Breastfeeding and the glorification of victimhood

Victim Rubber Stamp

Is support a zero sum game?

If I offer support to the victims of an earthquake in South America does that mean I can’t offer support the victims of a typhoon in South East Asia, too?

If I express support for those who lost their homes in a hurricane does that mean I can’t express support for those who lost their homes in a wildfire, too?

If I support women who have breast cancer, does that mean I can’t support women who have ovarian cancer, too?

Why can’t I support formula feeding mothers AND support breastfeeding mothers?

Sounds ridiculous, right?

So why can’t I support formula feeding mothers AND support breastfeeding mothers?

Because lactivism embraces victimhood as central to its understanding of breastfeeding and the women who choose it.

In the world of lactivism, support is a zero sum game and any support offered to women who choose formula feeding is viewed as support that is deliberately stolen from breastfeeding mothers.

At their heart, the “breastfeeding wars” aren’t about breastfeeding. They’re about whether lactivists are entitled to the moral superiority of victimhood. That’s how lactivists justify the fact that their claims of minority status are unmoored from reality, their claims of the benefits of breastfeeding are unmoored from the scientific evidence, and their viciousness expressed in efforts to lock up formula, force new mothers to sign releases proclaiming that breastfeeding is superior, and programs to promote breastfeeding designated as “baby friendly,” (as if those who breastfeed care more about their babies than those who don’t) is unwarranted.

The celebration of their victimization serves several important roles in the lactivist cosmology. First, and foremost, it guarantees moral superiority. As Sommer and Baumeister explained in the book The human quest for meaning:

…[C]laiming the victim status provides a sort of moral immunity. The victim role carries with it the advantage of receiving sympathy from others and thereby prevents [one’s own behavior] from impugning one’s character…

Never mind that women who try breastfeeding represent the overwhelming majority of women, lactivists insist breastfeeders are a tiny minority, oppressed by the formula industry, and ceaselessly harassed by formula feeders. They’re victims dammit and that means that nothing they do to promote breastfeeding is ever wrong.

Second, the insistence on victimization serves to simplify the world by creating a false dichotomy. For lactivists, the world is divided into diametrically opposed camps of breastfeeders and formula feeders. It seems never to have occurred to them that combining breastfeeding and formula feeding is not merely possible, but common. Since the world is divided into diametrically opposed camps, in the lactivist cosmology everyone is either with them or against them. Or, paraphrasing one of my blog commentors, lactivists make it clear to new mothers that “you’re either with us or we’re against you.”

When you are a breastfeeding victim, the fact anyone others don’t agree with you, or at least validate your feelings of victimization, is viewed as a form of re-victimization.

Other women choose formula? They are victimizing you by refusing to validate your decision to breastfeed by mirroring it back to you.

Formula feeders want to be able to choose formula without being harassed by hospital lactation consultants, vilified by breastfeeders, or told that they aren’t “baby friendly”? They’re victimizing you.

Dr. Amy (or anyone else) point out that the benefits of breastfeeding in first world have been massively exaggerated and are, in reality, limited to a few less infant colds and episodes of diarrheal illness in the first year? She is most definitely victimizing you; she hates breastfeeding, bathes daily in Similac and dries off using hundred dollar bills sent to her by Nestle as payment for services rendered.

Third, their status as self-proclaimed victims has been instrumental in allowing lactivists (particularly professional lactivists like La Leche League) to take control of public health messages and discussion in the public sphere. Breastfeeding rates were low purportedly because of the victimization of breastfeeders. That was the justification behind massive public and private initiatives to support breastfeeders and thereby promote breastfeeding. How has it worked out?

As a society, we have spent tens of millions of dollars promoting breastfeeding in order to improve child health and save on medical costs. Where’s our return on investment? Where is the evidence that overall infant health has improved as a result of breastfeeding rates tripling in the past 50 years? There isn’t any. Where are the billions of dollars in healthcare savings we were promised as a result of increasing breastfeeding rates? No one seems to be able to find them.

Yet lactivists continue promoting these programs and initiatives on the grounds that breastfeeding mothers are being victimized.

Interestingly, the goalposts of lactivist victimization are always moving. Fifty years ago the evidence of breastfeeders’ victimization was that hospitals did not support their efforts. In 2015, when hospitals do everything humanly (and inhumanely) possible to increase breastfeeding rates and when even cans of formula proclaim “breast is best,” failure to wholeheartedly embrace and praise public breastfeeding is viewed as … you guessed it … evidence of victimization.

Indeed, the goalposts have moved so far, basic civility to women who choose formula feeding as best for their babies is routinely criticized as victimization of women who breastfeed.

It’s time for lactivists to grow up and stop bleating endlessly about their victimization. Breastfeeding is just one of two excellent ways to nourish an infant, nothing more and nothing less. Breastfeeders aren’t morally superior, aren’t better mothers, and certainly aren’t being victimized. They’re no different from formula feeding mothers, both trying to do what is best for their babies, their families and themselves.

Support is not a zero sum game.

I can offer support to the victims of an earthquake in South America AND offer support to the victims of a typhoon in South East Asia.

I can express support for those who lost their homes in hurricanes AND express support for those who lost their homes in a wildfires.

I can support women who have breast cancer AND support women who have ovarian cancer.

In exactly same way, I can support women who breastfeed AND women who formula feed. I don’t have to choose between them and society does not have to choose … no matter how much lactivists insist otherwise.

  • yentavegan

    Kudos Dr. Amy. Yes of course my panties are all in a twist because I don’t like being called out for my knee jerk loyalty to “volunteer professional lactavists” and I still live in my bubble of 1990’s when my LLL was not anything other than a mother to mother club of “ladies who lunch” Privileged and proud. But something drastically has changed. Women with power have wasted their intelligence and influence trying to medical-ize an infant feeding life style choice. Rather than focus their educational privilege on something meaningful they have Stepford wifed their energies and created animosity among families.

  • Tumbling

    OT: One of my recommended Kindle books of the day was the following:
    Hannah, Delivered
    by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

    Genre: Contemporary Fiction

    Late one night in a busy St. Paul hospital, a nurse-midwife drags Hannah Larson out from behind her reception desk to assist with a birth. When Hannah witnesses that baby tumble into the world, her secure, conventional life is upended by a fierce desire to deliver babies. So begins Hannah’s journey away from her comfort zone.

    In a midwifery apprenticeship in New Mexico, she befriends a male midwife, defends a teenage mom, and learns to trust women’s bodies, then moves back to Minnesota to start her own illicit birth practice. Hannah’s need to stay safe proves both an asset and a liability; home birth isn’t legal in Minnesota in the 1990’s. To deliver healthy babies, Hannah risks jail time, her community’s respect, and her career. The key to unlocking her fear rests in one birth—her own.

    Hannah, Delivered tells the story of how inexplicable passion, buried strength, and professional skill delivers one woman from fear into a rich and risk-filled life.

    • namaste863

      Perhaps a better title would be “A Birth Junkie’s Manifesto.” I think I’ll steer clear of this one.

      • KarenJJ

        I’d grant “inexplicable passion” but “professional skill” is a bit of a stretch…

    • LizzieSt

      So this is basically “Melanie’s Marvelous Measles” for the homebirth set. And for adults.Yay.

      Is there an evil patriarchal obstetrician character? Or maybe two? A baby who dies at a cold hospital birth after a traumatic c-section? And then the mother goes on to have a “healing” HBAC which goes perfectly because natural birth conquers all?

      I bet at least one of those conjectures is right.

    • Amy M

      Her own birth? Not the birth of her own baby? I guess she was a Csection baby, and had to go back and chide her mom for not trusting birth, and messing her up for life. She was afraid that she was second-class, due to the C section birth, but then she enjoyed her risk-filled (for her patients) life, gambling on the lives of other people, which was very enriching. She probably charged a lot too.

    • Ash

      Oo, this fictional Hannah, so brave, working illegally. Minnesota is a funny example for using as proof that midwives were “illegal.”

      Here’s a history of Minnesota midwifery from a MN midwife support site:

      http://www.mfmidwifery.org/#!history/c12fp

      Why am I supposed to support that random people were not licensed to provide prenatal and intrapartum care in MN in the 90s?

    • Roadstergal

      “and learns to trust women’s bodies”

      She’d better not trust mine. Not standing behind it after I’ve had Mexican food, not standing in front of it while she’s spouting her BS.

    • Bombshellrisa

      Is this the companion book to “From Calling to Courtroom”?

  • StephanieA

    OT question- I am due Feb 2 with my second baby. I had PPD with my first, and told my husband last night that I am terrified that I will hurt my toddler or baby (I don’t have urges now, but I remember the ragey feelings I had with PPD and adding a toddler to that mix scares me). He suggested I start antidepressants right after delivery and that we go right to formula feeding (Prozac worked great for me, I don’t think it’s breastfeeding compatible?)

    Anyways, has anyone ever done this? Am I assuming too soon that I will have PPD? I feel like my mental health is more important than breastfeeding.

    • Chi

      If you remember those feelings, chances are pretty good that they’ll happen again, especially, as you said, when you consider there is a toddler in the mix who will be jealously trying to get your attention away from the intruder. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with putting your health first.

      Look at it from another perspective. Would you rather stay off the meds, and have everyone be miserable, you from hormones PPD, your toddler because you’re always feeding the baby and yelling at them for wanting attention too, etc etc etc.

      Isn’t it better for everyone if a) you’re on meds that will help prevent a slide into PPD. b) able to be present and well-rested?

      I honestly think you should go on the meds and formula feed. But do discuss this in depth with your GP and make sure they’re on board so you can set out a plan.

      • StephanieA

        Thank you for your response. I am a little nervous to bring it up to my OB, she is very pro-breastfeeding. My husband put it this way- if it’s between breastfeeding or hurting my children, I think the choice is obvious. We formula fed our first and loved it (besides the expense).

        • Who?

          I”m sure she’s more pro-happy mums and babies.

          Good luck, I’m sure you’ll make a good decision.

          • dbistola

            This is why Dr. Amy’s posts are so important and relevant. I think the problem is past “happy mother” and into the zone of “healthy mother.” An OB that pushes nursing to the detriment of someone’s mental health is really in the wrong field-it could lead to harm of a child or harm of one’s self. If you have had feelings of wanting to hurt your child in your despair, that should be evidence point number 1. These considerations are so much more important than giving breastfeeding a chance.
            That being said-there might be meds out there if you still wanted to try nursing. Of course it is your choice, like it always was. But considerations should be first your health and the health of your kids. If you had time and support and good meds, try the nursing if you felt like it. But that goes in the back of the line. Bear in mind that you will need sleep even more with a toddler and that PPD can be worse with exhaustion. A good doctor should be able to help you.

          • dbistola

            Also, bear in mind that your first job is being a mom to your kids (it’s why you had them). To be a good mom, you must take the measures you can in order to ensure your well being for their sake. If you believe taking your husband to appointments will help, so be it. You are taking appropriate steps to mother your children. You are asking the right questions. You are being a good mom.

          • StephanieA

            Yes, I suspected something was wrong when I had no appetite after delivery, but the exhaustion made it 100x worse. My son was a horrendous sleeper and I am so scared that this one will be the same, but with a toddler who will not let me sleep when the baby sleeps this time around.

          • dbistola

            Something interesting-nursing provoked a weird reaction in me. It would make me lose my appetite and as my milk let down, I would be filled with feelings of anguish, despair, and even nausea. I can’t remember anything so miserable as those few seconds. I have since learned that this is called D=MER and some women have it as their milk lets down.
            DMER is not like PPD, but if the feelings of anguish were caused by my milk letdown (the hormones, the feelings would pass when my milk settled) I wonder if the nursing hormones might interfere with PPD and make it worse for people. I am not a doctor, but I remember that feeling and knowing it had something to do with milk letdown for me. It might be another thing worth thinking about when you talk to your doctor. Good luck. I do hear that PPD recurs in people, and it’s awesome that you are planning for your care in advance. Too many people get shortsighted and forget about those moments.

        • Chi

          If she’s not willing to consider the fact that breastfeeding might have a devastating effect on your mental health, she’s not much of an OB and I would encourage you to either tell her so, or find a new one.

          The last thing you need, on top of already feeling anxious about the possibility of PPD (on top of all those lovely lovely pregnancy hormones) is to be made to feel like you’re being selfish and a ‘bad mother’ because you don’t want to just ‘try it and see what happens’.

          Could you breastfeed and find you have no problems this time around? Sure, but I think if you had issues the first time, you’re likely to again.

          You need to do what’s right for YOU. It could be that you only need a minimal dose of prozac, which MIGHT be okay for breastfeeding. Again, something to discuss with your OB.

          In the end, it’s completely your choice. And no one, not your OB, not any snide lactivists, lactation consultants, hospital nurses etc have the right to make you feel bad about the choice you make.

          Good luck. We’re here for you 🙂

          • StephanieA

            Thank you so much. I chose my OB because she is very smart and stays current on obstetrics, but the fact that she pushes BFing so much does bother me. I will see what she has to say at my next appointment, and I may bring my husband since I suck at being assertive.

            I don’t know if I had issues breastfeeding or just hated it. The 45 minute feedings every 1.5 hours were just awful, and my son always seemed hungry. I only did it for two weeks, so maybe I didn’t give it a chance. But damn I needed sleep, and formula gave me that.

          • Chi

            Issues vs just hating it? Is one more acceptable than the other? Like is it slightly easier to justify going on meds if you’re like ‘well there were issues last time so this time there may be too’, vs ‘If I say I hated breastfeeding how much backlash am I going to get?’

            See what I’m saying? One is kinda reasonable, but to the lactivist crowd, it just sounds like you’re being selfish.

            (Please note, NOT JUDGING).

            Personally I think either reason is perfectly acceptable. My daughter was also feeding for around 40mins out of every hour, sleeping for 20mins then it was the whole cycle over again. She was screaming with hunger.

            Formula finally gave me the opportunity to see what a satiated, content baby actually looked like. So I’m totally with you. You are a mother, but you’re still YOU and YOU still have needs that need to be seen to, just like any other human being.

            Don’t ever feel the need to justify yourself. Do what’s right for you, BECAUSE it is right for you.

            And know that if anyone tries to tell you differently, tries to give you a hard time about your choice. There are people here who’ve got your back. We’re all mothers/fathers (cos dads totally need to speak up too)/brothers/sisters etc. And we need to stand together to say that lactivist bullying is NOT ok and we are not going to tolerate it any more.

          • demodocus

            *hugs* I say damn the doubters and lactivists. Formula is good for you and good for your kids. Breast milk *may* be *very slightly* better overall, but parental sanity is *definitely* much, much better for everybody.

          • Amy M

            And I think there is a key concept here (in demodocus’ statement): even if breast milk is “best” for baby, there’s no law that says baby must always get the “best.” “Good enough” is sufficient. We can’t afford to send our children to the “best” schools–either private or public, but they go to a good enough school, and I am not too worried about their future in general.

          • demodocus

            ‘Xactly. It’s not like you’re going to be a failure at life if you got your medical degree from a state school rather than Johns Hopkins.

          • Fallow

            Toward the end of combo-feeding, my primary care doctor was working me up for PPD. He told me that the best outcomes are associated with parents who are functional and engaged, not with breastmilk vs. formula. My PPD was bad enough that I didn’t fully “bond” to my child after I stopped breastfeeding. There’s no way that was good for either of us.

            I’ve noticed that many NCB and natural parenting folks, say things such as “You matter, too” when talking about the process of childbirth. Usually they say this, when they are talking up the comforts and playing down the dangers of out-of-hospital birth. They’re basically saying that the extra snuggly feelings a woman gets from being a Birth Goddess, outweigh the physical risks to the baby.

            But I’ve found that they don’t apply that logic to formula usage. When it comes to sparing a woman’s physical and psychological health through formula feeding, no, they absolutely do not believe the mother matters.

            In other words, they think homebirth is great, because a mother’s feelings of superiority outweigh her child’s right to the best care. But after the baby is here, the mother’s basic psychological health must be subsumed to a feeding method that produces virtually indistinguishable outcomes in the actual child. It’s bizarre reasoning.

            Anyway. Take care of yourself if you are prone to PPD. Use formula without guilt. Contrary to what a lot of lactavists believe, you DO matter.

          • Fallow

            What the hell am I talking about with “subsumed”. That wasn’t the right word. You can tell I haven’t had enough coffee. You get what I mean.

        • Amy M

          My understanding is that if you’ve had PPD once, you are fairly high risk to have it again. I think your plan of pro-activity, and getting on top of things before they get out of hand is the way to go. Formula feeding is fine, as you know from experience, and the decision rests with you (and your husband), not the OB. If the OB isn’t supportive of your choice and is trying to convince you otherwise, then find another OB. It is not the OB’s business whether you choose to breastfeed or formula feed. The OB will not be in your house, helping with the toddler, so she doesn’t get a say.

    • DaisyGrrl

      Could your OB refer you to someone who specializes in or is knowledgeable about maternal mental health? They might be able to offer some perspective or have strategies that will also be helpful this time around (like when is the best time to start antidepressants, the issues of breastfeeding while on meds vs formula feeding, the importance of self-care, etc). Another health care professional might also reinforce that breastfeeding will be detrimental to your health and work with the OB develop a supportive plan for when you give birth.

      Ultimately, what is best for you is what works for you and your family. If that means formula and antidepressants from day one, then go for it and don’t let anyone push you around.

      And yes, your mental health is far more important than breastfeeding! You have a toddler, whose needs also deserve consideration. Both your children need a mentally healthy mom more than they need breast milk.

    • Sarah

      Yes, your mental health is indeed more important than breastfeeding.

    • demodocus

      Enjoy the bottle feeding and the not-ragey-feelings.

    • moto_librarian

      Honestly, you may want to consider starting them in the third trimester. Definitely talk to a mental healthcare provider, but for me, the risks of having a major depressive episode were so high that I remained on zoloft throughout both of my pregnancies. It takes 8 weeks for the medication to completely build up in your system, so starting it prior to delivery might help to prevent you from having problems at all. Zoloft is safe for breastfeeding, btw, but if prozac worked best, take it and don’t worry about breastfeeding!

    • Allie P

      i had ppd with my first, and meds made it worse. i was terrified of what would happen this time around, but i’ve been doing well. it’s good to keep vigilant, but you dont know what will happen.

    • Michele

      I had PPD with #1. With #2 I went on Zoloft part way through pregnancy (I don’t remember when exactly, 3rd trimester sometime?). I was starting to have anxiety and depression during the pregnancy. Best decision I made – I had a bit of “baby blues” but OMG the difference between that and PPD. I’ve stayed on the Zoloft through breastfeeding and weaning, but if either my OB and psychiatrist hadn’t said it was safe I would have gone straight to formula in a heartbeat. Talk to your doctor – if your OB prioritizes breastfeeding over your mental health look for a new OB.

      • StephanieA

        If you don’t mind me asking, did you have side effects from Zoloft? My GP prescribed Prozac because of certain safe effects I wanted to avoid, and it worked well.

        • AirPlant

          I had hella side effects from Zoloft but that wasn’t really the Zoloft’s fault. I am kind of shitty at taking pills/refilling prescriptions so I spend most of my time on Zoloft in some state of withdrawal which feels like your brain is wandering in a fog filled wasteland until it gets shocked at random with a D Cell to the tongue. I have never tried Prozac but I say go with you doctor’s recommendation and Good luck!

        • Michele

          First couple of days I took it I felt kind of dizzy and nauseated. Hard to know how much was the Zoloft and how much was pregnancy. I tried taking it in the evenings but it was disturbing my sleep. Though I was having extremely disturbed sleep anyway from pregnancy and anxiety. Once I switched to taking it in the morning, with food, the side effects disappeared in a few days. Plus I actually started sleeping more than 2-3 hours at a time. I think it may be depressing my libido a bit but it’s hard to know how much is the medication and how much is having 2 small children. I’d taken Zoloft previously and it worked for me, so that’s why my OB suggested we start with it. They kept an eye on the baby when he was born to make sure he didn’t have any withdrawal symptoms (can happen with some anti-d’s taken during pregnancy) but he had no issues.

          • StephanieA

            That was my biggest side effect with Prozac- it completely killed my sex drive, which sucked. But it worked otherwise and didn’t cause weight gain, which I was concerned about.

          • Michele

            I gained the about same amount of weight with Thing 1 and Thing 2’s pregnancies (~45 lbs). Then I lose it all and a bit more during breastfeeding. Then I gain some back after weaning, mostly because I keep trying to eat the extra calories that breastfeeding is no longer burning. Same pattern even though Thing 1 pregnancy/post-partum was unmedicated and Thing 2 pregnancy/post-partum has been on Zoloft. So no difference here in weight change pattern due to the meds. I’ve only ever been on Prozac very short term and not post-partum so I can’t really compare it.

        • Rebecca Reyes

          I’ve been battling ulcers from taking Zoloft and Ibuprofen regularly after my c section in September. 🙁 I just got on an protonex to let them heal, but if this is going to be a cycle I’ve gotta find a new option..

        • Hilary

          I had headaches and dizziness for a week or two after starting Zoloft, but they went away. When I went to a higher dose, they came back, again just for a week or so. When I went to 100 mg the headaches persisted, so I went back down to 75 and had no side effects.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      I haven’t, but when I have my next kid, I’ll at the very least be doing formula only, and I’ll be discussing starting anti-depressants right after birth with my OB. I had seriously bad rage/depression/obsessive thoughts with kid#1. I don’t dare try that again with a newborn and a toddler in the mix. The kids are way more important.

    • Montserrat Blanco

      I did not have PPD but I do believe your mental health is way more important than the way you feed your baby.

    • Charybdis

      I was on Wellbutrin throughout my pregnancy. After my son was born, I slid right into PPD. I wound up on a higher dose of Wellbutrin and had an anti-anxiety med added. Xanax, I think it was. That, combined with a little more support and giving up trying to breastfeed made quite a bit of difference.

      I think it’s smart to plan ahead. Talk with your doctor and make it clear that you want to nip things in the bud, before things start to go sideways. You might be able to start an antidepressant in the latter half of your third trimester, since it takes a couple of weeks before the effects are noticed. You don’t want to start treatment at the bottom of the hole, so to speak, and then have to claw your way back towards “normal” with a newborn and a toddler.

      Forewarned is forearmed. Having a plan and giving yourself permission to go straight to formula can be an enormous relief. And, having done it previously means it won’t be a brand new, unfamiliar experience and that an also reduce stress. Sounds like you are trying to be well-prepared and that is a GOOD thing.

  • Allie

    I definitely support all mothers in their efforts to feed their babies how, when, and where they want and need. I erroneously thought that I would not need to nurse outside the home because if I went out I could just pump or use formula for snacks on the go. Wrong! It turns out, you can’t just pump as much as you need on demand (doesn’t work that way, apparently), and LO decided she didn’t like formula (or bottles of breast milk, for that matter – she developed a preference for the house-made product and delivery system). So, if I wanted to leave the house for more than an hour at a time, I had no choice but to nurse in public. It was that or de facto house arrest. If I had it to do over, I would combo-feed from day one instead of exclusively breast-feeding once she got the hang of it.

  • MLE

    Are these newly minted hundred dollar bills? Because if they were in circulation, ew.

  • Blue Chocobo

    The difference between support (for choice) and promotion (for A choice) is huge and hugely important.

    Supporting mothers and babies means presenting the honest facts and putting the choice truly in their hands, without duress.

    Promotion is choosing first, then trying to get the mother and baby to fit the choice.

    How can you tell if a particular action is support or promotion? Ask, does it remove barriers to choice or add them?

  • the wingless one

    One of my best friend’s just had a baby a couple weeks ago at the same hospital where I had my son. I had a medically complicated pregnancy that resulted in a c/s at 34w and a baby who stayed in the NICU for three weeks. The nurses were great, encouraged breastfeeding/pumping but also made it clear that it was totally my decision. My doctors similarly left it up to me once they decided that my medications were “safe” for breastfeeding. Before we left the hospital, the social worker and nurses made sure we had plenty of RTF bottles and strict instructions to supplement any breastmilk with neosure (formula for preemies).

    On the other hand, my friend had an “easy” pregnancy and full-term delivery and she said the nurses were very nice but they made it a nightmare for her to get some formula for her LO since her milk took a few days to come in. She also said they made her feel bad about requesting it in her gift-basket and that they would wake her up every three hours to shove her baby’s mouth on her boob so she really wasn’t able to get any rest in the hospital.

    I thought it was interesting how different our experiences were and felt like it was at least a little silver lining of having such a medically complicated/pregnancy/delivery/post-partum that no one showed any judgement towards me for any of the decisions I made about breastfeeding. Sad that you have to have a serious chronic auto-immune disorder which requires lots of meds and a baby in the NICU for three weeks to get a “pass.”

    Yet even I didn’t escape. Because I was surrounded by images (literally posted all over the NICU walls) saying “breast is best” I felt extremely guilty at the thought of not breastfeeding him so I took as little of my meds as I possibly could so that I could continue safely feeding him. My doctors think that that period of time where I was undermedicating so I could breastfeed is what caused more permanent damage to my kidneys and why they were very nervous about the idea of me being pregnant ever again. We’d love another child but thanks to my determination to give my son “the best” not realizing that it was only very marginally better, maybe not even better at all, that may just be a dream.

    • Hilary

      I also had a c/s at 34 weeks in a BFHI hospital and I remember as I hobbled down the hallway to put my pumped milk in the refrigerator, there were signs all along the hall about how important it is to breastfeed right away and to have your baby with you. It felt very cruel.

      • KarenJJ

        It IS very cruel. New mums that have been through difficult deliveries and been scared for their baby’s life and they’re getting moralising pictures of healthy suckling babies with serene looking mothers, all the while trying to make sense of things and find their feet and feel confident about caring for their baby… I think it’s awful how we treat new mums.

        • MLE

          Humanity just loves to kick someone when they’re down.

        • Allie

          Yes, it’s cruel and it’s not even true. I couldn’t nurse in the alleged “golden hour” after birth because I was busy getting my clitoral artery stitched up (sans drugs for what felt like eternity because IV lines are no longer standard procedure). Anyway, having an OB/GYN’s hand up your cooter to the elbow (only a slight exaggeration) is not conducive to nursing or even holding the baby, as I was about jumping off the table in pain, and she slept for most of the time after that. I managed to get her to latch once, briefly, the next day, but it was basically about 4-5 days before she really nursed (don’t worry, we had supplemented during that time), and she went on to nurse like a pro for almost 2 years. So, it’s cruel and also total BS that it’s important to breastfeed right away and have your baby with you. I’d say it’s important to get some rest.

          • Amy M

            I didn’t see my babies for maybe 2 hours after they were born, but my husband was with them. Maybe that’s why they prefer him to me sometimes. Or maybe its because he’s the “fun” parent and I’m the “heavy.” I suspect the latter…..

          • Hilary

            Neither my husband nor I saw our baby for 3 hours after he was born, and that was only for a few minutes. We didn’t hold him until the evening of the next day. Didn’t even attempt nursing until the next week. He’s a happy, giggly, confident and outgoing toddler … obviously has severe attachment issues.

    • Young CC Prof

      The LC I initially saw in the regular postpartum ward was, well, a useless bowl of granola. She also apparently believed that because the baby licked my nipple a few times, her job was done.

      In NICU, I got much more practical attitudes. Breastfeeding, nice to have, feeding baby is a must-have. The LC there said something like, “Well, you definitely have milk, you want to give it to your baby, let’s find a way to make that happen.”

      • Hilary

        The LC in our NICU was wonderful. The only useful breastfeeding advice I got was from her.

      • Allie P

        my lc with my second baby knew less about nursing than i did. The whole thing was a joke. I got woken up in the middle of the night because although I was nursing the baby regularly, I wasn’t filling out the stupid forms all the way across the room.

  • Zornorph

    What specifically annoyed me was when I was looking for infant care books prior to Kiddo being born. Mostly I was looking for ones that were more oriented to both parents and not primarily ‘mama focuses’ (as many are). And one of the things I was looking for while browsing was info on formula feeding. But the first two or three I picked up – when I turned to the feeding section – said, basically; “You’ve done your research and now you know that breast is best so let’s tell you how to breastfeed.” And then there was little or no info on how to properly FF.
    I was very glad, though, that nobody ever asked me what was in the bottle I was giving Kiddo. I expect if I was a woman, I might not have been so lucky. Instead, I got a lot of ‘attaboys’ for ‘babysitting’ my own child!

    • Young CC Prof

      Definitely. Formula feeding isn’t rocket science, and it probably requires less explanation than breastfeeding, but you really do need some basic information to do it correctly. And, a large majority of babies are fed from a bottle at one point or another. You’d think people would be more practical about it.

      The Fearless Formula Feeder’s website is probably a good source for any new or expectant parents out there who want bottle-feeding tricks and tips.

      • SporkParade

        It’s more than that. The only risks to formula feeding come from not knowing how to make a bottle properly, so it’s absolutely dangerous to fail to provide basic information.

    • demodocus

      we got a lot of disbelief that I “let” my blind husband “babysit”. Because, OMG HE’S BLIND!!!! Also, I “let” him wipe his own butt. *eyeroll* We totally agree about the books, too.

      • Mel

        Can’t tell you how sick of “Your deaf sister is trying to have a baby? How will she hear it?” I am.

        Because babies don’t show any signs of distress besides ear-breaking shrieks – they look totes identical othewise.

        • demodocus

          Yup, some people have no imagination. Some old lady thought it was very kind of me to be taking care of my “father” and my toddler. There’s 12 months and 1 week between me and the spouse-person. Poor guy wasn’t sure which he was more irritated about.

          • AirPlant

            Having a young looking hot wife? Sounds like a win to me, I would be mad about the kid thing 😉

          • demodocus

            lol. He’s still sensitive after that one guy thought he was 45 when he was 29. I do look young for our age, but with his ash blond horseshoe of hair, a lot of people think he’s a lot older.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          I remember growing up, there was a deaf couple that lived in our area (rural). They ended up having a baby. They had a service dog that helped them.

          It was actually a really feel good story

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          My grandmother was completely deaf (thanks, scarlet fever at 12, and yay for modern medicine so that this doesn’t happen to kids anymore!) when my dad was born. Apparently, she had two ways of knowing if he was crying and not in the room with her. One was the family dog, whose “job” it was to watch dad while he slept and come get her when he woke up. The other, as I understand it (never had a chance to ask, as she died long before I was born) involved being able, if she were in a nearby room and both had wood floors, being able to feel the floor vibrate slightly under her bare feet from his yelling.

    • If your avatar is a photo of Kiddo, he is one cute little boy!

      • Zornorph

        Thanks – yes, that’s him.

    • Green Fish

      To those living in Germany I can recommend the little brochure “Empfehlungen für die Ernährung von Säuglingen” published by the FKE.
      While it does have a slight bias towards BF it contains a lot and really good information about formula feeding – it even dedicates more pages to that than to BF.
      Same goes for baby mush in that little brochure – want to make your own – here is how to. Want to buy it – here is what to look out for.
      For me, as a first-time mom, it was one of the two most useful books I got concerning having a baby. 🙂

      Oh, uhm, if I wasn’t allowed to post this, please delete it, but as the FKE is a non-profit research institute I though it might be OK to recommend their stuff.
      They used to have more information available for free on their website but they were affected by huge budget cuts. 🙁

    • Allie P

      GAH. I hate that — you can’t babysit your own kid. Dads are parents, too.

      • Zornorph

        I just used to play dumb and say ‘Oh, no, he’s mine!’ and make them explain that they knew that. By now, most people in my town are used to seeing me with Kiddo and know that there’s no mum involved so it rarely happens anymore.

  • medstudent

    I am a medical student (and long time follower of this blog, from before I had children or started med school) and I had a discussion with other students about breastfeeding and somebody asks “So wait, are you pro-breastfeeding or anti-breastfeeding.” They ended up hearing quite a bit more than they probably wanted to about the culture and current evidence around infant feeding in the US. In another small group I asked if breastfeeding would be recommended against for women with a certain autoimmune disease and another student says “well, even if there were a problem I’m sure the benefits of breastfeeding would outweigh the risks.” From what I looked up later, turns out it is not contraindicated, but what got me was that, without any other knowledge, it was assumed breastfeeding is always superior. It is a little scary how pervasive this idea is among my peers.

    • araikwao

      Also a med student (for a limited time only!!! Almost done!!!!) and I echo wholeheartedly your sentiment. We have had very limited teaching on BF but it was all lactivist – BF is good for everyone and everything, it should be done all the time almost no matter what because it is superior and magical. The end.

      • Erin

        My psychiatrist couldn’t believe that various medical professionals kept telling me to keep breastfeeding even though they knew I was suicidal and that breastfeeding was a contributing factor.. because apparently eventually assuming of course I managed to stay alive.. it would miraculously fix all my issues. It’s as if science and common sense had flown out of the window to be replaced by something akin to voodoo.

        • Sarah

          I personally find it all too believable.

    • Daleth

      You RULE. Keep it up!

  • Mel

    ” She is most definitely victimizing you; she hates breastfeeding, bathes daily in Similac and dries off using hundred dollar bills sent to her by Nestle as payment for services rendered.”

    That makes the point precisely.

    Explain – exactly – how Dr. Amy bathing in Similac and drying off using $100 bills – and then burning them! – actually victimizing anyone?

    It gets even more absurd the more daily choices I add:

    -Does my choice to leave teaching to go to graduate school victimize teachers? Even the teacher who replaced me and got his first job?

    -Did my marrying my husband victimize every unmarried woman in the world? Was I being victimized by every married man and woman in the world when I was single?

    -Is my lack of children a sign I’m being victimized by every person with kids?

    – Petting kittens on the farm is victimizing everyone who can’t pet a kitten right then! I can’t pet kittens any more.

    -Wait! I’m listening to music right now! Shit, I’m victimizing everyone who can’t listen to music right now!

    • AirPlant

      God, I could really go for a kitten right now.

      • Spamamander

        Baked or BBQ? (Sorry! Had to!)

    • Taysha

      You’re evil. I miss my kitten =(

    • demodocus

      Hey! I’m half deaf! don’t be mean! 😉

      • Roadstergal

        “Meeeeen.”

      • Mel

        My twin sister is profoundly deaf – I was going to IM her to apologize for years of insensitively listening to music when she couldn’t until I remembered that would cause her to hunt me down and kill me.

  • Young CC Prof

    Of course it’s a zero-sum game! Only one parenting choice can be the right one. That’s why anyone who talks honestly about difficulties with breastfeeding, or claims that the health benefits of breastfeeding are fairly small, is anti-breastfeeding.

    *Sarcasm. Yes, lately it needs a sarcasm tag.

  • Allie P

    So I got this survey about infant feeding from a place called The National Opinion Network. I googled, to see if it was some kind of spam site that was going to send me a million pieces of junk mail if i filled it out. The first hit was a discussion on mothering.com that made my spidey sense start tingling, of moms complaining that the survey is attempting to “undermine” breastfeeding…

    A sample comment, urging people not to respond:

    “On the other thread OP said she worked for a marketing firm and she warned the formula companies are especially interested in hearing from BFing mothers so they can tailor ad campaigns to undermine BFing. I’m especially ticked off that they want to know what hospital I delivered at and whether I was offered formula there. I wasn’t and I don’t want some formula company calling up the hosp badgering them into offering formula to new moms, esp since the hosp is trying to raise money for a new NICU (we’ll give you money if you pimp our formula/name the NICU after us…)”

    • Mel

      I’ve got no skin in the game, but bluntly, I’d accept and name a NICU “Simulac Happy Land NICU” if they wrote a big enough check.

      I dump my pride at the door when people’s health and safety are in order since pride doesn’t save babies’ lives.

  • Rebecca Reyes

    “.., bathes daily in Similac and dries off using hundred dollar bills sent to her by Nestle as payment for services rendered.” Hahahaha! Too funny! Very true, well articulated. This piece reminded me of Elizabeth Grattan’s trope specifically.

    • Trixie

      I’m glad she’s finally admitted the truth.

      • Roadstergal

        Screw the $20 bill, we’re going for the big boys!

    • Madtowngirl

      I literally laughed out loud. My Similac-fed baby looked up from her bottle to giggle, too.

    • Hilary

      Yes, this gave me a much needed laugh today.