Women's News from the Web

NHS maternity services in special measures at two Welsh hospitals

Women's News from the Web - Tue, 04/30/2019 - 07:02

Move follows uncovering of failings that may have put lives of women and babies at risk

Maternity services at two NHS hospitals in south Wales have been put into special measures after a report found a series of failings that may have put the lives of women and babies at risk.

An investigation into maternity units at Cwm Taf University health board raised “significant concerns” around staffing, processes and culture that it said compromised care.

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WLTM other lonely mothers – could a friendship app transform the lives of single parents?

Women's News from the Web - Tue, 04/30/2019 - 00:00

Single parents say they face a particular kind of isolation – especially when the world of parenting apps is dominated by ‘nuclear families’. One single mother has set out to change that

I became pregnant at 21. It wasn’t planned. I was weeks away from my dissertation deadline, in the final months of a fashion journalism degree at the London College of Fashion. I was going through the fallout of a painful breakup (we are great friends now), and I searched for healing in all types of ways, including the brief fling that led to my pregnancy.

I want to say my decision to have my daughter was firm from the beginning, but that would be a lie. It took me a few days to realise that being a mother was something I wanted, and just because it wasn’t how I imagined – meet “perfect” man, marry said man, procreate on a predetermined schedule – it didn’t mean it wouldn’t still be fine.

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Hobbyhorsing: what girls everywhere can learn from the Finnish craze

Women's News from the Web - Mon, 04/29/2019 - 20:00

Riding an imaginary horse is a galloping success with young girls in the Scandinavian country – and the trend is taking off elsewhere

Perhaps one of the more surprising articles to be widely circulated this month has been a New York Times feature on the girls of Finland and their fondness for hobbyhorsing.

Hobbyhorsing is not a metaphor, nor indeed the repurposing of some veterinarian-standard tranquiliser by the nightclubbing youth of today. It is, in fact, the act and art of riding a rudimentary toy horse – a toy that is, to put it bluntly, a stuffed fabric horse’s head attached to a stick.

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Why does female armpit hair provoke such outrage and disgust?

Women's News from the Web - Mon, 04/29/2019 - 07:34

Hairy armpits are in fashion – but a Nike ad featuring a model with a small amount of visible hair attracted thousands of critical comments

Julia Roberts: America’s sweetheart, Hollywood royalty – and an early pioneer of armpit-hair acceptance. Her look at the 1999 premiere of Notting Hill, beaming in a red sequined Vivienne Tam dress, arm raised to reveal a dark tuft, was immediately celebrated as a subversive feminist bird-flip against female beauty standards. Except it wasn’t: 20 years later, she confessed that the look hadn’t been a statement at all, rather that she had forgotten to shave and miscalculated the sleeve length of the dress.

Armpit hair remains a bizarre sticking point for anti-feminists. A few days ago, Nike uploaded a picture on Instagram showing the model and musician Annahstasia Enuke with a small amount of underarm hair visible; in response, thousands of commenters expressed outrage and disgust. Just a day later, the deodorant brand Nuud responded to a backlash against its own online advert that had featured underarm hair. The cynic in me has no doubt that the engagement all the hate-clicks and outrage drum up on social media is the main driver for brands’ recent love affair with body hair (two years ago Adidas featured a model with hairy legs to much ire and press reaction). But it is also an important reminder of just how upset people become when women are not scraping and cutting off bits of themselves in order to be pleasing to the public’s eye. The amount of vitriol, anger and hate that can be garnered by something that does not affect anyone apart from the individual woman is incredible – even more so when you compare it with the non-reaction to men doing the exact same thing.

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I feel grief and relief that I’ve never had children. Other women must share this | Katherine Baldwin

Women's News from the Web - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 23:00

We have a choice about motherhood but it’s not always clear-cut, and ambivalence can be a painful place

In the last month, there’s been a run of fertility-related news stories, from the pregnancy figures that confirmed the trend towards later motherhood, to the suggestion that IVF clinics are exploiting older women, to the huge emotional and financial cost of failed IVF. But among them, I don’t hear about experiences that chime with my own, or with those of some of the women I coach – the women who are or were ambivalent about having children.

Ambivalence, from the Latin, means to be pulled strongly in two directions. This aptly describes my relationship to motherhood. I spent my 20s and early 30s avoiding having a baby at all costs as I built my career as a foreign correspondent. Back in London and approaching 40, a combination of factors sparked baby angst. There was my ticking biological clock, burnout in my job and my father’s death, which exposed my aloneness and made me question why I’d prioritised work over family.

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Fourth-wave feminism can learn a thing or two from the 1980s play Top Girls | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

Women's News from the Web - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 21:00

The play reminds us that any feminism worth its salt needs to transcend questions of individual identity

There has been a trend in fourth-wave feminism for exploring the stories of women overlooked by history; but almost 40 years before Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, Top Girls did it, for grownups. Caryl Churchill’s 1982 play, now revived at the National Theatre by Lyndsey Turner, is perhaps best known for its opening scene – a Saturday night dinner party featuring Pope Joan, Lady Nijō, Dull Gret, Isabella Bird, Patient Griselda and a Thatcherite recruitment manager called Marlene. It’s a genius opener, a dreamlike sequence in which the women share their tales of suffering and patriarchy, poignantly but also hilariously, as they proceed to get more and more wasted on Frascati. It’s very, very funny. It sticks the knife in while you’re laughing, off-guard, and then twists it.

Related: Top Girls review – Churchill's study of bourgeois feminism gets an epic makeover

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Melbourne doctor who called for women to be raped stood down during investigation

Women's News from the Web - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 18:58

Health district responsible for hospital that employs Dr Christopher Kwan Chen Lee says it takes ‘professional misconduct’ seriously

The health district responsible for the hospital which employs an emergency doctor who said “some women deserve to be raped” has ordered the doctor be stood down while they investigate.

Earlier in April Dr Christopher Kwan Chen Lee was suspended by the Tasmanian health practitioners tribunal for six weeks after he admitted to posting a series of sexist and racist remarks online. While Lee previously worked in Tasmania, in 2018 he began work at Box Hill hospital in Victoria as an emergency doctor, and the suspension bars him from working anywhere in Australia.

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Beyonce’s Homecoming: A Lesson In Black Excellence and Vulnerability

Women's eNews - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 07:32

Beyoncé is as close to perfection as one can ever hope to become. She is the face of #iwokeuplikethis. But her new video, Homecoming, released on Netflix reveals a different side of this fierce, feminist icon. Between clips of her 2018 Coachella headline performance, the audience is given a glimpse beyond the effortlessly perfect front we are used to seeing. In this two-hour documentary, Beyoncé reveals another superpower: Vulnerability and authenticity.

We see a woman struggling to get back in shape after a difficult and dangerous pregnancy. A woman who is tired, sweaty, and frustrated as she learns her dance routine and directs a crew of 100+ individuals.

Her voice narrates the video of her first rehearsal post-birthing twins: “There were days I thought I’d never be the same. I’d never be the same physically, my strength and endurance would never be the same.”

She reveals the internal struggles she faced, as well: “A lot of the choreography is about feeling so it’s not as technical. It’s your own personality that brings it to life and that’s hard when you don’t feel like yourself… it took me a while to feel confident enough.” Her vulnerability is refreshing and restorative to women, especially Black women who so often feel the need to project a strong, stoic front to the world.

Black women live at the intersection of racism and sexism. These systems of oppressions work constantly to demean, depress and disenfranchise those it intends to harm. Yet magically, and miraculously, Black women continue to rise like the mythological phoenix, but that doesn’t negate the harm of the fire that burns them. The ashes do not simply disappear once they are in flight. Black women are human, and like all humans, they need space to mess up, grow, fail, succeed, fail again, and genuinely come into their own power.

But Black women are consistently given the least number of resources and receive the most judgement about their decisions.

Many religious institutions admonish them for their bodies and sexuality. White conservatives label them as moochers and welfare queens. Most media paints them into caricatures: Angry, aggressive adversaries and asexual maternal figures with no lives of their own; or overly-sexual beings that only exist for the beck and call of men.

With no nuance provided and minimal honest investigation of their true lives, we are left with few authentic representations of Black woman and the effort it takes to be excellent, which makes watching this documentary even sweeter. In a call-and-response portion of Beyoncé’s performance, she incorporates audio of one of Malcolm X’s speeches amidst her lyrics:

Malcolm X: “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman.”

Beyoncé: “I am the dragon breathing fire.”

Malcolm X: “The most unprotected person in America is the black woman.”

Beyoncé: “Beautiful man, I’m the lion.”

Malcolm X: “The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”

By using her own language to counter Malcolm X’s sobering truths, she both acknowledges the oppressive forces they are up against while providing an empowering denouncement of those who deny their power, beauty, and humanity.  However, such responses also contribute to a societal expectation that Black women are able to do anything, but there is no gladness in being the mule of the world. This expectation is hurtful and deadly.  While there is pride in overcoming such immense strugglea and oppression, many fail to recognize the price being paid. “What people don’t see is the sacrifice,” Beyoncé notes.

The Black community has started to connect the dots where Black women are expected always appear strong, thus creating additional stressors that can lead to development of serious mental and physical health issues. Due to stress-related accelerated biological aging, Black women between the ages 49-55 are 7.5 biological years “older” than white women on average, with perceived stress and poverty accounting for 27 percent of this difference. Further, the pain women of color experience in medical situations is often perceived as lower than the pain of white women due to erroneous racial biases that women of color have higher pain tolerance. Having their pain taken less seriously has proven to be lethal in many cases.

Beyoncé, herself, experienced serious complications during her pregnancy, including high blood pressure, toxemia, pre-eclampsia, and an emergency C-section. “I was in survival mode and did not grasp it all until months later,” she notes. Still, she pushed herself to get back to work as soon as possible, driven to use her platform to help “lift up” her people and “put on stage a proud moment for us”.

As the first female African American woman to headline Coachella, she had a vision for a performance that evoked images from HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities): “I wanted a Black orchestra. I wanted the steppers. I needed the vocalists… the amount of swag is just limitless.” Her Homecoming video also includes audio from numerous famous African American scholars dispersed throughout. “I wanted every person who has ever been dismissed because of the way they look feeling like they were on that stage killing it,” she notes.

This centering of “The Other” is a highly strategic move that not only gives the mostly white Coachella audience a Black history lesson they would never forget, but also provides a grand display of authenticity in an industry sometimes filled with thoughtless stage productions. It was a move that only Beyoncé could have pulled off. Her earth-shattering theme came right from her very own Black southern background.

Beyoncé worked hard to provide this experience. Possibly too hard. She admits during her film, “I pushed myself further than I knew I could and I will never push myself that far again.” The power of this comment was not lost on us. Beyoncé is acknowledging how even she, a woman with an extensive staff helping her to maintain a front of effortless perfection and providing many of the resources needed to reach her goals, is prone to breakdowns. It is eye-opening when a person you idolize as ‘having-it-all’ suddenly reveals that she does not. It illustrates the hollowness of this flawless front we are desperately trying to build for ourselves. We see reality more clearly.

In this moment of the film, Beyoncé is recognizing that we need more than superwomen to help move us forward into bigger and better opportunities. We need authentic, sincere women who are willing to be honest about the struggles they faced to get where they are so the other women following them realize they are allowed to struggle, too, and that struggling doesn’t make us any less worthy.

Homecoming ends with audio of Dr. Maya Angelou. The brilliant writer is asked what advice she would give the next generation and the first thing she says is: “Tell the truth. To yourself first, and to the children.”

We as an audience are left to consider that, when you practice radical self-honesty, the pain of the truth gives way to the wonderment of growth. And when that level of vulnerability is displayed, honored, and respected in front of our children, we can raise generations of young people who understand that growth and improvement is always better than inflexible ideals of perfection.

Only when we show up as who we are, flaws and all, no matter how accomplished we become, do we give permission to others to recognize the greatness in themselves.

About the Authors:

Afftene Taylor is a full time web developer and aspiring actress and writer. She currently lends her creative talents to the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company’s daily audio podcast drama, Mercury: A Broadcast of Hope. You can follow her on Instagram at @madebyafftene.

Caralena Peterson is a high school teacher, writer and visual artist. She is at work on the forthcoming book The Effortless Perfection Myth. You can follow her on Instagram at @caralenapeterson or @badasscreative_

Five ways to exercise safely while pregnant

Women's News from the Web - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 05:00

Exercise for mothers-to-be has many benefits – just avoid the high-intensity workouts and new PBs

A new study has found that exercising during pregnancy can protect offspring from obesity later in life – the first time that has been demonstrated for non-obese women. Dr Daghni Rajasingam, consultant obstetrician and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, says there are many benefits for the mother-to-be, including weight maintenance, improving sleep and mood, helping to cope with labour, and reducing high blood pressure. At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week, in bouts of at least 10 minutes, based on fitness level and comfort, is advised throughout pregnancy. Rajasingam also recommends seeking medical advice, especially for women with health conditions.

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Different for girls: understanding autism

Women's News from the Web - Sat, 04/27/2019 - 22:00

Girls with autism are often misdiagnosed, but a new graphic novel aims to put them in the picture

At secondary school, they become the “leftover girls”, drifting, alienated and often miserably lonely because the other teenage girls won’t accept them. It’s not that autistic girls don’t want friends – they are as desperate for friends as any teenager – but in a world which denies, rejects and ignores them, they are simply not wired to understand the only social role available to them: that of a neurotypical girl living an ordinary life.

Dr Sarah Bargiela wants to reach these girls. With illustrator Sophie Standing, she has written Camouflage: The Hidden Lives of Autistic Women, a graphic novel that transforms the growing mass of dry, scholarly research on autism and women into intriguing science facts and moving personal accounts.

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Wife-tracking apps are one sign of Saudi Arabia’s vile regime. Others include crucifixion | Catherine Bennett

Women's News from the Web - Sat, 04/27/2019 - 22:00

Treating women as chattels and executing 37 of its citizens are of a piece for a sick state

Credit where it’s due. The Saudi Absher app, just described as “inhuman” by two clearly terrified Saudi refugees, also has some fabulous user reviews on its supplier websites, Apple and Google Play.

To read the surge of five-star tributes placed after the app’s invaluable contribution to human enslavement was widely exposed earlier in the year is to understand that, aside from adding value to Apple and Google, Absher is a boon to harassed owners of subordinate women, at a time when more and more of this human property is, reportedly, becoming fractious.

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Are cleaning gurus sweeping an epidemic under the carpet?

Women's News from the Web - Sat, 04/27/2019 - 21:59

Repetitive tasks can help with anxiety, but can we trust them to safeguard women’s mental health?

Good morning, how are you, the world is ending. Evidence: in three days, “cleanfluencer” Mrs Hinch sold more than 160,000 copies of her first book, revealing “How a spot of cleaning is the perfect way to cleanse the soul.”

Working backwards, it’s clear the end started not with a bang, but with a cupcake. Those were gentler days, malleable and doughy, when, without anybody really noticing, fairy cakes graduated from children’s party snacks to fancy ladies’ treats. They looked the same – a soft, disembodied knee of dough, painted blue and scattered with sugar beads – but fundamentally, cupcakes were a very different proposition. They were playful but naughty, camp nods to childhood from the lofty lifeguard’s chair of adulthood. They were comically feminine, like tiny iced drag queens.

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My abortion politicised me, says WEP leader Mandu Reid

Women's News from the Web - Sat, 04/27/2019 - 05:20
Women’s Equality party head says her decision would have been different if UK parenting policies had been more progressive

Interview: ‘We’re not just for middle-class white women’

Mandu Reid, the new leader of the Women’s Equality party (WEP), has spoken publicly about the impact of her abortion and why it compelled her to enter politics.

In an interview with the Observer, Reid said her decision to have a termination at 33 had not been “an easy choice” but one made because she “couldn’t balance being a single mother and hold on to my career aspirations”.

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Bernie Sanders is the most feminist 2020 candidate, as far as I'm concerned | Arwa Mahdawi

Women's News from the Web - Sat, 04/27/2019 - 02:00

Sanders is far from perfect, but it is ridiculous to claim that he is beloved purely by arrogant white bros

Sign up for the Week in Patriarchy, a newsletter​ on feminism and sexism sent every Saturday.

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Conservatives take aim at Roe v Wade with 'extreme' six-week restriction bills

Women's News from the Web - Fri, 04/26/2019 - 20:00

‘Heartbeat bills’, which would make the procedure illegal at about six weeks into gestation, are misleading and unconstitutional

Destinee Marett was less than two years sober when she got pregnant. She already had three children, her first when she was 13 years old.

At the time, she was waitressing at a diner in Cleveland, surviving on tips alone. Employers in Ohio pay servers only $4.30 (£3.31) per hour, and between taxes and child support her check was often for nothing.

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How a viral image of breasts exposes science's obsession with the male body | Jill Filipovic

Women's News from the Web - Fri, 04/26/2019 - 08:03

An image of female anatomy has highlighted the far-reaching effects of treating the male of the species as the default

It has taken a viral tweet for thousands of people to realize that all human bodies are not male bodies – and that women’s muscular systems look different from men’s.

To be fair, the image, which displays milk ducts in all their raw, floral detail, is indeed a new one for many of our eyes (my own included). That isn’t out of personal ignorance, or at least not entirely. It’s also because American scientific and medical education – and, troublingly, research, treatment and standards – presume the male body is the default.

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And all who sail in … it? The language row over 'female' ships

Women's News from the Web - Fri, 04/26/2019 - 02:43

The Royal Navy is committed to the tradition, but academics say it could betray a patriarchal view

Anachronistic and patronising, or benign nautical tradition? The appropriateness of referring to ships as “she” has been challenged by the Scottish Maritime Museum’s decision this week to adopt gender-neutral signage for its vessels.

The move has provoked debate over when, if ever, it is acceptable to use the feminine pronoun for inanimate things.

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Doctor suspended over rape remarks also shared patient X-rays online

Women's News from the Web - Thu, 04/25/2019 - 20:53

Complaints were made about Dr Christopher Kwan Chen Lee when he was a University of Melbourne student

A doctor who was suspended after repeatedly calling for women to be raped and making racist remarks online also shared patients’ medical records, including X-rays of the chest of a four-year-old girl suffering from pneumonia and an X-ray of a broken arm.

Dr Christopher Kwan Chen Lee, an emergency medicine doctor, was this month suspended from practising for six weeks after the Tasmanian health practitioners tribunal found he made numerous posts in online forums promoting violence against women and racism.

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Women’s Rights Advocates Condemn DOJ Decision to Not Defend Female Genital Mutilation Law

Women's eNews - Thu, 04/25/2019 - 14:40

On Thursday, April 25th, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) (pictured center) joined elected officials and Equal Rights Amendment advocates to condemn a recent US Department of Justice decision to not  defend a federal law banning FGM/C, to call for Speaker Pelosi to step in to defend the law, and call for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Congresswoman Maloney is the sponsor of H.J. Res. 35, a bill to restart the ratification process of the ERA.

While the Trump Administration has decided not to defend the 1996 law banning FGM/C, the House or the Senate could do so. Accordingly, Congresswoman Maloney wrote a letter today (partial text below) to Speaker Nancy Pelosi to urge her to defend the law in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

In light of a federal district court in Michigan’s November, 2018 ruling that Congress does not have the constitutional authority to criminalize FGM/C, the advocates today highlighted the need to ratify the ERA. Without this constitutional bedrock protecting women’s rights, courts can roll back the laws Congress passes.

“Female genital mutilation and cutting is a grotesque and extremely painful procedure that removes a portion of a woman’s sexual organs in order to exert control over her bodily integrity and sexual autonomy. The Trump Administration’s decision not to protect women and girls from this horrific practice illustrates not only its unwillingness to fight for women’s rights, but also exposes large loopholes in our Constitution that allow for women’s rights to be chipped away far too easily. Activists have been fighting the same battles for decades, and without the Equal Rights Amendment any progress we achieve can be rolled back. It’s time for the ERA to finally be ratified so that the rights of women can be protected, no matter who is in the White House, who sits on the bench, or who is in the majority in Congress or state capitols,” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12).

“As a survivor of female genital mutilation, I am deeply disappointed by the decision of the Department of Justice,” added Aissata M.B. Camara, Co-Founder, There Is No Limit Foundation. “This outcome undermines decades of progress made by activists like me to end this harmful practice. It sends a negative message about the value of our bodies and experiences. The time to act is now—protecting women and girls rights must be a priority.  I applaud everyone breaking their silence because FGM affects all of us and it’s a violation of human rights. Ending this practice requires collective action rooted in community education and strong policies. I know we can achieve a world without FGM so women and girls can live to their full potential”

According to Kate Kelly, Program Officer of Women’s and Girl’s Rights at Equality Now, “Simply put, FGM is a human rights violation. It’s a form of gender-based violence and child abuse. The procedure can be fatal, and is always harmful. The decision by the DOJ to not appeal the decision in the Nagarwala case tacitly says that the federal government can’t pass laws to stop human rights violations. This is not true. Congress does have the authority to enact an FGM law. In fact, it is under international obligation to do so. Currently, 19 states do not have laws against FGM. In this very case girls were taken across state lines to be cut. This alarming lack of federal enforcement and gap in state laws is putting American women and girls at risk today.”


  • In 1996, Congress criminalized the practice of female genital mutilation (18 USC §116), which is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of women and girls.
  • The World Health Organization states that the procedure has no health benefits for girls and women and can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.
  • In the first federal case (U.S. v. Nagarwala) brought under the FGM/C law, a Michigan federal district court judge overturned the law on the grounds that Congress lacked the authority to legislate in this area.  The judge rejected the idea that either the Commerce Clause or international treaties were sufficient to provide Congress jurisdiction. Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it would not defend the law.
  • 5 of the 9 victims in the case had been transported across state lines to undergo FGM/C.
  • More than 500,000 women and girls in the United States have undergone or are at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • More than 100,000 women and girls who live in the 19 states that lack laws banning FGM/C are at risk without the federal FGM law.
  • Just 15 states ban transporting a person across state lines for the purpose of undergoing FGM/C
  • Chairman Jerry Nadler announced this week that the House Judiciary Committee will hold the first Congressional hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment in more than three decades on April 30, moving us closer to ratification.

Breastfeeding and the National Childbirth Trust | Letters

Women's News from the Web - Thu, 04/25/2019 - 06:24
Margaret Davis, Gail Hall, Janet Mansfield and Dr Carole Ulanowsky join the debate over the NCT and bottle-feeding

Re Zoe Williams’ article (The ‘breast is best’ lobby has failed women, 23 April), babies should have tummies full to the brim at the end of every feed. Persevering with breastfeeding may be an admirable aim, but an underfed baby will be in danger of developing symptoms of anxiety in adulthood as well as addictions to smoking, drinking unhealthily and overeating. The physiological benefits of breast milk versus those of formula milk fade into insignificance when compared with the long-term consequences if the chosen method of feeding prevents a baby from developing that vital sense of security and confidence, from a satisfying feed, that its survival is guaranteed.
Margaret Davis
Loanhead, Midlothian

• Thank you, Zoe Williams. I have breasts but they were not the best. That hasn’t stopped my non-breastfed daughters from growing into strong, healthy women. I wish I had read this article 20 years ago, as I would have felt less of a failure as a mother, less apologetic and more able to deal with the breastfeeding lobby’s intolerance.
Gail Hall
Denstone, Staffordshire

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