The Messy Me

Dear Lactavists

Dear Breastfeeding Advocates (or as you now like to be called “lactavists” or “lactivists”):

As Dr. Phil would say: “How’s it working for you so far?”

Not so good, I gather by the looks of the Feminist Breeder’s (FB) latest post. In it, FB proclaims that “when it comes to breastfeeding, we can’t handle the truth.” I hate to burst that bubble, but I think that it is lactavists like her who can’t handle the truth.

Because the truth is that breastfeeding, in and of itself, does not save lives. And “ladies” (what feminist uses the word “lady” is a whole other debate!) who do not exclusively breastfeed have the made a choice to use formula. 

Let’s start with the “breastfeeding saves lives” statement

FB compares breastfeeding to the use of car seats as life-savers.

Let’s walk through this then: You put a child in a car seat, the car is in an accident, the child walks away safe. In that same accident situation, the child could have flown through the windshield and died. So, yes, car seats save lives. There is a direct, causal relationship.

But, breastfeeding? No. There is no direct, causal relationship between breastfeeding and a life saved. She cites that of the 911 babies in a recently released study, there were those who dies from SIDS and — so the argument goes — breastfeeding could have saved those lives. But as many commentors have rightly asked: what about the other factors involved — did the baby live in a house with smokers, where the room temperature was too warm? I also questioned the data and received a response from another commentor that included the words “DUH” and “Whatever” — as sentences in and of themselves.

Now let’s move to the big “lie” 

FB moves to the conclusion that because 3/4 of women initiate breastfeeding in the hospital, but that only 13.6% continue with it past six months, that all of us dear little “ladies” have been lied to. That we’ve been told that we can’t produce enough milk.

Please. These women have not been lied to. They have made a choice not to breastfeed. Smart, educated women have made a choice not to breastfeed. 

You might want to re-think your strategy 

Yes, I’m aware that there are studies on why women have chosen not to breastfeed and a common response is: “I couldn’t produce enough milk.”

Have you considered that women are choosing that response not because they’ve been lied to but because they do not want to have to face the scathing judgement of lactavists who refer to formula as “toxic” or “poison”? Or that they have soaked up your “breast is best” message so fully that they do not want to admit to themselves that they would choose something for their child that is not “the best.”

Now, maybe you don’t want to consider these things. And that’s fine. But if close to 80% of women are not exclusively breastfeeding, then I’d suggest maybe your advocate strategies are not working.

And if you’d like higher rates of breastfeeding — if that’s what you truly want, rather than a feeling of self-righteousness — then you’d better work harder to engage with those 80% of women.

A radical re-working of your current strategy, which alienates women and manipulates data, just might help raise those breastfeeding rates. If you’d like a model to follow, I’d suggest Amber Strocel. Read her writing; learn from her respectful and intelligent tone. I really think it’s people like her who’ll help turn the tides and convert greater numbers of those 80% to exclusively breastfeeding mothers.

But remember, it will not be everyone. It’s a choice. And no amount of screaming, and ranting and finger-pointing will change that.

P.S. If you’ve stumbled onto my post because you were googling for breastfeeding support, the La Leche League provides very reasonably priced, excellent support in neighbourhoods all over world.


3 Comments so far
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Thank you so much for your kind words. That really means a lot to me. 🙂

I absolutely understand that a lot of moms will not choose to breastfeed. That’s their choice. I almost didn’t make it myself, and it sucked. I don’t think that any guilt is necessary, and I am not going to judge anyone who is doing her very best for her baby. Or herself. That’s all any of us can do. Our sanity and happiness is more important than anything else.

I do believe, though, that as a society we could absolutely do a better job of supporting mothers. I believe that’s the missing piece. It’s not about telling moms to breastfeed and then chastising them if they don’t. It’s about offering actual help, whether that means adequate maternity leave, access to lactation consultants, or even just a listening ear. Whether that will affect breastfeeding rates or not is anyone’s guess. Obviously, I hope that it would, but even beyond that I hope that it would help ease the transition into new motherhood in general. Because it is HARD, and we really don’t do a good job of being there for the new parents who need us, no matter how they feed their babies.

Comment by Amber

I agree with Amber. The unfortunate thing too is that for decades women were brainwashed into believing that they were old-fashioned and unliberated if they breastfed and that bottle fed babies made for healthier babies and happier parents. Big corporate North America was behind that propoganda and provided all the necessary tools to make bottle feeding easy and preferable. It’s hard now to give that up, especially when, as Amber points out, there is really no support for women who might want to breastfeed. Trying to berate them into it isn’t helpful. Neither is banning them from public places. Activists need to advocate for public acceptance, for public facilities, for better maternity leave, for accommodation in the workplace, etc…

Comment by XUP


I totally agree with you that judgment and shame are not the best ways to advance this agenda!

Comment by Tiffany

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