this debate (and others) that what may be right for the great majority of people may not be right for a certain individual, and it's no one else's business. For example, I know at least two women who have had breast cancer and mastectomies before age 30. I hope none of the breast-feeding fanatics reading this will ever, ever, ever, approach those fine young women in public and berate them for bottle-feeding a baby.

  78. I have SEVERELY inverted nipples and when I became pregnant I just knew it was going to be a problem so I went to see a doctor at a breastfeeding clinic. She gave me things to try once baby was born and I did try but no avail…
    Has anyone thought that there ARE mothers out there that simply can not breastfeed due to this problem? I'm one of them and my daughter has never had any health issues. I would have breastfed if I could but I tried and I pumped for 2 hours one time and barely got one once of milk. Nothing against breastfeeding but just saying there are mother's out there that just can not do it.

    • Ally, I just wanted to write because this article isn't about mothers who truly are having problems like you, it is about the fact that MORE mothers choose to formula feed vs breastfeeding. Basically, imagine needing a colostomy bag for medical reasons. Then, imagine if the world decided to use colostomy bags because it's easier than actually going to the bathroom. Would that take all your credibility away? Wouldn't that infuriate you and take the attention away from those who really need it? Who you should be upset with isn't the people who promote breastfeeding but rather the women who formula feed for no good medical reason and reduce your credibility. I am huge breastfeeding advocate but several of my friends formula feed.

    • You can still breastfeed with inverted nipples. Plus, even those moms with a large milk supply sometimes are unable to pump any milk at all, so the fact that you were only able to get an ounce of milk does not mean your supply was inadequate. It is sad that you did not get the support you deserved. My sympathies to you. :(

  79. I have only one thing to say.

    She is NOT a medical professional. Consult your own family doctor before taking the advice of a PROFESSOR.

  80. As a nurse working with women to breastfeed in a postpartum unit, I believe that women should listen to their guts….as to whether or not they choose to breastfeed. Some are very comfortable and just do it, others need assistance/guidence and some hate it. Hospital policy pushes everyone to breastfeed……I don't believe it is right for everyone. As for nipple confusion…..give me a break….sure it happens….but to less than 1/2 of 1%….is it worth it to 'threaten' Moms with those figures. If you look deep enough into the research (and I have)….you'll find a breastfeeding pro group in there somewhere….and really….you can run numbers to suit your agenda!!
    I've BF 2 kids…one for 5 wks……healthy, one for 9 mos….has ++ allergies AND Crohn's Disease (GI problems)…NOT the expected outcomes….Inform Moms, support them…..but stop threatening them..

    • Who's threatening them? How is hospital policy pushing everyone to breastfeed? If a woman comes to your hospital is she allowed to choose bottlefeeding? Likely. Are bottlefeeding babies made to breastfeed. Unlikely. Are breastfeeding babies offered formula "top ups" to settle them even when one feeding of formula changes the gut flora for two weeks putting them at risk for pathogens and allergens, probably. Who is pressuring who?

    • Postpartum RN/Mom – I welcome your opinion and your courage to express it. I am not sure where you work but in the province of Alberta we have a very high iniation rate for breastfeeding – between 90% and 95%. Even if those new born babes get a bit of that colostrum, that is great. You seem bothered by what you see as mothers being almost forced to breastfeed. My view on it is that at least they will have tried it and won't have any regrets later that they did not and wished they had. As for your two children. I had a similar situation. I am very thankful that I did breastfeed the first one – she was allergic to everything and had I not breastfed her, I would have had to use a very expensive formula called Nutramigen.

  81. you ms. wolf….with all due respect….are a flippin idiot. who's pocket are you in….similac, enfamil, nestle? or are you that jealous or ashamed of your own choices that you attack the BEST thing a momma can do for their baby…..

  82. I don't understand how breast feeding is really a sacrifice. I breastfed both my children for 2+ year each. I wasn't college educated upper class – I was a teenage mother who was all about the easiest most convenient method of child rearing. I didn't find it painful to breastfeed, slightly uncomfortable for the first few days, but nothing compared to giving birth haha.

    Now maybe my kids would have been fine if I'd put them of formula (probably I would have had to shell out for an expensive "special" formula as my oldest was dairy and soy intolerant) but the fact that he is now a bright healthy 6 year old could be due to the fact that, I dunno, he was genetically resilient. I was a teenager, I couldn't afford to smother him and protect him from any kind of germs, all I could do was what came naturally. Maybe Ms. Wolf is right, that the studies that have been done have not used a control group that is exactly the same as the "experimental group", because when an experiment involves the health of human infants, the experiment is considered unethical. The only data we can use is observational data – and this kind of data is not irrelevant, whatever Ms Wolf would have you believe.

  83. The feminist position would be for the woman to make a well-informed choice, based on evidence, not being influenced by commercial promotion, and sure of skilled help to cope with the results of her choice.
    She'd need a hospital and medical help nearby plus the means to access it – transport, money, help with other children at home – if she chooses formula feeding. (Yes, of course the research does include weighting for social class etc!!!)
    She'd need well-trained health professionals of peer supporters if she chooses breastfeeding, because there are often difficulties and there are always breastfeeding solutions to breastfeeding challenges. La Leche League is a great source of skilled help in 68 countries. Plus government protection from formula promotion, as required by the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. Plus proper recognition of the value of her mothering – with paid maternity leave.
    Funnily enough, where women have insisted on these rights – they breastfeed! (Norway, Sweden etc)

  84. Luckily living in Canada I think the majority of us are able to take a one year of maternity off so we are fortunate to have the chance to be with the babies every day and breastfeed without the issues of pumping at work. When I went back to work I was only able to breastfeed about another month, as the challenges of pumping and finding time prooved too challlenging for me.
    Breastfeeding my first child was the hardest thing I did (I swear harder then the birth), I cried for 2 weeks straight because of pain, frustration, waking every two hours to feed my baby and increase my milk supply, I wanted to quit so many times but stuck it out. After two weeks something clicked, it started to work and I am so happy I stuck with it. For myself I had to learn it, it was not natural. With my second child it worked so much quicker as I was more confident and knew how to help the baby.

    I had to motivating factors — money, things were so tight while on maternity leave and a husband who has terrible ulcerative colitis and suffers greatly. My hope is the breastfeeding my help my children avoid the terrible disease.

    • I hope so too!

      Also, a couple of sayings that helped me through the rough times: "Keep breastfeeding; don't be a weaner!" and "Don't quit on yor worst day."

  85. Oh please please!
    Having read this I would only like to ask:
    – Who asks babies and children what THEY like?
    – For goodness' sakes, the whole breastfeeding 'sacrifice' lasts one, two years max. is it really so hard to put career, ambition aside and give time, attention and body to your child?

    • Whoa……
      I agree breast feeding is not entirely a "sacrifice" but to say "is it really so hard to put career, ambition aside and give time, attention and body to your child?" is really, really judgemental. I didn't put all that aside for a whole year…. does that make me a worse mom than the mom next door who did? Really? Yikes! Having worked with dozens of moms over the years I can vouch for many of them and say that those who made decisions that were good for their child AND them were often better adjusted. Motherhood comes with a ton of guilt, and it just seems to come at you from many sources. Some are inevitable, such as the single mom going back to work to feed her family. Could she really stil give time, attention and body to her child. Possibly, but truly unlikely.

  86. 1. It is the responsibility of parents/caregivers to care for their children, including ensuring that they are fed. This is not a question of preference and should not be called "work". I don't consider feeding myself work; it's the act of living. When we mislabel these acts as work, we categorize them with all that is optional labour and it misplaces the nature of the act.
    2. Difficulties in breastfeeding (incl. inconvenience and uncertainty) are confounded by a culture that does not effectively transfer knowledge and supports intergenerationally and where women do not live in community with one another. (See the movie Babies for what this means in other cultures.)
    3. Guilting women who are unable to breastfeed (vs. unwilling) is not helpful. Setting social expectations to protect the health and welfare of children is helpful. This would include supporting women who are unwilling to breastfeed to do so through the provision of good supports, including knowledge, adequate spaces and time to nurse and pump and social mores for breastfeeding.
    4. This article is narrow in its assessment of breastfeeding, both historically and across cultures. In short, it's flawed in a myriad of ways and, frankly, stupid.

  87. We should all know by now that this is a pointless topic used to fuel readership ratings (or sell a book). Nurse your baby – don't nurse your baby. Whatever you do, own it. And don't worry because there will be some industry or another that will back up or refute your decision (multinational food conglomerates, tenure/publication-seeking social scientists, medical establishment). Just stop whining that you are being made to feel "guilty" or that you are made to feel like a worthless milk cow or militant SHM. And please, for the love of god, stop posting about it. Maybe it will go away and we can all just carry on parenting as we see fit for our own children.

  88. Thank you so much for this article. I suffered severe post partum depression after my son was born and he was not able to latch. I did feel like a failure an incompetent mother. I was told exactly what the author described as far as the health risks I was subjecting my child to for choosing not to breastfeed. I was hospitalized when he was 3 months because of my post partum depression and finally realized I needed to do what was best for myself and my family which was to bottle/formula feed. It is unfortunate that women are given all the options and that so many other people feel they have the right to subject mothers to their opinions.

  89. Honestly – maybe they get sick of people asking them if they tried hard enough? Show me the stats that say it is a lie that "most moms who formula feed do so because they have to". Maybe "have to" is the wrong word? Maybe decide to because it is hard, there were supply issues, they had to return to work and didn't want to pump (pumping is NOT natural by the way!). Perhaps you should visit the blog – The Fearless Formula Feeder and read all the posts from women who painstakingly made the decision to formula – perhaps then you will find some empathy for women who battle insensitive comments like the ones on this forum everyday!

    • If person a chooses not to breastfeed "because it is hard", what are they going to do when other difficult situations come up in their child's life?!
      "OMG, I wanted my kid to attend school and quit drugs, but it was just too hard."

  90. There is no cure in a can and formula is NOT a substitute for human milk. Under the microscope, breastmilk is alive — with antibodies, stem cells, and all kinds of good things not found in formula — which is literally dead under the microscope.

    Breastmilk changes to meet the needs of the baby, unlike formula.

    Formula is NOT natural and the only reason why it's so popular is because formula is pushed onto women, given in samples at the hospital, and women are uneducated on breastfeeding.

    Long live breastfeeding; let it not become a lost art. Our babies need it to thrive. Studies PROVE that it's the best thing for babies, and I know in my heart when I feed my babies that breastfeeding is pure love.

  91. Wouldn't the feminist position be "provide access to adequate education on the benefits of breast feeding and educate professionals on how to help women who wish to breastfeed but are having difficulty then assume a woman is competent to make her own decision on breastfeeding?"

  92. What an idiot.

  93. What happened to common sense?!?! No MAMMAL species survives without suckling its specific "formula" programmed by thousands of generations of genes which know how to program its unique milk to make that species survive (one example is the fat to water to calcium ratios, all different in each species). Breastfeeding in mammals is the only thing that allows a species to survive its childhood. Law of the jungle, pure and simple and has nothing to do with statistical analysis or how "good" or "bad" a mother is.

    So far there is no man-made formula that can duplicate mammal-milk. Science is close to respective species be it human or elephant formulas (Sheldrick's elephant orphanage in Nairobe has made breakthroughs, but still calves die of "silent" infections). The difference lies in the passage of immunoglobins in mammal made milk. I'm a PA, I understand the immune system so when Wolf says "What we don't have is any EVIDENCE that those antibodies have any effect anywhere else in the body" is flat out wrong. We sure have 100% evidence that inoculations prevent disease because of antibody response and that applies to mammal milk.

    Ms. Wolf makes me conclude that she would also say a strict McDonald's Happy Meal diet could be a feminist right to take the pressure off mothers from having to cook. Both her breastfeeding conclusion and such a diet idea are equally ludicrous. The problem is reporters/interviewers don't have the knowledge to be able to call her out on her grossly inaccurate conclusions.

  94. I'm glad she feels her women's studies degrees qualify her to speak authoritatively on this topic.

    (Joan, as political as people make it, this is not a political issue, it is a medical issue. Your statements are all about what you think should be true, not about what the science says. That would be like denying that BpA leaching and pesticide residue in foods have a negative effect on our children's health, just because it would be politically and economically inconvenient for some groups to accept, and that would just be crazy. Er…wouldn't it?)

    Hmm. Why are we so much more concerned with not making mothers feel bad about the substandard choices they are forced by modern life and circumstances to make, rather than with giving them more and better choices? Why are we even giving a PolySci person legitimacy in speaking about whether breastmilk is "overrated" or not?

  95. She obviously has not done her research. I wonder if she has either been brainwashed by the formula companies or is on their payroll or she is just stupid? I didn't breastfeed because I felt presure or that I was told it was best, I breastfead beacause I saw my mother do it I have know since I was a young child that that is how you feed babies. I always knew I would breastfeed & thank goodness I was determined because I did have my share of problems, but thanks to the wonderful mom's & leader's at La Leche League I was able to succesfully breastfeed my son until the age of 4+. It was reasuring to hear that it was better & all of the benifits, but I have something deep inside me called natural instinct that guided me to breastfeed. I also am not a germaphobe, infact far from it.

  96. continued …I can't tell you how many time I realize that I forgot to make my son wash his hands & those shopping cart wipes, I'm more worried about the chemicals in them than the germs they supposedly kill. My son is supper healthy & rarely gets sick & in his four years I think he has only had a handfull of colds / viruses & maybe 3 or 4 ear infections. I really don't think you have the slightest clue what you are talking about & you are doing mothers everywhere a disservice & makeing inacurate generalizations.

  97. I'm a feminist. I breastfeed. Wolf can take a flying leap. Her book is geared to ease the guilt of mothers who *choose* to feed their babies artificial, substitute milk without having any kind of medical justification to excuse them (such as chemotherapy, or the baby being an adopted one and therefore not having caused their bodies to produce milk in the first place). I suppose it's not directly antifeminist to choose formula as a convenience, but doing so makes it much harder for breastfeeding mothers to nurse in public, because whipping out the bottle reinforces the cultural norm of bottle feeding and the ridiculous notion that nursing in public is somehow "flaunting" or "immodest." Nudging breastfeeding mothers under blankets (what's next? burqas?), into bathroom stalls, and worst of all, house arrest for the sin of "immodestly flaunting" breastfeeding is antifeminist, because it tells mothers to "know their proper place" and stay in it if they know what's good for them.

    • Oh, by the way, Wolf, you're a horrible mother. (Okay. Maybe you're not, but I couldn't resist that last little dig, because people like you, who want to find justification for decisions that make it hard for mothers to breastfeed, bug the living snot out of me.)

  98. I sure bet the baby doesn't think nursing is over-rated.

  99. Thank you so much for this article. I am a new mother. I started out breastfeeding easily and then dealt with a large and painful abscess for six weeks. I had this abscess drained three times at the hospital; the last time it was drained, the interventional radiologist removed 8 ounces of fluid. For the last four weeks I spent three afternoons a week visiting: lactation consultants, my family doctor, and a breast surgeon. I consulted LLL and Dr. Jack Newman. For much of these six weeks I was in too much pain to carry my son, I could not burp him after breastfeeding, and I could not raise my head level with my shoulders, as the abscess had swollen to be very large and painful. I cried every single day from pain and from sadness at not being able to care properly for my son. I was diagnosed with post-partum depression, brought on by these challenges. Despite this, most medical professionals and lactation specialists whom I encountered insisted that the "best thing I could do" for my son was to continue breastfeeding him. The abscess refused to heal because doctors initially resisted giving me antibiotics because the antibiotics would be bad for the baby and could lead to the development of thrush, which they feared would further discourage me from breastfeeding. I wore a drain in my breast for two weeks to help the abscess heal. I ultimately decided that it was more important for me to be able to hold and care physically for my son than it was to nurse him; and for him to have a mother who was not constantly in pain, so we switched to formula. I am grateful for the modern technology and the availability of safe drinking water that allowed me to make this decision; I am frustrated by the condescending attitude of "lactivists", both medical and not, who resisted treating my condition because of their obsession with breastmilk.

    • You sound like a very brave lady. This is a time when you needed a very good family physician who was on your side. Thrush is easily treated. There is no reason you should not have been fully treated with antibiotics and then you both could have been treated for yeast if required. Something you must always remember is that medicine and the spin-offs are a "service" that you hire to work for you. What these people honestly think is that they are fulfilling your desires. They just assume you are also obsessed with breastmilk. As you can tell from this forum, many people are.

    • My goodness, I am so sorry you ever went through this. An infection is no time to harass a new mom. Your doctors and lactation consultants were obviously not familiar with treating abscesses swiftly and confidently- many antibiotics are NOT contraindicated during breastfeeding. I am glad you are better. I hope that women in your situation RUN, not walk to the nearing La Leche Leader first, and then, for God's sake, if nothing helps, move on to formula and move on with life. An eight ounce abscess sounds like a nightmare. Unfortunately, however, this article is not defending an ill woman's decision to discontinue breastfeeding insomuch as a healthy woman's decision to dismiss it because it's not worth the time or effort. You obviously gave it a great deal of time and effort. No one should ever be condescending to you or anyone– PEOPLE, there is life beyond the nursing stage… it only gets hairier and hairier, I'm afraid (lol).

  100. Joan Wolf is trying to say that women are held accountable too often for the health and safety of their children. Well, they *should* be! I think the problem is that the men in children's lives aren't held accountable often enough in our society. There should be equal pressure for everyone involved to keep our kids out of harm's way. This includes breastfeeding (person who birthed), breastfeeding support (men AND women in the family) and every other form of parenting.
    In addition, both men and women can induce lactation. It doesn't have to be the job of the birth parent only. It's not about sacrifice; it's about good parenting. Don't blame breastfeeding for patriarchy.
    Also, breastfeeding is obviously more healthy… first of all, it's evolution; we evolved to feed our babies from our bodies. Cows and soybean plants did not evolve to feed human babies. Secondly, there is so much research out there proving that breastmilk is superior, one must be completely ignorant to deny it. Lastly, if "the benefit that might come to [someone's] baby is not worth the cost to [them]," maybe they shouldn't be a parent! Having children is not about using your right to reproduce, it is about raising a human being! Yes, it requires sacrifices, and no, it's not easy!

  101. EHHH… Breastfeeding is absolutely necessary the world over (ie, everywhere that isn't filthy rich, such as the US) in order to save infants from dying horrible, slow deaths due to diarrhea and malnutrition. The numbers here are irrefutable.

    Secondly, the research that shows a lowered risk of breast cancer in moms and better health outcomes in babies who are breastfed ARE controlled for socio-economic factors… breastfeeders have been compared to other factor-grouped breastfeeding moms in many excellent studies. To suggest that a lower-income woman who breastfeeds displays fewer advantages than a higher-income woman is either absurd or an argument for eugenics. Many factors are cross compared in experimental, correlational studies in order to control for confounding factors: age, income, ethnicity, diet, weight, etc..

    Ultimately though, this argument has been BEATEN TO DEATH. If you care about the data, good for you. If you don't, fine. There are lots of other things you can do benefit your baby's health, if you wish, and there are things you can chose to omit that would harm your baby's health…. probably. I mean, there is strong evidence to SUGGEST that second-hand smoke is not good for humans in general, but you can refute that data if you wish.

    Above all, we should be considerate of individuals' desires and needs and stop beating each other up about this issue. BUT PLEASE do not dismiss decent, reliable data and conclusions, based solely on a desire to defend a group of women who want to feel better. Science is not about making people feel good- it's about having the closest thing to what can be called "facts" so that a decision can be made as wisely as possible. It is not about anything else.

    Breastfeeding, on the other hand, for me, was about being CLOSE and connected to my babies, and for sheer convenience, and for the calm feelings it produced in me: a very harried, busy mom. Those are my "data".

    And yes, I do think women are damn lucky we get to do this and men do not- let's not make this a feminist issue, folks. Those babies are girls, too. Let's just make sure women have the TIME and SUPPORT we deserve. YES- we are feeding a little population of humans, we deserve that protection, and they do too. Sorry boys.

    • Hello Steph,

      Your belief in science sounds unshakeable. The same science was used to prove that bottle-feeding was better just decades ago. All I can say is read about meta-studies in Breastfeeding which include larger bodies of research than just the best ones which hit the presses. These show a less overrated picture of breastfeeding. Or read Joan's book or Linda Blum or Pamela Carter. Look up Rosnan and breastfeeding and click on some of the links to alternative breastfeeding research results. Julia Query is also quite aware of research issues.

  102. I am not sure if many of the commenters above actually read the article? I think you will find the author is saying yes breastfeeding is natural, no there is no evidence to suggest that it is better for your baby than formula (apart from the gastro).
    Society puts far too many pressures on new mothers. At the end of the day don't give yourself postnatal depression over it, if its not working it is not working, formula is not poison, it is nourishment, and to be quite frank I would rather be able to give my child both love and nourishment, because both are extremely important for raising healthy happy and successfull people.

    • Right you are!!! I also can get over how many people are just commenting out of gut reaction. There is nothing threatening about what this author is saying. She is not anti-breastfeeding. Breastfeed by all means if you enjoy it but don't suffer through it if it is ruining your life, marriage, career, or health. She is right that we need to put some reason back into motherhood. So many women don't want to just breastfeed, they want to be recognized as meeting the mother ideal. Let motherhood be about you, not about what others think.

  103. There is no free lunch – not even when it comes to infant feeding choices. After a couple of generations of using our water resources as open sewers, the number of modern tap water contaminants that are actually legislated for testing and monitoring is pathetically small (only 29 of 92 naturally-occurring elements of the Periodic Table and a handful of organic compounds like pesticides or industrial solvents, for example, and no pharmaceuticals or personal care products, degradation or recombinant molecules to speak of). Plus, if you live in a community that artificially fluoridates its water, typically in the range of 0.7 mg/l – 1.2 mg/l, then you're likely exceeding Health Canada's recommended fluoride concentration of 0.5 mg/l for water used to reconstitute infant formula. But since the myriad of chemicals that contain variously arranged carbon atoms get stored in body fat, toxins that have been accumulated over the mother's ante natal lifespan are gradually released to her infant during lactation even though most (but not all) of the harmful elements have been screened out by the Mother of All Biofilters. It's high time for Tiger Moms and Mama Bears everywhere to start getting serious about source water protection and informed consumer choices by standing up for Mother Earth, our children and ourselves.

  104. I found breasfeeding very difficult at first – that is until my own mother, who by the way breastfed 11 children, gave me advice on how to solve the problems I was having. Then it got much easier. The author here is obviously not a scientist, and therefore has no valid basis to stand on with her arguments. She says that there is no scientific evidence that breastfeeding is beneficial, but she has no scientific education or training to make such a claim. If there is evidence, she has no way of evaluating it based on it's scientific value.

    • It is sad that you only feel that scientists can participate in this debate. Furthermore, Ms. Wolf does not deny that it is beneficial. She says that some women quite enjoy it and that she believes that the evidence for GI benefits is well-founded. She questions the extent to which these benefits are touted and how heavily they should weigh in a woman's decision to do what is best for HER and her baby. Interdisciplinary studies, using many disciplinary angles not just science, to tackle all research questionsis gaining popularity and improving research everywhere.

  105. This is ludacris. The number of arguments to out weigh the author is tremendous! I could begin listing the benefits of breastfeeding but that would take up far too much space. Nurses and other health care providers work with mothers to see them succeed. Lactation consultants dont send home mom and babe is she see's there is issues with latch or milk production. Why would a health care provider want to see their clients fail. Ultimately we want to see you clients try breastfeeding to the best of their ability, because "breast is best"! If issues arise lactation consultants and nurses are (in most cases) more than willing to begin educating about formula feeding, so that both the mom and babe can prosper.

  106. The breasts only biological purpose is to provide food for its offspring. How can you doubt that? I'm not saying this article is about whether breast is best or not it seems to be an excuse for those women that didn't bother even trying.
    Those mothers that have failed to breastfeed, those that have done their research, have gone to the best doctors, lactation consultants etc to deal with any issues that have been thrown at them…. And still have not had success… Then well done to you! But honestly you don't need a pat on the back, you know you've done your best, and if you feel guilty, fair enough as would I because you know that breast is best. But you also know that life goes on and you have had access to an alternative.
    The women that have failed are those women that couldn't care less, that haven't even tried to breast feed. There's nothing else to call these women but self-centred and only thinking of themselves and not what is best for their child. These women feel guilty? Well should they? Honestly mothers I ask you what are your excuses for not trying?

    • The women who have failed because they did not try??? You mean the women who we failed. The women who do not try might not have access to education or support for breastfeeding. And I wonder why these women are so self-centered??? They brought a child into the world rather than abort or just forego children. They have already done a lot which I consider selfless. Why can't they choose to organize motherhood in their own way. Why do you criticize them with such comments without having walked in their shoes???

      Oh yeah. Is the father self-centered too or does he get off clean???

  107. <<For example, one thing we know is that women who are middle class or more highly educated are more likely to breastfeed>>

    In our country, perhaps – but not in all countries. Breastfeeding is a very economical choice for lower-income families (and very common among low-income families in other parts of the world – therefore, it's not based upon all of the current US-based research on the value of breastfeeding – not all humans need to spend millions of dollars to prove what common sense tells you). Were formula not provided for for US families on WIC, would the breastfeeding rate be higher in the United States for women in the lower socio-economic strata?

    • Dear SBS,

      You might be interested to know that Breastfeeding and Formula are not the only options for feeding babies. Even in Canada a very small percentage of the poorest families still make their own feeding concoctions for infants. If you start denying poor women access to formula it might not result in them breastfeeding because they are probably in a very bad position to do so in the first place. It might result in more use of self-made baby formula or as we see in third world countries, the dilution of formula. Both could have dire consequences for babies. Let's concentrate on making it possible for poor women to breastfeed rather than deny them the best alternative, OK?

      • Dear Real Feminism,
        I didn't mean to imply that we should eliminate the formula option for poorer women, I was merely wondering if it weren't an option would we still find that it is "women who are middle class or more highly educated" that choose to breastfeed? I completely agree that we need to focus on solutions that allow and encourage women to breastfeed (i.e. options for expressing milk at work, etc..). I was merely pointing out that in countries that don't have such ready access to formula, poor women do breastfeed at significantly higher rates than in the US.

  108. And while I can appreciate the desire to take away the stigma of formula feeding, the assertion that breast feeding is not best is ridiculous. Numerous, NUMEROUS, studies prove this – and common sense tells you this: it *IS* natural and it is designed to benefit mother and child. Very few women truly cannot (biologically) breastfeed. I have no idea why such a woman would feel guilty for that any more than a person might feel guilty for not having access to the healthiest food available. There is no shame in doing your best. In my experience what I see is that the true guilt is coming from the women who are choosing to formula feed for their own convenience while knowing that it is inferior to breastmilk. No one likes to admit that they are shortchanging somone else (least of all a child dependent upon them) for their own comfort or preferences. I have no problem with women who make that choice – but the facts are the facts whether or not you like them. This revisionist garbage is getting old. Breast is best. Period. If you cannot breastfeed, why in the world would that cause you guilt? If you can, choose not to, and feel guilty for it don't get mad at everyone else for the guilt you feel.

    • Dear SBS,
      Firstly, Ms. Wolf did not assert that Breast was not best just that it was overrated. Secondly, the vast majority of breastfeeding studies show that there is a small or negligible benefit to breastfeeding, however, it is the studies which show above average benefits which tend to get published and used by breastfeeding advocates. Look up "breastfeeding meta analysis studies" which cover large bodies of research to learn more. Research bias as well as the media's desire for BIG news has contributed to the impression that these extremes are the norm. The figure for women who cannot produce a full milk supply is about 5-15% depending on the motivation of the source. Women do feel guilty because there is also a lot of literature which leads you to believe that these problems can be overcome either easily or with great perseverance (implying that you are not determined enough if you "give up"). I still get advice on how I could have solved my latch problems 3 years after I gave up breastfeeding and started to enjoy my baby rather than dread feeding her. Joan Wolf is speaking up about a problem which affects women and is very real.

      • Sorry, I should have put at least that part of my response in a different area – where a commenter stated that "breast isn't best, it's just the norm." Okay, I searched for "breastfeeding meta analysis studies" and the first 5 results (I did not sort through and I only looked at the first 5) were: (Continued below)

        • 1 http://www.ajcn.org/content/70/4/525.long which stated that they were specifically testing to see if the superior results for breastfeeding were due to breastfeeding or other socio-economic factors. They found that:"After adjustment for covariates, the increment in cognitive function was 3.16 (95% CI: 2.35, 3.98) points. This adjusted difference was significant and homogeneous. Significantly higher levels of cognitive function were seen in breast-fed than in formula-fed children at 6–23 mo of age and these differences were stable across successive ages. Low-birth-weight infants showed larger differences (5.18 points; 95% CI: 3.59, 6.77) than did normal-birth-weight infants (2.66 points; 95% CI: 2.15, 3.17) suggesting that premature infants derive more benefits in cognitive development from breast milk than do full-term infants. Finally, the cognitive developmental benefits of breast-feeding increased with duration. " 2 http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/162/5/397.s…. The summary: "These findings strongly support a dose-dependent association between longer duration of breastfeeding and decrease in risk of overweight. "

          • 3 http://www.who.int/child_adolescent_health/docume… . Summary: "Subjects who were breastfed experienced lower mean blood pressure and total cholesterol, as well as higher performance in intelligence tests. Prevalence of overweight/obesity and type-2 diabetes was lower among breastfed subjects. All effects were statistically significant but for some outcomes their magnitude was relatively modest." 4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10972524 Summary: " A slight but significant decreased risk of breast cancer was observed in ever breastfeeding, compared with never breastfeeding parous women, using both the fixed and random-effect models."

          • 5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12022298. Summary: "CONCLUSION: Exclusive breastfeeding during the first 3 mo after birth protects against allergic rhinitis in children, both with and without a family history of atopy. The protective association, although of borderline statistical significance, was substantial." (comment continued below) I agree with you that it's the really BIG news that makes the news, but this little exercise you sent me on seems to reinforce what I believe, not your or Ms. Wolf's assertion. I am very sorry that you had latch problems and I am sorry that some women feel guilty because sometimes the attempts to encourage mothers can be truly offensive.

          • What I find offensive about the feminist agenda is that there seems to be a belief that feminism is about a woman feeling good about doing whatever she wants to do. Ms. Wolf was conservative in her assertion of this – some of the commenters were less so – but the idea that if Mom doesn't *want* to breastfeed, well then that isn't what's best for baby because breastfeeding isn't significantly better than formula feeding. There does seem to be a significant benefit to breastfeeding (whether you're going by the "big news" or the 5 articles I looked at) to strongly indicate that breastfeeding, when possible, is best for mother and baby. I believe the better part of all humans – including women – is when we sacrifice what we want to give what is best for another. I personally think that some elements of "feminism" have caused women to take the low road in the name of "equality" and we are all the worse for it.

  109. Keep on talking Joan B. Wolf! I've been a fan of your work for years now. I took up the topic of breastfeeding academically after my determination to breastfeed spoiled motherhood for me. I am a firm believer on the importance of the mother and her life, goals and feelings in the question of how to raise a baby. Babies have never had a better chance of survival than they do here and now and mothers are killing themselves with worry and trying to control every variable AND lashing out at every mother who does things differently. Pathetic to see where feminism got us. We all just want to score points as moms and let the media dictate what the best mothering "du jour" is.

  110. Ms. Wolf is an expert in feminist issues. She and her colleagues are working on improving the way to choice and safety for all women regardless of infant feeding option. They are challenging ideas such as yours about what is normal or natural because these have been defined over time and mostly by men. There is more to breastfeeding than science and more at stake than just a baby getting fed. the scientists and doctors used to endorse bottle-feeding as the better way based on misconceptions about women and sanitation. Feminists with no scientific background changed their minds and brought about the push towards breastfeeding. Why should we ignore feminists now and believe all we hear from scientists? Having said that, we have only heard what a few scientists have to say about breastfeeding anyhow because the press is biased in that they only publish the most extreme results not all the studies which show little or no difference.

  111. This article is great, and arguments make sense. So you really think that Nesté pays physicians to express moderated opinions as above ? Dr Wolf clearly says that it no studies really proved anything regardig the supposed superiority of breastfeeding vs bottle feeding. Do you understand what “correlation” means? What she says about the ‘risk culture’ is really interesting. You can’t simply dismiss someone, or his/hers ideas simply because that would mean to reconsider your prejugees….this is simply stupid. Ms Wolf is obsiously more educated than you will ever be. Breasfeeding has now more to do with mummies’ ego than her child’s benefit.

  112. This woman is BS.  Breastfeeding moms don’t “make sure that anyone who comes to my house is not sick, that they wash their hands before they handle the baby, and if I don’t take my kids to the grocery store when it’s packed full of people on their way home from work and I sanitize the grocery cart, I am doing all sorts of things that could prevent my child from contracting a virus.”
    And if breastfeeding moms also do other things that are good for their baby – couldn’t there still be a connection to the fact that their breastfeeding? IE., they have a closer relationship to their baby, which is why they DO the other good things??????  The only way I would even consider listening to this woman, is if she tells me, she herself breastfed her children.  Otherwise, it’s clear to me – this comes from her own personal issues!!

  113. Knowing that maternal antibodies do NOT pass through babies’blood (and this is a scientific fact), and can only protects babies on a digestive point of view (one or two episodes of gastro-enteritis may be avoided – see very serious Kramer study), how can people believe that human breastmilk is a sort of magic liquid, protecting against: low IQ’s, infections, diseases, poor interpersonal skills…etc..
    Are you all out of your mind? La Leche League is a catholic LOBBY. Dr Sears’ method has no scientific grounds (nursing 24h/24, carrying BB’s non-stop). He simply observed African women and decided that it was the beneficial thing to do. But african women, traditionnally, carried their babies for obvious security reasons. I have read lots of testimonies of BFeeding parents. Despite the intense pain on the maternal side, BFed babies cry a lot more than formula fed babies. They are HUNGRY. Not every woman can BFeed. Sometimes lactations consultant are unable to help them.
    Our babies are born WITH antibodies, which is not the case for cats, veals, dogs..etc. We humans are VERY SPECIAL mammals. So f….naturalist theories. Lovely mother nature almost killed my mother last year. A bad virus. Nature is a killer. So let’s not praise it blindly. If formula didn’t exist, many BFed babies would have DIED. Of hunger. When BF fails, mothers guiltily turn towards formula…and keep saying “breast is best”…although BF failed.
    So my point is not saying that women should not BF, I just say that formula is fine, is no poison, I say that BF is overrated. Not bad, but certainly not vital or miraculous. So women stop with stupid and unuseful guiltiness if Bfeeding does not work or IF YOU DO NOT LIKE IT. This does not mean you are a bad mother. Motherhood is so much more than stupid food. BF or formula, in both cases, your baby will be fine. My nephew as BF for a year, and has been constantly ill. SO WHAT?

  114. I think you are horrible, to be honest. THE EVIDENCE IS VERY CLEAR!!!!! And you are right its not that the breast is per se BETTER its that formula actually is linked to causing problems. Sure there are some (few) babies who do great on formula no problems and there are breastfed babies who get ear infections. Your answers are like swiss cheese….holes everywhere! AND PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE somebody! show me these studies that show what is published about breastfeeding is wrong or inconclusive or “science does not provide evidence” maybe i need to look at the year you wrote this stuff because the huge manuals and books after books after books clearly show the scientific data. IF THE SCIENTIFIC DATA WAS NON EXSISTANT, THE GOVERNMENT WOULD NOT FUND PROGRAMS that support breastfeeding.

  115. To everyone that says “I have loads of scientific evidence and empirical data to prove this person wrong”… where is your book? Where is your published thesis to prove your point? Everyone is so quick to brandish the torches and pitchforks and lambaste this author for simply asking a question. If you actually read either the book or the back and forth here you will see that she is not really taking a position. What she is doing is asking us to take a closer look at what has always been a “gospel” of motherhood and scrutinize it. She is not saying that breastfeeding is bad nor is she lobbying for Nestle or formula-manufacturers. To me, the salient point she is trying to make is that you should not feel that you have to breastfeed. Especially to the detriment of yourself which, in turn, translates to negative emotion and energies transferred to baby. My wife and I have a four year old daughter at home along with a six day old son that we just recently brought home from the hospital. My wife breastfed and pumped for our daughter for the first 7 months and then we transitioned over to formula. With my son, he is having a tough time staying latched and is generally pissed off (for lack of a better phrase) when my wife tries to nurse him. He had no problems nursing at the hospital but, now that he is home, eating is another thing entirely. We spoke with our pediatrician and another lactation consultant from the hospital and they both said that he is getting used to the new flow rate now that my wife’s milk has come in. My wife and I have done research to the point where everyone says “oh, baby should get it in 4 – 6 weeks or some other arbitrary number” while other sources state that he may be tongue-tied which is a general term to describe some sort of anomaly regarding the frenulum underneath his tongue. Ultimately, “he’ll get it sooner-or-later” is bollocks. My wife cries every time that my son does not eat and believes that she is a failure. She is not sleeping and is becoming depressed. She tries every imaginable hold, skin-to-skin contact, but nothing seems to work. After an hour or so of trying she then pumps and puts the milk into a bottle so that my son can eat. The whole process takes around one and a half to two hours to complete. So yes, my son ends up being fed but my wife is a wreck. I work 60 hours a week so she remains home with my daughter (who still requires attention and cannot go to the wayside so my wife can continue this exercise in futility). That being said… for the people who say “it is what is best for baby and not what is best for you”… what then if there are other babies/children in the house? what about what is best for them? If you think breast feeding is the tops then I am happy for you. On the other hand, if you think that formula is better, that works as well. Regardless, do not judge others who view this matter in a different light and/or for different reasons. Every baby is different and every family dynamic is different. Go with what works best for the entire family not just for the baby. Don’t get up on your soapbox and tell others why your way is so great. Simply say that you are glad that they found something that works for them. And for the people out there that state it is better to do things the way that nature intended and to leave science out of the equation, think on this. My wife’s bones do not separate with the anticipation of baby coming. She is someone that, centuries ago, would have died in childbirth because of this fact. Baby too would have stood a high risk of death. Without modern medicine and science, I wouldn’t have my children or my wife. Sometimes science works.