The Lactivist

February 4, 2015


Chloe nursing at the World Walk for Breastfeeding NYC 2002

The word was accusatory. I felt her anger over the internet.

What had I done to her? I did not say anything about formula feeding. I did make the case against the unethical marketing of formula. That is distinctly different from condemning moms who formula feed.

There is a formula campaign going around social media under the guise of making the “Mommy Wars” go away. In actuality most of the conflict of motherhood, parenthood really, is sparked by media and advertising.

The line between marketing and entertainment is becoming more and more murky. I have learned for the most part to discern what is being sold to me as opposed to what is there to entertain me.

This is the comment I made:

This is not about breastfeeding vs formula feeding, it is about the nefarious marketing of the pharmaceutical industry that undermines all families. Formula has its place. This is about using guilt to promote their product and to make us divisive – are we really? At the heart of it on the playground I can say that most moms get along. The images in the media create fear and defensiveness. I work professionally to support all mothers, I know when formula is needed and wanted. People are not always given the opportunity to make an informed choice.

Why was she angry with me? Why did she think I was attacking her?

I started thinking about it. She was directing her anger at me because I am safe. She does not know me – I am just that breastfeeding advocate. What had happened to her? Was she really experiencing grief and anger over her baby feeding experience?

I have many friends who did not breastfeed and they are not angry at me. They made informed decisions or at least dealt with what they were handed and they have made peace with it.


I thought about the times I get angry at people. I moved to New York for many reasons but one of the big ones was for an acting career. I am not a Broadway or TV or movie star. I could list all of the obstacles that prevented me from becoming famous but it doesn’t matter. I still get jealous and angry sometimes when I see actors my age who have made it. I also wrote and performed stand-up comedy. I loved watching the Golden Globes but I felt little jolts of envy watching Tina and Amy up there.

These feelings are far overshadowed by my happy life. I have a loving husband whom I love hanging out with – he really is my best friend and I am looking forward to growing old with him. We have three awesome children who are smart, healthy and beautiful.



I have moved on. (Casting directors – I can still provide a resume!)

I am also a bit envious of the moms who have had babies at home. Complications prevented that from happening with my babies and me. Still, I ache a bit about some of the birth experiences my babies and I went through. In the end they are all healthy and we made it through.

I have worked out the things in my life that got in the way of some of my goals. I have accomplished many of my goals and I am a happy woman.

So, going back to the name caller, I think she is angry and sad that she is not breastfeeding. I do not know if her birth interfered with her plans. I do not know if her family gave her a hard time about breastfeeding. I do not know if she is taking a medication that is incompatible with breastfeeding. I do not know if her body never made milk. I do not know what experiences she may have had in her past that makes it uncomfortable for her to have anyone touch her breasts.

I sure as hell bet she loves her baby immensely. I hope she can find some peace. I will be the brunt of many a new mom’s anger and frustration.

That is a role I can play.

54 Responses to “The Lactivist”

  1. Tammy Says:

    Your tone is completely condescending all thru the articloe. What if she is NOT JEALOUS of you and all of your breast feeding wisdom? What if she just didn’t want to breast feed? Her decision is none of your buisness. It is maddening that lactivists seem to think that formula feeding moms just need more information. Are you kidding me? Breastfeeding info is everywhere!! What we need is support of moms feeding their babies – without judgement.

    • HI Tammy,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I am not sure you read my piece completely.I have never said anything bad about formula feeding moms. I support all moms. I was called out and I wondered why in such a angry tone and I was inspired to respond.I was not judging – I was trying to understand why someone would have a need to defend herself against something I had not said. That is all. And, as yo can see, she did respond and insists that she made an informed decision.

  2. Erin Says:

    Wow! How incredibly insensitive. Here’s the thing you may not understand: how a mother chooses to feed her infant is personal decision. There is no right or wrong way. Just because a mother uses formula does not mean she is jealous or uneducated. When I was pregnant with my first I spent hours (more like months) reading up about everything pregnancy and newborn related. Before my child was even born, I decided to formula feed. Sure there are benefits to breastfeeding, but I carefully weighed the pros and cons and decided it would be best for MY family to use formula. The baby I’m referring to is now in school. She’s happy, healthy, and just incredible. I went on to formula feed a second child and you want to know something? He’s awesome and healthy too.

    Carrying on about the marketing of formula feeding companies is incredibly insulting to mothers who use the product. Trust me. You are NOT a formula feeding mom so I highly suggest you take my word on this one. The marketing is NO different than any company marketing any product.

    Bottom line you (and others like you) don’t like formula – and you don’t want women to use it. Here’s the thing: YOU don’t have to use it. But women should be able to decide what is best for them and their babies. It shouldn’t matter to you if a breastfeeding mother decides to give up at 3am and cracks open a bottle. Not your baby. Not your body. Not your decision.

    You are actually doing more harm then good. Your views are a big part of the reason I decided to formula feed from the start. Please do me a favor: stop wasting your time worrying about formula. Take some of that negative energy and turn it into something positive. Work to support those who want to breastfeed.

    • Hi Erin,

      Thank you for taking the time to respond. I find it interesting that you know what I like and do not like. I have encouraged many moms to feed their babies when clearly the baby was hungry and not getting fed.There is a place in this world for formula. I do not judge moms who make an informed choice about their feeding and I certainly do not judge moms who were undermined. And this brings me back to the marketing. I am in the trenches with new families and so many are victims of marketing which runs so deep. So deep,in fact, that formula feeding has become the “norm” for feeding infants in this day and age. I cannot tell you how many breastfeeding moms are undermined by our culture, the sexualization of the breast, the lack of respect for women and babies. Not just breastfed babies and moms but all.

      I wish you could explain to me how I am doing harm. Informed choice is so important and most new families are not truly making an informed choice.

    • Rae schopp Says:

      Leighann does work very hard to help and support breastfeeding moms and is not judge mental of those who decide to formula feed.

    • sjistarr72 Says:

      You chose to formula feed largely because you didn’t like the views of breastfeeding advocates? Incredible…

      • Erin Says:

        It was a factor yes. Why do you find that incredible? Lactivism is dangerous.

      • sjistarr72 Says:

        Provide evidence. But why I find incredible is that someone would choose to nourish their child as an act of rebellion rather than a place of love.

  3. Adri Says:

    This is interesting. Someone on FB posted the link to your blog, and lo and behold, you were talking about ME. LOL. Wow, someone took the time to write a blog post about me. Guess what, you are completely wrong about me. I have no sadness or jealousy that I didn’t breastfeed for more than a few days. NOT even a little. My “anger” was really just an annoyance at lactivists such as yourself who have done nothing but criticize what is supposed to be a lighthearted and funny ad. That’s all, truly it was. Just plain annoyance. My two kids are a little older now. Healthiest kids you will ever meet. Intelligent ,top of their class at school, very loving, friendly. I know that the benefits of breastfeeding are blown way out of proportion. I have absolutely no regrets or shame about having nourished them with formula for the first year of their life. NONE.

    • Hi Adri,

      I am happy that you found this. It seems you are not absorbing my point. I have no problem with how moms feed their babies. I have a problem with the pharmaceutical industry being allowed to market their goods here in the way they do. In most other countries there are laws about marketing artificial infant formula but not here. This is a public health issue on a local and a global stage. I do not understand why you would be so critical of me and the work I do. And I am so happy you have clarified that you are happy and without regrets. Please accept my apology for presuming that you had a bad breastfeeding experience. And I will continue to support those moms who need it and I will continue to fight the good fight against the nefarious marketing of the pharmaceutical industry.

      • “This is a public health issue on a local and a global stage.”

        LOL, no, it’s not, especially since it’s been proven that formula-feeding, when done properly and with appropriate resources, does not harm babies in any shape or form. Lack of support for formula-feeders is, in my humble opinion, such a public health issue — if not for its existence, there would be babies with failure to thrive and, ultimately, dead.

        You’re not support mothers who need formula; you’re “boo-hoo”ing and, in a veiled way, “tsk-tsk”ing them for being “victims of marketing”. Rather disgusting, if you ask me.

      • HI Stephanie,

        Thank yo ufo sharing your experiences with me. Unfortunately many babies are harmed by formula – even in this country. It would be great if donor milk was readily available for those in the NICU.There is a terrible disease NEC – Necrotizing enterocolitis – which does not occur in breastmilk fed premature babies. Speaking of privilege the poor in the country who can barely afford formula have been know to water it down to make it last longer – these moms may have been undermined from breastfeeding – they may have to return to employment after a very short time. It is privileged to be able to afford organic formula and be able to prepare it safely. And, it is truly a public health issue.

    • lisa Says:

      Wow I really can only see humor in the first few seconds of the ad. And then it actually made me feel sad to see even the hyperbole of viciousness portrayed. And the baby going over the edge is just plain disturbing. All that aside, I think it needs to be said that breastfeeding is something that affects two people but babies don’t really get a vote. I’m not so sure it falls into the “woman’s choice” category, as it is also a child’s rights issue. The science overwhelmingly proves that breastmilk, and feeding at the breast, are baby’s normal food and method of eating. When this is not possible, formula can be a lifesaver. But mom’s choice – just because? Baby would vote breast every time.

  4. “There is a formula campaign[…]”

    And right there, you show your insensitivity and obvious lack of compassion. The ad wasn’t a “formula campaign”, despite being made by a formula company; it was a call for acceptance between those who can and do feed their babies with the breast, and those who can and do feed their babies with formula.

    Even if it was a “campaign” for formula, you have to be pretty myopic to think that (1) a simple ad is going to convince a breastfeeding mother that she should switch to formula, especially if that mother is as big a lactivist as you are; and (2) there isn’t a need for the product fueled by the inability or lack of want to breastfeed, and that Similac is a company fulfilling that need.

    I wonder how lactivists would feel if the ad was sponsored by Ameda, how babywearers would feel if the ad was sponsored by Tula. Would it be equally as “nefarious”?

    I’ve breastfed, formula-fed, and relactated, so I have truly been there, done that. And I believe you’re being incredibly insensitive to a need and even more privileged from where you stand.

  5. Chloe Says:

    This is not at all insensitive. One of the main points of this post is that she is not against formula or the choices mothers are making. It’s about uniting all mothers who may or may not be going through a tough time. It’s saying that ads shouldn’t separate mothers, because most mothers are dealing with similar things. It shouldn’t be about competition, it should be about supporting each other, which is exactly what she is trying to say. She was NOT attacking this woman.

  6. Facts are not attacks.

    The mothers who use formula for their babies are being victimized by unethical and expensive marketing of formula. Nothing in the post about unethical marketing of formula is about the MOTHERS who use these products. In fact, I saw the post as supporting the mothers who use formula and cautioning them about predatory marketing practices.

    All advertising is costly, and ultimately the end-user of any product bears the cost of advertising. Formula is extraordinarily and unnecessarily expensive, which results in huge profits for the formula companies. Parents who buy formula (and their babies) deserve the best quality product, marketed honestly and ethically, and sold at a reasonable price. They do NOT deserve to be ripped-off by a high-priced product that is over-marketed in unethical, predatory ways.

    • Thank you Linda, for your astute observations. These are my points exactly.

    • Erin Says:

      I can assure you 100% that I am not a victim. Honestly when will this attitude stop. I researched. I weighed the pros and cons and decided formula was best for my family. There are real victims in this debate. I’m not one of them.

  7. Eden Says:

    First world problems tend to get exported to countries without wealth, WIC, or decent sanitation. Formula fed babies in developing countries have a much higher risk of death. From some of the comments I see here, the truly insidious effects of formula marketing seem to be less apparent to mothers with the means and privilege to feel it is a “choice.” To think that our culture is not in fact shaped by marketing campaigns in various guises is naive.

    • RB Says:

      Thank you Eden. That is exactly right! First world problems.

    • Thank you Eden! It is amazing how sneaky advertising has become. And it is amazing how intelligent people are dupes right and left.

      • Erin Says:

        Are you accusing me of being duped by a formula company? Marketing had nothing to do with why I happily fed my babies formula. As a matter of fact when I checked into the hospital the nurses asked me what brand name I wanted to use. And you know what I was stumped. The brand name never even occurred to me. I figured I’d use whatever the hospital offered and they change if that didn’t work out.

        Formula feeding should be a choice. It will always be a choice – you know why? Because a woman has the right to make decisions about her own body. How I use my body and what for is my decision and mine alone. Have you ever heard of bodily autonomy? Perhaps you should look it up.

        I don’t understand why breastfeeding activists spend so much time belittling formula. Please, please spend your energy on educating and supporting those who want to breastfeed. You are wasting your time otherwise.

      • sjistarr72 Says:

        Indeed, they cannot even tell when they are being duped as evidenced by the testimonial below…

      • sjistarr72 Says:

        Indeed they cannot even tell when they are being duped per the testimonial above…

  8. Kate Says:

    What I find interesting is that those who wish us to lighten up and enjoy the commercial- to appreciate what is being said- are the ones passing judgement right here. Perpetuating the media fired “Mommy Wars.” Perhaps the message of this formula ad was lost after all?

    I agree, facts are not attacks. We all make different choices, if someone feels defensive about the choice they have made when presented with factual information, it would probably be more productive to identify why there is a leap to a defensive attack, instead of lashing out at someone else who is just providing information.

    Formula is not going anywhere- whether they advertise or not. Formula will and should always be available to mothers and babies who need it. Breastfeeding, on the other hand, has gone away. We have lost generations of information because women were undermined and literally told that their bodies were not good enough for their baby. Mothers and babies today are paying the high price of this loss. We need strong women to speak up and remind us that breastfeeding is important. Breastfeeding does not have a multi-million dollar lobby to our government (and therefore to our doctors, nurses and general public). I believe the term lactivist should be worn with pride. You can support breastfeeding and support formula feeding at the same time. It’s not all or nothing.

    I wish all mothers the best of success however they choose to raise their babies, and I know Leigh Anne feels the same way. I am constantly amazed by the care, compassion and tender heart she shows the mothers she works with.

  9. RB Says:

    Where is the insensitivity in this post? I completely agree with Leigh Anne — formula advertising has hurt mothers and babies. Formula is not an equal choice to breastmilk; it is a lesser choice and there is plenty of evidence to support this. The fact that women consider formula to be just as good as breastmilk is exactly the point that was being made by the original post referenced here. It is not the same thing! It can never be equal to the product humans produce to their specific child’s characteristics. Breastmilk is like an organ — it changes and adapts to the child’s needs daily. No formula can do that and if anyone has chosen to formula feed, they should not be diluted into believing that it is equal to breastmilk. That is just an uneducated opinion, not backed by facts. Get over yourselves and accept the choice you made was just not the best one you could have made. If you were truly OK with your choice, you wouldn’t even need to post anything attacking “lactivists”. Leigh Anne’s comment was not an attack.

  10. Anon Says:

    Agree with RB. Formula could never be equal to breastmilk. Saying otherwise is proof that the formula ARE in fact undermining our faith in our bodies. It is for this exact reason that some countries don’t allow them to advertise.
    And it’s not just mothers who fall victim. I had to switch pediatricians because the Drs had clearly been a little too inspired from all the promotional merchandise from Similac in their office.

  11. Caroline Says:

    I always find it interesting how defensive formula mothers are. Just like the CIO gang. Anyone who isn’t backing your method 100% is therefore knocking you.
    No they aren’t.
    It’s not about you.

    This post simply says a formula mom read something, became upset enough to post a comment, and it is responding saying, sorry you got upset, though you clearly have some strong feelings regarding your choice not to breastfeed, (because if you didn’t you wouldn’t have posted) but the post wasn’t attacking you in the first place.
    The post clearly says repeatedly Leigh supports mothers who choose to breastfeed and those who choose to use formula. But as a lactation consultant clearly she will favour breast as it DOES offer more than formula can- that’s a fact they can’t create a replica product.

    What’s interesting to me is just because someone is saying formula isn’t the same as breast, every formula mom has to take that to mean they are doing something wrong. They are being attacked.
    Reacting like that does come from a place of guilt. That’s where those defensive emotions come from. Why feel guilty? It’s your choice to use formula

    But if you stopped for a second before you started your rehearsed defensive attack, you would see that in truth we all recognise becoming a mother is incredibly hard. It’s challenging on a level we couldn’t imagine and we ALL wanna get it “right” and do our best.
    Facts are facts. Breast offers more than formula, but does that make formula mom bad, no. She is still doing her best for her child.
    We know this. Leigh says it too.
    Many women fail to breastfeed because of poor information that is out there and lack of proper support. Breastfeeding is hard. It’s non stop in the beginning and without real help and guidance, many stop

    So stop making it about you. If you formula fed, fine. But stop taking every pro breast story or anti formula story so personally.

    • sjistarr72 Says:

      Indeed, the defensive and angry posture is very telling. Even as these formula feeding mothers make informed decisions, they believe it inconceivable that there are people out there influenced by marketing.

    • Erin Says:

      100 % not guilty. Happy, fearless, and proud of my decision. Perhaps you’re the one with the problem.

      • sjistarr72 Says:

        If you didn’t have a problem, then this blog post wouldn’t have riled you up so much. People who are proud of their decisions don’t waste time defending their decisions to others.

      • Erin Says:

        Sjistarr72 – The blog didn’t “rile me up”. I’m entitled to my opinion and I shared it in a very non-judgmental and calm way. I was simply sharing my story – how/why I decided to use formula. For some reason, lactivists are unwilling to hear stories like mine. It’s just easier to assume that everyone who uses formula is uneducated, jealous or failed at breastfeeding.

      • Erin,

        Why do you think you are not heard? I never belittle moms for the decisions they make. I often wonder though if the baby had a choice in this arena the baby would choose to be breastfed. But it is a complicated issue. We do want to honor moms. The culture has normalized the bottle as a way to feed a baby. Breastfeeding moms struggle as much as non-breastfeeding moms, perhaps even more as there are so many obstacles. Most the these obstacles are money driven.

      • Erin Says:

        Because to me part of being heard is feeling respected and I don’t feel that way at all. There hasn’t been a single response on here from you (or anyone else) supporting my right to choose what’s best for MY family. It’s the typical passive-aggressive lactivist response. The “I support all moms, but formula is inferior and if your baby had a choice he or she would want breastmilk.” How at all is that supporting me and my decisions?!

        Breastfeeding advocacy has it’s place. I think more of us non-breastfeeders would be willing to back you up – IF you left formula out of the discussion. Belittling our feeding method is not helpful. Work to support those who WANT to breastfeed. Like I said before you are wasting your time trying to convince me (and others like me) it’s better. It’s just not – for MY family.

        And, back to the comment you made about my baby having a choice. I’m 110% certain they’d choose formula. You know why? Because it really doesn’t matter. Our bond hasn’t suffered. They know that I love them like crazy (love doesn’t come from a boob or bottle). I have their backs I’d take care of them if they got sick (so much for “science”), but they are incredibly healthy. They are both tall, skinny, and smart, too. We’re all generally very happy. Because we made and continue to make the right choices for US.

      • Erin,

        Listening and hearing do not always equal agreeing. I have never said I disagree with your choice. I am willing to be wrong about your babies not wanting to be breastfed. I do agree that bonding is not dependent upon feeding method.

        I do put much energy in supporting moms who want to nurse their babies. Part of that energy and part of my ethical commitment is to be active in educating.

        You do not have to listen. You have done your education and made a decision that works for you. So many others do not have that privilege and those are the ones who needs a voice.

        Keep loving your children and stick with your convictions. Being strong role model is important.

  12. Jennifer Weedon Palazzo Says:

    In response to the comment-er that said “The ad wasn’t a ‘formula campaign’, despite being made by a formula company; it was a call for acceptance between those who can and do feed their babies with the breast, and those who can and do feed their babies with formula.”

    I am a huge fan of the video. Wish I would have thought of the idea myself. But that said, never for one second did I think it was anything other than marketing. A large company like that doesn’t put their resources into making videos for “fun.” It is, in fact, at attempt to market their product. Which they have every right to do.

    Just as Leigh Anne has every right to object to their marketing tactics. While I disagree with Leigh Anne’s objections to the ad, I commend her manner of responding to this comment thread. She’s a class act.

  13. Julia Faidley Says:

    I don’t understand the comments that are so defensive of formula feeding. From a health perspective, breastmilk is superior food, period. No question, not debated by anyone except maybe those who think climate change is a liberal hoax. That said, the decision to feed formula and not to breastfeed is a complex and personal one–moms do all sorts of “less than perfect” things for their kids, because they make sense in a broader social context. Do I think 16 hours of TV on the weekend was “good for” my kids? Nope. But in the bigger picture, I felt like it was what my sanity required, and I’m not wasting any time on worry or regret. Pizza for five consecutive meals, including breakfast? Hmmm…questionable. How about screaming “Shut the fuck UP!” at an infant? Whatever… Perfect is not achievable, kids who have loving parents will probably be fine, breast or bottle, as long as you feed them something. (And if they turn out to be serial killers, it’s likely not related to their diet). I found Leigh Anne’s comments to be heartfelt and sensitive. Breastfeeding is, in fact, NOT the norm in our culture — which creates all sorts of hurdles for moms who just want to be left alone to get ‘er done. That’s what “lactivism” is about — creating a culture where breastfeeding is the normal old way to feed your baby, the way your mom did and your sisters do, where you don’t have to hide in a stinky bathroom or feel like an exhibitionist when you do it. I used some formula here and there, have friends who chose that route, and can’t imagine why the judgement. But accusing anyone who advocates breastfeeding as being insensitive toward non-breastfeeding mothers is ridiculous.

  14. Jane Says:

    To be honest, I don’t think educated mothers are greatly influenced by marketing. I was bombarded with free samples and it never swayed me the least in my plans to exclusively breastfeed prior to giving birth. Fast forward 12 months later, here’s my thought. Do whatever it takes to makes you a good, mentally-sound/healthy mother. Whether that means formula or breastmilk. Seriously, you can’t be a good mother when you’re hung up on guilt. We all know breastmilk is better. It’s science. It’s nature. But there are moms (many, many moms) that choose not to, or simply cannot provide breastmilk. Mothers should feel free to pick one or the other, or both and move on. I INCLUSIVELY breastfed and I’m okay. Well, now I am. I suffered an acute, sudden PPD almost 3 months into breastfeeding because my daughter refused the breast out of the blue. I became guilt-ridden, obsessively consumed with finding scientific evidence and personal anecdotes for hope; and blindly spending thousands of dollars (within a week or two) on specialist visits, lactation consultants, gadgets, aides, and finally whatever best hospital grade pump I could get my hands on. I pumped and pumped for the next several months. Once my baby became mobile, I relied on my husband coming home on his lunch break (we are lucky to live walking distance from his work in Manhattan), and when he was unable to, I turned into a monster and even blaming him for everything from engorgement, to yes, having to ever go back to formula. Every single day I put my baby on breast and my heart broke each time she didn’t just “come back” as many lactation consultants had promised. The day I dumped the pump, my husband said, “Thank God I have my wife back.” I gave my little girl 7-months of breastmilk with a bit of formula here and there. I even went as far as to try and make my own formula because there was no way I was going to feed “mystery powder” to my infant. In the end, I ended up obtaining a biodynamic organic formula out of Europe (I had friends from around the world ship it to us.) I realize I am extremely fortunate to have had access to all of these choices…including the means to pay for lactation help. Main point being, when I came out of this fog, I felt an immense guilt…not because I couldn’t exclusively BM, but because I COULD have been a HAPPIER mother all these months if only I wasn’t consumed with guilt. During my PPD, there were moments of anger toward my baby. I mean, come on. I am disappointed that I can’t get back those precious, precious days. Women should be supportive of all moms and their choices, but most of all, their situations. I plan on having a second. I plan to breastfeed. Exclusively? No. Knowing me, that’s not the best plan for me. Inclusively (if the situation warrants?) Absolutely. And I plan to be a happy, present mother.

    • Jane,

      Thank yo for sharing your experience. PPD is a devastating disease. I am happy that you have come through. I absolutely agree – moms need to be supported on many levels.

  15. Meredith Says:

    I find it so disheartening (and exhausting) that any approach of these issues bring up so much anger and hostility and lack of listening for so many people.

    Leigh Anne, I read your post as pointing out that marketing is marketing, and I agree. I follow a simple rule that is: question the motives of anyone doing something for a profit. That’s all. When a for-profit company makes an ad, it’s not For The Greater Good, it’s part of their for-profit motive. It’s so easy to imagine that none of us are persuaded by advertising but we are; that’s why corporations spend zillions of dollars on their ad budgets.

    I wish that we would all stop buying into the idea of mommy wars. I agree that in the playground and in well-facilitated moms’ groups, moms get along beautifully regardless of how they’re feeding their babies. Why does all this anger and hostility come up sometimes, especially on line? I think for many reasons. Too many moms have met folks who are careless with their words or unsupportive and unloving, and then they “hear” that in everyone’s words. Breastfeeding moms have met folks who are critical and mean to them, or have heard stories of other moms who that happened to. Formula feeding moms have met folks who are critical and mean to them or have heard stories of other moms who that happened to. And in the haze and exhaustion of the new parenthood, maybe everyone is so fragile that they become suspicious that everyone doing anything different is Against Them. 😦 It’s sad, because there’s so much great support out there, for all moms. It’s an honor to serve the ones who are looking for clinical support meeting their breastfeeding goals, and it’s an honor to help the ones who are weaning to formula (from day 1 or later, for whatever reason) make that transition.

    I wish there weren’t conflict and angst about this. And I think name-calling — even “lactivist” — is wrong; we can do better than that. But mostly I feel: it’s completely reasonable to point out that marketing by a for-profit company is not a PSA. Truly, truly, if they had wanted to make a point about moms and not have it be a marketing effort to sell formula, they could have made it anonymously. People do that. People do that when they’re not selling.

    • Meredith,

      Thank you for making such a clear observation of our current culture and the vulnerability of new parenting.
      It is such a tricky time for humans being linked together virtually where words and tones are open for interpretation.
      Keep supporting all of the moms who are lucky to have you in their lives.

  16. Diana West Says:

    I really appreciate your empathy and search for understanding in the conflicts that spark between mothers over our parenting and feeding perspectives. You’re so right that we all love our babies and doing the very best we can for each other. We need more of what you’ve shown in this post — empathy and understanding, and space to discuss our conflicts openly with respect.

    It takes a lot to address an issue like this head on, knowing it’s a lightening rod for pent-up anger. Yet it is only by discussing the problems directly and respectfully that we can ever hope to find a way past them. You know that, which is why you’ve created this space to work through our differing perspectives.

    I have a lot of respect for what you’ve done here.

  17. robinrizzuto Says:

    I was so sure I was right about EVERYTHING when I was a new mom seven years ago. It has been such a blessing to have learned (not always the easy way) to step down, stop fighting, and start really learning. I suggest that all moms learn to investigate and read research of all kinds so that they can make informed choices. (And please know that whatever you read in parenting magazines cannot be relied upon- take it from a magazine reporter and researcher!). Go to the source. Professionals like Leighanne do this for their clients because she understands how overwhelmed the new mom can be. But really, we should all be doing it for ourselves.
    The best thing you can do for a pregnant friend is direct her to good research while holding your tongue about why you did what you did.

    There is a lot of research and critical writing on the powers and manipulations of ALL marketing tactics. Especially when it comes to marketing baby and new parenthood products. So become savvy. Please do not waste energy attacking hard working, underpaid, committed professionals like LeighAnne. Agree to disagree with her. Then devote your energy to becoming an informed advocate for your child. Read and learn so much from reputable sources that you will not need to engage in public social media battles. Read and make choices that you feel so good about that you can find peace within yourself to just do as you see fit. If you are comfortable with your choices, than let it be.

    At the end of the day, all of us know how hard it is to be a mom. It is hard to come to terms with the extraordinary weight of responsibility on our shoulders. There are so many decisions to make. And the stakes are so high. So, please, let’s be on the same team. We all want the same thing. We all cry when our best efforts are attacked or undermined. And we all just want to feel unconditionally loved and supported. We have to give it to get it. So, let’s rise up and support one another.

    IF you are interested in reading more about MARKETING issues around baby feeding, there is a great book (disclaimer: written by breastfeeding advocates), BUT their numbers and stats are hard.

    YOU CAN CHOOSE to make this about breast vs. bottle. BUT that’s NOT the point LeighAnne is making. This is about the ethics, politics, and economics of marketing to the most vulnerable (and statistically, easy to manipulate) consumer: new moms.

    another resource I have drawn from, in an effort to keep you all focused on the MARKETING issue follows (two excerpts and then a link to the source page below).

    “We fight formula marketing because the formula industry spends billions on marketing formula, a cost that gets passed directly on to the consumer who buys formula. Formula marketing makes formula expensive! Those freebies? Their cost is reflected in the can or bottle someone else buys. It may be free for you, but someone else is paying the price. If formula companies upheld the International Code, formula would be a lot more affordable for those who need it. Formula is like bread. It doesn’t need to be marketed; moms who need it already know where to find it.”


    “We fight formula marketing because it fuels the “Mommy Wars.” Booby Traps created by formula marketing (for example health care professionals that lack basic education on breastfeeding management and who push formula) are insidious and frequently invisible. There is a profound lack of awareness of how formula marketing creates Booby Traps! As a result, all of the intense emotions surrounding pregnancy and infant-feeding decisions snowball into an avalanche of defensiveness, guilt, shame, and anger that is unleashed at other moms, instead of at the Booby Traps. Mothers who use formula should not feel guilty or defensive–and they should NEVER be made to feel that way, they are doing the best they can! But formula companies should feel guilty and ashamed. If we want the “Mommy Wars” to end, we need to band together to fight the Booby Traps, not each other!”

    • Erin Says:

      Here’s what I don’t understand – why not take all that frustration you have for formula manufacturers and fight the companies actually doing harm? As someone who used formula for a combined 27 months, I can tell you the marketing did not bother me one bit. I was grateful to leave the hospital with the samples (along with breastfeeding lotion and pads that I didn’t need). I loved opening my mailbox and finding more samples (and donated those I didn’t need to neighbors and friends). I NEVER once felt swayed by a formula company. I used what worked for my babies – not a particular brand. The only people who should have a say in this matter is those of us who are using formula. Breastfeeding advocates should stay out of this. This is not your area of expertise. Denouncing formula companies is an absolute insult to those using the product. Until you realize this – the mommy wars will continue.

      If you want to engage in a marketing battle – then perhaps, you should take on fast-food or Lays, or Coke, or Hershey. We know for FACT that eating fast-food, chips, candy and drinking soda causes long-term health problems. We know for FACT that people who consume those products day after day will like be overweight or obese.

      The breast vs. formula debate is nonsense. We all know that babies thrive and will continue to lead healthy lives regardless. Twelve months of breastfeeding doesn’t mean you can survive on juice and cake the rest of your life. Educate parents on making smart food decisions for their children for LIFE.

      • Erin,

        We who support breastfeeding support all moms. I can only speak for myself but I do not engage in battle. I work to support those who want to breastfeed and part of that support is education around the unethical marketing of artificial feeding products. We do not vilify the product itself or those who use it.
        There is a Code of Ethics that we are committed to support. I am so happy you have made informed choices for you family. It is my responsibility to support those who are undermined when it comes to making an informed choice. I wish you well.

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