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.

Second…

“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. 😉

Suzanne Barston is a blogger and author of BOTTLED UP. Fearless Formula Feeder is a blog – and community – dedicated to infant feeding choice, and committed to providing non-judgmental support for all new parents. It exists to protect women from misleading or misrepresented “facts”; essentialist ideals about what mothers should think, feel, or do; government and health authorities who form policy statements based on ambivalent research; and the insidious beast known as Internetus Trolliamus, Mommy Blog Varietal.

Suzanne Barston – who has written posts on Fearless Formula Feeder.


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41 thoughts on “Are formula feeders more likely to abuse their children?

  1. As one who makes her living in program evaluation and research, I always appreciate a critical eye on research studies.

    That being said, I wanted to comment on a couple of things. First and foremost — correlation doesn't equal causation! The study controlled for a number of factors (alcohol consumption, marital status, etc), but the point of the 2 full paragraphs the article “sneaked” in was to acknowledge that there were other factors at work. Clearly the suspected operative variable was the close, bonding time with the babies. Since that variable wasn't controlled for and/or studied, the researcher cannot conclude that the lack of bonding is the source of reduced maltreatment. But what the researcher does do (openly, I thought), is hypothesyze about the results – setting the stage for future research to clarify exactly what it is about the breastfeeding relationship that is protective.

    Also, you're right to say that the numbers of maltreated children are small (less than 10%); however, this is what most would refer to as still pratically or clinically significant. If we were talking about 7% of people got a cold…. not a big deal. Child maltreatment is a significant problem, even if you are talking about 1 child (much less the 100 that the researcher is discussing). I would hate for people to interpret your comment as minimizing the significance of child abuse or neglect.

    Assuming the study was done with a representative sample of that community, you are no longer talking about 100 children, but 7% of the population in the community.

    Again, I do appreciate the critical eye, especially given the amount of hyperbole found in the media regarding studies such as this.

    As a mother who supplemented with formula for several of the 18 months I breastfed my child, I definitely can appreciate the values of each method. Rather than “choose sides,” I choose to believe that my experience falls in the middle of what is not a two sided issue — but simply a continuum of differing experiences.

  2. Great Article!!!!!!!

    I know way to many Bottle-feeding moms that prop bottles…look at all the devices on the market now for that. Also they get so exctied when the baby can hold their own bottle at a young age.

    Breastfeeding does give you a bond that bottle feeding can't. as the article points out…you release certain hormones that do not get released when you bottle feed…Some people call it the love hormone…and I know I feel it.

    Also women who is going to go through what it takes in some cases to Breastfeed proves that they will do a lot to give the best to their child so I can understand they would be less likely to abuse their Child.

  3. @Filament:

    I appreciate your analysis of my analysis. 🙂

    I agree that correlation doesn't equal causation. In fact, that is my biggest problem with the breastfeeding/formula feeding studies – or rather, how they are used by lactivists to undermine formula feeders. Yes, many people who breastfeed are wonderful parents. But so are formula feeders. Unfortunately, since breastfeeding does take a significant amount of time and effort, it stands to reason that people who are prone to abuse would be the same people who don't want to put in that time or effort. I think that is pretty much common sense, so I guess I don't see the POINT of studies like this. If, as you say, correlation doesn't equal causation, then why should it MATTER that more abusers FF rather than BF? I highly doubt that someone prone to abuse who is forced into BFing as a protective measure against future abuse will end up being less likely to abuse…

    But I honestly appreciate your comments – I obviously do not have a degree in research; I'm just looking at it with a layperson's critical eye, so I love when people like you can offer some insight. I hope you don't take my reponse as argumentative – just wanted to clarify where I was coming from.

    @Anonymous-

    Your blanket assumptions about formula feeders are despicable. I don't think your comments even warrant a response in respect for my readers. You come on here to insult them and be contrary (and with a highly suspect use of lowercase/uppercase usage)…not sure what you're trying to accomplish other than to cause drama.

  4. It bothers me to see someone so hostile against women who breastfeed–I fail to see how it can possibly help your “cause”. Breastfeeding mothers are at their root simply trying to do the best they can by their children; I'm sure you are doing the same for yours.

    I understand not all women are able to breastfeed. As a breastfeeding counselor, I help women every day who are on the verge of quitting because it just doesn't come as easily as many mothers expect it will. I try to remind these mothers that “some breastmilk is always better than no breastmilk” and encourage them to keep trying, even if their goal of exclusive breastfeeding isn't met.

    The point of studies “like this” is to highlight the continuing importance of breastmilk and breastfeeding. In a culture where we are bombarded with ads from infant formula companies every day trying to convince us that this formula is the one “most like breastmilk”, fewer people are aware of the differences between breastmilk and artificial milk than you'd expect. And the differences ARE there, no matter how much you minimize or belittle their importance.

    The point of these studies is that breastfeeding needs a cheerleader–someone to remind women who are pregnant and who might otherwise not know: Breast is Best. Countless studies prove that breastmilk is a dynamic and living food providing benefits that no supplement can ever mimic. Formula doesn't need a cheerleader. Breastfeeding is the gold standard; formula is the substitute. Don't forget that.

  5. @lifewithoutapology-

    Hostile towards breastfeeding women?

    Really? Have you read this blog? I mean really read it?

    I am constantly talking about how much I respect breastfeeding women. In fact I have written several entries about this. Not only are my nearest and dearest all exclusive breastfeeders, I was one myself for a month, and felt tremendous sadness when I had to end that relationship with my son. And who knows? I may end up breastfeeding my second child… I will keep an open mind.

    The hostility I feel is for people who immediately assume that because I support the choice to formula feed, and strive to provide some needed perspective in the pro-breastfeeding mommy culture I and many of my readers live in, that I am anti-breastfeeding. In my opinion, that is a cop-out. Just like true feminism means supporting those who choose to work as well as those who stay home, I believe true breastfeeding advocacy means supporting ALL women whether they choose to breastfeed or not. Otherwise, you are turning what should be an empowering choice into something people are forced into by fear or guilt.

    I also feel hostility to studies that simply try to show how awful formula feeders are rather than the positives of breastfeeding. Or which overstate those positives, because whether you like it or not, that happens too.

    Yes, formula companies are not in need of support. But formula feeders are. I would NEVER tell an LC or breastfeeding support group that their efforts aren't admirable. I LOVED the LCs I worked with (and I had seven different ones, so they did run the gamet, and other than one of the hosital LCs they were all incredibly lovely and supportive). I also have several friends who are breastfeeding advocates in that they fight for their right to pump at work and nurse in public. They have never made me feel like crap simply because I don't nurse. And they would never in a million years post some BS like lactatinggirl did on Twitter, or accuse me of being anti-breastfeeding – and they know where I stand on every issue.

    I will never forget that formula is the substitute. I am a strong believer in getting things from the source and I applaud and support anyone who is able to provide breastmilk for their baby. However – your definition of it as a “dynamic and living food” is only true in respect to fresh breastmilk. For women who pump and freeze the milk, it has been proven in several studies (I would be happy to find and post them if you like)that enzymes die off rather quickly and that the milk does not hold up well. So that would not be a relevant argument for anyone pumping and freezing.

    Lastly – if your “hostility” comment was in response to my response to Anonymous above, then yes, in that case I am hostile towards a breastfeeding woman. But that's not because she's breastfeeding; it's because she is a judgmental instigator with a blatant disrespect for grammar.

  6. @FFF – I didn't find it argumentative at all, although I do disagree with you. 🙂 I hope this isn't dragging it out too much, but I thought I'd explain why I disagree…

    I understand feeling frustration at 'common-sense' studies. There is definitely purpose, however, to researching the risk and protective factors of something like child maltreatment. By narrowing down the risk factors of abuse, researchers are better able to find ways to intervene. I think you are right that forcing people to breastfeed won't necessarily stop people from abusing. But what if the next research study building from this one can confirm that yes – there is something different in a breastfeeding relationship, and that thing is a certain amount of bonding through physical cuddling/touch. Maybe that's common sense, but maybe not — maybe instead the research would show that actually, it's a hormone released in the body triggered by lactation that is protective against abuse (I don't necessarily think that, personally – I think it's probably about bonding. I'm just throwing that out there as a devil's advocate, especially since science has shown that those released hormones are important in other ways).

    Anyway – let's say that research study demonstrated a statistically significant connection between parents who physically cuddle with a child and reduction of maltreatment. That means that parenting education programs which focus on teaching parents the importance of cuddling/holding/rocking their children may have a greater impact on preventing child maltreatment than programs focusing on the right and wrong way to change a diaper/feed a baby etc.

    That kind of finding might be particularly relevant for agencies which serve areas where child abuse prevelence is high, and social workers want to specifically target that problem.

    I know this was super-long, and I apologize for that! I hope it makes sense though.

    It's been awhile since I've read something that provoked enough attention/interest to make me want to respond, you know? I find myself agreeing with your posts as much as I find myself disagreeing with them — and that's intriguing to me!

  7. @Filament-

    Huh. That actually makes a lot of sense.

    See, this is what I love about the internet. I wouldn't think someone could make me see some ration in this study, and there you go. 🙂

    I really appreciate the time you took to explain yourself – I strive to not be dogmatic about anything, and intelligent, though-provoking responses like yours help me to achieve this goal. I hope you'll visit often and keep me in line, lest my passion gets the best of me!

  8. @FFF

    I feel like I should say “it's nice to meet you” or something along those lines. 🙂

    You've been bookmarked for awhile now, actually. The last few months I've been cruising through “mommy blogs” checking out different clusters, etc. It's been interesting – mainly because most bloggers tend to fall into one of two camps along pretty sharp lines. (Although your blog is one that doesn't necessarily fit that – hence my interest).

    I've been contemplating starting another blog to contribute to the conversations, but haven't quite formulated what I would want my theme/mission/goal to be.

    Anyway — point is, i agree about loving the internet for interactions like this. 🙂 And no worries, I'll let you know if I disagree again. 😉

  9. I knew an article like this would come out at some point.

    Yes, there could be a few women who leave their babies with a propped bottle and watch soap operas and let their babies scream. They are few and far between.

    I combo fed after wanting to exclusively breastfeed (due to physiological problems I couldn't achieve a full supply). Anyway, since my breasts are underdeveloped when I breastfed, I could never get the eye contact with my daughter while I fed her. The bottle enabled me to do that. I held my DD for almost every bottle until she was a year old. She still is a cuddle monkey and she's 3.5 years old.

    Yes, breastfeeding by its very definition and essence requires a mother's presence and requires her to hold the baby, yet most FF mothers I knew hold their babies when they feed them. Heck, my three year old will still cuddle into me when she drinks milk from a sippy cup.

    Thanks for your blog BTW!

  10. @OttawaAllison-

    Thank YOU! 🙂

    I hear you on the inability to look at your baby while nursing (and the ability to do so while bottlefeeding). In my case, I was in such horrible pain, as was my son, that we both would be in tears and tensing up every time we tried a nursing session. When I gave him a bottle, it was the first time I was able to cuddle him and look into his eyes and smile.

    Anyway. Thanks for your comment!

  11. Firstly – Wow, it never fails to annoy me how people assume you are anti breastfeeding. Obviously they never read anything else you post and take every single negative thing out of the one they do read. And it really pisses me off when someone just makes a comment to get under the skin of the people that frequent this sight. It kind of blows my mind why people think we don't need support when there are people like that popping up in our lives everywhere.

    Secondly – This is kind of an interesting artcle…once you get past the negativity that Lactating Girl (? blergh!) puts on it that is… in that its kind of starting to explore what it is about breastfeeding that supposedly protects the child from these types of things.

    I think the results are as they are for different reasons than to feeding a child breastmilk or even the actual act of breastfeeding itself.
    For example the mindset to do whats best for your child no matter what…Even the immature annoymous idiot above touched on that. People who choose to breastfeed are, from what i can see, dedicated to doing whats BEST for their child (and don't jump on me, im not saying we arent) right from the word go and thats a mindset thats important to be in to protect your child from other harmful things.

    I also think the one on one, touching, skin to skin contact is hellishly important for releasing hormones or 'love' hormones as the annoymous whatsit above also touched on – it was for me! That staring into his eyes and touching his little face as he ate was soo soo key to our bonding and therefor reinforcing my desire to keep him safe at all costs.

  12. I also found that one of the advantages of bottlefeeding (in addition to the baby getting enough nourishment) was improved cuddling. My breastfeeding experience could not have been more different than the warm bonding time I expected. My baby tried to latch on, failed, became frustrated, and screamed and pushed me away. It was a struggle to find any position at all in she could latch on for a few seconds and get a few drops of milk. Eye contact was out of the question. With bottlefeeding, we were both relaxed. I could make eye contact, hold her comfortably, and watch her contentment as her hunger was satisfied. Her first bottlefeeding was the first time I had any positive feelings about motherhood, and the first hope that I was not going to fail miserably. (Although the lactation zealots would doubtless say that bottlefeeding in itself is an excusable failure, irrespective of irrelevant benefits like nutrition and well-being.)

    The solipsism of lactation zealots is as obnoxious as their arrogance and judgmentalism. From their perspective, they had a positive experience nursing, so everyone should–that is, everyone who's not worthless scum. For persons with such a perspective, I have no words.

  13. I thought that study sounded familiar…I wrote about it here nearly a year ago (under “Somebody desperately needs a shave with Occam’s Razor”). Bottlefeeding causes abuse, indeed…feh.

  14. I didn't read all of the study but I am just wondering something based on what has been said here. Is it possible that the correlation is the other way? I find it difficult to believe that choosing to breastfeed vs formula feed would be a deciding factor in whether or not someone abuses their child. Is it possible that mothers who abuse their children are less likely to breastfeed (or lovingly formula feed as has been described so beautifully in some of these posts)? Just a thought…

    On another note, I just wanted to tell you that I read your Recovering Actress blog and got to this site after reading the post about your amazing attempts to breastfeed. I feel sad that you felt so judged especially considering how hard you tried. Like you, I had lots of great ideas (a nice way of saying judgements!) before I had a baby and I vividly remember the moment when I felt like I could NEVER judge a mother (or anyone for that matter) again. My son was 3 days old and my breastmilk came in on the 4th day. He was screaming and I was sobbing. I felt like a complete failure because I was STARVING MY CHILD. It was awful. I ended up giving him formula with a spoon after the midwives told me he wasn't gaining enough weight. We supplemented a couple of times with formula and then I went on to breastfeed successfully for almost 13 months. Nobody prepared me or told me it would be okay if I had to give him some formula at the beginning. And by the way, he slept like he had never slept before after he had that formula. Which just made me feel even worse for not doing it sooner!

    My issue with the breastfeeding “propaganda” is that nobody prepares you for the fact that your milk doesn't come in right away. Colostrum seems to rarely be enough to sustain a newborn for the days before the milk comes in (based unscientifically on every single one of my friends that has had a child). I now tell every single mom-to-be that I know to make sure they have formula in the house at the very beginning – even if they are planning to breastfeed – just in case.

    I know how much mothers love their children and I KNOW that formula feeding moms love their kids just as much as breastfeeding moms do so I just wanted to say that nobody should feel judged for doing what is best for their family. If anything, you should be considered BETTER mothers for having to live with the stigma of being a formula feeding mother and making the choice ANYWAY.

    There is no question that I will have formula standing by if I am ever blessed with another child…and I won't be waiting until the third night of crying to supplement.

  15. The thing is the people who are saying that it is easier to cuddle and make eye contact while bottle-feeding. At what point did you give up?? Yes at first Breastfeeding is hard and sometimes it isn't all cuddles and loving. But wait until you are nursing an older child…where it gets to be like second nature. Then you get those cuddles and eye contact…and those wonderful nipple smiles(smileing while nursing…the most wonderful thing)!!!

    And YES Colostrum is enough to sustain a child until the milk comes in…millions of moms never give their child formula. Giving formula will just delay your milk coming in. My Daughter was latched on for 5 hours straight getting colostrum the night she was born. The problem comes from people saying you should only nurse for so many minutes on each side.

    If a newborn is crying…why aren't you nursing…duh?!?!?!

  16. It was well past the first few days.. At 2 weeks my daughter was almost a pound under her birth weight. I am in Canada, so I read Dr. Newman's book and everything… I *never* got engorged, my breasts only grew a tiny bit but that was from my general 52lb weight gain. I never got those blue veins on my boobs and I have no clue what “letdown” feels like.

    I had a nurse at the hospital be concerned about my breast shape and spacing (they're 3 inches apart)… I thought she was just being one of those so-called “unsupportive formula pushing nurses”… I read about breast hypoplasia after I had to supplement and started to cry. That described my breasts. No one told me that that was a possibility in any of the literature I read before having my daughter.

    When I breastfed her, there was no eye contact at all.. Again, that has to do with my breast shape.

    That being said, my 3.5 year old amazes me daily. She got breast milk for 3.5 months (with formula for the majority of the time). She's very much loved, she's super smart and very healthy (knock on wood).

  17. Wow, Anonymous, sure was kind of you to provide an example for my solipsism comment.

    If breastfeeding doesn't work out, just how long are you supposed to delay giving your child something to eat? I suppose some lactivists are heartless enough to allow a child to starve indefinitely, but a lot of moms will put their baby's needs above the cause of breastfeeding.

    Just because your child was able to survive on colostrum until your milk came in does not mean that every baby will have that experience. There's a lot of individual differences among babies, . . . duh?? to use your sapient question. How did you become the benchmark by which all nursing situations must be evaluated?

    As for a baby latching on for five hours–mine wouldn't latch on for more than a few minutes. After a few minutes of struggling without benefit, she screamed and pushed away. But I suppose it would be asking too much of you to consider the possibility that some experiences are different than yours.

    Might I modestly propose that you be happy for your own experience, instead of expecting every mother and every baby to fit into your Procrustean lactation bed?

  18. Erin S, after I read your comment this morning, I thought about how some lactation zealots would shriek in outrage that you gave your newborn some formula while you worked at establishing breastfeeding. It would be so typical of the lactavists to condemn the very thing that helped you succeed, to make zero tolerance for formula a priority over a positive breastfeeding experience. And along comes Anonymous to do just that.

    Thanks so much for your kind comments, Erin. You show a great deal of common sense and compassion. Two qualities that are anathema to lactavists.

  19. I think I can finally articulate what really bothered me when it came to talking to some women. Not only did I have to “prove” that I was worthy to supplement, I would also be given advice on what I “should have done” (and a lot of that advice was stuff that I had done).

    In no way am I saying my experience is the norm, but I don't think it's all that unique either. I just never felt listened to. I mourned that breastfeeding relationships and people just seemed to want to figure out “what I did wrong” so that I wouldn't spread “misinformation”.

    FFF – Dr. Jay Gordon who has similar views to Dr. Newman on breastfeeding has a similar study on the child abuse stuff from 15 years ago on his site – http://www.drjaygordon.com/development/bf/sciencebf.asp . Again I love the blog and wish there had been one like this when my DD was younger. I am planning on a 2011 baby and if I need to supplement with formula I will without hesitation.

    Michelle – on another site I am on, a woman who is studying to be an LC actually credits formula for saving her BFing relationship. She went to exclusively breastfeed afterwards. I figure my choice came down to either accepting the “risks” of formula or accepting the risks of starvation of my daughter. I decided that I didn't want to risk her brain development and growth and chose formula.

  20. @OttowaAllison, Michelle & Erin –

    Thank you all for your honesty. I really think these comments will help women going through similar things – hopefully they will come here, read your eloquent words, and never feel as alone as we all did. That's the goal, at least!

    OttawaAllison, I not only have heard of Jay Gordon, my husband actually corresponded with him (he was the pediatrician of the producer of a pregnancy documentary we were featured on.) He is well known where I live (in LA) and known for being hard-line on both breastfeeding and vaccinations (or lack thereof – he is Jenny McCarthy's BFF). I've heard a rumor (and I have no idea if it's true) that he won't take anyone as a patient who isn't breastfed… yikes.

  21. @Anonymous-

    I'm interested if you've done any reading on emotional attachment theory (not attachment parenting – this is a psychological theory about how our first relationships inform the rest of our lives). In the most elementary sense, this theory speaks of how those first few months are so key to developing “secure” attachments to the mother (or other primary caregiver). I know several women who, while they nursed for the requisite year, say that breastfeeding troubles destroyed their first few months as a mom. Considering how much important bonding is done in those same first months, I really wonder – even if, as you say, nursing becomes second nature 6 months down the line, is it worth struggling for those first 6 months and potentially harming the bond between you and your child? (I'm talking true breastfeeding problems here, not just raw nipples or annoyance about frequent nursing sessions, obviously…)

  22. Jay Gordon is an ass. Do you know about his involvement in the Eliza Jane Scovill case? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliza_Jane_Scovill. Scovill was the daughter of an HIV-positive woman who refused to take retrovirals and insisted on nursing her. Scovill died of AIDS at age 3 1/2. Gordon was one of the little girl's pediatricians and he never tried to have her tested for HIV even though he knew her mother's medical history.

  23. I'm a “gem”? Thanks so much! Also, I simply posted the article with the title. How exactly am I putting a negative spin on quoting the title?

    Did I say “formula feeding makes you hit you kids” or “you're a bad mom if you formula feed”? No, I said there is a simple correlation that moms are more likely to abuse their children if they formula feed. I don't understand why you're arguing with me that it's a correlation when I said to you that it is a correlation.

    I would like to stress here that with all of my activism for breastfeeding I never blame the mothers. It is society's fault. Moms don't get the support they need, doctors quite often give the wrong advice, women aren't given long enough maternity leave (in the US), etc. I'm sorry that all of you feel that “lactavists” are awful women who blame formula feeding moms, but I personally (and all of the others that I can think of) don't blame moms. We are trying to change the system. You mentioned with the mom who struggles for the first 6 months and it hurts her relationship with her child. My point here is that it shouldn't be that way! If the proper system is there then that mother shouldn't have to struggle for 6 months.

    I feel like formula feeding moms and breastfeeding moms are in a huge argument that will never end. I think a lot of the things that breastfeeding moms say are taken as insults because of the guilt that formula feeding moms feel. Even if you plan on formula feeding from day 1, you are constantly told “breast is best” and it must be hard to constantly have that shoved in your face. I co-sleep and while many of the benefits are recognized in the attachment parenting community, it is still a big no-no according to the AAP and many others. When people tell me that I am putting my child at risk by sleeping in the same bed as her, I feel guilty. Even though I know all of the benefits of co-sleeping and have made the decision that it is right for our family, I still feel guilty. I assume formula feeding is the same way.

    Lastly, it's common courtesy to tell someone if you mention them in your blog—even if it's in a bad light.

  24. @theadventuresoflactatinggirl-

    I was referring to your Tweet, wherein you did not differentiate between correlation and causation. You (and the editors who decided on that scintillating headline) are clearly ignoring (or if I am to take a more negative view of you, intentionally abusing) the human tendency to infer from certain grammatical constructs. It's all in the phrasing- for example, if you had said, “people who abuse their kids are more likely to formula feed”, I would have less of an argument. That simply implies that formula feeding is correlated with abuse. Fair enough, since as we have already discussed in this dialogue (within the comments) that there are many reasons that this would be the case. However, saying “formula feeders are more likely to abuse their children” implies causation.

    Your comments here are sensitive and rational. I wish that you had shown as much grace in your tweets, but I understand we have different points of view on these things.

    On a side note, I apologize for not letting you know that I quoted your Tweet. However, I have been mentioned (quite negatively) in numerous blogs and have never been made aware. I just google my screen name every now and then. 🙂

  25. I just stumbled onto your blog through the Twitterverse, and I want you to know that as a breastfeeding mom, I have more respect for you than I do for someone who would try to make a mom feel guilty for doing her best.

    I agree with Lactating Girl that more education and support from the medical community would improve breastfeeding numbers, but that doesn't mean there aren't still going to be women who just CAN'T do it for various reasons.

    I worked my ass off to establish breastfeeding, but I have always known that I was still lucky that it worked out. and to be perfectly honest, at four months I tried to supplement with formula when my daughter started pushing me away. She just wouldn't take it.

    Anyway, I know this is long. I just wanted to let you know that I respect the mature way you handle situations such as these. I will be following you from now on!

  26. What's best: a child feeding expressed milk from a propped up bottle or a child being fed formula in the arms and eyes of the parent? Et voilà!

  27. “What's best: a child feeding expressed milk from a propped up bottle or a child being fed formula in the arms and eyes of the parent? Et voilà!”

    Neither really…one is compromising emotional needs and the other is compromising nutritional needs. Both are important, IMO.

  28. Anonymous, my mother is taking my baby out on Monday for the first time (her first birthday today, although she's not technically one until February) with a bottle of EBM, should I tell her to bottle prop the EBM or would it be better to give her formula? I'm confused, I didn't realise that EBM had to be propped???

  29. It's quite difficult to be “graceful” in 140 characters. I also wouldn't have said that “people who abuse their kids are more likely to formula feed” because that is not what they said in the study.

    As for not telling me that I was mentioned in your blog, just try to remember to treat others how you would like to be treated (i.e. you would have liked to have been informed that you were mentioned on someone's blog). I can not just google Lactating Girl because there are a lot of perverted people out there. 😛

  30. @Megan Yes, there are mothers who simply can not breastfeed, but it is very, very rare. If you think about it, all babies were fed (or died) before formula was invented. With the right support (not just in the medical community, but in the workforce, childcare, etc.), moms would all be able to breastfeed. Those rare ones who genuinely could not could get human milk from a milk bank instead of formula from a cow.

  31. Okay. So it was better in the past when babies died in the “very, very rare” instances that they couldn't nurse? I understand and appreciate your cause. I know about the lack of support for breastfeeding in the medical community and in other arenas of life. I want to be on your side, but I think you take it too far. I'm sorry, but I know plenty of babies who have thrived on formula, turned into healthy, smart kids. I think milk banks are wonderful things, especially for preemies and babies born in countries with filthy water. But, I don't see anything wrong with someone who is more comfortable using formula than the milk of another woman they don't know.

    You are right that with the proper support and education, many women who think they can't breastfeed would find that they can. But, I also know how excruciatingly hard it is in the beginning, and sometimes it is just too much for some women. Women with postpartum depression, women with no partner or support system in place to help her. I have seen your blog and know that you, like me, are a stay-at-home mom/student. But unlike me, you don't seem to be aware of how much easier it is for those of us who can be with our babies 24/7 as opposed to those who need to return to work. Sure, you say extended maternity leave would fix the problem, but that's theoretical and pretty easy for someone in your situation to say.

    I admire your commitment to a worthy cause. But, you know, cut people some slack. We're all trying our best.

  32. I always feel a little stuck when I read how women who simply cannot breastfeed are “very, very rare.” The statistic you typically see floating out there suggests that 2% of women fall into that category (though some lactation experts suggest it might include 5% of women). Any way that you cut it, at the lowest end, those percentages suggest that at least 1 in 50 women cannot breastfeed. That just doesn't sound very, very rare to me.

    There is no universal definition of a rare medical disorder. However, in the U.S., it is defined as having a prevalence of 1 in 5000. I mean autism has a rate of 1 in 100, right? No one seems to consider autism very, very rare – in fact, many people are incredibly concerned about the prevalence of autism. But, looking just at those numbers, it seems that being unable to breastfeed due to medical problems is twice as common as autism. Anyway, I do understand that, on the other end of things, that many women over the years have been incorrectly told they were unable to breastfeed by professionals, etc – when they actually needed support and breastfeeding expertise.

    And, before formula was invented, many children certainly died without breastmilk. But others were fed pap, animal milk etc. There is a site called http://www.babybottle-museum.co.uk/intro.htm that has some info on this.

    Also, yes, it would be great if human milk from a milk bank was readily available and covered by insurance.

  33. We have talked about the milk bank issue before, and I am really unsure as to how much better that is than formula. I would love to see some statistics.

    In my case, I was forced to make a choice between feeding my son steroids or formula. I'm sure there are some for whom that is an easy choice. but I was dealing with the possibility that I wouldn't regain full functionality of my face. And until you are staring yourself in a mirror, unable to smile and blink, you cannot know how you would choose.

    By feeding my son formula we also learned that he was starving, and he finally started to gain weight. Had things been different, I probably would have gone to a LC or spent all day trying to get my son to properly latch and build a supply. But I was also trying to get my house rebuilt, and quite frankly, you don't get to judge that either unless you have lost your home in a traumatic wildfire while 8 months pregnant.

  34. Brooke-It sounds like you have been through so much, and I wish you didn't also have to deal with judgment and criticism about the way you feed your son. You're doing a great job!

  35. @Megan You say that you know babies how have thrived on formula, but how do you know they've reached their true potential? Three types of stem cells are present in breastmilk, which leads me to believe that breastfeeding is a natural extension of pregnancy and helps the baby continue to grow and become what they are destined to be.

    Also, while I have been lucky enough to stay at home for the past few months (due to online classes offered with my school), if you would have researched more you would have figured out that I went back to school on campus when my daughter was 2 months old. I will also be going to school on campus this semster. No, it's not 40 hours a week, but I know what it's like to pump in a bathroom stall, to constantly worry about if there's enough frozen milk, etc. There were times when I wanted to quit, but it was never that I wanted to quit breastfeeding.

    @Jen I guess it would be better to say that in comparison to the amount of women who are told they can not breastfeed, the ones who truly can't are very rare.

    @Brooke I am very sorry that you had such awful things happen to you. It seems like you were one of the women who truly could not breastfeed. I would never blame or judge you for your choice to formula feed. I have no idea about the statistics for milk bank milk versus formula, but I would assume that even without all of the living components to breast milk, it's still make specifically for a human baby therefore it should be better.

  36. @Lactatinggirl- First of all, you really don't need to lecture me on the benefits of breastfeeding. I am breastfeeding my daughter for all the reasons you cite. I worked very hard to establish breastfeeding because I knew it was best for her and because I knew it was right for my family. And I didn't mean to imply that it isn't/wasn't difficult for you because you are a stay-at-home mom. I just meant that some of our situations are more compatible with exclusive breastfeeding, and it would be nice to cut people some slack.

    Again, you and I are not on opposing “teams”. I, too, would love to see breastfeeding become the norm. I am an advocate for breastfeeding. I try to help my friends prepare for the battle ahead of them. I try to prepare them and warn them against doing things that will hinder them from succeeding. But, when someone loses the battle and is feeling guilty or disappointed, I support them. And I reassure them that their baby will thrive (who is to say if ANY child reaches their FULL potential) regardless of what they are fed.

    I guess we just have different approaches. 🙂

  37. While I wouldn't waste my time responding to any of the negative comments on here (I've had to deal with that enough on my own blog), I did want to thank Michelle S for the laugh over her comment:

    “I suppose some lactivisits are heartless enough to allow a child to starve indefinitely, but a lot of moms will put their baby's needs above the cause of breastfeeding.”

    It's a serious subject and not at all funny, but that didn't stop me from laughing out loud over that snippet. 🙂

    I too didn't have enough of a supply when my son was born. I did the best I could while in the hospital, but he lost too much weight by the time he was only a few days old. The nurses encouraged me to supplement with formula until my full supply came in, so that is what I did! And no, I don't feel guily that I had to do that. I did what was best for my son.

  38. Given that formula feeding apparently causes a higher instance of child abuse (according to this study), would there be a higher instance of child abuse among adopted children and their parents since those parents usually can't breastfeed? I suspect there are many more factors at play.

    -Liz

  39. The way I see it, it's not that breastfeeding confers this magical relationship, but that only a certain group of people are going to continue to breastfeed after four months. These are people who are, generally, quite committed to their kids. Some people don't care at all and may be more likely to choose formula. (That in no way suggests that those who choose formula don't care, just that those that can't be bothered aren't going to put themselves out with breastfeeding.) It is certainly likely that the amount of one-on-one exposure then reinforces the existing commitment, but it doesn't create it. The evidence makes sense, but the contextual garbage invented to suggest that boobs are magic for preventing mommies from maltreatment is silly.

    It is important, as Filament discussed, to identify the risk factors for abuse. But I'm concerned how this will be used.

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