I visited the Fed is Best website a few days ago and I was shocked at the information peddled to Mothers. I would go as far as to refer to it as fear mongering. After reading through, I thought this website has to be funded by formula companies. Why? Fed is best stories use fear to encourage Mothers to use formula or risk infant death. The articles/personal stories on their blog are aimed at driving fear into breastfeeding Moms.
For comparison, if you were going to start taking the train to work, or already taking the train but unsure if you were doing it correctly, you might look for help. You stumble upon a website that says it has information about the many different ways to take the train, but you quickly find story after story about people who’s baby died on trains with titles like “If I had just taken the bus instead of the train my baby would be alive today.” You’d be terrified to get on a train, right?
In fact, if you had been taking the train you’d probably stop. Why would you take the train when you read story after story about how trains killed babies? You may even go as far as to warn other Moms about the dangers of taking the train. Now, that sounds crazy, right? Think about this the next time you throw the fed is best slogan around. It’s not just a passionate saying, it’s an organization and they appear to be extremely biased. The information is doing a disservice to expecting Moms and Moms who may already be scared and worried about their breast milk supply.
Shocked by the story titles and overall message I received (breastfeeding kills babies) I looked for a sponsor. Why? Because this would be an excellent way for a formula company to deter Moms from breastfeeding. None listed. In addition, the fed is best organization reports that they are committed to education and not sponsored. Where is the education? The tid-bit of information provided is overshadowed by breastfeeding horror stories. On the site I found a slue of terrifying tales about how breastfeeding Moms literally starved their babies to death. Worse yet, these Mothers blame breastfeeding for their infant deaths. Not lack of education, not medical conditions, not lack of common sense and knowledge of the signs of malnutrition and dehydration. Breastfeeding. If I had just given my baby formula, he’d be alive! Yes, I’m not joking.
As a breastfeeding Mom to 4 babies, I’ve been through it all. With my first son, I had an induction/c-section that I horribly regret, and despite reading a stack of books, I had a lot of breastfeeding struggles. My son’s bilirubin was high and he was given formula by the hospital without my consent. I was never offered a pump, no one even had a conversation with me about feeding and I was also sent home with formula (no instructions) even though I have a great supply. I didn’t have a support circle, my husband didn’t know much about breastfeeding, I was the first woman in my family to breastfeed and my pediatrician was pro-formula. I am thankful to have found the la leche league…but I can easily see how my bleeding/cracked nipples, tears and frequently nursing baby could have frightened me into using formula.
Why fear works.
Did you know that the main reason Mothers stop breastfeeding is because they mistakenly believe their supply is low? (1) This perceived insufficient milk is often because Moms are not educated on normal infant behavior. In my experience, our pediatrician demanded that my baby go 3-4 ours between feeding even as a newborn. He was nursing very frequently and would make it 1-2 hours at the most between feeds and nurse for long periods. Nursing frequently, for long periods is normal for newborns (1) and knowing that could have saved me weeks of crying and fear. I remember one instance where (I now know he was having a growth spurt) he nursed for over an hour, took 15m off and wanted to nurse again. Clearly, I thought…I don’t have any milk!
I thought: “I’m starving my baby. If he was eating enough, he would last longer between meals.” Then, I would count wet and dirty diapers, whew! Then, I would get to the pediatrician and see his healthy weight gain and feel relieved. “How often are you feeding him?” She would ask. When I told her the truth she scowled and insisted on making him wait 3-4 hours. Eventually, I started telling her that he made it 3-4 hours when she asked and only then did she praise me for doing a great job breastfeeding. Truth was, I was a breastfeeding rock star. I fed my baby on demand, whenever he was hungry no matter what the clock said, he was eating well and getting liquid gold from me. ROCK STAR. My son’s pediatrician should have told me so!
(Pin image below to pinterest)
I stayed at that practice too long. When I found a new pediatrician she simply said “Keep doing whatever you’re doing, feed on demand, nurse whenever he is hungry and good job.” I thought…what a breath of fresh air! By that time, I had found the local La Leche League chapter and at the first meeting I felt a huge relief when I explained how often my baby nursed to the other Moms. “He must be starving, he doesn’t sleep either.” They smiled and explained that a baby’s belly is tiny, and that breast milk digests quickly. I was instructed to use a scale to weigh baby before and after nursing to soothe my worries and I left with a smile.
Many reputable sources are speaking out against the Fed is Best Organization
Recently I read an article entitled Why Fed Will Never Be Best at The Huffington Post Parents, UK. It highlights the lack of education and support Moms receive from…everywhere and the lack of responsible information from the organization. It’s well written and thought provoking. Where is the education? Why didn’t my pediatrician tell me that nursing frequently was normal? Why would the hospital give my baby formula and not teach me how to pump? Fact is, support is not out there and in my opinion, turning to Fed is Best is a mistake. Here is another great article highlighting the shortcomings with Fed is Best from The Parenting Patch.
Breast is Best is about Science, Fed is Best is about Fear
Breast is best is a factual, scientific statement about the quality of breast milk. It’s often referred to as liquid gold. It is the best and most complete food for babies. It’s tailored to meet their needs, breastfed babies get sick less often and breast milk is free. (2) The fact that Moms stop breastfeeding, or don’t start, because it’s not a personal choice they want to make, because of medical conditions or pressure from society does not change the factual, scientific information about the amazing, living substance that is breast milk. Read about deadly bacteria present in formula.
Mothers need to be taught how to feed their babies
The surgeon general highlights this lack of education when promoting a call to breastfeeding. It states that Mothers need education because many are uncertain about how to breastfeed and “Even though breastfeeding is often described as “natural,” it is also an art that has to be learned by both the mother and the newborn. Skills in how to hold and position a baby at the breast, how to achieve an effective latch, and other breastfeeding techniques may need to be taught. Not surprisingly, some women expect breastfeeding to be easy, but then find themselves faced with challenges. ” (2) Why would anyone dispute that breast is best?
Formula is a business and they desperately want you to buy it
It’s a product, just like any other product on the grocery store shelves and companies make money if you buy it. Even as a breastfeeding Mom, I received formula 4 times at the hospital, it showed up at my door without ordering (I later learned that Motherhood Maternity gave out my address) and was shoved down my throat at every turn. I received a “gift bag” from my OB including samples and an instruction booklet about how to stop breastfeeding and switch to formula. It’s marketing and if you’re breastfeeding, you’re not buying formula. They need your business and are trying desperately to get it.
When I first visited the fed is best website, I read the mission statement. It reports that they support all forms of feeding. Breast, pumping, formula, mixed-feeding and tube-feeding. I thought, this is great! Then, I saw the personal stories. Story after story with click-bait titles about Moms who literally starved their children. Worse yet, these Moms blame breastfeeding, not their own faults or lack of common sense for these infant deaths. While they may claim to support all forms of feeding, they certainly don’t educate or promote all forms of feeding and are extremely biased against breastfeeding.
The first 10 articles about infants starving from breastfeeding on their blog are entitled:
“If I had Given Him Just One Bottle, He Would Still Be Alive”
“Just One Bottle of Formula Would Have Prevented His 30 Day NICU Stay”
“From a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, You Are Not Alone”
Text includes “Mothers are not educated about the complications of underfeeding, we can miss serious signs of newborn starvation”
“Baby-Friendly Health Professionals Blinded Me To My Own Baby’s Starvation”
One in Spanish Reading (according to google translate)
“Leaving My Baby Hungry Accidentially Broke My Heart, But Made Me Want to Help Other Moms”
“Demnark’s Restrictive Breastfeeding Policies Forced Me to Sneak Sugar Water to Feed My Starving Baby”
“New Moms: You Are Not Alone, Please Don’t Suffer in Silence”
- An article about a Mom who committed suicide and encourages Mom to avoid the pressure to exclusively breastfeed.
“My Baby Was Starving But I Was Blinded by Pressure to Breastfeed”
This is where the fed is best organization falls short.
They are targeting the exact fear mentioned above, fear of not producing enough milk, causing the primary reason Moms stop breastfeeding and digging in deep. You can’t go on to KellyMom or the La Leche League website and scroll through 10 articles about how formula lead to individual infant deaths. They don’t have article after article about the high number of illnesses, SIDS and deaths from formula when compared to breastfeeding…because they are not driving page views with fear. You won’t scroll through 10 stories about how Moms improperly mixed formula and starved their babies, nor will you find articles about insects and other contaminants found in formula to scare you into buying donor milk.
It’s not about anyone’s feelings, scientifically breast is best:
US National Library of Medicine, The National Institute of Health’s Library Reports:
“For infants, not being breastfed is associated with an increased incidence of infectious morbidity, including otitis media, gastroenteritis, and pneumonia, as well as elevated risks of childhood obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Among premature infants, not receiving breast milk is associated with an increased risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).
For mothers, failure to breastfeed is associated with an increased incidence of premenopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, retained gestational weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome.” (3)
The March of Dimes Reports: Breast milk is the best food for your baby during the first year of life. It helps your baby grow healthy and strong. Breastfeeding helps protect your baby from many illnesses. Breastfed babies have fewer health problems than babies who aren’t breastfed. (4) I could go on and on. Professional organizations, medically based organizations and research repeatedly tell us that breast is best. Why are people so emotional about the subject?
The sad truth:
If formula companies could sell breast milk they would be marketing it to everyone and formula would not exist. Milk banks would be everywhere. You would be able to pick up and drop-off breast milk at the supermarket and it would be provided by WIC. If formula companies could charge for every ounce of breast milk, public breastfeeding would be encouraged everywhere. Lactating Moms would be queens and get high-fives from everyone. Breastfeeding Moms would be seen as invaluable, dare I say, cash cows…
Even after reading this, or partially reading this some woman will say “Well, fed is best because babies need to eat.” Duh. However, fed is best is not just a saying, it’s an organization. I am in no way suggesting that you starve your baby. Feed your baby. There are medical conditions that prevent some Moms from breastfeeding, but they’re rare (1). Educate yourself, don’t let fear be the mechanism that drives you to stop nursing (if you truly want to breastfeed) and get support, help and maybe even a baby scale to calm your fears. Know the signs of dehydration. Check for wet and dirty diapers. If you’re at all worried, call your pediatrician and go over today to talk about your concerns. Don’t stay quiet, reach out on social media, talk to others and get the support you need. You are not alone.
The organization uses poor references and insults breastfeeding professionals.
On 3/2/2017 on the organization’s facebook page, there is a post stating that an IBCLC said you “need not worry about starving…breastfed newborns” (no reference to actual article, I don’t believe an IBCLC would say this) and the author goes on to say that this old single case study brief symptomatic hypoglycemia demonstrates the lack of education for all international board certified lactation consultants. If you’re not a researcher (I spent years doing research and I enjoy it) you should know that a good study has many participants, is more recent and covers a long period of time. Poor references are old, have low numbers of participants and are short. Generally speaking. This is misinformation is pandered to over 350k fans.
What doesn’t fed is best include?
Articles about infants who died from formula like this one from 2011. An infant contracted a rare bacterial infection and died from what was believed to be contaminated formula that was also sold to other families at Walmart. “Wal-Mart pulled the Enfamil Newborn formula from shelves as a precaution following the death of little Avery Cornett in the southern Missouri town of Lebanon.” I could publish articles like this one about how breastfed babies die less often from SIDS than formula fed babies. I could also access research databases, find individual case studies and warn Moms of all sorts of things. Who would that benefit? Me. It would benefit my page views and add revenue.
There is a reason Fed Is Best uses single stories and case studies to scare Moms. These are extremely worst case scenarios and one of a kind, rare occurrences. It’s the Tabloids of the feeding world.
What ALL Moms should know. Normal newborn behavior:
“During the first day or two of life, breastfed babies receiving colostrum typically have one to two wet diapers and stools per day.” (5) “A newborn should feed at least 8-12 times in a 24 hour period.” (6) Here is a great resource from the La Leche League about how frequently babies nurse and the number of wet and dirty diapers that is expected to be common. Know the signs of a well fed baby. Eating frequently doesn’t indicate an underfed breastfed baby, but dehydration does. (4)
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While I can guarantee that you won’t come to this website and read 10 stories about babies who died from formula, seeing the information from fed is best provided to both breastfeeding and formula feeding Moms saddens me. No matter how you feed your baby, you should be supported. You should be armed with all the facts and not scared into any method of feeding. If you choose to breastfeed, you should know what typical infant behavior looks like and all the information behind the phrase breast is best. Thanks for reading this far! Comment moderation is on and do not automatically publish. Have a great day.
Couple in photo collage © Can Stock Photo / feelphotoart