Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Let Your Feet Do the Shopping

I am still so mad that this is hard to write, so bear with me if I get a little ranty. Our family tries really hard to match our values and our spending dollars. Usually this happens quietly; no one might know why I choose one store over another, one brand over the next. Today I had the opportunity to really put my money where my heart was, but it was harder than I had ever expected.

In the small city that I live in there is one locally owned shop that caters to pregnant moms and children. They sell maternity wear, slings, kids’ clothes and shoes. The store is locally owned and has good quality (albeit pricey) stuff. I went in today to get both of my kids some new shoes and see what was on sale.

We shopped for over an hour and found what we needed, plus a little more. I went with the store owner to the till to pay, and noticed a little handwritten sign on the shelf above the till that read “Ask about free samples”. So I did. The owner told me that it was “just cans of Similac, though my little ones couldn’t tolerate it, and a tote bag for the hospital.” With a closer look I noticed that the sign was obscuring a box labeled “seventh month pregnancy pack” with the Ross-Abbott logo on it.

I asked the owner if she knew that handing out free formula samples undermines breastfeeding. She was immediately confrontational, and heatedly told me that she couldn’t breast feed “not a drop” and that it was a choice, and I shouldn’t shove breastfeeding down everyone’s throats. Excuse me?? I blinked and gulped as she continued to ring up my purchase. I jumped right in to the argument, because this formula feeding as choice thing really gets me riled up. IT’S NOT A CHOICE, IT’S A HEALTH DECISION. A choice that should be made with the help of a qualified medical professional, when the mother has been told the full risks of using artificial baby milk.

I told her how a formula fed baby in North America is FIVE time more likely to die in the first five years of life, than its breastfed counterpart. She countered with the “not everyone can breastfeed, I couldn’t”. I told her that I was very sorry that she didn’t have access to good breastfeeding help and a milk bank. And she again accused me of shoving breastfeeding down “everyone’s throat”.

I wanted to throw my purchases on the counter, demand my money back and walk out in a sanctimonious huff. I didn’t though, as I figured that I wouldn’t be able to calmly explain to my kids why Mommy wasn’t buying their nice new stuff. So I walked out of the store, and put my kids in the car. Then I told them what had happened, and how I thought that we should return the stuff and not shop there anymore. My six year-old was surprisingly understanding. He said “I don’t understand why a clothes store needs to give away bottle milk. Don’t they know it hurts babies?” I dropped the kids off, and returned to the store to return our stuff.

I was feeling calmer when I got there. I felt a sense of conviction. I had a plan. The store was thankfully quiet, I didn’t want another scene. The shop owner looked up at me and smiled. I smiled back and said “I was thinking about what you said, and you were right. It IS a choice, and I choose not to shop in your store. I’d like my money back please.” She began to go through my items, again talking about me not shoving breastfeeding down people’s throats. I told her that this had nothing to do with breastfeeding it had to do with her store’s choice to give out free samples and my choice not to support that. “There are a number of lovely shops in the city nearby that don’t undermine womens' health, and I will happily support them from now on.”

I refused to argue with her anymore, and she refused to give me my money back. The things I had bought were on sale, so she’d only give me a store credit. The receipt was ten minutes old! I was floored. My daughter had worn her shoes out of the store (to the car) so they were non-refundable. I backed down, and left, sad and feeling very defeated.

From the start I had only wanted to have an honest conversation with this woman. Instead I was attacked and humiliated because she couldn’t separate how she fed her kids from how she ran her business. So I came home and after the kids were in bed I wrote the store a letter about the WHO code. Then I wrote this.

by Lee-Ann Grenier


  1. The post script is:
    When I told my son what happened when I went back to the store he said "You should gather your friends together mom,this is not right, 100 is stronger than 1."
    Sage little dude.

  2. Good oh ya lee ann. I woulda ripped in and embarrassed myself and my kids... You are a strong woman.

  3. I understand where you are coming from because breastfeeding was important to me as well. I am one of the many that couldn't make it work and didn't have access to a milk bank. Its a very sensitive subject when you feel you're not doing all that you can for your child and the motherly duties you were born to do. I'm sure this woman feels the same way. I'm often embarrased when people ask me how I feed my baby because I have to tell them something I'm not happy with. Personally I don't think you needed to bring up the subject. I understand it's important to you but its very painful for people like me and we do feel like we're under attack. We all want what is best for our children and you probably made that woman feel like a bad mother which isn't true. She found an alternative that kept her baby alive.

  4. This woman probably thought that because she couldn't successfully breastfeed that she would be offering other woman a "choice".

    What she doesn't realize is that just as Lee-Ann has said, formula should be prescribed by a lactation specialist not a retail store owner.

    In her position as someone who has contact with and potential influence over pregnant and new mothers "she" is the one who is making a judgment by handing out free samples.

    I would be curious to know what she has to gain by doing this? I mean hospitals and doctors get incentives for it so I am curious as to what the independent store owner could possibly have to gain other than making herself "feel" better.

    Perhaps someone should kindly drop off a list of breastfeeding resources that she can offer her customers instead so she will indeed be offering them a choice.

    It is really too bad it has trickled down like this.

  5. As someone who tried my damnedest to make nursing work, this story annoys me.

    Yes, the decision to formula feed is one that should happen under the advisement of a doctor or lactation consultant, and yes, to the best of a mother's ability and the reach of her sanity, breast milk is best. The suggestion that "bottle milk...hurts babies," however, is self-righteous and just plain wrong.

    I began giving my child formula at three months when she was failing to gain sufficient weight while being exclusively breastfed. It was a painful choice, but one that was ultimately best for my child. While I still pump and give her as much breast milk as I can, I feel like I am constantly under assault from women who have better luck than I did. I didn't make this choice because it was the easy way out or because I didn't have good lactation support, I did it because it was what was best for my child....women who exclusively breastfeed do not have the market on doing what is best for their children.

  6. I keep hearing "choice", and "luck" from moms that feel they had to formula feed. I'm sure that each time, the decision was agonizing... but the number of women that are actually physically unable to breastfeed is very, very small. I strongly agree that formula should only be available after a consultation (covered by insurance) with a lactation consultant. Too often it's lack of knowledge about what normal breastfeeding looks like, insufficient help/support in the beginning, or other cultural practices that get in the way of successful breastfeeding.. It's not a failure of will, or a fault in the character in the moms that don't get off to a good start. The people that feel bad when other people point this out are getting mad at the wrong person.

  7. Lee-Ann- Great post. It's important to talk about and it's too bad it seems like we are pitted against each other as women and moms. There are enough people in the world not supporting moms that we need to support each other. We need to assume the best. Your post makes clear the distinction between personal decision/ need to formula feed (v. breastfeed) and a business decision to hand out formula. It's not about trying to make the owner feel bad or moralized about breastfeeding her own child(ren). It's about her business choices.

    Becky- "women who exclusively breastfeed do not have the market on doing what is best for their children." That is SO TRUE! I really believe that every mom does what is best for her child with the tools and information she has in that moment.

    This is more about making sure that *at the very least* there are a variety of tools and information available to moms. Women get all the pressure to breastfeed and not nearly enough support (tools and information)! This local business woman is confused in her form of support.

    Wouldn't it be great if women's health, reproductive needs and births (not to mention a host of other women-centered issues) had the attention they deserve from the variety of policy-makers in society?

  8. I feel compelled to share my story... I experienced significant challenges with my first birth (due to being told by a family member and my doctor growing up that I couldn't birth naturally) and that carried through to my breastfeeding relationship with my first child. Because of the epidural I thought I needed, I was put through a series of interventions which thus effected my daughter.

    I was younger then, and didn't have the support necessary...didn't know how to access the resources I needed, yet I knew I wanted to breastfeed my daughter more than anything. Her head had a large blood blister-type sore from the use of the vacuum extractor, the sides of her head were bruised by the forceps and her mouth and nose had been forcibly suctioned because of the presence of meconium in the amniotic fluid. She had experienced trauma.

    The staff at the hospital (in Edmonton) were less than helpful. They shoved her at my breast and handled her roughly. She screamed each time pushing herself as far from my breast as she could get. After all, in their eyes, I was a stupid inexperienced first-time mother, what did I know? I cried and kicked nurses out of my room. I couldn't believe I was failing at nurturing and nourishing my child!

    Finally, my doctor suggested I tell the staff I was formula feeding so they'd let us check out of hospital. They had already fed her formula when they removed her from my room the first night we were there... I was so angry! We left hospital and I continued trying to get her to latch. Health nurses came and went...in the meantime we gave our daughter formula as she still appeared to want nothing to do with my breast. I was soon diagnosed with postpartum depression. Formula...hell...and more damn formula...

    I hate when people say it's a choice. It was NEVER my choice. I breastfed my son after a beautiful natural doula-attended birth just 22 months after my daughter's birth. I promote breastfeeding and am an adamant lactavist! I didn't choose formula... I had difficulty breastfeeding, yes, that is true. But, I never, EVER chose formula... I knew what was best for my child and still do. Formula was a last resort and I still beat myself up over listening to others opinions about what I and my body were capable of.

    Formula is offered to quickly and made too readily available. As parents we educate our children about drug pushers, now we must educate our daughters about "formula pushers." It's atrocious that so many mothers are not receiving accurate information or access to the supports they so desperately need to breastfeed their children. We must empower our daughters, our sisters, friends, nieces and all the women of the world... breastfeeding begins before birth!

  9. I gotta say this post comes off as really snotty and annoying. I understand not having formula samples pushed in hospitals, I do. But this is a womans personal business. I think you need to consider who ELSE felt attacked and humiliated, and in her own store! You may as well have walked into her house and started passing judgement.

    It's nice that you feel she's wrong-o in believing that she could not breastfeed. But you don't know her story, and you aren't her care provider or lactation consultant. Maybe, if things had gone differently, it would have been possible for her. But it sounds like given the circumstances, formula was needed. It is not for you (or us) to judge her on this. And while I understand you were only trying to do good and make some suggestions about her store, this is obviously a subject that hits close to home for her. I know mothers that gave it their bitter all BFing, went to a bazillion consultants, still nothing worked, and they still feel tremendous loss and heartache that they are unable to breastfeed.

    Do not assume that this woman made her choice flippantly, like what color shirt she was going to put on that morning. I think after you left the first time you should have just not gone to her store again if it bothered you so much. Give the items you bought to a needy family and go about your life. Telling formula feeding mothers that actually did try to breastfeed that they just needed more this (knowledge) that (support) or the other thing (determination) is not only not helpful, it is hurtful.

    Ugh. Maybe if we had fewer posts like these going around women who are unable to breastfeed would feel a little less defensive when this subject comes up. (For the record, my boobs work just fine, but knowing my best friend still has issues liking her breasts and has traced it back to her feelings of failure surrounding not being able to breastfeed her baby many years ago, this stuff really, really bothers me.)

  10. I think you trying to educate her in a non-confrontational way was a very good idea and I'm sorry it backfired on you.
    There is one thing I'd like to point out, though. I know how important it is to educate the public on this so please don't take this the wrong way. But your flippant "I was very sorry that she didn’t have access to good breastfeeding help and a milk bank. " was poorly thought out, imo.
    There are several points I'd make here. #1 you have absolutely no idea what it was that kept her from being able to nurse. You don't know her, her life story, where she comes from, what's going on with her body, what was going on with her baby, how hard she tried OR what kind of support system she did or did not have.
    #2 You statement is exactly what mainstream mothers hate: a subtle blaming of her for not trying hard enough. It's basically completely dismissing her story, or invalidating the circumstances surrounding her choice to formula feed her baby. I don't think you meant it that way but that is what you were doing.
    There are MANY reasons why breastfeeding doesn't work out for mothers and no, the solutions for us aren't necessarily as simple as a good lactation consultant or a milk bank (are you serious!? Do you know how much $$ you are talking about?!). You statement was offensive, pat and thoughtless, though again, I'm sure you didn't mean it that way. If someone had said that to me I might have seriously lost my temper .
    My son is formula fed because he WOULD have starved to death otherwise. I'm not ashamed of it and for me, it wasn't a choice. He has a complete tongue tie that is so severe in the *back* that he literally cannot transfer enough milk from the breast to stay alive. The bottom line is that without the formula, he'd be dead. And don't talk to me about milk banks, that was NOT an option for me. I can't afford it and my son was not a preemie so it's hard to get it for him anyway. Are you going to apologize to me for not having "adequate support"? It is absolutely true that MOST women can breastfeed and that only 2% of the women in the world are literally incapable of feeding their children. But 2% of the world's women is roughly 65,836,100 women!!! That is a lot of people so chances are that many of the women who believe this about their own stories ARE CORRECT
    There are many other reasons why breastfeeding doesn't happen and we are never going to normalize breastfeeding until we can acknowledge some of those reasons as VALID and work to bring about changes in society that make those reasons no longer an issue.
    Don't let yourself get sucked into a hurt-feelings battle. Next time, perhaps it would be wiser not to argue. Certainly state your opinion and then just let it go. You have no idea what your words will do later, when you aren't around to watch. Not only did you offend her personally but you went so far as to withdraw your support for a wonderful little community store she put together, in her own way, trying to help other women!
    Maybe you could go back and try to smooth things over. Maybe ask if she'd mind if you left some LLL pamphlets to leave with the free samples. Present a supportive face and see how far THAT gets you. A free sample doesn't HAVE to undermine breastfeeding. Chances are that the only women who are going to ask for a sample are women that are already using formula!

    Anyway, I hope I haven't offended you. I really appreciate where you are coming from and believe me, I've certainly offended plenty of people with my pro-breastfeeding, extended nursing stance. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to do what you did and overall, I applaud you for it. I just think it could be handled better in the future, is all. We have SO much work to do to normalize breastfeeding and start healing the wounds our sisters are carrying, don't you think? More strife is not likely to further our cause.

  11. @ Rebekah- thank you for your thoughtful critique.
    i just want to touch on your comment about the money involved in milk banking. I will agree that it is an expensive prospect, but I know that providing ALL babies with access to breastmilk costs FAR less than the health risks associated with not breastfeeding, not to mention the environmental costs of manufacturing and feeding artificial baby milk. Imagine if we decided that running bloodbanks was too costly, and tried to pass off a cheap and inferior synthetic blood sustitute. Would you stand for that.
    Please visit the infact canada website and read the pdf called "What You Need to Know About the International Code" to learn more about why these free samples REALLY do hurt breastfeeding.Also check out the one called the 14 risks of formula feeding.

  12. As I business owner I am appalled that she would talk to you like that regardless of the topic. The customer is always right. I can't believe that she got into with you. I would call the BBB and complain.
    As for the formula propaganda...I formula fed (supplemented) my first and exclusively breastfed my second and those underhanded "free" samples just make me crazy. It's like saying, "Don't even bother, its not going to work, and when it doesn't *this* formula is the best." What other product can do that? Be allowed in stores and hospitals to hit the exact demographic?!?!

  13. Lee-Ann, I am sorry that such a casual trip turned out to be such an issue. I also feel sorry and sad for the kiddos who must have been just excited about the new shoes... I think there have been enough discussion about the breastfeeding and I won't get into that, but since you already have the store credit maybe you could just get your daughter those shoes back. I know if my kids like something to the point of "can-i-please-wear-it-right-now" it must be pretty awesome :) You made your point clear with the breastfeeding and all, but still you are losing money on this if you don't plan on buying anything else from the store... Just a thought.

  14. Vira- When she offered me the store credit I refused it and told her that my point was to not give her business my money, so my kids got their shoes, although my son won't wear his. ;)

  15. While I completely agree that breastfeeding is so so important and beneficial, and obviously the best choice, I don't think women need to be made to feel guilty for not doing it. We all do what we think is best for our families, and you don't know anyone else's story.

    I appreciate your desire to educate and I think it's very important, but education is different from judgement and your interaction came off as more judgemental than anything else. You have every right not to shop in that store, but there is no reason to make a woman feel bad for HER choices for HER family.

  16. I think you did the right thing. I'm another person that is in strong favor of prescription formula. It should only be used when a trained professional has deemed a woman truly unable to breastfeed..

    The WHO organization says that formula is the 4TH choice when it comes to feeding a baby, not the second.. First is straight from the breast, second is expressed milk, third is donor milk and fourth is formula.

    It's true that milk banks are expensive and out of most people's reach. However, there is a strong community of women that will donate milk their extra milk for free. There is a Yahoo group called MILKSHARE that brings donors and babies together. If everyone that could breastfeed did and the remaining babies got donated milk there would be very little need for formula. I donate milk to a woman that can not breastfeed because of a breast reduction. There are legit reasons, lets help these women out!


  17. I would have, and have done similar things Lee-Anne -- honestly, I don't think people understand or even know what the WHO code for advertising breastmilk substitues really is. I was at the Family-A-Fair in Calgary last year and "ran" into one of the forumla reps in the bathroom... LOL!! At one point during the day I went to one of their many booths and asked them if they gave out breastfeeding information to mamas who wanted to breastfeed. The woman was VERY defensive, and wouldn't talk to me... and I continued to see women walking around with cans and cans of free formula in their strollers and bags... little do they know that many women will "give up" breastfeeding because of them, their company and their unbelieveable disrespect for the WHO code, and breastfeeding in general... we need more people like you Lee-Anne, more people that are willing to stand up for breastfeeding, no matter what the risk!!

    -- Daleen

  18. I really don't need to read yet another list of all the dangers of formula feeding. I think you might have missed the part where I said I've been breastfeeding for 5yrs and my son is only formula fed for medical reasons.

    I support the idea of prescription formula as well as free milk banks. Supporting these sorts of things and spreading awareness to the public that this is an option we have is, imo, far more effective than humiliating someone trying to do a good thing in her own store.

    Just sayin'

  19. I am a strong advocate for Breastfeeding and think every mom should at the very least TRY. I have breastfed 4 children. They ALL got formula at one time or another towards the year mark, and with my twins, I was thankfully able to BF for almost 7 months. Then I opened a store and the stress of everything caused my milk supply to drop drastically. I tried everything, went to LLL meetings, called a lactation specialist, consulted my ob, drank the tea, tried yoga, pumped, all to no avail. I do not feel guilty giving my twins formula. While I am depressed about not being able to BF for a year, I am empowered to have done it with twins for as long as I did.
    That being said, breastfeeding IS A CHOICE. We might not agree that it is not the right choice for us, but non the less, it is the mothers choice!
    As far as a store handing out samples...what's the big deal really? If a mom uses formula samples are great, if they are already a breastfeeder then the samples are a mute point.

  20. @ Rebekah- What "good" was the store owner trying to do exactally?

    @momof2plustwins- It is well researched and documented what harm giving free formula samples to already (or intending to) breastfeeding mother does.


  21. Did you maybe stop and think that she was defensive because she felt guilty because she didn't breastfeed? Or were you so caught up in self righteousness that you didn't consider her situation? Too busy patting yourself on the back for your shopping values?

    People like you give lactivists a bad name. It's a real shame, because information is imperative in this, but it needs to be given with love and respect.

  22. I consider myself a lactivist. Neither of my kids received an ounce of formula. I nursed my daughter until she turned four and my son still nurses.

    While I understand your intentions, I think that it could have been done so in a gentler way. The store owner felt attacked in her own store. You may have not viewed it so, but she did. She still feels the guilt of not being able to nurse her child. You pretty much implied that she didn't try hard enough by your little apology about not having "good enough breastfeeding help." How do you know?

    And while you are correct about formula can damage the breastfeeding relationship, you could have broached the subject without the self righteousness. By saying that it undermines breastfeeding, is just inviting an argument. Recognize that store owner had good intentions, but also educate her without accosting her. I have changed many minds by listening to them. If you truly want to change people's minds respect goes a long way. There comes a time to make some noise (i.e. right to breastfeed in public, standing up against corporal punishment, right to home birth), and there is a time to just educate.

  23. I agree with veganbaby's comment above. Frankly, if I were the shop owner I would have refused to sell you anything because of the self righteous attitude you took in raising your opinion about the products sold and gifted in her store. I would have asked you to leave the store and not come back.

    I believe in speaking up and sharing one's point of view - I do it all the time. But I know that delivery is key and will make or break the impression you make. I've broken many myself and I think you just did too. Maybe next time you can try to win her over rather than alienate and offend.

  24. I am curious as to where you got the stats that FF kids are more likely to die before age 5.

  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. Sooooo, you go way out on a limb to argue with someone about something that she is giving out (optionally, for free) in her own store, no doubt making her feel like a bad mom in the process, and she's the jerk?

  27. People like you who "advocate" breastfeeding are the kind of people who invalidate all of those people (like myself) who struggled for months to pump only to have our supplies dry up. Its unfortunate you need to devalue everyone else who doesn't see things your way in order to feel like you got your opinion across. Kudos to you for hurting the cause you are trying to further.

  28. Honestly? You people agree with how this person treated the shop owner? I actually feel a bit sick for this women because of what YOU posted that you said to her. And not only do I feel a bit sick for this women, I feel even more sick that your children is being taught that "formula feeding makes babies sick". Great thing to teach them mom. Hopefully for them and you, their children will NEVER need to use formula to survive in an awful situation.

    I formula fed my children. It was MY CHOICE to do so. Not my doctors, not my ped's, not my family and NOT anyone who puts their nasty business in my life. I never have felt bad about formula feeding my children, and am very happy with their development and "gasp" one has made it past the age of 5 and I am a confident that my 3 year old will do the same lol. Oh, and the customer is not always right, especially when they are being very judgmental and pretty much snooty. People LIKE YOU are what makes formula feeders and a lot of breast feeders want to grab you by the neck and shake you to get you to open up. You did not know her or anyone else's situation, and frankly lol it is none of your business and does not concern you. Shame on you for your actions. And then to GO BACK IN THERE and want your money back lol and think that she was going to kiss your behind and give it to you lol. You are living in this dream world.

  29. This is disturbing to me.

    I formula fed my son. He too survived past 5 (Hi5 right? Making it against the odds!). He's 10 now - smart as a whip and healthy as a horse. When I had my son he was LGA - Large for Gestational Age. He was a 10lb baby, a small tank if you will. He was also born with a respiratory infection because he "breathed" before he was fully out, my labour was very difficult. This created serious issues with breast feeding, as he couldn't breathe through his nose to latch on. He was fine with a bottle, so I started the process of pumping after every feeding. This went fine in the hospital, where they have big fancy machines that latch on and take no more than 5 minutes to complete the pumping process. However, when you get home and can't afford more than a hand pump it's a very different story.

    I remember waking up to him crying at 3 or 4 in the morning, he'd come snuggle in bed and I'd bottle feed him. I'd then have to stay up to pump, or I would wake up engorged and in agony. I remember sitting in bed sobbing after every feeding, because my mother - like you - made me feel like less of a human being because he just wouldn't do it, the little bugger loved his bottle. I had nurses give me little contraptions that suctioned cupped to my nipple, and did nothing more than confuse my son even worse and make me even more emotional. The process would take about an hour and a half with each feeding, burping, and pumping session. I quickly became sleep deprived, and absolutely miserable. I was a zombie - my mother pushed, and I kept going with the routine in spite of my own health.

    After about 2 months I had gained 40lbs - I was in a massive depression and had zero energy to get back to training (I ran 5k a day up until I was a few months pregnant and walked it thereafter). I walked around the house sobbing all day and felt like a horrible mother because I couldn't do it, and that made me less of a woman according to my mother. My house was a disaster; I couldn't keep up with anything. I felt like the walls were caving in on me.

    My best friend came to visit from England at about 2.5 months old. She looked at me and literally gasped. I had not slept in over 2 months, had gained a ridiculous amount of weight, and started sobbing as soon as I opened the door. We had a coffee and talked about everything, she went to the drug store bought me a can of formula, and told me to tell my mother to stick it, because there is no way I can be a good parent like this. She comes from a nursing background, so is not an idiot or uneducated about the facts, nor was I, as I listened to people like you preach for months and had done research.

    Within 2 weeks I was up and running again, and a totally different person- one with sleep and HEALTH. My house was clean, my life was happier, and my relationship with my son was much more about play, love, and interaction instead of sobbing and grief.

    I took flack from people like you for years and to think that some mother out there going through what I went through might read this and feel like she is less of a human being because you have ridiculous ideals makes me sick. I don’t want to think about how deep that spiral could have gone if my friend had not stepped in and stood up for me.

    The only thing I regret is not being in the shop to tell you just how ridiculous you are. It is a choice, one that should be an educated decision... but if you believe that I made the wrong decision I welcome you to give me a shout, I'll introduce my healthy happy son to your kids and tell them that he was formula fed and survived... shocking right?

  30. You were so mad that you could hardly write this? Are you serious?

    I don't know what's worse you confronting the woman in her own store about something that is ultimately NOT your business or you spewing this crap onto your 6 year old child.

    I'm not pro breast or formula feeding, I'm pro whatever is BEST for the baby and the mom.

    I will never understand this debate between mothers. It's like a pissing match... 'I'm the best mommy because I breast fed!!!! I love my child more!!!!'


  31. You're a bitch and ill-informed about formula feeding... clearly formula fed kids are more likely to die (massive eye roll) because clearly most of the people alive today were breastfed. If you knew how hard of a struggle I've had along with others, you probably would be taken down a few notches.

  32. Wow. Just wow. This is horrifying.

  33. I mostly feel sorry for your 6 year old son who is being brainwashed to believe that formula hurts babies. Lactivists like yourself hurt your cause and turn people off. Sad.

  34. Angie said: "I mostly feel sorry for your 6 year old son who is being brainwashed to believe that formula hurts babies."

    Not to beat a dead horse but.... study after study has concluded that human milk is THE optimal food for human babies. Would it not stand to reason that babies that are not fed human milk, on average, grow and develop in less than optimal ways? Aren't babies who do not receive human milk, in effect, statistically speaking, being set up to live their lives with less than optimal bodies? I mean, isn't that what the studies are saying? Formula does the job, but human milk is optimal - right? Putting aside those instances where the options are formula or starvation - how is setting a baby up for a life lived within a body that is less than it could have been not hurting that baby? Sure they are alive and doing "fine" - and undoubtedly amazing and wonderful human beings. But don't the studies suggest that, again statistically speaking, there bodies could have served them better throughout their entire lives, if they had been nourished with human milk at the start?

    And please - I'm not trying to make anyone feel bad about their choices. I'm looking at the information and asking questions that seem to me to be logical ones.

  35. Wow. There are so many things wrong with this post, I just don't know where to start. Are you even aware of how ignorant and judgmental you sound here? Since you seem to think you are the wronged party in this incident, I suspect not, so I will outline it for you.

    First, you're right. Breastfeeding is not always a choice. Some women don't HAVE the choice. There are many, many reasons why a woman may formula-feed her infant. Some women are medically or biologically unable to breastfeed; others experience so many challenges with the process and lack the resources and/or the finances to pursue assistance from a lactation consultant, or milk from a milk bank.

    Furthermore - as Sydney Spiesel points out in his Slate article, there are numerous economic and educational reasons why a woman may not breastfeed that also impact the long-term health of a child, thus skewing the results. Specifically, low-income mothers have been shown to be less likely to breastfeed. Low-income families are also less likely to be able to afford good healthcare or to healthy food a regular basis. They are less likely to have access to strong educational systems, or to be able to afford quality daycare. They are more likely to smoke and drink. The fact that these children may experience health problems as they grow older is not exactly surprising, and it is both impossible and ridiculous to single out formula as the culprit.

    Of course, this is an opinion piece, so take it as you will, but there have also been recent scientific studies indicating that as wonderful as breastfeeding it, its benefits are grossly overstated. I've linked a few for you below in case you wish to educate yourself. There are others. On that note, I'd love to know where you got your statistic about a formula-fed baby in North America being "5 times more likely to die in the first five years of life." This is fabricated. Granted, there are some developing countries that do offer similar statistics, but that has a lot more to do with the fact that many poverty-stricken people do not have access to clean water with which to mix the formula. Throw in a host of other health problems, and of course you're going to get some alarming statistics.

    Regardless of where she lives, however, a mother that has been coached in the best way to breastfeed, is likely also getting proper prenatal and maternal care and better access to proper nutrition. All of these things also improve the overall and long-term health of a child.

    But sometimes... sometimes a woman just chooses not to breastfeed. And that's okay. In and of itself, this does NOT make her a poor mother and it doesn't mean her kid isn't as lucky as yours.

    Explain to me, please, how this woman "attacked and humiliated" YOU. Seems to me like it was the other way around. What, exactly, did you expect when you approached her in this condescending and judgmental way??

    Moreover, handing out free formula samples at a store that sells children's items does not undermine breastfeeding any more than offering a cheeseburger at a bar undermines vegetarianism. Smoking has been shown to increase heart disease and cancer. Do you ask for your money back when you visit an establishment that sells cigarettes? Your hypocrisy is simply astounding.

    Now. I do agree that breastfeeding is a beautiful thing for a number of different reasons and if my husband and I are so lucky as to be blessed with a child, I hope that it works out for me. But if for some reason I can't or decide not to, I won't let women like you make me feel like I am less of a mother for it. Our child will be loved, and will receive the very best we can provide him or her.

    Yes, I will be every bit as good of a mother as you are... and perhaps better because my children will learn to respect other people. From the way this reads, that's a lesson your kids won't be getting from you.


  36. Meghann, there is a huge body of evidence that clearly establishes that
    a)babies do not develop optimally when not breastfed &
    b)formula is sometimes contaminated, used incorrectly, etc, resulting in death or illness.

    The study you cite does not support your point. Poor methodology was used. In the last line, the authors state "Low exclusive breastfeeding rates and lack of coverage for health visits may be reasons for this finding." How do you study breastfeeding if it isn't exclusive?

    The others are articles that misreported the actual findings of the study.

    Handing out formula samples is directly associated with breastfeeding failure- that is why it is done. That is why the WHO created the Code on the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes 30 years ago & continues to review & endorse it today. That is why hospitals & clinics applying for Baby Friendly status must ditch the formula freebies in order to qualify.

    Your argument about cigarettes & hamburgers is specious. Adults have a choice about what they eat, infants do not. In our jurisdiction, policymakers have decided that cigarettes are so dangerous they cannot be displayed publically. They must be hidden behind closed doors. Why? Because it is well recognised that marketing a product that can cause harm...causes harm.

  37. Arie -

    Ah, but I didn't say that breastfeeding isn't better (most of the time) for the infant... I said that its effects are OVERSTATED. There are growing studies (use Google under scholarly articles. They're not hard to find.) that show that breastfeeding may not, in fact, prevent cancer, asthma, obesity, etc. As you said in your own post, it is impossible to isolate breastfeeding from other factors. If you've noticed, most of the studies that support breastfeeding cite the same biases. Even in sibling studies, they are beginning to see only a slight IQ advantage, indicating that these other factors might be more to "blame" for potential health issues.

    And my argument about cigarettes and hamburgers was quite valid. My point was the OP marched into this woman's establishment and demanded to return material she had just purchased because she didn't agree with a product that she was selling. A product, I might add, THAT AN ADULT WOULD PURCHASE. I was just wondering if she does the same when other establishments sell products that could be bad for your health. Furthermore, second-hand smoke DOES affect people who don't choose to smoke. Most places here in the US no longer allow people to smoke indoors, but there are still some that do (depending, often, upon percentage of alcohol to food sales.) I choose not to visit those places that have smoking sections, but if I inadvertently wind up in one, I don't start bitching at the people who work there or who are smoking there because they are undermining my health. Anyway, they might have to hide cigarettes where you live (and kudos to your lawmakers for that one) but here in the United States (and many other countries) this is not the case.

    Again, not every woman has access to or the money to pay for a lactation consultant and a milk bank. Until these things are offered to all women free of charge, I don't see a problem with formula being offered as an option to those who experience challenges.

    Lastly - with regard to contaminated formula: Of course, that is awful. However, the dairy industry (alongside with the beef, chicken and pork industries) distribute contaminated products to us all the time. Do you avoid feeding your kids these things? Unless you are feeding them all whole and organic foods, with a heavy emphasis on fruits and vegetables (and little to no dairy or meat), your argument kind of falls to pieces.

    Regardless, I don't have a problem with the OPs cause. I also think breastfeeding is better overall. I take major issue, though, with the say she handled this situation. She didn't promote mutual understanding; instead she went in there in an arrogant and offensive manner. Instead of coming off as enlightened - which I'm sure was her goal - she appeared ignorant. Maybe she should instead spend her time learning how to become a lactation consultant and spending her weekends volunteering in women's clinics? Or maybe offer a support group to help women share what worked for them? There are so many ways she could spread "the message" in a positive manner. By attacking this woman, she only alienated her and made her go home to her family and say "listen to what a total douche this woman was."

  38. Meghann-
    Wow you seem to know a lot about my life.
    I am in fact a lactation consultant, and also volunteer, and have for years, supporting breastfeeding women as an accredited La Leche League Leader. (The store in question used to put out our BFing info, they stopped about the same time the "free samples" came in.) I teach classes and lecture nursing students, do free public speaking and paid engagements, thanks though for the encouragement.

    I didn't just walk into the store and demand they change. I spent over an hour talking to the woman, learning about her and her family, trying to build a bit of a relationship. I asked about the samples and asked if she knew the implications and public health ramifications for handing them out.

    This store doesn't SELL formula. It sells children's clothes and shoes. There's a huge responsibility shift that happens when you pay for something vs. when you get it for free.
    If I walked into a store (or bar, or restaurant) that was handing out cigarette samples I'd give them a piece of my mind too! And not shop there.
    You seem pleased that our government has strict laws around the marketing and distribution of cigs. It took many loud and active people to make the changes here to make this law. Less than 30 years ago children could walk to the corner store here and buy cigs. We smartened up as a society, learned about the health risks of smoking, and FOUGHT LIKE HELL to have things changed. Ditto here.
    I'm not against formula, in fact my son used it, and it's an intervention I sometimes suggest my clients explore. In fact I do believe that artificial baby milk can be lifesaving. That being said I will continue to fight for all babies to have access to human milk (hopefully for free)and the safest formula possible.

  39. Quote: "I'm not against formula, in fact my son used it, and it's an intervention I sometimes suggest my clients explore. In fact I do believe that artificial baby milk can be lifesaving. That being said I will continue to fight for all babies to have access to human milk (hopefully for free)and the safest formula possible."

    This phrase right here is something I can get behind. I absolutely believe in fighting for all babies to have access to human milk. Particularly in developing countries, this is especially important, where access to clean water is a HUGE problem and breastfeeding is critical in fighting diarrhea, which is the leading cause of death in the developing world.

    Your commentary re: free vs. selling is also a valid point. (Although, as "food" for thought, I will point out that grocery stores frequently do have free samples of pork, beef, chicken and cheese that have also been shown to put people at a health disadvantage.)

    And, I 100% agree that change happens through activism. As a liberal who has many pet causes, I think it's vital to stand up for what you believe in, and engage in work that promotes it. Since you volunteer as a lactation consultant, it's clear that you do work toward the goal of increasing the numbers of breastfeeding women in a positive manner. I'm hoping that through your volunteer efforts, you work in low-income communities where women desperately need that assistance.

    However, I maintain that the way to move forward through this is not by making women who have used formula feel as though they are less of a woman, or failures as parents. Your initial account of the interaction between you and the lady in the store demonstrated more of the sanctimonious witnessing that is a huge turnoff in any cause.

    As an example, I'm a vegetarian. If I am having a discussion with someone about eating meat, it's important for me not to let my passion around the subject override my ability to reach them. It's not helpful if I speak down to them, or make them feel as though I am judging them for being an omnivore. I have a soapbox and I often step on it, but I'm careful about how I do this to avoid alienating people who may have an interest in learning about vegetarianism, but certainly don't need to be made to feel like they are less of a person if they choose to order fried chicken every now and then.

    You clarified in this follow-up post, and it's good to know that this was more an exchange of an ideas and opinions. A good conversation is almost always the way forward to promoting understanding.

  40. Thanks for your dedication and hard work Lee-Ann.

  41. I could not have handled that! I would have junmped all over her! Good control!

  42. While breastfeeding is important to me, and I believe that it is the best food for my baby, I find this post absolutely ridiculous.

    Do you refuse to shop in any store that sells formula, too? It must be difficult for you to venture out of the house to so many places that "undermine women's health."

    My ob/gyn gives out Similac coupons and samples at almost every appointment. I simply say, "No thank you. I'm breastfeeding."

    It's that easy.

  43. I think I'd like to add a little comment here about why handing out free formula samples is bad for breastfeeding.

    I have always known that I would breastfeed my babies. In fact, half the reason why I shelled out half my life savings to hire a midwife was because I "knew" that having a midwife around would increase my chances of a successful breastfeeding relationship. I knew that breastfeeding would be difficult, I just didn't know HOW difficult.

    Breastfeeding got off to a bad start for my daughter and I. I spent the first two weeks of her life bawling and crying because I was in SO much pain. My nipples were cracked and sore and bled. All.the.time. I remember telling my husband that I would rather give birth to her every single day (drug-free!) than have to endure the pain of her latching on one more time. It hurt that bad. I called my midwife. I was told to wait it out- "it will pass." It eventually did. The only reason why I didn't resort to formula at that point was because I didn't want to admit to my midwife that I had "failed" at breastfeeding. It eventually got better. For about three and a half to four months, I had a successful nursing relationship with my daugther. Then it started to hurt again. Real bad. I tried to tough it out. I told myself what my midwife had told me- "it will pass." It didn't. It got to the point that breastfeeding was so painful for me, that anytime my daughter stirred, my first thought was, "please, PLEASE don't be hungry. I would rather do ANYTHING than feed you right now." A horrible thought. I didn't know there were support groups. I didn't know about LLL. I didn't know I could pay an LC to help me. I was the only one of my friends at that point with a baby. I had no one to go to for support. I had no idea this network of lactivist women exisited. What I did know, was that there was a small can of Nestle formula in the back of my pantry. It showed up in my mailbox a few months prior. I'm pretty sure they got ahold of my info at the retail store where I purchased my very first set of maternity clothes (a retail store that does not sell formula or infant food). After seeing the bloodstains on the inside of my nursing bra, I decided to feed my daughter formula for the first time. Ahhhh, sweet relief! Wait, no. It was hardly relief at all. I was so sad and disappointed with myself for having to resort to formula. I really thought I had done my research. I really thought I could successfully BF my baby. I tried to continue to nurse her after my nipples had a few days to heal, but by that point, I was almost dried up. My daughter was 4.5 months old the last time I breasfed her.

    My point here is this. When companies, be them retail store owners, doctors' offices, hospitals or the like, hand out free formula samples, it DOES undermine breastfeeding. I had a choice that day. Figure out how to make this breasfeeding thing work, or give my daughter formula. The formula was right there in my kitchen. It took 3 minutes for me to prepare it. Seeking BFing help would have taken an hour. Maybe two. Maybe two days. I was having a weak moment and took the easy way out. Breastfeeding can be difficult. That's why it's so important for women to have access to BFing help, more so than free formula samples. Because it IS difficult, it does NOT come naturally (for lots of us) and there is a LOT of misinformation out there. So those who are knowledgable about breastfeeding- NORMAL breastfeeding, proper breastfeeding, SUCCESSFUL breastfeeding, please, PLEASE keep talking about it! Spread the word! There are women out there who are listening!

  44. Until the day that I see formula companies actually pulling babies off of their mother's breasts and forcing formula down their throats, I am content to let mothers make that call, and not be a self righteous prig that thinks I know better for every mother, and thinks all women are so weak and susceptible to marketing and pressure that one sample will be all it takes to make them feed their little precious baby poison!

    - proud mother of two extended breastfed children.