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Sunday
Aug142011

Thanks for Throwing Fuel on the Breastfeeding/Formula Feeding Fire



"I'm going to be very blunt in the hopes that it awakens more people to the dangers of infant formula."

Those were the introductory words of a post written by Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D. on Psychology Today's Moral Landscapes blog. The post, entitled "In light of last week's posts: Is Pushing Formula Evil?" originates from the question -- why do institutions push formula on normal infants?

That is a very legitimate and important question. It is one that I have asked numerous times on this blog, raising issues like lacking lactation training among health professionals, giving formula samples as a "breastfeeding prize", the impact of formula samples given in the hospital, and ways to know that your health care professional is not supportive of breastfeeding. All of those issues, all of those posts, originate from the premise that the vast majority of mothers do want to breastfeed and that all stars should be aligned to ensure that they have every chance possible to meet their own breastfeeding goals.

However, there was more to the question when Dr. Narvaez asked it. The full question, as written in her post (emphasis hers), was: Why do institutions push formula on normal infants when it is VERY RISKY? Yes, she used ALL CAPS .  Other than the last paragraph of her post, which includes a few bullets on changes that she would like to see in the health care system, the rest of Dr. Alvarez article doesn't address the initial question at all. Instead, most of the space is taken up with a description of just how risky formula is. The problem, however, is that instead of listing scientifically verifiable facts, she used loaded judgmental non-scientific terms like fake food and junk food and starvation diet to describe formula feeding and used vague (and to a great extent unproven) terms like ill health, depressed and lower intelligence to describe the impact of formula feeding on babies. Her remarks were, of course, also short on footnotes or other references.

Her aim, as she stated at the beginning of the post, was to "awaken more people to the dangers of infant formula." In my experience, using loaded judgmental non-scientific terms isn't a good way to awaken people. It is, however,  a really good way to get people to shut down and block out anything you have to say. It is also a really good way to get them angry.

Some people, like Suzanne from Fearless Formula Feeder, think there is an upside to Dr. Narvaez's post. "In fact, I kind of liked it," she wrote in her post called Good versus "Evil": How ignorance can bring out the best in the breastfeeding/formula debate, noting that it "brought women out of the woodwork" to tell their own stories, and also brought out professionals (like therapists and lactation consultants) who told her that her approach was wrong and damaging.

Personally, while I agree with the positives that Suzanne mentioned, I worry that the damage will be much greater than the upside. I think that Dr. Narvaez's post adds fuel to the fire and gives greater legitimacy to the argument that lactivists are cold-hearted, uncaring, uncompassionate, "Breasfeeding Nazis", when most of us are nothing like that. We didn't need Dr. Narvaez's horrible post for people like Amy from Just West of Crunchy to write the Top 10 Things Breastfeeding Advocates Should Stop Saying. We didn't need Dr. Narvaez's judgmental words for Best for Babes to come up a Credo that notes that "ALL moms deserve to make a truly informed feeding decision and to be cheered on, coached and celebrated without pressure, judgment or guilt" and that "ALL breastfeeding moms deserve to achieve their personal breastfeeding goals without being undermined by cultural and institutional Booby Traps." We didn't need Dr. Narvaez's drivel for Suzanne to start her Fearless Formula Feeder blog to support formula feeding moms "without being a boob about it." We didn't need Dr. Narvaez's ignorance for Katherine from Postpartum Progress to call in experts to address breastfeeding and postpartum depression on her amazing blog. I didn't need Dr. Narvaez to prompt me to write When it is Not Breast or I Won't Ask You Why You Didn't Breastfeed. The positive discussions were already happening, I think.



Yes, I think we were moving in the right direction, but that doesn't mean that the fire was out. The fact that my friend Casey from Moosh in Indy worked harder than anyone I know to breastfeed her child and still feels the heavy weight of society's judgment on her shoulders as she raises a bottle to her baby's lips, is extremely sad. As she wrote in her post, the one about me not being able to breastfeed, the assumptions made about bottle feeding mothers are hardly ever good ones. So this strong-willed, loving, amazing woman who I'm so proud of, now wears a bracelet on her bottle feeding arm that says "Thank you for judging." Partly tongue-in-cheek perhaps, but maybe sadly necessary too.

Many of us in the breastfeeding community have been working extremely hard to extinguish the fires that burn in the breast versus bottle debate. We need to continue that work, so that women can be supported in their feeding decisions no matter what.  We did not need this woman to come along and throw more fuel on the fire. By "we" I mean both breastfeeding advocates and formula feeding moms. We need less judgment and more support in all corners. We need to work together to put this fire out, not to fan the flames. As Lauren from My Postpartum Voice noted, if you need to preface your article (as Dr. Narvaez did) with "NOTE TO MOMS: Don’t read this if you are feeling vulnerable, guilty or overstressed. NOTE TO ALL: I’m not a therapist but a researcher in child development," chances are you shouldn't be writing it.

I know that World Breastfeeding Week has come and gone for another year (I wrote about breastfeeding in front of teenagers over at Care2.com and got to show my Covering Up is a Feminist Issue video in the community keynote at BlogHer '11 in San Diego), but as usual the discussion doesn't end there. Dr. Narvaez has taken us two steps back. We will need to work that much harder to create true support for breastfeeding moms and for formula feeding moms. For every person who rolls their eyes and says, "not another breastfeeding post", I'm sorry...blame Dr. Narvaez because we have to keep fighting this fire until it is out.

Image credits: Fire photo = neiladerney123 on flickr, bracelet photo = used with permission from moosh in indy.

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Reader Comments (98)

The more I learn about labour/birth/breastfeeding/parenting, the less judgemental I feel. As you mentioned, judgement and condemnation adds fuel to the fire, and does not create positive change. I have found that the best way to help a woman struggling with breastfeeding is to put a hand on her shoulder and say "I know this is hard." When I open my heart and truly listen to a woman, I think I have gone MUCH farther than any resources, facts or scary stats that I could be offering her. Does it always result in the woman continuing to breastfeed? No. But I think it results in one more Mom feeling supported and confident, and that is my only goal.

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

I always wonder what the motivations are when someone writes an article such as Dr. Narvaez's. Or rather, I wonder if people even take the time to evaluate their own motivations when they write similarly inflammatory pieces, *especially* when they use value-laden terms and even moral-judgment terms in a piece in which neither type of term is appropriate.

What's more, these approaches don't often, if ever, change or open minds. Quite the opposite, in fact.

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

In my edu psych classes, we use Psychology Today as an example of pop culture science...and where not to go for reliable scientific data. You are absolutely right about this adding fuel to the fire. We all know breast milk is best, but what's also best is feeding your child period.

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterstephaniemz

Amen! Your last statement is what gets lost in this mess and this fight. (I had a tongued tied son who literally could not breastfeed myself)

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

I agree with you, although, to be honest, even the best-intentioned lactivists trip up sometimes (although not in such a crassly hyperbolic manner as Darcia and co.) Best for Babes had their own fat on the fire moment with their recent Laila Ali interview.

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRina

Reading Darcia's replies to comments she received is even sillier than the post itself. I can see what FFF meant when she said she actually liked the post. I did too.
It was absurd.
And then when she got into it about the Baby Boomers? Oy vey.

My babies are loved.

There's a lot more I could screw up in not loving them than from my boobs not working.

Thank you for this. For being you. For helping me. For helping others.

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermoosh in indy.

Yes. This. Right on, as usual. Thank you, Annie, for your always educated, gentle approach.

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJill @BabyRabies

Loved and ADORABLE!! Let's not forget that part. Seriously, I almost stole your "bebop" at blogher ;) Keep on rockin, momma.

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJill @BabyRabies

I did try to steal Vivi, but she so clearly wanted her mama that I had to give her back. :)

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I did not read the article & I won't. As formula feeding mom of 2, I sometimes feel judged & attacked that I didn't breastfeed longer (I did try with both & formula fed for different reasons for both). I mourned the loss of breastfeeding my second & still sometimes mourn it to this day, 13 months later. Those of us who formula feed are NOT, are NOT terrible mom's. And you are right the breastfeeding community did not need this. I fully support breastfeeding, it is the way to go if YOU CAN. There are the people out there who do look at the formula feeding mom like she is killing her baby, but MOST people I know are like, hey you gotta feed your kid, so do what works for you.
People like this just make me SOOOOO angry that I cannot even think to put anything into words.
Thank you for being sensitive to those of us that tried & then did what we thought was right & that is making sure our babies were fed & growing.

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa B

Thanks for saying this so eloquently, Annie. The trouble with posts like Dr. Narvaez's (well one of them) is that they miss the audience completely. Breastfeeding advocates know and understand the problem she is getting at: formula is considered the norm for infant feeding rather than a medical intervention. However, she fails at figuring out who she ought to be addressing this with and what kind of language is useful in doing that (and communicating the struggle more generally). Truthfully, it's not something I have figured out myself.

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle @ Mama Bear

Lisa B.,
You're right, you shouldn't read this article. I too formula fed my child, and I had no intention of doing so (it never crossed my mind until we were there), this article would have destroyed me in those days.
My opinion is that Darcia is living in a fantasy if she believes that this approach will have greater success than "breast is best", (which I hold akin to Nancy Regan's "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign). Catch phrases are great, but let's give people the tools, support and resources to succeed rather than blanket condemnation of all.

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLara

I think what is being missed here is the idea that the mamas aren't bad or lazy for choosing formula, but formula is poorly made from crappy, overly processed junk. There isnt really a better choice, nutritionally speaking, available on the market. I love the idea of milk-sharing and wet-nursing, but there really needs to be a more healthful alternative for families who have to choose something besides breastmilk. Instead of bashing each other, we should be demanding healthy food for infants! The drug companies who make the stuff are the ones who need to change, and stop putting all that corn syrup and crap in there. Thank you for a great blog.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRose

Thanks for bringing a much-needed voice of reason to this insane situation, Annie. I completely understand why you're worried Narvaez's post will do more harm than good, but I (hope?) I speak for the formula feeding community - or at least the ones well-versed in this sort of drivel - that we are more than accustomed to being talked down to, insulted, etc.; and, when a person goes so far off the rails as this woman did, we don't take it too much to heart. I get far more concerned with articles like the Laila Ali interview that Rina mentioned, to tell you the truth. It's when people who are respected and held up as examples of "strong", "smart" moms are perpetuating stereotypes and encouraging judgment that I start getting ornery.

I do worry that lactivism is given a bad name by people like this, though, and it is frustrating for me because I start seeing so much anger and resentment in my little community towards breastfeeding advocacy (and sometimes, in the most extreme cases, towards the very ACT of breastfeeding, simply because the practice gets associated with the people promoting it), and it saddens me. I think good, positive lactivism is needed to normalize and support breastfeeding, and I wish we could all work together to encourage better information, support and science for ALL types of infant feeding so that women can make an informed choice in every sense of the term.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFearless Formula Feeder

Rose - while I don't totally agree that formula is made from crap (although I understand why you might feel that way), I do agree that we should be focusing on getting the healthiest, most affordable breastmilk substitutes (or, as an alternative, making highly screened banked milk more readily available) to the women who cannot or choose not to breastfeed. It seems kind of punitive to not encourage research to help those who aren't breastfeeding, especially as the ones who suffer are the kids everyone is supposedly trying to protect!

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFearless Formula Feeder

I suppose I am one of the ones that has become hostile to BF and any sort of BF advocacy. Im a sexual assault survivor, raped at the age of 16. Got pregnant the first time at 17. my daughter was still born at around 21-22 weeks. So for that time how I was going to feed wasnt an issue.when I became pregnant with my son that of course changed. The pressure to BF was tremendous. I had WIC tell me I didnt love my son, if I could have sex I was over my rape and could BF. Quit making excuses. I was also on antidepressants even while pregnant, risky yes I messed up I get it.. but it was the lowest dose to keep me functional, not to alleviate my depression, which was tied in to my rape and loss of my daughter. when my son was born the hospital LC forced me to try bf, yes FORCED and insisting on handling my breasts despite me telling her to stop. WIC insisted that I quit my depression meds which had increased in dosage thrice and BF. BF would cure my depression these quacks claimed. Take all this on top of being ejected from a playgroup story-time at the public library because I gave my son a bottle at 8 month's old, yes Im hostile toward BF advocacy and BF in general. The Gods honest truth I find the thought of a child suckling on my breast incestuous, repulsive etc. I avert my eyes when I see a woman NIP because I cant stand the smug look on her face of so called contentment and enjoyment of such an act. Because it is these types that would tell me Im lazy, selfish and have 0 compassion for me as an SA survivor because there is none in the lactavists community unless you want to BF. IF you cant your just selfish and need to get over being raped. Women get raped all the time and BF, your nobody special they say. Its not BF as a feeding method that I have issues with, but the attitude that goes along with those who practice it and they think if they do it all other must follow suit. Almost cult like IMHO. I want to tell some of them in public to please cover and use discretion when they nurse.I took my son the library about a month ago, it was story-time, but he wanted to get a Marvel Comic book. Sitting there was one of the moms who kicked us out 8 years ago, BF fully exposed in front of 30 other kids under the age of 6. My son knows that BF is a way to feed a baby, but he looked at me and said Mommy why is that lady showing herself.. I dont want to see that. Filed a complaint with the library, but doubt anything was done about it. She and I made eye contact, she knew who I was being a small town and all. Sorry to sound like a prude, but my 8 year old son doesnt need to see the fully exposed breasts of any woman whether or not a baby is on it. He has seen NIP done discreetly and understands the lady is simply feeding her child in those cases. I still usually remove us from the situation because as FFF stated above in some cases I associate seeing the act with the people that promoted it.However I dont need to go and complain about a discreet nursing mom, when I can simply avert my eyes and leave if it bothers me so.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

I agree wholeheartedly with your post. I formula feed, and facepalmed anyway at her post, not just on behalf of other FF parents like me, but on behalf of anyone who tries to get women and children the best medical care possible. The second someone with a Ph.D. after her name, much less someone in a medical field (which I consider psychology), starts advocating one-size-fits-all medicine for women is the second we all become poorer in the medical world. Women have had to fight for centuries for adequate medical care that addresses our needs, and doesn't just brush them off as "all in our heads." Bad medicine doesn't help anyone, I don't care how they feed their children.

What's scary is that this woman is a researcher at Notre Dame University, her profile is here: http://psychology.nd.edu/people/faculty/narvaez-darcia/ . Her research specializes in morality, which makes her statements even more outrageous. This is why I'm to the point where I laugh when people say research proves "breast is best;" you don't know who those researchers are, what their agenda is, or if they're complete idealogue quacks like this woman. That someone as immoral as she is able to publish "research" that will be used as yet another bully stick to beat moms like me around with makes her comments more than just the ramblings of a kook fringe lunatic. No, this is a public health issue now. I've emailed the Chair of the Notre Dame Department of Psychology, his name is Dr. Daniel Lapsley http://psychology.nd.edu/people/faculty/lapsley-daniel/ . No response as of yet, but I will be placing phone calls. I encourage others to as well. Someone like Dr. Narvaez is a menace to women whether they're breastfeeding or not, and her "research" ought to become as toxic as she purports formula out to be in academia.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTeri

I guess I would consider myself a breastfeeding and bottle feeding cheerleader. I also don't push people to do things that they are unable to do or unwilling to. There is a difference between dialogue and bullying. I will share my opinions about breastfeeding and my experiences with it hoping that I can help others. Sometimes I wish people were less quick to jump on the guilt/ defensive bandwagon. Parenting is hard whether you breast feed or bottle feed and I seem to find that there is just no positive dialogue anymore just snide comments about who does or doesn't do something. I DO however wish that formula was better quality, please don't bully me for this comment I have seen how it is made and know the ingredients. Companies can do better to improve on the formula that sustains our children. This has nothing to do with how we feed our children just that we can always have room for improvement and to better ourselves and our families.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterClaire

Well done, Annie - as usual, your thoughtful, rational, and sympathetic approach is right on target.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

As a moderate, I just wanted to say that I had mixed feelings when I read Dr. Narvaez's blog. Her blog was inflammatory and one-sided and was full of misinformation. AND she left out alot consideration of women's psychology. AND I think she has been studying this issue for many many years, as an academic, not a therapist. AND she may have access to alot more information than most of us do. (I know that , as a clinician, I have access to my university libraries, but I can only focus narrowly on a small area at a time, and can only pull so many articles at a time, I get frustrated as it is difficult to keep up on all the research.) . I'm not saying that how she said it was compassionate, I'm not saying that all women should breastfeed, I'm not saying that all women can breastfeed.......I'm thinking she might, have some valid points..such as, on a global scale, not a local scale, violations of the WHO code regarding formula distribution are responsible for infant death. And, you know, human breastmilk is still the best nutrition for a human baby. AND that doesn't mean that a woman doesn't have a right to choose. AND I also think women are intelligent enough to know what is best for them and for their family at a given time. Choice opens one door and closes another, and I think that women are allowed to make choices without being judged. Her blog was inflammatory, was judgmental but I also think she is being judged very harshly, she had some valid points.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Morelli

Great post, the quickest way to get someone to not listen is tell them how bad they are for their choices.

When will people realise that this heavy handed approach simply won't work and only serves to get people's backs up.

Educate and inform and then leave mothers the hell alone to come to their own conclusion without prejudice and mis-information.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVery Bored in Catalunya

Thank you for this. I am a formula feeding mom because I have to be. My son's medical condition (VLCADD) makes breastmilk deadly due to the fat content. I run in "natural" & "attached" parenting communities and I constantly feel like I have to explain & defend feeding formula to my son. The majority ofthe time, it's my own self-imposed guilt but sometimes it's because of the reaction I get when I pull out the bottle.

I've been on the receiving end of a very popular lactivist/intactivist telling me that I didn't try hard enough to find better options for my son. Two of the top specialists for my son's disorder evidently know less than this woman & her naturopath friend. The vitriol & judgment only hurts the cause. It doesn't help babies & it doesn't help moms.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDana K

Listening and supporting is always the way to go.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

You're right. I've made mistakes before too. We can all learn from our mistakes and do better next time.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Rose:

I agree that there are a lot of less than ideal ingredients in formula, but I wouldn't call it "crappy" or "junk". As I mentioned in the post, I don't think that using loaded words like that are really helpful to anyone. I do agree, however, that more needs to be done to ensure that women who are not able to breastfeed or do not want to breastfeed have the safest and most nutritious product possible for their babies. I'm just not sure that the current system is the best way to do that.

Formula companies spend tons of money on marketing, in order to sell more product, which then makes investors happy, so they then have more money to spend on research and product improvement, which they then turn around and market the heck out of again. All of that marketing contributes to some women's failure to meet their own breastfeeding goals. If that money were going into (a) lactation support, (b) milk banking and (c) R&D into better formula, that would be great. But spending it on marketing is a waste and a problem.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Stephanie:

I completely understand not wanting to breastfeed after being sexually assaulted. The way you were treated by the hospital LC and WIC is awful. People working in breastfeeding support roles need to focus on supporting the woman first, not simply pushing breastfeeding. They need to stop and listen before pushing ahead.

I nursed in public. I was content and enjoyed the act of nursing my children. I was not and am not smug about it. I do not tell others that they are lazy or selfish and I do have compassion for sexual abuse survivors and other women who cannot breastfeed for whatever reason.

As a breastfeeding advocate, I understand how important it is for women to see other women nursing. Breastfeeding is difficult and a lot of moms have never seen another mom nurse until they are holding their own baby. It seems foreign and unnatural to them. I think it is important for women to breastfeed in public, covered or uncovered (as they and their baby prefer), so that society will see breastfeeding as normal and so that women have breastfeeding role models.

I'm curious, would your son ask why a woman was showing herself if she was wearing a bikini or a low cut shirt? Because even when I nursed completely uncovered, just the fact that the baby's head was there meant that I was more covered than a lot of women are when they are walking down the street.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Kathy:

Violations of the WHO code on a global scale are certainly responsible for infant death and there are statistics from the United Nations on that. Many lactivists, public health advocates, poverty experts and others have made that point and continue to make that point without using inflammatory language. I don't think that her piece contributed anything to productive discussion or problem solving.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Dana K:

I've never head of VLCADD before. You learn something new every day! I'm curious, is it the type of fat in breastmilk or the amount of fat in it that is deadly?

I would never tell another woman that she didn't try hard enough to find better options for her child, but if she was looking for other options, I would support her in doing so. I have experienced numerous cases where experts in a particular field are lacking in knowledge about related fields (like lactation), so I understand people questioning things, but that doesn't excuse judgmental behaviour.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

It's mainly the type of fat, but the amount of total fat factors in, also. These disorders have only been on the radar ~10 years. Infants with related disorders (like MCADD) can continue to breastfeed. Klaw's geneticist was/is incredibly supportive of nursing & we tried to find a formula/breastmilk balance that would be safe but his bloodwork did not approach normal until he was fully weaned. Some infants with VLCADD are able to thrive on a formula/breastmilk combo. Klaw just isn't one of them. Even now, he's limited to 6g fat/day (in addition to the formula).

There are only 2 prescription formulas that can be used for this disorder, so commercial formula isn't safe, either.

If interested, I link to several informative resources on this page: http://www.reallywhatwerewethinking.com/p/vlcadd.html

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDana K

It's a genetic metabolic condition that makes long-chain fatty acids dangerous - the severity varies. In infants, the treatment is to replace long-chain fatty acids with medium chain fatty acids (among other things). Some babies can be mostly breastfed with just a portion of their diet in a special medium-chain formula - or even just monitored if they're not symptomatic. Others have to be more restricted.

Because it's so rare, it's definitely not something that the average person will know about - and I'm sure it invites plenty of "your baby can't be allergic to breastmilk" commentary. (And, yes, it's not exactly an allergy, but actually a lot more serious).

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle @ Mama Bear

And apparently, if I'd waited a few minutes, the proper expert would have posted :).

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle @ Mama Bear

To be fair, research does prove that breast milk is best for babies. Some babies, yes, can't process breast milk for lots of reasons and there are some moms who can't breast feed for lots of reasons...but that doesn't make it less true. Solid scientific research designs are generalizable and can be repeated. Studies involving breast milk meet these standards.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanieMZ

Hi Annie - Okay when stated succinctly like that, I get it, but your pic of a flame is pretty inflammatory as well. I just think that she probably has some knowledge that I don't have, and I give her that nod, as research is wide & deep. I don't think women s/b bullied into bf, or made to feel guilty, and of course there are always circumstances that make well, almost, anything, hard to do, impossible to do. So that's fine. i think what I mostly object to is that there seems to be a movement afoot that wants to overthrow the idea, hard won by science (fighting through the heavy marketing of the formula companies) that human breastmilk is a special formulation. And that, just like with other whole foods, it has not yet been duplicated by people in a laboratory. I think that women are intelligent enough to understand this and also are intelligent enough to make their own choices. It is a complex issue and not either-or.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Morelli

Thanks for this information. It is impossible to keep up with all of the research out there....and it is a shame that you were judged /feel judged.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Morelli

Kathy, I think your point is valid. The point of the blog is to raise issues that relate to moral developments and there is a lot of rhetoric around feeding and food that is deemed "moral." In her post describing the controversy she definitely admits the cavalier attitude of the post and thanked those for sharing their stories. But her bottom line did remain the same--we live in a world where FF is the norm and she wanted to challenge the assumptions.

This method of challenge/inflaming is typical of PT though. A few months ago they ran a cover story on why black people were less attractive than white people.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanieMZ

Wel, I dont read PT so much....I subscribe to a few choice blogs online (this is one of them -kudos) . I am a licensed mental health professional, and know a few ppl who blog for PT and they really dont police their contributors, so shoot down an other illusion LOL.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Morelli

This lady showed no discretion. Both breasts were fully exposed, you could see the one sans baby completly. This wasnt a little bit of cleavage or the top of a breast, we are talking fully exposed nipples and all. Her shirt was hiked up above both breasts I assume so she could switch sides. Women should be able to NIP, the child has to eat and never ever would I consign a woman to the toilet or public bathroom. What disturbed me is there were children present, very young kids and call me a prude, but I believe that certain parts of our body, including breasts are not meant to be shared with the public. I dont think they are dirty, they are just meant to be private. My 8 year old son should be able to go to the library or anywhere in public and not have to see that. Im not talking about never seeing a BF woman, he has seen that plenty of times done discreetly. Hes 8, modest and shy. I dont dress immodestly myself and try to set a good example for my son

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

Another great post Annie. I have a hard time understanding why anyone who wants to support breastfeeding moms feel it has to be done by putting down / using judgmental language. It rarely ever works and i really do think it does 'the cause' more harm then any good.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDevan @ Accustomed Chaos

I generally hate articles like the one by Narvaez. As a passionate advocate for breastfeeding, I am well aware that my pro-breastfeeding comments can feel like judgement to a new mother who is using formula for whatever reason and feels unsure and vulnerable already. Articles like this just make these moms feel worse about themselves.

On the other hand, I do see value in abrasive articles like this for *other* people. Maybe it will be read by the mother-in-law who keeps buying a mother bottles "just in case the nursing thing doesn't work out,' or that husband that suggests his wife would feel more comfortable nursing in the bathroom, do you know what I mean? Maybe this article is meant more for society as a whole instead of nursing mothers in particular. A struggling mother needs encouragement and hugs, but her support team of family and friends may need more of a smack upside of the head lol.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTamara Watson

I'm sorry you have had a bad experience with lactivists. It sucks that you have experienced judgement for not breastfeeding from anyone. I'd like to address one thing in your argument, though. Every time a discussion about breastfeeding and NIP in particular comes up someone has to bring up the women who "whip em out" or "show everything" OMG eleventy!!! In my entire life I have never seen a woman in public just let her boobs hang out. So, it happens, but it's extremely rare. And it's every bit as unfair to paint large swaths of women who NIP as doing so indiscreetly as it is to judge all formula feeding mothers as selfish or lazy.

If we shouldn't judge a woman who feeds her baby formula (and we shouldn't), how about we not judge a breastfeeding woman no matter how much skin she shows. There are various reasons why a woman might show more skin than others including the size of her breasts and how much her baby wiggles. As an adult, if you don't like it don't look. If you have children who ask questions perhaps a simple, "She's just feeding her baby, and I guess that baby likes to have both at the ready."

Narvaez's post is quite inflammatory as you say, particularly the bit about it being a "starvation diet". Yeesh! But, as a breastfeeding advocate I'm getting pretty damn tired of trying to walk the line between trying to encourage more breastfeeding and not possibly offending any mother who has ever used formula. Lately, I just don't say anything because it seems like nearly every formula feeding mother thinks any pro-breastfeeding talk is an attack on her choice (or lack there of).

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia

I have to say that while I normally agree, here I disagree. I thought the piece was great. Sometimes you need that kick-in-the-butt response to get people to think about what they're doing, and when it comes to the cost of formula use in the US, it's no laughing matter. As I've pointing out in my own post on the topic, a review in Pediatrics found that the cost of not having 80% of women exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months is over $10 billion in health care and is also costing the lives of 740 people (mainly babies) EVERY YEAR. The whole notion of choice and too many women saying they "can't" breastfeed (when in reality, the number for that, physiologically-speaking, is VERY low - around 5%) is killing our kids, plain and simple. And something has to be done.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTracy

One more addition - the reason Dr. Narvaez wrote this piece was because these positives you believe are happening, aren't on a larger scale. She wrote the piece in response to the CDC's findings that hospitals are still engaging in practices that COUNTER breastfeeding. And that needs to change.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTracy

"If that money were going into (a) lactation support, (b) milk banking and (c) R&D into better formula, that would be great. But spending it on marketing is a waste and a problem."

Yeah, I agree. On the other hand, the reluctant capitalist in me whispers "but formula companies are a corporation like any other... why should they have to be held to different standards?" Asking them to fund lactation support/research is like telling Coke they need to promote Pepsi, you know? In an ideal world I agree with you, but I just take issue with Big Formula (which, as a very wise woman on my site just pointed out, is one and the same with Big Pharma, a terribly corrupt industry, and I hardly ever see people railing against the makers of depression meds for convincing everyone and their brother that they have depression simply because they are feeling "sad") having to be more altruistic than any other big corporation.

I think that the government should be responsible for doing this type of research, not a company which has employees to pay and profit margins to meet. I do see a lot of research going on to prove the superiority of formula, and I wish that this funding could go into REAL lactation research - finding out what is in breastmilk, exactly, that makes it so amazing. Or figuring out real ways to counteract insufficient supply, or mitigating other breastfeeding problems.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFearless Formula Feeder

I think lactavists and BF advocates need to back off more than anything. We have books, pamphlets and the inter net to do research and help us decide the pros and cons of both BF and FF. If we want information and help it should be the lady who wants to BF to make the initial contact, not the other way around. I personally find it unethical to approach a woman in the hospital when she is most vulnerable and attempt to educate her about BF. Downright predatory in nature if you ask me. WIC has great information on BF and offers great help and it should be there for those who desire it. Not once however did WIC offer me any information on how to properly sterilize and prepare bottles or anything. They pretended such information didnt exist, thank GOd my mom was able to teach me the simple and old fashioned way to do it. BF should be viewed not only as a lifestyle choice which it is, but also as a medical decision. A medical decision can only be made by a woman with the help of her doctor. As far as NIP, I have heard the like it dont look argument many times and 9 out of 10 that is just what I do. Most moms do it covered or very discreetly, not have both breasts fully exposed in front of children no less. My son has seen my cousin nurse her children and she does it covered, he has had friends moms who BF, all discreet. I dont think under any other circumstances would any mom on here tolerate a woman exposing her breasts in front of their kids. Same should be with BF, just use some discretion, there are nursing covers and nursing clothes that allow the job to be done while being tasteful and discreet. The breasts is a private part of the body, the bottle is inanimate object like a cup. To compare a bottle in public to a fully exposed breasts is apples and oranges. Im an amply blessed woman no way would I have ever been comfortable NIP, especially in front of children and men outside of my family. I will not judge a woman for BF but I will judge a woman for exposing way too much of herself, whether that be BF or wearing a lowcut tight top that doesnt cover anything.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

"there are nursing covers and nursing clothes that allow the job to be done while being tasteful and discreet."

So, you missed the whole point that not every woman can afford nursing clothes and not every baby will tolerate being covered. How should any woman know how much skin is "too much" for you? We don't. So we do what we need to do and only worry about ourselves. If I worried about who didn't like seeing part of my breast or my exposed (fat) belly or back while breastfeeding I won't have succeeded in nursing my daughter.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia

Dana K,
You dont have to justify your choice to anyone. You are doing what is in the best interest of your baby. My son is now 8 and I still fight the fight to keep other women from having to go through what I went through. If people ask you why arent u BF, you tell them that is none of their affair because its not. FF doesnt make one a bad mom. BF doesnt make one a better mom and one doesnt get a gold medal for feeding their child. That is an obligation of all parents regardless of feeding method and I think many moms who BF think they should get a medal. Sorry doesnt work that way with childrearing.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

Here in Canada there is significant regulation of pharmaceutical marketing, but with the formula companies they just say "pretty please".

I agree that we shouldn't depend on the formula companies to do the research or to fund lactation support. I just wish that somehow the current cycle could be broken.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I think the 5% is a conservative estimate. I dont think we will ever really know for sure. Women "cant" Bf for a variety of reason, whether its physical, medical, emotional or other circumstances they are all valid reasons and not "excuses". Dr. Narvaez did a great disservice by downplaying the severity of PND. It can be caused by or aggravated pressure to BF. I oppose bans on formula adverts and free samples because it implies that women are too feeble minded to make an educated choice on how to feed their babies. It should be a choice yes, a womans breasts are apart of her body and nobody has a right to tell her how to use them or not. Just because you have a child doesnt mean one gives up their right to self determination and bodily autonomy. Are you saying choice that women shouldnt have a choice in how they feed their babies? Certainly you dont support mandatory or forced BF?

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

How much is a bloody receiving blanket? I had dozens of them with my son. A little bit of skin is one thing.. the whole breasts or both is another. Im sorry but hiking up ones shirt and exposing both breasts fully in front of young children in a public place is vulgar and distasteful. Your right to NIP doesnt trump the right of others, should be you be asked to leave for NIP no, should you be asked to cover if children are present, yes. You dont need special nursing clothes or covers to discreetly BF They are on the market for those who desire them. Funny how moms who dont have these special things can still find clothing and receiving blankets to be modest. So if I wanted to wear a low cut top that exposed all but my nipples would you be fine with that? I dont think so. BF isnt an excuse to be immodest no if and sor buts.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

Fully exposed breast equals too much skin. I think most people would agree.

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

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