Q&A with Joan Wolf, author of “Is Breast Best?”

For those of you who visit the FFF Facebook page, you may have seen a few of us discussing a new book called Is Breast Best? Taking on the Breastfeeding Experts and the New High Stakes of Motherhood (New York University Press, 2010), by Joan Wolf. This book is getting a lot of buzz, and it will come as no surprise to any Fearless Formula Feeder that she’s been the target of much vitriol for daring to question the validity of breastfeeding science.

The unfortunate truth is that most people slamming her on Twitter, blogs or anonymously in comment sections haven’t read her book. Not only does this make their critiques unfounded, but it’s also sad for another reason that I think exemplifies the problem of the infant feeding debate: if they actually took the time to read Wolf’s well-reasoned arguments, they might see where she is coming from. She is not just indiscriminately dismissing every study on breastfeeding outcomes; she is making an overall statement on how we approach scientific research when it comes to parenting, and how mothers are being held responsible for every possible ill their children might endure. The book encompasses several years’ worth of research, and Wolf’s prose is compelling and persuasive. She makes a fascinating comparison between the breastfeeding rhetoric and the language of the “obesity epidemic”; her points extend far beyond breastfeeding, into the way we view women, motherhood, and risk. Hers is a new and important voice, and one that I hope to god won’t be silenced by the cacophony of hate that tries to censor any dissenting voices in this debate. You don’t have to agree with her, but she at least deserves to be taken on her work and not on your own assumptions.

Head on over to Amazon and order the damn book, would you? It’s uniquely readable for an academic book, and I promise you that no matter where you stand on these issues, your arguments will come out smarter and more nuanced after hearing what Wolf has to say. (Oh – and after you read it, leave a review on Amazon. It might help counteract all the idiots who will leave snarky comments and bad reviews without even reading the introduction).

To wet your whistles, here is a short Q&A I did with Joan. Consider it a trailer for the main attraction… I know most of us have limited time to read, but I swear, this one is worth sacrificing your free time during your kid’s nap….

FFF: What got you interested in this subject matter, and provoked you to take on this book project?
Joan: When I first started reading around this topic, I was struck by two things: one, that while feminists had produced tomes about pregnancy, childbirth, and childcare, they had written comparatively little about breastfeeding; and two, that there has been very little disagreement between institutional medicine and women’s health activists that breast is best.  I was curious about how such a consensus had developed, especially given the kind of commitment breastfeeding requires and the reality that it’s not something mothers can share 50-50 with fathers.  I never doubted that breastfeeding had myriad health benefits, so I was actually very surprised at what I found in the medical literature.
FFF: Was it a difficult “sell” in terms of finding a publisher? Did you find people were hesitant to take on such a controversial topic, especially as your thesis was against the grain of popular thought?
Joan: Editors almost always have manuscripts vetted by other scholars, so they are certainly careful before they agree to publish something.  But, generally speaking, I don’t think they shy away from controversial topics if the manuscript is well done.  New York University Press has been a particularly good press for my book because it has a long history of publishing engaged scholarship, the kind of research that contributes to not just academic but public debates as well.  I really wanted Is Breast Best? to be available to both scholars and thoughtful people outside academe, and I have been extremely happy with NYU.
FFF: Do you think there is a divide between what the science really says about breastfeeding and what physicians believe/are imparting to their patients? Can you explain why this might be the case?
Joan: Compelling science tells us that breastfeeding provides babies some protection against gastrointestinal infections.  Doctors and public health practitioners tell us that breastfeeding makes babies happier and smarter and prevents ear and respiratory infections, diabetes, obesity, childhood cancer, asthma, allergies, leukemia, heart disease and scores of other illnesses and diseases.  So I wouldn’t say there’s a divide between what the science says and what pregnant women and new mothers are hearing; I’d say there’s a chasm.  What I ask in the book is, why?  And I think there are many reasons. 
First, we tend to confuse correlation and causality.  So, for example, if breastfed babies are less likely to be obese, this doesn’t mean that not breastfeeding causes obesity.  Mothers who breastfeed might well behave in all sorts of ways that promote health, and these behaviors could be responsible for the better health outcomes that we now attribute to breastfeeding.  The American Academy of Pediatrics actually made this case in 1982, when it warned pediatricians against overstating the benefits of breastfeeding.  Now, the AAP argues that breast is unequivocally best even though science is no closer to distinguishing the effects of breastfeeding from behavior surrounding breastfeeding.  Many advocates point to the sheer volume of studies showing a correlation between breastfeeding and better health.  But when you think about it, if a study leaves a crucial question unanswered, evidence from 50 or 500 similar studies doesn’t make that question go away.  Repetition does seem to have the effect of concealing the problem, which in this case is the absence of any demonstrable causal link, outside of the gastrointestinal tract, between breastfeeding and better health.  It also makes research scientists, doctors, and various media less likely to pay attention to research finding little or no benefit from breastfeeding, and there are plenty of studies with this conclusion. 
The push to breastfeed is also part of a larger cultural preoccupation with risk, and especially health risks.  We expend tremendous energy trying to stave off illness and disease.  And we do this by gathering information and seeking out the opinions of experts so that we can make good, healthy choices.  I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t encourage people to behave in healthy ways, but we have a terribly inflated sense of how much we, as individuals, can accomplish.  We think we have far more control over our bodies than we actually do, and we underestimate the impact of genetics and social environment on health.  Breastfeeding advocacy is very much part of this mindset that individuals have the power to be healthy if they just work hard enough and make responsible choices.
Finally, breastfeeding is part of what I call total motherhood, the belief that mothers are both capable of and responsible for preventing any imaginable risk to their babies and children.  It’s a moral code in which mothers are expected to protect their offspring from any risk, no matter how small, at any cost.  No dimension of a child’s life is beyond mother’s ability and responsibility to optimize, and no price is too high for the mother to pay in the process.  Of course parenting is, by definition, about prioritizing the needs and desires of our children, and mothers do this all the time.  But we are making mothers crazy today by telling them that they have the power, if they are willing to put forth the effort and make sacrifices, to prevent all sorts of bad things from happening to their kids. 
FFF: Do you think that breastfeeding advocacy, as it stands right now, is effective? Do you have any thoughts on how we could raise breastfeeding rates and support women without misleading them or subjecting them to this cult of “total motherhood” that you so eloquently explain in your book?
Joan: In the absence of compelling evidence that breastfeeding has substantial health benefits, it’s not clear to me that raising breastfeeding rates is all that important.  I’m actually more concerned that women who don’t want to breastfeed are being led to believe that they are somehow doing irreparable damage to their babies if they use formula.  I agree with many advocates that there are inadequate social supports in place for women who choose to breastfeed.  But the stakes of this choice have been dramatically misrepresented by scientists, doctors, and the government, and our first priority ought to be getting women accurate information.
I am also deeply concerned about what can happen when women leave their careers or shift to part-time jobs so they can breastfeed and otherwise provide exclusive care for their babies and young children.  Joan Williams and other scholars have provided overwhelming evidence that these women put themselves (and their children) at real economic risk, especially in the case of divorce, which is how roughly one in two marriages ends today.  I am not suggesting that women shouldn’t breastfeed or take time to be with their babies and toddlers.  But breastfeeding – and total motherhood more broadly conceived – has real costs that are lost in all the rhetoric claiming it is “free.”  The reality is that women need to be prepared to take care of themselves (and their children), and what we should be fighting for are policies and workplaces that don’t marginalize caregivers. 
FFF: I had never thought about the fact that maternal IQ and education was always controlled for in IQ studies, but not paternal… so my question is, do you think this is a problem of a fundamental flaw in the way we think about parenting? Or is there a scientific reason for not acknowledging the dad’s role?
Joan: This general tendency to avoid examining paternal influences doesn’t make any scientific sense.  We have little reason to believe that a father’s genetic contribution in terms of intelligence, obesity, or myriad other health outcomes is any less significant than a mother’s.  The fact that mother’s family history is usually used to determine baby’s genetic inheritance is a wonderful example of how scientists often operate with unconscious (and unproven) assumptions about maternal responsibility.  Facts might be true, but they are inherently partial.

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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36 thoughts on “Q&A with Joan Wolf, author of “Is Breast Best?”

  1. Wow, I really want to read this and then give copies to all of my friends.

    And I really appreciate the point at the end about Dad's contribution. My husband is very sensitive to this, I think because he is a teacher, which has long been a role traditionally held by women. He is an excellent father as well (and a SAHD in the summer), and recently was talking about how magazines with names like “parents” or “parenting” should really be called “mothers” or “mothering” since the articles and advertisements are aimed exclusively at women. Would more fathers be involved in child rearing if they were less marginalized? I don't know, but it's interesting to think about. And a good place to start would be science—it's stupid to discount Dad's genetic contribution.

  2. This is a wonderful Q&A, thank you very much to both of you for taking the time to do it. Joan's book is definitely on my “To read” list when I am on holiday (vacation) from University 🙂

  3. Thank you, it's wonderful to read about someone who really picked apart the “science” behind the lactivist arguments. I also agree about the extreme burden of responsibility put on mother. The genes of the fathers don't only transmit looks, they contribute to everything just as much as the mothers' genes. They can also be excellent caregivers, and formula feeding definitely helps share childcare.

  4. “In the absence of compelling evidence that breastfeeding has substantial health benefits, it’s not clear to me that raising breastfeeding rates is all that important.”

    THIS is exactly the statement I have been wanting make since I was pregnant, but didn't know how to say it. Nor have I read it anywhere else. BRAVO Ms. Wolf!
    Why is it so important to raise bf rates if most of the “health benefits” are unfounded? Why mislead/manipulate/guilt/shame etc. women into or about bf instead of focusing on supporting the women who already want to do it? Makes total sense to me.

  5. Of course breastfed babies are “healthier” they stay home almost exclusively, getting fed! No interaction with the world=less illness all around… A woman I know who exclusively breastfed for a year just enrolled her child now 16 months in a kids gym program and now her daughter is all sorts of sick because of interacting with other kids… BFing didn't protect her from what's natural… *sigh* There is just too much rhetoric and not enough support…

    • I’m not convinced that breastfeeding requires that the mother-infant dyad stay cocooned in a dangerously sterile home environment 24/7.
      It’s not slavery.

  6. Fantastic Q&A! I'd seen a lot of quotes floating around and hadn't been terribly impressed — but after reading this, I suspect the tone of the interviewer helps a lot.

    I tend to disagree about raising breastfeeding rates isn't important — I suspect it's an eye of the beholder thing on a lot of points — but I agree with Jenny 110%: raising rates shouldn't be about forcing those who don't want to or can't breastfeed, but in aiding those who don't have the support when they do want it. If that makes sense.

    I think she hits the nail on the head that mothers are set to bear the brunt of any ill that befalls their child. And this: “The push to breastfeed is also part of a larger cultural preoccupation with risk, and especially health risks.  We expend tremendous energy trying to stave off illness and disease.”

    YES. The second I stopped panicked about all the ways that my family could become injured, sick, or die tragically, the happier I was.

  7. I appreciate the article. I am by no means saying babies on formula are not as ____ as breastfed babies, or that formula feeding mothers are ______ than breastfeeding moms.

    I actually wasn't even going to comment until I read @Sprite's comment, which got my blood boiling.

    My exclusively breastfed 3 month old was out and about since he was 3 days old. Restaurants, shopping, My Gym with his brother, trips out of state…… and so on. I personally feel breastfeeding makes going out easier. I don't have to calculate how much food to bring or how many bottles. If I stay out longer than expected I still have my food. Plus I can nurse him while I walk.

    Just because one friend did that, it doesn't mean all of us do. My now 2 year old went to more states and was on a plane more in his first year of life than many people get to see their entire lives.

    I realize this has nothing to do with the book, but it needed to be said and I needed to say it. I do tire of the animosity between BF/FF and cloth/disposable…..

    I try to respect all mothers and their decisions whether they match my own or not.

    And if you want to know where I am coming from:

  8. I have scanned through the book and thought of buying it, but I don't have much time to read anything so in depth right now.

    The topics you bring up are very interesting. The paternal factor is very important and I wish more research would acknowledge or mention it. It seems that only now SAHD's are getting some light in the parenting spectrum.

    However, I have to disagree a bit about the topic on mothers who choose to stay home or shift to part time jobs to care for their children. Some mothers don't want to quit and if they are forced because they “have” to BF or feel they “have” to stay home, then of course it's a worrisome area. However, if the mother voluntarily chooses to stay home and really wants to do that, then there is nothing wrong with that. I had a mom that stayed home until I was in school, I'm doing the same with my son, and I don't regret it for a moment. He's a precious gift and I want to be there for him! True freedom for women is being able to choose the path we want without regrets or feeling pressure to choose work over motherhood or motherhood over work.

  9. Fantastic interview. I can't wait to read the book. Heading to Amazon now (although I promise any review I leave will be AFTER I read the book, unlike some folks:)

  10. Thank you so much for this blog, and this interview. I was surprised at your question, “Do you have any thoughts on how we could raise breastfeeding rates….” Can you tell us what the thought process was behind this question?

  11. Great interview.

    @Kim – My son stayed home the first year. We went out shopping all the time, but he wasn't exposed to illness the way that kids in daycare seem to be (sitting in a car seat isn't exactly the same as putting other kids' toys and hands in your mouth, KWIM?). He didn't catch one cold until he started daycare, and then he was sick almost all the time. I do think it's a relevant conversation to have.

  12. If only this book were required reading for every parent, pediatrician, health authority and “science” journalist! As someone who adores science and scientific accuracy (and breastfed 3 kids) I'm relieved to know someone is out there in public (and Amazon!) challenging this less than stellar body of work! Many thanks, Joan and FFF! March on, ladies!

  13. Just wanted to say that I ordered this in for my library and read it when it came in. I loved it and I put it on the recommended shelf as soon as I finished. Later that day a young mum came up with a beautiful baby in her arms, only a few months old and asked to check it out. I said “its a good book” and she looked at me in a way where she was obviously weighing up whether I was being sarcastic or serious and so I added “…as a formula feeder, it helped me alot”. She looked relieved and said “I've been hassled and made fun of so much for using formula.. I just..”. “Yeah” I said and nodded. she smiled, thanked me and walked away.

    I hope it helped.

  14. I just wanted to point out that gastrointestinal health is the foundation for a strong immune system. So, to say that, “Repetition does seem to have the effect of concealing the problem, which in this case is the absence of any demonstrable causal link, outside of the gastrointestinal tract, between breastfeeding and better health.”, is really missing the point that gastrointestinal health affects the entire immune system and is not just one small benefit separate from the larger whole. Wolf might want to look into the scientific studies that show the larger benefit of gastrointestinal health, rather than dismissing it as a small, singular benefit.

  15. I didn't see this thread the first time round but just saw this comment and would like to add my two cents: I think this just proves that every baby and every BFing experience is different. Some people I know were out and about with their babies from the start, partly because they had babies who didn't fuss much or slept better early on, or had other children they needed to go out with or didn't have much work to do at home or lived in a warm climate or whatever. I had a very colicky baby and was grading papers/working 2-7 weeks out of the hospital and it was winter to that didn't really happen; later on he was so distractable that he refused to nurse in any public place no matter how well covered. If you have a pleasant and easy BFing experience I can see how it seems possible that everyone could, and if you have a difficult experience it can seem impossible that anyone could have another kind. I think we'd all do well to acknowledge that.

  16. I'm unsure why you tout that your child was on a plane more in the first year life than many people in their entire lives as a sign that you are an ideal parent. How does the child develop a sense of security or familiarity with their environment if they are constantly being uprooted? Also, as a breastfeeding mother, I refuse to believe that you had all this energy to go out, when breastfeeding exclusively during this first month meant you were breastfeeding upwards of twelve times a day and essentially getting NO solid stretches of sleep! It really boils my blood that mothers like YOU make it seem like it's so easy instead of admitting that it IS HARD! and god forbid maybe admitting that yes maybe you struggled…if I wasn't breastfeeding I was trying to sleep, eat, or take a shower I wasn't out shopping, going to the gym, and eating at restaurants gimme a break.

  17. I wanted to share an article on the importance of the “gut” since Anon & I were saying it is downplayed by Joan Wolf (which I guess is maybe because she is a political science buff more than a science buff). It shows how it effects everything including brain development. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-neuroscience-of-gut Fascinating. This is NOT related to breastfeeding – it is a general article about the importance of the bacteria balance inside us. 🙂

  18. I agree Anon – the gastrointestinal tract is the beginning of the immune system. I hate to be gross but that is the theory behind why children the world over (gross) eat their boogers. :/ Anyway – I do appreciate ANYONE taking a real logical view on any study. I also agree than moms are held to a scrutiny dad's just don't seem to be held to in regards to how kids turn out health & otherwise. That is nothing new though – as it was once believed moms' were responsible for “making their sons gay” – whether by being too cold or too smothering or whatever. While I wills ay genetics absolutely plays a role – I have NEVER read that a BFd baby won't be sick. In fact I have had sooo many conversations explaining that breastfeeding does not mean your child will be healthy, it means they will be as healthy as they have the potential to be. So if you have a sickly child, hat child will be sickly regardless how it is fed, but it may be more sickly if not offered the boost from mom's immunities. I don't think moms should feel guilted into BFding – I would love to see more moms feel compelled to try it though because they do want their kids to be as healthy as they can be.

    As far as sick/healthy/home or day care – I worked since my 1st was 6 weeks – so as a BFd baby he was not in my care or home all the time & he was never sick save one time (very mildly) in his whole first year. (In fact – at 4 he is still rarely sick – but he did BFd until past 3). The neighbor who FFd had a baby 3 weeks later & she was at home. Her child was sick constantly. In fact our babies played together & stole binkies back & forth & my child never showed any symptoms of the things he caught (5th disease, hand foot & mouth, etc, etc). My point in telling that? You never know why a child is the way they are & anecdotes like sprite offered mean little. What I do know is that I could not make a healthier choice for my child – so no matter what happens now I will never wonder what I could have done different & for ME that matters. In that case, I would be one of the ones who did wonder “what if”. I also happen to not vax. Others would be so worried & think “if my child caught something & got very sick I would blame myself”…well they might think that & if they do, then they ought to vax I suppose. Likewise for me – Bfing makes me feel like I am doing the best I can do for them. I don't need anyone to tell me about studies (for or against) to help me choose. There is no way I trust science (even these pro-BFing studies) over nature, evolution, God or whatever you want to call it. I know that my body produces a safe, nutritiously balanced food specifically designed or my baby. For ME that is far more compelling than anyone “proving” anything. Of course it is better. It is made just for them & tested out since the beginning of mankind. How much better? IDK – I just know what I stick in mouth so I can promise I know what is going into theirs & that is peace of mind enough for me. When a product keeps saying “NOW more like breastmilk” it says to me that they know there are things they lack & they keep trying to improve it. If it were “good enough” & lacked nothing they would leave it well enough alone & quit spending money on research I would think. That just makes business sense.

  19. I'm exclusively breastfeeding my 8 month old and still occasionally nursing my 2.5yr old. We have been out and about since both of them were just days old. My boobs are always with me so it makes it very easy. Just curious why there is an idea that bf moms stay 'almost exclusively at home'? I know lots of bf babies and ff babies who are out and about in the world from just days old.

  20. Perfesser – When you put it that way, I completely concede the point. I had an identical experience – I couldn't leave my stupid pump for more than 90 minutes, or I'd be leaking all over the place. I felt ugly and huge and disgusting, due to my body image/eating disorder issues, which nursing exacerbated, and while BFing in public would've been totally acceptable in my community, pumping in public was certainly not!

    I guess I was thinking more of the assumption that in the long-term, BFing women are more stuck at home than formula feeding moms. It's hard for me though, b/c I live in such a pro-BF community, that I'd sooner believe a formula feeder would feel more home-bound b/c she'd be so embarrassed to be seen with her bottle. Plus, I was so neurotic that I convinced myself my formula-fed son would be immuno-compromised due to my failure to feed him breastmilk… anyway. I think it is perfectly believable that BFing might make some women more housebound, especially at the beginning… but I also think that this is not true for everyone. I hear this as a “negative” to breastfeeding a lot and I suppose I just never really understood it, considering how easily my breastfeeding friends made it look!

  21. Yeah, at around 6 months when baby was weaned I started to wish I didn't have to lug bottles around when we travelled and BFing would have made it a bit easier but the hard part with BFing in the first few months was that I literally could not take a break without hearing real or phantom hungry-infant cry, he cluster-fed so much – later on as we did more formula bottles I could at least go out of the house for a 2-3 hour stretch. But most of the time when nursing I was also pumping for that one night feed so I could sleep a bit so between nursing/pumping/washing damn pump parts there was almost no time to go out. I agree it depends a LOT on your community and personal situation and most of all your baby so I don't want to generalize from my own experience too much.

    I have 1-2 friends whose babies did not BF more than once every 3 hours and they could tote them around everywhere (plus super easygoing babies who would nurse in public or in restaurants, while mine would not). But that's pretty rare and most people I knew were not able to go out that much.
    It's when you are the person 100% in charge of feeding a very hungry infant at first (which is what makes women homebound if they are BFing) chances are you won't have the time or energy to step out much as you need to unless a lot of other things come together well. As for the long term and BFing mothers/babies staying at home, as someone mentioned above, I think the big difference re: being health is not home vs outside so much as home care vs day care.

  22. I think that idea exists for two reasons: 1) of the breast-feeding moms in many communities, I don't think a lot of them are willing to breastfeed in public for fear of being ostracized, at least in western countries anyway. I don't have actual numbers but think about it. otherwise it would be less of a big deal and less newsworthy when you do hear about breastfeeding moms in public. 2) if an exclusively breastfeeding mom wants to stay home, chances are she has the option to do so. Why? Because there are few women who can work, even part time, and not face the physical consequences of not consistently breastfeeding (leaking, decreased supply, hot flashes due to decreased estrogen levels, etc.) before giving in to some kind of formula use. Just my observation though.

  23. That's interesting. I was breastfed exclusively as a baby (I was fortunate to have a SAHM) while my older sister was formula fed (she had type positive blood, my mom had type negative blood, sis was sick for a long, long time, but which point mom had dried up). My older sister is robust and healthy. I was diagnosed with rheumatism – an autoimmune disease – at 24. We share the same genetics, but I, the breastfed one, am the girl that got sick. Care to explain that for me? Thanks.

  24. Though it is always worth keeping in mind the difference between correlation and causation, the idea that the studies we have on the risks of formula are not enough is misleading. An experimental trial of formula is not going to happen. No one is going to randomly assign women to breastfeed versus formula feed, so correlational studies are the best we can do. And yes having hundreds and hundreds of them that mostly say the same thing, that breastfeeding is better, is meaningful. More is better. We need to act on the best information we have. If we didn’t we’d still have lead in gasoline, still be using asbestos everywhere, still deny there’s evidence smoking causes lung cancer, none of which have a single experimental study. All correlation.

    • Being tired all the time and not wanting to go out or not showering is a symptom of motherhood not whether or not you are nursing. That’s ridiculous. Some moms have a hard time and some moms don’t. My first who was nursed was a hard adjustment to motherhood. My second who was nursed (and did nurse every moment) was dragged out at 4 days old to keep up with the older brother’s schedule. And guess what, I’m sure some bottle fed babies are the same way. I come from a family of six who were bottle fed and I know as evidenced by pictures that this is true. Stop women. Stop blaming other women for your adjustment and your choices. You bottle feed? Own it. You breast feed? Own it. You do for your child what is best for your family and don’t close your mind to research that suggests that bottle feeding isn’t horrible or that breast feeding does have actual health benefits. And if another mom feels good enough to go out right after she gives birth and travel the world with baby in tow, let’s not tell her that mothers like her are what makes YOU feel crappy about yourself. Your experience isn’t her fault. Instead, how about you examine what is making YOU miserable and deal with that instead of blaming other women for why you feel crappy. Take responsibility for yourself and stop feeling like every comment on a blog is an attack on you. Or every article about the health benefits of nursing is an attack on the fact that you bottle feed. Or that every research study that states bottle feeding is ok has to be shoved in every “lactavists” face to prove that you are a good mom. Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and raise your family to the best of your ability. Be a fierce formula feeder or nurse your baby. Whatever. If we all put half as much time into our children as we do sitting on blogs defending our parenting decisions, the world might be a better place. Now off to wake up my kids.

      • Not sure why you’ve come on here to scold other women for voicing their frustrations, but do consider that when you’re bottle feeding SOMEONE ELSE can be tied down to the baby. That’s a pretty big difference in people’s experiences with infant feeding. I agree though that someone else’s experience with feeding doesn’t have to be seen as a putdown of yours. Except in the rare instances where, unfortunately, someone uses their experience to berate you for saying that BFing is hard on a woman’s bodily autonomy and sanity. That may have been what people were reacting to above.

  25. My main question is this: how do you believe that milk derived from another animal, processed, added countless other ingredients to and packaged up in a factory is going to be better or even come close to breast milk? Milk that is designed by nature from HUMAN mothers and nurtured our species throughout the centuries surely is the ‘better’ choice for our babies? And may I ask what medical training Joan has undertaken? I know everyone is entitled to an opinion, but when that opinion lacks basic understanding of biology, nature and the way human beings thrive, these questions MUST be asked.

    • I 100% agree with you! If you’re going to formula feed, that’s your choice….just don’t use pseudo science to support you! Joan wolf wrote this for controversy, it certainly had me searching her! There’s a big similarity between her and the infant formula companies…. It’s called profit! Please take this with a pinch of salt! Formula is fine but articles like this will do nothing to expel current myths and misinformation and it certainly won’t improve the abysmal breastfeeding rates! If you want a scientific analysis of breastfeeding then read a scientific journal….not an article from a controversial journalist trying to make a few bucks! Mother Nature knows best!

      • Pick up a history book. Mother Nature will kill you faster than you can blink. Weather, food shortages due to droughts, diseases and childbirth just to name a few.

        • I don’t understand the point in your reply Kati but ok…….we all have to die at some point darling! Very interesting how you couldn’t respond to anything I said about breastfeeding…

          • I would have thought it was fairly obvious. Your last sentence was that Mother Nature knows best. I was pointing out that Mother Nature is a bitch that doesn’t care about you.

            As for your points about breastfeeding, the science doesn’t support what the crazy lactivists say. There is some benefit with GI illnesses, but it doesn’t prevent SIDS, ear infections, make your kid smarter etc.

            That’s not to say that nobody should breastfeed. How you feed your baby is still a very important decision to be made. However I don’t care about raising breastfeeding rates. I don’t find them to be abysmal in the sense that every baby deserves to be breastfed. Women who want to breastfeed should be supported in their decision. Women who choose to formula feed should be supported in their decision. End of story.

  26. Haha so the point you’re trying so desperately to make to me is that the formula companies care more about us than Mother Nature?! Stop being so desperate to make a point. Human milk is for human babies! I know I didn’t push out a tin of SMA and a bottle along with the placenta!

  27. THANK YOU, Joan Wolf! When I switched for formula feeding my son, I was absolutely terrified by the media reports about studies that seemed to find that breastfed babies were smarter. So I did my research and actually read the studies and found that, in reality, these studies only showed correlation, like you said, and NEVER causation. Numerous studies also did not even account for basic factors like maternal IQ (never mind paternal IQ), and one study that supposedly showed breastfed babies did better than formula fed in school ALSO showed that difference COMPLETELY disappeared when both groups of babies were read to by their parents….In other words, what they were fed didn’t make any difference–just the parenting did! Of course, that last little tidbit was never mentioned in the media coverage of the study.

    Now, when someone says to me, “But I’ve read that breast milk is best for babies!!!” I want to say, you may have read that in a media headline about the study, but never in the ACTUAL STUDY.

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