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Breastfeeding? Bottle feeding? A mixture of both? Should probably leave it to the parents and their doctor — what the internet at large thinks is irrelevant.
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Breastfeeding is part of the wondrous, natural, healing, nurturing world of mother Earth exclusive to the God-blessed humans and other inferior mammals. If you don't exert your God-given responsibility to breastfeed your baby, you are an evil child-abusing devil monster. However, if you do breast feed in public, you are a pervert-creating trouble-maker.[1]

In reality, breastfeeding, which is common to all mammals[note 1] is simply mothers lactating and babies drinking milk from their mother. It is a praiseworthy practice, but not obligatory in humans. In some very specific cases (for medical or psychological reasons), it is not advised to breastfeed and shaming mothers who don't is a pretty bad way to deal with the issue.


The debate on the topic of "breastfeeding vs bottle feeding" has been going on since at least Victorian times. Parenting books examining the positives and negatives of maternal breastfeeding, wet nursing, and bottle feeding have been published as far back as the 1860s.[2] Unfortunately, science has a bit of a hard time giving a definitive answer on the issue one way or the other due to two reasons:

  • Ideally, a good study needs to be randomised and double blinded to eliminate interfering variables. This isn't actually possible in the real world when it comes to breastfeeding, obviously; we can hardly take a big group of young mothers, split them fifty/fifty, and then randomly assign them breastfeeding or bottle feeding without any of them knowing about it. That's just not realistic. So most studies on breastfeeding are observational as opposed to being truly experimental.[3]
  • The longer a study goes on to examine the benefits of breastfeeding, the more confounding variables are introduced. There are plenty of papers that have been published in which the subjects of the study have been tracked from birth into adulthood to determine the impact of breastfeeding on their lives. 5-year studies, 10-year studies, 30-year studies — they all suffer from the same problem. Who is to say, 30 years into a study, that the breastfeeding group has a stronger immune system (or better income, lower cholesterol levels, higher IQ, whatever) because of breastfeeding and nothing else. THAT would be a very bold claim to make, implying that every other factor has been accounted for — a claim that's rather dubious.[4]

With all that said, breastmilk does seem to be a bit better than formula, containing antibodies and micronutrients that formula doesn't have, while also promoting bonding between mother and child. Most health agencies around the world recommend 6 months of nothing but breast milk before other foods are introduced into a baby's diet.[5][6][7]


Studies have shown that babies who are breastfed for longer are more likely to reach adulthood,[8] are less likely to become obese,[9] and have slightly higher cognitive development.[10] One long-term study on about 3500 subjects showed on average a significantly higher IQ score (3.76 points) and length of education (almost a year) at the age of 30 for those who had been breastfed for more than twelve months compared to those with less than one month, after confounders have been accounted for. The monthly income of the breastfed group was also higher, though this is attributed mostly to the higher IQ score.[11]

Though how convincing these studies are is up for debate. One long-term study on siblings by Cynthia G. Colen and David M. Ramey concluded that the supposed 'benefits' of breastfeeding may be primarily due to selection pressures into infant feeding practices along key demographic characteristics such as race and socioeconomic status.[12] One notable meta-analysis stated that "There was no relationship between breastfeeding in term infants and cognitive performance."[13] A 2006 paper suggested that breastfeeding does not play much of a factor in a child's intelligence, finding instead that it is much more strongly correlated to maternal intelligence.[14][note 2]

The correlation between breastfeeding and desirable health outcomes might be a result of confounding factors: people who are more intelligent also tend to be more educated, and folks with more intelligence tend to be more aware of the benefits of breastfeeding. Also, more intelligent people tend to be better off financially, and (at least in the US) while the government offers some financial assistance to needy mothers for bottle feeding, it does not offer assistance for breastfeeding (pumps, nipple shields, etc.).

Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop certain forms of cancer and diabetes,[16] and breastfeeding makes post-partum problems and complications less likely, making part of the post-partum recovery process easier.

Dr. David Meyers, the director of the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, pointed out that six women would have to breastfeed exclusively for six months to prevent one ear infection.[17]


The breastmilk may contain certain substances that the mother ingests; in certain quantities, these may harm the child. For instance, caffeine, alcohol, and mercury are known to pass through. Likewise, certain medication or illnesses of the mother can harm the child through the breastmilk. It is recommended that mothers seek medical advice in these cases before they breastfeed.

For HIV-positive mothers, there is conflicting indications as to how dangerous breastfeeding may be to their child. In general, it is recommended to use alternative breastfeeding or formula, if they can be used.

Breastmilk that is purchased over the internet may contain high levels of microbial contamination, reflecting "poor collection, storage, or shipping practices", and putting the exposed infants at risk.[18] Another study by the same authors found that 10% of internet breastmilk was contaminated with cows' milk.[19]

The Breastapo is coming to take you away[edit]

Oh my gosh! This baby is being abused!Do You Believe That?
It was so depressing and isolating ... I felt tied to my pump, and tied to my tracking. There’s something about the way we treat breastfeeding that almost validates you. It’s like you get your ‘mom card’ for working correctly, and I felt like mine was going to be taken away.[20]

"Lactivism"[note 3] is an apparent portmanteau of "lactate" and "activism" used to describe the (often sensible) advocacy of breastfeeding in contrast to bottle feeding. Its main focus is on promoting the health benefits associated with breast milk and with attempting to counteract discrimination that nursing mothers can face at work. While these aims are certainly noble, the rhetoric sometimes used by lactivists can border on bullying and emotional abuse.

Many people have an idealised version of what motherhood is like, but the truth is that being a mom is pretty fricking hard. Breastfeeding isn't this lovely, effortless thing that all mothers can perform with no hassle. It's an exhausting and painful experience,[21] especially for people who suffer from an aversion response[22] or postpartum depression.[23] The stress placed upon these mothers is enormous and exacerbates feelings of guilt and inadequacy, which can lead to a severe deterioration in their mental health.

Lactivist Harassment[edit]

There have been some instances of truly absurd, upsetting, and in some cases dangerous lactivist harassment. The classic example is that of Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, a breast cancer survivor who had to have a thorough double mastectomy. When she told the lactation consultants that she was physically incapable of lactating, they suggested she try to produce milk through her armpits.[24]

Tara Blanchard related how she was on an anti-tumour medication that completely suppressed prolactin, which is essential for producing breast milk. Again, she was bullied, painfully physically handled, and pressured to produce milk that she was physically incapable of producing.[25]

Another woman reported how, when her baby was jaundiced and screaming, nurses still refused to provide formula — rather than leave the baby to starve, the parents resorted to smuggling the formula into the hospital.[20]

But it's not just individuals who create this atmosphere of bullying. Government officials also play their part. As Courtney Jung, author of Lactivism: How Feminists and Fundamentalists, Hippies and Yuppies, and Physicians and Politicians Made Breastfeeding Big Business and Bad Policy, pointed out:[26]

Not one of the breast-feeding initiatives launched since 1995 seems directed toward supporting women’s own preferences and choices.

When lactivism kills[edit]

The Virgin Mary deploying her anti-monk defence system, 12th century CE.

At the more extreme ends, lactivism and the mania for breastfeeding can kill. Florence Leung killed herself during an episode of postpartum depression, which her husband says was exacerbated by the pressure to breastfeed.[27] Babies have died from malnutrition because their mothers did not know that their breastmilk was insufficient.[28] Mothers in Africa with HIV have been pressured to breastfeed, even though breastfeeding could transmit the virus to their babies, and between 4.9-7.35 million babies have been infected as a direct result of breastfeeding.[29]

Goodness gracious! Have some modesty![edit]

People don’t feel physically menaced by a breast. What they do feel is ideologically menaced. The woman’s act signifies a refusal to sequester her body, her sexuality, and her motherhood.
—Professor Eleanor Johnson[30]

In contrast to the "all natural super moms" who berate women for not breastfeeding, there is the giant cohort of conservative folk who seem to think that breastfeeding in public is akin to being a prostitute. According to them, the act of feeding your kid in public is an inherently indecent and salacious act[31] that must be punished by law,[32] lest the critical mass of exposed nipples brings about the downfall of our civilization. How hurling abuse at young moms breastfeeding in public places is acceptable, well, that's never really explained.[33] One might think that religiosity plays a role in people's attitudes regarding "public decency", but this argument doesn't stand up to scrutiny: Are we not all perfectly made by the Abrahamic God? Surely these people are not saying that He made a mistake?[34] Indeed, in Mediaeval times (when Christianity was an even more pervasive factor in shaping people's attitudes in Europe), breast feeding was seen as a miracle, something to be celebrated.[30] No less a religious authority than Pope Francis himself has deemed it okay to breastfeed in public, and we sure as hell ain't gonna argue with him![35]

Breastfeeding benefits the public in numerous ways — and if members of the public truly want what's best for society, they should support moms as much as possible.[36]


  • It has been claimed that breastfeeding is essential for bio-psycho-spiritual-health.[37] This has not been substantiated by research.[citation NOT needed]
  • Another thing that has not been substantiated by research? "Lactation cookies." Women who struggle with breastmilk production are often desperate for a solution and are willing to try anything. "Lactation cookies" are just normal cookies, however. Whether they are of the home-baked variety or of the very expensive store bought kind, there is absolutely no evidence to back up the claim that eating cookies improves lactation.[38][39] Anyone who say otherwise is arguing by assertion.
  • Some people seem to think that it's okay to breastfeed your baby after drinking alcohol provided you "pump and dump" your first batch of breastmilk. Alas, alcohol stays in the blood stream too long for that to work.[40] So save that Vodka Red Bull for later.

External links[edit]


  1. Except for monotremes,Wikipedia who are lacking in the nipple department.
  2. Critics point out that this study did not account for the length of time breastfeeding took place, potential contaminants in the milk, the number of times breastfeeding took place per day, and that the median duration of breastfeeding in the study was three months, which is too short to see effects on IQ.[15]
  3. Not to be confused with slacktivism


  1. Mothers are made to feel guilty whether they breastfeed or formula feed their baby The Conversation 15 November 2016
  2. Breast or bottle feeding: the debate has its origins in Victorian times The Conversation 20 September 2019
  3. A Nuanced View on Breast vs Formula Science-Based Medicine 26 September 2018
  4. Are the benefits of breastfeeding oversold? Science-Based Medicine 17 December 2009
  5. Why it Matters | Breastfeeding United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  6. Benefits of breastfeeding National Health Service of England
  7. Breastfeeding World Health Organization
  8. Gartner LM, Morton J, Lawrence RA, Naylor AJ, O'Hare D, Schanler RJ, Eidelman AI; American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 2005 Feb;115(2):496-506. doi: 10.1542/peds.2004-2491. PMID: 15687461.
  9. Open access journal article Grube MM, von der Lippe E, Schlaud M, Brettschneider AK. Does breastfeeding help to reduce the risk of childhood overweight and obesity? A propensity score analysis of data from the KiGGS study. PLoS One. 2015 Mar 26;10(3):e0122534. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0122534. Erratum in: PLoS One. 2015;10(4):e0126675. PMID: 25811831; PMCID: PMC4374721.
  10. Open access journal article Pereyra-Elías R, Quigley MA, Carson C. To what extent does confounding explain the association between breastfeeding duration and cognitive development up to age 14? Findings from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. PLoS One. 2022 May 25;17(5):e0267326. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0267326. PMID: 35613097; PMCID: PMC9132301.
  11. Open access journal article Victora CG, Horta BL, Loret de Mola C, Quevedo L, Pinheiro RT, Gigante DP, Gonçalves H, Barros FC. Association between breastfeeding and intelligence, educational attainment, and income at 30 years of age: a prospective birth cohort study from Brazil. Lancet Glob Health. 2015 Apr;3(4):e199-205. doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(15)70002-1. PMID: 25794674; PMCID: PMC4365917.
  12. Open access journal article Colen CG, Ramey DM. Is breast truly best? Estimating the effects of breastfeeding on long-term child health and wellbeing in the United States using sibling comparisons. Soc Sci Med. 2014 May;109:55-65. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.01.027. Epub 2014 Jan 29. PMID: 24698713; PMCID: PMC4077166.
  13. Open access journal article Ip S, Chung M, Raman G, Chew P, Magula N, DeVine D, Trikalinos T, Lau J. Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Developed Countries. Evid Rep Technol Assess (Full Rep). 2007 Apr;(153):1-186. PMID: 17764214; PMCID: PMC4781366.
  14. Open access journal article Der, G., Batty, G. D., & Deary, I.J. (2006). Effect of breast feeding on intelligence in children: prospective study, sibling pairs analysis, and meta-analysis. British Medical Journal, 333 (7575).
  15. See the comments on the paper itself at the BMJ website
  16. Open access journal article Patelarou E, Girvalaki C, Brokalaki H, Patelarou A, Androulaki Z, Vardavas C. Current evidence on the associations of breastfeeding, infant formula, and cow's milk introduction with type 1 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review. Nutr Rev. 2012 Sep;70(9):509-19. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00513.x.
  17. Meyers D. Breastfeeding and health outcomes. Breastfeed Med. 2009 Oct;4 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S13-5. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2009.0066. PMID: 19827918; PMCID: PMC2998971.
  18. Open access journal article Keim SA, Hogan JS, McNamara KA, Gudimetla V, Dillon CE, Kwiek JJ, Geraghty SR. Microbial contamination of human milk purchased via the Internet. Pediatrics. 2013 Nov;132(5):e1227-35. doi: 10.1542/peds.2013-1687. Epub 2013 Oct 21. PMID: 24144714; PMCID: PMC4530303.
  19. Sources of breastmilk on Internet stir warning by Erin Allday (April 5, 2015) San Francisco Chronicle.
  20. 20.0 20.1 The Pressure To Breastfeed Can Hurt Moms. And Doctors Are Finally Realizing It. HuffPost 19 September 2019
  21. Breastfeeding is not ‘easy’ – stop telling new mothers that it is The Conversation 19 June 2018
  22. ‘I feel guilty for feeling like that.’ One fifth of breastfeeding women report an aversion response The Conversation 11 July 2023
  23. Breastfeeding struggles linked to postpartum depression in mothers The Conversation 16 May 2019
  24. Why I don’t breast-feed, if you must know The Washington Post 13 October 2014
  25. ‘My husband calls them breast-feeding bullies’ The Washington Post 15 October 2014
  26. ‘Lactivism,’ by Courtney Jung The New York Times 14 December 2015
  27. 'You are not a bad mother': Husband pens letter to moms with postpartum depression after losing wife CBC News 17 January 2017
  28. Placing the Blame in an Infant's Death; Mother Faces Trial After Baby Dies From Lack of Breast Milk The News York Times 15 March 1999
  29. Breast-Feeding Extremists Are Even Worse Than You Thought Slate 4 December 2015
  30. 30.0 30.1 The backwards history of attitudes toward public breastfeeding. The Conversation, 30 May 2016.
  31. Limbaugh slams Michelle Obama for promoting breastfeeding, says he's not "surprised" she's encouraging people "to get on that teat" Media Matters for America 21 September 2010 (Archived from the original on 24 September 2010)
  32. Mothers push for reform of ‘antiquated’ breastfeeding law Associated Press News 11 January 2021
  33. Stop shaming mothers who want to breastfeed their babies The Conversation 15 March 2016
  34. What God Says About Breastfeeding Mothering From the Heart
  35. Pope Francis Once Again Encourages Mothers To Breastfeed In The Sistine Chapel NPR 7 January 2018
  36. Feeding frenzy: public breastfeeding is good for us all The Conversation 21 January 2013
  37. Breastfeeding is Essential for Bio-Psycho-Spiritual Health Vitally Alive 2007 (Archived from the original on 15 April 2015)
  38. No, there’s no evidence cookies can help with lactation The Conversation 29 August 2019
  39. Lactation cookies feed on breastfeeding anxieties Science-Based Medicine 13 June 2019
  40. Is it safe to drink alcohol while breastfeeding? The Conversation 18 July 2019