Dear breastfeeding apologist …

I'm SORRY - message in blue envelope

I read your piece Dear Fed Is Best … and I am so sorry.

I am so sorry for your poor baby who suffered terribly as a result of your cult-like worship of breastfeeding.

My first few days with my baby were actually glorious in the moment…

Our bubble was violently burst on her fifth day of life. The midwife came to weigh my beautiful baby and she had lost 20% of her birth weight… I was asked to give my nipple a squeeze and when milk surfaced I was told ‘Oh. You’ve got loads’… Nevertheless, they thought it best to ring the hospital. Apparently, the paediatrician was not worried and decided that we should give her another 3 days to see what happened.

And so they left us. For another three days…

Why didn’t you just feed her formula??!!

I am so sorry that being a breastfeeding apologist has robbed you and your fellow lactivists of simple human compassion.

You were well aware that 20% weight loss is dangerous; that’s why you called the hospital, isn’t it? It’s as if you valued ideological purity above your daughter’s wellbeing as she was obviously failing to thrive.

Instead:

We ended up in hospital when she lost more weight. I watched the doctors tell me that they were deeply concerned about my baby, that they would need to transfer her to another unit for paediatric intensive care, that they would need to send a doctor and a nurse in the ambulance with her so we would need to make our own way as there wasn’t room for us. I watched the ambulance blaze past me on the motorway, blue lights flashing and siren blaring. Being separated from my precious girl was torturous.

There were moments of horrific trauma that week in intensive care. Like when they told us that they needed to re-hydrate her at a very specific speed and that if they got that wrong she could be left brain damaged. Or the time that her drip tissued and left blisters the size of her fist all along her arm, because somebody had given her a drip with potassium in. After that there were two hours of hell as the doctor tried desperately and repeatedly to replace her drip…

I am terribly sorry for her starvation and her traumatic hospitalization since you could have easily prevented it with formula but instead let her suffer until she was nearly dead.

But that’s not the only reason I am sorry.

You write:

I can only reason that for somebody to have launched a campaign such as yours they must have a story as harrowing as mine.

I am so sorry that you lack the insight to understand that the only reason your baby didn’t die or sustain permanent brain damage is LUCK; other mothers were not so lucky and now must live with empty arms.

There are stories that are MORE harrowing than yours and it baffles me that you don’t recognize the difference between a baby who recovers fully and one who never recovers or even dies.

You boast:

In a desperate attempt to ensure that this could never happen to us again, I learnt everything I could and sought support before having my next baby. And miraculously, this one thrived on breastfeeding alone from the very beginning. Nothing about my boobs changed between my first and second baby. My physiology remained exactly the same. And yet, I was able to feed my second baby totally and completely. The only thing that changed was the amount of knowledge and support that I had. Nothing more.

I am so sorry that you don’t understand that while your personal situation may have had a preventable cause, insufficient breastmilk is a very real biological phenomenon.

Breastfeeding, like fertility and pregnancy, has a significant failure rate as a result of known biological pathophysiology. No amount of support will reverse the effect of polycystic ovary disease or insufficient glandular tissue. It reflects remarkable ignorance or insensitivity or both to ignore that reality. It’s like claiming that because you had difficulty conceiving the first time and no difficulty the second, infertility doesn’t really exist.

You write:

Am I glad that in our time of crisis, there was substitute milk available to us that helped keep my baby alive . . . of course I am! But do I wish I’d formula fed her from the start and never put her to the breast? Absolutely not! …

I am so sorry that your daughter’s suffering turned you into an apologist for breastfeeding. Instead of recognizing that exclusive breastfeeding nearly killed your daughter, you continue to offer cult-like devotion.

I want to believe that your motivation in writing this piece is pure and that it is your desperatation to deny your own role in nearly killing your baby that makes you so insensitive to those who were not as lucky as you.

But then you write this:

I want to believe that your motivation is pure and that you are merely trying to spare other women from enduring what you have.

Advocates of Fed Is Best from the founders on down to individual women have given you NO REASON to question their motivation yet you do so anyway.

Why?

Because you can’t bear to acknowledge that breastfeeding isn’t perfect and that aggressive breastfeeding promotion doubles the rate of newborn hospital readmission, and leads to brain damage and death from dehydration, hypoglycemia, kernicterus and falling from or smothering in maternal hospital beds.

Ultimately, I am so sorry that being a breastfeeding apologist has robbed you and your fellow lactivists of simple human compassion.

Only someone who lack compassion could have written a piece like yours.

  • NoLongerCrunching

    Is she deleting comments? There are only two, both of which are basically “you go, sister!”

  • Tiffany Aching

    I do actually think she was given horrible advice. What kind of pediatrician says “let’s wait a few days?” after a 20% weight loss? What is the problem with supplementing with formula? I was told to supplement by the midwife because my son (who had only lost 2.5% of his weight) was stagnating instead of gaining his weigh back at day 6. With a 20% weight loss she would have sent us directly to the hospital.
    I really think that more mothers would still breastfeed at 6 months (assuming that’s an important goal, which it isn’t in my opinion) if they hadn’t been led to believe that breastfeeding was and all or nothing kind of thing – that all is lost if you give just one bottle. I would think that waiting for a baby to starve before giving her a bottle is indeed a sure way to make her give up on the boob – this is how the lactivist dogma becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of waiting for things to worsen “diving straight into the canned tins” is the reason why I still breastfeed my 5 months old.

  • Gene
    • BeatriceC

      Well, holy shit. Is the US delegation just being ornery like with the rest of the US delegations because Trump is an idiot, or are they really actually standing up for not starving babies?

      • Gene

        Sadly, it’s most likely the former.

  • Sheven

    Looks like my original comment got swallowed up. Notice how she quotes 81% of women initiate breastfeeding at the hospital but then suddenly switches categories to only 1% of women *exclusively* breastfeed by six months. This is evidence, she says, that women aren’t getting enough support and we shouldn’t just shove a bottle at them and pretend it’s fine.

    And we’re supposed to pretend that every one of those 81% of women wanted to exclusively breastfeed even though the statistics show no such thing. I hate it because it’s a lie, and I also hate it because it’s another example of them moving the goalposts. Breastfeeding rates go up and suddenly it’s not enough to breastfeed. You have to exclusively breastfeed.

    • When I was in the UK in the 70s, the vast majority of women breastfed in hospital, largely because they were shamed into it by the staff. But when I made my daily home visits as a district midwife from dischage on day 2PP through day 10, barely a quarter were still breastfeeding. Never mind the percentage at 6 months.

    • Merrie

      It also seems like a problem with definitions of terms. Lots of people introduce solids between 4-6 months, so if your baby is breastfed and gets a few solids, but doesn’t get formula, at 6 months, that doesn’t count as “exclusively breastfeeding by six months”.

      • Glia

        My daughter got a bit of formula, mostly before my milk came in. I used those little two ounce ready to feed bottles, and I’d guess she MIGHT have consumed the equivalent of one of those, total. After that, my milk came in with loads to spare, and she never had formula again, though I had planned to combo feed. It’s like 3000:1 breast milk to formula, but I can’t say she’s “exclusively breast fed”. Even before she started solids around 5 months (with encouragement from an LC, no less–I am lucky enough to have a great one!)

        • Merrie

          Yes, a friend’s son got a bottle of formula in the hospital and went on to breastfeed for something like 3 years… I’m sure that bottle of formula totally threw a monkey wrench into nursing. Eyeroll.

          • Thiel

            Heck, I was exclusively formula fed for the first three or four months due to medications my mom was put on immediately after my birth. Once it became clear the meds weren’t doing anything worthwhile, she went off them and I proceeded to breastfeed long enough that I have reasonably clear memories of nursing. Clearly those months of formula did irreparable damage to the “breastfeeding relationship.” /s

  • Amazed

    BTW, I’m horrified that this woman is a doula. I bet that she doesn’t strictly keep to her supportive part alone. Cue a string of starving babies because bitch provider thinks that nursing is a cure-it-all and most important of all.

    Yes, I said bitch provider. As I’ve said, it’s bad form to say that a mother who was unlucky and made a choice that killed or almost killed her baby was not just a victim but probably an accomplice in inflicting this on other babies but it’s the truth. I recognize that this woman is in denial and probably thinks her advice – breastfeed, breastfeed, BREASTFEED – is the best but she’s still an accomplice in crime in her role as a doula. The babies she’s going to help starving won’t care about their healthcare provider’s unresolved issues. Their hunger won’t change.

    • PeggySue

      Plus, if she is giving breastfeeding advice, let alone pressuring clients to breastfeed, she is waaaaayyyy out of the scope of practice for a doula.

      • Amazed

        Yeah, that’s what I said. But when has this detail stopped them from dissiminating Teh Truth?

  • Amazed

    Hmm, let’s see: attempting to breastfeed: 20 percent weight loss, hospital, violent treatment. Screaming and anger because of hunger, most likely.

    My friend’s pre-emie: she tried to preserve her milk supply, didn’t work out, baby came home on formula. Currently doubled her weight from her first day at home and added some more. Just three days ago, I put her slightly down with her feet on the sofa so I could get a better hold of her – and she tried to run down the sofa the moment she felt it underneath. Wah-wah, screaming and anger because she wanted to do it fast and she couldn’t.

    This woman wants to tell me that her own scenario is the better one? How delusional can one be?

    • Amazed

      Oh, and she once again tried to latch – did latch – onto me. I said, “Good reflexes, kiddo, but the wrong boob, alas!” Her mom laughed and said, “Why, you mean that there IS a right one in this house? There isn’t!” Well, in fact, there was. There are two right nipples there – the one of the bottle and the one of the pacifier. And let me tell you, kiddo can distinguish between the two kinds of rubber on the spot and lets you know which one is preferred.

      Nipple confusion, my ass.

  • VanessaB

    Playing devil’s advocate here but she mentions being told to breastfeed 20 minutes every four hours. Now I didn’t breastfeed but shouldn’t breastfeeding be on demand. Did she receive incorrect information that caused her baby to starve?

    • Young CC Prof

      It sounds like she wasn’t given much of any guidance on how much to breastfeed. Which fits with the general pattern of gross medical neglect towards her first child in the first few days.

  • Gene

    Twenty percent! It’s as if a 150lb adult lost THIRTY POUNDS in a few days. And what pediatrician in their right mind heard 20% weight loss from birth weight and said, “Meh, let’s wait a few days”? I admit for any weight loss greater than 10% of birth weight.

    Another thing that medical professionals notice here, but mom doesn’t seem to, is that her baby wasn’t just admitted to the hospital, but needed to be transferred to an INTENSIVE CARE UNIT. And they transferred not just with a nurse or paramedic, but the ICU doc (possibly fellow) as well. I transfer lots of kids from my ED (we don’t have an ICU), and only a small number of those are transferred with a doc in attendance. (Not a knock against excellent ICU nurses and paramedics). Though this might be the norm in the UK, it is not in the US. And the ICU course was rocky as well with complications like IV infiltration.

    Most of the kids I admit for dehydration in the first week of life do NOT need to go to the ICU. She doesn’t seem the realize that her daughter was a fingernail away from death. And formula at home could have prevented all of that. And I wonder how old her daughter is now. Some subtle brain damage from hypoglycemia and hypernatremia won’t be evident until school age.

  • Gene

    Twenty percent! It’s as if a 150lb adult lost THIRTY POUNDS in a few days. And what pediatrician in their right mind heard 20% weight loss from birth weight and said, “Meh, let’s wait a few days”? I admit for any weight loss greater than 10% of birth weight.

    Another thing that medical professionals notice here, but mom doesn’t seem to, is that her baby wasn’t just admitted to the hospital, but needed to be transferred to an INTENSIVE CARE UNIT. And they transferred not just with a nurse or paramedic, but the ICU doc (possibly fellow) as well. I transfer lots of kids from my ED (we don’t have an ICU), and only a small number of those are transferred with a doc in attendance. (Not a knock against excellent ICU nurses and paramedics). Though this might be the norm in the UK, it is not in the US. And the ICU course was rocky as well with complications like IV infiltration.

    Most of the kids I admit for dehydration in the first week of life do NOT need to go to the ICU. She doesn’t seem the realize that her daughter was a fingernail away from death. And formula at home could have prevented all of that. And I wonder how old her daughter is now. Some subtle brain damage from hypoglycemia and hypernatremia won’t be evident until school age.

    • Empliau

      That’s why I wonder if the midwife gave the pediatrician all the details. Some midwives have a powerful breastfeeding agenda; every pediatrician I have ever heard of wants to keep the child alive.

  • NoLongerCrunching

    Your breasts’ physiology did change between the first and second baby. It is well known that second time mothers generally have more milk than first-timers, due to increased tissue growth with every pregnancy. Also…20% is horrifying. I’m so glad your daughter is ok. Sincerely, an IBCLC who supports Fed is Best.

    • Empliau

      20% is *before* the additional three days. (Although in the full piece she says “over the next week…”) How the hell long did her daughter starve before she ended up in hospital?

    • AnotherOor

      My milk took 5 days to come in for my first. For my second, it was kinda…still there. I imagine something similar happened to this woman.

    • Emilie Bishop

      My son lost 11% in 3 days. I was dumbstruck when I learned this. How in the world this woman hesitated to take action in the face of 20% is something I can’t fathom. She is beyond lucky her daughter is alive and healthy.

    • Glia

      Exactly! My “education” on BF didn change between when I weaned my son at 15 months and when my daughter was born, except that I became less purity-minded about supplementation, but it was still MUCH easier to feed her than him. More milk, baby that was born knowing how. My physiology changed, and she was a different baby.

  • rosewater1

    Dear breastfeeding apologist,

    I’m sad for you and sad for your child. Both of you have suffered. As misguided as you are…you don’t deserve that.

    I am sorry for you that you lack the courage and the moral fiber to admit, “yes, I made a mistake. No, this didn’t need to happen. No formula is not inferior.”

    I hope that one day you grow enough to realize how sad and deluded you are. I hope if you have a friend or family member faced with this, that they make better choices than you do. I hope they don’t look to you for guidance.

    Breastfeeding apologist, I can see that you love your children. Awful things are done by people in the name of love. I pray you stop at this. I pray that you don’t love any more children as you do yours. You may just love them to death.

  • Empliau

    The disingenuousness is staggering.

    “But do I wish I’d formula fed her from the start and never put her to the breast? Absolutely not! …” News flash, numpty: no one said you should never put her to the breast. But when your baby is slowly starving, give her formula. It’s not a goddamned either/or. Supplementation is a real and good thing. I am so sick of these straw men that I feel like the Wicked Witch of the West – I want to lob me some fireballs!

    • FormerPhysicist

      I wish I could upvote this a million times! “It’s not a goddamned either/or.”

  • swbarnes2

    The only thing that changed was the amount of knowledge and support that I had. Nothing more.

    Umm…it was a different baby, who might have been better at suckling.

    (Assuming the midwife’s quick squeeze was an accurate way to assess milk production; it obviously was shit at determining how much milk the baby was taking in)

    • crazy mama, PhD

      Right!?!? Both of my kids were capable nursers, but #2 was very obviously more efficient at it, taking in roughly the same amount in half the time.

      • swbarnes2

        Her concern is that she be able to truthfully say “My body did everything right”. She is glad she didn’t do formula, because that would have been admitting personal defeat. The welfare of her child simply is not a factor in how she judges her parenting.

    • Emilie Bishop

      My first thought. My son and I had it coming from both angles–my IGT and his inability to latch doomed all breastfeeding from the start. But even if the issue is one-sided, the baby is absolutely in danger and needs food ASAP. What is so hard about this???

    • Anna

      This! In all the “support and knowledge” noone told her that breastfeeding is a two player game. My physiologybdidnt change between babies 1 and 2 and 4 – baby 4 had a different shaped mouth and poor suck.

  • aurora

    So lack of so called “support” caused your baby to almost die? I think it was the lack of FOOD!! I can’t with these yo-yos!

    • MaineJen

      “Formula and doctors saved the life of my starving baby. Therefore……………formula and doctors are evil!!1! All I needed was more support.” Really? Really??

  • MaineJen

    Did she actually think her story would serve to *encourage* exclusive breastfeeding to the exclusion of reason? Because, to anyone with any brain at all, it rather encourages the opposite.

    • Empliau

      She suffers from the delusion that she is the hero of her story. But my greatest ire is reserved for the medical professionals – I am amazed that a pediatrician would recommend THREE DAYS (sorry for the yelling) of waiting for a baby who has lost 20% of birth weight. Actually not amazed – I am appalled and enraged. IANAD, but even I know that’s dangerous.

      And for the medical professionals – surely it’s possible for one’s breasts to function differently with different children? I think I’ve read about women who had to supplement with a first child and had abundant milk with subsequent children, and vice versa.

      • MaineJen

        Yeah, news flash: it’s easier to breastfeed your second kid, because you’ve done it before!! Astounding, right?

      • Empliau

        ETA: I mean the medical professionals in the first half of the story and not the ones who saved her dying baby. And of course we have only her word for it that the midwife told the pediatrician how serious the weight loss was. There are brilliant and ethical midwives (the CNMs who treated me were) but we have heard too many sad examples of midwives prioritizing a natural-birth-and-breastfeeding agenda over the lives of women and babies.

      • maidmarian555

        My son (once we got past the, frankly, horrible first week) was an enthusiastic breastfeeder. My daughter was ambivalent at best and much preferred a bottle. She flat-out refused to nurse from my right boob at about 4 months and we struggled through a few more weeks before I gave up and just put her on the bottle full-time. She didn’t like that she had to keep her head still to BF. That was it. And I wasn’t forcing her to do something she wasn’t happy doing. Babies can absolutely have preferences and make decisions, particularly when it comes to how they are fed. It’s one of the only things they can properly exercise autonomy on and if they just aren’t that into BF, there’s not really that much you can do (unless you’re cool with starving them, which is not a thing I’ve ever been into personally tbh). My supply was abundant with my son, it dwindled rapidly with my daughter. I also spent several weeks with one enormo boob and one regular one, which was not that awesome if I’m honest.

        • Empliau

          Ouch.

      • Anna

        Doulas rarely tell the truth, the whole truth about what Drs said.

  • Mel

    I am seeing red.

    I wish to God that there had been a magical potion that I could have fed my son to prevent his struggles in the NICU. I’d have done anything to get my hands on that potion – ANYTHING – and never regretted it.

    In terms of harrowing – well, there are always people who lack a sense of perspective.

    • Empliau

      Your Spawn is amazing. Tales of Spawn are the only thing I prefer to cowbell!

    • demodocus

      My younger child was only in the NICU for a few days, and much of that time with minimal need for various ivs and what not. Seeing ivs in your baby’s tiny veins is bad enough, but at least my kiddo was well hydrated. Poor mites.

    • Mimc

      That’s what I was thinking too. If I could have done something as simple as feeding my son formula to avoid having to have a tube inserted through the side of his chest Id have done it in a heartbeat.

  • New Mom

    OT question:
    I’m 38yo I have 2 kids, 2yrs and 6mo, both were C-sections. My husband just got a job offer in Canada. If we were to have baby #3 in Canada, would I be considered high-risk? Would I have another C-section? Can anyone tell me about maternity care in Canada? Does it depend on the province?
    Thank you

    • Daleth

      Try reaching out to the Choosing Cesarean: A Natural Birth Plan people (Dr. Magnus Murphy and Pauline McDonagh Hull). They have websites and a Facebook group, and since Dr. Murphy is in Canada they know a lot about how things work up there.

      Main website:
      http://www.choosingcesarean.com/

      The Facebook group is I think called the Cesarean by Choice Awareness Network. It has Canadian members.

      Best of luck!

    • crazy mama, PhD

      You would be considered advanced maternal age, as in the US; I don’t know what that means in terms of care except that they will likely offer more genetic screenings.

      You may already know this, but a heads-up: the provinces typically have a residency waiting period before you are covered by provincial health care. (e.g., you have to live in Ontario for 3 months before you’re eligible for OHIP.)

    • AnotherOor

      It’s typical in Canada to do repeat caesarians after you’ve had one. If that’s what you want, you should have no problem at all getting it.

    • Allie

      After 2 CS, you will have a hard time finding a doctor willing to let you do anything other than repeat CS. My SIL had an emergency CS with her first and the doctor was more than happy to schedule a CS for her second.

    • ChickyDeeS

      I’m in Alberta, and there may be some regional differences, especially between provinces but here’s my anecdote. I have several friends/acquaintances who have tried VBACs (none successful) or considered a VBAC, and it seems the providers’ attitudes/responses ranged from: “well, it’s reasonably safe to try, so if you feel the need to try, we can” to “you have a very low chance of a VBAC being successful, but if you really want, you can try” to “it’s never going to work and not very safe” depending on the situation. With my sister-in-law, they were quite happy to schedule her repeat sections.

  • Empliau

    Why do so many breastfeeding activists treat formula a a zero sum game? She could have breastfed her daughter the whole time since breastfeeding was important to her, but supplemented to make sure her daughter’s weight was stable and healthy.

    This is where I make my confession: my daughter, I believe, was hungry on her second night of life. She cried inconsolably all night and nothing, not even the nurses on the floor, could console her for long. They professed confusion as to why she was crying, and since I was nursing, I didn’t know she might be hungry. I think I was among the lucky – my milk must have come in the next day, as she quieted down, and at her subsequent appointments was gaining weight. She never had weight loss after the first day or two and never had jaundice. Still, reading here makes me think that she must have been hungry – the colic didn’t set in for another two weeks or so. I shudder, looking back, that I left my baby hungry even for one night.

    • Sullivan ThePoop

      Because breastfeeding advocates lie to them.

    • Emilie Bishop

      I’m sorry for both you and your daughter. You were lied to and mistreated by your care providers, you did nothing wrong, and you are not alone.

    • Young CC Prof

      You’re probably right. A huge percentage of EBF babies spend most of their second night crying inconsolably, because their digestive systems are awake enough to really be hungry, but the milk isn’t in yet. Lactivists claim that this is a mysterious phenomenon called “second night syndrome,” conveniently ignoring the fact that generously fed babies rarely suffer from it.

      Many medical professionals in the postpartum ward honestly believe this is normal and natural, but it is in fact preventable. Mothers deserve the truth!

      • Empliau

        I think I have never been less happy to know I’m probably right. And I’m old.

    • Mila Bacchini

      I’m so sorry you two were treated this way. I was in the same shoes with my baby, except after maybe three hours of crying an experienced midwife saw me on the verge of starting to cry myself and brought me this tiny 10 ml bottle. It took just half of that to settle baby for the rest of the night, then my milk came in and we were both happy to breastfeed exclusively. It wasn’t you, the hospital staff left your daughter hungry for the night.

    • Kelly

      Mine did that too and I nursed her every hour until the nurse found out and offered to take her for me and asked if she could have formula. She brought her back in the morning with a full stomach and asleep. My colostrum must have run out for my very hungry child (she ended up drinking almost 40 ozs of breastmilk a day by three months) and I am grateful to the nurse for helping us out.

    • Tiffany Aching

      I wonder if that’s what happened with my baby too – I thought he was gassy (in all fairness he did fart a lot) and wanted to be held (he did calm down in my arms). In retrospect I should have called the nurses and asked them for some formula but I thought babies were supposed to cry and even with all I knew I didn’t think he might be hungry.

    • Glia

      My first was EXACTLY the same experience, down to it not ocurring to me that he might be hungry. Second baby, I had formula with me, and refused to let her be hungry.

  • Mari

    Genuine question – is this a real article or a parody?

    • Mari

      OMG, just seen the link. I genuinely wonder how some people have made it this far in life with such a limited grasp of reality.