Contemporary breastfeeding promotion is based on two lies. The first lie is that breastfeeding is critical to infant health when it isn’t and, in fact, can actually be harmful or deadly. The Fed Is Best Foundation has been doing tremendous work in exposing the lack of scientific evidence for this lie and the injuries to infant health and maternal mental health caused as a result.
The second lie beloved of lactivists is even more pernicious. It is the lie that women who can’t or don’t breastfeed are suffering from lack of support. As I wrote a few days ago, Prof. Amy Brown routinely deploys this lie. Brown’s own research showed that 80% of women stop breastfeeding because of pain and difficulty. She routinely ignores her own findings and substitutes the lactivists’ preferred explanation for any and every breastfeeding problem, “lack of support.”
Simply disagreeing with lactivist orthodoxy marks you as disabled by false consciousness. Lactivists will ignore everything you say.
The substitution is ludicrous on its face. There has never been more institutional and professional support for breastfeeding. Indeed there is an entire cadre of women, lactation consultants, who are paid for no other reason than to support breastfeeding. In other words, the idea that women are suffering a lack of support is a bald-faced lie.
The most pernicious aspect of the lie is not the fact that it is patently false, but that it is in effect an accusation of false consciousness. Therefore, it serves as an all purpose reason for ignoring anyone who claims to have difficulty with breastfeeding and anyone who criticizes lactivism and its dangerous excesses. Lactivists cry “lack of support” in an effort to disempower any woman who dares disagree.
False consciousness typically refers to political beliefs. According to Dictionary.com, false consciousness is:
a Marxist theory that people are unable to see things, especially exploitation, oppression, and social relations, as they really are; the hypothesized inability of the human mind to develop a sophisticated awareness of how it is developed and shaped by circumstances.
For example, Marxists insisted that working people who opposed Communism suffered from false consciousness. That inevitably led to the conclusion that the opinions of anti-Communists could be ingnored and that Marxists’ opinions were more valuable than those of people who opposed them.
As political theorist Steve Cook explains in Why calling “False Consciousness” is dangerous and unreasonable:
The moment that someone believes that another agent suffers from false consciousness, then they risk denying the equality of citizens. If someone believes that another suffers from false consciousness, then they can discount any reasons the other gives. The agent believes that they have special access to the truth, which others do not. Once you have special access to the truth … then your reasons automatically count and another’s can automatically be discounted…
Tell lactivists that you don’t want to breastfeed and they’ll insist that you would want to breastfeed if only you received support.
Tell lactivists that breastfeeding is painful and they’ll insist that it wouldn’t be painful if you had received support.
Tell lactivists that you don’t produce enough breastmilk and they’ll tell you that is a misperception due to lack of support or, alternatively, that you would be producing enough if only you had the correct support.
Hence Dr. Amy Brown, in her polemic entitled Why Fed Will Never Be Best: The FIB Of Letting Our New Mothers Down, insists:
Of course we must ensure that babies are fed. However, although the message may sound comforting on the surface, ‘fed is best’ is simply putting a sticking plaster over the gaping wound that is our lack of support for breastfeeding …
Brown’s claim perfectly illustrates the danger of accusing those who disagree with false consciousness. Brown and her colleagues feel completely justified in ignoring what women who can’t or don’t wish to breastfeed tell them. Their reasons for not breastfeeding (pain, insufficient breastmilk, inconvenience) don’t count. The only views that count are those of lactivists.
It does not matter how eloquently you explain that your baby died or nearly died of starvation. Your personal experiences are meaningless. Simply disagreeing with lactivist orthodoxy marks you as disabled by false consciousness. They will ignore everything you say.
As Cook notes:
The only way to prove that you don’t suffer from false consciousness is to wholeheartedly agree with the one who believes that you suffer from it. Effectively, you are regarded as fallible, and they as infallible. This kind of thinking can easily provide a justification for them to impose their will upon you…
In other words, it is deployed to disempower anyone who disagrees.
The bottom line is this: There has never been more support for breastfeeding than there is in 2017. To argue that current breastfeeding difficulties are due to lack of support is an empirical lie. But it’s also a tactic that lactivists use to disempower anyone who disagrees with them. That’s not merely wrong, but it can be deadly.