Breastfeeding the Law?

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This weekend I was reading an old article from last fall about Gisele Bundchen and her opinions on breastfeeding. It really got me thinking because it made me feel some feelings I didn’t really expect to feel. Back in August 2010, after Gisele Bundchen made comments about how breastfeeding should be an international law. She said there should be a worldwide law that mothers breastfeed for at least 6 months. She made comments about giving chemical food to babies when they are so little.

Now, before the birth of W and my subsequent experience, I would have applauded her. I stillnlike that she is a public figure out there standing proud when it comes to breastfeeding. But reading her comments also frustrated me a little because her remarks make it sound like she believes that anyone who doesn’t breastfeed is doing something that is not as good for their child. Now, there’s a good chance she doesn’t think that, but based on the quotes in the article, that is how she has been portrayed.

I am definitely a proponent of breastfeeding and would love to have had a wonderful breastfeeding experience. I’m not going to let the challenges with W put me off from trying again with my next child. But one thing that I know is not true is this: I am not any less of a parent because my son is now formula fed. Even if I had to give him 100% formula from the beginning, it would not have made me any less of a parent.

Saying things like there should be a law that requires women to breastfeed would mean that I would have been in trouble with the law for one of two reasons.

  1. I would be in trouble for not having breastfed for 6 months OR
  2. I would be in trouble because I never made enough milk to fully feed W and he would have been malnourished.

So, either way I would have been in trouble. Guess it would have really sucked to be me if there was such a law! Considering the fact that I wanted my son to have the nutrition he needed to grow and develop and I couldn’t provide it myself, I went with the “chemical” food. I did everything I could to minimize the amount of formula he received by pumping for as long as I could and supplementing with breast milk that was given to me. But in the end, the boy had to eat and formula is not the evil that some want new mothers to believe. It has taken me a long time to find peace with having to use formula, but now i am able to acknowledge that we are blessed to have modern baby formulas to provide nutrition for those who need it.

In fact, not all mothers even have the option to breastfeed! I have a friend who is not able to breastfeed due to some medications she needs to take for her own health. Should she be in trouble with the law? I don’t think so!

Formula is not the enemy.

I want to say it again, I support breastfeeding. I will try it all again if we are blessed with more children. But before I had W and went through my experience, I sounded like Gisele Bundchen sometimes with all my talk about how I was going to exclusively breastfeed and how great it was going to be. Now I think I’ve developed a bit more empathy through my experience as a new mother. I now understand that everything about raising a child is about figuring out what works and doing the best for your child. Baby has to eat! That’s the bottom line!

This is just another way motherhood has changed me for the better. While I’m still a huge supporter of breastfeeding, I am also a much better support and shoulder to lean on for my friends who have struggled with breastfeeding. Overall, I think I’m more understanding of how everyone’s situation is unique. I believe that as long as our babies are getting fed and taken care of, we’re doing all right!

If you’d like to read the entire article, I recommend it! I would also love to hear your thoughts on Gisele Bundchen’s comments!


  1. says

    Thank you! You and I are in identical boats. My 5 mo. old son could never latch properly. (He has a high palette and my smallish nipples couldn’t reach it.) After a 4 days of trying, he lost a dramatic amount of weight; more than what is typical after birth. And doctor wanted us to go straight to formula which we were prepared to do. Went to a lactation consultant who help me immensely! Horrible feelings of inadequacy because I couldn’t feed my son. We set up a program where I’m pumping and we’re feeding him via bottle pumped breast milk. Talk about a commitment! I’ve been pumping 5-7 time a day for the last 5 months and even with herbal supplements and coaching from my lactation consultant, my 43 year old body just cannot produce enough milk for him. So he gets about 80% breast milk & 20% formula. Doesn’t make me a bad mom. Doesn’t mean I wish things weren’t different. But we do what we have to do for our beloved babies! However we as a society have to remember that every baby is different, every mommy is different. **hugs!** I know exactly where you’re coming from.

    • Mariah says

      Lori, your story reminds me so much of my own. I was doing the same thing and continued pumping as much as I could until I returned to work when W was about 4 months old. Even then I continued to pump some but my tiny supply just dwindled away. But go you for working so hard at it! I know just how much work you’re putting into it and you are AMAZING! :)

  2. says

    I so enjoyed reading this! I have breastfed both of my babies and now with this one I am hoping to also, but it makes me very sad when we as mothers cast judgement or maybe display our own opinions a little too strongly on this issue! It is every mother’s personal choice (or as you mentioned, often there is NO choice as there may be some medical reason, etc why mothers are not able to) I think we all as moms need to be supportive of each others choices and not judge, etc! I’m happy that this has not been made law, that is for sure!

    • Mariah says

      Exactly, Erin! I never thought of myself as being judgmental, but I know that I definitely talked about how I would do anything i had to do to breastfeed and on and on… now, I get the other side. I suppose tomorrow I need to share the whole sordid tale of my breastfeeding experience. I’ve been meaning to do that for awhile.

  3. says

    Great post! I am like you and can totally see both sides! With my first child, I breastfed her for a year. With my second child, I had a terrible infection and could only breastfeed him for 6 weeks. Both kids are happy and healthy. Everyone has to do what is best for them! And formula is wonderful! There is nothing wrong with it. :)

    Camille @

    • Mariah says

      Welcome Camille! I will definitely stop by and visit! I’m hoping that I have luck with the second. At least I will be more mentally prepared for all of the struggles. I was prepared for it to be painful as W and I learned how it worked, but I wasn’t prepared for the other issues we faced.

  4. Anna says

    I have read that article too and it had made me upset. I too would have been in trouble my daughter only breastfeed for 2 months. she was born 4 weeks early and under 5 pounds so we have to supplement from the beginning. She never liked the breast and prefered the bottle and I was not able to pump enough for her. With my son I have been able to breastfeed and he actually refuses formula from the time he was born.
    It makes me sad when I see women degrading other women for not being able to breastfeed. I also have a friend tha wanted to brastfeed both her sons, but was not able to. As long as the child is healthy and growing why should it matter what it being feed? As moms we try our hardest to do what is best for our babies and that includes what we are feeding them. We shouldn’t tell someone they are a bad mother because they aren’t breastfeeding.

    • Mariah says

      Anna, obviously I agree! My nephew was like your son and my sister-in-law just wanted him to take a bottle from time to time. Eventually he did but it left her with a huge supply of pumped milk that they weren’t using. Luckily she was nice enough to let W have some. I hope your daughter is doing well!

  5. says

    I have read that article too.. I feel that she was misquoted. From what I understand she was meaning that those who get in the way of a mother breastfeeding should be charged (ie poor Drs, Formula Companies, etc)
    I agree that there are times for formula, such as yours but their are way WAY to many “booby traps” ( that get in the way of the mom’s who have the ability to breastfeed. Babies and mother’s health are what suffers when that happens (which has been medically proven).. and formula companies profit. The WHO code that she was referring to does not go against the mothers, but the disgraceful tactics of the formula companies and the ignorant myth-perpetuating Doctors.

    • Mariah says

      Krysta, I too feel she was probably not quoted as accurately as she could have been. I do agree that breast is best and I still believe that. Reading people talking about how great it is and how it is best just makes me feel a little bit different now, if you know what I mean!

      • Rebecca M. says

        Let me start by saying that I am also a huge advocate for breastfeeding, and I have breastfeed 3 children — my oldest son for 20 months, and my twins are 15 months and still going strong. We have definitely had our share of challenges, including latch and supply issues with my first son, and a stay in the Special Care Nursery for one of my twins. I am very aware of the many challenges and issues that affect breastfeeding mothers and babies in our culture, as well as the increasing numbers of women who have “lactation failure” due to hormonal issues, difficult births, medical interference, and many other reasons. I really feel for you that you had such a difficult journey, and I am absolutely not judging your choices or experience. I am speaking to you as a fellow advocate, hoping that what I say will help you grow in your advocacy as well as your personal views on the subject.

        You are absolutely entitled to your feelings of regret, guilt, anger, sadness, or whatever else you might feel. However, your experience and your feelings do NOT change the facts about breastfeeding and artificial feeding. You take issue with the idea that “anyone who doesn’t breastfeed is doing something that is not as good for their child.” Well, the fact is, THEY ARE. Formula is NOT as good as breastmilk. Even “exclusively pumping” is sub-par to feeding at the breast for many reasons. Again, I’m not “judging” or “knocking” women who choose or are forced to EP — I know it’s A LOT of work, and it’s still preferable to artificial feeding according to the WHO — but the facts are the facts. As for artificial infant milk, it meets the basic dietary requirements of infants, as calculated by researchers in a laboratory, but is lacking in many, many ways and carries numerous risks to both mom and baby. I know that may hurt to hear, but it’s the reality, no matter what other FF-ing moms may say or what the ads might tell you about “advances” in their products.

        We need to re-think how we view breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is not “best,” and it doesn’t have “benefits” — it’s the biological default, the normal way to feed babies, and anything else has risks. It can be great, but it can also be a lot of hard work. Just like most areas of parenting. It’s not a lifestyle choice — it’s about the baby’s right to eat the normal food for human infants. When that’s not possible, artificial infant milk (formula) is an acceptable substitute (the 4th choice, according to the WHO, after mother’s expressed milk and donated milk). But we need to be realistic about its limitations and risks. Be honest with yourself (and others), accept the situation for what it is, and move on.

  6. Janelle says

    I really like this post… Ive gotten very frustrated with how judgmental we mothers can be to each other when each one of us has different struggles. I had a horrible time at first with breastfeeding and almost quit. I had low milk supply coupled with my sons weak suck. I saw several lactation nurses and tried several things to increase my supply which eventually worked, but I completely understand why some of us aren’t able to breast feed… My doctor I think put it correctly…. If breastfeeding is making you reevaluate your decision to become a parent it’s okay to stop. It doesn’t make you any less of a good parent.

    • Mariah says

      Janelle, I’m so glad that all of your efforts to increase your supply worked! I am jealous of you! I was at the lactation specialist, taking herbs like crazy, drinking enough water for my whole family, eating oatmeal like it was going out of style, and pumping pumping pumping! I did make it to 13 oz a day! :) I love what your doctor said. I’m lucky in that our pediatrician was very supportive about everything. She didn’t try to push one thing or another on me.

  7. says

    I’ve breastfed all 6 of the children I’ve given birth to for various lengths of time and with various issues and successes. I agree that it would be a stressful and unfair thing to legally require all mothers to breastfeed. I would applaud an international law that fully supported breastfeeding mothers through the 1-2 years as the WHO recommends. With a few tweaks to things like maternity leave I think her concept could be more appropriately achieved, and without adding pressure to already stressed out new moms.

    • Mariah says

      Andie, I do wish that there were policies in place that made life more friendly for the breastfeeding mother! Each experience out of the 6 was its own unique situation, wasn’t it?

      • says

        Each time really has been completely different. The first baby was so easy to nurse, with almost zero problems, and we made it to 16 months before family and friends started pressuring me to wean because he spoke well and appeared more mature, and it bothered people to see a talking baby at the breast.

        Every child since has been a struggle in one way or another. I have worked with lactation consultants and doctors to try to get to the one year mark with babies 2-5, but by 10 months they all weaned. Thrush, Mastitis, Inadequate weight gain, despite doing everything “right” and eating a balanced diet and taking my vitamins… you name it.

        Baby 6 is exclusively breastfed, well he was up until solids were introduced. We now also give an additional 4oz formula to help his weight gain, without reducing breastfeeding.
        I would have liked to supplement him sooner due to weight gain issues, but until recently, he would scream and fight anyone who dared to give him a try at a bottle of formula, not taking any despite their attempts.

        I cherish every moment of breastfeeding, and am glad for any amounts of time I was given with each baby to nurse :)

        • Mariah says

          Thank you for sharing this with me. It sounds so challenging and yet I know how those moments of success feel. Great work, mama!

        • Rebecca M. says

          Andie, I’m sorry to hear that you’ve struggled so mightily to breastfeed your children (and that you faced pressure from your family to prematurely wean your first child). You definitely deserve props for being so persistent and sticking with it.

          However, I don’t understand your comments about trying to increase your children’s weight gain with formula. While formula-fed (and bottle-fed babies in general) do gain more weight as infants and have more issues with obesity later in childhood and beyond, trying to increase a breastfed baby’s weight with artificial milk is not supported by evidence and is counter-productive for 2 major reasons. First, supplementing with formula will only reduce breastmilk supply and decrease the child’s appetite for healthy complementary foods. Breastmilk has the fat, sugar, and proteins that babies (and toddlers) need, in the right proportions and easily digestible form. Second, have you investigated allergies as the cause of your children’s poor weight gain and other issues? Dairy and/or soy protein allergy or intolerance (not lactose intolerance) can cause GI inflammation leading to poor weight gain, eczema, and many other symptoms. Supplementing with dairy or soy-based formula will only exacerbate these problems. For these reasons, supplementing with formula can and often does cause more problems than it solves. I don’t understand why so many breastfeeding moms feel that formula is necessary or even a good idea. If things are going well with breastfeeding, why introduce the risks of artificial milk just for negligible “benefits”? I can only conclude it’s the well-meaning but poorly informed advice of family, friends, and even doctors (who definitely should know better).

  8. TJ says

    I think breastfeeding should be highly encouraged and mandatory. BUT there’s a BIG BUT, The women should always be looking out for their babies, and if getting back to work or there party life is more important then maybe they should be looked at more closely. I’ve even heard of some women not wanting to breastfeed because they think their boobs will sag more. I don’t know about everywhere but where I’m from we have a nurse or midwife (depending on your caregiver) that come over for a home visit after birth a few times. they can help make a assessment to whether the women is making the right choices for her and her baby, health wise. even still their should some leeway and it shouldn’t be illegal just mandatory. if a women is not breastfeeding then she should be questioned and maybe looked at to find out why, so it can be further understood why some don’t and find some solutions to help them out, and their babies. I think we need more support.
    My personal experiences with breastfeeding have been great in the long-run but starting was painful. I had bleeding sore nipples with both babies for the first 2 weeks or so. I pushed through the pain and continued to breastfeed for 10 months.

    • Mariah says

      TJ, I agree that some women choose not to breastfeed for reasons we, as mothers also, may see as selfish. I’m trying not to judge anymore though! :) I guess, if a woman wants to get back to doing something that would harm her breastfed baby then it would be better that she didn’t breastfeed.

      I’m glad you were able to push through the painful beginnings. I was prepared for it to be painful and those issues didn’t really bother me. If only my supply had been enough!

      • TJ says

        That’s whats what I was trying to get at. If there actually a physical reason for not then it’s not your fault you do what you have to do to take care of your baby. It’s just those selfish reasons that bother me a little and really it’s not fair to the baby.

        • Mariah says

          Those “selfish” reasons bother me too but I figure it’s better than someone drinking or doing drugs and then going home to feed the baby!

          • TJ says

            When it comes down to it, let people do what they want. I guess I shouldn’t let bother me at all. Freedom to choose is what matters. It bothers me more when I know the people that do that, or when I hear stories on TV of women who choose not to just because of ignorance.

  9. says

    Great post! I think many times if a person has not had issues with supply or nursing they do not understand how every woman cannot nurse. I think it’s great you shared this because there are so many people out there that are made to feel bad because they couldn’t breastfeed and that’s so wrong! You are right, it doesn’t make you less of a parent! It makes you a great parent because either way you are making sure your baby gets what he needs!

    • Mariah says

      I will admit that I don’t always talk about the fact that W is formula fed now with people I know who are big on breastfeeding although I shouldn’t feel bad about it! If they want to judge, they can listen to the whole story or they can just judge me. Oh well! :)

  10. says

    Gisele is kind of a nut. I believe more needs to be done to educate and support everyone (not just women) about breastfeeding, but I know that not all women can breastfeed.

    Gisele also claims that most women who don’t have perfect bodies like her the day after giving birth just stuffed their faces like fat cows.

  11. Erlinda P says

    No I don’t agree that breast feeding should be the law, but I think there needs to be support for women who are having challenges with breast feeding, whether it be personal support to help with the techniques or medical support or support with alternatives if breast feeding isn’t possible.

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