The Big Letdown: How Medicine, Big Business, and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding

Pediatricians say you should but it’s okay if you don’t. The hospital says, “Breast is best,” but sends you home with formula “just in case.” Your sister-in-law says, “Of course you should!” Your mother says, “I didn’t, and you turned out just fine.” Celebrities are photographed nursing in public, yet breastfeeding mothers are asked to cover up in malls and on airplanes. Breastfeeding is a private act, yet everyone has an opinion about it. How did feeding our babies get so complicated?

Journalist and infant health advocate Kimberly Seals Allers breaks breastfeeding out of the realm of “personal choice” and shows our broader connection to an industrialized food system that begins at birth, the fallout of feminist ideals, and the federal policies that are far from family friendly. The Big Letdown uncovers the multibillion-dollar forces battling to replace mothers’ milk and the failure of the medical establishment to protect infant health. Weaving together research and personal stories with original reporting on medicine, big pharma, and hospitals, Kimberly Seals Allers shows how mothers and babies have been abandoned by all the forces that should be supporting families from the start–and what we can do to help.

Praise for The Big Letdown

“With abundant research to back her narrative, journalist Allers, who has two children, shows how and why American women have been made to feel ashamed of breast-feeding…Allers makes the message loud and clear: since breast-feeding provides the most benefits for mother and child, for those who are capable of doing so, it should be the feeding method of choice. Easily digested research and personal stories in support of breast-feeding and its importance to mothers and their children.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Formula companies make millions by convincing women they aren’t capable of one of their most basic bodily functions, and have spent millions of marketing dollars aimed at women, doctors, hospitals, scientists and policymakers to hammer this point home for the past century. Allers is…transform[ing] the narrative surrounding breast-feeding into an empowering message.”

The Washington Post

About the Author

Kimberly Seals Allers is an award-winning journalist, author and a nationally recognized advocate for breastfeeding and infant health. A former senior editor at Essence and writer at Fortune magazine, Kimberly is widely considered a leading voice in the counterculture social movement in infant feeding. Last year, her online commentaries on the social, structural and racial complexities of maternal and child health issues received over 12 million page views. Kimberly’s fifth book, The Big Letdown—How Medicine, Big Business and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding, an Amazon best-seller, was published by St. Martin’s Press in January 2017.

A frequent contributor to The New York Times and Washington Post, Kimberly is also a popular public speaker. She has testified at Congressional hearings on infant health and is a regular speaker at various national conferences such as the Partnership for Healthier America, the March of Dimes, the National Collaborative for Health Equity and has spoken at Yale and the University of California at Berkeley. Learn more at and follow Kimberly on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at @iamksealsallers.

Real Food Reads Recipes

Our resident recipe guru Jessica Jones weighs in with some tasty treats that’ll take your book club to the next level. Check out Jessica’s blog and podcast, Food Heaven Made Easy, an online resource for delicious and nutritious plant-based living. 

Warm Maple Amaranth Porridge 

From Food Heaven Made Easy

Serves 3


3 cups water
1 cup amaranth
3/4 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons coconut oil

Suggested Toppings

Figs, blueberries, slivered almonds, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries


  1. In a medium pot, bring the water to a boil and add the amaranth
  2. Cook over low heat, with the lid on, for 20 minutes or until most of the water has been absorbed
  3. While the amaranth is cooking, make sure to stir occasionally
  4. Once done, remove from the stove, and add the almond milk, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, and coconut oil to the pot
  5. Stir in well, and then serve into bowls
  6. Top with any of the suggested toppings or your favorite fruits, nuts, and/or seeds!
  7. If you’re eating alone, store the leftovers in the fridge for up to a week. When it’s time to reheat, add some additional almond milk and mix it in so the porridge isn’t so thick. Enjoy!