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The Case Against Breastfeeding

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Four women discuss the science and culture of breastfeeding.

Mom Hanna Rosin GOES OFF about the pressure on women to breastfeed in the April 2009 issue of The Atlantic.

"In certain overachieving circles, breastfeeding is no longer a choice -- it's a no-exceptions requirement, the ultimate badge of responsible parenting," she writes. "Yet the actual health benefits of breastfeeding are surprisingly thin, far thinner than most popular literature indicates. Is breastfeeding right for every family? Or is it this generation's vacuum cleaner -- an instrument of misery that mostly just keeps women down?"

Hanna continues: "Breastfeeding exclusively is not like taking a prenatal vitamin. It is a serious time commitment that pretty much guarantees that you will not work in any meaningful way. Let's say a baby feeds seven times a day and then a couple more times at night. That's nine times for about a half hour each, which adds up to more than half of a working day, every day, for at least six months. This is why, when people say that breastfeeding is 'free,' I want to hit them with a two-by-four. It's only free if a woman's time is worth nothing."

Hanna and three of her friends sit down to discuss breastfeeding, and most seem to feel it's just another thing to control women and bring them down:

Do you agree?

next: Couple Charged for Taping Sex Acts with Children
66 comments so far | Post a comment now
Brenda March 16, 2009, 10:45 AM

What? This is ridiculous! Breastfeeding was around way before and I mean WAY before formula. How could anyone who thinks straight make such a ridiculous comment?! This is one of those “women are their own worst enemies” discussions.

Listen ladies, did you know that breast cancer exists almost exclusively in western cultures where a) moms don’t breastfeed or do it very little and b) bras are heavily used? Besides the nutritional fact for the babies, it’s a healthy thing for the woman. For all our advances, we really are not only not healthier than poorer nations, but we have diseases they don’t have.

When women carry water for the pharmaceutical industry that makes gobbs of money off our ignorance and slavery to their batch of poisons, then we have failed not only ourselves, but all the women who come after us. It’s one thing if a woman chooses not to breastfeed. That’s her business and her choice. I wouldn’t recommend it, but she’s free to do as she pleases. It’s another thing for that woman to declare to the world, based on some “science” that it’s not that good for any woman. That goes too far especially since it’s also erroneous.

Little Peapie March 16, 2009, 11:15 AM

This is a load of sh**. Let’s feed our children powder and water so that we can not feel ashamed that we aren’t giving them the milk that God intended for them. The child comes from our body, hence the milk—-we are mammals, aren’t we? Just checking. My two year old is still nursing, we are happy and healthy and he has never been on antibiotics. (The average age worldwide for weaning is 4yrs btw). There are so many decisions to make as a parents where we aren’t sure if it is the right one, why argue with one that we KNOW is right? Referring to: “Breastfeeding exclusively is not like taking a prenatal vitamin. It is a serious time commitment that pretty much guarantees that you will not work in any meaningful way.” CHILDREN ARE A COMMITMENT AND CARING FOR THEM COMES WITH THAT——THATS NOT A SECRET.

Anonymous March 16, 2009, 11:31 AM

I never breast feed and don’t feel guilty at all that I didn’t. My kid turned out just fine.

Scott March 16, 2009, 12:25 PM

Hey Hanna,

If you begrudge your child-rearing responsibilies, quit squeezing them out. The world is over-populated as it is.

Samantha March 16, 2009, 12:45 PM

I went back and forth on commenting on this—seems like most minds are made up, but maybe someone like me will read my comment and feel a bit better. No one is arguing that breastfeeding is a good thing. The article (which it sounds like few of you bothered to read) merely says that its importance is overstated. That is TRUE. Breastfeeding is good, but if you don’t do it for whatever reason your child will still be perfectly fine. There will be tons of stuff you do to traumatize your poor baby. If not breastfeeding is on the list, so be it. If you did breastfeed, you WILL do something else that is bad at some point. None of us is perfect and we all need to make decisions as to what, or who, we will put first. Read the article before you judge the title. And beware of passing judgment on your fellow mothers—we are all doing the best we can with what we’ve got. At some point you will fail too.

sick of it March 16, 2009, 1:23 PM

Isn’t it funny that when a mom site is low on responses for their articles that they post some sort of “mommy war” crap like this?

jackie March 16, 2009, 2:04 PM

these women cant be serious…breastfeeding has numerous benefits for mother and child…and thats what breasts were made for!

yes, it takes a little longer to breastfeed than give your kid a bottle in some cases. i wish i didnt have problems with breastfeeding, i would have continued for much longer.

too many women are too focused on their “own time” and always “me me me” that they totally forget their God given ability to nourish their cihld in the best way possible.

this country has turned into a place where breasts are purely sexual, and convience to what mom wants is valued over the health of baby.

Anonymous March 16, 2009, 3:05 PM

“…this generation’s vacuum cleaner…”
We were born with breasts because it’s natural for us to breastfeed. We were not born with vacuums attached to our limbs.

JC March 16, 2009, 7:35 PM

Rosin is not a scientist. She is quoting studies that she obviously didn’t really understand. The authors of one study she discussed actually responded to her article here:

What I found troubling about her article is that she never picked up the phone to talk to experts in this field of research. She never talked to the researchers she quoted, out of context in some cases. She didn’t quote any expert who agreed with her point of view.

She is saying that breastfeeding is inconvenient and ties women down. Therefore, she wants to downplay its benefits. Yes, some women feel tied down by breastfeeding. They have the option to formula feed or supplement with formula. They have that choice.

We should not pretend, for the sake of women who can’t or don’t want to breastfeed, that formula is just as good or almost as good. We can’t downplay the benefits of breastfeeding to make these women feel better. The reality is breast is best. Now, you have the choice to take that advice or not.

Personally, I find breastfeeding to be really easy. If my baby is hungry, I just pick her up and feed her. There is no bottle to make or mess to clean up. I don’t need to go get a bib. It’s easy. I breastfed my first child for 2.5 years, while doing freelance web design. I worked and fed the baby at the same time.

JC March 16, 2009, 8:09 PM


“Think about it, how would little babies who are born prematurely posts 25 weeks survive in incubation while being fed intravenously with no breast milk. How would they survive at all if they had not immune system of their own in place.”

My daughter was 8 weeks premature. I pumped milk, which was fed to her intravenously. Infection is a very big risk for preemies. Breastfeeding lowers a preemie’s risk of death and illness.

bf March 17, 2009, 12:42 AM

lezbians should not breast feed, and they look like men.

Rachel March 17, 2009, 2:55 AM

I wish it didn’t have to be one extreme or another. Why does society have to be ALL pro-breastfeeding or ALL pro-formula?? Right now, with all the “breast is best” stuff out there, I feel like a FAILURE that I have to supplement my son with formula. The fact of the matter is, I do not make enough milk for him so when he’s done BF’ding, I also give him a bottle. Formula is not the devil. Is it the same as breast milk? No, but I doubt a child is going to die just because they were fed formula instead of being breastfed! Why can’t we just support women in WHATEVER decision they make? Yes, breast milk in general is better however children do not suffer by being fed formula. Does it really matter that one mom may choose formula over breastfeeding? It’s really no one’s business. Do what’s best for your family and let all the haters (either way) roll off your back.

SB March 17, 2009, 11:45 AM


A lot of children died in China recently because they were fed contaminated formula. They would not have died if they had been breastfed. Many children have become very ill in the U.S. because of bad reactions from additives in formula. Contamination of formula, like we had with peanut butter recently, is a real possibility. Between the benefits of breastfeeding and the real dangers posed by formula, breast really is best. It’s very rare that a mother could not provide enough milk for a baby. Did you talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant for advice?

Kim March 17, 2009, 1:04 PM

4-5 hours a day is too much time to spend snuggling with and nurturing your baby? I can’t relate to that. I hate it when people say “I turned out okay,” or “my kid is fine” when defending formula. I’m not saying that formula will kill or disable your child (except in the case of poision cited by the above poster) but any way you look at it, it’s man made, unnatural, and not nearly as good as breastmilk. If you’re okay with deliberately not giving your child the best, that’s your choice. To me it’s like the difference between eating all fast food or home made healthy meals. Both have calories and sustain life, but one is clearly better than the other. I feel bad for women who can’t breastfeed and feel bad about themselves. They shouldn’t. But the reality is that very very few women actually “can’t” but often believe they can’t because of erroneous information out there. For example, the woman who posted a few posts before me. If you didn’t supplement, your body would naturally respond to the demand for more, you would start making more milk and wouldn’t need to supplement. The more a baby sucks, the more milk your body will make. Give yourself a couple of days to catch up with the need and offer the breast on demand. If that’s not for you fine. But don’t pretend that formula is just as good. It’s not.

busy March 17, 2009, 1:43 PM

To Kim, do you realize how elitist you sound? You sound like such a breast nazi! You make all nursing mothers look bad, some people really can’t feed! Judging from your comment you must feel like you have done something wrong in raising your child, or you would not have ranted as you have.

tracy March 17, 2009, 1:44 PM

Hey Kim! Were you formula fed?

T March 17, 2009, 1:55 PM

ignorance!!! a great many bad choices made because of it. am i the only one whom correlates the increase in breast cancer amongst the generations told by doctors breastfeeding was “optional” at best when will we see that buying into giving up our god given uniqueness we continue to sabbatage motherhood for our daughters

anon March 17, 2009, 3:10 PM

I have nursed for children about 18 months each while working. I was never sleep deprived and i never felt pressured into doing it. I actually had people feel the opposite thinking it was disgusting. The only time i felt degraded was when i had to pump in the bathroom at work. This type of backlash is working against working moms who need more support when chances are they are more likely to drop breastfeeding when they go back.

Kim March 19, 2009, 9:11 AM

This article undermines the American Academy of Pediatrics 2005 supportive guidelines for breastfeeding. The AAP president has responded to this article saying:

” The evidence for the value of breastfeeding is scientific, it is strong, and it is continually being reaffirmed by new research work.”

This article made these mothers look extremely ignorant and self centered. They should be embarassed.

jessie March 20, 2009, 4:38 AM

The amount of female judgement on this site is incredible. Obviously, there are a lot of women who have nothing better to do than judge other women, solely to make themselves feel better/superior about their own choices. For the record, I was breast fed for over a year and had chronic ear infections as a child. My husband has 4 siblings, only one was breast fed. She has more allergies and health issues (including breast cancer) than any of the bottle fed children. So you can get on your high horse and judge or you can take a step back and realize that other people’s decisions hold no reflection on your ability as a mother. It isn’t all about you. And before you judge (once again), this is from a mother who did decide to breast feed. Not that it should matter, but somehow I know it will.

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