As a mom who breastfed her kids nearly exclusively (and breastfed 4/5 for 4 years) I am appalled by those who say "just breastfeed" or "make your own".

Even it it were true that most women could, and not all women can, however, were that so, there are babies who are reliant on formula now and to deny them their food is catastrophic.

My mom could breastfeed but apparently I simply wouldn't. She said she insisted that I drink some for the specific proteins/immune benefits but that after that I was reliant on formula. Babies are people too, but they rely on instinct because they don't have higher cognitive function yet, so even when women can breastfeed and are willing to, sometimes it just doesn't work out.

The comments are good too. From the first one:

Formula is a modern miracle. It's a major reason infant mortality rates dropped. For women who have pain or trouble breastfeeding, it's a godsend. For adopted kids like me, it's how I got adequate nutrition as an infant. And in a country that offers a free breastpump (thanks, Obama!) but virtually no other support (federal maternity leave, flexible hours, etc.) as a working mother, it's no wonder many turn to it within the first six months.

I exclusively breastfed my children for 15 mos until weaning (one of them just weeks ago!). I was lucky to have the right conditions and support, as well as a 12-week maternity leave. Still, in addition to the wonderful things about breastfeeding, it was stressful, even grueling, at times.

In the early months, you spend HOURS per day feeding the baby. You become the only one who can put the baby down for a nap and the only parent who can wake up in the night to stop the crying. You have to take pumping breaks at work, which is legal, but often looked down upon, and you may find yourself pumping late at night or in the wee hours of the morning to encourage supply and to get enough milk to send to daycare. Once your supply drops, it's extremely tricky to get it to come back up.

Those crying "just breastfeed!" are either deliberately cruel or are misunderstanding the amount of labor that goes into it. It's only "free and easy" if we place no value on women's time, energy, and happiness. Recent Supreme Court documents suggest that's true.

It's only "free and easy" if we place no value on women's time, energy, and happiness.

Based comment.

I mean, if the kid is already weaned, then there's not going to be any real good way to go back to breastfeeding, now is there.

[–] Eava 11 points

People don't get that. They don't understand that breastfeeding isn't a faucet you turn on and off at will. I worry about women resorting to different drugs that stimulate lactation, but can have very bad, but uncommon, side effects. My OB wouldn't prescribe them to me when I asked. In his mind, there was no reason for me to risk those side effects for the minimal benefit of breastfeeding.

It's hard for me to understand how some people don't get that. If you've ever even had a cat that had kittens, you have to know, once those babies are weaned, they're never going back. There is some kind of serious, SERIOUS disconnection from the natural world, to not understand that.

[–] WeaverArachne 2 points Edited

Most people are shockingly ignorant about human reproduction. They repeat vague platitudes like "breastfeeding is hard" and "pregnancy changes your entire body," but couldn't tell you the specifics. There was a lot I didn't know until I got pregnant, and a lot I probably still don't know.

A lot of people don't understand menstruation, which they are far more exposed to.

I hate that a supply chain shortage is being used as yet another reason to beat women over the head for not being the perfect back-to-nature mother goddesses who breastfeed on demand until their kids are five and would never even consider letting disgusting toxic formula touch the lips of their precious babies. If anyone wants to do that, go right ahead - no one will stop you. But stop trying to force it on women who cannot breastfeed, do not want to breastfeed, chose to combination-feed, or stopped breastfeeding earlier than planned. Formula is a vital form of nutrition for babies and it must always be available in ample supply if women are to have any hope of retaining freedom of choice in motherhood.

It's cruel to say this to moms. Breastfeeding is grueling and in the beginning, it feels like a hot clothespin on your nip, and then ehile you nurse, your uterus tries to cramp herself back into the tiny little pear size she used to be before big ole baby stretched her out. It straight up sucks HUGE in the beginning. It's easier later, if you don't have any problems.

This issue kind-of scares me. Like, what is going on here? Nursing is basic mammalian biology and it should not have gone wrong to this extent. I'm hoping it's primarily due to lack of support for mothers/babies. (Now I'm wondering how many problems other mammalian species have with nursing.)

My theory is that this is partly due to trauma. Trauma affects the physical health and our ability to access bodily animal instincts. Medical industry is generally very dismissive of the concept of trauma, or of the psychology of dissociation, and often treats them as superstitions and the body as some soulless machine. The priority of medical industry has been to reduce mortality, and it has achieved that, but in a way that shows what they value and that is not deep insight about what it is like to live and thrive in a female mammalian body, but rather the numerical data and observable health metrics that make it possible to maximise how many infants survive.

Thank you for asking this. It's been on my mind too, but I didn't want to voice the thought because the last thing I want to do is make other mums feel judged for their choices and what they feel they have had to do for their children's welfare. I suspect an immeasurable loss of societal knowledge around breastfeeding, and total (or near total) lack of support.

Honestly we're given so much bad advice, it's a miracle anyone breastfeeds successfully. Look at all the people telling you never, ever to nurse to sleep, or under any circumstances to bedshare! When nighttime breastmilk has melatonin in it, which will send baby to sleep, it releases oxytocin in mum (sending her to sleep), and night nursing is crucial for supply.

[–] WeaverArachne 12 points Edited

For most of human history, 1/3 of babies died in their first year. There have always been some moms and some babies who struggled to breastfeed. Before formula, most of them just died, or grew up malnourished and sickly.

Not disputing the huge burden breastfeeding places on women, but let's also bear in mind that in many of the world's communities - especially those that lack consistent access to clean water - formula feeding, particularly in the first six months of life, is responsible for a lot of infant mortality. As SarahTheGreen says, it's basic mammalian biology. Breast milk is not only nature's complete food for infants, it contains maternal antibodies that protect the breastfed infant from a host of diseases in the vulnerable first months of life. As a food it is superior in every way to manufactured formula.

[–] WeaverArachne 1 points Edited

You can tell just by smelling and tasting the formula that it's not as good as breastmilk. Formula smells like vitamins and tastes like chalk. I felt bad giving it to my baby, but once my breastmilk dried up, it was either that or starve.

[–] Eava 14 points

Why should lactation be any different than any other bodily function? People are diabetic, people are infertile, etc. Just because something is biological doesn't mean it always works. Nature doesn't care if babies die. Other mammals don't have jobs that take them away from infants, they don't have the complex psychology that humans have that can make breastfeeding triggering for certain traumas, and mothers of other species eat or abandon their young pretty regularly.

Breastfeeding can work just fine and women might choose not to do it. Formula offers numerous benefits to families, including the chance for fathers to be equally involved in feeding their babies and for women to have much more freedom of movement throughout the day (to work or do anything else they want). Breastfeeding evangelists sneer down their noses at women who CHOOSE formula in the absence of medical problems and I've rarely seen any acknowledge that it can often be the very best choice for the family. At best, it's treated as some second-rate "that's too bad" decision. I think it's really gross.

I'm disabled. I know some of it is preventable/fixable, and some of it isn't. Diabetes: type I or type II? Infertility: bad luck or environment/health? I want to know how fixable breastfeeding issues are.

mothers of other species eat or abandon their young pretty regularly

Yeah, I'd forgotten about that bit. Ugh!

It depends on what you mean by fixable. If some women had someone else to do everything that needed to be done so they could be hooked up to a pump when they weren't actively breastfeeding an infant for the first few weeks, that could fix it for them. For others who only have 2 weeks, if that much, of maternity leave, and they don't have a job that is conducive to pumping or they aren't comfortable pumping, spending the few weeks they have to be home with their babies struggling to breastfeed may just not be worth it. For women with PCOS, drugs like Metformin can help, but they can cause gastrointestinal distress in mom and baby, so getting milk flowing that just makes your baby scream and writhe in pain isn't much of a fix. For other women having someone skilled at the mechanics of breastfeeding available 24/7 for the first few weeks could help them work out their problems (keeping in mind the baby needs to be fed so if there is insufficient milk, formula isn't an option). For women who have trauma that makes them not want to breastfeed, there is no fix other than guilt and shame. Some babies are so sensitive to anything the mother eats that short of living on lettuce and plain chicken breast, a mother can't breastfeed. Some babies have mouth/jaw issues that prevent latching. Moms can pump and bottlefeed breastmilk, but for some women the time pumping takes when a child has special needs may make pumping impractical.
The biggest fix we need for breastfeeding is getting over the idea that it comes naturally and that with enough work it will always be successful.

Nursing is basic mammalian biology and it should not have gone wrong to this extent.

It's also basic biology that many mammalian babies don't make it to adulthood or even adolescence. High mortality is normal. High infant mortality was the norm for most of human history. In our current society, we don't like babies dying.

There's not a problem here. The issue is that people do not understand how breastfeeding works.

If you do not create adequate supply I'm the first 3-4 weeks post delivery, you never will (for that baby). The body gets the signal "oh I must not need to make that milk" and shuts the project down.

Why is this a human problem and not a mammal problem? For the same reason humans have differences in raising kids in this 3-4 weeks, like the baby needing a NICU stay (where the baby kitten would just be left to die). Moms can live a long time with diseases that slow and stop milk production (hypothyroidism, type 1 diabetes), where as other mammals wouldn't even be alive with those conditions to even get pregnant in the first place.

Breast milk isn't as filling as formula, so breastfed babies often can only go closer to 2-3 hours between eating, when formula fed can go 3-4. The difference between getting to sleep 2-3 hour stretches and 3-4 hour stretches is huge. Animals don't sleep huge stretches like us because they're typically keeping one eye open for danger.

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I had to do both at the same time. I was adamant to breastfeed my baby, but she was always hungry, I simply didn't have enough milk. Healthcare people were forcing me to avoid formula. Eventually I stopped listening to them, and added some extra food for her. She was super happy and healthy after that. Sometimes you just can't (fully) breastfeed, regardless of how much you want to.

Baby formula is full of toxic seed oil. :(

It isn't, actually. The top definition for "toxic" in the dictionary is "containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation." Seed oil in no way qualifies as "toxic" - and it's definitely not as toxic as the purer-than-thou attitude so often wielded over new mothers, as if telling women who chose or were forced to use formula that they're poisoning their babies is actually helpful in any way.

Sorry, toxic seed oil is redundant. It's full of seed oil. Better than starving to death.

It's not a first choice, is it? Are phytoestrogens an issue?

Of course, breast milk is sometimes messed up, too, e.g. from alcohol.

The danger of maternal alcohol consumption to a nursing baby is vastly overstated. If you can manage to hold the baby in place, you're not drunk enough to stop nursing.