Are formula feeders more likely to abuse their children?

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

Formula feeding moms are more likely to abuse their children.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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