Entertainer Bette Midler came under criticism Friday after telling mothers to “try to breastfeed” in response to the nationwide baby food shortage.
“TRY BREASTFEEDING! It’s free and available on demand,” Ms. Midler tweeted Thursday in response to a message from MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle.
Ms. Midler was given a boost by numerous respondents who said breastfeeding is not always feasible for new mothers.
“Bette, with respect, this is a very bad decision,” tweeted Ilyse Hogue, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “I had twins. I was not producing enough milk for both. Without formula I would have had to choose which one to eat. Not to mention children who are separated from the biological mother at a very young age.”
Bluecheck author Jennifer Sey called Ms. Midler’s tweet “deeply insensitive.”
“First, there are a million reasons why some women can’t breastfeed at all, or can’t breastfeed full-time and supplement bottle feeding,” Ms Sey tweeted. “Second, women don’t even need a ‘reason’. She may decide not to, simply because she doesn’t want to. Period.”
Once new mothers stop breastfeeding, their milk will dry up quickly, meaning they will no longer be able to breastfeed their babies.
“When you stop breastfeeding, your body gradually stops producing milk. The lack of stimulation tells your body to stop breastfeeding,” WebMD said, adding that “breast milk can take days, weeks, or months to dry up.”
TRY BREASTFEEDING! It is free and available on request. https://t.co/15xetgg1ps
— bettmiddel (@BetteMidler) May 13, 2022
Mrs. Midler quickly backed down on her advice.
“People are piling up because of [a] former tweet,” she tweeted. “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’ then that’s something else. The monopoly news is news to me, but not a lie.”
Ms. Midler added the hashtag #WETNURSES.
Ms. Ruhle tweeted Thursday that the baby food industry was a “secret oligopoly” because “3 US companies control 90% of MKT – hugely restrictive regulations (thanks to large % lobby) ban foreign formulas.”
The Biden administration is grappling with a growing formula shortage. About 43% of popular baby food brands sold out in the first week of May, according to data collection company Datasembly, which tracks baby food inventory at more than 11,000 retailers in the US.
The administration announced a website Friday to help parents track down infant formulas.
† Jeff Mordock and Kerry Picket contributed to this report.