Advocacy

How to write an anti-breastfeeding article

Congratulations on your decision to write your first anti-breastfeeding article! Although this is no doubt a column, opinion piece, or blog post, we will use the word “article” to describe the outcome for simplicity’s sake, and not to imply any degree of journalistic integrity. We can’t, after all, get people riled up about breastfeeding if we are moderate or accurate.

Step 1: Lead in with a personal anecdote.

There are a few ways to go here.

  1. Explain how you have always believed that breastfeeding is natural and, therefore, easy. People have told you that breastfeeding is the most blissful, perfect, angels-singing-and-clouds-parting part of motherhood. Then you did it and it was awful. Clearly, everything about breastfeeding is lies.
  2. You breastfed, of course, possibly for years, but you have heard some people say things like, “Formula is poison,” or “it’s not possible to bond with your baby if you use bottles.” It must be that all breastfeeding advocates are militant lactivists and everything is a lie.
  3. You were not able to breastfeed. No lactation person will ever tell you that it may not be possible to breastfeed for some reason, because it is not like they spend years of their lives trying to help people with a wide variety of issues and a wide variety of etiologies. Obviously, everything they say is a lie.

Guys: You can write anti-breastfeeding articles, too; just make your wife the protagonist.

Remember to avoid moderation! It does not sell newspapers or improve social media reach to give a balanced viewpoint. If you value your likes and retweets, please avoid telling stories where you met an IBCLC who was helpful and mindful of your goals and limitations, your baby-friendly hospital provided formula supplementation and did not make you sign a scary waiver, you had a difficult start but going to some La Leche League meetings got you on the right track with no judgment whatsoever, or your lactation consultant taught you how to use a bottle or counseled you through weaning when it was necessary or desired. No one wants to hear this.

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Choose the right image for your article. Crying babies or mothers are usually appropriate. (Image credit: daveynin via Flickr Creative Commons)

Step 2: Sciencing!

All of those silly breastfeeding advocates like the World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund, American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control, Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ), et al. use really awful studies to talk about how great breastfeeding is. These studies are super poorly designed and you, of course, are much better qualified to interpret these studies for laypeople than anyone else might be. You are also super qualified to interpret the studies that disagree with those silly advocates’ recommendations, and the studies you cite have no problems whatsoever.

Step 3: Introduce some balance.

You have to admit, because you are a reasonable person and do not want anyone to be able to say that you are anti-breastfeeding, that there is some merit to some of the claims about breastfeeding, sometimes. But just a little. For example, you could quote an interpretation of AHRQ’s 2007 report on breastfeeding, saying:

“The evidence suggests that for every six children who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months of life, one of them will not have an ear infection that he or she would otherwise have had.”

Be very careful to use such quotes out of context. Ideally, provide your own. Here’s a great example, from Courtney Jung’s “Overselling Breast-Feeding”:

“As the director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality explained in 2009, if six babies are breast-fed exclusively for six months, one of them will not get an ear infection she otherwise would have had. That’s about 5,400 hours of breast-feeding to prevent one ear infection. If 26 women breast-feed exclusively for six months, they can collectively prevent one hospitalization for a respiratory tract infection.”

AVOID making it easy for readers to read the original context. Only share what fits your narrative. For example, you don’t want them to know that the information about ear infections came from an article by David Meyers, MD, in Breastfeeding Medicine published in October 2009, and that he also says:

“It is good to know, however, that when compared to other common treatments and preventive health choices we make, breastfeeding is very impressive. And, of course, the act of breastfeeding provides all of these benefits, not simply protection for ear infections or reducing the chances of having diabetes or preventing SIDS or preventing asthma. We need to remind ourselves not to fall into the reductionist trap when considering the health effects of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding optimizes a child’s chances of reaching his or her full potential.”

Step 4: $$$$$$$

Follow the money! Obviously, lactation professionals want you to breastfeed, because they make their living off of people maintaining lactation for as long as possible. Manufacturers of breastfeeding paraphernalia also want you to buy their stuff. They will use whatever research they can to market the heck out of breastfeeding and convince as many people as possible to shove their boobs into babies’ mouths so that you will need their products.

Remember, though, that no formula company has ever undermined breastfeeding by providing free samples of their products. There is no proof that advertising affects us in any way.

Step 5: Bring up Mommy Wars and/or race and/or poverty.

The more of these you can work into your article, the better. Whether you take the standpoint that the media perpetuates the Mommy Wars or individual mothers are just always judging each other, you’ll improve the traction of your article if you at least give a nod to this phenomenon. You also will increase your cred to do a shout-out to those less fortunate. Remember, it is upper-middle-class people like you who are protecting those in poverty from the predatory lactation industry. Breastfeeding absolutely doesn’t matter when it comes to outcomes for black babies, or those babies born in poverty, no matter what experts have to say on the issue.

You may want to imply that government-sponsored programs that aim, in part, to increase breastfeeding rates are actually penalizing people for not breastfeeding. This is the lactivists’ fault, of course, so make sure they carry the blame and are given no credit for any of their efforts to improve such programs. To use another example from “Overselling Breast-Feeding”:

“Unlike formula-fed babies, who are eligible only for infant cereal and fruit and vegetable-based baby food, breast-feeding babies also receive meat-based baby food, which is richer in iron. The difference in benefits is intended to create incentives for poor mothers to breast-feed, but withholding food from mothers at nutritional risk, and from their babies, seems more like punishment to me.”

Now, it could be that breastfed babies are getting supplemental meat because breastmilk is lower in iron than infant formula, and these babies will need this nutrition in order to keep their iron levels on par with those of babies who consume formula, but it sounds much more ominous and shocking this way.

Step 6: In conclusion, everyone is going to turn out fine.

Assure the reader that since he/she was fed formula and is fine, breastfeeding doesn’t matter at all, on any level, even if someone insists it matters to them. Include a plug for your book if you have one, and feel free to throw in an insult about “boob nazis,” because people love that.

Once you’ve written your article, pitch it to a major publication. Thankfully, they will not fact-check anything, and you will get a fancy soapbox and all of the credibility without any accountability whatsoever. Then, sit back and relax, and pat yourself on the back for keeping the tide turned against breastfeeding.


Disclaimer: Because this is the internet, I am providing this disclaimer. The above is my attempt at working through the trauma of reading yet another piece of writing in a major news source about how awful breastfeeding advocates are and how little breastfeeding matters. Here are some other, less flippant, takes on the issue:

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6 comments

  1. Brava!

  2. Nailed it! So sick of these articles.

  3. You rock, Tipper. Well done

  4. The title “Overselling breastfeeding” is presumably intended to accurately frame what follows. How about changing it to read “Overselling standing, and walking upright, on two feet”, which are equally inherent qualities – no more, and certainly no less – of what it means to be humans characterized by erect posture and bipedal locomotion.

    Absurd? Of course, but only because no one would seriously argue otherwise. But multiple voices regularly question the nurturing and nutritional implications of our collective mammalian heritage for mothers and children and, consequently, for society as a whole. As I am given to say, we are mammals; this [breastfeeding] is what we do, or at least what we should be doing.

    During a recent conference presentation I recalled tragedian Sophocles’ memorable admonition to fellow Greeks some 2500 years ago, “Don’t kill the messenger!”, as a preface to delivering the following totally intuitive – for me at least – formulation: Children will never achieve their full genetic potential by starting postpartum life with ingesting a pediatric fast-food prepared from the milk of an alien species.

    My extreme reluctance to jump in at moments like this is based on a sort of no-win awareness that the mix of first-person detail, hot-and-cold attitude of the writer, and selective science citation is a recipe – quicksand and quagmire also come spontaneously to mind – for rebuttal disaster.

    Fortunately, people like you are on the case. Thank you. The unfortunate reality, however, is that only a tiny minority – if that – of people who read the original will read the antidote.

    1. I forgot to thank you for this eloquent comment when you left it months ago! I’m tickled that you took the time.

  5. But obviously a political science professor knows what she is talking about when it comes to breastfeeding. http://politics.utoronto.ca/faculty/profile/48/

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