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When "fed" is not best.

The “Fed is Best” movement whitewashes barriers that make breastfeeding too difficult to continue and places the blame on the mom. Each sensational story of breastfeeding failure features a mom’s drive to feed her baby, as she faces setbacks and barriers without adequate medical, social or personal support. In each story, she loses hope, resigns to formula feeding and blames herself, not the system.

In order to feel better about her fate, she is reminded to repeat "fed is best" over and over.

Guilt, shame and selfishness

“Fed is Best” is not balm for a broken heart of a woman who wanted to breastfeed. It is brainwashing to silence her feelings after a painful failure. Failure complete with insinuations of infant death, autism and retardation. A catastrophe narrowly averted with "just one bottle of formula."

In the US, it is a painful, un-preventable failure, unless you are lucky, remarkable, rich, probably white, and/or surrounded by nursing mothers.

“Fed is Best” is in the same family as “The important thing is you got a healthy baby.” It guilts and shames us into the silent, serving, selflessness that good mothers are supposed to embody. A mother who sacrifices her health and dreams to nurture the next generation. 

It implies that if you feel angry, sad or ashamed when breastfeeding ‘doesn’t work out’, you are selfish. If you are angry, you are a mom who would willingly starve your child, just so you could say you breastfed.

Complete System Failure

When the system is slanted so doctors says “Yes, breastfeeding is best, but we better not take a chance” and leads a mom into the very practice that we know is likely to cause weaning, then the system is flawed.

When doctors are so ignorant of breastfeeding that they would let a new mom leave the hospital without breast or other feeding going well, the system is flawed.

We know the system is failing because 87% of US babies are fed some or all formula by 6 months of age, despite of the goals and aims of our medical associations.

When Doctor doesn't know best

When a mom is talked into a cascading series of unfortunate interventions and her breastfeeding goes awry because her care providers lack knowledge and fear malpractice, that mom has a right to grieve and be angry. 

Breastfed is more than “fed.” It’s physical, mental and emotional nourishment for mother and baby. It is soul food. Not being able to breastfeed is a loss and should be grieved, not shut down with a harmful platitude.

Facing a lose-lose-lose situation

When a mom is deprived of breastfeeding, especially when situations could have been handled better, everyone loses. Her “fed” baby loses immunities and instant comfort that fulfills their five senses. The mother loses on bonding, expected reduction of cancer risks and increased risks of depression. Her family loses financially with the costs of formula, and most likely, health care expenses, and emotionally if she is sad or ashamed about ending nursing.

Our society loses because we pay for sick mothers and babies through pooled insurance costs. We pay for garbage disposal costs through pooled fees. 

“Fed is Best” slams the pain of quitting breastfeeding into a grim reminder that it really is not about you and what you want for your baby. It’s the same message that has been hammered into your life from early on. You have no right to think your body is perfect. You have no right to feel empowered. You have no right to be healthy and happy.

A Lunchables level of nutrition

"Fed is best" creates a value system that pits mother against mother and science against shock value.

Breastfeeding is best. “Fed” is so broad as to mean anything. There is no standard. No baseline. No optimal food or ideal levels. “Fed” includes the lowest form of sustenance - a “lunch-ables” level of nutrition.

The only standard in "Fed is Best" is that a “Corporation,” whether it’s your employer, the doctor, the hospital, or the pharmaceutical company, makes money. 


Telling a mom “Fed is Best” is a knockdown punch to her dreams, courage and autonomy. It truly is not what she deserves.

Breastfeeding in America

Our brains learn best by watching and with mentoring yet many American mothers have never actually seen a woman breastfeed, let alone learn from her. In cultures where everyone breastfeeds, women have an easier time learning.

Our culture boasts of family values, yet there is little cultural support, let alone celebration, for the breastfed baby. Instead, bottles and pacifiers go hand-in hand with babies. They are visible everywhere: in babies’ mouths, on t-shirts, gift bags, party decorations, baby gifts, advertisements, health insurance brochures and doctor’s offices. The result is that at 6 months, only 13% of our babies are exclusively breastfed.

breastfeeding in America

Most hospitals still give new moms a “just-in-case” promotional bag with bottles of formula and pacifiers. Our citizens are sold to by many corporations interested in selling their product at nearly any cost and we are used to doing their marketing for them by accepting branded gifts and products.

The US is a country that has not adopted the The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (the Code).  The Code helps to protect vulnerable parents and innocent babies from predatory marketing. Predatory marketing in this case, is marketing a product (formula and teats/nipples) to a vulnerable market (new parents) using untrue statements. Claims that may seem plausible to someone who is in distress, such as a new mother who is tired and worried about her baby being hungry. Predatory marketing is the opposite of informed consent. 

How do you get around this?

Culture. When women are with other women who breastfeed, they keep breastfeeding.

Fortunately, there are little sub-cultures of breastfeeding families everywhere for you to discover.  Don’t follow the example of the pioneer woman living alone on the prairie. There is a new wonderful world awaiting when you join or create a breastfeeding community.

Café Mama is a just such a community in New Paltz, NY. 

While you are pregnant and when you are out with your baby, scope out breastfeeding-friendly resources in your community. Places like playgrounds, libraries, public spaces, play spaces, cafés and stores are hubs where breastfeeding women gather.

Look for breastfeeding support groups at hospitals, WIC offices, baby stores, community centers, on, in OB/GYN’s, midwives’ and lactation consultants’ offices. 

Join La Leche League or another breastfeeding support group and attend meetings starting in your first or second trimester.

Become an advocate for breastfeeding in your life and community. Host a Big Latch On or participate in a Live Love Latch event during World Breastfeeding Week to raise awareness in your community.

If you can’t find a breastfeeding support group, start one. Join, or put up a flyer at your local doctor’s office, church, library children’s room or preschool.

A five step cure for breastfeeding ignorance

Black Breastfeed newbornScared Mommy

Moms mostly fear not making enough milk. And because they don’t know, they get scared, and do exactly the thing that tanks their milk supply. Babies cry! And not just because you don’t have enough milk. Others have too much milk along with plugged ducts and mastitis? What is hind milk and this elusive “latch”?  How DO you know if your baby is gaining weight? When do you need help?

Today's moms have all of Google and modern medicine at their fingertips, yet they still lack knowledge, experience and education in breastfeeding. It’s sad that mothers stop breastfeeding in the first few months simply because they truly don't know what normal breastfeeding is like. 

Yes, it’s natural. Yes, it’s normal.

But you probably had more education on getting your period than feeding a baby. You get every month to figure out your period and nobody is going to die of starvation if you don’t. Breastfeeding? You and your baby have two or three wobbly days to figure it out or they start pushing supplementation and using words like "no milk', ‘failure to thrive', ‘dehydration’ and ‘brain damage’.

There are choices women make during pregnancy and birth for interventions that are known to make breastfeeding more difficult. Many babies whose moms have epidurals have more difficulty breastfeeding. C-sections delay milk production. Separation after birth interrupts the babies innate reflex patterns causing a cascading sequence of problems. But parent's are lacking the "Informed" part of informed consent. 

Babies cry for a hundred reasons 

They cry for hunger and thirst. They cry because they are too hot or too cold. It’s too bright or too loud. They are lonely, upset or bored and more. Breastfeeding fixes everything except an overfull tummy and a dirty diaper. But, nobody tells you that. And that breastfeeding in the first 4-6 weeks is not much like breastfeeding from 4-6 months. They might say it gets faster, easier or better but when you are going through hell, you pretty much want a quick fix. Now!

The cure for ignorance is education. Here are five ways to learn more about breastfeeding. Ideally, you do a bit for all of them, because just like breastmilk, even a little bit is a wonderful thing.

A five step cure:

1.  Choose doctors that value breastfeeding. Plan for an unmedicated vaginal birth by taking childbirth classes and using a birth doula. 

2.  Educate yourself to prepare for breastfeeding by taking a breastfeeding class and reading all you can. Schedule a prenatal appointment with a lactation consultant to ask questions.

3.  Spend time with breastfeeding mothers so that your unconscious mind starts to learn what you need to do and you can ask questions and hear what they say about breastfeeding, the challenges they face and the solutions they know. Attend La Leche League groups or other breastfeeding support groups while you are pregnant.

4.  Formula promotional packs are trojan horses that sneak into your house and whisper words of doubt into your ear. Give them away or do not accept them. In most countries, they are not distributed by healthcare professionals until needed. If you need to buy formula, you will be able to.

5.  Even if your birth goes all wonky, insist the baby be placed skin-to-skin immediately after birth and wait for the cord to stop pulsing before cutting it. Keep your baby near you and skin-to-skin as much as possible for the first two weeks. After birth, read your baby, not a book. Feed 12-16 times every 24 hours until your baby is gaining weight consistently.

Not breastfeeding when you go back to work?

The United States is last in the world in maternity leave which means that women are returning to work soon after birth and before breastfeeding is established. 

Just the idea of going back to work in the first few weeks or months causes some women to rule out breastfeeding. Research shows that ANY amount of breastfeeding is beneficial and women should breastfeed at least until they return to work. However, even after breastfeeding is going well, going back to work increases the risks of early weaning. And all mothers acknowledge that working and breastfeeding is challenging.

Women often lack the support of their employer to pump at work, even though studies show that mothers who breastfeed take fewer sick days than mothers who formula feed.

Not sure if you want to breastfeed because you have to work?

1.  Do a cost analysis and see if it even makes sense to return to work. Add up the costs of daycare, transportation, work clothes, convenience foods and the likelihood needing to supplement or switch to formula feeding.

2.  Talk to your employer while you are pregnant about pumping schedules and a clean, private place to pump. Share “The Business Case for Breastfeeding” with them.

3. Try breastfeeding and see how it goes. You might be pleasantly surprised. Women who never intended to breastfeed are shocked when their baby finds their breast and begins nursing. Often, their reluctance to breastfeed fades and they enjoy it. is You really can’t predict how breastfeeding will go or how you will like it, until you start.

4. Don’t be afraid to combine breastfeeding and formula feeding after you go back to work. Some breastmilk is always better than none. Breastfeeding is a wonderful way for you and your baby to reconnect after being separated. Accepting that you may need to use formula takes the pressure off you pumping enough milk every day for your baby. You may find that you actually are able to pump more milk because you aren’t tense and anxious about starving your baby.

Being the mother of an infant, breastfeeding and working is overwhelming. Something has to give. The first thing to go should be zealous perfectionism. Don’t compare your “insides” to someone else’s “outsides”. 

When you look at Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, you may think everyone lives in super clean houses with perfectly cooked and presented dinners and wonder why your family is having pizza on paper plates for the third time this week. It takes a lot of time and energy to run a family in a showcase style. When you work full time and have a baby, you don’t have a lot of extra time to create a showcase lifestyle. It’s possible, but if you feel stressed, something has to go.

Why do women fail at breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding Infant

Breastfeeding is often intuitive and straightforward and many women begin breastfeeding easily and effortlessly. Yet a high percentage of women end breastfeeding without ever really knowing why it didn’t work out.

It’s not fair to say women fail at breastfeeding. It’s more accurate to say they are sabotaged and never have a chance to succeed. I’ve been helping mothers breastfeed for nearly 20 years and it can be heart wrenching work. If breastfeeding is so wonderful, so instinctive, so natural, then why are so many women not meeting their breastfeeding goals?

Even though about 80% of women in the United States leave the hospital breastfeeding, there is a huge drop off between 2 weeks and 2 months resulting in about 84% of babies receiving some or all formula feed by 6 months of age.

The United States Healthy People 2020 sets targets for breastfeeding. The targets for the year 2020 are: 82% of babies “ever breastfed”, 75% at 6 months, and 34% at 1 year. 

What's keeping moms from doing what's best for their babies? 

All kinds of people in the US are working to increase breastfeeding rates and we are making progress. Change is happening through three channels: 

  1. Protection - legal and medical protection for women and babies who breastfeed. This includes laws that protect breastfeeding in public, pumping breaks at work, maternity leave along with education and policy statements for health care practitioners to follow.
  2. Promotion - cultural and medical promotion of breastfeeding as the normal way to raise a baby. This includes women nursing in public, publishing research, creating public service ads, doctors encouraging women to breastfeed, World Breastfeeding Month, and using images of breastfeeding babies in healthcare settings.
  3. Support - cultural and medical support. This includes breastfeeding support groups, doctors referring women to helpful lactation resources, training more lactation consultants, and making breastfeeding information and supplies available through government programs like Center for Disease Control,  National Institute for Health, Food and Drug Administration, WIC and Medicaid.

The 2011 Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding identified seven barriers to breastfeeding and I’ve identified three more. What has happened it there has been a huge shift in promoting breastfeeding without a corresponding increase in protection and support. As a result, women get overwhelmed and stop breastfeeding. 

We know that supporting women through support groups, accurate information and family education works and good breastfeeding support puts all these pieces together.


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