Why do lactivists think it’s okay to let babies scream incessantly from hunger?

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It’s ironic when you think about it. Many of the same people who refuse infant eye ointment because the baby might be distressed by blurry vision, who refuse neonatal vitamin K because the injection will hurt the baby for a brief moment, think nothing of letting a baby (yours or theirs) scream for hours in hunger in the face of inadequate breast milk supply.

The promotion of breastfeeding invariably involves discussion of the benefits to babies of breastmilk but no one seems to care about the babies who suffer in an attempt to force them to breastfeed even when the breastfeeding relationship is not working.

Babies experience hunger as suffering.

Hunger is probably the most elemental of infant drives and, as anyone who has seen an infant scream from hunger would probably agree, is experienced by the baby as suffering. For most mothers, myself included, the sound of their own infant crying is piercing in its intensity and distress. I remember being surprised by this when my first child was born. I had spent my entire professional life surrounded by crying babies and it had never bothered me, yet I found my son’s crying unbearable and always rushed to determine what was wrong and fix it in any way possible. I cannot imagine letting any of my infants cry in hunger for any length of time without feeding them. Indeed I recoil when I read about the infant care manuals of the early 20th Century that advised mothers to feed the baby on a schedule designed for maternal convenience instead of infant needs.

So why do lactivists think it okay to let babies scream for hours at a time because of desperate, all consuming hunger? Why do they advise women whose babies aren’t getting enough milk in the first few days to ignore that crying in an effort to promote breastfeeding? Why do they view supplementation in the first view days as an evil so great that it is preferable to force babies to endure distress?

Why do lactivists think it is okay to ignore an infant who is not gaining weight because of a maternal milk supply that does not match that infants needs? Why do they denigrate women who find their baby soothed and content after a bottle of formula, and chastise them that they should have let the baby scream instead?

Why do lactivists who have children who try to wean before their mothers have planned to stop breastfeeding counsel each other to starve the baby into submission? Why do they tell each other to offer no other source of nourishment until the baby is forced to give up his or her drive for independence and bow to the mother’s will to continue breastfeeding in order to survive?

Why do people who promote attachment parenting, which is supposed to be about meeting infant needs, to ignore their most elemental need, the need for adequate nutrition?

What’s the difference between the pediatricians of the early 20th Century who promoted feeding on schedule because of its supposed long term benefits and contemporary lactivists who ignore infant hunger because of the very small long term benefits that may or may not really exist?

It seems to me that one of the biggest ironies of all is lactivists who promote forced breastfeeding as “baby-friendly.” We already know that “baby friendly” hospital policies are definitely not mother friendly, but I suspect that such policies aren’t even baby friendly.

How could anything that ignores infant suffering be considered baby friendly?

  • Andi Jay

    This article is very ignorant to blanket everyone who supports and/or promotes breastfeeding as ignorant jackasses. I am over 40, with 5 children and 10 siblings of my own, with their own families and I’ve yet to meet someone in or outside of my family, who would starve their baby or leave them to cry in hunger and agony, just because they support breastfeeding. Let’s be real here…Breast milk is best, that’s not debatable. Ask any mother of a preemie about the health properties and benefits of colostrum and breast milk and they’ll talk for an hour just on scientific facts. HOWEVER, there are circumstances when a mother can not produce a sufficient volume of milk (I had the opposite problem lol) or when her milk is not healthy, due to her own health issues or ingestion of certain drugs (prescription and/or mom-prescription) and in some cases, an infant just doesn’t accept the nipple and/or breast milk and must be bottle fed. Even I have had issues with breast feeding and so I only breast fed 4 of my 5 kids…interestingly enough, the one that wasn’t breast fed is the only one with allergies and asthma, despite two of the others being preemies…like I said, breast is best, but it doesn’t make you a bad mother to bottle feed, even if it’s just by choice and not circumstance.

    • Heidi_storage

      Breast isn’t best. Neither is formula, nor combo feeding, nor exclusive pumping. Why? Every family’s circumstances and every woman’s biology, needs, and goals are different, meaning different feeding solutions are “best” for different families. Or, more pithily: Fed is best. Hardly a divisive message, encompassing as it does support for all sorts of feeding.

    • Heidi

      Why’s that not debatable – because you don’t want to debate it? And why are you laughing out loud that you had the “opposite problem”? Are you laughing at those of us who couldn’t produce enough, or is oversupply that funny?

      Some moms of preemies never get to take their baby home so I’m not sure they feel like praising the benefits of breast milk. Breast milk is not a substitute uterus.

      • Empress of the Iguana People

        Aye. you don’t hear Bea and I loling oversupply. 🙁 besides, just because the kid could (and did) over eat once my milk came in, does -not- mean he got enough for the first 4 days of his life.

    • Azuran

      My baby cried for hours due to hunger on her second night. The nurse dismissed my concern and told me she wasn’t hungry, that a few drops of colostrum was all she needed and that all babies cried during their second night, it was just a thing that happened without cause or solution.
      My SO had to go get formula himself, in the nurses room because the nurses refused to bring me some twice.

      The article isn’t saying that everyone who supports or promote breastfeeding are like that. But it is very frequent amongst the community.

      And your N=1 of your kid with allergies is meaningless. My breastfed SO has allergies.

    • Sarah

      You seem to be confusing not debatable with you being too badly informed to be able to debate it. Not the same thing, I’m afraid.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      Other people’s anecdotes disagree with yours. I and my siblings were all breastfed. We all have allergies and I have asthma, just like my father.

    • MaineJen

      Hey! I also had no problem with supply or breastfeeding with my 2 littles. However, I also understand that it doesn’t work for everyone. And I didn’t hesitate to use formula when I had to. Fed is best, whether it’s from breast or bottle. A fed baby is a happy baby.

      And if we’re talking anecdata…my son, who was only breastfed for 10 months before he decided he was over it, is healthy as a horse and I can count on one hand the number of times he’s actually been sick. My daughter, who I breastfed for 2 years and who remains quite mommy-oriented, is the one who’s prone to infections and is always the first to catch whatever bug is going around. She struggled with ear infections and was actually hospitalized for staph infection last year.

      If we’re talking preemies, then yes, breast milk has been shown to be advantageous in preventing NEC, I agree. For healthy term infants…just feed them, and try not to be too self-congratulatory either way. It’s a biological process, not a reflection of moral superiority.

    • rosewater1

      Bottle feeding doesn’t make you a bad mother? Why how nice of you to say so.

      I’ve met more NICU moms then you have. Most of them will talk about their babies happily if asked, but not solely about how they are feeding.

      A blanket statement like Breast is best, period, is insulting and inflammatory. Breast milk is HELPFUL to preemies, but it is NOT the be all and end all.

      FED IS BEST. Not the movement-the concept. A fed baby is best. PERIOD.

      I’m glad no one you know would advocate exclusive breast feeding at the expense of the baby. There is pretty overwhelming evidence that there are those who do. The consequences are tragic in some cases.

      Do these people intentionally set out to hurt mothers and babies? I doubt it. And that’s even scarier. People who push their own agenda at all costs because they refuse to see any other point of view can cause quite a lot of damage.

      I don’t expect this to change your mind at all, sadly. You’ve decided that this page is full of nasty evil breastfeeding shamers and you’ll show us the error of our ways. Good luck with that.

      • Roadstergal

        “Breast milk is HELPFUL to preemies”

        I’d even be a little more cautious than that – Breast milk _can be_ helpful to preemies. It can reduce the incidence of NEC, but a: it doesn’t prevent it in every case and b: there’s decent research suggesting that some women’s breastmilk is better and some less good at it. That’s all information women should have when making their informed decision.

    • Roadstergal

      “Breast milk is best, that’s not debatable”

      Au contraire, I’m debating you on that one.

      What is the objective benefit for breast milk over formula for a term infant in the developed world?

      Or, if you prefer to address it in another fashion – I was born in the ’70s in the US, the nadir of breastfeeding here. Breastfeeding initiation rates were under 30%. Breastfeeding rates – both initiation and EBF rates – have gone up steadily since then. The rate of EBF at 6 months these days exceeds the initiation rate in the 70s.

      What objective health benefits are the generations born since the ’70s currently enjoying that I missed out on? Point out the statistics.

    • “but it doesn’t make you a bad mother to bottle feed, even if it’s just by choice and not circumstance.”

      Oh why thank you, oh goddess of breastfeeding wisdom, for your begrudging acknowledgement. Lets turn that around for a second. I guess breastfeeding moms aren’t bad mothers, even though they’re depriving their children of scientifically balanced food in favor of breastmilk which may be contaminated by alcohol or diseases or medications.

      Does that sound very nice, welcoming, friendly, or anything other than condescending and judgmental to you? Because is sure sounds condescending and judgmental to me. Maybe don’t do that?

    • Russell Jones

      “This article is very ignorant to blanket everyone who supports and/or promotes breastfeeding as ignorant jackasses.”

      Oh my, look at all that straw. I ain’t cleanin’ that up.

  • Platos_Redhaired_Stepchild

    My theory: They’re okay with baby suffering because its not them. They lack empathy.

    • Andi Jay

      I breastfed 4 of my 5 children and I’ve worked with new mothers who were having issues with breastfeeding for over a decade, but I have yet to meet anyone who would do what this article is accusing lactation supporters of doing. Breast milk is best, period, with the exception of certain specific circumstances. I’ve helped dozens of new moms with breast feeding issues and I’ve never shies away from telling a mom if they need to supplement with bottle feeding. Lactation volume issues are not always solvable, so it’s an issue and sometimes the baby just rejects the breast, for no good reason and sometimes a mother just decides to bottlefeed. If a mom in my care doesn’t want to breast feed as a choice, I explain the benefits of breastmilk and then if they still want to bottlefeed, I help them find the best formula for their bay, the end. Painting everyone with the same brush is ignorant. A person can support and promote breastfeeding without stepping on and trashing people who don’t breastfeed. Seriously…I can’t stand these type of divisive clickbait articles.

      • Heidi_storage

        My lactation consultants were great and fully approved of supplementing. Unlike you, when I stated my goals they didn’t “explain the benefits of breastmilk” but instead offered advice to help me achieve those goals. So, I’m delighted to hear that you think giving babies formula is preferable to starving them, but am less than impressed with your approach toward your clients.

      • Heidi

        Yeah, saying “Breast milk is best, period,” and then stating you spout the benefits of breast milk (while leaving out the benefits of formula feeding) when a woman made her choice you don’t agree with IS divisive.

      • Sarah

        Breastmilk is best, period, but painting everyone with the same brush is ignorant…

        • Azuran

          No. Breastmilk is not best.
          What is best depends on everyone’s individual circumstances.

          Nothing is ever ‘the best’ in every single circumstances.

          • Sarah

            You know I’m quoting, right?

          • Roadstergal

            I got your irony-pointing-out.

          • Azuran

            Sorry, hard to tell if you don’t put quotation marks.

      • Charybdis

        “If a mom in my care doesn’t want to breast feed as a choice, I explain the benefits of breastmilk and then if they still want to bottlefeed, I help them find the best formula for their bay (sic), the end.”

        Why do you feel as if you need to explain the benefits of breastmilk to someone who simply chooses not to breastfeed? Why do you feel compelled to try and make a woman change her mind when she has stated she is not interested in breastfeeding? Why not just say something like “Okay. What formula were you wanting to use? Here’s how to mix it up.”, along with some useful tips like premake bottles and keep them in the fridge, no, it DOESN”T need to be heated up prior to feeding, toss the bottles and nipples into the dishwasher to clean them, dump any formula remaining in the bottle after baby is finished eating, stuff like that.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        I sincerely hope that your explanation the “benefits of breastmilk” goes nothing like the one I received. I planned on breastfeeding anyway, but had to listen to a spiel about how “if you don’t breastfeed, your baby will have a hard time bonding to you, and is much more likely to develop autism and die of leukemia” from someone right up on top of me in my personal space.
        Then, when the kid lost over 10% of her body weight, I came out of the bathroom and found this same LC practically crying over her. Not because the kid had been so miserable and hungry, mind you, no. She was upset because I had “given in” and used a SNS to give DD formula, despite the fact that my options were to a) use the SNS and hope DD gained enough weight to go home with me, or b) go home, over an hour away, leaving DD in the hospital to be bottlefed until she had porked up a bit. Apparently, my terrible choice to give her an ounce or two of formula and bring her home to keep working on breastfeeding had ruined DD’s chances of bonding with me, not being autistic, and not dying of leukemia. (Fortunately, DD, now age 3, didn’t get the memo on any of those points. Ah, well, babies. What can ya do?)

        • Heidi

          Whoa! People like this LC shouldn’t be allowed to interact with patients.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            No kidding! To be fair to the hospital, I saw a different LC after I had kid #2, and when I said I was FFing, her response was, “oh, okay! No problem! Here’s my card if you change your mind or if there’s anything I can help you with, and congrats on the cute baby.” Totally appropriate. Maybe be someone there got at least part of the memo…?

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        I also have a friend who I’ve mentioned here before. Friend and husband have incompatible blood types, leading to their babies getting jaundiced. Friend has breastfed all her kids, but her milk always, without fail, takes several days to come in. With her second most recent kid, the (supportive) ped let her know that baby’s bili levels were climbing. No problem, said the parents, been on this ride before, we figured that would be the case. Let’s give her a bottle or two and recheck, shall we? Ped said that was exactly his suggestion, they all know mom’s milk will be in soon, but baby needs food NOW vs soon. Ped leaves. Nurse then refuses to allow mom to feed the baby a bottle. Why? “This is a BREASTFEEDING-FRIENDLY hospital, so you have to breastfeed.” It was pointed out that the ped ordered that the kid get formula. No dice. Fine, dad will go out and get the supplies to make the kid a bottle…at which point the nurse said she “wouldn’t allow” the parents to feed their own kid a bottle!
        Parents had to spend hours jumping through loopholes to get mom discharged early to “work on breastfeeding,” and then run the kid to the pediatrician’s office, where it was found–shocking, this–that the baby would need to be readmitted due to jaundice, and why the hell hadn’t she been fed a bottle hours before? To the pediatrician’s credit, he reamed the nurse and hospital over this nonsense, but there ya have it. Better brain damaged than formula fed, I guess? /sarcasm (I suppose that to some folks, the fact that he thought formula was ever a solution meant he wasn’t supportive of breastfeeding, or some such. Sigh.)
        Baby was in the hospital for days, mom was “recovering” on a folding cot next to her light bed rather than in her bed at home, and it took a NICU admission to get the kid what she needed from the get-go…i.e., a few bottles of formula. I should add that mom went on to meet all of her breastfeeding goals once her milk actually came in.

        • Roadstergal

          But think of all of the money that was saved, according to that awesome calculator! /s

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            Yeah…saved…that was it…
            *snorts sarcastically*
            Also, I’d bet a delicious, chocolatey cookie that Friend’s milk would have come in a day or two sooner if she’d been allowed to sleep, eat proper meals, and lie in a bed vs “recovering” on a folding canvas cot in a brightly-lit room with the occasional vending machine snack right after HAVING A BABY. (No, no, I’m not at all angry on her behalf, why do you ask?)

      • Russell Jones

        “Breast milk is best, period, with the exception of certain specific circumstances.”

        So then, breast milk is best except when it isn’t. How very helpful.

        • Roadstergal

          She didn’t even try to play the card where she pretends such circumstances are ‘rare’ or ‘unusual.’ Just ‘specific.’ Hell, you could say seatbelts aren’t useful except under certain specific conditions – specifically, when you’re traveling in a car.

          • Russell Jones

            IKR! Very sloppy work indeed. Perhaps Andi Jay is angling for her own page at Whale.to.

      • Platos_Redhaired_Stepchild

        Except that breast milk isn’t the best. Its only best if you don’t have access to indoor plumbing & safe drinking water. Most Americans have access to indoor plumbing & safe drinking water.

  • Jo

    I’m pretty sure no decent breast feeding supporter would advise you to leave a screaming baby – they would suggest feeding on demand whenever your baby is hungry, and lots of skin to skin contact to both comfort baby and help encourage milk production.

    • Who?

      Oh right-leaving the baby hungry is fine so long as it’s for the purpose of ‘encouraging milk production’.

      How long should this go on before actually feeding the baby rather than using the baby as a tool to manipulate it’s mother’s bodily functions?

    • Heidi_storage

      If they wouldn’t also advise the use of formula for a baby screaming with hunger, then they are in effect ignoring the child’s distress.

      • Who?

        The child’s distress is only a signal for the mother to lactate-it doesn’t represent the comfort or well-being of an actual human being.

        Just like the unborn are merely props in their mother’s perfect birth story.

        That’s me being snarky, in case that’s not clear.

    • Azuran

      Indeed, but many Lactivist are not decent supporters.

    • Amazed

      Feeding on demand? Like formula feeding on demand? Why do I find this hard to believe?

      And your “no decent breasfeeding supporter” crap is a crappy way to deflect attention from the problem that there are breastfeeding supporters who happily advise starving babies.. Let’s focus on the fact that these monsters are not decent breastfeeding supporters and leave them to do their crap, namely starving babies. What matters here is to protect breasfeeding and “decent breastfeeding supporters”.

      Your goal is disgusting.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      Bah. None of the lactation consultants were any where near as helpful as my son’s pediatrician who a) told me to nurse then supplement until my milk came in and my bloody nipples healed a bit and b) helped us figure out just how to do that seemingly simple nursing thing. And he’s a guy. Skin to skin be damned. My milk takes 5 days to come in either way and it was fecking cold anyway.
      Oh, and I’m still touched out anyway, 2 years after I weaned my now preschooler.

    • swbarnes2

      In this study 22% of women had no lactation on day 3. So please explain EXACTLY how the above behavior results in a fed baby on day 2. Surely someone as familiar with “decent breastfeeding support” will have no problem explaining this at all. There are plenty of doctors and scientists even some lactation consultants, so don’t refrain because you think your explanation is too technical to be understood.

      http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/112/3/607?download=true

      Or is it your argument that “decent breastfeeding support” frequently results in a baby eating virtually nothing for 3 days? Because at any other time in a child’s life, CPS gets curious if you admit that you barely fed your child for 3 days, but you sincerely want to ague that it’s a good idea for health care workers to suggest this to mothers of delicate newborns?

      • Who?

        I think I hear the precursor to either crickets or a full throated chorus of ‘you’re meeaann’.

        Time will tell.

    • Roadstergal

      Except plenty of breastfeeding supporters actively advise against feeding on demand – if it’s formula.

      Please supply a citation for the assertion that skin-to-skin has any effect on milk production.

    • What happens if you feed on demand and there’s no milk coming out? What is your suggestion for what to do next?

      Hint: There is one right answer. It involves feeding the baby formula.

      • Heidi

        For real!

    • Heidi

      Welp, you’re proving some points. Deny, deny, deny that some women simply do not and will not make enough milk. Always make sure mom knows it’s her fault – not enough skin to skin, feeding on demand to encourage milk production. You should be skin to skinning 30 hours a day!

    • kilda

      when a baby is screaming in hunger, why is the suggested solution “offer it comfort” instead of “offer it food”? If it’s screaming in hunger and the milk production isn’t enough to keep it from doing that – feed it!

      If I was starving and someone said, I have this food over here that would be nutritious for you, but I’m going let you starve until this other, more perfect food shows up, but how about a hug to help you feel better in the meantime….I would not find that a helpful response to my suffering.

      • AnnaPDE

        That’s PRECISELY what we were told to do with my crazed little monkey of a baby on his second night, when we were flat out not given formula even though I asked for it. “He’s not really hungry, he just needs comfort, carry him around a bit…” Fuck that for a joke.

    • Sarah

      No true Scotsman.

    • AnnaPDE

      Unfortunately this assumes that said breastfeeding supporter understands the difference between putting a baby on the breast and feeding the baby. The latter can happen when you do the former, but it also may not. The current brainwashed army breastfeeding supporters denies the second possibility, even as they see desperately screaming babies that chew on their mother’s breast without any effect. Worse, in their panic about a drop of formula wrecking everything, they resort to extreme cognitive dissonance and gaslighting to prevent mothers from acting on the obvious hunger signs of their babies and feeding them. In fact they go as far to deny mothers objective information about their baby’s intake (e.g. no access to scales in hospital for weighted feeds) to avoid the clearly false claims about suckling being the same as feeding getting refuted.
      These people aren’t made up. They were all except one of the highly qualified nurse/midwife/IBCLCs in the hospital where I had my son.

  • Tori

    I couldn’t breastfeed my first with low supply (and actually how I found this page). Have had my second, and to my surprise and complete happiness currently have enough milk. But if baby stops making good weight gain, or seems still hungry, or diapers aren’t as wet, I’ll get out the formula and bottles that I have waiting. Because as much as I enjoy breastfeeding her, what is important is that she’s happy and fed, however that may be.

    • It is entirely possible that, having adopted this sensible attitude, you are now much less stressed, more relaxed, and that has had the positive effect on your milk supply.

      • Tori

        I think so. My supply went from bad to worse on being told I had low supply and put on the feed/supplement/pump schedule. Honestly there were so many factors why it didn’t happen last time, but a relaxed attitude and acceptance of formula this time has really helped. I was anything but relaxed about the feeding and supplements last time, now have balance I hope!

  • Mastitis sucks

    OT- need advice that you ladies can maybe help with and will definitely be better than Facebook or mommy chat sites. i have mastitis. I’ve been on antibiotics for 3 days and pumping more than usual. No longer feverish and boob back to normal for breastfeeding.

    My problem is the antibiotics are knocking me down with horrendous abdominal cramps. Anyone have data on stopping early? All I can find via google is mostly lactavist stuff about how mastitis can lead to stopping breastfeeding. (Well it sucks to be this sick and formula is safe, so why the four letter word not? Plus my supply has tanked from being sick. Unsure what my decision will be). My clinic is closed and got diagnosed at urgent care anyway.

    • Daleth

      Not to be woo, but I’ve found enterically coated peppermint oil pills to help with such cramps.

      • mabelcruet

        That’s not woo-back when I was a proper doctor on the wards (as opposed to being in the mortuary) we used to prescribe peppermint regularly for post-op bowel problems. The sister (senior nurse) also used to demonstrate to patients how to ease cramps-you lie on your back, draw your knees up to your chest as far as you can and then rock from side to side. If the patient wasn’t too limber, she used to help them by moving the legs from side to side. It definitely seemed to help shift wind!

    • crazy mama, PhD

      Probiotics might help, by replenishing the good/necessary gut bacteria that have been killed off by the antibiotics.

      It’s generally not a good idea to stop taking antibiotics early (unless a doctor specifically OKs it). Feeling better doesn’t mean the infection is fully gone.

    • Dr Kitty

      It may be a possible to switch to a different antibiotic. Contact your HCP- I have at least three options I use for mastitis depending on allergies/ side effects.
      The reason that a prolonged course of antibiotics is advised for mastitis is that it is difficult to get the antibiotics from the blood steam to the breast tissue in high enough doses to be effective.

      In the mean time- peppermint oil, probiotics and natural yogurt, some abdominal massage (going in a circle from your right hip up towards your right nipple, across towards your left nipple and then down towards your left hip) and something like Buscopan might help.

      No joke- mastitis can cause potentially fatal sepsis if not properly managed. Don’t stop treatment without discussing alternatives with your HCP.

  • Amazed

    So, we have the “they don’t actually SAY starve the kid, so saying not to let a clearly hungry kid have formula isn’t recommending starvation at all” bit here, as well as Dr Amy’s Facebook page.

    Once again, I am humbled by the self-control all of you possess. I mean, you know you’re dealing with people who are intellectually dishonest because people who really can’t see the essence usually aren’t smart enough to use Facebook but you still treat them with respect and take their arguments as mere arguments, rather than intentional distortiona. My hat is off to you.

  • carovee

    I’ll never understand why letting your baby cry herself to sleep is tantamount to child abuse but letting her cry from hunger is just fine.

  • Are you coming out against circumcision? Let’s talk about suffering!

    • Because a “what about teh menz!” derail is exactly what we needed …

      • Roadstergal

        Men do, after all, bear a disproportionate burden of suffering and lack of bodily autonomy in the world. Particularly the developed world.

    • Who?

      Oh wow Laura, you propose a suffering competition!!!

      I think you’ll find there’s no need to compete, there is always plenty of suffering going around.

    • Heidi_storage

      Ah, please don’t mention the c-word! We don’t need all the crazies descending to derail the thread.

    • momofone

      In other words, you have nothing to add that’s actually related to the post.

  • Kazine Phoenix

    What are you even talking about. Never met anyone like this and i run in lactivist circles. Youre talking out your arse, probably out of some form of guilt. What a load of rubbish.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      Dr. Amy breastfed all 4 of her kids. I’ve encountered this to a mild extent and several other regulars have some freaking horror stories. If Dr. Amy has any guilt, it’s because she didn’t always realize rather a lot of us aren’t capable of breastfeeding as easily as she did.

      • The Kids Aren’t AltRight

        They usually don’t advise letting the baby scream in hunger; it is just that breastfeeding is assumed perfect and you always produce enough milk so the babies whaling must be something besides hunger.

        • guest

          I was told by my doula that sometimes the baby needs to be “hungry enough” before they will start breastfeeding. This was in response to me asking if I should give my son a bottle of formula because he wouldn’t stop crying. So I don’t believe that they assume the crying is something other than hunger.
          FYI – I gave him the formula.

          • The Kids Aren’t AltRight

            I was going for the most generous explanation, but that is horrific! Is there any research on the effects of starving a newborn? Does it outweigh the benefits of breastfeeding?

          • Roadstergal

            Given that the benefits of breastfeeding a term infant in the developed world are negligible to absent, I would say that starving a scorchingly metabolically active creature that needs calories and raw materials as much as air isn’t worth it.

            Nothing wrong with breastfeeding, but starving a kid in the name of it – which I haven’t seen any evidence actually helps in terms of milk coming in or supply – is unconscionable.

          • The Kids Aren’t AltRight

            That certainly seems correct, but it would be nice to see an actual study, especially if healthcare professionals are recommending it. Don’t they have to have some sort of scientific basis for recommending a course of action like that? My understanding is that the benefits of breastfeeding are vastly overblown, but it still helps babies avoid certain illnesses, so there is at least something to the recommendations.

          • Roadstergal

            “Don’t they have to have some sort of scientific basis for recommending a course of action like that?”

            If they do, I haven’t seen it. I’ve seen some data suggesting that there is a slightly lower chance of a GI bug with breastfed infants, but with the confounders remaining, I don’t think it’s convincing enough to risk any aspect of the kids’ health. Particularly since I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that early supplementation has anything but a positive effect on later breastfeeding.

            Given that the circulating high-affinity antibodies that protect against VPDs are passed through the placenta in humans, breastmilk just has the possible effect of some circulating IgAs to float around in the gut and stick to something. It’s not something I’d lose sleep over not having.

          • Charybdis

            Breastmilk CAN help preemies in the NICU avoid NEC, but not all breastmilk has the protective factor, so it is not a guarantee that IF you have a preemie and IF you pump enough to provide breastmilk for your baby or use screened breastmilk from a milk bank, your baby will not develop NEC.

            The passive immunity from breastmilk is mainly for GI illnesses (diarrhea, mainly) and it only reduces the chance by 8% ACROSS THE ENTIRE POPULATION. The rotavirus vaccine has done more to reduce diarrheal illness in babies than breastfeeding does. That, and access to clean water.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            Yes. And I have an admittedly strictly laywoman’s theory that if baby isn’t screaming with hunger constantly, mom is less stressed, and her milk might well come in faster because, y’know, she isn’t in full-on panic over MY BABY ISN’T EATING.
            I still have to fight down that panic when my preschooler and near-toddler take it into their adorable but not always wise heads to refuse to eat a reasonable portion of their dinners. It’s an evolutionary/biologic thing, I expect. I can know perfectly rationally that my chubby little monkey isn’t hurt in the least by being so silly as to chuck half his quesadilla on the floor, and yet be emotionally convinced he’ll DIE OF STARVATION by morning. Sigh.

          • guest

            No idea on the research but when the doula told me that, all I heard was that my baby was hungry and miserable and I made the bottle immediately. It was also the beginning of the end of the woo for me.

          • crazy mama, PhD

            Not only is that terrible, but it directly contradicts another favorite piece of lactivist advice, which is that crying is a “late hunger cue” and so you’re supposed to offer the breast as soon as baby so much as stirs.

    • Heidi_storage

      Hey, did you ever respond to the comment from the author of that piece on restricting breastfeeding women’s diets? Remember how she asked you to provide specific critiques rather than vague insults?

    • Azuran

      Oh so if it never happened to you, it doesn’t happen I guess. Hey good news everyone, I just ate so world hunger is over!

      On my daughter’s second night in the hospital, she would not stop crying. I breastfeeding for 45 minutes, and she proceeded to cry and shriek inconsolably for the next 2 hours. I kept offering her the breast again but she only got angrier as time passed.
      I asked for formula (Because, thanks to this site, I was properly educated about possibly needing to supplement) The nurse just told me that my Baby wasn’t hungry, it’s just ‘Second night syndrome’ They just cry for no reason. That babies only need drops to be full and blablabla.
      After another hour of shrieking and refusing to take my breast again, my SO went to get the formula himself. She drank 30ml of it (not bad for a baby that apparently only had a 5ml stomach according to the nurses and only needed drops of colostrum to be full) She stopped crying and promptly fell asleep.
      And yes, I went on to exclusively breastfeed her for 6 months.

      • CSN0116

        EFF babies do not get “second night syndrome.”

        It is a pet name for starvation and that bitch nurse knows it. Sorry, I get stabby over health care providers romanticizing cruelty :/

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          Yup.
          First kid was breastfed (somewhat), second was EFF from birth aside from a single dose of colostrum. I was dreading second kid’s second night because of how horrible the first kid’s had been.
          As it happens, it was just plain Not That Bad. Admittedly, I had a friend staying with me to help, but there really wasn’t much crying at all. He’d wake up and squeak a couple of times, one of us would change/feed/cuddle him, he’d eat, look around for a bit at whatever it is newborns look at, burp, and go back to sleep–as would we. Of course he was up every few hours, but anything else would be noteworthily odd for a newborn.
          We also gave him a paci from day one, which I’m sure helped. *grins in a totally unrepentant manner*

    • Amazed

      She’s talking about freaking facts. If you’re so stupid that you can’t tell they advise starvation without actually saying it because if they said it explicitly, even idiots like you will get the true essence of the advice, Dr Amy can’t help you.

  • Russell Jones

    Hunger and crying are 100% “natural,” and a common tenet among many woo religions is devotion to all things natural.

    • Steph858

      There’s nothing more natural than death. One can only defy entropy for so long.

  • Alex Starling

    I breastfed and my baby had a vitamin k shot and a hep a shot at birth. She didn’t cry because my milk came in quickly because she’s my second child. This doctor is correct to point out that many baby friendly hospitals and lactation consultants don’t properly know and also educate new moms on the signs they’re baby is not receiving enough milk. Categorically saying all lactivists ignore babies crying in hunger is wrong and just passing the blame. Exclusively breastfeeding isn’t the problem. The problem is not adequate support and information to new moms along with safe and affordable options for donor milk. As women we should support education and support not name calling and misplaced blame.

    • Why the hell would donor milk be necessary or important? Why is donor milk, which is a stranger’s bodily fluids (and which may not even be screened!), safer than factory produced formula up to FDA standards?

      More information and support is great. Accurate information is critical, though, and the truth of the matter is that breastfeeding can fail. Some women cannot produce enough milk, and a lot of them (10-15%) will need to supplement in order to feed their babies adequately. Other women simply don’t want to breastfeed, or it doesn’t fit with their work schedules, or it brings up trauma flashbacks. Since breastfeeding provides very minimal benefits, I don’t see why trying to browbeat them into breastfeeding or using rare, expensive donor milk is a good idea.

    • LaMont

      Nowhere did she say “all”. General statements are not necessarily categorical ones. Why would *any* lactivists say these things? Isn’t even a small critical mass bad enough?

    • Heidi_storage

      Easy with the strawman, there; Dr. Tuteur was calling out lactivists, not lactation consultants (the groups can overlap, but I had lovely, helpful LCs and lactivists can be doctors, nurses, or random bloggers).

      Here is some education and support for women: breastfeeding might not work out because of low supply, inability to latch, or excessive pain or distress. Formula feeding is fine. Combo feeding is fine. Pumping exclusively is fine–as long as the baby is healthy and you sane.

    • Who?

      ‘…along with access to formula…’

      Fixed that for you.

    • Mel

      Let’s discuss the main problems with safe and affordable options for donor milk.

      You need to find lactating women within their first year of breastfeeding who are off all medications, test negative for a variety of communicable diseases, and are interested in donating milk.

      That’s hard enough – but they also need to have excess production, access to plenty of freezer space, access to methods to ship frozen breastmilk and the ability to abide by fairly rigorous sterilization procedures for pumping equipment and storage materials.

      That knocks out the majority of the small pool of lactating women who pass the medical qualifications.

      The cost can’t come down much; the process of pasteurizing very small batches of human breast milk is expensive but much safer than creating pooled human milk batches since a pooled batch means a single woman’s mistake in storage or missed transmittable disease will contaminate all of the “clean” milk it was mixed with. (Dairy farms create mass mixed batches but the cleaning and sterilization procedures are much more complicated.)

      What’s the good news? Well, unless the baby in question is a micropreemie who has not reached 34 weeks gestational age, using formula until the mom’s milk comes in – or for the next year – has identical outcomes for the infant.

      That’s why medical professionals prioritize donor milk for micropreemies before 34 weeks gestational age – and bluntly, it was the only reason I worked hard on pumping breast milk for my son when he was a micropreemie. I wouldn’t be able to donate to other infants due to the fact I was on medications – but my son had been exposed to those medications during pregnancy already so that was fine and every ounce I pumped freed up donor milk for a micropreemie whose mom couldn’t produce milk.

    • Heidi

      Nah, pushing for some ridiculous purity standard, that is exclusively breastfeeding, IS the problem. You know, you are free to try to make safe, pasteurized donor milk affordable and plentiful but I think you’ll find it ain’t happening. If you want to be so supportive, maybe listen to some of us women about why we didn’t breastfeed? I didn’t formula feed because of lack of support or education but as a matter of keeping my child alive, and I would never accept donor milk for my full term infants.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      Oh, I had oversupply, once it came in 5 days postpartum. Got all the education and support and had even long assumed I would; my mother did. I hated it but I kept at it for 11 months. I got to the point where I was curled up on the bed, shuddering, and praying neither spouse nor child ever touched me again. When I became pregnant the 2nd time, I got depression very badly and one of my triggers is breastfeeding. If i think about it for too long, I start fantasizing about cutting off my breasts. My daughter was formula fed and as healthy and happy as her elder brother.

      Lactivist support and education made me think driving myself to endure an activity i loathe for the sake of my son was a good thing rather than a stupid one in this land of milk and honey.

    • Sarah

      She didn’t categorically say all lactivists. Not all lactivists are like that, but enough lactivists are like that.

    • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

      Full term babies do NOT NEED donor breast milk. Donor milk (and by this I mean milk bank milk that’s been properly stored and tested for disease/contamination) is in short supply and should be reserved for the preemies who need it. Formula was designed to mimic breatsmilf and is a perfectly good alternative until one’s breastmilk comes in.

      All the “support” in the world is not going to make your breasts produce milk until they are ready. And lack of adequate sleep, a long labor, a difficult vaginal delivery, surgery or genetics can all delay one’s milk coming in. Inadequate milk ducts and other problems can prevent one from ever producing enough milk.

      If the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative has as its goal to breastfeed above all else then YES some lactivists and hospital staff are putting that goal above proper infant nutrition and above protecting babies brain function

    • Roadstergal

      “The problem is not adequate support and information to new moms”

      What information are they lacking that should be given?

      • Empress of the Iguana People

        Alex makes it sound like there -hasn’t- been a massive bf’ing campaign for years.

        • Roadstergal

          I do think there’s some information that new moms are lacking that they’re not getting that would help keep babies from starving – but I want to hear what Alex thinks first…

    • Charybdis

      If you request formula to feed your screaming baby in the hospital and the request is denied because “you need to see the LC first” or “we need to see you breastfeed first”, THAT IS IGNORING BABIES CRYING IN HUNGER.

      If they talk to you to find out *why* you want formula (umm, to feed my hungry, crying baby, for the THIRD GODDAMN TIME I’VE HAD TO SAY THIS) and then tell you that you need to sign a waiver stating that you understand the “risks” of formula and have been properly educated about these so-called “risks” before they bring you formula, THAT IS IGNORING BABIES CRYING IN HUNGER.

      Insisting that a constantly suckling baby who will not settle after being on the breast is “cluster feeding” and/or has “second night syndrome” is IGNORING BABIES CRYING IN HUNGER.

      FFS, you have people bursting their buttons to “support” you in your breastfeeding journey, by refusing to watch the baby for a few hours so you can have an uninterrupted nap, by refusing to bring you a pacifier so your baby can comfort suck, by making it harder than hell to obtain formula in a hospital to feed your baby, by insisting that you syringe feed, finger feed, cup feed or use a SNS to feed your baby the meager 15 cc of formula they will generously allow you to use to feed your hungry baby, by posting “Breast is BEST” propaganda everywhere in your OB’s office, waiting room, pediatrician’s office and waiting room, bathrooms, hospital corridors, stairwells, break rooms, by telling you to power pump, to maintain a grueling feed, top off and then pump schedule, by “helping” you learn new holds, by suggesting fenugreek, Mother’s Milk Teas, domperidone, lactation cookies, oatmeal, and other galactagogues, all this “support” and “education” has to stop.

      Safe and affordable options are available. They are called formula. Soy, elemental, organic, hydrolyzed, and plain ol’regular formulas are available. And abundant. You can find them anywhere. It is certainly cheaper than the $4/oz for milk bank milk. You have options based on your needs and preferences: RTF, liquid concentrate and powder. Generic or name brand. Imported or not. Soy, hydrolyzed, thickened, elemental, etc. You don’t have to watch your diet, you don’t have to worry about taking necessary medications, you can have a couple of glasses of wine or mixed drinks. No “pump and dump”.

      People have been plenty educated and “supported” within an inch of their sanity. It is time for the lactivists to back the hell off and stop trying to insist that every woman breastfeed.

      • Ozlsn

        Or, in my friend’s case, you have nurses telling you “you need to sign a waiver about the risks of formula feeding before we can bring you distilled water” (which seriously – the hospital tap water is as safe as anywhere else here, wtf?) and then never coming back with the waiver. Meanwhile her baby was constantly trying to nurse, falling asleep for a couple of minutes, crying and starting to try again. Not least because – just like with her first child – her milk and colostrum hadn’t come in (and didn’t for another couple of days). Which is why she’d brought formula with her, after the first, incredibly stressful time.

        Seriously it shits me to tears this constant “oh we don’t starve babies, formula is available if you know to ask, BFHI works best for the baby” bullshit that is constantly, constantly trotted out. If the baby is hungry then what is the actual fucking problem with feeding them so they are not?

        I ended up going to the hospital cafe, getting bottled water and helping my friend make up a bottle and feed her extremely tired and hungry baby, not least so my friend could also get some sleep and recover a bit. And then an effing nurse still yelled at her for not having signed their fucking waiver!! For what exactly – using a safe product with a safe water supply?! Seriously, what is this fucking bullshit?

        And then I had a (mostly good actually) work meeting with a group of midwives which ended with one of them describing Fed Is Best as “anti-breastfeeding” while I bit my tongue trying not to hijack the meeting by ranting. So here I am to rant instead. (At least one of the other convenors managed to get the idea that perhaps not all post-dates inductions were “totally unnecessary” in there, another point where I was trying not to explode in an unprofessional manner..)

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          Had I been in your friend’s position, I would have been sorely tempted to give that nurse detailed and clinical instructions on what to do with that waiver.
          This should never, EVER be a woman’s introduction to motherhood. It’s a time when a woman should be nurtured and cared for and supported, not screamed at and bullied and not allowed to rest while she watches her baby suffer needlessly.

    • swbarnes2

      BFHI has been around for 25 years, and people have been having babies for a lot longer. The doctors and LCs who want to acknowledge that babies can be hungry know how to tell if babies are hungry.

      Just read the BFHI guidelines for yourself. It is very easy to find the parts about “document how often you give out formula for non-medical reasons, and that number should decrease every year” and “Document that 80% of mothers who want formula are given forms to read and fill out”. But can you find the guideline that stipulates anything close to “80% of babies kept in the hospital for more than 2 days should be fed”. Not “80% of babies should have the opportunity to breastfeed” or “80% of mothers should be told to nurse their children demand” but “80% of babies will have had one solid meal, either nursing, with an LC verifying swallowing, or with formula”

      While you are looking, you can look for the guideline about tracking re-admissions due to feeding issues, with the goal of decreasing that figure every year.

      If you can’t find guidelines about making sure babies eat, and tracking re-admissions, then you have to conclude that BFHI guidelines that do exist would push hospitals to get babies out the door with no formula, no matter what.

      https://www.babyfriendlyusa.org/get-started/the-guidelines-evaluation-criteria

    • Who?

      So the actual problem is that the ‘professionals’ tasked with pushing this particular wagon are sometimes-often-incompetent.

      Isn’t that comforting.

    • Amazed

      No, EBF isn’t the problem. The problem is the length that your cult leaders are ready to go to to achieve it. EBF isn’t a problem when there is enough nourishing milk to be had, the baby can actually draw it out, and circumstances allow for EBF to actually take place. When it doesn’t and the mother is cheered to ignore all signs of problems out of fear for your cherished biological act, then yes, there is a problem. A lactivists made one.

      You know, I think you’re well aware of this. You’re just shifting the blame from bitch lactivists which this article is aimed at to accuse Dr Amy of waging war to the holy nectar of breastmilk and thus get bitch lactivists off the hook. Won’t happen here, just so you know.

      Oh, and donor milk? You know that for full term babies, it’s just utilizing mothers’ wish to be the best mom possible? Making profit off them. Because for full term babies, donor milk isn’t better, just more expensive. Anyway, why are so hooked on donor milk when your beloved lactivists croon that every mother’s milk is perfectly tailored to HER OWN baby’s needs? What makes Mary’s milk better for Jane’s baby? Other than Jane’s delusion that it is better, I mean? Which doesn’t even make it better, BTW.

    • Banrion

      Why is donor milk ok to supplement, but formula is not?

      • Charybdis

        Oh, I know this one!! “Human milk for human babies!”
        Donor milk (even through casual milk-sharing, letting someone else nurse your baby, etc) is *always* thought to be better by the lactivists. Because they say/think so.

        • Banrion

          Yep unknown exposure to HIV, TB, drugs and allergens are so much safer than formula produced to a specific recipe in an inspected food handling facility.

          • kilda

            i know right? having your baby share bodily fluids with your neighbors, friends, strangers sounds like such a good idea. Not like anything bad could come of that.

          • Roadstergal

            What’s funny is that formula is probably the cleanest, safest, most tightly-regulated food you will ever give your kid.

  • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

    I had a lactivist tell me that the babies’ screaming increased milk production. No joke.

  • Empress of the Iguana People

    Blurry vision?!? They think the baby will be bothered by blurry vision?!? They don’t have a frame of reference! Pain/no pain they understand. Hunger/not hungry they get. But they’ve only seen as clearly as newborns can for about 5 minutes.

    • kilda

      isn’t their vision pretty blurry as newborns anyway?

      • Empress of the Iguana People

        So they tell us. I joke to my Demodocus that our newborns have his level of sight. He can play old style video games if he’s close enough to leave nose prints on the TV. That’s not exaggeration. *snicker*

  • CSN0116

    Look at this. This is what comes up when I Google “prelacteal feeding.” Please note the lead statement:

    “A prelacteal feed is any food except mother’s milk provided to a newborn before initiating breastfeeding. Prelacteal feeding is a major barrier to exclusive breastfeeding. It is a prevalent practice in Nepal. Little is known about the factors associated with providing prelacteal feeds to the Nepalese newborn.”

    So, women in Nepal tend to practice prelacteal feeding -> prelacteal feeding is a barrier to exclusive breastfeeding …duh, the definition of prelacteal feeding in and of itself means no exclusive breast feeding -> we don’t know jack shit about the the pros and cons of prelacteal feeding, but trust what we said about it being bad for EBF.

    Please also note that all of the top hits are discussing prelacteal feeding in the non-developed or developing world: Nepal, rural Northern India, rural population of Northwest Ethiopia, Northeastern Ethiopia, etc.

    This means NOTHING to women in the developed world. Prelacteal feeding saves lives and SAVES BREAST FEEDING. It literally keeps women breast feeding longer.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/53fa2fbdcf09a803c526a2134e085dabf15d5c71009ccfbb2b8d4fb1e729054c.jpg

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Prelacteal feeding is a major barrier to exclusive breastfeeding

      Kind of by definition, don’t you think?

      Of course, the real question is….and?

      So what?

      • Roadstergal

        Being belted in is a major barrier to climbing around while the vehicle is moving.

        • Empress of the Iguana People

          My children object strenuously to not being able to move around. They get quieter when I hand ’em apples, though.

    • kilda

      maybe someone could point out to them that if the baby dies, there won’t be much breastfeeding going on.

    • Sarah

      These poor black and brown women are doing breastfeeding wrong again.

      • AnnaPDE

        Yeah, instead of being paragons of EBF and custodians of ancient wisdom embodied in traditions untainted by Western influence, they dare to just do what they always did and feed their babies. Clearly they need civilised lactivists to correct their backwards ignorant ways.

    • Russell Jones

      Oh, FFS. The Red Army fighting back was a major barrier to Nazi Germany’s conquest of all Europe.

      The demise of Jim Crow and the passage of the Voting Rights Act are major barriers to establishing a white supremacist “utopia” here in the U.S.

      The medication I take is a major barrier to having another goddamn heart attack.

      This whole “Prelacteal feeding is a major barrier to exclusive breastfeeding” is just rah rah stuff, right? The author is preaching to the choir, yes? Were it otherwise, the author might be expected to come up with some … oh, I dunno … support for the unstated assumption that exclusive breastfeeding is some sort of beneficent end in itself.

  • Roadstergal

    OT – I just bought a copy of Push Back as a gift for a friend of mine who is soon-to-be-first-time-mom to a little girl.

  • CSN0116

    Me thinks the early pediatricians of the 20th century probably did _less_ harm than lactivists.

    • Emilie Bishop

      At least the babies were eating and mom was getting some degree of rest. The pendulum has totally swung too far in correcting the negatives of this system.

      • CSN0116

        Yeah I think it centered around a hard core allegiance to 4 hour feeding intervals (?), which suits many formula fed babies anyways and is unlikely to result in, you know …starvation. Who’da thunk?

        • Dr Kitty

          http://motherhoodinpointoffact.com/truby-king-baby-care-methods/

          My grand mother raised my her children with the Truby King method, so, as her eldest granddaughter I got her copy of his book for a wedding present.

          It’s mildly horrifying.
          Not least the bit about toughening up your nipples by scrubbing them with a nail brush in the last few weeks of pregnancy, so that you are more prepared to breastfeed. That has always stuck with me.

          So…maybe some happy medium between 24/7 attachment and only cuddling your baby for 10 minutes a day based on a set schedule?

      • AnnaPDE

        If they insisted on actually feeding whenever the kid wants it instead of just latching them on regardless of milk transfer, it would work out much more relaxing for everyone.

  • Heidi_storage

    Why? Because with enough “support,” insufficient milk is “rare”; babies need very little nourishment their first few days of life; and babies almost never self-wean until 18-24 months, in the lactivist’s world. Rather confusing to those of us in the real world.

    • Tigger_the_Wing

      Two of mine went on the bottle at six weeks and three months respectively, for health reasons. The other three self-weaned at around eight months. I have a feeling that the babies who follow the lactivists’ schedule are as imaginary as the supposed financial benefits of breastfeeding.

  • Emilie Bishop

    I wish my son had screamed in hunger. Instead, he just got sleeper, which made us think he was satisfied by my colostrum. I tell this to the lactivists who accuse me of being stupid enough to ignore the screaming. Funny how they don’t have snappy comebacks for that…

    • Heidi

      As did my son! I really thought I had an easy baby the first couple of days. Then when he got his glucose to normal and screamed every couple of hours to eat and he continued that for almost a year.

  • Claire

    It’s funny that cry it out is bad for sleep, it will damage the brain blah blah blah. Yet, screaming for hours in hunger doesn’t affect the brain at all.

    • Montserrat Blanco

      Yes, I have never got it. I probably never will, but I am only one of those awful doctors…