A mother shares her experience with lactivism, guilt and postpartum depression

Crumpled adhesive notes with sad faces

Anne, a long time reader, read my post about breastfeeding and bullying and felt compelled to share her story in the hope that it will help others.

Every mother wants the best for her baby. The minute they place that little burrito-wrapped bundle in your arms and your eyes meet, that’s it. From that day forward, you’re responsible for another human being who is totally dependent on you and one of the most basic needs is food.

For most of human history, babies were fed breast milk—whether their own mother’s or a wet-nurse. Only relatively recently has there been a safe, nutritionally balanced formula alternative to breast milk. And although it is safe and nutritionally balanced, there is a massive pushback against it and another type of pushing: that of lactivism, or breastfeeding activism. No one denies that breastfeeding is biologically appropriate food for human babies, but when we insist it is the ONLY appropriate choice, we do both babies and their mothers a disservice. How do I know this? I tried to breastfeed my baby. I succeeded, but at great personal cost. Now I wonder if that level of effort was really necessary or even beneficial.

My first child was born on a beautiful June day. There was only one issue; he had passed meconium when my water broke and he had to be deep-suctioned the moment he came out just in case any had been breathed in. None had, and he was pronounced healthy and handed over to me via his beaming father. Our son was absolutely perfect and as I looked at him I noticed his jaw trembling just a bit. It turned out the suctioning process had left his mouth sore. I was instructed to put him to the breast every hour during the day. The nurses left the room, the doctor said she’d check back the next day, and we were alone.

Suffice it to say that our first session was an absolute failure. He cried, I cried, my husband stood there helpless and saying things like “He’ll get it. It takes time.” He wasn’t getting it. The nurses told me “first time moms always think the baby’s not latched on.” He wasn’t latching on. He was frantic, rooting and crying and not getting anything. Exhausted, I agreed to give him sugar water. We were discharged 72 hours later with no luck at feeding; I was sobbing in the glider rocker at home when the lactation nurse arrived. “I want to breastfeed and it’s not working,” I told her. “Oh honey, it’s okay,” she said, “if you really want this we can make it work.” She set me up with a nipple shield and a sample bottle of formula. She explained that “normally, we don’t advise formula, but he’s lost over 10% of his birth weight and you must build that back up.” He drank it ravenously from the syringe and wanted more. Then he latched on the nipple shield and tried to nurse. There was no milk, so we gave more formula.

Next, the LC told me “you must pump every two hours to get your milk to come in, then mix it with the formula and feed that to him with a syringe. Put him to breast as well and he will get some from that.” So now I was pumping every two hours, nursing, caring for a newborn, attempting to care for myself, and, unfortunately, dealing with a severe case of hormonal postpartum depression, which only worsened with the sleep deprivation of the schedule we were on. I was miserable beyond belief. “Can I really do this?” I asked her. “Of course you can,” she said, “just focus on your baby and let the rest go.” “When do I sleep?” I asked. “Well, there isn’t going to be a lot of that,” she chuckled, “but it’s temporary.” I was fortunate to have my husband home for ten days, by the way. Most women don’t have that privilege.

The lactation nurse came to check on us every few days for a few weeks. She encouraged me and said I was doing so wonderfully! Wasn’t it great to give my baby breastmilk? It’s so good for them. He was nursing successfully after the first week or two with a nipple shield. I didn’t have to supplement anymore. I was a success! But I was still having severe panic attacks like tetanic contractions, one right after the other. I cried randomly and often. I could not shake the feeling of despair and I was so terribly tired. She told me “it’s unfortunate about the formula, but it couldn’t be helped. Don’t beat yourself up.” I did anyway. I was sure his colic and general fussiness was from his rough start and the formula. I read about gut flora and cried some more. On the Fourth of July we watched the fireworks as I pumped and the motor whooshing sounded like it was saying “help me, help me, help me.” Please, someone help me, I thought. I continued to try. The class we’d taken on breastfeeding at the hospital (prior to birth) had us say a mantra: “It’s always too early to quit.”

So we were two weeks in, my PPD was not improving despite additional medication and my stitches from delivery were infected because I hadn’t had two seconds to do the sitz baths that I was supposed to do. The pregnancy and birth forum I belonged to online, who had been so supportive and full of information while I was planning birth and postpartum, had suggestions like eating more fruits and vegetables, or counseling, or herbs. Considering I was on the verge of hospitalization for my PPD, these suggestions were useless. I knew I had to wait for the drugs to kick in fully—the only ones that were safe for nursing, apparently—I couldn’t have most of the medication that would be of immediate help because I was nursing. Despite struggling mightily, I never once considered quitting. I had seen the statistics my group pulled out on articles they discussed and people they discussed; namely, people who didn’t measure up to their standards. People who weren’t willing to make the sacrifice to breastfeed their babies and give it their all. I was not going to be that person. After all, I knew from reading online that breastfeeding has many benefits—immunity, intelligence, even bonding. Breastfed babies are statistically more likely to survive their first year! (I don’t know where this statistic comes from, but I suspect not first world countries). All this swirled around in my already-anxious brain like a toxic cocktail.

It was a hot summer and my son was three weeks old. I felt like I was going to die. I couldn’t possibly go on like this. He was sleeping two hours at a time maximum, and I wasn’t pumping anymore but I was being awakened by horrible nightmares. I was so tired I couldn’t function. My mother had to come stay because my husband had to return to work. I didn’t trust myself to care for the baby other than nurse him. I was literally afraid I would fall asleep nursing in the chair and drop him or squash him. He nursed constantly, until he was overfull and would vomit. I phoned the lactation nurse in desperation again. “Can I give a pacifier?” “Well,” she hedged, “it’s really not great if he’s still establishing nursing, but if he’ll eat until he vomits you can try it. But he might get nipple confusion and only want a plastic nipple.” After a maximum of two consecutive hours of sleep in a month, I was willing to take that bet. And it made absolutely no difference other than getting me three consecutive hours of sleep, which I welcomed.

Finally about six weeks in I felt okay. Not great, but okay. Things looked brighter. I wasn’t desperate and despondent all day. The nipple shield went in the trash, the baby nursing like a pro. But while I remember the awful, sinking into a black abyss, nearly indescribable feeling of PPD and the guilt of hearing my hungry baby screaming, I remember nothing other than that from his first six weeks. We have pictures and for most of them I pulled it together, but I still looked like I felt: terrified and exhausted. I breastfed my baby successfully no matter what.. in the end, did it actually matter? What were the real advantages to what I put us both through? The more I know now, the less convinced I am that there are many, if any. Would he really have been irreparably damaged if I had listened to the doctor who said “you know, breastfeeding is not a requirement,” and treated my own mental health so the baby could have a healthy mother? Would he not be the smart, healthy, amazing kid he is now if I had given him formula?

In so many ways, the breast vs. formula debate is no win. But it is especially so with conditions like PPD. Mothers are guaranteed to lose either way—neglect your own health and breastfeed the baby, or give formula and suffer the guilt from that. The conditional support of lactivists inherently involves guilt. Most of the people who supported me while I tried would have withdrawn that support if I had stopped. So when one of the women from our forum was struggling the same way I did, when she clearly had terrible PPD and needed medication, my advice to her was loud and clear: your needs matter. You cannot care for others unless your own basic needs are met. Take the medicine, give the baby formula, more importantly hold the baby, love the baby, meet its needs and accept no guilt. In the end, breastfeeding is not the yardstick by which your parenting will be measured.

  • Melissa Marsh

    Sounds very similar to what I went through. I was put on a three hour feeding schedule without doing the first feed then I was bullied when I couldn’t feed.
    My midwife helped me breastfeed by starting on formula, the expressed bottles when the milk came in, then finally fully breastfed. It’s four months in and Im still breastfeeding, with nipple shields.
    My usage was great support in those first few days, climb everything so all I had to do was feed. He’d get me to sleep between feeds and make sure the bottles and pump were sterilized.

  • MelodyCason

    My breastfeeding experience with my first is very similar to your story! I had major PPD, and only now (3 years and 2 pregnancies later) am getting medicine for it. I will formula feed this third baby because I hate BFing and need the medicine.

  • Allie P

    I, too, jumped through hella hoops to BF my first baby, and felt insane guilt and tried to withhold formula from her in hopes that it would help. I have already decided that this one I’m cooking, I will try to breastfeed, because I really did like nursing, i just wasn’t good at it, but I will combo feed from day one if I don’t make enough milk, and I will NEVER pump or use those stupid tubes. It’s not worth it.

  • Roadstergal

    OT. From many of their posts, I wonder if The Onion has staff members who have to deal with NCB stuff:
    https://www.facebook.com/TheOnion/photos/a.71757474496.64600.20950654496/10152914599719497/?type=1&permPage=1

  • Bugsy

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, Anne.

  • CrownedMedwife

    Thank you for sharing your journey. It’s stories like yours that are all too common and I hear similar stories day in and day out. Lactivists seem too busy promoting their ideals to take time to reflect on how their ideals negatively impact the moment by moment lives of mothers. I have a few posts sitting around in need of a few edits and reading this just reminded me I really need to get around to to those, as an accidental and apologetic reformed lactivist. We need to give true meaning to experiences like yours, as well as what providers encounter on their end in order to ensure new mothers and providers have the information and understanding needed to make motherhood have realistic expectations. Thank you again and congratulations on your thriving little one and your recovery from the battles of PPD/lactivism.

  • Karen in SC

    OT for the nerds and geeks here: http://www.nerdist.com/vepisode/nerdist-presents-all-about-that-bass-star-wars-parody-starring-team-unicorn/

    (PCM graduate level credit, no doubt)

    • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa

      Actually, you get demerits if you know the original song (sadly, I do)

  • Medwife

    Thank you so much for your honesty. I’m glad you resurfaced from that awful time!

  • MS

    Thank you so much for sharing your story Anne. I am always shocked at how easily breastfeeding advocates dismiss maternal mental health. I suffer from depression unrelated to childbirth, and had to carefully balance my daughter’s health needs (in the NICU she really needed breast milk, from me and from a donor, to prevent NEC) with my own (depression, being postpartum, and having my first baby in the NICU for 5 weeks is a tough combination). Sometimes a sacrifice is necessary and beneficial. Sometimes a sacrifice is so great it begins to undermine the family. Its a delicate balance that only the family can determine for themselves.

  • Sue

    Thank you, Anne, for sharing your experience so frankly. PPD in itself causes enough anxiety, without having to contend with needless guilt. So glad you can look back from the other side of that awful experience.

    And of course your child is smart and amazing – he gets it from his mother!

  • mythsayer

    I have a feeling a lot of us could share stories like this…

    • moto_librarian

      Unfortunately.

      • KarenJJ

        yep.

  • Bethany Barry

    What’s the deal with this pumping every two hours business? Is it even mildly evidence based, beyond the idea that average newborn eats about that often? I was told to pump that often when my daughter was in the NICU, even overnight. I skipped the overnights in favor of sleep. The milk came in in about 36 hours anyway. Anecdotal, to be sure, but I’ve always wondered if maybe those night pumpings give anyone an advantage, particularly over sleep.

    • Cobalt

      I don’t think there’s any real evidence of a difference before your milk comes in. I’ve heard it comes in sooner but only by like half a day, so not worth it if it is true.

      I think it’s more something to blame you for not doing if you have trouble later.

      • Guest

        I started pumping on day 3 because my baby is not latching and if so not sucking at all and all I got was mastitis so to relive that they asked me to pump more! Pumping was so painful and not relieving. On day 5 I quitted pumping these few drops due to the severe pain. On day 6 my milk came in!

    • Medwife

      My personal anecdote is that I never pumped, but even in the first few days, I remember my son having few 4 hr stretches of sleep (SO WONDERFUL). My milk was in like gangbusters anyway.

      • Elaine

        My daughter only nursed every 4-6 hours for her first couple of days of life. All she wanted to do was sleep (and she was a bit jaundiced too, which I think contributed, although nobody really explained it to me in a very direct/helpful way). My milk came in like crazy anyway. The nurses on postpartum were getting all worked up about my supply because she was nursing so infrequently. At no point did I ever encounter one single discussion anywhere about what to do if I had too MUCH supply, until it happened.

    • moto_librarian

      I still feel pissed that the hospital LC did not explain that I could be experiencing primary lactation failure. She sent me home on that ridiculous pumping/supplementing schedule. At 2 weeks pp, I had yet to experience engorgement and I have NEVER experienced let-down. I persisted in pumping for another week, but finally stopped when my mother sat me down and told me that it did not matter how my baby was red as long as he was being fed.

      • Jami

        Same here. My milk supply was slightly better, I could get an ounce or so once in a while. My breasts never felt engorged and were only slightly tender after birth. I think that some women just do not make milk and it’s physiological. Pumping for 7 weeks straight did nothing for me. I do not think this recommendation is evidence based.

    • TsuDhoNimh

      I’ve gone through a lot of OLD midwifery and OB books … from the early 1800s through 1930s and they seem to accept that for a first-time mother that it will be a day to two days before her milk “comes in” or “lets down”.

      They recommend letting the new mom rest, sleep, and eat while someone takes care of the baby and feeds a bit of nutrition to tide it over.

      And most of them ended up nursing successfully.

      • Samantha06

        That was when common sense dictated practices, not money-making, shaming and one-upmanship..

    • Dr Kitty

      I had an abundant supply of colostrum.
      I pumped about 8 ounces during my 3 days in hospital, and kiddo was feeding round the clock too.
      At that point I thought my milk had come in.
      Nope.
      That happened on day five, when I woke up looking like Lolo Ferrari and had to express a few ounces from each side before I was comfortable enough to feed the baby.

      It doesn’t matter whether the milk comes in day 1 or day 5, if what you’re making (or topping up by supplementing) is enough to feed your baby until and after it does.

    • Joy

      My milk never came in, but we were sent home being told that bfing was going fine. It wasn’t and I didn’t realise it until day 11 when she was still losing weight. I did the whole crazy pumping thing. I was never engorged. It never really did come in, so I combo fed. Next time it either works or it doesn’t. I don’t think I could pump and combo feed like this again.

  • DiomedesV

    We formula fed from the beginning. Never looked back, never felt guilty. It was a medical necessity, so there was no debate. We shared the baby care equally and kiddo was close and confident with both of us from the beginning.

    The key was that we knew that going in. We didn’t have to flounder about and try to the “best” at the time and then make difficult decisions about when to stop. As a result, the baby months were sheer bliss for me and slightly less bliss for husband (he’s not as enamored of babies as I am). I’m so grateful for this.

    • Guest

      I wish I can do this next time to avoid the pain of stopping. I couldn’t bf twice with more guilt the second time even I did the best I can I was hurt more by insisting and trying longer. Now I suspect that I have breast hypoplasia but I don’t know if I could have a diagnosis earlier. I really want to experience a successful breastfeeding and then decide weather to continue or not.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      Stories like this make me seriously consider FFing the next kid right from the start. DD’s newborn days were hell on earth thanks to pumping/supplementing/SNSing, and she still infinitely prefers me to DH because I was the only one who could feed her. It would be nice, even with the inevitable sleep deprivation, to enjoy the next kid a little more.

  • araikwao

    Beautifully written, I loved this, but so sorry you had to go through it.

    • Mishimoo

      ^This, exactly.

  • Seattle Mom

    A little OT, but a good “experience” article of a woman rejecting the woo as she faces the reality of labor. Well written and funny, but a little long: http://blog.longreads.com/2014/11/06/a-birth-story/

    • Cobalt

      “I wished for a way to communicate pain more precisely than a scale of 1 to 10. But the scale is subjective, I longed to say. We have no way to know. I hated this. I said 7, 8. I didn’t know. It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt, but I have never had my arm cut off. That was what I always imagine to be the worst pain: having a limb chopped off. I saved 10 for it, out of respect. I wanted to save 9 for the moment the baby tears its way out of my vagina. So what’s left is 8. I wanted to seem brave, so I said 7, but then I worried they wouldn’t understand the immediacy of the situation, so I came back with 8.”

    • Cobalt

      “I got, for the first time, genuinely excited to meet my baby, as if this whole natural childbirth thing, long ago thrown out the window, was a sort of block. The smoke had been cleared and we were going to finally do the thing we came here to do.”

    • Roadstergal

      “I wanted the c-section so badly. I wanted it like you want a glass of
      water at a stranger’s house, but you still feel like you should demur. I
      wanted it the way I wanted someone to stick a finger in my butt during
      sex, but would never ask for. I was thinking like a woman. I was in the
      most essentially oppressed, essentially female situation I’ve ever been
      in and I was mentally oppressing myself on top of it.”

      Interesting in light of that whole ‘control’ conversation a few days ago.

  • TsuDhoNimh

    “He was frantic, rooting and crying and not getting anything.”

    When fostering kittens or lambs, or doing a delayed introduction to their mother, behavior like that means the creature needs to have enough formula (or bottle-fed breastmilk if you have it) to take the edge off their hunger.

    Then they are much more likely to successfully figure out how to nurse.

    • Allie

      This is so true. We supplemented with my LO when we were getting the hang of things (thanks to the suggestion of a wonderful, sensible nurse), and it was like when you water a droopy house plant and it immediately springs back to life. Only about 20-30 ml of formula would put colour in her cheeks and give her the energy to keep trying to latch. And once she really got going, we couldn’t get her to stop! The naysayers who say supplementing will only lead to exclusive formula feeding have never met my daughter.

  • Guest

    Anne, I’m so sorry you went through that! The peer pressure you felt from your online group and from your LC is inexcusable!

  • Trixie

    Thank you for sharing your important story, Anne!

  • Briar

    And this is why we are going straight to formula feeding. I have a history of severe depression that is exacerbated when I don’t get enough sleep. I know I won’t get a lot as a new mother but I will get more as I only have to prep bottles and will have help. And if I end up with PPD I can go straight to the good meds. This breastfeeding insanity has to stop, it is killing mothers.

    • Amy M

      And here’s a handy-dandy bottle feeding tip to get you even more sleep: Make up enough formula (either a pitcher, or a bunch of bottles) for all the overnight feedings, before you go to bed (around 8 or 9pm). Then all you have to do is pour out, pop bottle in microwave for 5-10secs, shake well, and serve. Another way is to set up several bottles of water, on the counter, so they are already room temp. Get one or more of those containers with the three compartments that are designed to hold formula powder. Before bedtime, load the compartments up with the right amount of powder to match the water in the bottles, when its feeding time, dump one compartment in one bottle, shake, serve. Don’t worry about washing bottles in the middle of the night. Just toss in the sink and put them in the dishwasher in the morning. Buy a lot of bottles.

      If this is not your first child, and you already know all of this, please disregard, I am not trying to be a condescending jerk. I just like to help people, because how many times have you heard: “Oh who wants to prepare bottles at 3am?” and I was always “Who does that? We always made them at 9pm.”

      • moto_librarian

        My kids were champs at taking their bottles at room temperature. Made life much easier.

        • anon13

          I knew a mom who started hers on refrigerated bottles. Who knew? It made her life so much easier and I’m sure it wasn’t harmful in the least.

          • DiomedesV

            Yeah, I knew a mom like that, too. We made ours room temperature initially, but the daycare warmed it. Baby never seemed to care either way.

          • Cobalt

            I have extra room in my heart for babies that like cold bottles.

      • AlexisRT

        The microwave always made me nervous – it really does result in hot spots. I stuck with room temperature–bottles of water and premeasured formula.

        The NHS drove me bonkers with its advice with #1. I later found out why they do it but it was terribly unclear at the time. Due to cases of C. sakazakii in infant formula powder, they recommended it be made up with water over 70C (the CDC also says to do this if it’s a concern, but the advice has not, to my knowledge, been popularized–US formula makers say not to use boiling water). So you’re advised to make it up and then rapidly cool it, or make it all in advance and refrigerate, then reheat as needed. That resulted in me boiling water in the kettle at 2am every night to heat the bottle as I didn’t have a bottle warmer and then discovered the kettle and jug were faster anyway.

        (The problem with how the advice was given is that it was unclear that the water should still be boiling to mix the formula and sterilize it, and instead many women I know thought the point was that it should be boiled. So they used cooled boiled water, which I did once I decided I could not bear to handle the rules anymore.)

        At any rate: Following those rules did make me think breastfeeding would have been far more convenient. I got a lot of talk about breast is best, and very little practical support, which was a nightmare all around.

        • Amy M

          Honestly? We always used tap water, filtered through a Brita. The hospital gave us some RTF so we used that until we ran out, and then tap water and formula powder. We gave it either room temp, or slightly microwave-warmed while the boys were infants, and when they were a bit older, they took it straight from the fridge. I don’t know how the water is by you, but no one suggested otherwise to us and our water is safe to drink, so we didn’t really think about it. At any rate, we never had any problems.

          • AlexisRT

            With my 2nd I used a mixture of tap and bottled–as advised by the pediatrician to avoid too much fluoride. Then we moved to a house with a well and a whole house filtering system and softener, so I went to tap (no more concerns over too much fluoride).

          • Amy M

            What happens with too much fluoride? Our water is fluoridated, but my boys ended up with cavities anyway, so I fear they didn’t get enough.

          • DiomedesV

            Fluoridated water increases the risk of mild fluorosis, which can produce mild staining on permanent teeth:

            http://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/safety/infant_formula.htm

            We used boiled bottled water. It was pretty aggravating. We did ask our pediatrician and she said that’s what we should do.

            Edited to add: actually, at our 6 month appointment, she told us we didn’t need to boil it anymore, and I think she implied that we didn’t need to be boiling up till then, either, and that we didn’t need to sterilize the bottles. I’ve never been certain what we were supposed to do. Since we had a dishwasher, we just ran a “sterile rinse” cycle.

          • just me

            *Too much* fluoride can cause that (maybe over 4 mg/l). Usually only a problem with well water in certain areas. And if that is the case you will receive notices from your local water purveyor telling you that. Typical fluoridated water at 1 mg/l fluoride will not cause fluorosis. Don’t believe the crazy anti fluoride people. (I used to work in the drinking water field. Soapbox moment: unless you have a private well or get your water from an extremely small water system–and even most of those are safe–your water is safe straight from the tap. Spend your worrying on other things.)

            And we would just use warm tap water, one or more scoops of formula (depending on how much we were making) into the dr browns bottle, put the cap on and shake. No exact measuring (and I used to be a chemist).

          • DiomedesV

            Oh, I don’t believe the crazy anti-fluoride people. But every source I read, including the CDC, and our pediatrician, told us not to use tap water. If I don’t listen to them, who do I listen to?

          • Kerlyssa

            There’s a few areas that are apparently (in)famous for having periods of relatively high fluoridation, because every time I see a new dentist, they try and guess which one I come from.

        • Guesteleh

          We microwaved for 10 seconds and then shook the bottle for the same length of time. Never had a problem.

        • KarenJJ

          I measured out the formula in the morning into one of those containers that has different compartments and stored water in the bottles. When I needed a bottle of formula I heated bottle of water in the microwave and then added the formula to the warm water and shook well.

          I figured any hot spots in the water would get fairly well mixed by the time the formula powder dissolved through.

      • Briar

        Nope, this is my first and I know nothing at the ripe old age of 32. I am totslly tempted to get one of those Baby Keurig things, but I love the idea of room temperature from the get-go. Would make life so much easier.

        • Amy M

          What’s a baby keurig? Can you put the formula powder in like coffee? how awesome would that be?!

        • Melly

          I would never trust one of those machines. Too many Amazon reviews complaining about the bottles having too much water and not enough powder. Formula needs to be mixed in the exact ratios or it can make baby I’ll.

          • Young CC Prof

            We got a kitchen scale, accurate to the nearest gram, and a whole bunch of these little containers, like clear film cases. I take a whole can of formula and pre-measure it into vials, then I’m ready to take it with me when I go out or make formula in the middle of the night. Room temperature water, mixed with powder immediately before serving worked fine for us.

            (Although we did use a blend of ready-to-serve formula and pumped milk the first few weeks.)

        • Mac Sherbert

          Yes! Try room temp first, because it’s a pain to have to warm a bottle. Mine would take a bottle from the fridge without any problems! It made life so much easier. I could mix all the bottles I needed in the morning for the next 24 hours.

        • guest

          If you choose to bottle feed try “Mixie” bottles. They made my nights easier. You will find them on amazon.

    • Samantha06

      And if it isn’t working, it’s certainly harming babies too! What’s the point if the baby is constantly screaming with hunger, losing weight and mom is miserable and frantic??? Why tell a mother “don’t give up” in those circumstances??? When I was working in a BFI hospital, if a mom asked for formula we were not allowed to give it to her without a “doctor’s order.” I said, this is BS, this woman is an ADULT, this is HER BABY and if she wants to use formula, it’s HER RIGHT!! What a crock!

    • DiomedesV

      It is very unfortunate that the discussion of PPD and breastfeeding ignores the fact that sleep deprivation is the single greatest risk factor for development of PPD and PPP. Even if you can breastfeed with the meds you use (and there are some meds that are not safe), you will still lose a lot of sleep and you are still very much at risk.

      There’s *no way* around this if you’re EBF from the beginning. None.

      • just me

        I know lack of sleep certainly did not help with my first (serious worst sleeper ever), but even tho my 2nd was basically a dream sleeper (6 hr stretches by 2 wks), I *still* got ppd. So I wouldn’t choose not to b/f solely b/c of the lack of sleep. Meaning better sleep does not prevent ppd necessarily.

        Also I wonder what she meant by “hormonal ppd”. As opposed to what other type of ppd? From what I’ve read it’s still not well understood exactly what causes it, similar to the horrible morning sickness I had. I know there are risk factor associated with it but that is not the same thing as the cause.

        • originalposter

          I’m the original poster 🙂 I can see why that term caused some confusion. I really wasn’t concerned about PPD before I gave birth. It wasn’t easy for us to conceive and I couldn’t imagine how I could possibly have PPD when I was so thrilled to be having a baby. Well, much to my chagrin, it had nothing to do with that and everything to do with raging postpartum hormones plus a family history of severe PPD. Darn you, reality.

          • just me

            Yes same here. 6 years of IF hell, multiple IVFs, losing hope, finally a miracle baby, and then ppd. It was awful.

      • Amy M

        Yes. I ended up with PPD—triggered by lack of sleep. Nothing to do with breastfeeding at all, because I wasn’t and wasn’t upset about it. But even formula fed infants need to eat in the night a few times.

        • DiomedesV

          Yes, but if you know that you’re at greater risk of PPD or PPP, you can work out an arrangement with your partner that they take at least one night feeding all by themselves, so you get at least 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Allowing other people to feed the baby is the single greatest advantage of formula.

          • Amy M

            yeah, we did that…but I still didn’t get enough uninterrupted sleep. 🙁

  • NoLongerCrunching

    The kind of care you got from your LC makes me imagine if a diabetes educator advised her patients to eat one apple and take one small insulin shot every 2 hours around the clock. Impossible, torturous, and not actually necessary to make the system work in a healthy happy way.

  • Amy M

    As I’ve said before, I hate this cultural idea of “inherent/natural mom guilt.” Fathers are not expected to feel constantly guilty, but mothers are, so it seems there are self-appointed guilt-instillers to ensure that this happens. Lactivists are clearly the loudest and largest group today, since they’ve made headway into various governments. Natural parenting leaders also do this, and I imagine in every generation, whatever the fad is, the bellwethers are the ones trying to make sure every new mother feels a healthy measure of free-floating guilt.

    Why do these people perpetuate this? Is it pay-back? They were made to feel guilty about their choices so they spread it around? Sure, its clear some are insecure about their own choices, and need those choices mirrored back for validation, but lactivist nurses in hospitals who have grown children do not fit that mold. Are they just sadistic people? Do they really just believe that mothers should feel guilty? It doesn’t occur to these people to question this and recognize how limiting and stupid it is?

    Anyway, Anne, I am glad you got the help you needed and good for you for questioning the accepted wisdom. Breast is not necessarily best, especially if mom is losing her mind. I formula fed my sons. I am not ashamed or guilty about it. They are fine. I am lucky to live in America where I have access to clean water and safe formula.

    • Briar

      I blame religion and Eve and punishment for our supposed sins. I am Atheist so I feel no guilt as I know I have to take care of me first before I an take care of another.

    • T

      It is about sacrifice.
      Women are expected to sacrifice. Once, to husband and children. Now we have made leeway, and most recognize -with the head if not the heart so to speak- that you don’t have to sacrifice for a husband.
      So it is left only the old “sacrifice for your children!” leimotiv.

      • Amy M

        I agree, but why does no one question this? Why accept it blindly? Certainly becoming a parent comes with sacrifices (less sleep, less time for yourself, less money for most people, etc) but dad is also making the same sacrifices. Why are women supposed to actively seek to sacrifice as much as possible, to prove they are good mothers/real women? Who invented that standard and why aren’t we trying harder to break it down?

        • Roadstergal

          Do you think there is also something to the idea that SAHMs feel like they have to ‘justify’ their SAHM-ness (beyond, you know, raising a human being, which seems like a lot of justification) in the face of compatriots who do the work + parent thing, and therefore have to do the EBF and Attachment and Vaccine ‘Research’ and etc etc, all as part of the minimum requirement to be a ‘proper’ mom?

          • Amy M

            Yes, absolutely.

  • PinkandOrange

    Good job, Anne. The more I read stories like yours, the more I wonder how these lactivists view the other parents. Some infants have a bio mom and a bio dad, some have two moms, two dads, single parents, adoptive parents and lots of other situations. Biologically, some of those parents simply have no way to breastfeed. Are they less responsible for the care of the child? My daughter’s father was perfectly capable of feeding her bottles of safe and healthy formula after I decided to throw that hateful breastpump out the window.

  • Ennis Demeter

    Like I always say, go to a high school and try to figure out which kids were breast fed and which weren’t. You can’t.

    • Cobalt

      I think the difference disappears as soon as they stop breastfeeding, sooner if the observer never witnesses a meal. There is no reliable indicator of feeding method other than observing the actual feeding.

  • moto_librarian

    I really want to give you a big hug, Anne. I have pretty much had it with this idea that a mother should sacrifice everything for breastfeeding, and your lactation consultant was, IMO, an asshole. Given the amount of time she was spending with you, it should have been patently obvious that you were in real trouble. I also regret that you weren’t able to ramp up your medication more quickly. We have got to do a better job at advocating for what is best for mom in these situations. You cannot convince me that the trivial benefits of breastfeeding a term infant in a developed country are more important than a mother’s mental health. The fact that you remember nothing but panic and tears from the first six weeks of your child’s life is proof that bonding is not limited to (not automatically facilitated by) breastfeeding.

    Thank you for sharing. I really hope that stories like yours start to make a dent in the ideology surrounding breastfeeding.

    • araikwao

      Ok, this has got me thinking a bit about the misappropriation of “other cultures” (you know, those noble savages, probably in Africa, cos their babies don’t cry). Because over “there”, if the mother is struggling, someone else looks after the baby. Grandma or sister or other family member or the maid will care for the baby. And that may well not include the magic breastmilk. Yet somehow in western society, with our often-isolated nuclear families, everything falls on the mother, and shame on her if she doesn’t do everything “right”.

      • moto_librarian

        ^^^THIS!!! A THOUSAND TIMES!

        • araikwao

          Why thanks! Amazing the things I can come up with when I’m avoiding studying for my exams..ok, I should go now..