Are formula feeders more likely to abuse their children?

Doing my nightly Twitter search for “formula feeding”, I come across this gem from a lactivist blogger:

Formula feeding moms are more likely to abuse their children.

She then links to this article, from the Telegraph (UK), that details a study showing that “mothers who do not breastfeed their children are almost four times more likely to neglect or abuse them.”

My blood was boiling so much at this point that I nearly couldn’t finish the article. However, I muddled through just so that I could make a somewhat intelligent analysis of it on the blog.

There’s a few important things to keep in mind with this study (not that I expect any of the extreme lactivist ilk will do so). First of all, let’s look at the numbers themselves:

“They studied 6,000 women and found that of the 1,421 women who did not breastfeed their children in the group, 7.2 per cent neglected or abused their child in some way. This compared with 4.8 per cent of the 2,584 women who breastfed for less than four months and 1.6 per cent of the 2,616 women who breastfed for more than four months.”

Okay. So, 7.2% of the bottle feeding women in this sample abused their kids.That means that 92.8% DID NOT ABUSE THEIR KIDS. 92.8%. Seriously, guys. We’re talking tiny numbers here. And this study is just making the other 92.8% of formula feeding women look like crap, in their own eyes and the eyes of society.


“Lane Strathearn, author of the research, which is due to be published in the journal Pediatrics in February, said…women formed a close bond with their children while breastfeeding.

‘I think for a long time we’ve thought anyone can feed the baby as long as it’s expressed breast milk,’ he said. ‘But this is saying well hold on, it’s not just the milk, it’s that relationship that’s important. Breastfeeding may simply promote that interpersonal bond between a mother and her baby – the physical touch, the holding, the eye-to-eye contact. It ensures that physical touch occurs in an attuned way, but I would imagine a similar result for any mother who has that same one-on-one contact while they’re feeding on a regular basis.’


Not only is he suggesting that expressed milk does not confer the same bennies (which is an important distinction – it is not breastmilk that is performing this anti-abuse magic; it’s the act of breastfeeding, which is simply not possible for working moms to do exclusively), he is also saying that the “physical touch, the holding, the eye-to-eye contact” is what is important. I don’t know about you, FFFs, but until my child got too independent and wanted to feed himself, I cherished those bottle feedings… I would stare into his eyes, play with his fingers… he’d stroke my hair… I have a feeling these were the acts that Mr. Strathearn was referring to.

So once again, when you look at the quotes from the researcher; when you look at the numbers in a real-world manner; when you take a step back… this study isn’t doing much but insulting people for no reason.

Just wanted to clarify in case any of you start worrying that you might suddenly turn into Mommy Dearest as a side effect of your bottle feeding. 😉

Breastfeed at your own risk?

I came across a reference to this recent article through a podcast with the author, Julie E. Artis. Check it out for a thought-provoking analysis of the sociological impact of breastfeeding. (It’s really well written too; not the normally dry and mind-numbing academic hyperbole I usually read when studying this issue.)

I wanted to repost this one section, as I wasn’t aware of Avishai’s research and thought my fellow FFFs might find this interesting:

Sociologist Orit Avishai demonstrates through interviews of white, middle class mothers that they treat breastfeeding not as a natural, pleasurable, connective act with their infant but instead as a disembodied project to be researched and managed. They take classes about breastfeeding, have home visits from lactation consultants post-partum, and view their bodies as feeding machines. When returning to work, they set up elaborate systems to pump breastmilk and store it. These middle-class women were accustomed to setting goals and achieving them—so when they decided to breastfeed for the one year the AAP recommends, they set out to do just that despite the physical and mental drawbacks. Although it’s easier for middle class mothers to meet the recommended breastfeeding standards than it is for less privileged mothers, they’re at the same time controlled by a culture that equates good mothering with breastfeeding.

Diamonds are a girl’s breast friend

Last night, I came across some web chatter regarding a new jewelery commercial that some women found offensive. I assumed the ad in question was that insufferable spot where the woman gets scared by a little thunder and jumps into her man’s arms, whereupon he assures her, “I’m here…I’ll always be here,” and hands her something sparkly.


But no. Unfortunately, I seem to be the only person who finds this sexist and dated commercial so despicable. The controversy is actually over a Zales ad that has a bunch of people saying “I love you” in different scenarios. One of the vignettes shows a dad bottle-feeding a baby as he tells his wife he loves her. Apparently, this is anti-breastfeeding…”I was outraged within seconds when it showed a mom leaning over an empty crib while dad bottle fed a baby in the background,” said blogger BirthActivist. “I mean come on, wouldn’t it be better to give mom a diamond for breastfeeding?  Or even as a push present?  But this was just sad.  If you’re as outraged as I am, you can write them online or call them…”

While she certainly has a right to dislike the commercial, I am utterly confused at why she would be “outraged”, or how this imagery is at all anti-breastfeeding. First of all…we don’t know what’s in the bottle. It could easily be pumped milk. Maybe the mom pumps once a day so that the father can take one feeding, you know?  I take a completely different message from the ad. I think it just shows a lovely moment, where the dad is bonding with his new baby, and wants to tell his wife how much he loves her for bringing this precious gift into his life. According to many breastfeeding advocates, feeding your child is an act of bonding- so without the ability to bottle feed, fathers are robbed of this amazing opportunity. I was adamant about nursing before my son was born, but I was equally sure that I wanted to pump occasionally so that my husband could take part in the feedings. My dad once told me that his favorite part of fatherhood was those midnight feedings (I was a formula fed baby); that stuck with me. As strongly as I wanted to breastfeed, the image of a dad feeding a newborn was an evocative one for me; I don’t think this is a bad thing. Exclusive breastfeeding has many, many benefits, but I do think it leaves fathers out in the cold in this one respect. We have evolved into a culture (thankfully) where co-parenting is becoming more prevalent; some dads are even taking on the role of primary caregiver, which I see as a huge step for gender equality. But unless they can occasionally give the baby a bottle, they never get to enjoy this heralded “bonding”. And that sucks (no pun intended).

When my son wants comfort, he usually comes to me, but I think that’s more a matter of my being the primary caregiver; other than that, he is equally bonded to both my husband and myself. I love that. I love that he sees me as more than a food source; that the comfort I give him is something that I have developed as I’ve gotten to know him as an individual, something that I had to learn and work at. I love that his eyes light up when he sees his dad, that we’ve never had that issue of him wanting mommy more than daddy… I love that we are an all-powerful, seamless family unit, with interchangeable roles…

I certainly don’t think this is an argument against breastfeeding, but more of a nice little consolation present for those who are formula feeding or pumping. And feeling this way, I just can’t see why that image in the Zales commercial would offend anyone… if it were a mom standing there bottle-feeding, then I could obviously buy the argument that this is yet another subliminal message feeding a formula-centric society, but guys, how else is the man in this commercial supposed to feed the baby? And maybe that was integral to the point they were trying to get across in the 0.2 seconds that this image flashed on the screen – a lovely moment between father and child which provokes him to profess his love for the woman who made it all possible.

And hey. There ain’t nothin’ wrong with giving her some bling for her efforts. I think we can all agree on that.

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