hits counter
PhD in Parenting Google+ Facebook Pinterest Twitter StumbleUpon Slideshare YouTube subscribe by email or RSS
Recommended Reading

Blog Index
The journal that this archive was targeting has been deleted. Please update your configuration.

Why I blog about breastfeeding

Yes, I'm talking about boobs again...

BlogHer Backtalk

This week on BlogHer Backtalk they are talking about blogging about breastfeeding. When announcing upcoming segments, chris from BlogHer asked: "Breastfeeding? Is there anything left to say about it? Apparently there is. Have you written a post on the topic?." My reply: "Have I written a post about breastfeeding? Nope...I've written 57. Apparently I still have lots to say on it!".

Erin (@QueenofSpain) was asking people to make videos about blogging and breastfeeding, so I grabbed my camera and sent her a little snippet (actually I sent her 3...yes...I have a lot to say) and they used a portion of one of them in this week's segment. It also features Elita from Blacktating.

Watch and see:

Do I need a disclaimer?

It seems almost every time I write about breastfeeding, I get comments from people telling me that I am judgmental, that I don't know how hard it is to breastfeed, that not everyone can or wants to breastfeed. Perhaps I need a disclaimer. One that says:

I am writing about breastfeeding because 90 percent of women want to breastfeed and only around 15 percent are successful at breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months. Some stop earlier because they want to (and that is their choice), but many of them stop earlier because they struggled with breastfeeding.

Because of that, I want to:

  • Dispel myths about breastfeeding

  • Give women access to resources to help them breastfeed successfully

  • Rage against anything that makes it more difficult for women to breastfeed, including but not limited to bad advice, formula marketing, discrimination against women that breastfeed in public, unsupportive family members and health care professionals

  • Propose changes that would make it easier for women to breastfeed

This blog is not about picking on formula feeding moms. It is (among many other things) about supporting breastfeeding moms.

Should more moms blog about formula feeding?

One of the things they asked in the BlogHer Backtalk segment was whether more moms should blog about formula feeding. It seems that moms that breastfeed and feel passionately about it talk about it a lot. Moms that formula feed don't. Unless they feel attacked and feel the need to explain their choice or their dilemma.

Not everyone wants to breastfeed and not everyone feels that they can breastfeed. For some women, the struggle is so great that it overwhelms them and they have to stop. Or despite trying everything, they just can't make it work. I think it is great for them to tell their stories if they want to.

People shouldn't believe that breastfeeding is always easy (that is what I thought going in and learned the hard way that it was not). We should support these women when they share their stories. One great example of a post like this is Tara @ Feels Like Home. What is really great about Tara's post is that although she wasn't successful at breastfeeding, she channeled her energy and desire to do the best for her daughter into something else. I think that is wonderful.

In the same way that formula feeding moms would ask me to respect them, respect their choice and not judge them, what I would ask of formula feeding moms is that they:

  • Respect the choices of other women by not trying to convince them to give up too.

  • Do not pretend that formula feeding is just as healthy. It isn't. That has been proven.  I know that no one is a perfect parent. We shouldn't expect people to be. So if a mom ends up using formula, I don't judge her. My kids get more than their fair share of processed food sometimes, especially when I'm busy with work, but I don't pretend it is better than a homemade meal based on whole foods. I accept that there is a limit to what I can do. I don't go to other blogs that talk about how to make a healthy meal for your family and yell at them to stop judging me. I applaud their success.

Oh, and there are women blogging about formula feeding...a quick search on wordpress uncovered everything from posts on how to choose the best formula, to safe formula feeding tips, to personal stories. Complete with tons of formula ads in the sidebar.
« Breastfeeding Nazis | Main | Nursing a Toddler in a Ring Sling »

Reader Comments (29)

Great post Annie!! Loved being able to put your face with your name in the video!! I really enjoy reading your blog. And no, you don't need a disclaimer - you blog about what you are passionate about - if someone doesn't share your views or doesn't want to read them - they don't need to! Keep up the great work!!

I just reread the post I'd written, and it still makes me cry. My daughter will be two in less than a month, and I still cry over our inability to breastfeed. That failure is one of the greatest regrets of my life.
I don't know if there was anything that would have allowed us to successfully breastfeed, and I never will. I do believe that my hospital failed, my nurses failed, and my family doctor failed in helping me in the right direction.
I think breastfeeding moms need more support. We need support in the hospital, at home, and at our doctor's offices. Despite what we're led to believe, breastfeed doesn't always come naturally; it is a skill to learn.
Back to your post. I don't think you need a disclaimer. I don't think your promoting breastfeeding is harmful to people who choose formula. Everyone makes choices for their own reasons, and everyone is entitled to blog about them as they see fit. I say keep up the great work!

Keep up the good work! the more info about breastfeeding the better! lots of mothers choose formula because of lack if information too...

May 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFanny Abitbol

Great video! I agree with what you're saying and doing, and I think it's great that you are providing a voice to this cause. And I also like putting a face to a name. :)

May 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

I love this post and I love your blog. You and others like you have reignited my passion to continue the work towards improving support and management techniques in my little corner of the world.... even if it sometimes feels like I am a one man army. You don't need any disclaimer. I've seen you clearly state you have nothing against those who formula feed. The experts want us to be all about promoting, encouraging and protecting breastfeeding. I hope all moms are making a truly informed choice that is theirs alone. You need correct info to make the choice. Well done post!!

May 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBirth_Lactation

I love your blog, Annie. So many times I just want to copy/paste your words to my blog because you say everything so perfectly! Of course, that's illegal and I won't actually do that. :)

Thanks for your blog!

May 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTopHat

I write disclaimers, as breastfeeding is not the only topic on my blog. The clip was great.

May 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermother in israel

One thing I'd like to see is that you can successfully formula feed
*and* breastfeed, as I did the last five months of my daughter's first year. Perhaps if some women knew that they could do both rather than either/or, more women would choose to keep nursing their little ones.

May 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSiMoNe

I appreciate this thoughtful post.

I do think that too much energy seems to go into promoting breastfeeding (which can cause backlash from those who do not breastfeed) and not enough into supporting breastfeeding. The issue is not convincing women that it's worthwhile to breastfeed; as you point out, there are plenty of women who want to breastfeed but are not successful. There's so much work to be done to help bridge that gap.

It's interesting, I work in public health on a breastfeeding project, and breastfeeding is so central to my mothering, but I don't really blog about it. I think it's one of those things--I've been doing it so long (8 years this month) that it no longer stands out as something notable, just something that's part of life.

May 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

It's lines like this one: "Do not pretend that formula feeding is just as healthy. It isn’t." that make me question your sincerity about respecting formula feeding parents. How do you think making that statement makes someone who has to formula feed feel? How do you think passing around a joke where women who don't breastfeed are compared to reptiles makes formula feeding parents feel?

I'll give you a clue, it doesn't feel like respect.

I honestly do think you need a disclaimer. I would never have come here in the first place if I'd realized how bad I would end up feeling about myself by reading your blog. I do believe that breastfeeding and support for women who are breastfeeding, or trying to, is exceptionally important. I don't think that support has to come at the expense of the well-being of others. The extremely zealous position that you take has the potential to be dangerous. Don't believe me?

May 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

I run into the same issues when writing about vaginal birth and c-sections. Sometimes I think that the mention of lady bits and hidden business like breasts, nipples and children on or exiting said female parts makes people feel uncomfortable. Does it trigger some kind of latent Victorian era shock response?

My About page has something of a disclaimer so the curious won't associate me with extremists who want to force women to give birth vaginally or breastfeed when they really, really just don't want to, then shame them for their fears and reluctance. Not my paradigm...

May 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJill--Unnecesarean


Respecting someone's right to choose, doesn't have to mean believing that all choices are equal. We can't all do the best thing all of the time and that is fine, we're human. But it doesn't mean that we need to pretend that all choices are equal. I'm sure there are choices you have made or things you have done that are better than what I was capable of.

You are right that the joke I passed along was in poor taste. I apologize.

With regards to the article you linked to, it is important to note that postpartum depression is an illness. If you suffer from it, you need to get help. It is very unfortunate that that woman committed suicide. It is awful. But postpartum depression killed her. Not breastfeeding. If it wasn't that, anything else could have pushed her over the edge if she left the PPD untreated.

May 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Man! I need to get myself on blogHer! That was a great video. I hope to see and be involved in something like that in the future. And ditto for me about why I blog about breastfeeding.

May 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMelodie

I just recently found your blog and post after post I fill like you are writing the blog I often write in my head (with many plans to someday really do it...)

Ironically the same quote that upset another reader is the one that compelled me to post “Do not pretend that formula feeding is just as healthy. It isn’t.” I think for me it comes down to the fact that I respect women having the right to choose, but all choices are not equal, and I think its time we talk about it. If you make a well informed, educated choice to formula feed then you have no apologies to make or guilt to feel, but you can't undo the facts as to the inequality of formula and breastmilk.

I feel like I could ramble on but babies call...keep it up, so wonderful to have a strong voice at the helm and no you do not need a disclaimer. If people choose to formula feed they need to be comfortable enough in their choice that reading factual information does not upset them or offend them. If it does upset them, perhaps they should of been more informed before making it. And if they are learning new info here, wouldn't they hope you might help other women go forward armed with more information when it comes time for them to feed a little one?

May 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

Love it. Again! You continue to rock! If others don't like the idea that breastfeeding is best and then they need to read the research which lists artificial baby milk (infant formula) as the fourth best food source for infant babies. Not equal to number one with breastfeeding but FOURTH! You are right to promote it as the natural, normal and obvious way for a baby to be fed.
I am sorry for moms who don't have access to resources to help them breastfeed but that doesn't mean that the alternatives are just as good.

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSam

So funny that I came across this today! I just wrote a blog about why I do what I do.... which is of course talk about and post about breastfeeding. You might enjoy it.

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCrystal Gold

Breastfeeding was difficult for us, and I envy the families who seem to take to it naturally. We managed a year, and I only did so because the pediatric gastrointestinal specialist told me to keep it up. Other docs and nurses were more than willing to pass me the bottle of formula. I was asked to leave her at the hospital so they could try to feed her formula, since apparently my presence was somehow keeping her from taking milk. She didn't drink it from them, either...

I really needed that doctor's encouragement to keep me going and wish I knew of ways to help other struggling mothers who really want to continue but don't know how. It is really hard to tackle the feeding issues along with all the other post-partum, crazy hormone ones and women seem to end up feeling guilty either way. I don't want mothers who use formula to feel badly about their choice but at the same time there is a real need for the truth to be told in order to encourage those who want to continue. I'm truly sorry that it makes women who don't or can't breastfeed feel badly to hear that "breast is best and formula is fine." But pretending otherwise to be polite is just silly.

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Oh yes, breastfeeding seems to have become controversial in some ways to talk about these days. As a mother who has had difficulty breastfeeding both my kids I have come full circle on it. The first time around I jumped at the chance to use formula and accept help from my husband and family. The second time around I pushed on, got some help, persevered and breastfed for 7 months when other factors lead to breast refusal that we were unable to correct. But still, those 7 months were worth it and I have turned from a "formula is great!" mother to a "breastfeeding is better and worth it even when it is hard". I would encourage all mothers to keep trying even if it is hard to breastfeed (provided they want to) - it is worth it in the end.

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngie


Not sure if you ever read this post or not, but it might help explain my philosophy more too, as well as my thoughts around things like PPD, breast vs. formula and other "mommy wars": http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/03/24/you-are-not-a-perfect-parent/" rel="nofollow">You are not a perfect parent

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

It is refreshing to read such well thought out and well researched posts. I too blog about breastfeeding and the backlash from formula feeding mothers seems to be a common occupational hazard. Sometimes I think I sound like a broken record, but the truth is that there is a lot to say and it is really important. I question why I am passionate about breastfeeding. It's not that formula feeding is that terrible. But I think it comes down to the respect you have for your baby. If you truly respect your baby's rights to have the best start he/she can, then you owe it to them to try to breastfeed. If you fail, formula is there as a safety net. So, once again, thanks for the excellent posts.

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCave Mother

@maria -- the assumption that everyone formula feeding *had* a choice is a problem. It isn't necessary to trash formula feeders to support and promote breastfeeding. *That* is a choice.

@sam -- Let's see, I know the order here. Options 1 and 2 were out for me. Even @phdinparenting expressed her reluctance to offer her breastmilk to someone else's child (in her interview at change.org) and that reluctance seems to be shared throughout the breastfeeding community, so that's not a real option. Leaving my daughter, at any rate, with either starving or formula. The problem is when the alternatives aren't really "choices" and then people get up on their high horses and give me grief.

@cave mother -- I find your statement to be the most hurtful. Why? Because it makes what was already an impossible situation even worse. How dare you suggest that I don't respect my child because I couldn't breastfeed? What gives you that right? And yes, I'm taking it personally. I'm taking it personally for every other woman who will encounter that attitude and end up feeling like shit because you have to be judgmental.

@phdinparenting I'm well aware of the dangers of PPD. The thing is you don't know whether something else could or would have tipped the balance for her. We do know, that in this case, they believe her feelings of failure over breastfeeding did it. And where do women get these feelings of failure -- from lactivists who say people who don't/can't breastfeed failed. And put immense pressure on people to try it by saying things like "If you truly respect your baby's rights to have the best start he/she can, then you owe it to them to try to breastfeed."

As I said, I would not have come here in the first place if I had known. I mean, from my own life, I know it. When I go in and buy a tub of formula, I get asked by any and everyone if I know that I should be breastfeeding my daughter. I have been harassed buying nipples/bottles for my daughter. I have been hassled when people see me giving her a bottle. This moves *way beyond* support for breastfeeding women and the promotion of breastfeeding, and I truly think it has to stop. I just wish that everyone who is so passionate about supporting breastfeeding women would consider the fact that WOMEN, period, need support and it isn't necessary to hurt one group of people to support another group.

I do know that I will not likely be coming back.

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

@Beth (((hugs))) I am so sorry you have gotten so much grief from people. That sounds awful. Truly. You have my virtual support!

@phdinparenting i love your posts and I think you do amazing work! There is so much misinformation out there and if I had just listened to my doctors after my first birth, I doubt I would have been able to continue to breastfeed, but thanks to people like you (via the internet) I overcame many difficulties. You rock!

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjane

@Beth - just wanted to follow up in case you venture back. Obviously this is an issue you are very upset about, and I hope you find healing in some way.

That said, I just wanted to clarify my earlier post. While I understand there are a small number of women that are medically unable to breastfeed and don't have a "choice", that is not the population I was speaking to in my post. I am talking about the majority group of ff that choose to ff, and then, in my opinion, want to then discount the facts that make the choice is an unequal one. I am not choosing to trash anyone, I am saying everyone should acknowledge the facts and I'm glad this blog wasn't afraid to.

May 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

@Beth: You are right. It isn't necessary to hurt one group of people in order to support another.

May 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I have been thinking so much about this issue lately, and have to say the juxtaposition of the post about 'breastfeeding nazi' and the comments about women being hassled when buying formula and bottles strikes me. I don't think any one - no matter what their reasons are - should be made to feel harassed about their choices. Period. Even though I feel strongly about breastmilk's superiority over formula, I would never impose my beliefs on a stranger and I don't on my friends because I respect them too much as individuals. That seriously has to stop. It's one thing for some random grandmother to come up and tell you to take that thumb/pacifier away or whatever, but that's more along the lines of annoying. There are so many emotional issues tied up in breastfeeding -- Am I trying hard enough? Am I somehow inadequate? Is there something wrong with me? This is not to say that I think it's fine to use hurtful terms as a way of getting back at someone who is waaaaay over the line in terms of 'support,' but I can easily put myself in the other person's shoes and feel their rage.

Having said that, I do want to point out that I think the posts I've read on this blog so far are balanced and well-thought out. We do need a safe place for women to be able to come and talk about this very important issue without anyone feeling intentionally hurt. My friends who never wanted to breastfeed from the beginning are so secure in their decision that I don't think they would ever spend time on the internet writing about it. It's the women who wanted to (and either medically couldn't or didn't find the support they needed) who really need a place to talk about it and deal with it. I hope this blog could be a place for them.

May 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

My heart goes out to @Beth. I can't help but feel there is some amount of grief or pain in there compounding an already difficult situation.
While I feel sad when I see a mom bottle feeding formula to her baby, I would never, ever approach her or say anything to her. I really only read conviction in the comments here, not animosity. I'm sorry there are some women who do go around judging and making noise about it in an antagonistic way, but they obviously have some issues of their own.
@PhDinParenting, you have evidence to back you up, but I hear nothing but facts in your posts, not attacks or vitriol about formula feeding moms. I think you do an excellent job of getting across your point while still being compassionate.

And as an aside, it is so cool and weird to put a face and voice to someone I've been following for a while! Thanks for doing the video.

May 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

This post is fabulous and I have enjoyed reading through the comments! I have been wanting to write about breastfeeding on my own blog, but have been afraid to do so. I believe this post has given me the courage. And I completely agree with @Michelle and @Jennifer - I don't impose my beliefs on my friends.

I believe there is a difference between supporting breastfeeding mothers and promoting breastfeeding.

@Amanda - Please let me know when you put your post up. I'd love to read it.

May 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

[...] is a great discussion over on PhDinParenting.com about breastfeeding and blogging about it. After reading PHDinParenting’s post and the comments I believe that there is a difference [...]

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...