You Think Women Aren’t Vulnerable to Marketing? Check Your Privilege.

Oct 06th 2011

Yesterday, I posted an essay about the unethical marketing practices that breastfeeding advocates – you know… outrageous entities like the World Health Organization and UNICEF – are trying to curb. I stated very clearly in big bold letters that I support formula feeding moms, but I do NOT support the way corporations are entering every women’s delivery room and trying to snag her as a consumer before she has even had the chance to make her own choices. I asked fellow feminists to examine the marketing and join me (and other loud, proud lactivist feminists) in bringing down these predatory marketing tactics. For example, Annie Urban at PhDinParenting has done a wonderful job of articulating all the reasons she protests Nestle’s business practices.

In response, Jessica Valenti didn’t bother to read my entire article, yet formulated a scathing attack on what she thought I said, including calling me a “supremacist”, making fun of my twitter profile, and telling me to “suck” her. Charming. Yet instead of returning an attack on any individual woman, I will stick to the issue at hand.

Bottom line: I support the UNICEF Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative to remove aggressive and predatory formula marketing from the delivery room because it is Mother-Friendly as well.

But Valenti’s main argument in her attack on me was that she believed I think women are too stupid to make infant feeding decisions for themselves.

It is almost mind-numbing that I would have the explain predatory marketing to a feminist. I always felt that the cornerstone of feminism was knowing that the massive marketing machines often hurt people – all people – in one way or another.

Feminists are constantly calling out “Pregnancy Crisis Centers” for being predatory. They snag women who may be alone, scared, and confused by a major reproductive choice, and they offer them freebies to gain their trust. They tell them they’re helping them make a decision about parenting, but what they’re really doing is piling their Anti-Choice agenda on them, promising the mothers they’ll help, and then vanishing when it comes time to foot the costs of raising this baby. Feminists recognize that these centers are preying on a woman during a vulnerable time in her life. We’re not saying these women are stupid or that they’re being duped. We’re not saying that one choice is better than the other. We’re saying that the marketing is absolutely unethical.

Feminists are constantly calling out and boycotting the beauty industry for shaming women about their bodies, their lifestyles, and their choices. Why do we do that IF we think women are immune to marketing influence? Isn’t a woman smart enough not to fall for that “skinny is better” imagery? Don’t we trust her to recognize the airbrushing for what it is?

Of course we trust HER. We just do not trust the predatory marketing department whose job it is to find a weakness and exploit it for capitalistic gain. They dismantle her self-esteem so they can sell her a product the same way that free samples work to sabotage the initiation of breastfeeding causing reliance on their product. When we go after the predatory beauty product marketing, we are NOT shaming those who use the products. We are only shaming the capitalistic intentions of the marketers who use self-doubt to pad their bottom line.

But Valenti already knows this. In her book “He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut, and 49 other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know About,” she responds to predatory magazine marketing by saying,

“Gossip magazines also make a career out of shaming women who conform….

…Now some of you may not want to hear this, but here goes: Don’t buy magazines that do this to women. I know that celeb magazines are popular, I do. But take a step back and look at what they’re doing to women. Look at what they’re telling you about women. Is that something you really want to be a part of?”

Valenti is telling us not to trust an industry whose bottom line relies on shaming women. I am telling feminists not to trust an industry whose bottom line rests on separating a woman from her breastmilk. We are on the same side.

But feminists like Valenti then go on to assert that every woman who is making the decision to accept free formula is making a conscious decision about her plans for feeding.

Really? To even suggest that all women have equal access to information and support in the decision-making process is to completely ignore classism, racism, sexism, and privilege. I’m sure that many white, middle-class feminists like Valenti do have access to a computer, internet, the best health care providers, research databases, and tons of family support to help them make their decisions, even in the face of the most aggressive formula marketing tactics.

But what about the mom who barely has prenatal care? What about the mom who doesn’t have family support? What about the mom whose skin color, financial standing, or physical ability puts her on the receiving end of healthcare discrimination? When some moms can barely get treatment, how can we expect that they’ve received complete information and support on anything else? What about the women who don’t have our White Middle Class Woman’s access to the internet, the library, healthcare, insurance, etc, etc? And does Valenti even know that we White Middle Class Women still can’t get the hospital to provide us with free breastpumps or lactation support services? She seems to think hospitals are handing these out like candy, but they are not because our society supports formula marketing over all else.

In fact, formula marketing is SO convincing, that even Valenti, with her laptop, computer access, and middle class education, still insists,

“I also believe that formula feeding your child is just as valid and healthy a choice as breastfeeding.”

Once again, I support formula feeding moms (I was one) and it’s certainly a valid choice, but the above statement about it being “just as healthy” as breastmilk is patently false, and is disputed by every piece of lactation science published by every health organization in the world. This purposeful misrepresentation of facts and truth is incredibly insulting to women. If an educated, privileged white woman still believes that any processed artificial food is exactly as healthy as any living, whole food, then how are people without access to information expected to know the difference?

As Alison Stuebe, MD, MSc, so eloquently states in her essay, “What does breastfeeding have to do with feminism?”

When we frame infant feeding as a choice made by an individual women, we place the entire responsibility for carrying out that choice on the individual woman.

Feminist scholar Penny Van Esterik addresses this as well in “Breastfeeding, A Feminist Issue.” Penny states,

“Women who wish to breasted their babies but cannot – because of inadequate support from family or health workers, constraints in the workplace, or misinformation from the infant food industry – are oppressed and exploited. Groups and individuals interested in fighting for women’s rights and human rights should take action to change this situation, and recognise breastfeeding as a woman’s right.”

We should NOT be lying to women in order to make them feel good about their choices. Thinking that women can’t handle facts is the most paternalistic attitude I’ve seen yet.

Feminists like Valenti use science to smack down the HPV vaccine debate. Yet science is insulting to women when it comes to lactation? Why?

Meanwhile, nobody even mentions donor milk as a choice. Even if a woman cannot or doesn’t want to breastfeed, there are other options besides formula, but nobody is telling her about them. In fact, the World Health Organization lists formula as, not the second, not the third, but the FOURTH best option for infant feeding. How many people actually know that?

I Trust Women. That is why I trust that they’ll make the very best choice for themselves when they are given the tools, information, and support to do that. Capitalist, predatory marketing disguised as free gifts from a hospital is NOT supporting women.

Call me all the names you want, but I will never back down from standing up for women.

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77 Responses to “You Think Women Aren’t Vulnerable to Marketing? Check Your Privilege.”

  1. VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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    As usual…GREAT post. I’ll be sharing it.

    I will point out that many hospitals do give out free breastpumps to lactating moms…the Ameda hand held pump. My experience with that pump was while it did very effectively remove milk from my breast, it hurt my breast and it hurt my pumping hand. What a way to encourage pumping! I was SO glad that I had a good double electric pump at home, and was only stuck using that hand pump to deal with engorgment while visiting out of town family for a weekend. If hospitals truly wanted to support pumping they would give out a decent hand pump, like the Avent Isis.



    • VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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      I’ve never seen it happen in hospitals around here, but one mom on twitter yesterday said that her hospital gave her a free Medela manual pump. And like you said, my first thought was “great! give her a cumbersome pump — what a great way to show how “hard” breastfeeding is.”

      But I also think breastpumps shouldn’t be handed out for free before a mom has displayed a need (like returning to work, supply issues, nipple trauma, etc) because pumps can also throw a wrench in breastfeeding. To support her choice, we have to make sure her first choice is supported before any type of intervention is introduced.



      • VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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        I agree, one reason they may be handing out the pumps would be to “help” the woman with oversupply/engorgement issues, when they would be better served teaching her how to properly express. I did choose to pump my oversupply, since I knew I would be returning to work and wanted a “freezer stash”, but that isn’t the best choice for everyone…
        Jennifer´s last blog post… Arklahoma Birth CommunityMy Profile



      • VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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        Um, I also was given a manual Medela pump at the hospital and I love it! I have a double electric pump and I never use it. I ALWAYS use the manual one. I had to ask for it though – my milk came in while I was there and I was so engorged that I couldn’t get my nipple in my son’s mouth to feed him so I needed to pump it down first. I was given the choice of the manual or an electric and I chose the manual because I knew I would get to keep it.



        • VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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          That’s great! I’m glad it worked for you. For me, personally, I need to do a lot of heavy pumping, and my manual Medela is only good in a pinch – not for real pumping. But different things work for different people. Still though, nobody gave me that Medela for free.



      • VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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        The “manual” pump I got when my daughter was born was the piece that attached to the Medela Lactina pump I rented from the hospital. That piece just conveniently turned into a manual pump. But it was a huge PITA. Huge. Extremely energy-consuming to use. And frustrating to me now because I did not need to be pumping right after that birth, not at all.

        With my son, he really wasn’t nursing well at all at first so I needed a pump badly. Once they found out which insurance my husband was on, they got me a prescription for a pump and sent my husband to a medical supply store to pick up a PISA. Got it for $30 because the insurance covered 85%. Not the greatest pump in the universe, I was originally looking at the new Hygeia one, but for $30 I figured I’d go for it.
        Holly´s last blog post… I’m back!My Profile



  2. VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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    Beautifully well put, and thank you for this.

    I wonder if some feminists find that breastfeeding is a threat to feminism because they feel it will “tie them down” and keep them at home. Yet, in my experience in the lactating world, I’ve found that lactivists, even if they are SAHMs, are some of the strongest, most intelligent and independent women I’ve met. So, I really don’t see breastfeeding as a threat to women’s independence.

    Maybe some see breastfeeding as a threat because it highlights the difference between men and women. There is a stereotype of feminists as being anti-feminine, or perhaps wanting there to be no difference between the sexes at all. Yet, as one of my favorite authors. Karen Maezen Miller states, “The mother is the mother, and the father is not.” This doesn’t make motherhood a bad thing, it’s just different. I hope mothers aren’t choosing not to breastfeed because they feel it is antiquated and “unequal.”



  3. VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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    Great post. My son received donor milk for nearly 5 months and it was a tremendous gift for us – I agree that not a lot of women know about that or explore it as an option. Certainly it was not something that was on my radar or that I planned for, but I’m convinced it is the reason my son is such a strapping healthy toddler now. At times it felt a little like I was doing a drug deal or something, particularly when it came to La Leche league members, though many of them informally supported milk donation. I don’t think LLL has a really coherent official position on donor milk which would be a great start to broaden this possibility for moms.



  4. VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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    THIS.

    Once again, eloquently and clearly put.

    I’m sorry that people are taking this issue personally and just reacting defensively, rather than using their brains to realize that we’re all on the same side.

    <3



  5. VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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    I commented on fb as well, but I’m glad you wrote this the way you did. People need to stop bringing this back to a personal issue of FF vs BF and realize that, despite a woman’s massive amount of intellect, she is not immune to vulnerable periods in her life. One of those can be when you are struggling to nurse a baby and if you don’t have enough support, it can be very tempting to quit. Having a formula sample is sometimes all you need to quit BF, and that is NOT a reflection of a “poor” or “uneducated” choice on the mother’s part, it’s a matter of INFLUENCE and being influenced at the right time to make that choice. Thanks for fighting the good fight :)
    suzileigh´s last blog post… My research paper on SIDS, breastfeeding, and co-beddingMy Profile



    • VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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      YES! I remember sitting in my hospital bed after my son was born, feeding him almost nonstop as he was trying to get my milk to come in and thinking that someone less determined than me might just give up and give their baby formula if it was offered to them at that point, just because it would be easier than nursing all day long. It’s sad to think that doctors and nurses see that kind of thing happen and instead of encouraging mothers to keep at it, they instead offer them a bottle of formula.



      • VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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        Totally. I was the mom that gave in to the free formula they handed out the first two times because I thought my baby was starving, and since it was there… why not? The third time (my home birth) I knew better, had tons of support, and never used a drop of formula. I knew from personal experience that it’s hard to get through those first few days/weeks if you’re not given the tools to succeed.



  6. VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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    Thank you for this. I am planning to get pregnant and struggle with anxiety & depression. I would LOVE to use donor milk if I can’t manage without medication that’s dangerous for a nursing baby (we have a great team helping me find the safest possible mess, but you never know). And yet all I hear is how great formula is “nowadays.” I want to breast feed for many reasons but I feel like I’m already being pushed towards formula “just in case.” Why isn’t donor milk the go-to backup? I’m doing everything I can to prepare my mind and body, but if something makes breadtfeeding impossible or dangerous, I want all my options presented to me. Why is that too much to ask from a hospital?!



    • VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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      I would definitely do your own research about medications that are safe for bf. Some doctors (including a doctor I had once) are appalling uninformed about meds that are safe for bf. Even some who think they have the up-to-date information can be wrong. The fact is that most meds ARE safe for bf, and that includes meds for anxiety and depression. Check out this website for more info:

      http://www.infantrisk.com/

      It’s an organization run by Dr. Thomas Hale, considered the world’s foremost authority on bf and medications.

      If it turns out the meds you need really are contraindicated for bf, you’ll want to start reaching out to donors as soon as you can. Most moms can’t provide exclusive donor milk for their baby from just one donor, since most moms who pump extra don’t produce or pump double what they need. Some organizations you would want to look for are Eats on Feets (convenience Facebook pages), Human Milk for Human Babies, and Milkshare.
      Holly´s last blog post… I’m back!My Profile



      • VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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        That’s so true about doctors being poorly-informed too often. I am lucky enough to have access to some true experts–I’ve been referred to a psychiatrist at the Columbia Women’s Center who specializes in perinatal mental health. All she does is help women like me understand the risks/benefits of all our options.

        Thanks so much for the list of organizations! So helpful!
        donotfaint´s last blog post… Can We Afford a Baby? Yes, We Can!My Profile



    • VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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      Hello there, I just wanted to say that I am a new mum with similar problems and have been prescribed a medication which is safe for breastfeeding – if you want to chat just drop me an email teadevotee at gmail dot com (I have no interest in this product and am not marketing it!)



  7. VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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    I had read your prior post and even though I have supplemented I didn’t get the feeling that you were looking down on formula feeding at all. You even stated first and for most that you weren’t. I read Valenti’s article as well and I just get the feeling that she was looking to slander you or something. The fact that she presents misinformation about formula feeding in that article too. I have never thought formula feeding should be the main nutrition for a child. I do think it has it’s place though when children are having difficulty putting on weight or have lost a lot of weight. Then again you can supplement with breast milk as an option also. It is a proven fact that breastfed children have less respiratory infections, less gastroenteritis, and are generally healthier all round. This is the reason I fought so hard to breast feed my son. He did eventually wean off of the formula on his own, he never did like the stuff.



  8. VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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    We are all vulnerable to marketing whether we want to admit it or not. :) If marketing wasn’t so effective, it wouldn’t be such a huge industry. Formula companies put billions of dollars info their marketing, which they wouldn’t be doing if they weren’t seeing a return on that investment. Their marketing is actually quite brilliant. They’ve managed to convince mothers and health care providers alike that their product is better than what our bodies can naturally provide for our babies. It has nothing to do with women not being smart enough to see past the marketing. It has to do with the fact that as humans we are influenced by what we see and hear. In today’s society we see every day that bottle feeding is the normal way to feed your baby, and most of the time we’re not even aware of it. I’ve blogged before about how subtle formula marketing can be: http://blog.nurturedchild.ca/index.php/2011/06/07/why-formula-companies-love-breast-is-best/
    Most women want to breastfeed, and yet society still places many obstacles in the way. Enforcing the WHO code, or mandating that hospitals be baby friendly is not about taking away anyone’s choice. It is about making sure that our choices are informed ones based on fact rather than marketing. I agree with you that the mindset of not giving facts about the risks of formula to avoid making anyone feel guilty is very paternalistic. I have blogged about my feelings on breastfeeding and feminism, and along the lines of what stardustdawn said, I think it is the opposite of feminism to be trying to fit ourselves into our patriarchal society rather than demanding that society change to welcome and include mothers. http://blog.nurturedchild.ca/index.php/2011/01/12/breastfeeding-and-feminism/
    NurturedChild´s last blog post… Why the WHO code isn’t workingMy Profile



  9. VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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    I’ve been an admirer of Jessica Valenti’s for years – The Purity Myth, her work setting up Feministing – but I really think she dropped the ball on this one. Her response to you was ad hominem and didn’t seek out many actual facts e.g.: about why breastfeeding rates (among women who WANT to breastfeed) fall off so quickly after birth.
    I don’t always agree with you, either, Gina, but her response to you was more than something I disagreed with, it was very disappointing.



  10. VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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    Long-time reader, first-time commenter. Your posts over the last two days are STELLAR. Thank you for bringing up this issue and for speaking so thoughtfully and eloquently. I’m sending this to anyone who I think would be interested.



  11. VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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    I am so glad you wrote this. I already considered myself both a feminist and a lactivist, but you did such a great job of highlighting a larger point I’ve been struggling with. An attempt to shift cultural norms is not an attack on the individuals who live within them. We are so quick to get defensive that we lose sight of the macro-level objectives, which ultimately empowers oppressive systems that put those norms in place to begin with.
    BalancingJane´s last blog post… Joining the Fray: Third Person Effect in the Formula/Breastfeeding DebateMy Profile



  12. VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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    My degree happens to be in Communications Studies (with a concentration on Gender, of all things!) so the influence of marketing is something I am VERY familiar with. You totally hit the nail on the head here, Gina. NO ONE IS IMMUNE. What makes me sad, though, is that “one of our own” is so apt to dismiss true scientific evidence because she feels threatened by it. It’s obvious her own choices have led her to feel this way, but that shouldn’t cause her to attack YOU. You never went after FF moms, only the disgraceful marketing strategies the companies use. I wish she could see that. I’m just very sad for our community at the moment.
    The Hipster Homemaker´s last blog post… People Are Creepy (and somehow they find my blog!)My Profile



  13. VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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    I love your blog and completely agree with your views on birth and breastfeeding. We are doing everything we can to make sure I have all the resources I need to start a successful breastfeeding relationship

    However, I’m disappointed you used Crisis Pregnancy Centers as an example…they are not the same across the board. In fact, pregnant mothers with no insurance in my community routinely use one to get free or low-cost ultrasounds they could not afford otherwise. Additionally, I consider myself a feminist and don’t like the assertion that anyone who is against abortion is “anti-choice” and automatically disqualified as a feminist. I feel like you can understand that as many have rejected your views on mothering, breastfeeding, birth, etc. as inherently anti-feminist.

    Another example would have been much better and less offensive to those who have different views on abortion.



    • VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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      I do apologize for bringing abortion into the debate. With my post yesterday, I specifically tried to avoid that, even though the other feminists kept framing this topic within the context of the abortion issue. However, in regards to abortion, pro-choice feminists (specifically) vehemently oppose Pregnancy Crisis Centers. I was trying to illustrate that one cannot vehemently oppose Pregnancy Crisis Centers for the reason they do, and yet welcome any other influencer into reproductive health choices. Valenti insists that I was treating women as though they were “too stupid” to know better. Yet she thinks the same thing about women who might be lured into a Pregnancy Crisis Center.

      Of course, we all know I am a pro-choice feminist anyway, so my perspective will usually always come from that angle.



  14. VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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    If we were not breastfed and have not resolved that pain then we are going to say that formula feeding is ok. As long as we hold on to it being ok, we don’t have to feel our pain of not being breastfed.
    Breast feeding is a huge part of supporting and developing the bond between mother and child. Breast feeding supports the innate understanding in us that our needs will be met in life. Breast feeding is about so much more than physical nutrition.



  15. VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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    In my experience it seems like there is more help and information regarding breastfeeding available to the less privileged. Those are the Moms able to get on the WIC program. I was just barely able to qualify for WIC, and they really push breastfeeding education. Not only that but they also give away free hand pumps, as well as loan electric pumps to Moms that are full time students or employees. Being on the lower end of the income spectrum isn’t an excuse for not going after the information you want if you legitimately want it. There are still libraries around, and they have computers. I know that where I live lower income families still spend a lot of time visiting libraries. Maybe that’s not the norm across the country, but that doesn’t make it an excuse to not educate yourself. There are always options. Also, maybe hand pumps suck, but beggars can’t be choosers. Many hospitals, mine included, are equipped to provide needy Moms with breast pumps, but they can’t give everyone the top of the line pump, they have to be reasonable. The electric pump I intend to buy costs 3 times as much as it’s hand pump counter part.

    I want to see formula marketing reigned in and held to standards, but at the same time I appreciate the free formula I have gotten in the mail. During my pregnancy I have learned an awful lot from you ladies that are currently at each others throats. I have learned enough to overlook the formula I will be given at the hospital, but I will be taking it home. I don’t want my baby eating it, but I am also not naive enough to think that an emergency may arise where someone else will suddenly be handed the task of feeding my baby, and not be equipped to do so. What if I get in a car wreck on my way home from the grocery store. I am due in the middle of winter in northern Indiana. We have lots of ice, it could happen. My poor husband would suddenly find himself without my boobs and with a hungry baby. Lo and behold, Mom thought ahead and there is a can of formula in the closet. I know that this is an unlikely situation, and the formula I have will probably be donated, but it gives me a little more peace of mind knowing that it’s there just in case.

    I got pregnant for the first time a year ago (unfortunately it ended in Early December, right when this one is due) and all I knew about breastfeeding at that time was that my wonderful amazing husband was unshakably for it. At our first WIC appointment when asked if we planned on breastfeeding he said yes before I could even contemplate the choice. So, going into this second pregnancy all I knew was that I had to find out what all this breastfeeding hoopla was about. I credit women like Gina here, Annie at PhD in parenting, TheLeakyBoob, and others with giving me the support and help I needed to get to where I am today. I certainly have my own views today, built on the battles they are fighting as well as my own research. I -am- one of those women who will research things to death. In the end, thanks mostly to Gina, who was the first Mom blogger I found, I am not able to be swayed by the unethical marketing used by formula companies. It’s just not even in the scope of reality. Eventually my little stockpile of formula cans will be replaced by stored breastmilk and the cans will hit the shelf of a food pantry.

    That’s just me though, I also acknowledge that sometimes even the best informed women will not or can not breastfeed. I know a girl who wanted to very much, and tried her hardest, and had no milk supply issues, or any other issues physically. She did however have mental blocks preventing it. Whenever she would try she would be assaulted with mental imagery of her history of sexual abuse. There is NO WAY she is the only woman who has had this problem with breastfeeding, but I have never once seen this brought up as a legitimate reason not to breastfeed. She has since suffered harassment from Moms who call themselves breastfeeding advocates. Those women are specifically doing exactly what should not be done. They are shaming a woman for choosing to bottle feed her babies. They don’t know her reasons, but honestly, it’s none of their business. I would be ashamed to be connected with women who behave in such a manner. I am going to end this novel there because I just glanced up and saw how long this has gotten… Sorry, guess I am just frustrated with the whole argument.



    • VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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      I’m happy to hear about you’re experience with WIC. However, WIC is the largest buyer of formula in the US. The buy approximately 55% of the formula sold in this country. The numbers tell me they’re not supporting breastfeeding the way they should be.

      Also, when I was pregnant earlier this year, the state determined I was eligible for WIC (I didn’t even apply) so they called me and told me I could have WIC, “to get formula for your baby.” They didn’t even ask if I was breast-feeding.

      To you other point, I think the reason many women feel that they need to “stockpile” formula “just-in-case” is because our culture has led them to believe that we’ll all need formula at some point. It’s inevitable, right? But do you know what I have in my house “in-case-of-emergency”? Frozen breastmilk. That’s my backup if I were to get into an accident or something. And if I needed a long term solution? I’d try to get free donor milk from Eats on Feats. But most women have no idea these are even options. We’re all so convinced that formula is the only backup.



      • VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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        Storing breastmilk isn’t exactly an option for me right now. I did say that was my plan, but if something happens in the first days after baby is born, I won’t have any stored yet then either. I would try to get donor milk too, but I also like knowing that if I am laid up in a hospital bed somewhere and my husband is snowed in or something else horrible happens, there is an option in the closet. You simply never know what will happen. Does this mean I approve of anybody ever giving my daughter formula? Absolutely not. It will be well hidden when we have guests who want to feed the baby. Does this mean I approve of any of the marketing schemes being used? No, it just means I am willing to take advantage of them spending money to try to convince me that they are good enough. Maybe when i donate it some poor woman like the one that I mentioned that had pretty serious issues breastfeeding will benefit from it.

        I am not many women, I am one woman who was talking about the impact you had on my life, a positive one by the way, and what I added to the things I learned from you. My point was that despite formula companies best efforts your advocacy still came out on top for me, and if it did for me, then it probably did for someone else. Like me that person is probably passing what she learned on to others, and so on. The goal is being achieved, even if it’s in a minor way. I didn’t know that breast milk was so superior, I didn’t know that donor milk existed, I didn’t know that formula has such serious potential side effects. All I knew was that the old argument that ‘It was good enough for me’ is a stupid argument. Now I do, so clearly something is going right somewhere. We’re not ‘all’ convinced of anything. There are plenty of people out there who, like me, question everything. Have a little faith in us, people are listening.

        On the point of WIC… I am more and more convinced every day that I go to the best WIC office in the world. They and my hospital seem to be ahead of the game. WIC gives me free diapers, breast feeding classes, they have lactation consultants on staff that I have free access to. Those same consultants work at my hospital, a hospital which hosts annual DONA training workshops. WIC also give me access to classes which give me coupons that I can redeem for important baby gear such as car seats, diapers, and cribs. They are giving me a free pack and play! I guess I have to admit that my experience with WIC and my caregivers is less that the norm, but I am glad that it is at least out there. Maybe it will catch on. I have heard, and am not sure if this is true, that the hospital does not actually distribute the formula goody bags unless the family asks for them. I appreciate that. It’s still there if someone is dead set against breast milk for some reason, but it’s not pushed. I hope it’s true.

        Seriously though, what you’re doing is working. You lit a fire under my ass, I don’t even know how I came across you. Facebook to be certain. I have new goals for my future, one that looked rather bleak a year ago. I don’t always agree 100% with everything you say, but I do look forward to reading it whatever it is. I really feel now that you’re trying to tell me that I feel like my baby eating formula is something that will eventually come to pass. That goes against everything I said, and is simply not true. I haven’t even given the time of day to the hurdles some women claim stand in my way of breastfeeding. What I consider inevitable is my ability to do this. It will happen, because it’s supposed to happen. I intentionally kept my response personal and not generalized, because if you generalize the population it’s really easy to see all the work you have left to do. If you personalize it you can see the amazing work you have done. The latter is far more motivational and fulfilling in my opinion, and is what makes a person really want to press on.



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          I appreciate your belief that I’ve offered you some support. That’s awesome to hear. I’ve always hoped to help educate women so that they feel like they have all the information they need to make the choices they want. The problem is, the formula marketing culture is so, so, so much more powerful than me. La Leche League is the biggest breastfeeding organization in the world, and they still have no money to go up against the drug companies. I might have reached you, and I may have reached others, but breastfeeding advocates are the David to the Abbott Goliath. As a doula, I work every day with women in situations where they just don’t stand a fighting chance. They have strong desires, but the whole system sets them up to fail. It breaks my heart for them.

          I know that it can feel like there are so many opportunities where formula samples might be useful (I seriously get that, I really do.) I’m just saying that having been through a few babies now, things are much different in practice than in theory. The first few days of a baby’s life are the most critical days for both establishing breastfeeding, and for the baby needing breastmilk (for example, most people don’t know that babies are born with an immature digestive tract, and colostrum, by design, actually helps to seal it off. This is why formula fed babies have higher risk of dying from narcotizing entercolitis, or, infections entering through the bowels. Breastmilk is helps complete the baby’s bowels.) But all too often, moms get really freaked out about supply in the first few days, and they’ll start giving bottles. Then they’ll give another, and then their breasts aren’t being told to make milk, so they’re producing less and less, and next thing you know, the breastfeeding relationship is sabotaged. When formula is necessary, it’s readily available just about anywhere. But when it’s hanging around, so many women (I’m not saying you, but so, so, so many of us) resort to it too quickly, instead of using other options (like pumped milk.) That’s why breastfeeding advocates tell women who are committed to breastfeeding to put formula out of their minds, unless it actually becomes necessary. There are things happening around the time of childbirth that stress and tax our systems, and really do make us susceptible to things we would not normally be.



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            I already know all that. I actually used the fact about necrotizing enterocolitis with a friend who thinks that there is absolutely no reason to ‘perform such a disgusting act’ and also suffers from colitis. It shut her up, for now at least. I am just trying to point out that despite all the recent negativity there are still good things going on. There are other people out there trying to help, including WIC and hospitals. There are people out there that are being reached. There are people out there that are joining up with your cause. Among the fighting and the name calling in what is already a difficult struggle against an industry there are still steps being taken in the right direction. Sometimes it’s really easy to overlook the small things when the big picture is still so far away. But the big picture is really a lot of small steps all put together. As long as things are still moving forward, no matter how slowly, things are still improving. I just think that sometimes, when things look so dreary, it’s beneficial to slow down and take a look at the little things. Stop and smell the flowers if you will.

            I keep hearing so many generalized comments that simply do not apply across the board and it makes me feel like people think there has been absolutely no progress in this area. WIC and my hospital have not only made me feel comfortable with breastfeeding, and let me know that I have a lot of support, but they have made me look forward to it. I am genuinely anxious for all of this. I want the long nights and the misery. I can’t wait! I would never have kept that can in my closet if I wasn’t absolutely sure of my ability not to give in and use it. I haven’t even made it to my fist LLL meeting (it’s next week, yay!) and I’m already that encouraged to breastfeed. The South Bend hospitals have picked up these practices (they also practice and promote kangaroo care). It has bled over into the many private hospitals we have and on to the Elkhart hospital a couple towns over. If it keeps that trend you will see it in Chicago soon. So, even though the formula companies are still using horrifying marketing schemes, and LLL can’t afford to compete, the competition is growing. This is a crappy little town, ultra conservative, nobody is very outspoken unless it’s about Notre Dame football, so it doesn’t surprise me that these local advances in breastfeeding are little known. Although it does surprise me that they are outside the norm. It can’t happen everywhere at once, but it’s starting to happen somewhere. Oh, and I rarely ever see any formula advertising that isn’t in my own mailbox. My OB office didn’t give me anything that was endorsed by a formula company, and like I said before I was told that the hospital also will not unless asked. I know it’s not changing their advertising ploys, but it is keeping them under cover.



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    “I’m sure that many white, middle-class feminists like Valenti do have access to a computer, internet, the best health care providers, research databases, and tons of family support to help them make their decisions, even in the face of the most aggressive formula marketing tactics.”

    And even with all that, does it always matter? I’m white, middle-class, grad school educated, had my first baby in my 30s, the whole privilege shebang. I did my research, I joined breastfeeding communities while pregnant, I knew I wanted to EBF. Yet, even though my son had a perfect latch from birth, I still consented to one supplementation of formula in my exhaustion because the nurses were concerned about his diaper output. His diaper output! At one day old! I didn’t even know anyone would be paying attention to that while we recovered after birth. Then 10 days later, even *more* exhausted after a week and a half of round the clock nursing (far more than the 8-12 times a day I’d been told in prenatal breastfeeding class), I wanted to just give the free formula that my OB and the hospital had both sent me home with. Luckily, my husband is a great support and talked me out of it, and my son and I still have a great breastfeeding relationship. That hospital supplementation is the only formula he’s ever gotten and all he ever will get. But I know full well that we were LUCKY and others don’t fare as well.

    Yes, I’m a smart woman, but exhaustion and confusion can make “easy” marketing seem very appealing. The fact that Jessica Valenti can’t see that is disappointing and only highlights how well the formula companies have ingratiated themselves in the minds of so many people.



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    I agree with you, but others have a right to their own opinions on these things. People will always disagree, that’s what makes life interesting. I’m sure Valenti is as convinced she’s right as you are.



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      You’re allowed to have your own opinion, yes. But you need to support that opinion with facts, and Valenti isn’t doing that.



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      Everyone is entitled to their opinion. They’re not entitled to their own facts. They’re also not entitled to make a spurious, ad hominem attack against people they disagree with.



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    Obviously, anyone who is outright mean to someone for bottle feeding is a complete dumbass and has not considered the many and varied reasons why breastfeeding is not happening right at that moment. I don’t think there are that many people out there who would do that though.

    The main reason breastfeeding supporters are anti-bottle is because most people just do not realise that ONE bottle of formula to a newborn has the potential to completely derail all future breastfeeding. Women seem to be given the impression that it’s easy to go back and forth, or to supplement, but in reality, a bottle given with the intention of doing both bottle and breast is probably the main reason why there is such a big difference between % who intend to breastfeed, and % breastfeeding at 4 or 6 weeks. Supply and demand, very simple.

    I think (some) bottle feeders need to get over themselves. If someone tells me that they only feed their child organic food, or WHATEVER thing that they are doing that is better than the thing I am doing, I don’t take it personally. Yeah, my child might be slightly worse off. So what? I don’t need to pretend that food full of pesticides is better than organic, and I don’t need to start preaching to people about how this whole “organic” business is a crock of shit, I just accept that it would be impossible for me to do the absolute best thing for my child 100% of the time, but I’m doing the best I can and that’s enough.



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    Just wanted to say thank you for these posts. I am a mama who desperately wanted to BF but a combination of insufficient glandular tissue and premature twins made breastfeeding impossible for the three of us. Not for lack of trying but after months of incessant pumping, herbs, meds, SNS, everything… it became clear it was not meant to be. It is the biggest heartbreak of my life and something I will always grieve.

    I’ve since struggled with the guilt of not BFing but feel better that I’ve been able to give my babies donor breastmilk from generous mamas I’ve met on Human Milk 4 Human Babies. They’ve had some formula, yes, but the majority of their diet has been mama’s milk, just not their mama’s.

    All that is to say that I often struggle with posts like this because they sometimes unintentionally (or honestly, intentionally) vilify non-BFing mamas under the assumption that if BFing didn’t work out it’s because the mama was uneducated, selfish, or just plain didn’t try hard enough. I guess I’m writing a lot when what I’m trying to say is: you do a beautiful job advancing the noble cause of breastfeeding while acknowledging that it is an important part of the cause to include non-BFing mamas in the circle. Thank you for using your platform to make your point AND explicitly state your support of all mamas regardless of how they feed their babies.



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    I’ve read both Jessica Valenti’s’s and your accounts of what happened, and this situation seems to me like a classic case of a few unkind words spinning completely out of control on the internet. I do think that your saying that her side of this issue is the “pro-WOMAN” one, thus insinuating that Jessica was anti-woman, crossed a line, but so was Jessica saying you “suck her left one.” What really makes my blood boil is Jessica’s assertion that formula is just as healthy as breastmilk.

    Ultimately, this bickering between feminists and lactivists exhausts me. As your blog shows beautifully, it isn’t an either/or sort of thing. I discovered Jessica and The Feminist Breeder around the same time last spring. I may have even discovered both (indirectly, at least) due to Miriam’s Radical Doula blog. For me, it’s a reminder that we should all be on the same side here. We all believe in that women’s fully informed choice and we all are trying, from the limits of our perspectives as white, middle-class, and privileged, to make sure that less privileged women can have all the information and choices we do. As too often happens when you bring progressives together, we begin fighting amongst ourselves. Doing this, we weaken both ourselves and the causes we are trying to promote. I’m certainly not the first to say it, but can I naively plead that we try to steer these often difficult conversations back in a more polite, construction direction?



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    It seems to me that this whole debate has gotten out of hand. I don’t see anyone actually arguing that the formula companies should continue their sleazy, manipulative marketing tactics — even Valenti admitted in that last post that there are problems with the way they’re currently marketing their products. Although that being said, it’s a pity that she had to sink to snark and personal attacks in lieu of mature discourse.
    Sarah @ Freestyle Home and Life´s last blog post… Baby Photo Project IdeasMy Profile



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    Also, this:

    “In fact, the World Health Organization lists formula as, not the second, not the third, but the FOURTH best option for infant feeding. How many people actually know that?”

    I didn’t — and it made me so curious about what these top four things were that I had to go look it up. From what I found, the list goes like this:

    1. Breastmilk directly from the mother
    2. The mother’s breastmilk from a bottle
    3. Breastmilk from a donor
    4. Formula

    Did I get that right? If so, it seems a little misleading to emphasize how formula is the “FOURTH best option” without making it clear that the first three are all human breastmilk.
    Sarah @ Freestyle Home and Life´s last blog post… Baby Photo Project IdeasMy Profile



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      Not really. Though it may seem obvious to some, most people assume if they can’t/won’t feed baby directly from the breast, they must use formula. But in actuality, there are two more options before formula. Valenti had a premie, and it sounds like nobody even gave her the option of donor milk before jumping to straight to formula. When I asked her on Twitter if the hospital made donor milk available, she immediately told her followers that I was accusing her of being a bad parent for using formula. Ummm? What?



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    Everything you’ve said here is so true. I’ve had problems with breastfeeding. With my first he started to lose weight. and I was made to (as in if I didn’t do it, the nurses would) supplement his feedings with formula. There was no lactation consultant at the hospital to come in to help me. No one to say that yes, his latch is corret/incorrect, or try this while nursing him, or do that. I was told that it was my fault that he was losing weight because I wasn’t producing enough, when by the end of 5 days (with him having so much formula) I was so engorged wearing a bra and feeling my shirt move was enough to send me into pain. No one could explain to me why his stomach was full at an ultrasound when he hadn’t eaten in two hours. When he started gaining weight, they stopped looking for answers. When he hit the four month mark he quit breastfeeding because formula feeding was easier. I was not happy about it, I’m still to this day not happy about it.

    With my second I made it to the 6 month mark before giving up because I still had to supplement, and wasn’t getting the support I needed or wanted from family. I was being told that it’s fine to use a bottle. His doctor told me that with the amount of formula he was eating I was pretty much wasting my time breastfeeding because he wasn’t getting anything from it. Getting that from the one person I expected support from was enough to make me realize that I was pretty much alone at that point.

    This time I made it to 6 weeks. 6 weeks because I was getting the whole, you just can’t do it. Just formula feed. I still cry about it because I couldn’t find the support. 6 weeks because I spent more time crying over supplementing. I still had no help, still don’t even know where to look for help. Instead it was, from the start in the hospital, well if you can’t do it, just use formula. I tried relactation, but failed again miserably because of the lack of support from my family (with the exception of my husband through all of it).

    I wish I was able to pump, but my breasts and pumps disagree to no end. I get more milk using my own two hands then using a pump. Again, no one has ever explained exactly how to use the pump, or even how to hand express milk. I’ve sat there and muddle through it while people put me down, reminding me that I could just use formula. There’s people that think I’m silly to be mourning the fact that I had troubles doing what was best for my baby. All of this whole thing is because we’re targetted to say that formula is a good thing to use. It should be considered a last resort, and only a last resort when everything else has been done in order to achieve getting what is good for your baby.

    So I’ve decided to turn this all around. I’m soon going to start my schooling to become a doula, and with it I’m also taking two courses to become a birth educator as well as a breastfeeding consultant. I also plan on having the hospital that I’ve birth at having my number so that if someone needs help with breastfeeding, they have my number so I can offer help. I’d rather see someone succeed in breastfeeding, then worry about the money it’d cost me to make a ride there. I don’t want someone to have to struggle and struggle as I did because the hospital can’t afford to keep on a lactation consultant. I don’t want to see another mom go through what I have because they feel like they can’t do it, being told they can’t do it, and not being able to get help to do it. I want them to have the resources to be able to do it, and to know they have someone who can say yes they can.
    (I’d like to quickly note that yes, I did look online, but without knowing exactly what my problem was, there was just too much to look through, and to know if what I was looking at was the right thing).



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    I am extremely interested in this whole discussion from the UK perspective. We do not get formula milk in the delivery suite, but we are definitely pushed a whole range of other products: there is this thing called a ‘bounty pack’ which every mum is given in the delivery room, which contains important government information about child benefit and so on, but also contains loads of stuff from companies about nappies etc. Maternity units are upping their income by selling our personal data on to these companies, who then send you things at home – and I cannot see a way to opt out! It’s really annoying – and entirely inappropriate that a company rep gets to see your baby before your family.
    On the other hand, the NHS has gone completely the other way on formula and most hospitals expect you to bring your own if you want to use it. Which is fine, except the support which people are given to get started breastfeeding is completely rubbish. In my hospital, the service was run by volunteers who were fantastic, but they weren’t around in the night, and the midwifes were no help at all so it took us ages to get going. And then, when my daughter was prescribed formula to keep her going while we sorted out the feeding issues, a midwife refused to provide her with any EVEN THOUGH IT WAS ONE AM ON A SATURDAY because I was expected to go and buy my own, because as she said ‘we support breastfeeding’. And she said this entirely without irony. It’s no wonder people give up when they have no help from the beginning.
    Anyway, we are 13 weeks in and still exclusively breastfeeding. Have to say I would have loved a free pump :) – my husband does a bottle of expressed milk to let me get a bit of extra sleep and it’s a lot easier to stay committed when you aren’t exhausted!
    Really enjoy your blog – am a new reader.



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    From what I gather after reading “Why Breastfeeding Supremacists Can Suck My Left One” (Jessica Valenti), “You Think Women Aren’t Vulnerable to Marketing? Check Your Privilege” (TheFeministBreeder), and the 45+ comments on this page, I think that:

    (1) the seeming omnipresence of baby formula companies are a symptom of a larger problem. There is a demand for baby formula, not because women are uninformed or easily manipulated, but because “mandated paid maternity leave, insurance that pays for lactation consultants and breast pumps, employers who are required to have a space and breaks for pumping moms, hospital- and state-funded breastfeeding support groups” JUST ISN’T AN OPTION FOR MOST WOMEN LIVING IN THE UNITED STATES (as Jessica Valenti points out). Informing the public of the virtues of breastfeeding wont significantly decrease the demand for baby formula. What WILL decrease demand for baby formula is wide-spread policy change that gives mothers the resources to breastfeed (any time, anywhere) without sacrificing their own well-being.

    (2) TheFeministBreeder is still at fault for using patronizing rhetoric to promote breastfeeding. While I agree that “to even suggest that all women have equal access to information and support in the decision-making process is to completely ignore classism, racism, sexism, and privilege,” do I really need to explain how the two following comments are extremely condescending (and wrapped in privilege)?

    “I think the reason many women feel that they need to ‘stockpile’ formula ‘just-in-case’ is because our culture has led them to believe that we’ll all need formula at some point. It’s inevitable, right? But do you know what I have in my house ‘in-case-of-emergency’? Frozen breastmilk. That’s my backup if I were to get into an accident or something. And if I needed a long term solution? I’d try to get free donor milk from Eats on Feats. But most women have no idea these are even options. We’re all so convinced that formula is the only backup.”

    “When formula is necessary, it’s readily available just about anywhere. But when it’s hanging around, so many women …resort to it too quickly, instead of using other options (like pumped milk.) That’s why breastfeeding advocates tell women who are committed to breastfeeding to put formula out of their minds, unless it actually becomes necessary. There are things happening around the time of childbirth that stress and tax our systems, and really do make us susceptible to things we would not normally be.”

    (3) we feminists still agree on the main points: we trust women will “make the very best choice for themselves when they are given the tools, information, and support to do that” (TheFeministBreeder), not all women have access to the same information when it comes to breastfeeding, all women deserve to have access to this information, and companies that “predatory marketing disguised as free gifts from a hospital is NOT supporting women” (TheFeministBreeder).



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      I think there’s nothing patronizing about informing women that there are other options besides what we’ve been told. Expressed milk and donor milk are two options that MANY women either don’t think of, or aren’t supported in finding. If more healthcare providers offered those as a next choice, we’d increase access. Supply & Demand.

      But you’re saying, since the US isn’t great at supporting breastfeeding, then just tell women that formula is the same? NO. Instead, we change the ENTIRE system. We don’t lie to women so they can feel great about being screwed over. FACT: 76% of mothers are initiating breastfeeding in the hospital, but only 13% are still successfully exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months? WHY? These moms obviously had an interest in breastfeeding, but are being sabotaged from the start by formula samples, inadequate support, lack of maternity leave, etc, etc. It’s ALL a factor.



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        Thank you for responding. I agree. The drop in breastfeeding enthusiasm over the first 6 months definitely points to larger, structural issues that must be addressed. But, still, I resent your use of the word “sabotaged.” Are mothers who quit breastfeeding and switch to formula really sabotaged by formula companies? What if formula really is the best option for her? Certainly, if a mother really feels that she is the victim of predatory marketing, then that is her right, but your rhetoric implies that ANY woman who chooses formula is ultimately “giving in” to the whims of corporate greed. What about the mothers who don’t feel like they have been sabotaged? Well, they are just uninformed and gullible, your rhetoric suggests.

        That outlook is more insulting to women than anything else, especially given “the absence of any demonstrable causal link, outside of the gastrointestinal tract, between breastfeeding and better health” (Joan Wolf, author of “Is Breast Best? Taking on the Breastfeeding Experts and the New High Stakes of Motherhood”).



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          The word “sabotaged” is constantly used by the women educated on this issue because it is the very best word to apply. We’re not saying anyone is gullible. We’re saying the system does everything to ruin her good intentions.

          And seriously, Joan Wolf is the worst example of a classist, racist commentator on this subject. She thinks white women need to get back to work and let caregivers take care of the children – because childcare is clearly menial work that should be done by the poor. Her opinion on anything breastfeeding related reeks of paternalism and prejudice. I know Valenti quotes her often, and I find it embarrassing.



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          This is a tricky discussion, because advertising obviously works. But no one wants to believe that they would fall prey to it, and therefore feel insulted and demeaned and resentful of potentially being labeled “stupid.” I’m not sure how to mitigate that problem, myself. What word, aside from “sabotaged,” would you prefer be used to refer to predatory marketing by corporations who, as a whole, are only interested in the bottom dollar? Do you think depressed and/or anorexic women are “stupid” for thinking that the airbrushed models in magazines are an ideal that they should subscribe to, when they are described as “sabotaged” by such marketing?

          I haven’t read the book you cite, but I think that’s an oversimplification. For instance, mothers cuddle and kiss their babies, and pick up invasive microbes from the environment and specifically around the infant. They make antibodies against those local “bugs,” and many of those pass into the breast milk and thus protect the baby from immediate risks. Many mothers also experience the release of “happy hormones” during lactation which can affect both of them.

          The act of breastfeeding also requires that a mother hold a young baby at least partly skin to skin, which helps regulate the baby’s breathing and body temperature, which is especially important for preemies and other babies at risk (e.g. kangaroo care). This closeness also factors in the baby recognizing faces and voices, and other social education. It would be oversimplifying to say that all parents who use bottles don’t hold their babies close, but I’ve seen many a child in a carseat with a bottle propped up nearby. For an extreme counterexample, it’s not hard to find information about babies in orphanages left to stare at mobiles and ceilings for hours on end who later have stunted emotional development as children and adults.



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    First of all, you are amazing! Second, I wish there was some contact information for you because we have SO much in common! Your daughter was a bit ironic to me because my name is Jolene and my birthday is April 6, 1990. I am raising my first child as gender neutral as possible in my current living situation and my husband and I have our second baby due March 10, 2012. When I have my own house I plan to have only home water births as long as I have no complications. I also sang a lot in my Chicago high school and was voted member of the year for my senior class. :] I always say I am a rocker turned mommy and your blog inspires me so much it is insane! I love knowing there is someone in this world I can look up to based on experience who has very similar beliefs to me. I wanted to breast feed with my first baby after noticing how natural it is to her and yet because I started late I was unable. I also found most people I know actually criticized me for it because I don’t know anyone who has breast fed their kids. I would love to talk to you someday and maybe heed some advice from someone who is as unafraid to speak out as I am and has similar ideas. I understand you probably have a busy life, but I would love if you could ever e-mail me or write me on facebook. My name on facebook is Jolene Gervais-Frieden and my e-mail is JSMGFriedn@gmail.com. I considered learning to be a doula as well so I could work better with my own deliveries, but at the moment I am working on my general education courses and want to be a prenatal ultrasound technician. Thank you so much. Your blog has shown me it is not hopeless and inspires me to keep strong to my beliefs no matter how much people don’t understand. Every new idea starts out sounding crazy in this world.



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      Hi Jolene (love your name!)

      Thanks for the comment. There are a whole bunch of bloggers similar to me, so you’ll be able to find lots of support for your parenting choices, don’t worry! I link to a bunch of them on my facebook page.

      Yeah, I used to publish my email address, but I end up getting so many emails that I’d never be able to keep up with them, and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by not answering. I just have no free time.

      Stick to your guns and keep doing what you’re doing!



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    I messed up my own email LOL SORRY JSMGFrieden@gmail.com like I said I totally understand if you dont have the time but I would appreciate it. You are lovely! I needed to re-comment anyways so I can subscribe to the comments. lol



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    Great post and everything you are saying is absolutely correct. I read Jessica Valenti’s response to your other post, and honestly, it sounded exactly like the eight million other knee-jerk, “I had to formula feed for x,y,z reason, so therefore, you obviously are trying to shame me because you support breastfeeding” – reactions I’ve read for the last 5 years or so. I GET where she’s coming from. No one wants to feel like they didn’t do “the best thing” for their baby. But you never once attacked her personal choices and decisions, but it just proves my point that it’s always the same story when it comes down to breast vs. formula discussion – or even just formula or just breastmilk discussion on it’s own – people are going to support whatever they chose to do as a parent, even if it wasn’t the original choice they had planned on.
    No one is out to shame mother’s who use formula for whatever reason. We are out to shame formula marketing companies who directly go after women who do not have the luxury of support, time, education, prenatal care and everything else you listed above. A real feminist looks beyond their own life to see what is happening to all women all around them. It’s called “the big picture”.



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    The marketing issue here is to me key. In other areas, we recognize that false and predatory marketing is not acceptable – think cigarrette ads for example, and feel comfortable working against the marketing, not the marketed-to.
    The issue is not whether an individual woman, or many women, aren’t bright enough to make their own choices. The issue is why do we think it’s a good idea to allow any private company to market their product by placing product samples and marketing materials in hospital rooms? If these companies were denied access to free, captive populations to market to, how exactly would women be harmed?
    As a physician, there is no doubt to me that this marketing is powerful – and that companies compete to get their product in these new mothers hands fully realizing that having it handed out at the hospital provides them with what families view as tacit health care endorsement of their particular product. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had mothers who were suppletmenting assure me that they were using “what the hospital gave me” so it’s the best kind, sure that I will be glad to know they are using the brand that surely I endorse. When, in fact, all regular infant formulas are nutritionally equal, marketing claims notwithstanding.
    Why on earth are health care providers allowing our good names to be used to promote a product? I can’t ever figure that out. We don’t give out food samples on other units of the hospital, or vitamin samples, or even exercise equipment samples. We don’t allow other industries access automatically to our patients. I currently work in a hospital that is working towards Baby Friendly, where no formula samples are distributed, and no babies are starving. And I can feel comfortable that I’m not participating in predatory and free marketing for an industry that does not have babies and mothers’ best interests in mind.



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    I commented on your last post, but wanted to make the point on this one as well:

    Jessica Valenti’s initial post was *not* in response to ‘predatory marketing practices’. It was in response to this article: http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/news/s/1459696_st-marys-hospital-bans-free-formula-milk-to-make-mums-breastfeed-instead. This is not a story of a hospital banning predatory marketing, but of them refusing to make formula available even for women who have already chosen to formula-feed, unless the medical staff deem there to be an acceptable medical reason. Giving a woman some formula when she actually comes up and asks you for it is *not* ‘aggressive and predatory marketing’, and it is downright worrying that this hospital apparently considers women incapable of making this decision for themselves.

    I think that, in claiming that Valenti’s post was in defence of ‘aggressive and predatory marketing’, you are majorly misrepresenting her actual point. And that’s sad.
    Dr Sarah´s last blog post… My next project, and a question for the massesMy Profile



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      No, her original post was in response to another feminist accusing lactivists of supporting anti-woman measures and trying to deny women choice. She was quoting someone was specifically slamming feminists for supporting the UNICEF Baby Friendly Hospital initiative. This makes me think you didn’t even read her original post. There seems to be a lot of that going on around here.



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        Gina, the post Valenti was responding to *was about* the article I just linked to. It wasn’t anything to do with predatory marketing or advertising. It was about a hospital’s decision to stop providing formula on the maternity unit *for mothers who requested it having decided to formula-feed*. The initial post did make a factual error in stating that the hospital was doing this to gain Baby-Friendly status, which isn’t the case – but it was not slamming anyone for supporting the actual Baby-Friendly initiatives. It was specifically about that policy. The feminist in question posted her reasons for objecting to that particular policy, and Valenti agreed with her. That’s it.

        The reason Valenti is objecting to being accused of supporting aggressive marketing isn’t because she thinks aggressive marketing’s perfectly OK. It isn’t because she’s too dense to get what aggressive marketing is or why it’s a problem. It’s because she *was not supporting aggressive marketing in the first place*. You’re attributing a position to Valenti which she doesn’t actually hold, and arguing against that strawman. And, regardless of what she’s said about you since, that’s just plain out of order. I think it’s sad, because I do normally think your stuff is awesome – but I just can’t back the way you’ve misrepresented this woman.
        Dr Sarah´s last blog post… Formula bans in hospitalsMy Profile



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          but it was not slamming anyone for supporting the actual Baby-Friendly initiatives.

          Sorry, but that’s exactly what she did. That’s how she concluded her article. Quoting Valenti – “But truly, refusing to give mothers access to formula is not “baby friendly” or helpful – it’s shaming and in some cases could be very dangerous.” I tweeted to her and said “I’m a pro-choice feminist and I support the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative” – she responded “Well, you’re entitled to your opinion but I disagree.”

          In return, I wrote an article explaining to feminists why the Baby-Friendly hospital initiative IS mother-friendly.

          I have not misrepresented anything she has said. She wrote inaccuracies and shamed feminists who support the BFHI. I wrote an article to explain why feminist lactivists do support the BFHI. She got nasty and threw the word “supremacist” around. I brought it back to the issue. She created a straw man argument and launched a BF v FF war.



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            Look, I’m sorry about this because I know it’s annoying when you have a really good rant going and someone comes along to tell you you’re wrong, but…

            That wasn’t actually what you said. Your exact comment on Twitter was ‘I am a pro-choice feminists who agrees with not providing free hospital formula, for well documented, scientific reasons.’ This statement of yours was in response to an article about a hospital’s refusal to provide formula *for women who had made the choice to formula-feed*. Valenti’s statement that she disagreed with you wasn’t in response to anything you’d said about the BFHI. It was in response to what appeared, in context, to be an agreement with a policy to refuse to provide formula to women who actually request it. Nor has Valenti made any other comments about the BFHI. She has used the words ‘baby friendly’ in quotes to describe what the hospital was trying to achieve, but it’s a hell of a stretch to claim that this equates to her bashing the BFHI itself. (You could, with equal logic, claim that if I described someone’s attempt to persuade struggling breastfeeders to turn to formula as ‘an effort to help mothers’ then this must mean I was against helping mothers.)

            *All* of Valenti’s comments – her initial post, her statement about it not being baby-friendly to give mothers access to formula, her statement that she disagreed with you – was in response to the policy of not giving formula to women who request it. And, regardless of whether you think that it’s right or wrong to say “Yes, here’s some” to a woman who comes up to you and ASKS you for formula, the fact remains that it’s not ‘aggressive marketing’. She wasn’t talking about aggressive marketing. She wasn’t talking about marketing at all. She wasn’t talking about the BFHI. She wasn’t even talking about the practice of handing out formula samples willy-nilly. She was talking about the practice of refusing to give women formula even if they ask for it. That was it. That was what she was objecting to.

            So, when you respond by accusing both Valenti and Hearts of supporting ‘formula marketing and blatant violations of the WHO Code’, **yes, you are misrepresenting what she was saying**. And most unpleasantly so.
            Dr Sarah´s last blog post… Formula bans in hospitalsMy Profile



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              Thank you for finding my exact words since I didn’t have the time to dig through tweets. I think my words clearly illustrate what the initial issue was, why I wrote on the subject, and just how ridiculous it was that Valenti returned with name-calling. The issue was with free formula, she made it about her and her refusal to recognize the science behind Breastfeeding. I brought it back to the issue again.

              I’m not sure what you think is to be gained by further confusing the issue, but it’s not helping moms or babies.



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                Oy vey.

                1.Regardless of what the initial issue was or what your view or Valenti’s view was on it… IT IS NOT OK FOR YOU TO BE MISREPRESENTING HER VIEWS ON IT. She did *not* support aggressive marketing. She did *not* support violations of the WHO code. It is completely out of order for you to have claimed she did. That is *my* main point.

                2.When you say that the issue was ‘with free formula’, you’re continuing to confuse two different issues, which you have been confusing all along:

                a) The issue of giving out free formula samples to women for marketing purposes (the formula-in-gift-pack scenario)

                b) The issue of making formula available on the ward for use by mothers who choose to formula feed (i.e. formula stocks in the store cupboard that somebody can go and get when a mother actually asks for them).

                Valenti was writing about the latter issue. You’ve been writing about the former as though it was the same one, and confusing matters further by lumping in a third issue – that of more aggressive forms of marketing in which women actually get personally harangued and given inaccurate information by people trying to persuade them to use formula. Regardless of what your opinion is on whether of those individual scenarios is OK, can you at least agree that they are *different scenarios*? And that lumping them all together for discussion purposes is obfuscating rather than clarifying the discussion?

                You say you ‘brought it back to the issue again’, but, in fact, what you actually did was bring it *away* from the issue again. The issue was that hospital’s decision to stop making formula available on the maternity unit for anything other than what they deemed to be medical emergencies. You went off into a discussion about the separate issue of formula *marketing* and about WHO code violations. Valenti tried to discuss this hospital’s decision again, and you’ve taken the discussion away from that and back to the issue of formula marketing. Regardless whether maternity units should or shouldn’t have formula available for use by mothers who actually want and request it, doing so is *not marketing*. You are therefore making the discussion about something *other than* the original issue.

                3.When you complain that Valenti was name-calling and making it about her, do bear in mind that at that point you had accused her of supporting some extremely unpleasant things that she had not actually given any indication of supporting, of having done ‘zero research’, and of having been duped. Darned right those statements of yours were about her, and I’d say she has every right to be miffed about them.
                Dr Sarah´s last blog post… Formula bans in hospitalsMy Profile



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                Sarah, I think you’re reading what you want to read out of Valenti’s piece. You act like she used the words “baby-friendly” and “deny access” in the same sentence by accident. She knew that she was implying that the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is denying women access to formula, which is just plain not true, and it’s ridiculous to imply that the initiative isn’t mother-friendly as well. IF she felt misunderstood, then she could have written a piece lamenting that I misunderstood her position. Instead? She attacked Breastfeeding “supremacists” and told her readers that formula is “just as healthy.” The former was an immature attack and the latter was downright false. She clearly wasn’t interested in simple discourse.



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                Gina, I think I’ve now lost track of your thought process completely. Are you seriously claiming that the reason Valenti wrote ‘Refusing to give mothers access to formula is not “baby friendly”’ has to have been because she was trying to imply that the BFHI *does* involve refusing to give mothers access to formula? (And doing that in the same breath as accusing *me* of reading what I want to read out of Valenti’s piece?) And, even if you do believe Valenti made that statement in a subtle and heinous attempt to discredit the BFHI in people’s minds, how do you get from there to a belief that she must support aggressive and predatory marketing and blatant violations of the WHO code? How in holy hell are you getting all of this from a post that simply agreed that it’s a bad idea to give formula even to women in hospitals who request it?!?

                Will come back to this later – just wanted to post this, have to run.



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                Sarah, many other hundreds of commentors here and on my Facebook page understood my thought process completely. You seem to refuse to. You have also made an astonishing amount of accusations and insults on this thread, and I’ve surprised myself that I let it go on this long. Remember you’re in my house. You’ve made the point that you disagree, and since you’re not going to convince me of your position, I think we’re done here. Nobody is getting anything out of this back and forth.



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                Just FYI – here’s another (extremely informed and educated) blogger’s opinion, which interpreted Jessica’s original post exactly as I did: http://phdoula.blogspot.com/2011/10/which-part-of-baby-friendly-do-you-have.html

                It’s clear to both of us – if not most other people – that Jessica said one thing, and tried to turn the argument into something else when she realized she was wrong. She did what most of the patriarchy does: when all else fails, turn it into a Mom v. Mom war. That’ll distract ‘em.



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    Just wanted to plug my wonderful hospital.
    I gave birth in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada,
    During labour, the nurses did everything under the sun to keep me from getting an epidural. I walked, rocked in a rocking chair, was offered the use of a shower. (there was a tub but they didn’t want me to use it as my water had already broken.) All fetal monitors are wireless, so you can have constant monitoring while still being mobile.
    Pushing was just me, my husband and a nurse. The OB was called in during crowning to catch the baby.
    As soon as he was out, he was laid on my chest. He stayed there, cuddling and nursing for over 30 minutes while they fixed me up and tidied the room. Then they asked if they could take him to the other side of the room to be weighed, etc.
    Because we were nursing, the only thing I was ever offered for him was a bit of sugar water on the second night. I politely declined.
    Breastfeeding was hard, but we were lucky that our healthcare system offers free breastfeeding clinics with IBCLCs twice a week. They helped tremendously.

    He just turned a year old. Since my maternity leave is now up, I have returned to work. He has a mix of formula/whole milk during the day, and nursing at night and early morning.



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    To me, the” choice” to manage one’s lactation by suppressing it, is similar to other “choices” women make in service of the patriarchy. We are always trading in the patriarchy because that’s the market we are in. The system isn’t set up for lactation to be easy, because the system isn’t set up for women’s reproductive work to be valued, and the system certainly isn’t set up for breasts to function outside of selling stuff or generally behaving themselves by looking pretty in clothes. It may be necessary or just plain nice for some women to outsource the care and feeding of their babies (usually to other poorly paid women) and to rush back into the workforce or into another breastfeeding unfriendly patriarchy-sanctioned activity, so the ability to skip the whole (two years or more! of) lactation may indeed seem like liberation to some. But women and babies pay a price with their health, because as much as the likes of Joan Wolf and Jessica Valenti say it isn’t so, it is so. I have no problem with women wresting whatever power they can extract back from the grip of the patriarchy but I do have a big problem when their denial of the price we pay to do so hurts other women.



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    I really appreciate your blog. I found it when I was about 7 months pregnant with my son, who is now six months old. I have learned a ton about things that pertain to my day to day life at this point.
    I think it is really important that you are willing to speak the truth, however unpopular it makes you. Breastfeeding was and continues to be the hardest thing I have ever done. And yet when I look at my chubby and thriving son I feel over powering pride that I have been able to sustain him for six months with nothing but breast milk (and about one ounce of formula on day two).
    He was a big newborn, 9lbs 15 oz and so he lost quite a bit of weight at the hospital. The nurses were so quick to suggest formula and I had no chemistry with their lactation consultant (a no nonsense 60 year old who never had a baby…). With the flood of emotions that was taking over my body after a necessary c-section I caved when my pediatrician all but required I give my son some formula. This was me, staunch breastfeeding wanna-be and first time mom, who had read every article and taken every class, sobbing as I finger fed my baby nasty smelling formula.
    Within moments of that happening I swore it would never happen again so they brought me a pump and showed me how to finger feed him expressed milk. WHY DID THIS NOT HAPPEN FIRST? This question haunts me. It took an extra 15 minutes to have several ounces I could have fed him, would he have starved in that time? NO. I felt used and manipulated.
    If I had been less educated about the benefits of breast feeding I would have thrown in the towel right then and there and they would have packed me off with my “free samples”. It is a travesty.
    Thank you for educating more women on the marketing that hospitals allow!
    JenniMarie´s last blog post… Huh?My Profile



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    Thank you for another brilliant post. This is the first time I’ve commented here (and time is tight as little one is napping!) but I can’t tell you how refreshing and relieving (and addictive) your blog is. She’s awake! But thank you from Argentina.



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    Ooops, sorry – accidental semi-duplicate comment. Was having trouble with comments earlier and it looked as though the first version hadn’t gone through.
    Dr Sarah´s last blog post… Formula bans in hospitalsMy Profile



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    Fantastic and thank you!
    I’m surprised at the women who have been offered pumps in the hospital as we are soooo far from that in Southern California!! (I am a doula here and travel all over the city for births and have never heard of this hppening)I actually have issues with throwing a pump at a mom and saying, “good enough!” after a consult of how to use it,but that’s a whole other thing…it’s a step away from the formula bags, which I guess is a good thing.
    I wish that we could get away from pump vs. formula and focus on education…lactation specialists being covered by insurance both in hospital and home after baby and mom are home, milk is in, and real life begins.
    Though I’m a doula, I had intense breastfeeding problems and the only way I made it was with guidance from a professional. Pump? After 45 minutes, I was only ever able to barely cover the bottom of the bottle with milk, yet was able to exclusively breastfeed my healthy child for 7 months and am still nursing her at 2 years.
    Nursing women need SUPPORT, ACCEPTANCE, and EDUCATION instead of contraptions and commercialism. Until we make that standard for all new moms, there will continue to be women who feel guilty about not being able to nurse (most women CAN nurse but sometimes lack the education and continual support), many are given bad advice, and SO often their doctors tell them that they need to move to formula for XYZ reasons. Can we PLEASE get doctors with accurate and updates lactation information!? A women can make a choice to



  37. ChristenRobertsComer | Profile
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    These are the conversations I’ve missed since becoming a stay at home mom. Glad to find you. My brain is back. :)



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