Kimberly Seals Allers, don’t bury dead babies twice


Baby Landon Johnson died a preventable death from insufficient breastmilk, but he is making a big difference nonetheless.

Landon’s story has lit a fire under the breastfeeding industry. Oh, not to make sure that other babies don’t die, too. Be serious! The lactation industry has mobilized all its resources to prevent cognitive dissonance and loss of income.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Ignoring a baby’s preventable death from insufficient breastmilk by claiming it is is rare is as immoral  ignoring a child’s preventable death from asthma by claiming it is rare.[/pullquote]

Lactation consultant Kimberly Seals Allers is simply the latest. She wrote Setting the Record Straight: Breastfeeding Saves Lives, Doesn’t Cost Lives; Beyond the Recent Headlines.

The subtitle is:

Getting beyond the headlines to the truth about recent stories of “breastfeeding-related deaths.”

Why is Landon’s death in quotes? Because Seals Allers, like other professional lactivists, are trying to bury him twice, (first from breastfeeding risks and second by being erased  from consciousness by lactivists).

Pro-tip: When a patient dies a preventable death it is heartless and unethical to pretend that death never happened.

Seals Allers writes:

Most importantly, we must not allow the media or any organization’s desire to sensationalize a rare occurrence turn into a dangerous, broad-based message that exclusive breastfeeding kills. That is categorically untrue and extremely irresponsible. In fact, decades of global research proves that exclusive breastfeeding consistently saves lives.

Let’s parse that paragraph:

1. Reporting a preventable death is not “sensationalizing” it and it is immoral to imply otherwise.

Health professionals should promote outcomes, i.e. healthy babies, a process, i.e. breastfeeding. Landon died because lactivists lied — to each other and to mothers. Lactivists have idealized breastfeeding to the point that it bears no relationship to reality.

Breastfeeding isn’t perfect because it’s natural; it’s imperfect precisely because it’s natural. Ignoring babies screaming from hunger by claiming insufficient breastmilk is rare because women were “designed” to breastfeed is no different from ignoring a child who is wheezing by claiming asthma is rare because children are “designed” to breathe. It reflects ignorance of physiology at best and heartlessness at worst.

2. Breastfeeding does kill.

The benefits of breastfeeding in industrialized countries are trivial, a few less colds and episodes of diarrheal illness across the entire population of infants in the first year. Indeed, around the world, the countries with the highest rates of infant mortality have breastfeeding rates approaching 100%.

The incidence of insufficient breastmilk (particularly in babies’ first most vulnerable days) is 15% or more. If breastfeeding disappeared tomorrow, no team baby’s life would change appreciably. If formula disappeared tomorrow, tens of thousands of American babies would die each and every year, let alone babies from other countries.

3. Decades of research does NOT prove breastfeeding saves lives.

It would be more accurate to say that decades of extrapolation from small studies predicts that breastfeeding might save lives in theory, BUT there’s no population based data that shows that breastfeeding saves the lives of term babies in reality.

I can point to studies that report hundreds of infant injuries and deaths from insufficient breastmilk and smothering in or falling from mothers’ beds in so-called “Baby Friendly” hospitals while Seals Allers can’t identify term babies who died as a result of properly prepared infant formula. Neither can Melissa Bartick, MD, the author of many of the studies that predict that breastfeeding saves hundreds or thousands of lives.

One paragraph, three bald-faced lies. No doubt Seals Allers believes what she is writing, but that doesn’t make it any less spurious or any less deadly.

Seals Allers also subscribes to the immature “reasoning” of lactivists that if you don’t praise breastfeeding, you must be trying to undermine it and whines that her feelings and those of her colleagues are being hurt by those who want to prevent the deaths of babies from breastfeeding

But I’m deeply concerned by the aggressive and mean-spirited comments posted by the founders on blogs and social media. People are being viciously attacked or blocked simply for expressing counter opinions and sharing important facts. There’s high school-ish name calling that’s downright nasty (please stand by and watch this comments section) and other tactics clearly designed to silence and control women. Is this the best way forward? Adopting tactics of aggression and using cyber bullying is not the modus operandi of a well-intentioned education campaign that merely seeks to caution mothers. With so much at stake, we owe it to our babies and ourselves to question the true intent here.

Oh, the irony. I can’t imagine a more vicious form of cyber bullying than denying both the deaths of babies and the lives experiences of hundreds of thousands of women as Seals Allers does in the very piece she has written.

Kimberly Seals Allers, if breastfeeding saves hundreds of thousands of lives each year, show us the changes in infant mortality as breastfeeding rates rise and fall that support that claim.

Show us a the scientific evidence that hundreds of term babies die in the US as a result properly prepared formula. Can’t do that, right?

Show us the scientific evidence that tens of term babies babies die in the US as a result of properly prepared formula. Can’t do that either, right?

If you can’t, stop trying to bury babies like Landon twice. It’s a tragedy that he was buried in a tiny coffin because lactation professionals reassured his mother he was doing fine at the same time that he was actually dying. Don’t compound that tragedy by trying to erase his death and ignore the lesson that we ought to learn from it:

Breastfeeding, like vision and like breathing, have very substantial failure rates. Pretending otherwise may ease your cognitive dissonance, but it condemns hundreds of babies to painful, preventable deaths.