The Baby Formula Shortage and God’s Design for Mothers (Guest: Leila Lawler)

Crisis Point

Interview Transcript

With baby formula shortages, some have called for women to rediscover breastfeeding, but those calls have been met with outrage and attacks. How can we talk about this issue sensibly?

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Eric Sammons:

With baby formula shortages, some have called for women to rediscover breastfeeding, but those calls have been met with outrage and attacks. How can we talk about this issue sensibly? We’re going to talk about that today on crisis point. Hello, I’m Eric Sammons your host and editor in chief of Crisis Magazine. Before we get started, just want to encourage people to like and subscribe to the channel, let other people know about, we really appreciate. Also follow us on social media at Crisis Mag. We’re on all the major social media channel. So check us out there. Okay. So today we have Leila Lawler coming back. She was on the podcast last year. Great to have her back. She’s a wife, a mother, a grandmother. She’s the author, at the time it was a forthcoming three volume work but now it’s out, the three volume work, The Summa Domestica as well as God Has No Grandchildren: A Guide To Reading The Encyclical Casti Connubii. She’s a co-author of The Little Oratory: A Beginners Guide To Praying In The Home. She resides in central Massachusetts and blogs at Like Mother, Like Daughter and Happy Despite Them. Welcome back to the program, Leila.

Leila Lawler:

Thank you so much for having me.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. So, this all started, well, I should say that the idea for this podcast all started by a tweet I made that kind of went viral, went crazy. It was massively ratioed. New York times picked it up and a bunch of other outlets and basically this was about a month ago when the baby formula shortage was, there’s also baby shortage, but baby formula shortage was in the news even more than it is now. And basically here’s what… I’ll pull it up on the screen. I basically said, “I have sympathy for parents who are unable to obtain baby formula due to the evil and incompetence of politicians.” I would also say, and this is where I start getting in trouble. “I would also say that hopefully this is a wake up call to become more self-sufficient. God literally designed mothers to feed their babies.”

And as you can tell by looking at it, I was roundly ratioed, the whole woke crowd came after me. The New York times then had an editorial where they bring up the baby formula shortage and they’re attacking anybody who would dare suggest maybe women would breastfeed. It says, and it is from New York Times, “The suggestion that women who sustain their babies with formula should just breastfeed is sadly not coming from the fringe.” I think it’s interesting. First of all, I’m not on the fringe when they want to say it like that, but I am on the fringe any other time. “It was articulated by both the editor in chief of a prominent Catholic publication and Bette Midler among others. Eric Sammons, the editor of Crisis Magazine put it this way.” And then she repeats my tweet. She says, “This is woefully ignorant.

It is insulting to the many women who cannot breastfeed or cannot produce enough milk to keep their babies fed, but is also insulting to the women who choose formula because it is the most rational decision they can make because their babies need it because they can’t or don’t want to pump at work because formula allows fathers to participate more.” So, I mean, sometimes I do tweet things purposely to kind of rile things up. That wasn’t what my intention was here. This is simply I was just making the point that during a baby formula shortage, it’d probably be a good idea for mothers, expectant mothers to really do what they can to breastfeed. Now, I just want to also state, we have seven kids, my wife breast fed them all, it wasn’t always easy. A lot of people attacked me saying you think it’s so easy, you don’t know anything about it. I said, “No, I saw my wife.” Some babies were actually not that hard as difficult, but then we had one or two that were quite the challenge to breastfeed yet she did in every case. So first of all, just Leila, why was this so controversial what I said?

Leila Lawler:

I love it. Yes. Well, prior to you… That’s a good question. Why is it so controversial? Prior to you tweeting that I had actually written back in February. I had not written but I had done a podcast of my own saying that there are coming shortages across the broad and that it would be worthwhile to just think in a calm way about what to do to meet these shortages. And I was kind of had in mind two extremes. One is the prepper extreme where you go out and shell out your $10,000 and get your basement full of freeze dried things that you’re never going to eat. Somebody is making money off of that. And the other is the minimalist movement, which is huge by the way. Which in some cases, I mean, I do go along with of course not being cluttered.

And I have in my book, I have told sections about how to declutter, but some of these people are actually literally saying I have four children and I have minimalized my pantry and I only keep enough food for a week because I can always go to the grocery store. Why should I keep all that food? So anyway, I’m trying to go a lying down through between these two extremes and I’m trying to say, no, actually you do need to be prudent and think ahead and here’s how you do it. And by the way, there are also shortages of formula and if you are an expected mom or if you know an expected mom now is the time just as you were just saying to.. So this is back in February. I was saying, and now is the time to figure out how to breastfeed.

And I put in my disclaimers, I also have seven children. I breast friend them. My mother breastfeed me. I was born in 1960 and she faced a ton of opposition for that. That was totally ridiculous for her to think of breastfeeding me and doctors and everyone thought that that was unreasonable but she insisted and finally they ended up supporting her. Whatever, she was just going to do it. And I in my first child was born in 1980 and I also met with a certain amount of resistance although there was a certain threat of natural mothering and that was one thing. But for sure, especially in Washington DC where I had my first child, 99% of the women I knew did not stay home in breastfeed their babies. So if I hadn’t had my mom to just say, “Yeah, of course you’re going to breastfeed your baby.”

I probably would’ve had difficulty. Nevertheless, I went on to breastfeed also and on my children as you say, some of them were more difficult than others but we made it through. So anyway, I put in my disclaimers and they said, I am very well aware having blog about this and having written about it and having chapters and sections about it in my book that some women simply for physical reasons and sometimes even emotional reasons cannot breastfeed their babies but they are very few. And the fact is that the woman is designed to feed her baby from her breast and it is going to behoove us. There are many reasons to breastfeed more elevated than this, but right now the pressing reason to breastfeed one’s baby is that one simply may not find the food one needs for one’s baby. And this is not a controversial statement. This is true. Backed up by all the pictures of empty shelves at Walmart and what have you people panicking. So, I did not get ratioed or picked up by the New York Times. So Kudos to you, Eric. However, I did get attacked by many Catholic women saying, why am I shaming women? Why do I hate women? Why am I so cruel? And truly I have to push back on that and I have to say, there is something wrong here. This is a big red warning flag.

If I had a podcast about how I, a 60 year old woman, was planning to enlist in the army and meet all the physical requirements to be somebody in the army that all the Catholic women would go on social media and say, you go girl, you can do it. However, God did not make me a 62 year old woman capable of fulfilling that goal. But that would not be their first response would not be to say many cannot do that. You should be aware that many cannot join the army and fulfill their physical requirements even though that would be a true statement.

Eric Sammons:


Leila Lawler:

But to say many cannot breastfeed their babies. Many, the word many that is a lie. So what is behind that?

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. It’s interesting because that’s exact… I mean, on Twitter obviously you have a very limited space that you can write. You can not write all the exceptions and say, oh, in the caveat, something like that. You just make a general point and that’s a general point I was making. For example, one of my very good friends, she has adopted a couple kids. She can’t breastfeed them obviously, that’s just the way it is. And so she was just like, “Well yeah, of course. But that’s doesn’t mean what you said is like attacking me because you’re just simply saying that is a design and it’s…” And I later brought up… I actually had another tweet later where I just said, “A mom who can’t breastfeed for physical reasons or whatever reasons shouldn’t feel any more guilty than a blind man who can’t see. There’s no moral failing in either case. At the same time, we should all still acknowledge that God designed women to breastfeed and for eyes to see.” I mean, that’s the point. It’s not a matter of it is our design and I think that is part of it it’s like, do you think there’s a pushback against the fact that God has designed women specifically to carry their babies obviously, and then to feed them for quite some time after they’re born? I mean, it seems almost like a pushback against God’s design itself.

Leila Lawler:

Yes. So part of it is just a knee jerk reaction against ever saying they’re a design for anything. And I can assure you that if you… Other than posting something about women doing something that women actually aren’t designed to do, anything else even if you said we have two legs, God designed us to run on our two legs, the immediate thing that somebody they would all respond to would be not everyone can. And that is true. Nevertheless, the design is that we have two legs and should be able to run on them. That is in fact how we are made. And it’s a fallen world and there are issues with our fallen world but not with God’s design. And the truth is that most women can breastfeed their babies. They can. It is how women are made. We are made to have babies and to nourish them. What I see beyond the knee jerk, just feeling that people have that they have to always find the exception.

It’s a kind of arrested development. It’s like you know how seventh graders are. They just have to say when you say orange juice is orange they have to say, “Wow, I know a time that…” They just always have to do that. And that’s where we are as a society is in arrested development. But also, there is a deeper reason and that is that to admit that women are designed to feed and nourish their own babies from their bodies is to immediately disrupt the narrative that the playing field is perfectly level if we only just put our minds to it and that there is no difference between men and women and that there’s nothing special that ends up being in women. And it’s interesting that the New York Times one point they brought out is that… And this always distresses me to think that we’re going to improve upon the nature that God gave us.

That one thing that formula gives us is the ability to have men be more involved in taking care of babies. But of course, if the design is that women feed babies from their bodies, then actually it’s meant for men not to be involved in that particular thing. And there are a lot of reasons why men would be dispensed, let’s even… I would say not have the privilege of feeding the baby from their body but let’s even just say maybe somehow there’s a drawback in it why. They’re dispensed from that care of even in the middle of the night, having to feed the baby which if we decide a different way, we’d actually see that it’s a beautiful thing but never mind. Well, perhaps it is because the man actually needs to be able to not be tied down by the baby in the particular way that the woman is so that he can protect the two of them.

And this came home to me when very starkly one time when my daughter who’s married to a Marine, nice strong man, living in Oklahoma, she had just had a baby and Oklahoma, most of the houses are designed they don’t have basements, that the land just doesn’t really allow for it. And there isn’t much rain but at this point there were lots of rains and lots of flooding and actually the waters were rising around their house. And she is in bed with her newborn and her husband was outside sandbagging the yard so that the waters wouldn’t come into their home. Now, could a woman put the baby down and go sandbag the house? Yes. I think in a dire necessity, the woman could probably do that not with the efficiency and alacrity with which the man could do it, but I think she would be able to do it.

However, this is God’s beautiful design that she can do what she’s designed to do which is feed the baby and he, with his upper body, especially strength, can do what he’s designed to do and protect them and their home from the flood. That’s just an example. A lot of feminists want to say, “Well, in our day and age, we are not exposed to the elements in the way that people in the past were. So now we have these advantages.” But I really question that really. And especially now facing shortages of necessities, I think maybe we’re going to be confronted with some of those realities and be grateful for the way we’re made. Certainly if you as a mother, speaking to any women out there, are out there and suddenly need to feed your baby, how much better is it to have the means to do that from your body? It doesn’t cost anything. It’s always there. if you have food and water, the baby will have food and water and no matter where you are stranded or no matter what you’re going to be able to feed your baby. And even if Walmart’s shelves are empty, you still are going to be able to feed your baby.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. I also think in today’s modern world even though the gender roles where we want to call them in marriage are still applicable. Because for example, like you were saying throughout the night, especially when a baby is younger and they’re feeding throughout the night, I mean, in a kind of traditional type marriage, the husband is providing by working. And so the fact that he can sleep a little bit more during that time so he can work during the day and provide for the family while the mother does have to sacrifice the sleep. But like you said, it’s more of a privilege than anything. She gets to be with the baby overnight more connected and all that. I think there’s still an applicable fittingness to the fact that… Because you hear a lot of marriages where because they use formula it’s like they take turns at night. And of course in a lot of cases they both work too and so there’s no real distinctiveness between the two and what their roles are that yes, the mother is going to sacrifice sleep early on, but the husband’s out there providing so that there’s food on the table, shelter and things like that.

Leila Lawler:

Exactly. And the mother, actually, the hormones of breastfeeding allow her to fall back to sleep very easily. I think most men experience that they wake up for the baby and then they can’t go back to sleep again. But the hormones that the mother has allow her to go back to sleep. In any case, the point being that it seems to me that we’re always saying that we would do anything for our children but it’s very odd to me that this narrative of we should not judge anyone who chooses not to breastfeed. And it really is choosing in the majority of cases to so-called free the woman to be adhering to some outside schedule that somehow that narrative obtains, even when formula is clearly not going to be readily available at that moment, it seems to me all your narratives are off. Now. We need to really examine this situation because what is it that people really want women to do? Do they want them not to feed their babies at all? Because it strikes me that there are simply put two alternatives. One is, get the formula if it’s available, and if it’s not your sunk or breastfeed the baby. It’s not like, well, don’t judge women. They have to be able to have formula but what if they can’t? What if there isn’t formula?

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. If we’re in an emergency situation where you just simply… I mean, you think people say, okay, are narratives kind of have to go out the window when there’s an emergency situation because you’re literally talking about the potential death of a child if there is no formula available and that’s the only thing you’ve been using. And so it’s particularly women who are expectant mothers who are not yet… They’re not maybe six months into it and they’ve been using formula for five of those months. But the one who’s expecting it, you would think the first thing a responsible person but definitely a Catholic person would say is, okay, you could have a situation where you don’t have any option. You’ve got to breastfeed. So you need to make sure you do everything you can to breastfeed. But I feel like when you say that, it’s like a thousand people are offended or they’re afraid that people will be offended.

Leila Lawler:

They want you to be silent. They want you not to say that. Their offense is not real. They are wanting to silence that people are saying this. First of all, it is not like, “Oh, well, we can just suddenly switch.” Like if we couldn’t find flour at the grocery store then, okay, we’ll eat rice. It’s not like that. Because once you have made the decision not to breastfeed and a week or 10 days or what have you have gone by, especially with the first time mother, that then the ship has sailed. You are not going to breastfeed your baby. It is possible to re lactate, but especially with the first time baby, not to the extent that you need to in order to nourish your baby. So actually this is a very important decision that has to be made before the baby is born.

I will do everything I can. If it turns out that for whatever reason the women does need the formula, if the majority of women are just saying, “No, I’m going to breastfeed because I want to feed my child, I want to nourish my child.” That leaves more formula for the people who actually do need it for real reasons. So it is very important that people understand that because I think the mentality is kind of like we can do something else. Well, there was some other option. We could go back to breastfeeding or we could feed something else other than formula. But actually in the case of an infant, for pretty much six months of the infant’s life it is not something that you can go back and change your mind. And it’s really the responsible people would be saying that. If you are expecting a baby, you really need to seriously commit yourself to breastfeeding that baby.

I will do everything I can to help. I wrote a book about it and people are all around you ready to help you or should be. And the first thing out of their mouth should not be, “Well, not very many women cannot do it.” That’s not the right response because it removes hope and it’s not true and it’s just negative. How about we just support each other? This is a really serious issue and it’s very strange to me that the first response would be many women can’t do it. Now interestingly, there are reasons why more women today cannot breastfeed even though it’s not many. There actually isn’t increase in women who find it difficult to breastfeed but those reasons are also due to the way our society is set up to funnel women towards away from home and away from childcare.

And those reasons have to do with a couple of things. One is the industrialization of our food. And so, there are additives in our food, especially folic acid, that actually do create birth defects in babies to make their midline… They’re called midline defects and they actually do make it more difficult for babies to latch on. They give them defects in this folic acid additive in the mother’s prenatal vitamin and in the foods that we are eating. Because some women are actually resistant to that form of folate, the baby will have a defect in the tongue or the mouth that makes it harder for the baby to latch on and to nurse properly. Also, our birthing practices which are highly medicalized and do not take into account, again, the design of our bodies, women are set up for failure because they’re the biggest reason is getting IV fluids before birth. The IV fluids and any woman who has had them, anybody who’s been in the hospital and had IV fluids this is just common sense.

You can tell they bloat you. And so, especially if there’s no reason for them, which in the majority of cases of women giving birth they don’t need those fluids. They’re not dehydrated, it’s just a sort of typical practice to go ahead and put the women on IV fluids. Well, when that bloating and hyper hydration is passed along to the baby. So when the baby is born, the baby’s tissues are flooded with the IV fluids and actually his weight is higher than he would’ve been otherwise without the IV fluids. So then, and this happens a lot. The mothers will say my baby had a lot of wet diapers, but somehow they’re telling me I don’t have enough milk. Well, what happens is the baby ends up getting rid of all those excess fluids, loses weight, quote-unquote, which is really just getting rid of the excess fluid.

Now the mother’s milk hasn’t come in, so now the doctor and the nurses start to worry that the baby isn’t getting enough milk based on the weight of the baby due to these fluids. So now after a few days, the mother is being pressured. Your baby is losing weight, not gaining weight and so therefore you have to put them on formula. This is the failure of the mother having in the breastfeeding experiences. This is her failure. It’s not a failure of breastfeeding, it’s a failure of the procedures that have gone before her giving birth. And I have seen so many anecdotes, so many comments from women saying, “I tried, I gave it a few days and it just didn’t work.” Well, any experienced mother can tell you, especially a mother who’s experienced with a hospital birth can tell you a few days is not going to do it.

And people need to give you room and they need to give you help. Another thing that somebody said to me is lactating. There’s so many lactating experts, lactating consultants. How can you say that today women are not helped with breastfeeding? But I point to those experts as proof that we are not letting our natural functions just go the way they’re supposed to go. We’re always being interfered with first that we are set up for failure, then the experts come in and start to micromanage and pretty soon you have a very anxious mother who by the way is also anxious because they’re telling her to get back to the gym and get back to work and get back to your normal schedule. And this is a recipe for failure. It is not a mechanistic process. It’s a process of intimacy between the mother and the child.

It’s a process that needs to be bolstered and assisted by the community of other women who have experience. And this is what we’re lacking. So in a way I do concede that there are more women perhaps today than before who quote-unquote, fail at breastfeeding or simply cannot breastfeed. And a lot of the people who are saying this, that’s the first words out of their mouth, not every woman can it’s because they themselves experience that. But all of it has to do with our situation today and how we approach babies and childbirth and breastfeeding and not with the design of the woman herself.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. And I think like my wife’s experience, one of our children in particular was very difficult to breastfeed. She’d already had a few and I tell you what—if it wasn’t for my wife’s stubbornness and just knowing that she’d been able to breastfeed the baby before that, I mean, I think a lot of women in that situation might have just gone ahead and gone her formula but she just was insistent that she would continue. But it was definitely more than a few days before it was successful.

Leila Lawler:

Oh, definitely. No question about it. And especially if the baby has one of these defects, which can be corrected in most cases, but it might take weeks to figure it all out. And yes, my own experience is that if I hadn’t, as I said, had my mother but also then later even as I was going along and even when I got older and my seventh child was born when I was 36, I was just a little bit older and tireder. And if I hadn’t had friends who had also gone through that, if I hadn’t had friends who would come over, sit down, pick up the baby, nurse the baby while talking to me, sit in a certain relax comfortable position, tell me about the night before when “Oh, the baby was in the bed and then I had to move and then the two year old came in and…”

If we didn’t have those conversations and those models and those images, none of us would’ve gotten through in breastfeeding all our babies because that is in fact what it takes. But let’s stop saying many women can’t because that is truly unhelpful. The other thing I really wanted to say about the whole issue of why we perceive this as so difficult. And we touched on that a little bit. I mean, even your wife’s stubbornness in being determined to go through with figuring out how to solve the problem with this particular baby, what is behind all of that is a husband who is supporting her and, again, friends and so forth and the fact that she has the day to spend if necessary sitting on the sofa with the baby and doing… And she doesn’t have a job to go to because… And in our case, I have a husband who is willing to support me.

And we also have agreed that we are not going to aim for a super high standard living. We’re going to accept a certain less prosperity because this is so important to us. And then that frees the woman to have the time. If the woman is realizing that she has to get back to work or there are certain obligations she has outside of the home, then it will be very difficult for her to face some of the things that crop up with breastfeeding that are normal, but make it so that you can’t actually be going out and doing things out there and that is what feminists cannot accept.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. That definitely goes against the whole narrative. I know for example, I knew my wife was 100% wanted to breastfeed, committed to it, but that doesn’t mean when the struggles were happening she didn’t have doubts. Of course. I mean, that’s just the way it is. But I never once during that time, I never once said, “Well, it’s okay if we just use formula.” It’s not that I thought there was some moral problem with women using formula. It was simply I knew that what she really wanted, she really wanted just to breastfeed. She was just having a moment of doubt because of the difficulties. And she told me later that did help. It was like, okay, she knew that I was supportive of whatever it took to make it happen so that she wasn’t having… Even if it meant, like you said, that means you sit on the couch all day because that’s what it takes then guess what?

I’ll get the kids out of here because we had a bunch of little kids at the time as well and they pull you every direction. So I get them out of here if we have to just so you can be here quietly. Whatever it takes. And I do think it’s that commitment and if you lead with constantly saying, “Well, many women can’t.” I think that starts to get into the mother psychology when things are difficult. Like, well, many can’t, I guess I’m one of those many.

Leila Lawler:

Exactly. I guess I’m one. And then the other thing is I think they would even… The critics of our position would even take another step forward and say, “Well, many women don’t have a man to stand by them and help them through these difficulties.” And again, I would say then let us speak to women who are entering adulthood and thinking about their future. Let us say to them, this is God’s design that the child has two parents and one of the parents is designed to feed the child and one is designed to protect. And this is actually the plan and let us do our best to provide that. If there are cases, I mean, I think that probably you remember this case of… We’ve heard of such things where the mother has taken suddenly ill.

There’s a breastfeeding baby, the father’s left with however many children, then the women of the community stepped forward and they actually took turns and they nursed the baby. They came at certain times and nursed the baby and donated breast milk so that he could feed them with a bottle, feed the baby with the bottle and so on. When there’s a problem, the community steps in. But it’s not binary. You can’t say either I have that community or you can’t say that people need to have that community. No, we just have to work and make decisions and choices to get ourselves the community that we need just the way we have to say, “Oh, well, if you’re expecting a baby you cannot rely on formula.” And why would you? Why would you? And this goes to another question which is just, let’s even just challenge this whole paradigm of that.

Now, somehow we have entered a world where babies are, oh, it’s going to be fed with formula. Why is it that there’s only two companies, possibly three, that make formula? That is very strange to me. When we go to the store and we are buying lettuce or beef or so on, and maybe beef a little more there are only just a few companies that process meat and that’s strange, but we expect that sometimes our lettuce is coming from the next town over and sometimes it’s coming from Chile maybe in the middle of winter but we don’t say to ourselves, oh, there’s one company that is providing us with wheat. That doesn’t happen and yet somehow that is the case with formula. Have we looked into what formula produced by these companies is actually made of? Do we actually think that it’s good to feed infants with a substance that is primarily made of soy? Which is an estrogen mimicker. Mimics or hormone and high fructose corn syrup.

Is that actually what we want? As a matter of public health, is this a good solution? Should we even be here? Is it reasonable to expect that the feeding of infants, something that they rely on for the very existence is going to be dependent on a supply chain that is so fragile that when the FDA suddenly looks into what is going on in these companies, that supply chain dries up? There is something really wrong there. And that was brought out to me when one of the posts that I did following up on my podcast, I elaborated a little more on my suggestion that women help other women to decide to breastfeed and do what is necessary to give them the assistance they need. And also I posted a formula for formula, so a recipe to make baby formula at home using natural ingredients. And that was also super controversial.

And it’s so interesting to me because the objections to the recipe that I posted, which is a tried and tested recipe and many women and including some of my acquaintance including a good friend of mine have used it with great success with an adopted child, the objections are very interesting. One of them is, and this was brought out in the New York Times that experts weren’t against making your own formula because it’s possible to have the wrong, to dilute the formula. And it’s true that giving babies water or over diluted formula or even juice can be very harmful to them and even cause death. Giving an infant water can cause the baby to die. And the second big objection is that the water used to make this formula might not be sterilized. Well I am here to say that people dilute store bought formula and have diluted it for decades.

I can remember my stepmother giving my half sisters formula and I can remember that she did not… I remember that I knew I was 10 years old and I had read the directions on the formula and I knew that it said to sterilize to boil the water before using it. You know that old sitcom trope of the dad is like testing the bottle on his wrist and it’s because they boiled the water and then cold it down. It had to be cool enough. You couldn’t get boiling water to an infant, obviously. Well, she just skipped that stage and she just mixed the formula with water from the tap. I mean, this is in… We’re talking about in 1972. Is a long time ago. This has been going on for a long time. And as for diluting the formula, not mixing it to the specifications, that also has been going on because it is a very tempting thing to do when you’re running out of formula. It’s the middle of the night or whatever instead of running out.

Now if you are breastfeeding the baby, your body just provides the exact proper mix of all the ingredients to the baby at no cost to you and no inconvenience other than you have to somehow get the baby to your breast. So you don’t even really need to be awake to do that. But for sure, this has been… They are not telling the truth about this in the New York Times because it has been a public health issue for a long time. That the water is not sterilized and that people are diluting their formula. So why is it all of a sudden that the homemade formula is so dangerous? I do not understand that. Why is it so threatening?

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, it’s interesting. I feel like the whole formula versus breastfeeding thing goes in waves. In the ’60s and ’70s, and maybe even in the ’80s, it was definitely very much push formula instead of breastfeeding. I know like my mother-in-law, she breastfed her kids in the ’60s and early ’70s and it was like she was the only person on earth. She felt like who did that? Nobody said… Now my mom, we did formula and it was like… And it’s the joke in the family I’m the least healthy person because I’m the only person who was formula fed as a baby, but then I do feel like in the ’90s and early ‘2000s when we started having kids, I do feel like there was a push now that okay, breastfeeding is the best thing to do.

And that’s still kind of the official, if you go like the CDC, they do officially say the best thing to do is breastfeeding. Yet it seems like there’s such a push again to normalize formula. But like you said, I think it kind of tracks a lot of different things where they’re trying to narrow everybody down to be dependent upon the approved companies, the approved government agencies or whatever because like you said, it’s literally a matter of survival for infants. And yet we’re putting the survival of all these infants, these thousands and hundreds of thousands of infants in the country and the world upon what a couple companies or something like that. How many formula companies are there in this country that really make… I don’t even know.

Leila Lawler:

I think there’s three. And I mean, because it’s very strictly regulated but again, that’s just very odd to me. You could do it other ways. It doesn’t need to be. It just doesn’t make sense. It’s true that they have to say breastfeeding is best because it clearly is best. There’s no two ways of… You can’t even in no matter what your agenda, you can’t deny that. But here’s the thing. In our discussion we’ve brought out how important it is. Just leave beside the community. You just need to have a husband who’s going to be there and take care of you. You just do. It’s just the way God made us the mother to nurture the baby and the father to protect and for them to be joined in the mind of marriage. Well, marriage I think according to the latest census, where in 1974 I think it is 77% of children lived with their biological parents, married to each other.

Today it is I think 11 or 12%. So the public health in our time, the public health system, the public health administration is very much based on taking the realities and kind of accepting them without really acknowledging them and accepting them, you’re actually promoting them. So what are they going to do? The fact is that especially in our poor and black and Hispanic, I mean, these are just statistics, populations, there just isn’t a dad there in many, many cases to fulfill this role. True public health policy would work to rectify that and would say for the bear of survival and health of our children, we just need this structure. And again, nobody can reasonably argue with us. There’s no question that the biological mother and the biological father married to each other formed the best matrix for the health and wellbeing of the child.

But somehow we’ve let go of the responsibility to strive for that and we’ve just kind of… So there’s a two tier response. And the one tier is to say, “Oh, yes, this is the ideal.” But then the other tier is to say, “Oh, the reality is not only do we not have that, but we’re not going to get it.” And you know what, that’s fine. Well, okay, it’s fine until and it’s not fine at all. But it is truly starkly not fine when there’s no formula on the shelves. Now we really do have to say. Like on Twitter I really said to someone, okay, what is it that you suggest? You don’t want me to say to best feed the baby, there is no formula, you don’t want me to say make formula. Okay, guess the baby’s just going to die.

I don’t know what your answer is. And this is the irrationality of all of these critics. Come on, step up and say what the good things are to do. Number one, be married and have your babies in marriage. Number two, feed your babies from your breasts if at all possible and number three, if not possible, make your formula so that you know what’s going into it and it is actually healthy for your child and you’re not giving your child these substances that I think we can look around and see that people are not healthy and they don’t look healthy. And I think I have seen studies that show, I don’t have them on my fingertips I can probably pull them up, that the biome of your whole body reacts as an infant it becomes patterned on the substances that are being fed. And when the substances are these truly not high quality substances of soy and high fructose corn syrup, then we are really undermining the health of the child. So, I think what you said wasn’t controversial. I think what I said, wasn’t controversial. I really think that it’s time to go a little bit on the offensive and say, why do people think it’s so controversial to say these things? They’re so self evidently true.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. And I think one point you made, I really want to bring out, and that is we don’t really want to address the larger issues, we just want to try to have these band aids here. And that seems like the whole medical establishment. Like an example that is just simply COVID, that it was shown that obesity was a major factor in having worse reactions to COVID, having worse results. Yet there wasn’t one public health official on earth it seemed like or anybody saying, “Hey, maybe we should do things to reduce obesity in this country.” As far as our diet and fast food, all this different reasons that we have obesity in this country. There wasn’t anything because it was just assumed, well, people are going to be obese, they’re going to eat their McDonald’s, they’re going to eat their sugared foods and their pop and their soda and things like that.

So we’re just kind of then trying to fix it from there. And it’s the same thing here with the breastfeeding. Well, babies are going to be born without fathers around, women are going to be working a week after they give birth or a couple weeks they give birth, or they’re going to all these different things. So we might as well just go ahead and just say, just go ahead and buy formula. But we see what happens is, is that like with COVID all of a sudden, like COVID happens and now somebody who’s obese really does have a higher risk factor now. And it’s too late at that point and same thing with telling all these women that you can do all this stuff and still have a baby and we just have formula. Well, when formula’s not available, then all of a sudden now you’re in trouble.

And so, I know it’s a natural law issue really but as a Catholic, I feel like that’s what we should be promoting is a more holistic view of, okay, how did God design us? Not just he designed women to feed their babies, but also just designed us in the sense of a man and a woman in marriage, having kids, the mother taking care of the infant particularly while the dad protects and provides. That’s what we should be striving for because that’s God’s design. I mean, it’s literally God’s design for how we should do this stuff.

Leila Lawler:

Right. And the time horizon is not long. I mean, there’s solution to climate changes for us to drive electric cars. The time horizon on my car, the gas powered car that I have is probably realistically I could have that car for another 15 years. That’s a long time to switch me over to this putative good of an electric car. That’s a whole other podcast. Right. But in other words, to get the 300 million people Americans to be go to electric cars and yet that’s something that they’re actively pushing. Our experts are actively pushing. The time horizon for, let’s just take the narrow goal of switching babies over to formula is really, well, from a week. If a woman is about to give birth to six months. I mean, once we go past the babies who are born now and have started on formula, somehow they have to get formula.

My suggestion is make it at home. I have a recipe for it from the Western price foundation that go to the Western Price or go to my blog, Happy Despite Them and you’ll find it there. Or to make the decision with the next baby to breastfeed and with the baby that is about to be born. Oh yes, maybe I better breastfeed. This is a very short time horizon and from the perspective of public health, it is a quick turnaround to just stop insisting on formula. And I think the problem really is demographically with the populations that we have that just culturally, mentally, in terms of just like even having the ability to think beyond. Because when you don’t have money, when you’re poor, it’s hard to think beyond just like getting through the day. I know that and I know how that feels.

So that particular demographic does need a lot of help and it needs the help that you’re talking about that Catholic cultural help of really changing the way people live, which of course as always starts with marriage. We have to start with that. We have to let go of just accepting the way things have devolved, because they’re only going to devolve further. And pretty soon, it really will be like, I don’t know, the government is just going to take over feeding babies and I don’t know what they’re going to do it with because there is no formula. So, we really need to have a different solution.

Eric Sammons:

Exactly. Okay. I think we’re going to wrap it up here. Final, I want you give your final advice. So there’s a mother, expectant mother, she’s going to have a baby soon, she’s pregnant, so in the next nine months and she’s maybe it’s her first one or maybe she’s had a baby already and she didn’t breastfeed. Didn’t work out. But now she is really like, maybe I do need to breastfeed. What’s the advice that you give to an expected mother like that?

Leila Lawler:

So my advice is, if at all possible, have the baby without taking IV fluids. You can have an IV port, but just insist I am not going to have IV fluids because that seriously undermines your ability to nurse the baby. So that would be number one. Number two is, when the baby is born, just insist you give me that baby right away and there’s a window when the baby is born, just give me the baby and let me nurse the baby, help me nurse the baby. After that window, after an hour the baby falls asleep because the baby has tired out from being born, oh blah, blah. And it’s hard to get the baby interested and really the moment is when the baby is born. But don’t worry about it, it’s all going to work out. And then just have the baby as close to you as possible.

Keep the baby in bed with you. Just do your best to keep the baby close, smell the top of his head. I advised to take the cap off of the baby. They put those caps on the baby that you need to smell the baby’s head. The baby needs to smell you. And little by little, it will work out especially if you just say to everyone around you, “I need to do this. Please help me. You’re stressing me out. Please stop stressing me out.” And you can always email me at [email protected] and I will give you advice. I have advice on my blog. I have advice in my book and don’t let people rush you. And when the doctor says, “Oh, your baby is losing weight.” You have to say, “It has literally been two days. My milk hasn’t come in. I’ve heard that it takes a week.”

Which it takes a little less than that, but let’s say a week and write to me and I’ll tell you what to do. And basically you can do it. And I say to women, you can do it. Are there emergencies? Yes. Are there difficult situations? Yes. So those can be dealt with but once you firmly establish with everyone around you this is happening and you don’t have any physical reason like somehow you had cancer and your breast are removed or something serious like that, which of course everybody understands, but a normal healthy woman is going to be able to succeed. So you just need to persevere. There is plenty of help. In my book I have recommendations for sites online that help and there’s ache league, which is super helpful.

And even people who are super close to those organizations still have trouble. So it’s not unusual to encounter those troubles and they can be overcome. And I think women can do this. We’re always being told how strong we are and I think this is an area where we really can show our strength. And certainly the grandmothers and the experienced mothers need to step in and stop saying not everyone can do it, stop swallowing the fact that people are trying to fuss on you the idea, “Oh, you’re judging.” No, you’re helping. People can do it. We can do it.

Eric Sammons:

Now just to be clear, the book, is it the Summa domestica that has the different things about breastfeeding in it? Is that right?

Leila Lawler:

Yes. So volume one in one of The Summa Domestica, I have a whole section on breastfeeding helps. And basically it’s not technical help get at the Le Leche League. You get a of techno help there. In my book, it is the collective memory, the experience that we’re sitting across the kitchen table and I’m telling this mom all the things that I have done, that my many friends I have. So I’m in a big Catholic bubble where at seven children we have a small family and all the women I know who’ve breast fed their babies, their difficulties, the things they’ve overcome, breastfeeding twins, all that kind of stuff. So all of that is discussed on the blog and then also as a section in that book, The Summa Domestica.

Eric Sammons:

Okay, great. Okay. We’ll wrap it up there. Thanks so much for being on the program, Leila. This has been great. I will link to the book and your blog and things like that in the show notes so people can easily access them. And as you mentioned, if a woman’s in a situation like that, she just email you. Is it [email protected]?

Leila Lawler:

That’s right.

Eric Sammons:

Okay. Perfect. Okay, great. Well, until next time everybody, God love you.


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