Breast is Best?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hanna Rosin, contributing editor at The Atlantic, will talk about her controversial story in this month's issue "The Case Against Breast Feeding."


Hanna Rosin

Comments [55]

Susan Burger from Upper West Side

A question for Brian Lehrer -- when are you going to do a companion show that will provide the other side of the picture from those who actually are well versed in public health? As I understand you do have a degree in public health --- mine was from Johns Hopkins where Miriam Labbok was one of my professors. She called into this show and posted on this site and would be excellent on the topic of the risks of formula. Chris Mulford would be excellent on the topic of the underrated VALUE of the time and energy women invest in breastfeeding --- which need addressing because this is the normal way to feed. Breastfeeding should be VALUED. To use a popular term -- it is creating the infrastructure for better health. Heck, I'd even be willing to go on since I have a PhD in Nutritional Sciences from Cornell and a MHS from Hopkins --- but I'd probably focus on how I have to mop up after the mommy wars all the time and shore up women who are constantly criticized while they are desparately trying to figure out how to feed their infants with inadequate support.

Susan Burger

Mar. 24 2009 10:02 AM
Susan Burger from Upper West Side

I can't help but commenting on #11 about it being a private matter and that the solution is to use a pump. First and foremost, infants happen to be the group that is most discriminated against when it comes to eating. The very idea so pervasive in our culture that babies should not eat in public or only eat if their heads are covered in the dark or only eat in the bathroom would never fly if we applied this to a particular religious group, ethnic or cultural group, race, sexual orientation or the elderly. Why is it that infants are discriminating against in such a manner? Moreover, the fact that it is considered reasonable for infants to only be fed under a cover, in the bathroom, at home, but never in public disproves the claim that women who are breastfeeding receive more negative comments than those who do not. I have never known a single woman who is bottle feeding be asked to cover up her infant's head or go into the bathroom.


Mar. 24 2009 09:54 AM
Beth from New York

It is so ridiculous to even take the time to question the benefits of mothers' milk - the completely natural way EVERY OTHER MAMMAL ON THE PLANET feeds their young, without discussing the dangers of formula.

Funky, man-made ingredients aside, no can of formula is sterile. It is not required by law to be nor is it stated that it is. Children die from bacteria that is in improperly prepared formula (i.e., water not brought to boiling). And I'm not talking in Africa. This happens in the US (recent case in Illinois). And there are countless cases of recalls from manufacturing mistakes - too much of one ingredient, wrong ingredients, not enough of something. Recalled after it's on the market, therefore some babies have already consumed it (Melamine in China was found in US formula, too).

Why would you possible take the time to questions breastmilk, the normal way to feed a baby, instead of the artificial way? If the problem is that some women can't, for physical or emotional reasons, then let's blow open the doors on the multimillion dollar formula business instead of going after the mothers...

Mar. 20 2009 03:05 PM
Maria Richter from Brooklyn

9. If a new mother is unable to breastfeed or chooses not to for various reasons related to lifestyle, so be it. Since Rosen mentions Dr. Sears, I will say the Attachment Parenting (the lifestyle/movement with which he is associated) never advocates a parent persisting in a situation that would result in lack of psychological wellbeing—it’s all about striking a balance. Rosen has feelings of guilt or thinks she is being “judged” for contemplating feeding her child formula, but this is no reason to attack breastfeeding as being some pervasive, oppressive, societal dictum. Instead, since she is reading Betty Friedan, why not take issue with the sort of insecure, condemnatory attitudes that women inflict upon one another, which interfere with the ability to achieve their full potential? Or for that matter, look at the big picture, namely: the lack of acceptance of and a place for breastfeeding, the lack of realistic maternity leave (to say as she does in the video: “America will never be Sweden” is a cop-out), and the lack of help transitioning back to work after having a child. In short, it is as if there is still a denial in this society that women bear children and that this is a life-changing event that requires accommodations to ensure that women are able to maintain equal footing with men in society and the workplace throughout their lives. Assailing the choice to breastfeed, which remains the optimal way to nourish an infant, is beside the point.

Mar. 20 2009 01:36 PM
Maria Richter from Brooklyn

6. Watching the accompanying videos on the Atlantic’s webpage of Rosen and her friends discussing the article, I get the feeling that they are a small, elite group who enjoy generalizing about topics beyond their areas of expertise, and these may then form the foundation of articles that seep into the mainstream as “truths”. For instance, they all agreed that wanting a one’s offspring to have a better life, to be “an investment in the future” was a product of affluence. That is offensive. People from all classes want their child to thrive and succeed in ways that they haven’t.
7. Also, in the accompanying videos, Rosen mentions La Leche League during a discussion about pumping, saying “milk is the ultimate elixir,” and she implies that for LLL the milk itself is more important than the act of nursing and the comfort it brings. Since I know this is not indicative of LLL’s stance, I question the accuracy of the other points she makes about them.
8. Breastfeeding is damned hard, but with support and information it can be easier. There is no reason to belittle lactation consultants—as in: “yes, this is an actual profession”—they provide a valuable service.

Mar. 20 2009 01:35 PM
Maria Richter from Brooklyn

1. Rosen's article is provocative, and that translates into profit.
2. The piece is conflicted—note the wistful final paragraph where Rosen laments that one day (much sooner than she comprehends, I think) the intimate connection she has with her child while breastfeeding will be no more.
3. The doctor who called in is completely on target: Hanna Rosen is not a medical expert; she “sat up” late at night and read through studies from a medical library, and “after a couple of hours” gleaned what she needed to know. This is not sound research.
4. Rosen is in an isolated community. Her own statistics state: “17 percent nurse exclusively for at least six months”. The overwhelming majority of mothers still do not breastfeed for any substantial period.
5. A few public service announcements do not constitute a society besieged by the directive to breastfeed. America is an extremely uncomfortable and difficult place to nurse a child. There is very little support from society at large, not to mention pediatricians. (I've never seen LLL publications in doctors' offices, only ads for and free samples of formula.) I lived abroad during my first 5 months of nursing. I was indulged: friends brought me special foods (usually delicious deserts) to encourage lactation, in public I was helped to find comfortable places to nurse, and the pediatrician’s office had a quiet, pleasant room set aside for nursing mothers. This was all a far cry from the charged-atmosphere I found upon my return.

Mar. 20 2009 01:28 PM
Mary from Indiana

Although breastfeeding is the subject I really don't think Hanna's problem with breastfeeding is the issue. It appears to me that she is having an identity crisis and shouting "It's not fair." Face it men and women are different and usually assume different roles when parents. Hopefully parenthood was a choice that she at one time embraced. Good Luck Hanna with trying to make sense of it all. Being a mom has it's times but in the big scheme of things it's great. Same thing goes for breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is only a small part in raising healthy, happy and kind children.

Mar. 18 2009 05:24 PM
Dr. Melissa from Massachusetts

Stop the mommy wars!! As a physician, mother, and public health advocate, let's talk about the bigger issue: It can be very challenging to breastfeed in the United States. Breastfeeding is the medical recommendation yet in the US, we are set up to fail.

We are the only country in the developed world without paid maternity leave. Less than 3% of our hospitals implement all the evidence-based practices around breastfeeding of the WHO Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. Women have to go out of their way to get prenatal education breastfeeding. Doctors and nurses get little training, and to top it all off: health professionals and hospitals are constantly marketing formula to women by giving out commercial diaper bags and formula samples and coupons.

Breastfeeding is not just about babies-- it's about maternal health, too. Early weaning is linked to higher rates of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, coronary artery disease, and type 2 diabetes. The longer you breastfeed, the lower your risk of 4 of these killers.

It's appalling that the editors of the Atlantic did not do any fact-checking. Rosin’s selective citing of the scientific literature suffers from a serious lack of fact-checking from the Atlantic editorial staff. The most recent comprehensive, objective analysis on the risks of not breastfeeding comes from the Agency of Healthcare Quality Research (2007). This report conclusively links early weaning to increased risks of maternal and childhood disease, including childhood obesity.

The scientists of all major medical organizations recommend breastfeeding based on their organizations’ expert review of the literature. These folks are the MD’s and the PhD’s who know their way around meta-analyses, Odds Ratios, p-values, and Relative Risks, and who can tell us a lot more than one “paranoid sleep-deprived mother of a newborn," as Rosin calls herself.

Instead of fighting each other, let's come together and fight for real change.

Mar. 17 2009 08:19 PM
Sally from L.E.S.

I am moved to say BRAVO to: 15-Jill, 25-Joanna, 28-Robina K., 33-Jean Gazis, 37-Candace, 42-Eljay, and 44-Rural Mom.

Your comments are an oasis of thoughtfulness in an otherwise narrow, individualistic and elitist discussion. The BL Show would be wise to frame these issues around the points you raise.

Mar. 17 2009 01:43 PM
Susan Burger from Upper West Side

As for her criticisms of the science, she has zero background and I am shocked that the News Media, particularly WNYC allows these types of comments to go unchallenged without rebuttal from experts. Her comments mimic the formula industry propraganda of picking the conditions that have multifactoral causes and because they are multifactoral will always have variable results. The American Academy of Pediatrics did a thorough review of the literature (which includes 10s of thousands of articles) and the risks of formula feeding that have strong evidence are: bacterial meningitis, bacteremia, respiratory tract infection, late onset sepsis in preterm infants, necrotising enterocolitis, urinary tract infection, and postneonatal MORTALITY. She picked a condition for which there is suggestive evidence. With that list of strong evidence, do we really need to pick apart whether there are some on the suggestive evidence list that may need more studies?

What we need for all women is to model infant feeding on normal --- which is breastfeeding. This means that when breastfeeding goes awry, we mimic normal and minimize risks. How we feed from bottles, offering skin to skin time, the frequency of feeding, the duration of feeding, the interaction during feeding should all refer back to how normally breastfeeding infants behave. Furthermore, we now have egg donors, sperm donors, surrogate mothers, so you cannot convince me that we could not over time develop safe systems for expanding the very small human milk banks into something more accessible and also provide good guidance for women who want to milk share. Everyone forgets that wet nursing used to be readily accepted as normal.

Susan E. Burger

Mar. 17 2009 09:59 AM
Susan Burger from Upper West Side

I work with women who have problems breastfeeding. So, I hear from all sides of the equation. I know that if you asked 1000 women, they would all say that they have been criticized about their infant feeding. The most negative criticism, that is of a perverted and sick nature is reserved, however, for those that are breastfeeding. So, the argument is really one of false equivalency. In the Atlantic article, I did not see that she was criticized by her friends, they actually were polite enough to keep their opinions to themselves.

Those that criticize bottle feeding, and/or formula feeding are often those that had an easy time. To give an example, my son toilet trained himself. No one should ever ask me for advice about toilet training because I have no clue and I don't really know how hard it can be.

Susan E. Burger

Mar. 17 2009 09:58 AM

I believe this author is using breastfeeding as the issue rather than getting to the core issue, which is who and how takes care of newborns/small children in our modern society.

In the US women enjoy the best career opportunities for women in the entire world, but it comes at the cost or being able to take care of your children in a biologically and historically normal manner, e.g. breastfeeding the baby with little or no separation in the early years.

There is no question that human babies were designed to take human milk, even if science has learned to keep children alive using bovine milk mixed with man-made nutrients. The choices modern women need to make are complex, not one-size-fits all, and each comes at a cost.

Not breastfeeding is a greater health risk for the baby and the mother. Formula is to breastmilk what wonder bread is to a hearty whole grain loaf. Both will keep you alive and fed, but only one has what nature intended humans to eat.

Choosing to breastfeed rather than feed artificial milk means a women chooses to spend the time to be the sole provider of nourishment for her little one at the cost of her time, sleep, and career. It's not an easy to choice.

Mar. 17 2009 12:22 AM

Impressed that Hannah "just started breastfeading herself." (first minute)

youtube clip, blshow?

Mar. 16 2009 05:02 PM
Eljay from Bklyn

This is easily one of the most pretentious conversations I've ever listened in on WNYC. Yes, women need to stop judging one another but a more realistic solution for mothers that feel ostracized for bottle feeding is simple; GET NEW FRIENDS!! The reality is that most women in this country DO NOT nurse and even in a supposedly progressive area of the country like NYC it very difficult at times for mothers to nurse comfortably in public. The problem that this article brings to light are people like the author who seem to care way too much about what a certain circle of mothers think of her. The real problem is institutionalized laws and antiquated attitudes that prevent mothers from making the best choice for them and their current situations. Stop judging and please stop the yearning for acceptance from others that don't care about you.

Mar. 16 2009 03:28 PM
Joy from nyc

As a nursing mother of a 23-month-old and a breast cancer survivor with a mastectomy, some may consider me a nursing 'success story". That said...

Thank you Hanna! I wish I had heard your story 2 years ago. The pressure to breastfeed by any means necessary is so great. Thank you for questioning the "breast is best" dogma.

Also, I knew of you when you were on the high school debate team and when I heard you wrote this story, it was the next best thing to doing the research myself. You don't necessarily need to be an MD to critique the medical literature responsibly. Also, just because a US government agency comes out with a report doesn't mean it is correct and unbiased.

Hopefully, expecting and new moms will hear & read your story and have less anxiety about the breast/bottle decision.

Mar. 16 2009 03:26 PM
robin blair from Red Bank NJ

So many good comments by many astute women!

I advocate breastfeeding if you want/can for the many benefits. But one thing breastfeeding does provide that bottle fed babies do not neccesarily get, is being held by mom, with her smells and in their safe, cozy environment.
Don't we often see older babies holding their own bottles or bottles being propped up in the stroller on the "fly".

Also, no one should trust the chemicle compound that make plastic liners and bottles, plus the manufacturing of plastic products is costly to the health of our environment.

Mar. 16 2009 02:22 PM
alexis from nyc

I appreciate Hanna Rosin's article for exploring the extreme side of nursing and how that can make a new mother (or any mother) feel. I believe that every parent child relationship is different, and every child is at least a little different, and therefore that any advice that is overly prescriptive is quite possibly misinformed about parenting and children in general, or is perhaps driven by other forces--often marketing (think all those extreme parenting books/ philosophies, e.g. attachment parenting-- do mothers really need to be taught how to attach? To detach, maybe. . .).

I wish Ms. Rosin had further explored what affect nursing may have on the child's emotional development, both positive and negative. All that cuddling has got to be good I imagine, at least to an extent. But at what point do mothers begin to try to control their own children through nursing, sometimes limiting solids in order to keep them on the breast? Is this good? Is it better that a child comfort him or herself with a stuffed animal, a hug, or at their mother's breast? I don't know the answer to this and I wish Ms. Rosin had explored this. Could too much breastfeeding actually limit the child's independence as well as the mother's? Ultimately I bet everyone turns out the same although the road there might be a bit different.

Bottom line: parenting is hard, do what works for you and your family and avoid the marketing traps. I think that deep down every mother really does know best.

Mar. 16 2009 01:46 PM
Lynn from Tenafly

I must comment on the woman on the air today who quit breastfeeding at the advice of her OB/GYN because he wanted her to take antidepressants for her postpartum depression. There is a book called "Medications and Mother's Milk" by Dr. Thomas Hale. It is updated annually and contains scientific information on every medication and how it impacts breastmilk (how much of it gets into the milk and the impact thereof). MOST medications ARE compatible with breastfeeding. This is one of the biggest misconceptions of breastfeeding and the way that this caller's experience was presented on the show today only reinforced this myth.

Mar. 16 2009 01:24 PM
Candace from Ireland

You know, I'm tired of this whiner Hanna popping up everywhere, as though we should care what she has to say. She's trying so hard to put breastfeeding down, but even she acknowledges she breastfed her own children! What exactly is the problem here?

With the horrible breastfeeding rates in the US, UK and Ireland the LAST thing you need to do is spit out trite like this. There is enough research to disprove her entire OPINION, that it's annoying me I have to keep coming across her writings on the subject. I don't want to hear about the pressures that women get to do the best for their baby. No one complains that everyone is busy telling them to eat fruit and veg and that McDonald's is bad for you. Get over it. The women who do breastfeed face huge amounts of criticism from family, friends and strangers who don't. They are the minority.
I have no sympathy.

Mar. 16 2009 01:08 PM
April Chau from Larchmont NY

Nursing is a personal decision and I encourge all who have the inclination to hang in there.
Success or failure should not be the issue.
I nursed 3 children during the late 1970's while working full-time, and am proud to be a pioneer in a resurgence of breastfeeding.
I loved the experience of nursing and of LaMaze natural childbirth.
Among the touted health benefits of nursing to mother and baby, is the unique expereince of nursing your baby each evening. I did not pump milk after a short while, but my babies eemed happy. Maybe I had little milk and they just still wanted to cuddle and suckle.
All was not all smooth sailing for me and the La Leche League / was a terrfic resource for encouragement and tips.
Too often social mores and experience of ones mother and aunts turn a woman off to nursing. If only the peer pressure to breastfeed could be seen as encouragement and support.

Mar. 16 2009 12:38 PM
amy from nyc

No one should feel bullied into breastfeeding, and those who cannot or choose not to should not feel ostracized or looked down upon. It's hard enough being a new mom and feeling you need to do everything right.

But I support public education that promotes breastfeeding and encourages women to do so if possible. I certainly would not have bothered if not for all the messages I heard that breastfeeding is best. And though it was difficult at first, I'm so glad I did. I'm definitely grateful for the pressure that pushed me to keep trying. Though I would have wanted an equal amount of support for my decision if I decided stopping was the best option for me and my baby.

Mar. 16 2009 12:11 PM

I have two children both of whom I breastfed for some period of time. My first child, a son, did not like breastfeeding and in addition to his dislike I broke out in a horrible rash. I tried pumping for a while but my rash came back so I stopped after four months.

My second child, a daughter, really took to breastfeeding. I stopped after nine months. Even though she was breastfed she has Crohn's disease. Given there are claims that breastfeeding helps with digestive conditions my personal experience is the opposite.

I also would like to say something about the comments that were made by the doctor that called in regarding non-medical people making comments on medical research. I found the comment quite offensive. When my daughter had to be hospitalized one of the first questions that doctor asked was if my husband or I had any medical training. The way in which he asked that question as well as several others gave me the impression that because we were "layman" we did not have the intellectual capacity to discern medical information. Being a "layman" does not mean that I, my husband or any other non-medically trained person is incapable of comprehending research articles. I believe that in today's society a significant number of "layman" are extremely well informed because of the way health care is managed. Individuals are managing their care on greater levels and along the way they are learning about their conditions and may in fact be more aware of some aspects of their conditions and treatment options than some of the medical staff that is taking care of them.

Mar. 16 2009 12:08 PM
Jean Gazis from Park Slope

If you can't have a sane and loving marital relationship with woman who is breastfeeding, the breastfeeding is not the problem. If you can't be honest with others about your experiences when your experiences differ from theirs, the others are not the problem. If there's nowhere in your office to pump, the pump is not the problem.

Judgmental people who subject others to "browbeating" on ANY subject are being rude. When you let them influence your choices, you've let them make their problem yours. None of these things has to do with breastfeeding or not breastfeeding, per se.

Mar. 16 2009 12:01 PM
Miriam Labbok, MD, MPH from Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute, UNC

Dear All:
Bottom line: Medical evidence is clear on the risks of not breastfeeding. The US government Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, among many others, has produced analyses confirming this.
Bottom line: Yes, we in the US are uncomfortable with breastfeeding. Why? Possibly due to many social, workplace and gender related issues that do not sufficiently support women. (References available upon request)
Bottom line: Irresponsible reports from non-medical experts who ostensibly have critiqued the literature can do real damage to public health efforts to correctly inform the public, and can cause harm if they dissuade women from trying to overcome the many constraints our society has to breastfeeding.


Mar. 16 2009 11:58 AM
Kathy from Hoboken

I breast fed my two children even though my first was premature and had to be fed pumped milk for a few weeks. However, I had the luxury of generous maternity leave followed by leave under FMLA for 6 months. I loved breast feeding my kids, even though it was tricky at first (there was nobody at the hospital who could help me so my son and I had to figure it out on our own) and recommend it for anyone who can.

However, I understand the need for balance in the decision to breast feed or not and feeling guilty about formula is not helpful to anyone.

What concerns me is the lack of support for women who want to breast feed their babies from nurses in the hospital who push bottles and formula to cultural taboos and legal hurdles against breast feeding in public or in some cases, in private. I have run into women who just can't deal with the idea of feeding their children from their breasts, non-supportive husbands/fathers who don't want to share, women hassled for stopping to nurse their babies in public, even if they use one of those modesty blankets. We need to embrace this beautiful practice, support it as best we can and not judge anyone who has made the decision either way.

Mar. 16 2009 11:57 AM
Lauralee Franco from Long Island

I chose not to breastfeed my two children and they both thrived on formula. My husband also enjoyed feeding the children. I am older now and am planning to have a third. I would like to breastfeed but am very concerned because I read that older women store some environmental toxins in their breasts and the milk tested positive for chemicals and certain pesticides. Should our breast milk be tested just the way formula is tested? We just learned that plastic bottles may not be safe.

Mar. 16 2009 11:57 AM
Meghan Gosselink from New Jersey

I breastfed my son until he was two years old and I work full time. It does not have to be either or for working mothers. A number of women in my office needed to pump breast milk and we asked that we be given appropriate accomodations to do so...we were given a small, empty private office to use and it worked great. Before the office was available I was pumping in the handicap stall of the bathroom and my boss let me use her office when she wasn't in it. If you are committed to breastfeeding you can not be timid! You need to demand accommodations.

I take anti-anxiety meds and I took them through my whole pregnancy and through all of my breastfeeding. There are meds like Zoloft that are relatively safe to take while breastfeeding. I weighed my options with my doctors and husband and we decided that breastfeeding posed a great benefit and the Zoloft did not pose a great harm.

Also, in two years of breastfeeding, my son got really sick with a double ear infection only once and that is with being in daycare! Other than that no major sickness besides a runny nose. A week after we stopped breastfeeding he got an ear infection! Not scientific but that was our experience!

Mar. 16 2009 11:55 AM
Robina K. from Park Slope

Hanna Rosin's article almost entirely misses the point. Indeed, our culture is not supportive of motherhood in general. But the article presumes that most women are indeed pressured to breastfeed, and that most women succumb to this pressure. If this is true, then why is it that only 7.9% of American mothers are nursing exclusively at 6 months (per the CDC)? The author seems laughably entrenched in her own privileged community with no sense about the way in which it is formula, not breastmilk, is encouraged in most other communities as the cure-all for a whole host of problems (particularly in low-income, under-served and -educated communities). This is a misinformed, uninteresting article that is much less "radical" or provocative than it believes. I hear such arguments every other day. A truly radical rescripting of breastfeeding might suggest a deeper analysis of the way in which parenting is not supported by our culture. This is a non-issue in the rest of the "developed" world.

Breastfeeding is a privilege, not a chore -- as is parenting. Woefully, our culture seems to have totally lost sight of that.

Mar. 16 2009 11:53 AM
Arielle from Harlem/NYC

I have to weigh in here as a mother who breast fed for 14 months in Manhattan. I felt absolutely no support for breastfeeding - in fact I feel that NYC is the most hostile environment to breastfeeding I have experienced. When I travel to visit extended family in the Southwest/Northwest & Jamaica breastfeeding was viewed as much more normal and I did not have people trying to make me feel uncomfortable for doing it (all of which I have experienced in NYC). On the flip side I have had family members from those areas visit me here and feel very uncomfortable breastfeeding here in NYC.

Even the night nurse at the maternity ward at Roosevelt hospital wanted me to give my newborn formula so that she could just put him in the nursery for the night and not have to "bother" bringing him back to me for me to breastfeed. Maybe if one lives in a place like Park Slope they feel pressure to breastfeed, but I would strongly argue that this is not a City wide phenomena.

This article simplifies what breastfeeding your child is, and of course we all have to do what is best for our families. But I have to say in this environment it just made me feel even less support for my decision.

Mar. 16 2009 11:52 AM
Tara from NJ

I cannot believe that breast feeding is the only guarantee to a healthier illness-free childhood and higher IQ. My sister and I were both fed formula and neither of us has any chronic illnesses. I rarely, if ever, stayed home from school due to illness, I have never had a weight problem, I was always at the top of my class and I am now in law school and my sister is also a highly successful lawyer.

I believe it was my parents' habit of making healthy, home-cooked meals, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, getting good sleep, and regular exercise that did my more good than 6 months of breast milk could have.

Mar. 16 2009 11:51 AM
Joanna from Brooklyn

How tired am I of Hann Rosin and the Atlantic Monthly's campaign of provocation aimed at working women? Very.

Get wise: it's not the other women who oppress you.

Also, if I see Ms Rosin writing for the New Yorker, I am going to be SO disappointed.

Mar. 16 2009 11:51 AM
Jennifer from Red Bank, NJ

I don't understand why this must always be presented as a black and white issue.

I have been breastfeeding my son and working full time for the last 11 months, hope to continue for many more months. Pumping is disruptive to my day, staying hydrated and eating enough also distracts me, I have to consider easy breast access when I select my clothes every morning...I can see the turn-off for many mama's.

I suspect many families would find a workable situation if they did a bit of both breast and formula. Breast vs formula is such a polarizing issue that people seem to feel like they need to be on one side of the issue or the other. It's a pity more people don't try to find a balance.

Mar. 16 2009 11:49 AM
Karen from Manhattan

I was born in the 1950s to a first-time mom in her mid-thirties. Her pediatrician was an early advocate of breast feeding. "Mother's milk is the best milk," he told her. So she breast fed her new baby girl.

According to my Mom, I lost weight, screamed constantly and, by age three weeks, was scrawny and miserable. The pediatrician wouldn't budge. On the advise of my aunt, my mother took me to another pediatrician, the venerable, later Dr. Schmerer of Boro Park. After examining me, he stood up and announced, "There's nothing wrong with this baby. This baby is hungry!"

A few hours later, I was fed my first bottle of formula. My mother told me that I sucked it up so fast that my aunt remarked, "This baby is a vacuum cleaner." Soon, I was gaining weight and had stopped screaming. Clearly, my mother had not been producing sufficient breast milk, or that which she was producing was lacking in some nutrients.

I did not breast feed my son, who is a strapping twenty-year old. Other than frequent ear infections, caused by the size and position of his fallopian tubes, he had a healthy childhood. In my view, if you want to breast feed -- great -- but do not feel guilty if you don't want to or cant.

Mar. 16 2009 11:47 AM
Vivian from Brooklyn

Thank you to Hannah for this article. I'm a new mother struggling to breastfeed my 2 month old son and starting to think about what I'll do when I return to work next month. I definitely feel the pressure described in this article and appreciate the discussion.

Mar. 16 2009 11:46 AM
K from NYC

I am a new mom and the only one out of 4 friends who is breastfeeding! Support and education are not common place for breastfeeding. Why is it that we all receive formula samples when leaving the hospital?

Mar. 16 2009 11:46 AM
Jean G. from Park Slope

The Betty Friedan comparison is way off base - she was talking about artificial social constructs, whereas breastfeeding is the natural default. When artificial social constructs such as corporate environments and marital expectations make breastfeeding hard, then those social constraints are today's version of Friedan's vacuum cleaner.

You don't need to be "supermom" in order to do what evolution (or God, if you prefer) equipped (or created) us to do. Would you eat nothing but liquid nutrition substitutes such as Ensure instead of actual food? Neither would I.

For the record I nursed both my children, pumped while working full time, and nursed while taking an antidepressant.

Mar. 16 2009 11:44 AM
mc from Brooklyn

I have 2 boys and I breastfed both until they were past two, though not excusively for that long. They only got breast milk from a bottle, nothing else. That said, I think that there is still a dearth of support for new moms who want to do this and I hate the idea of yet more pressure on them to "do the right thing."

Mar. 16 2009 11:44 AM
Nancy from NYC

Sad that our country's culture is so dismissive of women as to make it impossible for working women to breast feed. And it should always be considered a choice to nurse or not. BUT, I'll always cherish the 14 months I was lucky enough to be able to nurse my daughter; it was our special time together first thing in the morning and then our pleasant interludes throughout the day. (And, by the way, she's always been incredibly healthy, never had one of those childhood ear infections like so many of her friends did, and has had only a handful of colds in her 20 years.)

Mar. 16 2009 11:43 AM
Mommo from Nassau County

Oh, please. I understand that provocation is necessary to sometimes start a dialogue, but can't an intelligent person like Hanna Rosin see that tugging the pendulum all the way the other way doesn't help? All it does is give sound bytes to people to either justify where they are or anger them to shut her out. Ironically, she ends her article on such a balance but she's publicizing it by focusing on the extreme. There is room for moderation in the breastfeeding discussion and I don't think she's helping.

Mar. 16 2009 11:43 AM
hjs from 11211

no bathroom in your office!?!

Mar. 16 2009 11:42 AM
Jill from UWS

Rosin criticizes the literature because we can't ethically or practically randomize children to breast feeding vs. formula. The same however applies to cigarettes, cholesterol, exercise, etc., and of course the so called toxic plastics referred to in the article. She needs to understand the medical literature better before she can reasonably critique it. Few facts are perfect, and yet we now know we have saved many lives by decreasing smoking...

Also, presumably Ms. Rosin is a highly educated woman with a good income and a variety of other advantages. Any one intervention for her baby will not have the same proportional impact as it will for a baby starting out with fewer advantages.

Mar. 16 2009 11:42 AM
khaki from Brooklyn

Why is this even an issue? Why do women care so much about what other women think? If you can't breastfeed and are comfortable with formula - who cares? If you want to breastfeed until your kid is three (I was breastfed until this age) - go ahead!

Be your own person - you'll be much happier.

Mar. 16 2009 11:41 AM
Kate Steinberg from Park Slope

Raising my kids in Park Slope, there seemed no other option but full-time breastfeeding, to the point where feeding your children from something other than from a human breast seemed like child abuse. And esp with my 1st kid (now 8) I was dedicated to breastfeeding even though it was excruciatingly painful for the first TWO months. When I finally have him either breastmilk in a bottle or formula, I felt deeply depressed. I could go on! I remember going to a La Leche meeting, with everyone going around the room saying how wonderful breastfeeding was, and they got to me and I said -- but it HURTS! I felt like I was breaking the daisy chain. Finally I stopped after 6 months and started feeding my colicky son formula, at which point he STOPPED being colicky! With my second kid, I still FORCED myself to go 13 months, to prove to myself and god knows who else that I could do it, even going back to work and pumping after 5 months. And it was agonizingly painful AGAIN!

Mar. 16 2009 11:41 AM
Terry Milner from Manhattan

Let me assure you, as a person who lived in Chapel Hill for more than 10 years, that the breast feeding peer pressure is very real on young mothers in that very upscale and highly-educated area. A dear friend was subjected to much pressure and browbeating by aggressive advocates for breast feeding and needs to be assured she is not a bad mom because she could not produce milk.

Mar. 16 2009 11:40 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

This is a personal choice. It is a private family matter and so long as you don't do it in public, I am not against.


Mar. 16 2009 11:39 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I breastfed my son for 18 months, through day care, business travel and every other challenge. For us, it was worth all the effort. We both enjoyed it and I like to claim credit for the fact that he is never sick. I was unusual in my group of friends though, and most people wondered why I bothered. And my immigrant in-laws were appalled that I didn't give him formula (which they considered healthier).

Mar. 16 2009 11:38 AM
annie vetrone from manhasset ny

I breast fed two boys, now 9 and 7,one for 8 months, one for 6 months[exclusively] one has a severe peanut allergy, the other has hayfever.
Breastfeeding is a bonding experience, it is not a guarantee that your child won't have the health issues it's touted to prevent.

Mar. 16 2009 11:37 AM
Mark from Brooklyn

A number of my friends have been terrorized by the pressures to breastfeed. It's part of a constellation of pressures on new mothers and pregnant women to do the best, "healthiest" thing for children. We believe that "breast is best" -- but even better is a sane, loving mother-child (and husband-wife) relationship.

Mar. 16 2009 11:37 AM
Darius from Prospect Heights

Why rip on breast feeding and not talk about how the milk lobby made formula/dairy popular since the 50s?

Mar. 16 2009 11:37 AM
anonyme from ny

There should be a movement to get soy out of formula

Mar. 16 2009 11:36 AM
Anne from Jersey City

Thank you so, so much for this. I struggled to breast feed post-c-section w/lots of marital & job stress & returning to work w/an 8 week old. I nursed for 8 weeks, w/some supplements, but she was failing to thrive. Enfamil saved me.

W/#2, I quit nursing when I got mastitis: it was too much to not be able to hug my toddler w/o recoiling. Again, thank you for formula.

It's so exhausting to be judged by other mommies, each of whom has a different relation to $, husband, childcare, time.

Mar. 16 2009 11:35 AM
Priya from Brooklyn

didn't the Pope just say that the vacuum cleaner was the single most effective improvement in women's lives? Oy!

Mar. 16 2009 11:34 AM

Breastfeeding isn't even an option for me. I have to work full time, and there is nowhere at my office to breastfeed or use a breast pump. I know that there are supposed to be regulations that allow for this, but my office is small and this is real life.

Mar. 16 2009 11:31 AM
lisa daniels from nyc

while nursing my second, i understand the pull of freedom, but i think her argument is missing the point. whether breast milk's and breastfeeding's benefits are great or small is something we can argue for generations, the real issue is how dangerous substitute feeding is to babies especially in other countries.

(sorry if this came thru twice)

Mar. 16 2009 11:18 AM
deb from nyc

our 2 kids both had breast milk, but it was mostly pumped, stored, and then fed by bottle. the kids just weren't thrilled by taking it directly from the breast and we didn't force the issue. but, our kids are never sick and they don't miss school. compared to our friends' kids, who did not have breast milk, and are constantly missing school and coming down with little colds, what are to assume? is it a pre-disposition, or is it the breast milk?

Mar. 16 2009 11:03 AM

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