Entertainer Bette Midler came under criticism Friday after telling mothers to “try breastfeeding” in response to the nationwide baby formula shortage.
“TRY BREASTFEEEDING! It’s free and available on demand,” Ms. Midler tweeted Thursday in response to a post by MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle.
Ms. Midler drew pushback from numerous responders who said that breastfeeding isn’t always feasible for new mothers.
“Bette, respectfully, this is a very bad take,” tweeted Ilyse Hogue, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “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.”
Blue-check author Jennifer Sey called Ms. Midler’s tweet “profoundly insensitive.”
“First, there are a million reasons why some women can’t nurse at all, or can’t nurse full time & supplement with formula,” Ms. Sey tweeted. “Second, women don’t even need a ‘reason’. She can decide not to just because she doesn’t want to. Period.”
Once new mothers stop breastfeeding, their milk will soon dry up, meaning that they are no longer able to breastfeed their babies.
“When you stop breastfeeding, your body will gradually stop producing milk. The lack of stimulation tells your body to stop lactating,” said WebMD, adding that “Breast milk can take days, weeks, or months to dry up.”
Ms. Midler quickly backtracked on her advice.
“People are piling on 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’, that’s something else again. The monopoly news is news to me, tho, no lie.”
Ms. Midler added the hashtag #WETNURSES.
Ms. Ruhle tweeted Thursday that the baby formula industry was a “secret oligopoly,” because “3 American companies control over 90% of the mkt – hugely restrictive regulations (thanks to big % lobbying) prohibit foreign formulas.”
The Biden administration is wrestling with a worsening formula shortage. About 43% of popular baby formula brands were sold out during the first week of May, according to retail data collection firm Datasembly, which tracks baby formula stock at more than 11,000 U.S. sellers.
The administration announced Friday a website to help parents track down infant formula.
• Jeff Mordock and Kerry Picket contributed to this report.