Bette Midler’s solution to America’s baby formula crisis has caused outrage across the Twittersphere this week in what critics say was a tone-deaf suggestion by the actress and singer.
“TRY BREASTFEEEDING! It’s free and available on demand,” Midler tweeted Thursday.
TRY BREASTFEEEDING! It’s free and available on demand. https://t.co/15xetgg1ps
— bettemidler (@BetteMidler) May 12, 2022
Ilyse Hogue, president of the social impact organization Purpose, helped lead the charge of angry responses.
“Bette, respectfully, this is a very bad take. I had twins. I didn’t produce enough milk for both. Without formula, I would have had to have chosen which one got to eat. To say nothing of kids that get separated from the birth mothers very young,” she tweeted.
Bette, respectfully, this is a very bad take. I had twins. I didn’t produce enough milk for both. Without formula, I would have had to have chosen which one got to eat. To say nothing of kids that get separated from the birth mothers very young.
— Ilyse Hogue (@ilyseh) May 12, 2022
Hogue was not alone in her criticisms. One woman called Midler’s remark “cruel and insensitive,” tweeting: MY body didn’t allow me to do so. Mine dried up before I gave birth.”
WOW Bette, what a cruel and insensitive comment. MY body didn’t allow me to do so. Mine dried up before I gave birth. So much for women supporting other women’s choices! If you sang this.. your tune would be flat. DO BETTER.
— NJ (@Natalie14595468) May 13, 2022
Not everyone is able to breastfeed for lots of reasons. And even for those who can, it’s not easy or free. https://t.co/JIlfWIZlBU
— Tara Panella (@tilted_axis) May 12, 2022
Please- we all love you, but delete this now.
There are soooooooo many reasons a woman cannot or chooses not to breastfeed.
This sentiment is not helping the mothers trying to keep their babies from starving right now.
— orgfarmer (@orgfarmer) May 12, 2022
I am a huge advocate of breastfeeding! But there are a dozen reasons a mom may not be able to do so. And many who can’t breastfeed wish they could. Try compassion https://t.co/Jz764QvPJ3
— Allie Beth Stuckey (@conservmillen) May 13, 2022
The ignorance of this tweet is overwhelming. There are many mommies undergoing cancer and other medical treatments that would love to breastfeed but they don’t want to harm their infants while fighting for their own lives. https://t.co/5jM4Jb74dF
— Nicole Saphier, MD (@NBSaphierMD) May 13, 2022
Midler later tried to make amends – sort of, tweeting, “People are piling on because of former tweet. No shame if you can’t breastfeed, but if you can & are somehow convinced that your own milk isn’t as good as a ‘scientifically researched product’, that’s something else again. The monopoly news is news to me, tho, no lie. #WETNURSES.”
But even that did not go over well.
Noooooo. Stop. Do not double down on this. This is so bad.
— Amber Gustafson (@AmberForIowa) May 12, 2022
Dr. Daniel Summers, a pediatrician in the Boston area, said Midler’s initial comment was “a terrible, thoughtless and unhelpful take,” according to KFOR-TV.
“Not every woman can breastfeed, no matter how much anyone says they can,” he said.
Does Midler deserve the criticism she is getting?
Yes: 92% (814 Votes)
No: 8% (67 Votes)
Summers also took issue with Midler’s contention that breastfeeding is “free.”
“Saying breastfeeding is free means that no value is put on the mother’s time, because breastfeeding requires a great deal of time and effort,” he said.
“Some mothers do not have the resources necessary to give that time, in many cases because they need to bring home money to support their families and cannot dedicate the time to nursing.”
Summers said the argument that milk from a mother’s breast is better than formula is “supremely unhelpful.”
“It’s not a question of formula vs. breastmilk — it’s a question of formula vs. starving,” Summers said, saying that some moms do not produce enough milk to meet the needs of their babies.