BFHI, the Bullying Friendly Hospital Initiative


Last week I wrote about the fact that so called Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative has been worse than a failure.

Not only does it fail to achieve its objective, it is actively harmful.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The BFHI is not a medical program; it’s the institutionalization of lactivist bullying.[/pullquote]

  • The BFHI bans pacifiers despite the fact that the scientific evidence shows they don’t interfere with breastfeeding and that they prevent SIDS.
  • The BFHI bans judicious formula supplementation despite the fact that the scientific evidence shows it doesn’t interfere with breastfeeding and prevents dehydration, brain damage and death.
  • The BFHI enforces prolonged skin to skin contact despite the fact that the scientific evidence shows it leads to deaths from Sudden Unexpected Postneonatal Collapse (SUPC).
  • The BFHI enforces 24 hours rooming in and encourages closing well baby nurseries despite the fact that the scientific evidence shows it leads to infant injuries and deaths from falling out of or being smothered within the mother’s bed.

The BFHI is not friendly to babies, but deadly to babies. It’s friendly to lactivist bullying.

It’s been a depressing series of decades for those who find deep and abiding satisfaction in bullying others. You can no longer bully people for being divorced or for having a child without being married. You can’t bully people of different races, sexes or religions. You can’t bully people for being gay and at the rate things are going, it won’t be long before it will be frowned upon to bully people for being overweight. But, in this world of ever decreasing bullying opportunities, there are still some tried and true opportunities available: you can still bully another women for being a bad mother.

The practice of mother bullying is practically a competitive sport. All the traditional options are still available: “I can’t believe your 14 month old is not walking”; or “My Johnny is always picked first for sports teams”; not to mention the ever popular “I’m so sorry that your child is going to a state college and not the elite college my child is attending.” Breastfeeding has provided some deeply satisfying new options for lactivists bullies. These include bullying women if they did not meet an arbitrary standard of breastfeeding duration or exclusivity, or (heaven forfend!) never breastfed at all.

The BFHI is not a medical program; it’s the institutionalization of lactivist bullying. Even better, the BFHI allows its proponents to pretend that they are bullying another mother, not merely for her child’s benefit, not merely for her benefit, but for the benefit of public health. It’s a win-win: all the fun of bullying another mother plus a heaping helping of self-righteousness.

Baby Friendly Hospitals represent breast bullying on steroids. Locking up formula in hospitals is oh so painful for mothers and so satisfying for bullies. If only they could require prescriptions for formula, breast bullies’ lives would be complete. And best of all, they are doing the shaming for the public good!

To hear lactivists tell it breastfeeding prevents every disease known to man; it cures every disease known to man; there is no problem that exists that cannot be solved by squirting breast milk at it! A mother who can’t or (worse!) chooses not to breastfeed is purportedly harming her child, AND being a selfish slob who puts her convenience ahead of her child’s brain functioning.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In countries with easy access to clean water the benefits of breastfeeding are trivial.

Being a bully is fun. Being a breastfeeding bully is better than fun; it is a public service! The BFHI isn’t friendly to babies; it leads to their suffering and even death. The BFHI isn’t friendly to mothers; it torments them for failing to mirror lactivist beliefs back to the lactivists who created it. The BFHI is friendly only to bullies and should be dismantled and replaced as soon as possible.

We can and should support breastfeeding without supporting bullying and we should not allow lactivists to convince us otherwise.