Bette Midler is blasted for wading into baby formula shortage by tweeting ‘TRY BREASTFEEDING!’

Bette Midler sparked outrage on Friday by responding to the nationwide shortage of baby formula with the message: ‘TRY BREASTFEEEDING! It’s free and available on demand.’

The tweet sent by Midler, 76, was immediately met with a wall of criticism from figures as diverse as Stephen Miller, Donald Trump’s hardline speechwriter, and John Oliver’s executive producer.

In response to Midler’s tweet, many pointed out that a significant percentage of women are unable to breastfeed, despite their best attempts – one lactation consultant and author, Diana Cassar-Uhl, put the figure at 12-15 percent of all mothers.

Others noted that some babies have specific dietary conditions, and do not respond well to breastmilk.

Others still pointed out that tens of thousands of babies are adopted, and others born via surrogates.

And gay men – who comprised a huge faction of Midler’s fan base – were also angered by Midler’s remark, highlighting that a gay male couple wouldn’t be able to breastfeed their baby or toddler.

Tim Carvell, the executive producer of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, tweeted: ‘Imagine having a large gay fanbase, many of whom are raising kids in two-dad households, and thinking this is a good suggestion.’

Miller, the staunchly loyal Trump aide, tweeted in response to Midler: ‘What a profoundly offensive & ignorant statement.

‘There are countless reasons why breastfeeding is not an option for many mothers—too many to get into here. And if you’ve been using formula you can’t just flip a switch. Not to mention millions of babies with milk/food allergies…’

Bette Midler, 76, is seen in December at the Kennedy Center Honors. On Friday she sparked anger by saying the baby formula shortage could be averted if women breastfed their babies, as many pointed out it was not a simple solution

Ilyse Hogue, president of the progressive social change campaign, Purpose, 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.’

One replied: ‘I love you Bette, but this is not okay. I fought to breastfeed my son, he kept losing weight, despite my best efforts, including lactation experts.

‘It was emotional and heartbroken I felt like a failure and at 3 months switched to formula, because of the stress it put on me and my son.’

Another joked: ‘No biggie, Bette says just get a wet nurse! (Never mind they charge $1000+ per week and that’s something working families cannot afford, especially in a time where EVERYTHING costs more.)’

Nationwide, supplies of baby formula are at 43 percent, with some states such as Tennessee, Delaware and Texas reporting that their ‘out of stock level’ is running as high as 54 percent.

The problem was spurred by a February shutdown of one of America’s largest baby formula producers, in Michigan, after the facility was found to be contaminated and two babies died after consuming the products – although the factory insists the bacteria in their factory did not contribute to the infants’ death.

The shutdown exacerbated shortages and supply chain issues already caused by the pandemic. And it highlighted the strong monopoly of baby formula, with 98 percent produced within the United States, and three companies controlling over 90 percent of the supply.

Many products from Europe cannot be imported, despite being produced to a higher standard in many ingredients, because they do not have the FDA-required labeling on the packaging.

Shelves are pictured empty of baby formula in New York City on Friday

Shelves are pictured empty of baby formula in New York City on Friday

Midler, however, doubled down.

‘People are piling on because of former tweet,’ she said.

‘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’

She also said she had confidence in President Joe Biden to find a solution.

Elise Stefanik, the Republican House conference chair, tweeted that Biden ‘has NO PLAN.’

In response, Midler then retweeted a comment from podcast host Brian Tyler Cohen.

‘Aside from the fact that you want to starve babies and accuse anyone who disagrees with you of being a pedophile, Joe Biden actually DOES have a plan,’ said Cohen.

‘It’s right here. You are lying.’

He attached a link to the White House’s factsheet from Thursday, detailing the steps they were taking to get the problem under control.

Biden on Friday lashed out at critics as he defended his administration’s actions to relieve the infant formula shortage that has panicked parents worried about feeding their babies.

‘If we’d been better mind readers, I guess we could have,’ Biden said when asked if his administration should have acted sooner.

Biden was speaking at an event on community policing and said he would only speak on that topic before – somewhat grumpily – conceding to talk about formula shortages.

‘I’ll answer the baby from the question because all of a sudden it’s on the front page of every newspaper,’ he said.

The president predicted it would only be a ‘matter of weeks or less’ for there to be more formula on the shelves.

‘We’re going to be in a matter of weeks – or less – getting significantly where more formula is on shelves,’ he said.

Biden said his administration was working hard on the matter and had ‘nothing more urgent’ on its plate.

‘This is a process we work very, very hard. There’s nothing more urgent we’re working on that right now. And I think we’re really making some significant progress,’ he said.

His comments came after the Food and Drug Administration said the baby formula shortage should improve dramatically in weeks.

Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said the agency will announce plans next week detailing how manufacturers and suppliers abroad will be able to import their products into the United States, as well as new options for US companies.

The FDA is aiming for a streamlined process that will get more products on US shelves while meeting safety, quality and labeling standards, he said.

The $4 billion US baby formula market is dominated by domestic producers, with imports limited and subject to high tariffs.

‘We believe these and other ongoing efforts will help dramatically improve the supply in the US in a matter of weeks,’ Califf wrote on Twitter.

‘Our data indicates that in stock rates in retail stores are stabilizing but we continue to work around the clock to further increase availability.’

President Joe Biden lashed out at critics as he defended his administration's actions to relieve the infant formula shortage

President Joe Biden lashed out at critics as he defended his administration’s actions to relieve the infant formula shortage

Meanwhile, the House Oversight Committee is launching an investigation into the baby formula shortage and demanding records and information from four of the largest manufacturers.

‘The national formula shortage poses a threat to the health and economic security of infants and families in communities across the country – particularly those with less income who have historically experienced health inequities, including food insecurity,’ Democratic Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney of New York wrote in letters to Abbott Nutrition, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Nestle USA and Perrigo, first obtained by ABC News.

The Oversight committee is the investigative arm of Congress and broad authority to probe a variety of issues.

The panel is looking into the price gouging around infant formula and the steps the companies are taking to address the shortages.

Also, Maloney specifically asked Chris Calamari, chairman of Abbott Nutrition, for information about the recall of its formula after several babies were hospitalized and two died from a rare bacterial infection in some of its product.

Maloney wants answers to her questions, along with a briefing from the companies, by May 26.


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