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.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]If Brown truly cared about babies, she’d oppose co-sleeping.[/pullquote]

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.