Just how crazy is the lactivist lobby? No breasts is no longer an excuse not to breastfeed.


Last week I received a Facebook message from a reader who had reached out to her local La Leche League in Glendale, CA to find the safest local source for donor breastmilk.

I had breast cancer last year and am now pregnant. I have no breasts to breastfeed with, and am wondering if your organization provides donor milk.

The LLL leader explained that LLL does not provide donor milk and offered suggestions for accessing it elsewhere.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#EDC9C8″ class=”” size=””]It’s wrong for lactation consultants to treat every woman as a walking pair of breasts who must be browbeaten into breastfeeding.[/pullquote]

Then the leader, a certified lactation educator, offered this bit of unsolicited “advice”:

I’ve worked with a few mothers who still secrete milk… I would suggest seeking the services of an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) to assist you. I have a list of referrals if you wish. It is sometimes suggested that you consult early so you are prepared … it never hurts.

Really? Really??!!

What’s next, selling shoes to bilateral leg amputees?

Had she bothered to ask, the LLL leader would have learned that my reader has NO NIPPLES. Has the LLL leader confused the prospective mother with a duck billed platypus? The platypus also has no nipples and secretes milk through its skin.

But that’s just the beginning of the LLL leader’s ignorance. A mastectomy involves the removal of ALL the breast tissue, every last bit, because the whole point of a mastectomy is that any remaining breast tissue is vulnerable to a recurrence of the cancer. A properly performed mastectomy will leave a woman without ANY breast tissue, and an improperly done mastectomy is not a reason to breastfeed, but a life threatening mistake. But who cares about the health of the mother? When it comes to the lactation industry, breastmilk is the only thing that counts.

I wish I could tell you that this is the first time I have heard such a story of mind boggling ignorance and cruelty at the hands of lactation educators, but it’s not. Journalist Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, also a breast cancer survivor post bilateral mastectomy, wrote in the Washington Post about her experience of feeding her newborn:

“Just try,” they advised. “Let’s hope you get some milk.”

“It may come out anyway, or through your armpits,” another advised later …

Such extraordinary ignorance and clueless cruelty has its origin in the mindless glorification of breastfeeding promoted by the lactation industry. The benefits of breastfeeding to term babies in first world countries are trivial, a few less colds and episodes of diarrhea across an entire population. The benefits of breastfeeding to lactation consultants are enormous. It represents literally 100% of their income. Unwittingly, they have become just like the formula manufacturers they vilify. Companies like Nestle promoted formula to women who didn’t have access to clean water with which to prepare it, simply to increase market share. Lactation consultants and the breastfeeding lobby promote breastmilk to women who don’t have access to BREASTS, simply to increase market share. It’s not coincidental that the “solution” to every infant feeding question is hiring a lactation consultant.

Just as ironic as their imitation of everything they hate about the formula industry is their imitation of the worst of patriarchal medical practice: stripping women of their humanity by reducing them to their organ systems. When I was in training I became inured to referring to people as “the gallbladder in 505” or “the hysterectomy in 767.” That was wrong. And it’s just as wrong when lactation consultants treat every woman as a walking pair of breasts who must be browbeaten into breastfeeding.

When no breasts is no longer an excuse not to breastfeed, the lactivist lobby has become everything it claimed to despise. The recommendation to breastfeed in the absence of breasts is ignorant; it’s unspeakably cruel; and it’s got to stop.