Amy Brown condemns bottle propping but ignores the more deadly practice of co-sleeping

Mother giving milk from bottle to baby sleeping on hands

The hypocrisy of professional lactivists is truly mind blowing!

Take Amy Brown’s latest piece on The Conversation, Baby bottle propping isn’t just dangerous – it’s a sign of a broken society, a polemic against products that prop bottles:

How on earth have we got to the point where bottle propping is the solution? Why are we ignoring the needs of our new mothers? Why are new mothers literally the ones left holding the baby, day in, day out? Having a new baby is always going to be a huge change. But it doesn’t need to be like this.

If Brown truly cared about babies, she’d oppose co-sleeping.

You bet it doesn’t need to be like this! The contemporary philosophy of natural mothering (aka attachment parenting) has made it like this. It starts with the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative — which Brown vigorously supports — that forces women to be left caring for a baby in the hours and days immediately after birth, despite pain and exhaustion, in an effort to promote breastfeeding.

Many cultures and religions specify a period of “confinement” after birth, weeks in which new mothers are relieved of their daily duties and allowed to concentrate on caring for a newborn. They don’t even have to take care of themselves; mothers, mothers-in-law and other women take care of them. In our culture, “broken” by lactivism, women have to start caring for the baby the moment the placenta detaches.

Of course, the real problem with bottle propping is that it is dangerous. As Brown notes:

Young babies may not have the head control or strength to move away from the flow of the milk that is being aided by gravity. Quite simply they can choke to death as they cannot escape from the milk, or inhale it as the bottle becomes displaced.

And that’s why bottle propping should never, ever be done! Brown is correct that maternal exhaustion is not an excuse.

But once again Brown’s hypocrisy rises to the fore. Bottle propping, as dangerous as it is, has only accounted for rare infant deaths. In contrast, co-sleeping — another practice vigorously supported by Brown — is killing many more each year because, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it nearly triples the risk of infant death from SIDS.

 

Yet Brown, apprised of this risk is on the record in her support:

Brown told Reuters Health by email that “feeding a baby this much can be really tiring, especially if new mothers are expected to go back to work or need to care for other children in the day.”

Sleeping in the same bed can be helpful, Brown said. “Anything that helps mothers to get more sleep, and helps to make sure that the baby feeds frequently is really important.”

Wait, what? Co-sleeping, which triples the risk of SIDS is okay because it help mothers get more sleep and ensures that the baby feeds as needed, but bottle propping, which kills only rarely, is completely unacceptable as a method of easing a mother’s exhaustion and ensuring that the baby feeds as needed? In our culture, “broken” by lactivism, exhaustion is the perfect excuse for engaging in a deadly practice if you’re breastfeeding, but anathema if you aren’t.

But there’s a larger issue at stake, the romantizing of a past that literally never existed. Brown writes:

We now have so many parents who are pretty much doing this on their own. Yes, they might have a partner, but they’re often at work all day. Yes, they might have visitors, but how many are there just to coo over the baby rather than do anything useful such as cook a meal, do the washing up, or anything else that might actually help a new mother feel more relaxed? …

No mother should be doing this alone. We should track down where the “village” – that extended network of family and friends which share responsibility for raising a child – went to and recreate it. There must be a recognition of how isolating and exhausting caring for a baby can be – and a system in place to catch mothers before they fall.

In nature women had no work to do and were free to spend all their time tending their infant? There was never a time like that.

Women have always been integral to the survival of small hunter-gatherer bands. They spent hours each day as the gatherers. They spent additional hours in laborious domestic tasks like grinding grain. In a very real sense, mothering in nature was an interstitial task, taking place in the gaps while performing other tasks that required attention and energy.

The dominant contemporary paradigm of natural mothering, in contrast, imagines mothering performed instead of other tasks. It is not something that you do while doing everything else; it’s something you do to the exclusion of everything else. That’s not natural; it has nothing to do with the way our foremothers raised children.

No doubt Brown is going to be flabbergasted to learn that while our society may prop bottles, indigenous societies propped the entire baby. That’s part of the function of cradleboards.

Cradleboards were used during periods when the infant’s mother had to travel or otherwise be mobile for work … The cradleboard could be carried on the mother’s back … The cradleboard can also be stood up against a large tree or rock if the infant is small, or hung from a pole (as inside an Iroquois longhouse), or even hung from a sturdy tree branch…

Mothers prop bottles today for the same reason indigenous mothers propped babies. They have older children. They have elderly relatives that need care. They have jobs, whether in the home or outside it. It’s not a sign of a broken society. It’s a sign of a real society, not the fictitious one that Brown longs for.

If Brown truly cared about babies, she’d oppose co-sleeping. If she truly cared about mothers, she’d opposed mandatory rooming in policies. Instead she merely opposes bottle propping. That’s hypocrisy.

  • StephanieA

    I bottle propped, and I have no problem admitting it. Because sometimes things need to get done. I never propped during the night, because I wouldn’t trust myself to not fall back asleep . But during the day, when I was awake and always fairly close to the baby, I definitely did. I also held and fed them a ton. I found co-sleeping to be way more nerve wracking and dangerous than propping a bottle now and then during the day.

  • Heidi

    I’ve seen some of the bottle propping stuff for sell and one, it usually requires the baby to hold the bottle, which point two, that seems targeted to older babies who can likely move their heads away. I personally propped the baby on a nursing pillow. Without supervision that would be dangerous. However, it allowed me to sit straight up so i wouldn’t fall asleep and drop the baby face down or wedged in bedding. Sometimes you are too tired to hold the baby, and your spouse is equally exhausted at 3 in the morning.

  • Zornorph

    She moans about that whole ‘it takes a village’ thing but she doesn’t want the village to help feed the baby. That can only be done by the mom with baby on breast. God forbid somebody else help feed the baby.

  • Gæst

    Bottle propping is quite common in families with multiples. So I have a question – is propping still dangerous if there is someone attentive there with the baby who can see when the baby is having a problem? My nanny used to do that – she’d hold one baby and prop the bottle for the other, but she never left the side of the baby with the propped bottle and would frequently reach down to readjust/check on it.

  • Sheven

    It’s like people coming back from a vacation in a foreign culture and describing the local culture like they are an expert . . . but only when no one else from that country is within earshot.

    No one props bottles there! Yeah they do. Or they don’t but only within the particular social stratum you’re in. Or they don’t but they have other problems related to the same issue.

  • Gene

    “Young babies may not have the head control or strength to move away from the flow of the milk that is being aided by ***LET-DOWN***. Quite simply they can choke to death as they cannot escape from the milk, or inhale it…..”

    Gravity has nothing on my let down. Each of my kids had the lovely experience of choking on a let down so forceful I could spray the opposite wall. When they de-latched, they proceeded to get fire hosed in the what we called the “baby dairy facial”.

    Seriously, Amy Brown is full of crap. Choking to death on a bottle because mom is overtired? More likely that baby would suffocate against mother’s breast during cosleeping.

    • Christine O’Hare

      Same here. My baby has choked and gagged from my forceful let-down and has had trouble turning her head based on nursing position, but has no problem spitting out the bottle or turning her head to avoid choking/gagging when the bottle flow is too much for her.

    • Gæst

      My kids also had issues with my let down. There were a couple of choking incidents, and then they learned other ways of dealing with it (one, unfortunately, chose clamping down on my nipple). And I learned, too, to get the let down going, and then when the baby popped off hold burp cloths to my nipples for a minute or so until the spray calmed down.

  • CSN0116

    My grandmother bottle propped in the “idealistic” post-WWII, high economic security, stay-at-home-mom, domestic goddess, had-her-mom-there-nearly-daily period of time.

    Nothing is “falling apart”. Women have always innovated.

    And where are deaths from bottle propping chronicled? I’d like to see that.

  • MaineJen

    Are these the same people who crow over Attachment Parenting…the method where the baby is held in constant contact with the mother’s body, and no one else is allowed to feed the baby, ever? Because if so, I’m confused.

    • Merrie

      Mom is supposed to just hold the baby all the time and get someone else to do everything else.

      When my second was born, I spent a ton of time with him to the exclusion of my oldest who was then 2 1/2. So many times my husband took her somewhere and I took the baby. And I think it hurt my relationship with her, though it’s since recovered, but there was about a year there where she wanted Daddy all the time and not me, and I suspect that month or so where I kept sending her off with Daddy was part of the culprit.

      • Heidi

        I got to the point where I welcomed someone else holding and feeding the baby so I could do anything else, even boring housework. My in-laws would have happily helped me with housework but I needed the escape of some laundry and cooking. I mean, I actually really like to cook and to not be able to do it because I couldn’t get away from the baby was very hard for me.

      • FormerPhysicist

        I sent my then pre-schooler off lots with Daddy, and turned her into a Daddy’s girl in a similar way. They are still close now, and I have no regrets. He does great with her, and I’m fine if she turns to him first. We have a good relationship, she’s just closer with Daddy.

      • Cat

        I’ve only got the one child but I get the impression that it’s impossible to strike an ideal balance between a toddler and a newborn. My mother erred on the side of making a big fuss of the toddler (me) over the baby (my brother) on the basis that a baby’s needs are fewer and more basic. From very early on, he was viciously jealous of me and made my life hell. He grew up and became a perfectly nice person, but that was only after about seventeen years!

        Incidentally, I stumbled across this link recently: https://www.askdrsears.com/topics/parenting/discipline-behavior/bothersome-behaviors/sibling-rivalry/new-sibling. It’s not all total crap, but the lines “An attachment-parented child will have a much easier time adjusting since she got what she needed when she needed it. She won’t be jealous seeing someone else get needs met” made me spit my tea out. Yeah right. One of my close friends has moderate AP tendencies but had to give up breastfeeding her second child earlier than she wanted because her firstborn (who was also breastfed) kept trying to attack the baby every time she put it on the breast. He obviously doesn’t read Dr Sears!