Breastfeeding Derangement Syndrome

Female with mood disorder

Breastfeeding is causing otherwise mentally healthy women to lose their minds.

Consider this piece from the Today Show.

Donna Freydkin writes:

Like mass hysteria, it appears to be contagious, directly transmitted by lactation professionals who suffer from their own version of Breastfeeding Derangement Syndrome.

Then my glorious globes failed me. No milk came out. Not a trickle. Not a drip. Not a sprinkle. We got Alex’s tongue clipped and I’d attach him, but it was akin to walking a cat on a leash. Pretty much futile. The nurses gave him formula (to my disgust but whatever, the kid had to eat) and I wore a La Leche League hair shirt of guilt.

It sounds like she experienced primary lactation failure. It would never have harmed her child since she had easy access to formula and clean water with which to prepare it, but it definitely harmed her psychological health:

I made myself crazy. Actually, I owe an apology to the word crazy. I, in fact, became deranged with guilt.

She developed what I’ve begun to think of as Breastfeeding Derangement Syndrome. It happens when women who otherwise think clearly completely lose perspective about the limited benefits of breastfeeding.

It is a situational disorder; it depends on social milieu.

…We lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the ground zero of mommy wars, where the women I met at playgroups competed for the Golden Globe in Parenting Decisions. One bragged about growing her own organic fruits so she could make her child’s food from scratch. Another schooled me on powering through nursing issues, telling me to drink lactation tea and just keep trying and trying and trying because I could do it!

All the moms I met — all of them — insisted that breast was best, that formula was second to arsenic when it came to baby nutrition, and that they would practice child-led weaning, even it if meant nursing until their kids were doing college tours. I nodded as I shamefacedly mixed Earth’s Best powder with warm water in my bottle and fed it to my kid, who guzzled it down like it was the world’s greatest sake.

It is characterized by deep feelings of guilt and shame. Its sufferers are nearly prostrate with intrusive thoughts that they are bad mothers, that their babies are being harmed. And like many psychological illnesses, it is impervious to reality. The truth is their babies aren’t suffering; their babies aren’t merely doing better than they were while breastfeeding; they’re thriving, chubby, happy and hitting developmental milestones on target or early.

Why are so many women developing Breastfeeding Derangement Syndrome? Like mass hysteria, it appears to be contagious, directly transmitted by lactation professionals who suffer from their own version of Breastfeeding Derangement Syndrome. Lactation professionals have acquired a monopoly — through La Leche League, the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, and a variety of health organizations captured by the lobbying efforts of LLL and the BFHI — over the dissemination of information about breastfeeding. That has allowed their delusions to go mainstream.

In reality, breastfeeding in industrialized countries has trivial benefits, but lactation professionals promote their delusion that the benefits of breastfeeding are massive.

In reality, breastfeeding, like all natural processes, has a significant failure rate (up to 15% of first time mothers in the early days after birth), but lactation professionals promote their delusion that breastfeeding failure is rare.

In reality, breastfeeding has no impact on mother-infant bonding because it is the fact of being fed that promotes bonding, not how the baby is fed. But lactation professionals promote their delusion that breastfeeding is necessary for bonding.

In reality, there are a myriad of possible breastfeeding problems, and not all are amenable to treatment. But lactation professionals promote their delusion that any difficulties with breastfeeding are due to lack of maternal will or lack of support.

Breastfeeding Derangement Syndrome causes lactation professionals — who are ostensibly medical providers subject to ethical guidelines — to behave in ways that are grossly unprofessional, bullying and shaming new mothers while simultaneously muzzling or drowning out other providers. Pediatricians, neonatologists and obstetricians are desperately trying to draw attention to the very real harms, including neonatal brain injures and death, from aggressive breastfeeding promotion not to mention maternal mental health issues.

Prevention is the key to relieving the suffering from Breastfeeding Derangement Syndrome. The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative must be ended; no outside special interest group should be allowed to make hospital policy. Simultaneous efforts must be made to root out Breastfeeding Derangement Syndrome from the lactation profession. Lactation consultants’ training should involve neonatologists and pediatricians to educate them about the very real limitations and risks of breastfeeding, and mental health professionals to root out their tendency to bully and shame mothers who can’t or don’t wish to breastfeed.

Obstetricians and pediatricians have a special role to play: offering unbiased information about the limited benefits and real risks of breastfeeding, instead of the propaganda many are forced to offer now. Obstetricians and pediatricians should also offer reassurance.

Freydkin credits her obstetrician with helping her regain perspective:

This would have gone on indefinitely until I had a checkup with my OBGYN, Dr. Andrea M. Dobrenis, a doctor both witty and wise.

She commented on what a big, healthy baby Alex was, and asked how feedings were going. I immediately kicked into my prepared remarks, not even catching my breath as I ranted apologetically about why I was such a failure as a mother, despite the breasts that should be performing their milk-producing function. She told me to please take a breath and calm down. And here’s what she said: “Donna, do you have access to clean drinking water? Do you have access to quality formula? Is your son thriving? You’ll be fine. Stop beating yourself up and enjoy your time with your baby.”

Freydkin’s story is more poignant than most. At the same time she was struggling with breastfeeding guilt and shame her husband was dying of brain cancer.

…To overcompensate for being a working mom who excelled at interviews with Meryl Streep and Brad Pitt but who was a flop at feeding her son, I spent hours at farmers markets buying certified organic produce, which I would then meticulously steam and turn into baby food — saved only in glass containers, due to BPA fears. His sheets were fair-trade organic cotton. As were his clothes. I fixated on everything but what mattered — spending intimate time with my husband, who was undergoing chemotherapy for brain cancer, and our son.

Breastfeeding Derangement Syndrome blighted the Freydkin’s early days of motherhood, just as it does for many new mothers. That’s a tragedy, one that — fortunately — we have the power to prevent.

  • yentavegan

    So much to unpack here…..I get it, Dr. A you are here to re-assure mothers ( and others) that formula is the year 2018 is equal to or better than breastmilk. That not wanting to or not being able to breastfeed is not indicative of bad parenting. Good loving mothers ( and others) ought not get stuck on the method of infant nutrition in place of actually holding cooing and loving their infant. But you know how I get when it is my sacred cow being skewered. La Leche League is a supportive community and we do not censor mother’s voices. We are facilitated by volunteer lay leaders and if a mother reaches out looking for advice or input , she will find a variety a voices.

    • AnnaPDE

      This reminds me of how the Catholic Church argues.

      When someone, especially a member, wants to hold them responsible for some of the viler stuff they do and teach, it’s all the “the Church is all of us, it’s every one’s responsibility to do good”, or the “the Church is a diverse community, you’ll always find good and bad people with a range of views”. Sorry, all just a few bad apples, no one who has any authority over them.

      When however someone, especially a member, is trying to actually change any of said stuff or contradicts the underlying arguments, suddenly the Church has a head and a body, and the body needs to do what the head says. Where the head happens to be the Pope, bishops, priests, etc. Or even better, a flock of sheep and clearly it’s not the sheep’s place to even try to think about where and how the shepherd is leading them. So shut up and obey.

      Sorry, this attempt to dodge responsibility for the views one promotes doesn’t work. The LLL has official representation, communications and leadership. The volunteer laypeople are selected by the organisation, and the organisation gives them at least a veneer of authority in breastfeeding-related health questions. And the LLL as an organisation does have a declared stance on various issues, even if some volunteers privately differ from that.

      • Roadstergal

        “all just a few bad apples”

        As John Oliver noted, the phrase is ‘a few bad apples spoil the whole barrel,’ not ‘a few bad apples are no big deal.’

        • AnnaPDE

          Thank you. I did not know this.

      • yentavegan

        La Leche League Leaders can not tell mothers who attend the meeting or who post on their facebook page to withhold expressing their feelings or opinions. Leaders are trained to be active listeners and to validate a mother’s choices. We are not the resource for infant formula education. We refer back to the pediatrician for that. When a mother attends a meeting, the Leader usually wears her name tag identifying her as a Leader. Other mothers are free to speak their minds. Sometimes what a mother hears at a meeting comes from just another mother and not the Leader.

        • Amy Tuteur, MD

          But who are the leaders? It’s restricted to women who breastfeed exclusively and support LLL ideology. Since their ideology is not supportive of all women, the leaders are not likely to be supportive of all women.

          • yentavegan

            You once described La Leche League as a religion …I do not think your description was off the mark. And just like a religion , our appeal is limited to folks looking for a specific type of experience.

          • momofone

            That, like many religions, doesn’t stop its representatives from pretending to be qualified to give advice about things about which they are not qualified to give advice.

          • swbarnes2

            And if that experience is beyond the physiological capacity of the woman, do all LLL leaders say so, straightforwardly, and without moral judgement?

            This LLL site says that 99.9% of mothers can make enough milk for their babies. Do you think they can scientifically justify that?

            http://breastfeedingtoday-llli.org/how-often-does-breastfeeding-really-fail/

            Another article…though this one is rather old:

            McCallister confirms that when a woman calls LLL and speaks with a leader, she is never told that primary lactation failure may be at play.

            That’s not a rotten apple, that was LLL policy

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

            Yeah, why should they care if some babies slowly starve because they are not getting enough to eat. Why should they care if the baby suffers permanent brain damage from starvation…Do LLL leaders have any medical training at all? If not I would love to know what business they have advising anyone on infant nutrition or the supposed “benefits” of breastfeeding that makes it Sooooooo much better than formula.

          • AnnaPDE

            Except its being sold as help for people who’d like a bit of help with breastfeeding, with a realistic assessment of whether it’s working out, and advice for what to do when it doesn’t. Not as “the cult for people who are ready to sacrifice their entire life to the magical sacred breastmilk”.

        • Merrie

          I went to one meeting and heard some really damaging nonsense from various moms and no contradiction offered by the leaders. One lady who described herself as an aspiring leader made some really negative comments about formula and the leaders said nothing. I didn’t go back and emailed local leadership about my concerns.

    • momofone

      In my experience, LLL was not supportive at all of anything less than absolute adherence to its principles. I saw plenty of women censored, criticized, and ultimately ostracized for going against the LLL law, particularly where formula was concerned. A frequent comment was “If you’re looking for permission to use formula (the easy way out, unless it was the most labor-intensive endeavor possible, compared with breastfeeding and its naturalness), I am not going to give it. You can – and should- do the hard thing. It’s for your BABY.”

      • yentavegan

        So then what drew you to La Leche League? Is it possible that La Leche League did not make it clear that we are focused on breastfeeding? Yes , I admit we see breastfeeding as the do-able fall back position for infant nutrition. Yes we are the place where a mother will get kudos and support for breastfeeding from an SNS filled with donor milk…where else can a mother get information and support for prioritizing breastfeeding above all else? Some mothers actually want that. Not all mothers and not every mother…and that is not my business. But if you come to LLL and want to breastfeed I have information and support to make that happen.

        • swbarnes2

          “Focused on breastfeeding” should not preclude being supportive of combo-feeding mothers. And prioritizing breastfeeding above all else, including a baby’s health, or a mother’s mental welfare is nothing to brag about.

          • yentavegan

            LLL does not prioritize breastfeeding above a baby’s or mother’s health. If an infant can not latch/nurse effectively and /or is losing weight, LLL is the resource to get information to address the issue while offering support /encouragement to build mother’s milk supply. We can help a mother find safe access to donor milk ( if that is what she wants) or help mother use an SNS to teach baby to nurse from the breast. Where else is a mother going to get that much support to keep breastfeeding on track…if a mother is not interested in doing anything interventionist to maintain breastfeeding, that is her choice. We don’t continue to intervene in her life or harass her into changing her mind.

          • momofone

            LLL absolutely prioritized breastfeeding above mothers’ and babies’ health during my involvement. Medications not safe? Sure they are! Check with Dr. Hale–and if he says no, keep looking until you find someone who says it’s fine! My neighbor’s dentist’s housekeeper’s nephew’s girlfriend’s sister took (fill in the blank) and everything was FIIIINE! Nursing not working? Order domperidone from God knows where–you’ll be fine! Doctors don’t learn about breastfeeding in medical school–just like they’ve never seen normal birth! Don’t trust them–trust me, with my high school diploma and my beliefs in the wooiest shit you will ever hear! (Also, if you’d like to purchase my placenta art/pay me for encapsulation/try my essential oils/see my chiropractor just let me know!) If someone is telling you it’s not safe, they’re just sheeple, man–they just want to support Big Pharma and the medical-industrial complex! (I’m pretty sure the people saying these things couldn’t have defined any part of that phrase, but that was not an obstacle to throwing it around constantly.)

            If an infant cannot latch/nurse effectively or is losing weight, his or her pediatrician is the resource to consult.

            I saw women chewed up and spit out by LLL once they questioned the magnificence/absolute necessity of breastfeeding at any cost. And many of them paid dearly.

          • yentavegan

            I am sorry your experience with La Leche League Leaders was so harmful. There is no justification for the Leaders ever recommending medications of any kind ( especially domperidone) and it is against LLL policy for a Leader to use LLL to sell anything to mothers who sought out help for breastfeeding, especially essential oils, placenta encapsulation etc… I am sorry that LLL has no oversight enforcement protocol to strip these women of their association with La Leche League.

          • momofone

            I am sorry too. Unfortunately, LLL appeared to be squarely behind the people saying these things. Combo feeding was only an option for mothers who weren’t willing to fully commit to feeding their babies the best way (you know, the ones who just don’t love their babies quite enough). If other people with a stake in the baby’s well-being dared to question what the mother was doing, the advice was consistently “You’re the Mother (capital M emphasized)–or, even worse, the Mama (I can’t roll my eyes enough); this is YOUR baby. Who cares about the father/other parent? They can either support your decision or you don’t need them.” Co-sleeping was the death of many relationships. If your spouse is not willing to sleep in another room for two years (forgoing physical and emotional intimacy), then clearly they are not prioritizing the well-being of your baby/the sacredness of the breastfeeding relationship (one of the most ridiculous phrases I have ever heard). And the mothering through breastfeeding thing; breastfeeding is a way of feeding an infant, not a philosophy or a parenting style (at least not for me). Even at my most illogical and most obsessive about breastfeeding, that’s all it was.

            I was fortunate. I met some people there who were helpful and rational (unfortunately, they were not leaders), some of whom are still close friends. Though I was not thinking very clearly in some ways given my worries that I would be failing my son if I couldn’t breastfeed him, my BS tolerance is low enough that I was not drawn in by the other things, but for those who were many experienced utter destruction. I know people who stopped taking medication, with life-altering consequences, and that was praised and held up as what it means to be a “real mother.” Because “real mothers” sacrifice themselves for the cause, and “real mothers” don’t care if it wrecks their relationships, or their careers, or their own well-being; they worship at the altar of martyrdom. And if by some inexplicable force of reason they aren’t willing to do that, and they think that their well-being is as important as that of their babies, they must be shunned, because we don’t need that kind of thinking here.

            I apologize for the length of this, and I want you to know that I don’t mean for you to bear the brunt of my frustration with what I saw at LLL, but even all these years later I am furious with what I saw: blatant manipulation and shaming for a cause that had very little to do with mothers’ well-being and a lot to do with one group’s agenda.

          • AnnaPDE

            You know where? The Fed is Best online support group, for one thing. Where they get actual support for feeding their baby in a way that keeps both baby and the rest of the family happy and healthy, whether that’s formula, donor milk or own breastmilk, instead of a relentless focus on breastmilk only to the detriment of everything else.
            Not quite coincidentally with support from actual medical professionals who give scientifically founded advice, instead of laypeople regurgitating semi-understood lactivist woo.

        • momofone

          Your statement was “La Leche League is a supportive community and we do not censor mother’s voices.” I am telling you that is not the case. Instead of attempting to sell breastfeeding as “do-able”–and what about when it isn’t?–would you care to respond to THAT?

          It seems to me that you have the misguided idea that it is 1) doable, and 2) optimal, for any mother who attempts it, or wants it badly enough.

          In answer to your question, I went to LLL for information. I got lots–some reliable, much of it not, and a heavy dose of woo. There was support too, as long as I was toeing the party line. When that stopped, so did the support.

          Edited to add that I actually was told by a leader that using formula was equivalent to smoking during pregnancy in terms of potential harm to an infant.

          • yentavegan

            I will respond to that..when isn’t breastfeeding doable? When infant has galactosemia ..and breast milk will poison the baby…when mother must take non-breastfeeding compatible medications ( then we encourage mother to seekout donor milk) Or when mother lacks sufficient glandular milk producing tissue ..then we suggest SNS and donor milk…When mother has no interest in breastfeeding ..then she has no interest in breastfeeding..maybe we will suggest pumping/expressing and bottle feeding her milk to keep the option of breastfeeding open. Or not. La Leche League is here for every mother searching for breastfeeding support. We are not nurses or doctors or therapists or even Board Certified Lactation Consultants. We are moms helping other moms reach their breastfeeding goals.

          • Who?

            Why is donor breastmilk better than formula (other than for certain preemies)?

            If one of the points of breastfeeding is that the milk is perfect for the baby, then how is another person’s milk any better than formula?

          • Sarah Lopez

            Recommending donor milk over formula is demonizing formula to an unreasonable degree.

          • yentavegan

            The Leader who told you that feeding formula to your infant is as harmful as smoking during pregnancy was misinformed. She is probably also an idiot.

        • Mimc

          That phrase “prioritizing breastfeeding above all else” is exactly the problem. Most of us prioritize the well being of our babies and ourselves above breastfeeding.

  • Who?
    • The UK doesn’t put chickenpox on its routine vaccination schedule, so I don’t know that this is an antivaxxer. Also, this isn’t the same kind of horror as the whooping cough narrative.

      • Who?

        I didn’t know that re UK. It was the whingey tone that got to me-not such a horrible thing as whooping cough, thank goodness, but definitely all about mum’s struggle.

        • maidmarian555

          It’s honestly to do with how most ppl view it. It’s considered an irritation bc you have to stay indoors with a small child who’s not sick enough to be laid up in bed whilst they recover. Most ppl get it when they’re small kids so don’t remember how horrid it is to endure.

          • Who?

            Interesting. I don’t remember having it but have a lovely scar on the bridge of my nose, right between my eyes, to show for it. I didn’t realise that she was in the UK-the jab is on the schedule here so pretty much everyone gets their kids immunised.

          • maidmarian555

            I think if it was on the schedule here people would just get their kids the shots. It’s hard to blame parents for not taking chicken pox seriously when the NHS doesn’t though.

          • Who?

            That’s true, which puts the whingey tone into better perspective.

          • I was 8 and remember it well; my brothers were 17, 21, and 25. So glad my kids won’t have to deal with the itching, the aches, the fever.

          • maidmarian555

            I had it at 16 and it was horrible. I guess if my son had to get it, I am glad he had it when he was so small I doubt he’ll remember. He was also too little to even try scratching himself so luckily, despite being covered in spots, he only had one on his back that’s left a little scar. I do think sometimes that people forget that when really small kids get it, they don’t have the language ability to tell you how miserable they are or how painful it is.

      • maidmarian555

        Yes this. People here view CP as a mild inconvenience and don’t take it seriously. CP parties are a thing too. I think because it’s not on the vaccine schedule, generally nobody thinks CP is a danger at all. My son caught it at a baby and toddler group where the mum that brought the kids that spread it didn’t think to tell any of us until other parents started complaining their kids had CP and they thought they’d picked it up there. At the time, several of us mums were pregnant and I was fuming that she’d not told us we’d been exposed. But, ofc, I was the unreasonable one for being annoyed in that scenario. I wasn’t pissed her kids brought it there as they’re contagious before the spots appear so it wasn’t her fault it happened, I was pissed that she didn’t tell us all as soon as she knew. I don’t go there any more.

        • maidmarian555

          Also- if you have the vaccine done privately, it costs somewhere between £100-£200 for the couple of shots. That puts it financially out of reach of a lot of regular people. We were thinking about it but my son caught it before we’d had time to even look into it properly. We may do it for my daughter if she doesn’t pick it up out and about.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            How much does it cost to take a week off from work?

          • maidmarian555

            Well, yes. But we have better parental leave etc here and there’s also the fact that having your wages docked is different than having a couple hundred quid to hand ready to pay for something. Not everyone has that money up front.

  • Gretta

    Eleven years ago I sat sobbing because I couldn’t pump enough for
    my son to EBF. And I had to return to work. It wasn’t an option for us. Sobbing.

    Finally,I gave in and supplemented some with formula. And I felt like a failure.

    Now as I look at my gifted, incredibly talented, incredibly healthy son it seems so trivial. So long ago. So ridiculous. Because it was.

    What a stupid thing to feel…what a sad thing to feel… for no good reason.

    • Anna

      Yes. Something I think back on now is sitting in the office of a psychiatrist (working out whether I needed anti-ds or not) – a woman who makes $180 an hour, sobbing that I was a failure as a parent because I couldn’t breastfeed exclusively. I’m so embarrassed about that now. And crying in the formula aisle at the chemist.

    • AnnaPDE

      IKR? The thing that helped me to shed feelings of guilt over combo feeding my son was my paternal grandma’s “admission” that she’d supplemented both her children with formula. Looking at my dad, who’s pretty much excellent in whatever measure you choose to throw at him, the whole “formula makes kids stupid, fat and sick” idea suddenly turned from theoretically wrong to first-hand-knowledge bullshit.

    • Sue

      Time for my regularly re-told story: Because my mother came from a small town in southern Italy, I assumed that she must have breast-fed me forever, and that this was part of the cause of my excellent health (along with home-grown veggies and fruit). It was only when I had my own daughter that she told me that she was advised to put me on formula at 6 weeks because I cried a lot.

      I am a medical specialist and I have excellent health – I don’t even have a single dental filling.

      So, perhaps longer BF could have made my a particle physicist, but I don’t think I would be any happier or healthier.

    • MaineJen

      But it’s NOT a stupid thing to feel…not when everyone you meet is telling you “breast is best!” and you are treated like a charlatan for even considering using formula. Postpartum mothers are emotionally fragile, and our culture makes them feel that nothing they do is right. You’re not alone in having driven yourself crazy over breastfeeding!

  • Anna Lee

    The “Breast is Best” mantra definitely wreaked havoc on my mental health. I believe that breastfeeding contributed greatly to my postpartum depression & anxiety, and it took me nearly a year to untangle myself from all of the false teachings of the Au Naturel, Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Breasteeding, And La Leche League groups.

    Thank you for this blog! I feel that it is a good place to go to debunk the myths/mantras/guilt of natural parenting. It has really helped my recovery from PPD & PPA to read articles like this and to read similar-minded peoples’ comments.

  • Empress of the Iguana People

    Not exactly deranged, but all the breast is best crap certainly contributed to my depression. I knew it would have been a dreadful idea for me to bf kid 2, since I -still- cannot stand being touched on my chest. In fact, the repulsion is sabotaging my desire for sex. Damned annoying. And bfing is a lot more frequent than nookie for most people. Still, I find myself being apologetic. wth.

  • Ashley Ann

    “Derangement” is an unprofessional and ableist term.

    • Charybdis

      What would you suggest? Brainwashing? Indoctrination? Cultish? Unhinged? Inflexible? Bashit crazy?

      Perhaps the LLL, BFHI and other lactivists need to get off THEIR ableist high horse (all boobs will work and provide plenty of milk for a baby) and accept (as well as deal with) reality.

      • BeatriceC

        My unprofessional thoughts, as I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist: I don’t actually see the word “deranged” or “derangement” in the DSM-V, but the sort of behavior this post talks about seems to match up best with “Delusional Disorder”. Take my opinion for what it’s worth. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/72f5d93efd131de6727248025f10033e22a4c5e279be46010e632b27b2ad4c6a.jpg

        • fiftyfifty1

          Delusions are fixed false beliefs that are NOT congruent with the beliefs of the persons culture. In other words, even if the belief is false, if the belief is widely held in your culture it cannot be a delusion. For example, the ancient Greeks believed that Athena was born out of her father’s skull, but it wasn’t a delusion because that was an accepted part of their belief system. Likewise, in 2018 white middle and upper class America (and elsewhere) breastfeeding is considered in magical terms and women who don’t do it are told they are bad moms. So since this is a normal cultural belief, it’s not a delusion when women believe it.

          It really is disheartening how so many people on this blog seem so eager to take their minimal knowledge of psychology and psychiatry and decide who is and who is not crazy, delusional, mental ill, deranged, [insert some other stigmatizing label] etc.

          • BeatriceC

            Thank you for the clarification. I appreciate your willingness to explain where I was wrong. I could have explained myself better in that I was searching for an answer to the unasked question of “is this a better word”, in response to the comment that asked what word would be better, but I did not ask that in those words, so that is entirely my fault.

      • fiftyfifty1

        I like your suggestion of Indoctrintion. It puts the blame where it belongs: on those doing the indoctrination, rather than on the woman. Women get called unhinged and irrational enough already. And calling people Batshit Crazy is seriously offensive, stigmatizing, and yes ableist. I agree 100% that LLL, BFHI and other lactivists are ableist, but that doesn’t make it ok to be ableist in return to combat them. 2 wrongs don’t make a right.

    • crazy mama, PhD

      No snark intended: can you offer a replacement? The mental anxiety loop that Dr. T describes is a real thing, fed by the promotion of “natural” parenting, and it’s worth talking about. The quoted author describes herself as “deranged with guilt.”

      (FWIW, as someone with mental illness, I thought last week’s speculation on a physician’s mental health was inappropriate, but this doesn’t bother me.)

    • Who?

      Is it meant to be a professional term? For me it perfectly describes having way too much to handle and handling none of it, knowing that you have to handle it anyway, and being really, well, deranged by it all.

      When I’m feeling deranged I am not ‘able’; my facade gets very thin and I feel like one more thing will snap it. For me, the stressors have always slipped away/resolved/been dumped before I totally lose it but it is not a happy place.

    • Sue

      On the contrary – it’s the exaggeration of the benefits of breast milk and the resulting suffering of mothers that is unprofessional and ableist.

      Read the comments and understand how Dr Amy is correct.

  • The Kids Aren’t AltRight

    I am really dreading the lactation consultants at the hospital. My husband and I took the breastfeeding class at the hospital last weekend, and my husband thought they made breastfeeding sound like an mlm scam. They listed all these benefit and never once got into the size of the effects, let alone the strength of the evidence. Some of the advice I know is bunk, like to never use pacifiers. They also mentioned again and again that it was “free”, which they shouldn’t have to tell you if it is really free. All told, it was a 2 hour class with maybe 30 minutes of useful info about latch and pumping. If they could even acknowledge that there is a trade-off to breastfeeding at all and recognize the size of the positive effects and that other things matter too, women could actually be empowered to make the best choice for themselves and their families.

    Also, I may be the only person to feel this way, but the fact that the class and consultants are so obviously trying to manipulate me makes me want to do the exact opposite (which I know is foolish).

    • Mel

      You are not required to see lactation consultants at any hospital. Seriously – you have the right to refuse service from any medical professional even lactation consultants.

      When you go to the hospital for delivery, tell your bedside nurse that you do not want a visit from the lactation consultant and that you will ask the bedside nurse to schedule on if you change your mind. If that nurse refuses to chart that or tries to discuss it with you, ask to speak with the charge nurse. If that doesn’t work, calmly ask to speak to the patient ombudsman.

      If the lactation consultant shows up of their own accord – which might happen – you (or your husband) can calmly ask them to leave. If they don’t, call your nurse…the charge nurse….the patient ombudsman.

      I did that all the time with the lactation consultant in the NICU. I’d tell the front desk (where we signed in) to tell the lactation consultant that I did not want to meet her (because my sense of humor is odd I often amused the secretaries by trying to fit the sentence into “Green Eggs and Ham” Seuss. Then, I’d tell my son’s bedside nurse the same thing. I never had to call the charge nurse or ombudsman – but then the LC took off quickly once I realized she was scared of micropreemies …and tried to get her to coo over my son. Or I answered entirely in one-word sentences.

      • StephanieJR

        How is Spawn, nowadays? Is he old enough for mischief yet?

        • Mel

          He’s an adorable handful of an almost 18 month (14.5 month) baby. He’s pretty much caught up in OT and speech and at or ahead in problem-solving and socio-emotional stages. He’s got a modified sign for “All finished!” where he’ll hold both hands in front of him outspread with his thumbs down. He recognizes and responds with smiles or frowns to the signs for “more food”, “drink”, “all finished” and “sleep”. He says the word “Mamama” for me and is working really hard at saying “Cat”. Spawn’s starting to protest vigorously with real baby crocodile tears when I won’t give him something he wants or *gasp* I won’t play with him right then and there. Spawn’s got a few month lag in gross motor skills, but none of his doctors are worried because he’s not showing any signs of having neurological or muscular problems. His PT says that when he decides he wants to walk, he’ll figure it out in a hurry like he’s done all of his other skills. He’s army-crawling around the house and working at getting up onto his knees for crawling. The trick right now is that he crosses his ankles to get some resistance to pull onto his knees – but he doesn’t know to uncross his ankles. He loves playing peek-a-boo, patty-cake, and chasing after me or a broom or a mop on the floor. Everything that is in a vertical stack should be demolished and he’s able to stack one block on top of the other. He grabs books and “reads” to us. Sometimes I can get him to “tell me a story” while I crochet. About once a week, he skips his afternoon nap for either a “business meeting” with the animal wall stickers (which get surprisingly heated at times!) complete with pauses for the animals to respond or a “Hootie the Baby-Fish” concert where he happily hoots and yowls at the top of his lungs until I give in and get him out of the crib. Oh, and he pulls a dining room chair next to his high chair, collects his xylophone or ukelele and drags them into his “fort”.

          He’s a sweetie and we are so lucky to have him!

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            lol, that one will keep you on your toes to a scary degree once he masters walking. I’ve one or two of those myself.

          • StephanieJR

            I strive to be as awesome as Spawn one day.

          • Amazed

            He sounds amazing!

      • The Kids Aren’t AltRight

        Thank you for the advice! Another complication is that my mom, my mother-in-law, and my sister-in-law all worship at the natural Mama alter, and I will be passive aggressived to death by them if I don’t see the lactation consultant (my mil recommended a naturopathic one, which sounds like the worst possible thing). I have already had a lot of “So you’re returning to work? Do you think having someone else raise your baby is safe? I see you have registered for a crib, do you really want your baby by herself all night?” Type bullshit, and my nice, Midwestern girl socialization is very strong, so I am really trying to build up some courage before the big day.

        • swbarnes2

          I never understood this argument…kids go to school 30 hours a week starting at age 6, why isn’t that counted as having someone else raise them?

          And having a life outside of your immediate family…it’s kind of a life skill.

          • The Kids Aren’t AltRight

            But babies are natural and magic!

            Actually the fact that my mom did not have a life outside her kids was a pretty terrible burden to grow up with, so I don’t feel a lick of guilt about daycare. Not sure how to explain that to my mom though…

          • Cartman36

            The way I look at it, our number one responsibility as a mother is to provide for our kids. By staying in the workforce and keeping my skills current, I am making sure I can continue to provide for them even if something were to happen to my husband.

            Also, I HIGHLY recommend the book “The Anthropology of Childhood: Cherubs, Chattel, Changelings” (https://www.amazon.com/Anthropology-Childhood-Cherubs-Chattel-Changelings/dp/0521716039/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1527252637&sr=8-2&keywords=the+anthropology+of+childhood+cherubs%2C+chattel%2C+changelings). It helped me see that the idea that children are precious gifts and we must upend our lives to cater to them and to allow them to have an “extended childhood” is a very western idea. There are a lot of places in the world where people would LOL at how much time we spend doing pintrest crafts with our five year olds while their five year olds are already raising animals for food or sale.

          • I don’t think it’s necessarily an East/West divide. The idea that children shouldn’t be contributing to the family’s survival as soon as they can carry a slop bucket or change a spindle is a very new one in the West, too. It’s barely a century old. Newer, in some places in the US and Europe.

            At the same time, I don’t know whether NCB and breastfeeding mania has infected Japan, South Korea, and China, for example, but they have much more intense parenting than we do for a variety of reasons.

        • seenthelight

          “nice” southern girl here – try the dead stare if they’re in person, and/or one-word answers. Calling out passive-aggressivity can be fun, too. “If you have a problem with the way I’m doing this, tell me so that we can have an actual discussion about it. If you’re not going to do that, then don’t say anything else but ‘cute baby, can I hold it,’ because this passive-aggressive stuff is for the birds.” Then they’ll go talk about you behind your back, and everyone wins, because you don’t have to hear it and they feel graciously put-upon, but they can tell themselves you’re just hormonal or something.

          “Yeah, I’m not going to do that” is something my mother in law has grown quite used to hearing from me. Drives her nuts, makes me so very happy inside.

          Also, your screen name is amazing. Let’s hope it pans out that way irl.

          • The Kids Aren’t AltRight

            I have been testing “I will keep an open mind and see what works?”, But that may be playing their game too much. I like the one word answers; it doesn’t give them much to work with.

            I also hope my nym is true! We have a lot of damage to undo, and we will (unfairly) be depending a lot on the kids to so it!

          • Who?

            The trouble with saying that your mind is open gives them licence to try and close it. You say ‘open mind’ they hear ‘undecided’.

            I’m all for thanking people for sharing their thoughts/feelings/knowledge. Then nothing. Smile sweetly, pass the cake/biscuits/whatever, freshen up their tea/coffee/gin, note the washing needs pegging, dishwasher needs emptying, floor needs sweeping or whatever. Get them doing something actually useful.

        • Mel

          I had that same socialization. Leaving it behind has been magical for my mental health.

          “Do you think having someone else raise your baby is safe?”

          “Yes. And who knows? She may learn how to communicate with without being passive aggressive!”

          “Do you really want your baby by herself all night?”

          “Well, they don’t have an human version of a calf-feeding station yet, so I’m going to be trucking in there every few hours at first. Since no one in our immediate family enjoys sleeping with any human contact, I’m not going to torture her unduly.”

          Ironically, my biggest help was my son’s premature birth and medical complications. My mom-in-law is one of those people who if you don’t do a baby care thing smoothly (think having to resettle an older baby in a high chair before snapping them in) will say “Don’t you know how to put a baby in a high chair?!?!?” like you’ve offended God and all of humanity. I take a deep breath and say “Nope. But I can place an NG tube in a pinch so we’ll be fine.”

        • kilda

          tell them you plan to start neglecting her early, to help her build character.

          • The Kids Aren’t AltRight

            I have said that I plan to practice detachment parenting

          • Roadstergal

            OK, I love you.

            (Tangentially, my dad made the crib I was ‘neglected’ in as a baby; he was a damn good woodworker up through the time the Parkinson’s hit harder. As an adult, it gave me happies to see it.)

          • kfunk937

            My grandad made one for his children (then passed down to my parents) modelled after a circus train-car for the lions. My very earliest memory is looking out through the bars of my ‘cage” before I figured out how to escape. I also get the happies to see the polaroids.

        • Gretta

          You are the Mom now. Your child. Your family. Your decision.

        • guest

          I am the breadwinner in my family and was still asked all the time if I really thought I wanted to go back to work. Wouldn’t it be so hard to leave my baby? Well, maybe, but it’s not like there was much of a choice if we wanted to have food and shelter and clothing and such.

      • kilda

        the Dr Seuss thing is awesome.

        • Mel

          I do not want to see an LC consultant in a box…or wearing socks….or with ham hocks.

          • Nick Sanders

            Hit with rocks?

      • Sue

        Your Dr Seuss routine is brilliant!

        “Not on a train! Not in a tree!
        Not in a car! Lactivists, Let me be!”

      • I work at a hospital, so I’m ashamed to as, what on earth is a patient ombudsman?

        • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

          They are sometimes called Patient and Guest Relations or Patient Advocates. They are supposed to be the office you can make a complaint to and they act as your liaison with different departments in the hospital. Sometimes they help out of town family find local accommodations, or help find patients a translator:

          They can sometimes also help find sign language interpreters, oral interpreters and TTYs for Deaf patients or family.

          • Ahh!!! Yes here they are Patient and Guest Relations.

        • Mel

          The other term for them is “patient advocate”. Most states require hospitals to have at least one on call at all times. It’s pretty much a trained mediator who can help everyone calm down and talk to each other.

    • crazy mama, PhD

      “they made breastfeeding sound like an mlm scam”—ha! yes!

      At the end of my hospital’s breastfeeding class, they asked us to fill out feedback forms. I wrote something along the lines of “Don’t spend so much time telling us how amazing breastfeeding is. We signed up for this class, so we’re obviously already interested in it.”

      And echoing Mel: you don’t have to see an LC, and you can tell them to go away if they show up.

    • seenthelight

      My first was no big deal with breast or bottle, whenever, wherever. My second… Breast only (she combo fed in the hospital because I’d read here about how easily they starve, but when my milk came in she refused all bottles), never in public because there were too many distractions for her to be able to concentrate – in fact, I’d have to tell big sis and Dad when she was about to nurse so that they wouldn’t walk past the room, because the moment she heard footsteps she was done eating – guess she wanted to be part of the action, always, and mostly just nursing, little interest in the food I started pushing at four months. Thank goodness she weaned at fifteen months, which was just happenstance because we’d gone to the pool and came back at naptime, so I whipped them out and her horror at the chlorine taste and cold temp turned her off forever! She’s three now and just recently finally decided her dad was acceptable. Who knows if that would have been the same if I’d never breastfed her, but I strongly suspect it would. All that to say, if I had more kids, I would never ever even offer the boob, and I’d try not to even be the main one to give the bottle for the first few weeks or longer. And I’d thoroughly enjoy telling everyone at the hospital that breastfeeding can go to hell. But that’s just me.

      • guest

        My daughter would only use the nipples from the hospital which we discovered when we got home. My husband had to call the nurses station and ask if we could pick some up to get us through until the ones we ordered came in. She’s 4 now and just as particular about everything in life. Also, she was exclusively formula fed and my husband is the stay at home parent and the only people she liked until she was 2 were her grandma’s and me. If someone even dared to look at her she would start crying and carrying on. She still regularly reminds my husband that she only loves him when mommy isn’t home.
        My first child was very easy going about everything and still is unless you try to mess with his Minecraft scheduled play time.

    • iv

      In my breastfeeding class, the consultant told us that milk is full of stem cells which then help finish building baby’s organs. I was having a sip of water at that moment and I almost spit it out. I wanted to jump out of my seat and say “you are full of s**t”… but then I am an introvert so I just kept it to myself.

      • Mel

        “That’s why kids who drink cow’s milk form human-cow chimera organs!”

        I don’t know that I would have said anything then either – but damn, I would have had fun with tat.

        • Imagine what the organs of babies raised on soy formula are like. It’s an Anne Geddes hellscape.

          • AnnaPDE

            And elemental formula — a bag of unconnected Lego blocks?

          • Mel

            Oh, the horrors! 🙂

      • The Kids Aren’t AltRight

        Imagine the fit lactivists would throw if doctors lied so brazenly.

    • AnnaPDE

      That is such an accurate comparison, it’s scary!

    • Gretta

      My son spent a few hours in the NICU immediately following birth. During that time, the doctors made the decision to give him a little formula.

      The lactation consultant came to see me in the room (unannounced) and flipped out when she heard about the formula and started telling me that I might have trouble breastfeeding now and….and also something about how the doctors might have caused his kidneys to fail and that “they just don’t know anything about this”.

      My husband told her to leave.

      Now, besides being annoyed, I ignored her. This was my third kid. I knew enough to ignore her. I successfully breastfed for a year FYI. My son’s kidneys were fine.

      But I just kept thinking how that would have affected me if it had been my first kid. When I was so scared, and seeking advice and wanting to do everything perfect and right. What she said would have devastated and terrified me at a most vulnerable, sacred time.

      So here’s what I think: Sure, talk to a ladtation consultant if you want. Learn about breastfeeding. Of course, it’s a wonderful thing. I loved nursing my babies. But don’t necessarily take their word as gospel. Seek counsel from many trusted sources (including your and your baby’s doctors!) and make the best decisions for you, your family and your baby.

  • momofone

    I was able to breastfeed successfully–and I still developed Breastfeeding Derangement Syndrome. When I wasn’t able to produce with the pump anymore, I bought a can of formula as a last (last) resort, and every time I saw it I cried, knowing that I would absolutely be failing my son if we had to use it. I stopped pumping at ten months and continued breastfeeding until 21 months, and struggled almost the whole time with the idea that if I veered from breastfeeding I was failing him. When I look back at how crazy I made myself, not to mention my husband, I wish I had combo fed from the beginning. I think we all would have been the better for it, and I think I would have been able to enjoy so much more and worry so much less.

    • Merrie

      In hindsight I was a little obsessive with my older two. Breastfeeding did come pretty easily to me but it required so much ongoing attention to maintain. Mostly because I worked… if I had been a SAHM I think it would have been less of a thing. I finally decided to fudge the “recommended” number of pumping sessions with baby #3 because I was so over it, and then of course of all my kids he turned out to have a whale of an appetite and my choices were pump way more or start combo feeding. I picked the second of those two choices and eventually quit pumping at work entirely. Now at 10 months he gets primarily formula, and I don’t feel bad about it because 1. I exclusively breastfed 2 and I think it’s overrated and 2. I have a million other things to worry about and this one doesn’t rank.

      Although I do have to say I miss the ease of not having to fix bottles and estimate how much he will want and either go back to fix more or dump out unfinished bottles, etc.. That was my main perk for continuing to breastfeed after a while.