Amid a worsening nationwide infant formula shortage, Bette Midler tweeted what she seemed to think was a simple, no-nonsense solution to parents’ struggle to feed their hungry infants.
The outspoken film and theater star declared Thursday night moms should just “TRY BREASTFEEDING.” It’s free and available on demand.
The question of whether breastfeeding really is “free” turned out to be one of the points raised by many people who did not respond favorably to Midler’s tweet. In fact, her tweet sparked a cascade of reactions that showed how difficult breastfeeding is for many women in the United States, with one person saying, “Please don’t be so cavalier about this. »
Respondents agreed that breastfeeding provides the best nourishment for infants, rich in antibodies that protect against many common childhood illnesses.
They also said that many women cannot breastfeed for various reasons, but become physically and mentally exhausted. Others have noted that many women lack the social or economic support to express their milk or to take time off from work during their baby’s first months in order to be available for feeding on demand.
In the midst of the current crisis, it is also not possible for a mother to suddenly start breastfeeding again if she has already started feeding her baby bottle and formula, as argued by TV editor Amanda Deibert in a TikTok video shared on Midler’s feed.
“What really amazes me is the stupid way people react to this (shortage), like ‘Why can’t women just breastfeed? ‘” Deibert said. “Like it’s just something all women can do, or something women can just turn back on when they haven’t done it for, say, three or six months, and their baby has been fed. formula, or like babies with allergies don’t exist, or like adopted babies don’t exist, or babies with single dads, or same-sex dads, or a myriad of other situations in which babies need formula to eat and live.
People don’t understand how boobs work pic.twitter.com/bPu4g8R4Da
— Amanda Deibert🏳️🌈🌻🌻 (@amandadeibert) May 13, 2022
Pamela Barroway, Writer and Freelance Writer urged Midler to “Please, please rethink this. Many of us, for many reasons, are unable to breastfeed, myself included. Barroway explained that she could not breastfeed after a C-section and despite numerous visits from lactation consultants.
Author Ilyse Hogue added: “Bette, respectfully, that’s a really bad take. I had twins. I did not produce enough milk for both. Without formula, I would have had to choose which one to eat. Not to mention the children who are separated from their very young biological mothers.
Midler returned to Twitter several hours later to lament that people were “crowding in.”
“No shame if you can’t breastfeed, but if you can and are somehow convinced that your own milk isn’t as good as a ‘scientifically researched product’, that’s another thing altogether,” said Midler said.
The actress then indicated that she had just learned of the “monopoly” of infant formula manufacturing in the United States which contributed to the shortage, but she appeared to cavalierly end her tweet with the hashtag #WETNURSES.
Meanwhile, discussion of Midler’s original tweet continued with a self-described “2 1/2 year breastfeeding mum” pointing out that the practice is actually not “free”.
“Good for baby?” Yes. Free? Surely not.” tweeted Sara Goldrick-Rab, professor of sociology and medicine at Temple University. She listed some of her expenses: “(1) Time – 3 hrs – 10 hrs/day depending on baby’s age and mother’s job (2) Breast pump and accessories ($250+) ( 3) Nursing bras, pads, breastfeeding friendly clothes, burp ($300).
Other respondents shared a Twitter feed by Clara Jeffery, editor of Mother Jones, who said she spent a year as a young journalist investigating issues around breastfeeding and formula.
Jeffrey declared to the funds that she was “extremely, deeply even, disappointed that you were taking that line”.
Although Jeffery agreed that breastfeeding has “many benefits”, especially in the first few weeks of a baby’s life, she explained why it is “not optimal OR EVEN POSSIBLE for many women “.
“Some women just can’t.” Jeffery said, adding that these women are “intimidated to keep trying and discouraged or ashamed of using formula.”
Jeffery then detailed some of the economic and logistical barriers to breastfeeding.
“Do you work two part-time jobs to support your child(ren) AND you spend hours a day breastfeeding? Come on,” Jeffrey tweeted.
“Breast pumps are expensive! Jeffrey added. “Workplaces that support pumping with both intimacy and hourly allowances are still far too rare. Do you think there’s a nursing room in the back of every McDonald’s? »
“The breast pumps themselves ‘are heavy and bulky,'” Jeffrey continued. “Try taking it to work on a bus or if you have to walk long distances. Do you think most women can afford to have two and leave one at work? That they have a secure space to lock him up? Nope.”
Carla Cevasco, an assistant professor at Rutgers University who studies the history of food, body, gender and race in early America, also joined in the discussion sparked by Midler’s tweet. She hit back at the idea that babies only consumed breast milk and that “everything was fine” before the rise of commercial formula in the 1950s.
“Throughout history, people have sometimes needed to feed infants foods other than breast milk,” Cevasco said. started his Twitter feed. “Sometimes the biological parent was unable to breastfeed. Because: death during childbirth, or physical/mental health problems, or the need to return to work outside the home immediately after giving birth, OR their partner or slaveholder forced them not to breastfeed so that they can regain their fertility as soon as possible after giving birth.
If no nursing caregiver was available, the baby should thrive on alternate diets, Cevasco tweeted. Early Europeans fed infants a mixture of animal milk or water, breadcrumbs or flour, while women of the Waknabi people in North America in the 18th century fed infants a mixture of boiled nuts, cornmeal and water.
Unfortunately, Cevasco said, these milk substitutes were not always safe or nutritionally complete, and many babies died of disease or starvation.