When you frame an issue, you control the discourse. That’s particularly true in politics (Make America Great Again), but it’s also true in healthcare.
That’s why lactivists have owned the breastfeeding debate for the last decade or more. Their frame — Breast Is Best — was meant to be the beginning and the end of all breastfeeding discussion. But now Dr. Christie Castillo-Hegyi and veteran NICU nurse/lactation consultant Jody Segrave-Daly have reframed the issue and it’s driving lactivists to distraction. Their brilliant frame — Fed Is Best — has placed the focus back where it ought to be, on the outcomes for babies, not process.
Resting your self esteem on your ability to lactate is pathetic.
Lactivists don’t realize they’ve been outplayed and they’re fighting back as hard as they know how. Consider The Milk Meg who appears to think that her only accomplishment resides in her breasts.
There is this huge push to bring awareness to the “accidental” starvation of breastfed babies to further push the “fed is best” campaign that’s floating around. You know, the one that assumes us “lactavists” are all just sitting around trying to find ways to MAKE women breastfeed even if they can’t make enough… because ya’ll know that is what we do, right? *sarcasm*.
That is what you do, Meg Nagle, and no amount of whining changes that reality.
Well by saying that just simply being “fed” is best, completely takes away any sort of importance attached to HOW we are feeding our babies. When the reality is that yes, it actually does matter how we feed our babies.
No, the truth is that it DOESN’T matter. There is no demonstrable difference between term babies who are breastfed and those who are formula fed. Sure, in large populations you might notice 8% fewer ear infections and 8% fewer episodes of diarrheal illness across the first year, but most babies will derive NO obvious benefit from breastfeeding.
Of course that hasn’t stopped lactivists from lying about the benefits, from promoting weak and poorly done research, or from refusing to acknowledge the deadly consequences of relentless promotion of breastfeeding — the injuries and deaths of babies from dehydration and starvation, and the relentless guilt occasionally leading to depression and suicide of mothers.
But what’s a bunch of dead babies and a few dead mothers compared to lactivists’ desperation to imagine themselves as better than other mothers? Not much, apparently.
Meg is still framing, still trying to take back the moral high ground.
Breastmilk is a living tissue which has been referred to as “white blood” as it is always changing depending on what your child needs, the entire time you breastfeed for. A living, changing tissue.
That claim is simply nonsense since the evidence that breastmilk changes in response to babies needs is exceedingly thin. It also rests on the bizarre notion that breasts, out of all the many organs in the human body, are the only ones that always work perfectly. Claiming that breastmilk is always perfect is like claiming that no one ever gets anemic because blood itself is a living tissue.
But according to this piece in the American Family Physician:
The prevalence of iron deficiency anemia is … 9 to 12 percent in non-Hispanic white women, and nearly 20 percent in black and Mexican-American women.
Now imagine that same percentage applies to breastfeeding. Would it be acceptable for anywhere from 9-20% of babies to starve for lack of breastmilk?
No less a lactivist authority than Alison Stuebe, MD of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, has publicly acknowledged that 15% of babies can benefit from formula supplementation, especially in the first days of life.
Moreover, though calling breastmilk “white blood” sounds cool, but we don’t feed our infants blood, do we?
These cases of the “accidentally starved” babies are stories of negligence within the health care system from the women and babies’ health care providers and the utter lack of support and information we give new mothers.
Why is accidentally starved in quotes? Does Meg imagine that these babies are not suffering from dehydration and starvation? Does Meg imagine that the babies who died aren’t really dead?
She’s right about the negligence, though, and most of it can be attributed to lactation consultants who commit malpractice when they tell women that low milk supply is rare when, in fact, it is quite common. The lack of support is also attributed in large part to lactation consultants who are so obsessed with the process of breastfeeding that they fail to support the HEALTH of babies and mothers.
Lactivism has very little to do with babies and a great deal to due with a subset of women who think their greatest accomplishment resides in their breasts. If breastfeeding isn’t as important as they insist, then they aren’t as superior as they wish to believe.
Meg’s desperation — and the fact that this is about Meg and her fragile self esteem — shines though:
This is about people paying attention while also being honest and truthful that breastmilk DOES MATTER. Because breastmilk and formula are not the same. Breastmilk matters. Breastfeeding matters. Women matter. Babies matter. The only thing that is “best” is what’s best for mother and baby. This might mean supplementing or switching to bottles. This might mean breastfeeding a four year old like me. It does not mean that we have to start spreading information that suggests WHAT we feed them doesn’t matter. Because for millions of us, how we go about feeding our babies does matter. A great deal.
So let me make it perfectly clear to Meg. The fact that you are obsessed with your breasts and what comes out of them does NOT make you a better mother than anyone else. And no one said it doesn’t matter what we feed babies. No one is suggesting that we feed infants anything other than breastmilk or formula. Fed Is Best acknowledges that there’s NO significant difference between breastmilk and infant formaula.
The only way we might be able to determine if you are a superior mother is to wait for your children to grow up and see how they turn out. And even then we won’t be sure because good mothers can raise criminals and bad mothers can raise Nobel Prize winners.
For all we know, Meg, you might be an abysmal mother, regardless of the fact that you shove your breast into your child’s mouth on a regular basis. Ask any child, teenager or adult; I’ve yet to meet anyone who thinks infant feeding has anything to do with good or bad mothering.
Please, Meg, find another source for your self-esteem that is more realistic and less fragile. Resting your self esteem on your ability to lactate makes as much sense as resting your self esteem on your blood count. It’s not merely foolish; it’s pathetic.