Nothing changes…

Lately I’ve been frustrated. Like, mind-numbingly frustrated. It seems that every week there’s a new article on the infant feeding wars, rehashing the same points over and over, with the same battle being waged in the comments section: You’re judgmental. Yeah, well, you’re anti-breastfeeding! No I’m not, and I’m a better parent than you! Oh, really, well, I’m am MD/RN/LC/PhD and I KNOW I’m right, so shut up! You’re a lactofanatic! You’re selfish and misinformed and a threat to breastfeeding moms everywhere! Bloomberg! Hannah Rosin! Bottle! Breast! Bottle! Breast!

Shall I go on?

I’ve been blogging for nearly 3.5 years now, and I’m so damn tired. I’m incredibly grateful and proud of the community which has formed around FFF, but I don’t see anything changing. I want to do more than whine about how unfair the current atmosphere is; I want to change it. I want to make this blog unnecessary, because I’m truly sick of talking this subject to death. And I’m sure you guys are sick of hearing about it. How many times can I pick apart studies which fail to thoroughly consider the most basic notions of correlation and causation? How many ranty essays can I vomit out about the pressure to breastfeed? None of it seems to matter, because nothing changes.

I mean, nothing changes.

I wrote a book, one that took nearly three years of heavy research, interviews, and soul-sucking rewrites, hoping that it would help me reach a larger audience, and get people talking on a more nuanced level about this debate. But no one wants nuance.

And nothing changes.

I sit here at my computer, hiding behind the safety of our little community, preaching to the choir, holding myself up as fearless while I wallow in fear; the fear that people will judge me, criticize me; the fear that I will disappoint you.

And nothing changes.

Recently, an opportunity came up that might allow me to effect change in one tiny arena of this circus of insanity. It would allow me to meet with some other people who are uneasy with the way formula is being vilified. It would give me the ability to spread the message that we need better education and guidance for bottle-feeders. It might give me access to people willing to listen to ideas about tempering the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative to be a little more palatable to those of us who must, or choose to, formula feed.

The problem is that this opportunity necessitates my associating with a formula company. They are the ones with the means to bring me to the table, to have these conversations. It makes sense that they contacted me; they have a vested interest in protecting infant feeding “choice”, and so do I. But theirs is financial, and mine is personal. I’m not naive; I know they aren’t doing this out of the kindness of their hearts.

Formula companies- like all major corporations- are out to make money. Some of the ways they go about this do not bother me – for example, I see no harm in them advertising their product. I view formula as a healthy substitute for breastmilk – certainly not perfect, not without room for improvement (because I always suspect manufactured substances always have room for improvement – that’s just the capitalist in me), and as I explain in Bottled Up, not a competitor to breastmilk. Just another option. Considering the only industry that has major restrictions on advertising is Big Tobacco, to say formula companies shouldn’t be allowed to advertise is to compare them with the manufacturers of cigarettes- a completely unfounded, ridiculous, and irresponsible comparison, in my opinion. I don’t like when they bring breastmilk into the marketing message – lines like “closest to breastmilk” should be left on the cutting room floor- but at the same time, how can we really blame them? If we are spending so much time and effort convincing society that breastmilk is the gold standard, why wouldn’t specific formulas want to be seen as coming closer to matching this liquid gold than their competitors?

But there are other ways that formula companies handle themselves that provoke a disturbing, fundamental mistrust in my gut. They want to increase their sales; therefore, it’s in their best interest if women do not breastfeed. This is a fact that’s impossible to ignore, when we see them sponsoring breastfeeding “help” hotlines and guides. I can’t help siding with breastfeeding advocates on this one: the LAST people who should be giving breastfeeding advice are the folks with a vested interest in having women turn to the alternative.

This is the point in my ongoing internal debate where I start getting all angst-ridden. Formula marketing execs need to take a long, hard look at how they are handling their accounts. They have an incredibly smart, media-savvy audience in this country-not all moms are Little Red Riding Hoods; many of us know there’s a wolf hiding behind that grandmotherly lactation consultant. Even if the breastfeeding information they are doling out is 100% useful, encouraging, and evidence-based, it is not going to be received as such.

What I find so frustrating is that formula companies are so busy trying to market to breastfeeding moms, when they have a willing and ready market base just sitting here, waving our arms to get their attention. Ban The Bags doesn’t want them hawking their wares to mothers attempting to breastfeed? Fine. More for us. Why not urge hospitals to keep the bags on hand, to be distributed only to parents who request them? Or even better, give parents the option of signing up on a website to receive the samples in the mail. Seems like a no-brainer that most moderate people could accept as a compromise.

Likewise, why should formula companies distribute pamphlets on breastfeeding when formula advice is so needed? If you’re going to spend money sending formula samples in the mail, the literature accompanying it should be about formula feeding. Not breastfeeding. Leave that to Medela or Lansinoh.

I have plenty of ideas on how formula companies could better serve us, their true customer base, and perhaps shift the cultural opinion of formula feeding away from a “competitor” to breastmilk and towards a more moderate point of view, where it is merely seen as an option for women who cannot or choose not to breastfeed. Tough distinction, but worth making. And there’s a hopeful part of me which thinks that maybe, just maybe, the formula companies also want to protect their customer base – even if it is for entirely selfish reasons.The formula companies don’t want their customers feeling ashamed to buy their products; they want us to be proudly bragging about how great our kids did on Enfasimistart. They don’t want us improperly using the stuff and then suing them later.

If I’ve learned anything in the past few years, it’s this: breastfeeding moms have a tough time in this world. But they also have a lot of respected, smart, noble individuals fighting their fight. No one believes that formula feeders need defending, so we are left to our own devices. The only folks who have a vested interested in our well-being is the formula companies, and they haven’t really done us many favors.

I’ve been thinking that maybe I can change that, though. If I can’t make headway with the breastfeeding organizations, maybe I can at least provoke some change in the companies who are making and marketing the products that feed our babies. Maybe if they hear from us – their customers – they can put some of their considerable resources and influences to good use, rather than simply pissing off breastfeeding advocates and giving them more fodder to hate on formula, formula makers, and by association, formula feeders.

This is something I want to do; something that I think could actually provoke change in a positive way for both formula feeding parents and breastfeeding moms – because we don’t have to be at cross purposes. I support infant feeding choice – that means ensuring that breastfeeding and formula feeding are equally protected, and parents are appropriately educated about whatever feeding method is right for them. I don’t see any education or protection for formula feeding parents, and no one is willing to change this. It would be great if UNICEF or the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine wanted to listen to what I have to say, but I’m not waiting by the phone for them to call. I don’t get the impression they’re very interested in what I have to say.

While all of this sounds good in my head, these thoughts are giving me a migraine. I’m well aware that associating with the formula companies opens me up to major criticism. And yet I can’t help think that there is a major difference between being influenced by a formula company, and influencing a formula company. Being influenced by a formula company would mean having them sponsor this blog, or pay me a salary, because then my content would be soiled by bias- whether it be of the financial or subliminal persuasion. We’ve all seen how having ads or sponsors can soil the editorial style of some of our favorite bloggers; I certainly don’t blame them for it, since this blogging thing takes time and a girl’s got to eat. In my case, though, if I don’t have my neutrality, I don’t have sh-t.

But I’m not talking about being influenced – I’m talking about influencing. I’m talking about having them interface with me on MY terms, helping them move in a better direction, and walking away if I feel things are shady. I’m not sure how this is more suspect than a representative of Planned Parenthood meeting with Trojan. The former wants to advocate for safer sex, and knows abstinence is unrealistic; the latter makes condoms; if Trojan can help promote safer sex and sell more condoms due to a halo effect, it’s a win-win for both parties.

I’m opening this up to the community, because your opinions are the only ones I care about. People have been accusing me of being in the pockets of the formula industry since day one; I don’t know if it even matters to them whether I throw molotov cocktails into the lobby of Nestle headquarters, or bathe naked in a vat of Good Start. But I take my responsibility to this community very seriously, and I wouldn’t make a decision like this without your input.  Please think about this, and let me know: is it okay to associate with the formula companies on an advocacy level? Or will this destroy my neutrality, even if I vow not to let it?

Because seriously…. something has to change.

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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33 thoughts on “Nothing changes…

  1. Here’s my 2 cents.

    If scientific inquiries about the benefits of breastmilk are funded by a breastfeeding coalition, then why is that more accepted than scientific studies funded by a formula company that either look at the benefits of formula, or help them refine or improve their formula? They’re in the business of making money, yes, but they also want to make their formula better and that means making it more and more like breastmilk or figuring out if there are ingredients in breastmilk that may not be as beneficial that should be kept out of formula for baby’s benefits. I’m a scientist. I’ve sat through statistics courses and we talked about how statistics and studies are only as good as it keeps money flowing for you to continue your research. This isn’t evil, if the research you’re doing will benefit others or you believe will do good, then knowing how to spin this information in order to continue the research is extremely important. I see the same thing with formula companies. I don’t consider them evil for trying to continue to do research in how to make their formula more appealing or better for babies so they can get money to make better formula.

    Basically, every study is in the pocket of someone. And every person who says that this study supports breastfeeding is basically supporting a study that is being paid for by someone, and will spin it in order to get more funding. Breastfeeding sells, there’s all sorts of grants and funding to pay for more breastfeeding studies, some paid for by *gasp* formula manufacturers in order to hopefully figure out something that may improve their product.

    I could care less if you took money from a formula company so long as it was to try and do something you believed would benefit others. So long as your critical reviews of findings exposing the spins and misinterpretations were solid then it’s a weak argument to say ‘yeah, but she’s being paid by ____” Focus on the argument, not on the source. If your argument is solid, then it doesn’t matter who funded it. So long as you don’t tell me that one formula is the best of them all, then I’ll wonder if you sold your soul. 😛

  2. I have no idea about the funds/resources necessary to push such an initiative but wonder if it would be possible to approach nurses’ groups/unions as they are often the ones in first contact with new mothers, or work through a leading public health school, or women’s rights groups?

  3. I would say that in every job we take, we weigh up the pros and cons of the mployer, including their ethics. No company that makes money is squeaky clean, heck even some charities aren’tt.
    The people you are trying to help / influence need a voice. You aren’t trying to turn dyed in the wool pro-breastfeeding women into overnight bottlefeeders. They are not going to change and that is their right.
    If you can improve information, communication, quality of product for formula then you are doing a good thing for the large number of families out there for whom breastfeeding is not the effective feeding method. I refrain from saying “option” as there are many who will feel that with feeding their infant they had neither option, nor choice and I respect that and do not wish to cause hurt.
    Get a good lawyer to look over any contract you sign, regarding NDA and so on. If the milk turns sour (sic) you do not want to find yourself in front of a procession of circuit judges when you speak out about your experiences.
    Nothing is set in stone (apart from perhaps those dudes on Mount Rushmore).
    So try the jacket on and see if it fits. If it does, great. If it doesn’t take it off and enjoy the fact that you got to go and try on a jacket!

    The above may or may not make sense. typed rapidly whilst juggling an 8 month old and getting ready for work!

  4. I absolutely agree with Neil. It’s not set it stone. Explore it. What you’ve said about formula companies marketing to the wrong audience is SO true. What you’ve said about research is spot-on. I remember recently reading a study which looked at the way “good” gut bacteria spread/grew when cultured in breastmilk vs cow’s milk vs formula. It was an interesting study, and what was great that the researchers were taking the line of “We want to understand this, because if we know why the bacteria do this different (better) pattern in breastmilk, we could replicate it and improve formula.” Of course, the media then twisted it to “Yeah, because see, breast is best, you’ve never heard this before, have you?!” as usual. But there are researchers out there who *want* to do these kind of studies. Who *want* to make formula better. And they are not getting the funding/opportunity, because it’s a taboo subject. If formula companies could change their thinking, stop this battering at the walls of the castle of breastfeeding, then perhaps any studies they funded wouldn’t be viewed with quite so much scepiticism. (Maybe, I do appreciate I’m being pretty hopeful here).

    As you said, there is a big difference between a formula company sponsoring you to write great stuff about their product, and you going to a company saying “Right, here is where you need to be going.” The militants out there already accuse you of everything under the sun when it comes to your relationship with formula producers. Anyone with half a brain doesn’t care about their opinion now, and won’t any time in the future. I think anyone who has read your blog, and really gets who you are, isn’t going to suddenly turn around and say “OMG Suzanne is going to talk a formula company, that’s it, I am un-following her on FB and I will never breathe the words ‘Fearless Formula Feeder’ ever again.” Or maybe they will. But at that point, you’re better off without them anyway x

  5. Wow what an ah-ha moment I just had, I get so mad when I get information from the formula companies on bf. If I was bf I would not be buying the formula duh. I do think though, most blog readers have already picked their brand, and read you for support and insight. So if you climb on board the enfasimistart train it does not matter. More funding on our side of the debate, is something more than we have now.

  6. I think working for change within the formula companies in the way you are suggesting sounds like a great idea. But of course the lactavists are going to jump up and down saying, “See! We told you she was in the pocket of Big Formula! See! See! Seeeeeee!” And people who are unfamiliar to the debate won’t know who to believe. So I don’t really know what the best thing to do is.

    As for nothing changing, I don’t know about that. Real change on the scale you are talking about takes time, a lot of time. In the meanwhile, the work you have done/are doing has meant an awful lot to many people, myself included.

  7. Posted on Facebook but posting here, too…

    I have to say I have never understood/accepted this notion that formula companies are evil and out to sabotage breastfeeding. I don’t think they’re saintly, either. They just are. They’re companies. Like any other company. And they happen to be making a product that many people need. We need them to make a high quality product. End of story.

    And also? You are doing such important work.

  8. From my perspective, your blog has changed how I feel immensely. Before I found you, I felt incredibly alone and isolated and like bottle feeding was such a stigma that I couldn’t talk about it. I don’t regret not breastfeeding, I regret that I didn’t know about FFF when my daughter was just born. So – thank you for everything you are doing.

  9. You are changing the conversation. Strangely, enough you were one of the voices out there that gave me the courage to keep going with breastfeeding because you gave me the permission not to. I wouldn’t have listened as closer or looked as deeply if I have seen or felt anywhere that you were more than a concerned and informed person who wanted to support information sharing – not message sharing, information sharing – with mothers like me.

    It may be a great help to look at the individual level – like me and the other person who commented above. I can also share with you that I shared your blog with two other struggling moms and one realized how poorly she was preparing the forumla and instantly changed her ways. There: FOUR people whose lives YOU HAVE CHANGED.

    Keep your head up, your heart open, and remember us, the four that you have already impacted.

  10. Your gut is telling you what those of us who work to protect breastfeeding know – the companies selling infant formula do not have our baby’s best interests at heart. And yes, I said “our” – there are very very few moms who haven’t used infant formula. I don’t understand why, mother-to-mother, we are pitted against each other when so many infant formula using moms also breastfeed. But perhaps that’s it, breastfeeding declines and formula use increases, and with it comes the guilt and finger-pointing.

    The marketing formula companies do is to increase their market share – to get more breastfeeding women to use their products – and they don’t care diddly squat about the moms who are already using formula, it’s the moms who are breastfeeding who are their target market. And their opportunity for a market is short – they don’t have us for life, it’s only a year (they try to expand it to two.) They’re not selling pet food. They’re not selling drugs for chronic diseases. They have a very small window of time with us. They all desire to increase market share. When there’s a baby boom happening they’re the most excited – they can sell more formula without doing anything different, just because there are more babies. But they’re still competing with each other for that market share – that’s where the real wars are!

    And breastfeeding advocates are the guerrillas in the fight, passionate, outraged, and vastly outnumbered, but scrapping it out just the same to retain “the market share” – the woman who wants to breastfeed, but struggles in the face of a huge variety of pressures and winds up using formula – becoming another customer – before she wants to. There’s a lot of blood being shed through collateral damage. Our blood. Mom blood. And babies are hurt when their mothers are caught up in frustration, humiliation, grief, at not being able to live out the mothering story that is playing out in their head. The first step I think is to acknowledge that the mommy wars aren’t moms warring against each other – the wars are giant battles happening way over our heads.

    I have learned lot from your writing, Suzanne, and I think you have important and valuable messages that needs to be amplified. I worry though, about what would happen if your goal, and mine, were reached – to have infant formula companies stop predatory marketing practices that are designed to sell formula to women who want to breastfeed. What happens then to the smaller number of women who choose not to breastfeed. How will those women feel about an even larger number of moms breastfeeding successfully, and an even smaller number of moms feeding infant formula out of choice? The focus will then truly be on the choice *moms* make, and I fear the pressure on formula-choosing moms will be even greater. But none of us should spend time worrying about that because honestly? It won’t happen. There is no way formula companies are going to stand by and see the loss of revenues that will come from having all the women who want to breastfeed, be successful.

    I don’t have any answers here. I just wanted to tell you that what you wrote here resonates strongly with me.

  11. “Amber Rhea on November 2, 2012 at 10:59 am said:

    Posted on Facebook but posting here, too…

    I have to say I have never understood/accepted this notion that formula companies are evil and out to sabotage breastfeeding. I don’t think they’re saintly, either. They just are. They’re companies. Like any other company. And they happen to be making a product that many people need. We need them to make a high quality product. End of story.

    And also? You are doing such important work.”

    Seconded. Couldn’t have said it better myself. I am so thankful for your blog. I don’t have a problem with breast feeding or formula feeding. To each their own. I consider myself both a breast feeder and a formula feeder. Actually, I consider myself a kid feeder. And I’ve got your back. Do what’s best for you.

  12. Who cares what the Lactivists think? If you think you can do good work (and you do do good work) in that environment go for it….but definitely have a lawyer read over your contract.

  13. If you think you can really make a difference and help people, then go for it! There will always be naysayers, but think of all the new parents you could potentially help. You could put up a disclaimer on the blog if you want about how you blogged for a long time on your own before working with any company, but I personally don’t think it matters. You’ve got me on your side no matter what. 🙂

  14. Let me say right from the start that I completely support Suzie (FFF) in whatever direction she takes because in the time I’ve known her she has proven beyond doubt that, above all else, she displays honesty and integrity in all she does.

    Therefore I trust Suzie to do what is best for the protection/promotion of formula feeders and what she says in her blog makes perfect sense to me!

    Just like any mother forced to weigh up the benefits and risks of breastfeeding or bottle feeding before making a feeding decision based on what is best for her, her family and her baby, Suzie needs to also weigh up the benefits and risks on what she is proposing before making a lifestyle decision based on what is best for her, her family and her baby (the FFF blog and her FFF fb community)… whatever that final decision, Suzie has my unconditional support 100%!

  15. I agree with Mrs. W, what would be good is that by talking to one formula company you aren’t excluded from talking to others. I also agree that talking to nursing unions, hospital administrators etc.. would be good, but I guess it is the formula companies who can get you a seat at the table.

    I do think things are changing. The post the other day in the Atlantic from the father in his “Case against breastfeeding”, which wasn’t really a case against breastfeeding, it was more of a case against killing yourself in order to breastfeed seemed to get less fanatic responses that other posts that question breastfeeding. As a mini rant I hate it when people recount their nightmare breastfeeding story, no milk coming in, baby starving, pumping around the clock, no one is sleeping and then people respond by saying: I got more sleep nursing than dealing with bottles. Yeah, that is the point, when nursing works it works! And when it doesn’t no one sleeps ever.

    The work you are doing is hugely important and if a formula company will get you to the table then by all means, especially if you can still be critical of them.

  16. I know there’s been quite a few posts between here and facebook, which sadly I haven’t had time to read in their entirety (so I apologize if I am repeating anything here). My 2 cents, for whatever it’s worth from a non parent who technically doesn’t have a dog in this fight yet (but will should I decide to have a baby since I don’t want to be pressured to breastfeed (exclusively or possibly at all) and the current climate absolutely terrifies me and leads me to contemplate calling my gyn and booking the Essure procedure (sorry digressing i know)…

    Anyway, I think if you work with a formula company and are successful in getting them to stop (or at least temper) their predatory marketing towards breastfeeding mothers and actually focus on their target audience, isn’t that one LESS thing the lactivists can then bitch about? It seems like so much of the activism on the other side is against the formula companies and their marketing (which I think we all agree to some extent, does encompass some shady tactics at times). Take that away from them (lactivists that is) and what do they have? They would then have to start either attacking the real source of breastfeeding problems (i.e. lack of leave, public spaces), in whcih case GREAT, OR they would start attacking the moms themselves who can’t or don’t want to breastfeed, thus exposing them for the witches many of them really are.

    And more importantly, HOW could they criticize you for influencing the formula industry to redirect their efforts away from breastfeeding mothers? I know they probably will criticize you anyway, but at least you could go back at them with “well I got the formula companies to stop/tone down their marketing to breastfeeding moms.” Maybe with it would go this absurd ban the bags movement (if the samples are made optional as per your thoughts on the FFHI) and other ridiculous, punitive, waste of time tactics like it. I actually think you could use collaboration with a formula company to your/this cause’s advantage. Just my thoughts…

  17. Go for it! Honestly a discussion with them would be good. I would like to see probiotics in formula and having a completely soy free option (which I can’t seem to find one). No one is advocating for better formula. I had to FF my two kids. I have medical problems and take medication that they have very little data on. I also had to take it while pregnant, it is lifesaving medication for me. I wish I had found you when I had my firstborn in 2010, but luckily found you when I had my second. I keep thinking I should send you my story for a FFF Friday post. The only ethical issue I can see is if you are getting paid by them for your advice, heck maybe you should start your own non-profit foundation. Thanks for this blog you have given me the courage to stand up to pushy, usually upper middle class women, who want to put me down for formula feeding. Thank you.

  18. Just posted this on Facey but figured I’d add it here too:

    The very fact that you care so much about what it would mean for the support system you share with your readers is enough for me! That’s what I love about your blog (and the book – currently up to ‘The Dairy Queens’ btw.) I don’t know whether you’re naturally attuned to wording things juuust so, as in, if it’s your nature or whether it’s something you’ve learned along the way. Basically – you are so FAIR! I guess that’s what you’re afraid of losing, or being perceived as having lost, selling out etc. Well imo, you must now get your Fearless back on Suzie. 😀 Stop stressing about what people are gonna think. (Even though everyone loves you for that level of sensitivity, or more to the point, consideration.) Back-up from a big corporation is most likely the leg-up you need to get your message out there. Unless this or that formula company make you bow to “booby traps” or untruths to gain more customers, then I really don’t see a problem with advertizing or cash in your pocket from them! Generally, I think the haters are those barely prepared to look beyond even the title of your blog and presume it means you’re anti-breastfeeding and cocky about the seriousness of child health. We know that’s not true at all; you might as well do what you gotta do to educate and support even more parents and baby care professionals! ~ Love, Leet. (Breastfeeding Mum from Tasmania, Australia.)

  19. I often see comments on message boards by mothers looking for a reasonably “ethical” formula… meaning one that does not engage in the sort of marketing practices that you talk about in this post.

    Maybe there is room in the market for a “niche” product… a company that produces formula to a high standard and without dodgy marketing practices, and which could establish a small but loyal client base among parents who care about these things. I’m just talking off the top of my head here.

    And Suzanne—I have to disagree with the title of your post, because things have changed and are changing, and the blog and Facebook page and the community that have grown up around them have been a big part of that. Several years ago, when I first started looking around parenting blogs and boards as preparation for having a baby of my own, there was NOTHING like this. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I think you are a bit of a perfectionist by nature… and that is perhaps causing you to have difficulty seeing the progress that has been made here! 😉

  20. Just to add–one possibility might be to see if you could draw some sympathetic lactivist organizations into your approach before actually going for it. Like, are there any lactivist organizations who would be interested in a “Better Formula–Better Industry Practices” type initiative? Even breastfeeders sometimes have to supplement and might be interested in the idea of a formula that meets basic ethical standards….

  21. Just to echo some of what was already said, you and your site have done good work and good things. Like other mothers have said, I wish you would have been around when my son was born. Very sadly some of us end up tormenting ourselves and perhaps even pushing ourselves into PPD due to all the pressure and stress to breastfeed when it isn’t working for mom or baby. As I prepare for the arrival of our next baby, I now feel like I can comfortably say, if breastfeeding doesn’t work this time, I will get over it and move to formula, rather than going through all the stress, depression and upset that was put upon me by myself and by nursing staff and other healthcare professionals. I’m Canadian and there seems to be more pressure here to be anti-formula from the second you start your prenatal classes. You may not feel that you have made a change, but you truly have, there needs to be a voice for the rest of us that couldn’t breastfeed for whatever reason and want to be treated like we are human beings too and good mothers. Thank you

  22. Also, I want to echo what others have said. I don’t know if I’ve ever told you outright. But your web site and Facebook community have helped me SO MUCH. When I first found this site, I was mired in the hell of PPD/PPA, as well as dealing with feelings of immense guilt over not breastfeeding. I knew in my heart that I had made the right decision for my child, my family, and myself, but I felt like my entire peer group was made up of breastfeeders, and everything I’d heard during pregnancy was that formula was inferior at best and poison at worst. I felt completely alone and horribly judged. I got dirty looks and comments when bottle-feeding in public. And I felt like I couldn’t share my pain because people would just try to one-up me with stories of breastfeeding moms being judged (which, of course, is equally unacceptable).

    This site helped me to realize I am not alone, that there are so many other smart, thoughtful, fierce women out there going through something similar to what I went through. Reading the stories, the critiques of studies, and the informative how-tos helped me find my power. At first I was anything but fearless. But now, I can proudly say that I *am* in fact a FEARLESS formula feeder (or *was* one, since my son is now 18 months and hasn’t had formula since around the time of his 1st birthday). I have shared this site with many other moms and they have expressed their gratitude at its existence. Like someone else said above, I wish I had known about it before my son was born (although, honestly, I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention, since I planned to breastfeed and had no contingency plan). I am so glad that when it comes time for Baby #2 in a few years, this community will be here for me to turn to during my pregnancy and postpartum period, regardless of infant feeding method.

  23. Like others have said, this blog has influenced many changes. While they aren’t obvious and clear societal changes, it’s starting many changes within the mothers who are dealing with this issue or wanting to learn more. That in itself is what gets the stone rolling. This blog has helped me immensely with both of my kids, especially the topics on allergies and signs of intolerance’s.

    That said, I wouldn’t see that as selling yourself out or a negative thing at all to work with a formula company. You are not letting them influence you nor are you getting funded by them to advertise a specific formula or anything. I say go with your gut and do what you think will get the stone rolling even faster. You never know, maybe in the future you will be able to break ties with the company and continue on your own!

  24. I think it is a good idea to talk to formula companies. If I understand you have several goals in that regard. 1)Discuss the target market with formula companies, in an effort to steer them away from women who want to BF. Since the majority of women in America use some formula at least, I don’t see how their bottom line would really suffer here. 2)Suggest they make samples and formula feeding information available on request. 3)Support formula companies’ efforts to improve their product. Since none of those goals directly affects breastfeeders who choose to avoid formula, (and the first goal actually is a mutual one), they can sputter all day long about how you are anti-BF, but really this has nothing to do with them. Also, hardcore lactivists already think you are anti-BF, and you will never be able to change their minds, who cares what they think?

    TAking this sort of action would benefit the formula and combo feeding communities, would be in line with BFHIs and would remove the pressure to use formula that the lactivists are always on about. (Which I think insults womens’ intelligence and is a very lame argument.)

  25. Of course you should do it! For crying out loud. You mean a lot to a lot of people, and I understand you’re worried about what we all might think and what your critics think but really…you need to make your choice based on YOUR moral compass and not what a mass of people on the internet say. Just as you always tell us not to allow strangers and nay sayers to influence our valid decisions, you need to set that example and do the same right?

  26. There is no reason why you shouldn’t write to formula companies. It will be interesting to see what their response is. They may well attempt to buy your opinions, and exploit you – they offer ‘gifts’ to bloggers and journalists as a matter of course. How will you protect your integrity – which I respect – from these pressures?
    I’d recommend taking a look at the IBFAN websites around the world, to see what the big picture is. China and other Asian countries are the newest ’emerging market’ for formula – which of course involves destroying the breastfeeding culture there. It’s under pressure from westernised employment practices too, since factory production methods prevent mothers and babies being together. The companies consider US and European markets as being ‘saturated’ – not many families left who don’t use their products.
    It’s interesting you’re talking about reducing pressure on breastfeeding mothers to formula feed (also known as promotional tactics). How do formula feeding mothers like having to pay extra for their products so that the companies can fund expensive advertising campaigns to undermine breastfeeding? I think it would be better if formula was a more realistic price, and they removed advertising and other promotional tactics altogether (I’m talking about funding conferences for health professionals, sponsoring their education, buying ‘gifts’ for them, and so on.) It would be good if the customers/mothers revolted!

    • Here’s the thing though. I’m someone who has spent a significant amount of time in Asia and even had a baby in rural Korea where you’d expect it would be everywhere. I saw absolutely NONE of this breastfeeding culture you speak of. The grandparents are raising the babies and the moms are forced back to work as soon as they’re out of the hospital no matter what their occupation (even though this is supposed to be illegal). In China I’ve personally seen some of the different concoctions people are coming up with to feed babies there, not to mention the formulas they have already that are killing them because the production is so unregulated. The labour law changes you speak of are YEARS away and those babies need a viable alternative to breastfeeding right now. Unless you’re a woman who lives with some means and tons of family support (in which case you will be repeatedly asked by pretty much everyone on the street and hospital staff included, why you’re feeding your baby like a peasant since you obviously have money), breastfeeding is almost non existen there as well.

      • Really? Yikes. But you make an important point that studies related to that hyped-up Baby Bear coffee creamer controversy emphasized: in many East Asian countries there is a real demand for breastmilk substitutes, often because women are in the workforce. We can wait for society to change dramatically and workplaces to become more supportive of BFing, or we can acknowledge that there is a real need for formula there and stop demonizing the companies, I think. I’ve seen somewhat similar uses of unsafe alternatives in India and it’s sad that formula is so darned expensive and ads or any information about it non-existent. China and Korea are more middle-income though, so I imagine affordablility isn’t as much of a problem?

        • Well, middle income more than places like India I imagine (I haven’t had the chance to go to India yet). HUGE rich-poor gap still though. And many of the people enjoying middle class lifestyles are doing so because they’re working crazy hours and having older family members raise their kids. Formula wasn’t too expensive in Korea so I saw more babies on that than in China where the poverty is still quite extreme for the majority of the population even though that government party line often says different.

  27. On the one hand, I encouraged that after 3.5 years, you are starting to “get it”. On the other hand I am a little incredulous that you are concerned that nothing is changing. I know that you consider yourself to be pro-breastfeeding, but let’s face it, you are consistently anti-lactivist. But why? Lactivists encourage the very change that you would like to see, but you diss them routinely! Sure an occasional lactivist goes a little astray here and there, but for the most part they want what you want. All mothers who want to breastfeed should have the information and support that they need to do so. When breastfeeding doesn’t work out a reasonable substitute, such as regulated infant formula should be available. You seem much more like a thwarted breastfeeder than a formula feeder by choice to me. Unfortunately, I think that what is appealing to a lot of people about your blog is its dissing of lactivism. I wonder if the reason that you can not make headway with the breastfeeding organizations is that you have not yet forgiven them for not being there when you needed them. I do not believe that the warmth and compassion that you emit and crave will ever be a part of the formula industry. I do however believe that the lactivist camp is a great place to grieve that loss of the idyllic breastfeeding relationship and the only place to make the very changes that you’d like to see, ie better breastfeeding resources and care for moms when breastfeeding doesn’t work out. Take your time.

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