The Tinkerbell theory of breastfeeding and natural childbirth

Illustration of a fairy with butterfly wings

I just read a fantastic piece in The New Statesman. John Elledge writes about politicians’ preferred fall back strategy when their programs don’t work: blame the voters for not believing enough.

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly,” J M Barrie once wrote, “You cease for ever to be able to do it.” Elsewhere in the same book he was blunter, still: “Whenever a child says, ‘I don’t believe in fairies’, there’s a little fairy somewhere that falls right down dead.”

… [O]ver the last few years, what one might term the Tinkerbell Theory of Politics has played an increasingly prominent role in national debate. The doubters’ lack of faith, we are told, is one of the biggest barriers to flight for everything from Jeremy Corbyn’s poll ratings to Brexit. Because we don’t believe, they can’t achieve.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Believing you can fly does not give you the ability to fly; believing that you can breastfeed exclusively or have an unmedicated vaginal birth does not give you the ability to do either one.[/pullquote]

I’m not sure about the applicability of the Tinkerbell theory to British politics, but it immediately struck me that the Tinkerbell theory is at the heart of contemporary breastfeeding and natural childbirth advocacy. Lactation consultants, midwives and doulas routinely blame their failures on mothers. Apparently if women don’t believe, LCs, midwives and doulas can’t achieve.

The recent spate of lactivist hysteria over Jillian Johnson’s heartbreaking story about the death of her son Landon from breastfeeding induced dehydration has demonstrated thatlactivists cannot tolerate criticism of breastfeeding. They insist serious breastfeeding problems are rare in the face of copious scientific evidence that they are common. Then when those problems occur, since they are after all common, they resort to the Tinkerbell theory.

Serious breastfeeding problems are routinely ascribed to mothers’ failure to believe that they can breastfeed. Evil formula corporations, ignorant doctors, and lack of support from others are invoked instead of the actual biological reasons for the problems. Apparently whenever a mother says, “breastfeeding is not working for my child and me,” a breastfeeding fairy dies.

Hence the relentless insistence that more women would breastfeed successfully if only they received more “support.” It isn’t the lactation consultant’s fault that breastfeeding is starving your child, or is searingly painful, or utterly impossible while working full time. It’s really your fault since you didn’t get the appropriate “support” that would have allowed you to believe. Your lack of belief, not their lack of scientific knowledge, that is the real problem.

Natural childbirth advocates like midwives and doulas are even more overt in their embrace of the Tinkerbell theory. What does their mantra “Trust Birth” mean if not “the moment you doubt you can have an unmedicated vaginal birth you cease to be able to have one”? What are birth affirmations except explicit invocations of the Tinkerbell theory? Each one is a variation on “I believe that my body was made to have an unmedicated vaginal birth”?

Hence if you got an epidural, acceded to an induction, wound up with a C-section it’s your fault for not believing instead of your midwife’s fault for making nonsensical claims in order to boost her business. If only you had had more “support,’ you would have believed. It is your lack of belief, not their lack of scientific knowledge, that is the real problem.

The Tinkerbell theory is a form of magical thinking. Magical thinking does not mean believing in magic. It means believing that thoughts and actions have the power to affect events. Knocking on wood, wearing lucky socks and fearing the number 13 are all examples of magical thinking. None of those behaviors has any impact on events but many people persist in believing that they do.

Magical thinking involves a rejection of the scientific concepts of chance, probability and randomness in favor of supposedly powerful thoughts. Magical thinking accounts for the extraordinary fatalism of homebirth advocates in the face of neonatal death. It can’t possibly be the midwife’s fault because “the baby would have died anyway” even in a hospital. It isn’t chance that kept a baby from being born vaginally, it was the mothers failure to believe her birth affirmations. It isn’t birth pathology that cause poor outcomes in childbirth, it is doctors’ insistence on pathologizing birth and their refusal to accept that women are “designed” for childbearing.

As Elledge notes in discussing politics:

It’s easy to see why the Tinkerbell strategy would be such an attractive line of argument for those who deploy it – one that places responsibility for their own f*ck-ups squarely on their critics, thus rendering them impervious to attack.

That’s the same reason why the Tinkerbell theory is so attractive to lactation consultants, midwives and doulas. It’s one that places responsibility for their own fuck-ups squarely on their patients, thus rendering them impervious to criticism. But just as believing you can fly does not give you the ability to fly, believing that you can breastfeed exclusively or have an unmedicated vaginal birth does not give women the ability to breastfeed exclusively or have an unmedicated vaginal birth.

Of course, it is not fairies who die when women are blamed for their lack of belief in breastfeeding or natural childbirth. It is babies who die — and the responsibility for their deaths lies with those who encouraged them to believe, not with mothers who didn’t believe enough.

117 Responses to “The Tinkerbell theory of breastfeeding and natural childbirth”

  1. latka
    March 15, 2017 at 12:24 pm #

    I didn’t enjoy breastfeeding. It was too much physical stimulation for me. I never did exclusively do so. I did nurse with formula for about a month for each of my three girls. In the early 90’s I didn’t even consider feeling guilty and I don’t feel guilty now. I never felt exhausted or overwhelmed. My oldest daughter just gave birth and she is a NICU nurse who sees the dangers of lactivism daily in the babies readmitted with jaundice and hypoglycemia. So while she is mostly exclusively breastfeeding, when her so lost considerable weight the first 4 days she did begin supplementation with formula until her milk was adequate and he started to gain. Then she cut the formula out.

    • myrewyn
      March 15, 2017 at 12:49 pm #

      This is a theme I’ve seen in the comment here — NICU docs and nurses are much more realistic about early supplementation. I wish they could communicate what they see (readmissions etc) in a way that the baby friendly L&D hospitals would hear.

      • Roadstergal
        March 15, 2017 at 1:19 pm #

        As long as exclusive breastfeeding is a quality measure and readmission is not, the former is going to be prioritized and the latter is not.

        Isn’t that something. It’s friendly to babies to make sure they never get formula, but it’s not friendly to babies to keep them from experiencing hospitalization-level jaundice and hypoglycemia.

        • myrewyn
          March 15, 2017 at 1:51 pm #

          So would an organized group of NICU professionals be able to difference in this “quality measure”? Like, all banded together and wailing and shaking their fists at the sky? We need a noisy group with letters behind their names to drown out the lactivists, I think.

          • Anna
            March 17, 2019 at 1:54 am #

            Personally I felt a bit like the newborn care team had accepted LCs as equal members of the team. I had one paed tell me “it really doesnt matter, we just want her to thrive and gain weight” but the nurses seemed resigned to babies (and Mothers) crying all night. They seemed to defer to the LCs. I wasnt there but hubby said NICU nurse seemed surprised we were so willing to sign the consent form for formula. Our baby girl was distressed, fighting CPAP, they wanted to try formula before morphine.. Didnt have to sign anything for that.

          • Anna
            March 17, 2019 at 1:58 am #

            Oh derp! Responding to a 2year old post! Ive won the Gwendoyn Dennis award for services to Derpery!

        • Sue
          March 16, 2019 at 11:55 pm #

          Exactly this, Roadstergal. When the targets and quality measures are wrong, the practice follows them.

          All measures should be about OUTCOMES, or reliable surrogates for outcomes, not just processes.

  2. Sean Jungian
    March 3, 2017 at 2:23 pm #

    And this is why it is a cult. NCB, “alternative” medicine, anti-vax, essential oils, clean eating, “The Prosperity Gospel”, EBF, attachment parenting – all of it, a cult, which relies solely on articles of faith to work. Didn’t get that big promotion? You secretly must not have wanted it. Gerson cancer therapy failed? You didn’t try hard enough, you must have sabotaged your treatment somehow. Difficulty breastfeeding? You just didn’t want to do it badly enough.

  3. Chi
    March 3, 2017 at 1:38 am #

    OT: A friend of mine on facebook is sharing the BoobMeg’s posts and is repeating a lot of the lactivist tropes.

    One of the ‘facts’ she keeps repeating is that when medical providers are weighing the baby to calculate weight loss/gain, they need to take into account whether or not the mother received any IV fluids during labor as supposedly that falsely raises the baby’s weight and makes the weight loss look greater than it actually is.

    I KNOW for a fact that Jack Newman has said this exact same thing, but I am wondering how the hell IV fluids in the mother during labor raises the baby’s birth weight?? Seems to me that’s a great big load of crap (like most lactivist ‘facts’).

    • Nick Sanders
      March 3, 2017 at 3:07 am #

      Last time I saw someone making that asinine claim, they were talking about how the baby absorbed a bunch of the IV fluids (somehow) then as they peed the excess out and got down to their “real” weight, it looked like a drastic weight loss.

      How a baby is supposed to take in that much, that quickly, during freaking labor, was never explained.

      • Chi
        March 3, 2017 at 6:05 am #

        Exactly! For starters, as far as I’m aware they only start giving IV fluids after labor has been protracted and the mother hasn’t been taking in enough fluids orally throughout the labor.

        (and by that token, why is it specifically IV fluids. Wouldn’t mum chugging down fluids throughout the labor have the same effect?)

        And the only way I could see the fluids getting to the baby is through the umbilical cord which a) has limited capacity anyway (and any excess fluid would no doubt be pushed back into mum) and b) if mum is dehydrated enough to need IV fluids, no doubt her own body will suck them up before they even get to the kid. Not to mention even on a ‘fast flow’ drip it’s not like a sudden influx of fluid.

        It really does my head in when people not only repeat shit like this but actually take it as fucking gospel without even THINKING about the fucking logistics. Seriously, go back to school and learn some fucking basic biology.


      • Adrienne
        March 3, 2017 at 7:58 am #

        I agree 100%, but I would go so far as to say that the babies of mothers who did not receive IV fluids should be monitored more closely and the threshold for supplementation should be lower. It seems to me that most women are unable to eat/drink (or keep down) adequate amounts while in the throes of labor, so this could put their babies at a disadvantage after delivery because their babies could be starting off with lower reserves than a baby whose mother did receive IV fluids during labor.

        I’m not a medical professional at all so I don’t know if this theory holds any weight, but it seems plausible to me.

    • Roadstergal
      March 3, 2017 at 11:03 am #

      I mean – the purpose of IV fluids is to rehydrate mom. Are they saying any time mom is properly hydrated, the fetus swells like a goddam balloon?

      No, it’s patently ridiculous. A little saline for mom to keep her circulatory system working properly doesn’t go straight to the placenta…

    • Gene
      March 3, 2017 at 12:13 pm #

      I think part of that is more NCB blaming. Only moms who accept EBIL interventions like epidural and pitocin get IVs. Warrior moms who go all natcheral refuse IVs. So it’s YOUR fault if baby is uber swollen due to your weakness is accepting interventions. And no NCB babe would ever lose >10% of birth weight. So it must be mom’s fault. Of course.

    • swbarnes2
      March 15, 2017 at 2:09 pm #

      The paper that’s probably being referenced is here

      Where early weight loss was associated with net intrapartum fluid balance of >200 and 100–200 mL/hour. Those babies also tended to pee more in the first day, which puts the lie to the idea that counting wet diapers is a great way to know if the baby is getting enough.

      I asked about this here before, and someone said that that’s actually quite a lot of fluid, which suggests that fluid intake is related to having a hard labor.

      The most drastic finding of the paper, which is pretty understated, is that 19% of exclusively breastfeeding babies lost > 10% of their weight on day 3, only about 3% of the kids getting more than 2 oz of formula did.

  4. The Bofa on the Sofa
    March 2, 2017 at 8:22 pm #

    Security at Disney is so tight these days that the last time I was there, they wouldn’t let me in to see Tinkerbell because the last time I went to see Peter Pan, I didn’t clap loud enough when it came time to save her.

  5. Mark
    March 2, 2017 at 7:29 pm #

    Can someone link to the sites that are referenced in this article?

    • myrewyn
      March 2, 2017 at 10:22 pm #

      I see a link to the piece referenced — which sites are you looking for?

      • Mark
        March 3, 2017 at 5:04 am #

        Hi, thanks

        It’s this paragraph I am referring to

        ” The recent spate of lactivist hysteria over Jillian Johnson’s heartbreaking story about the death of her son Landon from breastfeeding induced dehydration has demonstrated thatlactivists cannot tolerate criticism of breastfeeding. They insist serious breastfeeding problems are rare in the face of copious scientific evidence that they are common. Then when those problems occur, since they are after all common, they resort to the Tinkerbell theory.”

        • myrewyn
          March 3, 2017 at 10:31 am #

          Landon’s story can be found on Fed Is Best and I believe the resulting hysteria referenced was in comment threads on Facebook pages.

          • Mark
            March 3, 2017 at 10:49 am #


            I saw one site that said she should blame her doctors and hospital staff and not attack behind.

            I think bfhi should be modified such that things that are correlated to breastfeeding but not proven to be cause are stated exactly like that.

            This exclusive breastfeeding unless medicaly indicated is just asking for trouble.

            Supplementing when it’s in clinical judgment, would put people less on the defensive in having to ‘prove’ anything.

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
            March 7, 2017 at 2:55 pm #

            I think BFHI should be scrapped, period. When you link bonuses, etc to how many women breastfeed and also ding hospitals that feed any formula to more than a certain percentage of newborns you are linking rewards to NOT feeding babies a certain way.


            From the linked article “(5) pay-for-performance incentives, in which Medicaid or other third-party payers provide additional financial compensation to individual hospitals that meet certain quality standards, and”

            SURE, lets pay hospitals for not feeding formula. That should work out well.

          • Mark
            March 7, 2017 at 4:50 pm #

            I don’t disagree with you.

            Just mentioning something that I think would be feasible given the current climate.

            I don’t think getting rid of BFHI all together is feasible. But if it could happen that would be ok

          • latka
            March 15, 2017 at 12:28 pm #

            Pay for performance then at the same time reduce reimbursements is a recipe for disaster. I am a nurse and the staffing is inadequate in most units to properly care for patients. Patients are angry and I don’t blame them. The care sucks.

  6. anh
    March 2, 2017 at 4:03 pm #

    OT: this is gross. Don’t use this woman’s tragedy as a political prop

    • LaMont
      March 2, 2017 at 4:05 pm #

      Yup, *less* access to OBs surely would have helped. There’s an entire thesis to be written there, but Feminist Midwife needs to NOT write it. Ugh.

    • Young CC Prof
      March 2, 2017 at 4:11 pm #

      She died because the hospital staff was afraid to touch her to deliver medicines (even though she was virus free and not contagious), and possibly because she wasn’t adequately examined right after the birth.

      • Roadstergal
        March 3, 2017 at 2:47 pm #

        The lesson should be better training of qualified personnel, not introduction of less qualified personnel…

        • latka
          March 15, 2017 at 1:54 pm #

          “Better training” is what leads to these problems. The more initials after a RN’s title the more “theory” based the education, the less practical the actual care becomes.

    • Who?
      March 2, 2017 at 4:27 pm #

      The gun-runner’s lament: ‘it’s too soon to talk about this tragedy-show some respect.’ Soon followed by:. ‘What? That thing that happened last month? Old news, forget it.’

  7. sdsures
    March 2, 2017 at 2:30 pm #

    “Just try harder,” they say – be it at hypnobirthing, breastfeeding, or pretending you had an orgasm when giving birth. *eyeroll*

    • myrewyn
      March 2, 2017 at 3:10 pm #

      Man, if I don’t have an orgasm I want my money back!!

      • Roadstergal
        March 2, 2017 at 6:15 pm #

        Put it back in and try again!

        • myrewyn
          March 2, 2017 at 6:18 pm #


        • KeeperOfTheBooks
          March 3, 2017 at 3:08 pm #

          When a friend had her second baby, Daddy brought Older Brother to the hospital to meet Baby Sister. He was cool but mildly approving, until he realized that Baby Sister was going to be coming home and staying forever, at which point he threw a fit centered around the phrase “Nooooo! Put her BACK IN YOUR TUMMY!!!”
          Mommy said, with feeling, that that was decidedly NOT an option…

      • sdsures
        March 3, 2017 at 1:25 am #

        I know, right??

  8. Cody
    March 2, 2017 at 12:46 pm #

    HYPNOBIRTHING. I’ve said it before, but HypnoBirthing is a perfect example of this. The teachers will come right out and say that if it doesn’t work, it’s because you didn’t practice enough. By “it” they mean a pain free birth created by the expectation that birth is not actually supposed to hurt. This has become mainstream in my area. Educated women are taking HypnoBirthing classes as an alternative to traditional child birth prep classes.

    • mostlyclueless
      March 2, 2017 at 12:58 pm #

      I tried really hard to buy into hypnobirthing. Meditation and mindfulness practice were a big part of my life for a long time, and there is scientific evidence supporting hypnosis for analgesia.

      But when the moment came, it was like trying to put out a forest fire with a squirt gun. No amount of breathing or believing could help with the amount of pain I was in during labor.

      Sodium channel blockers next to my spine, though. Those did the trick.

      • Cody
        March 2, 2017 at 1:45 pm #

        Listen, I’m all for guided meditation, or visualization if that’s what someone wants to do. It’s helpful for some people and not helpful for others. Some people are religious and find prayer helpful. Great, do what works for you. HypnoBirthing is beyond that.

        The pain you felt was a choice, and your own fault. Didn’t you see the placid women in the videos? (They only show you those videos and nothing else so that you think that’s typical for people who do HypnoBirthing. ) That’s how it’s supposed to be, so what’s wrong with you?

        An instructor would respond to you with the following comments:

        “Did you attend the class or just read the book? There is no comparison because you get extra course material and other more valuable scripts.”

        “How much did you practice? We find that the women who are successful are the ones who practice.”

        And then behind the scenes, this would be said about you:

        “Some women aren’t willing to do the work.”

        “Part of this is a choice. Some women get it and others just don’t”

        • Roadstergal
          March 2, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

          It’s always the line you get from woo. “If it didn’t work, it’s your fault.” As Dr T notes, Tinkerbell medicine.

        • Merrie
          March 3, 2017 at 12:08 am #

          I remember how chill the women were in the Bradley method videos! (And how old the videos were, all the dads had these 70s mustaches, and we watched the birth of a baby named Tiffany, who is probably 35 by now, but I digress.) I was definitely not that mellow! Much later, after we had our second kid, we realized that all these women had toddlers in tow at their labor and probably they were so chill because it wasn’t their first time and it was easier the second time around.

    • LaMont
      March 2, 2017 at 12:59 pm #

      Can I finally ask a question that’s been on my mind, as the stupid non-mother/parent in the room here? I hope to have kids one day and I have NEVER understood the “birth class” idea. It seems like a total waste of time – can’t you talk to your OB, learn on your own to know when you should head to the hospital (either for labor or problems during pregnancy), and let *doctors and nurses* take it from there? They spent years in “class” to make sure the pregnancy/birth goes right, wth is the mother’s “education” going to do in that moment? I can sort of understand the social element of comparing notes on pregnancy and stuff, but I have a large-ish cohort of friends my age and they’ll *all* have kids before I do (plus I am super-BFF with a doctor who is smart and knows shit). In short – what do these classes provide that proper medical treatment, a communicative OB, and a good circle of friends don’t?

      • Empress of the Iguana People
        March 2, 2017 at 1:07 pm #

        I never bothered to take a knitting or quilting class, but some do it because its easier for them to learn that way, because the teacher can help them if they don’t feel confident, or because its more fun to learn this stuff in a group.

      • Heidi_storage
        March 2, 2017 at 1:10 pm #

        Can’t help you; I didn’t take any birthing classes. I just did what the nurses and doctors told me to do, said “Okay” when they suggested something to me, and it worked out fine. I did take the baby care class because I had no idea what to do with a newborn, and I toured the maternity unit to make sure we knew where to go when I was in labor.

      • mostlyclueless
        March 2, 2017 at 1:16 pm #

        I took a one-day class led by an OB nurse that was helpful. She talked about when to head to the hospital, what the various stages of labor look like (a lot of people forget about the placenta!), what was standard policy at the hospital vs. what was available by request (eg rooming in was standard, telemetry monitors were available by request), etc. It was useful enough.

        • MI Dawn
          March 2, 2017 at 1:37 pm #

          That sounds similar to what I used to teach when I was a midwife. Along with walking is OK, epidurals are OK, but the MD has to do the c/section! 🙂

          Yes, I’ll help you breastfeed, bottle feed, learn to bathe the baby. But you have to take him/her home.

        • Aurora
          March 2, 2017 at 4:07 pm #

          This. It makes it less intimidating to trust the doctor when you kinda know what’s going on. In my class we got to practice counterpressure, find out what happens when you ask for an epidural (how you may have to wait a while if someone else is more urgently needing help), and things like getting to hold a vaccuum and forceps so they weren’t so scary if the time came to need them. Also got info the hospital wasn’t prepared to give on-the-spot like what to pack in your bag and how to dress and diaper a newborn.

      • Guestish
        March 2, 2017 at 1:24 pm #

        For me, it was an opportunity to hear about what to expect. I was high risk and my doctor (rightfully) didnt have time to hold my hand and explain the whole process in minutia to me because she had other high risk women who needed her expertise as well. So the class my hospital offered was a basic “here is what usually happens in labor, here are our pain relief options, this is the process of getting to a c-section if your doc orders one. Ok now lets take a quick tour so you can see the labor floor and maternity ward, here is our NICU.” Personally it took a lot of fear out of the labor process sinply because I had an opportunity to see where I would be, and what to expect if something unexpected happened during labor. Luckily it was a no woo no bs thing. I am normally a very anxious person, so it helped me cope with something as unpredictable as labor. If you arent overly anxious about it then your friends and OB should definitely be able to answer your questions without needing a class.

      • Cody
        March 2, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

        I teach CBE classes so I certainly see the value. Now this is probably region specific, but OBs here don’t really have much to say about the labour. They are strictly medical and there’s a lot more to giving birth than the medical side. A good class also covers infant care and postpartum expectations.

      • myrewyn
        March 2, 2017 at 1:33 pm #

        I took a class the first time around because I bought into the natural childbirth thing and hoped to avoid drugs. We got together with our newborns afterward and I think all or nearly all of us opted for an epidural when faced with the reality of the pain.

        I can see some people just liking to take classes and learning better in that environment. I would rather read and then ask my OB if I have any specific questions. My new partner is about to be a first time dad and I offered to go to a class again with him if he wants and he said he would rather just read too.

        We sort of already toured the hospital by chance one night when my baby suddenly stopped moving. We went to the ER and when I told them why I was there, they skipped me right past triage and sent me up to L&D so now we’ve got that covered. I’ll preregister so when I’m in actual labor that will be already taken care of, but I don’t have quick labors so if there is a five minute delay here or there over which door to use at what times, it’s not a big deal. I’ll get admitted with time to spare.

        • sdsures
          March 2, 2017 at 2:32 pm #

          Hope everything goes well. I admire how organized you are.

          • myrewyn
            March 2, 2017 at 3:02 pm #

            That’s funny because I don’t see myself as that organized. I have an OB I trust to keep my baby safe, a partner who will advocate for me if necessary (like with a LC), and I’m realistic enough to know that the thing that will inevitably go awry will be the thing we didn’t plan for.

        • J.B.
          March 2, 2017 at 3:54 pm #

          OT spurred by your post – with both kids I preregistered and both times they somehow lost the information and needed it when I was in labor. The second time I was holding back from pushing at the desk. Why on earth can’t they handle paperwork?!

      • Jennifer
        March 2, 2017 at 1:37 pm #

        I didn’t take the class for the reasons you mention. A little knowledge is dangerous and I trusted my ob.

      • Azuran
        March 2, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

        I didn’t take one. I went once to a yoga class with a friend and we just couldn’t take it seriously. I’m really not in any way into the woo or much of anything spiritual and I just couldn’t imagine myself pretending to push a baby along with other women. (I’m shy and generally socially anxious)
        But the hospital and OB I go to do hang a lot of written info on how pregnancy is supposed to go, what is normal, what is not. Signs of labour and everything.
        There are also a ton of free birthing class video and info online.

      • MaineJen
        March 2, 2017 at 2:21 pm #

        Yeah, I skipped that. I read books and talked to my OB about it, as well as others who had been through labor before, and that was enough for me. 🙂

      • sdsures
        March 2, 2017 at 2:31 pm #

        *nod from another non-parent who hopes to have kids someday*

        Mommy groups scare the crap out of me for similar reasons.

      • Amy M
        March 2, 2017 at 2:57 pm #

        Not a typical situation here, to be sure, but my husband and I took a twins class. It was more focused on twin-specific things, rather than how to manage birth. Everyone in the class expected to have a Csection so we requested to spend no time on labor management techniques. The woman running the class had twins, so we were able to ask her about logistics. She had some good advice, and it was reassuring to hear from someone who had been there/done that.

        As it turned out, I did not have a C section, but I did have an epidural, so pain management wasn’t much of an issue. And when it came time to push, the nurse gave me a two minute crash course, and that was sufficient. So, yeah, depending on the class, you might be able to learn some baby care stuff if you want to, and it might be a good way to meet some people, but not necessary, especially with all the resources at your disposal.

        • fiftyfifty1
          March 2, 2017 at 5:36 pm #

          “the nurse gave me a two minute crash course”

          Yep, the 2 minute version almost always is sufficient. Heck even the 2 second version “Pretend you are straining to poop” works most of the time.

      • maidmarian555
        March 2, 2017 at 3:03 pm #

        I never went to one and I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. I didn’t really get a choice though, my midwife ‘forgot’ to give me the information for the local one and by the time she remembered, I wasnt able to get booked in as it was full unless I wanted to attend after the birth of my son……

      • yentavegan
        March 2, 2017 at 3:06 pm #

        Birth classes are great places to meet other parents to be who live near by. Birth classes ( without an agenda) give science based information so the process can be understood and possibly enjoyed instead of feared. We took a class offered by the L&D nurses from our local hospital. We learned all about pain relief options and what to expect.

        • Merrie
          March 3, 2017 at 9:35 am #

          I had this fantasy about making great lasting parent friends in our prenatal class, since when we had our first none of our friends had kids yet. But I didn’t really click with anyone else in the class, and to add insult to injury, one of the husbands was in the same career field as me and he was a royal mansplaining jerk.

          • fishcake
            March 3, 2017 at 12:01 pm #

            Ugh! Sometimes it is such a risk to talk to strangers.
            I also didn’t make any friends at the birth class. I’ve found other parents to be quite scold-y. I treasure the friends I have (parents or not) who just hang out and don’t make judgments or unsolicited suggestions.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa
        March 2, 2017 at 3:12 pm #

        I don’t like the term “birth class.” It can be misused.

        Our class was childbirth and parenting information, more than anything else. There as a session on breastfeeding, and a Dad’s Boot Camp (which I cam back and led in later years). We got to talk about issues facing everyone during pregnancy, and what to watch out for in terms of labor. We talked about childbirth options, including no pain relief, narcotic pain relief, epidurals and c-sections. We got to tour the hospital, so we knew where we were going, and got to do pre-registration to facilitate the process.

        We were certainly never “taught” how to give birth.

        We spent almost no time talking about NCB. I asked the instructor why, and she said, meh, 95% end up getting an epidural anyway, so they don’t care about learning breathing and crap like that.

        • Cody
          March 2, 2017 at 3:44 pm #

          I still think non-pharmaceutical methods of pain relief are important to learn. What if you are diagnosed with a low platelet count and can’t have an epidural? This isn’t so uncommon that people shouldn’t prepare for the possibility. Then you are left with the choice of narcotic or deal with it. Some people choose narcotics and that’s fine, but the nurses are still going to tell you to hold off as long as possible.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            March 2, 2017 at 4:07 pm #

            What if you are diagnosed with a low platelet count and can’t have an epidural?

            Then you learn what to do instead.

            But why should 19 couples who are going to have epidurals have to go through a bunch of training on non-drug pain management because 1 woman is going to do it?

            That was exactly her point. You deal with the people who want/need a NCB on a case-by-case basis, but for the group, it’s a waste of time.

          • Cody
            March 2, 2017 at 4:34 pm #

            The problem is that many women won’t know until they’re in labour. Also, sometimes the epidural doesn’t work and then there’s the case of induction and the dreaded words “you can’t have the epidural until you are 4cm”. I like to always be prepared and I like my students to always be prepared. I’ve seen enough births to know that relying on the epidural is great for most, but these situations are not uncommon and around here the L&D nurse is going to look at you and say “didn’t you take a child birth prep class?” when these situations come up.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            March 2, 2017 at 4:42 pm #

            The problem is that many women won’t know until they’re in labour.

            OF THOSE WHO DON’T HAVE AN EPIDURAL, many won’t know, that is true.

            But still, 95% of them end up with an epidural.

            What do you focus the class around?

            See the discussion in this thread. It’s already an issue whether childbirth classes are worth it or not. Wasting a lot of time on NCB techniques that most people don’t need is a good way to make them irrelevant.

            And note that childbirth classes that are not popular because they cover irrelevant material tend to have problems justifying themselves from a financial standpoint.

          • Cody
            March 2, 2017 at 4:46 pm #

            No, what I meant was of the women diagnosed with a low platelet count, many won’t know until they are in labour.

            That’s one of the reasons that blood work is required before an epidural.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            March 2, 2017 at 4:49 pm #

            It’s possible. But should the childbirth class really be teaching NCB techniques just in case someone planning to get an epidural has a low white blood count?

            That’s a great way to get people to get up and leave in the middle of your class and never come back.

          • Cody
            March 2, 2017 at 4:59 pm #

            First of all, about half of the people coming to the classes I teach want to avoid pharmaceutical pain relief and about half don’t, so I teach everything.

            Secondly, I’ve never had anyone leave.

            Thirdly, the situations that I mentioned happen to people all the time. The low platelet situation was just one possible example.

            People need to take what’s appropriate for them. I get that. If you want to use homeopathy, then my class is not for you. I teach a well rounded class that’s meant to prepare people for many common scenarios. Not being able to have an epidural exactly when you want it is very common in our area hospitals as well as the situations that I mentioned.

            I also speak breifly about unexpectedly having a baby with special needs. Should I not do that because most parents won’t have to deal with it?

            I talk about unexpected outcomes like what happens when your baby has to go the NICU. Should I avoid that because it probably won’t happen to my average student?

            Should I only teach breastfeeding because most women can?

          • SporkParade
            March 4, 2017 at 3:01 pm #

            You make good points. However, as someone who suddenly found themselves unable to get an epidural, I found that the only things I really needed to know were, “Screaming just makes it worse,” and, “It helps to have someone dig their knuckles into the top of my butt cheeks.”

          • myrewyn
            March 2, 2017 at 6:26 pm #

            I thought the 4cm thing wasn’t true? Is it hospital specific?

          • Cody
            March 2, 2017 at 7:00 pm #

            It might be, but all of my area hospitals loosely abide by it.

            Some nurses will say it’s because epidurals slow down labour, but the anaesthesiologists and other doctors will say that this isn’t true. It’s because they don’t want women having the epidural for more than 24 hours so they want to make sure women are actually in labour before giving it.

          • myrewyn
            March 2, 2017 at 7:04 pm #

            In my experience (sample size of two, I know) the epidural actually sped up my dilation! Thanks for the heads up though, I’ll ask my OB about it at my next visit. I think she will be pretty quick to do a c section anyway if my labor stalls.

          • Cody
            March 2, 2017 at 7:16 pm #

            And it does speed things up sometimes.

          • Young CC Prof
            March 2, 2017 at 4:15 pm #

            I think non-pharmaceutical methods of pain relief are a valuable life skill, but the fact that our society makes them mostly about childbirth is weird, and implies some things that I strongly disagree with.

            Breathing through pain, deliberately distracting yourself and meditation are things everyone should know. You can use them to stay calm if you break your leg and are waiting for help, you can use them to get through a dental cleaning or other mildly unpleasant procedure. But we don’t teach them to everybody, we teach them specifically to expectant mothers, which implies that childbirth pain is somehow DIFFERENT than other kinds of pain.

          • LaMont
            March 2, 2017 at 4:16 pm #

            Wasn’t there a study that cursing helps people deal with pain? Because I do that one. 🙂

          • Nick Sanders
            March 2, 2017 at 4:48 pm #

            I recall one, just a sec while I check pubmed.

            Cool, there’s more than one:

          • myrewyn
            March 2, 2017 at 4:28 pm #

            Man, I cope with pain pretty well and I do see the benefit of breathing, distraction, etc… I’m a good patient for blood draws and my orthopedist was very impressed by my pain tolerance when I broke my arm a few years back. I’ve just started a non-woo type yoga class and the patterned breathing has helped me with minor pain and anxiety issues. But HOLY *&^% when I was in labor I was yelling for the anesthesiologist!

          • Cody
            March 2, 2017 at 5:08 pm #

            Very true.

      • fishcake
        March 2, 2017 at 3:58 pm #

        The most valuable part of the class for me was the tour. They also sent a keepsake certificate at the end that they seemed quite proud of.

        • Cody
          March 2, 2017 at 5:53 pm #

          Lol, a keepsake certificate??? What did it say?

          • fishcake
            March 2, 2017 at 6:20 pm #

            I think it just had the name of the class, the date and our names. The border had a teddy bear pattern.
            They said multiple times it was for the baby book!

          • Cody
            March 2, 2017 at 7:17 pm #

            I see. I think I wouldn’t want to waste the paper.

          • fishcake
            March 3, 2017 at 11:55 am #

            I didn’t need the certificate, that’s for sure! Do people treat pregnant women like children? In a way, yes!

            I should have told them a gift certificate for a milkshake would be better. I mean if they have a budget for certificates, better make it for something really useful, like a milkshake.

          • Cody
            March 3, 2017 at 12:55 pm #

            I would LOVE a gift certificate for a milkshake. Anytime.

        • Merrie
          March 3, 2017 at 6:28 pm #

          At the end of our Bradley Method class, the dads got a “coach card” that they were encouraged to show to the hospital staff to show they were a certified Bradley coach. Yeah… no.

      • Laura
        March 2, 2017 at 4:23 pm #

        The class was good for explaining how things could go down, what options there were, and frankly it was also good for my nervous husband to faint watching the epidural video than to potentially faint when I was getting an epidural.

        Also, I like how the class talked about postpartum stuff. Never got that at my appointments!

      • Madtowngirl
        March 2, 2017 at 5:07 pm #

        I don’t know that mine was necessarily pointless, as there were some good breathing techniques that could help you stay calm during early labor, but being as I took mine at a baby-friendly hospital, there was absolutely an agenda presented. The woman they featured that had a c-section lamented that she wasn’t strong enough for her baby, while the medication-free births were presented as triumphant achievements. Oh yes, and there was whole section on breastfeeding, but absolutely nothing about breastfeeding problems.

        At $70, it was an absolute rip-off. But I think this is one of those YMMV things, as other classes seem to be more about education and facts, rather than agendas.

      • Jules B
        March 2, 2017 at 5:26 pm #

        I found the labour/delivery ward tour to be the most valuable part of the childbirth classes we took – but in a kind of unexpected way. During the tour, I almost fainted. And yes, part of that was because I was heavily pregnant at the time, but mostly it was because that was when reality well and truly hit me: the baby was gonna have to come out, one way or another! I was honestly in denial up to that point haha. Anyway, confronting that reality was helpful because it got my omg-I-am-having-an-effing-baby panic attack out of the way in advance 😉

        • Who?
          March 3, 2017 at 2:23 am #

          I tried to convince the midwife on delivery suite I should leave my knickers on. Totally get where you were coming from.

          • March 3, 2017 at 4:29 am #

            I have delivered women who arrived so advanced in labor that they couldn’t get undressed. A doctor once suggested to me that, when writing up the chart, instead of the standard rubric “delivered over an intact perineum” I should write “delivered over intact panties”.

          • Roadstergal
            March 3, 2017 at 11:06 am #

            I’m giggling like a 5-year-old.

      • swbarnes2
        March 2, 2017 at 7:01 pm #

        I took a free class at a community college, it was multiple evenings, so many hours of information, too much for the doctor’s office to go over. It covered post birth stuff too. It as worth it. I signed up for the hospital tour too, but it would have been awkward to be shuffling around in hospital garb with a baby, so I never took it.

      • Merrie
        March 2, 2017 at 11:58 pm #

        I didn’t learn a lot from the class that I couldn’t learn from a book, but my husband didn’t want to read anything and the class got him familiar with the process. The class we took was rather biased, though not as bad as some (Bradley method) and if I did it over I’d take a different one. I do think it’s good to go into birth with a general idea of what you can expect from the process, what you can/should do and what you should avoid doing, what are some different snags you might hit and what might be done if those things happen. But that’s me and I’m a planner, maybe some people are comfortable just going to the hospital and doing what the doctors and nurses tell them to and taking it as it comes. I think a class can also go into more depth than you can go into in prenatal appointments.

        • March 3, 2017 at 4:26 am #

          It depends on who’s teaching, as well what’s being taught. There is now SO much stuff, some sensible and good, some absolute garbage, on the Net, that a first time mother-to-be can easily be both confused and negatively influenced by the woo peddlers. However, I do think “preparation for childbirth” classes are useful, in a number of ways. Male partners often have little or no idea of what’s happening, and a surprising number of well-educated women barely know their own bodies. And someone always asks the question you weredying to ask, but were afraid to, because it seemed so dumb. If there is a multip or two in the group, they often have tips that never appear in books.

      • adjective
        March 3, 2017 at 10:47 am #

        I took 2 birth classes: Bradley Method and the one at the hospital. Learned different things in both, Bradley Method was more about pain management techniques (and had a decent amount of woo and pseudoscience too; the actual useful information could have been consolidated into 1 class IMO), hospital class had a little about pain management techniques but was more about informing us of medication options and services provided. I personally felt more comfortable knowing what to expect, and I think the classes really did help my husband know what was going to happen too.

      • Allie
        March 4, 2017 at 10:44 am #

        If you have proper medical treatment, a communicative OB, and a good circle of friends, I would say the classes aren’t necessary, but if you can find a good, non-wooish class (like I was fortunate enough to have done), they can be helpful, especially in that you will meet women close to your own delivery date with whom to share your experiences. A lot of long-term friendships can be formed in such classes, and it’s nice to have a circle of people with kids of the same age.

      • March 6, 2017 at 2:04 am #

        Another chance to go over everything.

        I delivered unexpectedly with my first about two weeks before my childbirth class AND I had good medical treatment, a super OB who answered plenty of questions and lots of mom friends.

        There are just a lot of weird things that happen before, during and after delivery that a FTM won’t know to ask about and aren’t such a major issue that an OB will remember to bring it up.

        Things I kind of wish I had had a chance to review prior to having them happen to me:
        -What the hell am I supposed to do during the placement of an epidural?

        -What kind of prep am I going to need before the CS? (I had a better idea of what was going to happen during the CS than before it.)

        -Why am I so itchy? When will this stop? (Common epidural side-effect. It stopped a few hours later; I regret nothing – including scratching up my arms and legs up trying to stop the itching. I hate itching….)

        -Why am I sweating like a pig? Is this the new normal?
        (Getting rid of fluid. No.)

        -What the hell happened to my feet? My toes look like sausages. (Fluid retention. Totally normal. Does eventually go away.)

        That reminds me: During my CS – after Spawn was out, but before the CS was over – I had a recurring feeling that my arms were waving around in front of my chest. Clearly, they were not – my arms were restrained out at my sides – but I kept having the sensation that I was waving my arms around sort of like a conductor of an orchestra. Has anyone else had that?

    • TsuDhoNimh
      March 4, 2017 at 1:06 pm #

      “HYPNOBIRTHING. I’ve said it before, but HypnoBirthing is a perfect
      example of this. The teachers will come right out and say that if it
      doesn’t work, it’s because you didn’t practice enough.”

      I used to work with an OB who used hypnosis a lot for labor … his attitude was, “If it doesn’t work, we’ll do an epidural.”

  9. Petticoat Philosopher
    March 2, 2017 at 12:30 pm #

  10. Empress of the Iguana People
    March 2, 2017 at 11:54 am #

    No amount of support, random congratulations from strangers, or positive affirmations ever made breastfeeding enjoyable for me. The best I ever achieved was being able to ignore my son completely and focus on Nova or my book. And that was when I wasn’t depressed!

    • myrewyn
      March 2, 2017 at 12:14 pm #

      Random congratulations from strangers? That’s downright creepy. I hope you commented on their boobs right back.

      • Empress of the Iguana People
        March 2, 2017 at 12:46 pm #

        If i was actually nursing at the time, I’d look them dead in the eye and tell them I hated it. Usually shut them up.

        • Cody
          March 2, 2017 at 1:57 pm #

          Hahaha, awesome.

        • myrewyn
          March 2, 2017 at 3:12 pm #

          I breastfed my first two and after some early struggles with my first one, I neither loved nor hated it. It was just something I did. Nobody told me it was supposed to be magical.

          • Sean Jungian
            March 3, 2017 at 2:25 pm #

            This was my experience 15 years ago as well. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. It was just “okay” for me. Son didn’t want to breastfeed beyond 8 months and that was fine with me.

          • myrewyn
            March 3, 2017 at 5:45 pm #

            My son self weaned at ten months and went straight to a cup — hooray! My daughter nursed a little until about 18 months at which point she looked like a toddler, not a baby, and I just didn’t want to do it any more.

          • Dr Kitty
            March 3, 2017 at 6:22 pm #

            14ish months with both of mine was the limit for me.
            When they can walk up to you, climb onto your lap, pull up your top and say “me milky” is the point at which I am no no longer comfortable breastfeeding.

            My daughter went straight to cow’s milk in a cup.

            My son refuses to drink anything except formula (no water, no fruit juice, no cows milk)- believe me we have tried. He flings any other drink across the room and says “No, Bottle milk”.
            He has put cups and bottles filled with the “wrong” drink in the rubbish bin, and takes us by the hand to the pantry and hands us cartons of formula, just in case we didn’t understand.

            He is what we are calling “determined” and ” focused” when we are being nice and “bloody minded” and “stubborn” when we aren’t.

            Since parenthood is all about picking your battles, he’s still getting follow on formula at 18 months.

            Since his favourite toy is a toothbrush, which he takes to bed and gnaws on, I’m not overly concerned about his dental health, so he can drink what he likes until he grows out of this delightful stage.

          • myrewyn
            March 3, 2017 at 7:11 pm #

            Heh. I was focused… or stubborn… about what I would drink as a toddler too and I agree it’s wise to leave that battle alone. I remember this distinctly. I went through a phase where I would only drink grape juice, no milk, because milk tasted TERRIBLE. Then milk became wonderful and I switched.

          • Azuran
            March 3, 2017 at 9:20 pm #

            When I was around 5, I went to school one morning without eating breakfast. Because there was no more peanut butter. Back then, I would only eat peanut butter toast for breakfast and nothing else, so in my mind, when there was no peanut butter for breakfast there was NOTHING to eat and nothing anyone did would make me eat anything else.

            I told my teacher that I didn’t eat that morning because we didn’t have any food at home.
            …….My mom had a very weird discussion with the school director that evening about her ‘financial difficulties’

          • BeatriceC
            March 4, 2017 at 2:24 am #

            I had a similar conversation with school administration over “not having a bathroom”. I was remodeling the boys’ bathroom after the great toilet explosion incident and they had to use the master bathroom until I was done. Since I was working two jobs (full time middle school teacher and part time community college professor), and doing the remodeling work pretty much by myself, while trying to be a single parent of three boys ages 4-7, this was a slow process. My wonderful middle child told his teacher we didn’t have a working bathroom at home. Yeah, that one was fun.

    • latka
      March 15, 2017 at 12:31 pm #

      I hated I too and too bad. I am not a martyr then, or ever.

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