The statement completely ignores the physical, emotional and financial costs of nursing — and women are bearing the expense.
The U.S. baby formula crisis has dominated headlines in recent weeks, sparking heated conversation online.
The nationwide shortage is a result of pandemic supply chain issues exacerbated by a February safety recall from Abbott, the nation’s largest manufacturer of formula, and shutdown of its Sturgis, Michigan, plant. At least four babies were hospitalized with bacterial infections — and two died — after consuming formula from that facility. Abbott recently reached an agreement with the Food and Drug Administration to restart production at the Sturgis plant, provided the company corrects the unsanitary conditions that caused the closure.
If you’ve been following the social media discourse around the formula shortage, you’ve seen the same unhelpful “solutions” to the problem popping up again and again. One of the most common and frustrating takes — we’re looking at you, Bette Midler — is that instead of relying on formula, women should “just breastfeed” because “breastfeeding is free!”
This is patently false: There are significant physical, mental and financial costs to breastfeeding that are so often overlooked.
The “breastfeeding is free” narrative in the midst of an infant formula shortage is a great example of public ignorance of what it actually takes to successfully breastfeed.
— Jessica Owens-Young, PhD (@JessOwensYoung) May 11, 2022
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