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Before my mother passed away this year at age 87, she told me the story about feeding my oldest sister when formula was just starting to be sold in the US. Her doctor told her she must feed her new baby formula because it was much healthier than breastfeeding and besides, why would she want to do something so barbaric and low-class as breastfeeding? Wanting to be the best mother she could be, she followed her doctor’s orders and she didn’t breastfeed.

She also told of her new baby infant crying in the waiting room. She knew her baby was hungry so she took out a bottle of formula and started to feed her. The doctor saw this and stormed into the waiting room, yelled at her, and ordered her to stop feeding her baby because she was feeding her before the scheduled time. I’ve heard these stories on several occasions. The way this doctor pushed formula and undermined her instincts as a new mother was something she thought about through her dying day.

As a lactation consultant practicing in the San Francisco Bay Area, Oakland and the East Bay, I’ve heard similar stories from the grandmothers of my clients. I’ve also heard stories of women who breastfed against doctor’s orders, in private. We’ve come a long way in our attitude toward breastfeeding.