What do natural childbirth and breastfeeding advocates have in common with teenage boys? Both lie to women to control them.

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If gynecologists had a nickel for every time a teenage girl told them some version of the following, they’d be billionaires:

My boyfriend said I couldn’t get pregnant if we had sex standing up…
My boyfriend said I couldn’t get pregnant if I hadn’t had my first period…
My boyfriend said I couldn’t get pregnant if we did it during a full moon…

Most adult women recognizes such manipulation for what it is: lies told to convince women to cede control of ther bodies to young men. The young men may even believe what they say, but that doesn’t change the fact that their goal is to satisfying their own needs regardless of the harm that may come to the young women.

Teenage boys lie to young women so they’ll have sex with them. Natural childbirth and breastfeeding advocates lie to women so they’ll hire them and copy their choices.

Such lies can be devastating, resulting in unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and feelings of betrayal.

Sadly natural childbirth and breastfeeding advocates tell lies to women for similar reasons: to pressure them to cede control of their bodies. Natural childbirth and breastfeeding advocates may even believe what they say, but that doesn’t change the fact that their goal is to satisfy their own needs (for having their choices mirrored back to them or for increased employment as midwives, doulas or lactation consultants) regardless of the harm that may come to new mothers or their babies.

Such lies can also be devastating, resulting in extreme pain, traumatic births, incontinence, sexual dysfunction in the case of childbirth or in the case of breastfeeding maternal pain, exhaustion and shame in addition to newborn starvation, brain injury or death.

What follows is a list of the top ten lies used to manipulate expectant and new mothers:

1. Authentic women have no pain in labor. This is the foundational lie of natural childbirth advocacy, fabricated by Grantly Dick-Read, the father of natural childbirth. He claimed with no evidence whatsoever that primitive (i.e. black) women had painless childbirths because they recognized childbearing as their primary responsibility.

Dick-Read triggered a competition among privileged white women proving their authentic womanhood by denying the pain of labor and refusing pain relief. That competition continues to this day with women going so far as to claim they had not merely painless births, but orgasmic births. In falling for this lie, women have ceded control over their pain so that natural childbirth professionals can control their births.

2. C-sections are harmful. There was a time when C-sections WERE harmful and even deadly. Because of the dangers, just about any physical manipulation of babies and women — difficult mid-forceps rotations, massive vaginal and perineal tears — were justified in order to avoid the danger.

With the introduction of spinal/epidural anesthesia, C-sections have become remarkably safe. Nonetheless natural childbirth continue to rail against the dangers and completely ignore the risks of vaginal birth. Why? To satisfy their desperate need to have their own choices mirrored back to them, as well as to increase the employment opportunities for midwives and doulas.

3. Vaginal birth has an easier recovery than C-section. That depends entirely on what came before the birth. A vaginal delivery following 40 hours of labor including 5 hours of pushing is going to have a much longer recovery than an elective repeat C-section undertaken before labor begins.

4. There are no long term side effects to vaginal birth. To hear natural childbirth advocates tell it, the most important long term complication of birth is a future placenta accreta from a previous C-section. Placenta accreta is indeed dangerous, but the longterm complications of vaginal birth are far more common and debilitating. The risk of urinary incontinence from vaginal birth is 10,000% higher than the risk of subsequent accreta. No matter. Natural childbirth advocates routinely lie to women by omission, failing to disclose the risks of urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse and sexual dysfunction.

5. Doulas are good for women. Doulas are undoubtedly good for doulas, but not necessarily good for mothers. Indeed, the metrics often used to evaluate doulas are epidural and C-section rates. Doulas are good at avoiding epidurals and C-sections, but epidurals relieve suffering and C-sections are often better for babies or mothers. A vaginal birth is not a victory when it results in a brain injured baby or decades of maternal urinary incontinence.

6. Insufficient breastmilk is rare. Breastfeeding advocacy is based in large measure on the Panglossian paradigm. The Panglossian paradigm asserts that everything that exists in nature today is the product of intense natural selection and represents the perfect solution to a particular evolutionary problem. Therefore, breastfeeding must be perfect.

But the scientific evidence shows that breastfeeding is not perfect. Lactation professionals routinely lie about the fact that up to 15% of first time mothers cannot produce enough breastmilk to fully nourish a baby especially in the early days. Instead of admitting this and offering formula supplementation, lactation consultants let babies suffer gnawing hunger and risk brain injury and death.

7. A newborn’s stomach is tiny. This is simply a bald-faced lie.

Lactation consultants tell new mothers that the average size of a newborn baby’s stomach is only a teaspoon (5 cc). That’s supposed to ease their minds when their newborns are screaming in hunger and they can tell that they are producing very little colostrum or milk. But the average size of the newborn stomach is NOT 5-7 cc but closer to 20 cc, rising dramatically over the first first days. If a baby seems hungry; she probably is hungry.

8. If breastfeeding hurts your baby needs surgery. Since breastfeeding is supposed to be perfect, problems must be ascribed to babies. The rate of diagnosis of tongue-tie and the surgery to sever it has exploded. Yet scientific studies show that the rate of tongue-tie is as low as it ever was and that surgery to “repair” it is largely ineffective in solving breastfeeding problems. Literally thousands of babies are undergoing painful, unnecessary surgery each year to maintain the illusion that breastfeeding is perfect.

9. Breastfeeding saves lives. There’s no evidence that breastfeeding saves lives in countries with easy access to clean water. The one exception is the case of extremely premature babies, where breastmilk reduces the deadly risk of necrotizing enterocolitis. While lactation professionals tout mathematical models showing that breastfeeding saves lives in theory, they are unable to identify ANY term babies whose lives have been saved in practice.

10. Breastfeeding promotes bonding. This is the cruelest lie of them all, intimating that babies who breastfeed are more bonded to their mothers than those who formula feed. There is not and there has never been any evidence to support this vicious falsehood. It is merely a particularly ugly attempt at pressuring women.

The bottom line is this: many people lie to women in order to control their bodies. Teenage boys lie to young women so they’ll have sex with them. Natural childbirth and breastfeeding advocates lie to women so they’ll hire them and copy them. But lying to women to control them — regardless of motivation — is always wrong.

  • Who?
    • Jessica Cupit

      That is a terrible article.

  • StephanieJR

    Y’know who’s stomach actually is the size of a teaspoon? A newborn rabbit, weighing, depending on the breed, at most 4 oz at birth. I’m pretty damn sure a newborn human has a bigger tummy.

  • Juana

    I’ve got a few favourite lies to share as well:
    – “You can fully breastfeed a baby even if you can’t pump a single drop”, or another variation of this lie: “The amount you can pump has nothing to do with what your baby can extract.”
    My most favourite:
    – “The biggest amount of milk is produced while nursing, so if you don’t experience engorgement, you can still be producing enough.” That’s such a bald-faced lie that any pumping mother can easily debunk. Whether I was pumping exclusively with #1 or mostly-nursing/sometimes-pumping with #2, the time since last nursing and the amount I could extract by pumping were always directly proportional. And I didn’t even need a pump to know how much was in each breast, I could easily feel it. So yes, maybe if you have large enough breasts that are never producing/storing close to their maximum capacity, you might be able to not feel the milk storing up. But it’s so obvious that this whole myth of milk being produced while nursing is fabricated simply because of all those who are not feeling engorgement because they’re actually producing not much, so they don’t feel to bad and can be talked into carrying on breastfeeding.

    • Madtowngirl

      Thank you for sharing this. I never felt engorgement, and shockingly, I never pumped more than 1 oz in a feeding. But in those early days, I believed the lies. It’s nice to hear this from someone who was able to produce milk.

    • Who?

      Anyone who has ever had milk up to their collarbones knows perfectly well that yes, you can feel ‘full’ before feeding. And empty after.

      • Juana

        Right. I read up on mastectomies lately (I wondered why a gyn surgeon wouldn’t recommend subcutaneous mastectomy instead of total mastectomy for a woman with very early stage but possibly genetic bilateral breast cancer). He recommended total instead of subcutaneous because it’s harder to remove all the breast tissue with subcutaneous mastectomy, so the risk of recurrence is higher. I immediately understood when I thought about the places where I felt milk storing up – it really stopped short of the collarbones…

  • Robin

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/07/16/baby-dies-from-lethal-combination-of-drugs-hours-after-his-mother-breastfed-him-police-say/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.afc40256b833 This is somewhat off-topic, but I feel like incidents like this are a sign that the pendulum has swung waaaay too far in the “breast is best” direction. The idea that drug-laced milk is somehow comparable to – or even better than – formula is just insane.

  • FlyingAspidrista

    I’m one of the 15% who couldn’t produce enough breastmilk for my baby. Even with pumping around the clock and Domperidone, my maximum yield for 24 hours was 2 ounces. An IBCLC/nurse I saw told me that I must not be sticking to the (frankly impossible) pumping schedule and said it’s a simple “supply and demand” issue: if I stimulate my breasts enough they will make enough milk. Wrong!

    One of the most damaging things this lactation consultant told me was that breastfeeding lowers the risk of cancer for me and my baby. This was on my mind night after lonely night I spent hooked up to the pump. I imagined myself getting breast cancer and my baby getting leukaemia. I guess the IBCLC thought that the threat of cancer was an ethical way to motivate me to *breastfeed harder*.

    • demodocus

      *hugs.*

    • maidmarian555

      Jesus. I’m so sorry they did that to you. That’s beyond ok.

    • Who?

      That is so rude, and so pointless.

      That kind of behaviour puts all IBCLCs in a bad light.

      Hope you’ve pulled up okay and you and bub are doing well.

    • Madtowngirl

      I’m so sorry. I was also one of the 15%. They do such shitty, unethical things to “convince” us to “try harder.” I hope you’re doing okay now.

      • FlyingAspidrista

        Thanks, I’m doing better now. Especially after finding this website and reading about the realities of breastfeeding. When I was pregnant I went to 12 hours of prenatal classes taught by a nurse, including 3 hours on breastfeeding. None of the problems I had were mentioned in the class (cracked and bleeding nipples, milk not coming in, baby losing 10% of birth weight and worsening jaundice). I had a breakdown when my doctor told me to give my baby formula after baby lost too much weight in the beginning. I had no idea how formula worked since it wasn’t covered in my prenatal class and ended up crying in the baby aisle of my pharmacy and asking a lady shopping there what to do. I felt like a complete failure. After that it was a constant game of catch-up to try to get to the point where I could exclusively breastfeed. I quit after 5 months because I could barely leave the house since I had to breastfeed, formula feed then pump all day long. I barely slept because I was getting up every 2-3 hours to pump (even when my baby was sleeping). I would beat myself up when sometimes I would decide to sleep instead of pump for the 3rd time that night thinking that if only I could keep up this insane regimen I would be able to increase my supply. I remember thinking to myself that if the nurse in the prenatal class spent so much time discussing forceps and vacuum, and these tools are used so rarely, it must mean that breastfeeding problems are so rare that they didn’t merit mentioning. During this time I saw 7 different nurses/IBCLCs and several doctors. I wish at least one of them could have told me that some women just don’t produce much breastmilk and it’s not my fault. I wish one of them could have told me that that feeding/pumping regimen was unhealthy and unnecessary. I wish that I hadn’t gotten my baby’s lip and tongue clipped and then performed painful “stretching” exercises so that the incisions didn’t heal. I wish I didn’t spend so much time and money on IBCLCs, trying to breastfeed with an SNS, nipple shields, supplements, pillows, pumps and attachments, etc. I wish that I had known that the benefits of breastfeeding are marginal. I wish I could understand why I was unable to produce much breastmilk and if this is a sign of something seriously wrong with my body. I wish I could be reassured that my failure to breastfeed won’t cause me or my baby to get sick.

        Thanks to Dr. Amy for this website and to all of you who comment. It has helped me a lot.

        • Heidi

          Just condolences. I completely knew the benefits were negligible, and I still am not personally convinced they exist at all and didn’t when I gave birth. But I really wanted to breastfeed so I tried for 7 months! to do it by pumping, pumping, pumping. I stayed away from Domperidone and LCs. I mean, I could see how an LC could be beneficial if it’s a matter of latch but it’s not like they can do the magic on my boobs. It is stressful enough for those of us who aren’t convinced by the overstatements and outright lies. I had a suspicion that breastfeeding wouldn’t work. I didn’t want to think too hard about it so I hadn’t stocked up on formula. I kept reading on forums women talking about needing to get a bigger bra size yet mine never changed. I was hoping that maybe since I started out fairly large chested, maybe they just didn’t need to grow.

          • FlyingAspidrista

            Only in hindsight can I see that what I went through was unnecessary and horrible and now I can see more clearly what motivated these nurses/IBCLCs to treat me the way they did. I’ve learned a lot from that experience and when I get advice from people about how to care for my baby, my BS sensor is better than it’s ever been! 🙂

            Baby suffered too for those 5 months I tried to increase my supply. The tongue-tie/lip-tie revision, the stretching exercises, every time I left baby to cry in the bouncer while I pumped and every time I made baby wait to actually eat because I had to get baby to stimulate my nipples and get nothing out of them. Plus her unhappy mama who was exhausted and crying all the time. All this for maybe one less ear infection or cold? Geez.

            I just wish I had an explanation why breastfeeding didn’t work for me. What was or wasn’t going on in my body that prevented it from producing enough milk? Will this lead to other health problems for me?

          • Chi

            You are SO not alone. Your story matches mine almost perfectly.

            Because I fell for it all too. I consider myself an intelligent, strong, independent woman and I STILL fell for the ‘Breast is Best’ mantra and all the bullshit it entailed.

            I also pumped relentlessly. I also got a tongue tie ‘revised’ (what a bullshit word for inflicting pain on a poor baby for the sake of the boob). I developed Reynaud’s in my nipples and spent hours in hot showers crying from the pain.

            I got postpartum depression, my baby lost 15% of her body weight in those first weeks after birth, and it was my MIDWIFE who had to be the voice of reason. Because none of the other medical ‘professionals’ I’d seen even DARED breathe the ‘F’ word.

            I had milk, but it was watery and thin with almost NO fat. Probably because I myself was sleep deprived and undernourished because I simply could NOT get my child off my boob long enough to look after myself.

            The lactavists are right about one thing though. Just one bottle CAN change everything. One bottle satiated my little girl enough so that she went and slept for three hours – the longest she’d ever done on her own since she was born.

            We wound up going to formula exclusively because it was the best way for us to ensure that our daughter was happy and thriving.

            Although there’s this small part of me that wonders what damage I did by allowing her to lose that 15%. Is it my fault that she’s now autistic and verbally delayed?

            Being a mum is hard enough without all this holier than thou, you’re not doing it ‘right’ shit that’s constantly being shoved down our throats.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            I also got a tongue tie ‘revised’ (what a bullshit word for inflicting pain on a poor baby for the sake of the boob).

            I have to ask, what do the “women have successfully breastfed for a million years” folks think of the trend of “tongue tie” diagnoses?

          • MaineJen

            Shhhhhhhhh Bofa….breast is best….breast is beesst…join us

          • yentavegan

            I am sorry that you suffered during the early weeks of your daughter’s life. I am sorry that agenda driven lactavists disrupted your instincts to do what is in your infant’s and your best interest.

          • seenthelight

            Not your fault – you were deceived by the cult. You didn’t know what you didn’t know. Just keep speaking up about this to spread awareness so that other women might go in with eyes open?

        • FormerPhysicist

          OMG, just …hugs.

        • Madtowngirl

          I’m so sorry. A lot of that happened to me, too. I regretted getting my daughter’s tongue tie “revised,” too, especially after I realized the pediatrician had tried to talk me out of it. I saw several nurses and LCs – ironically, the nurses were the only ones who took my breastfeeding concerns seriously, but their hands were tied by the BFHI. I remember waking up one day and thinking to myself that it was ludicrous that I was sacrificing sleep to pump *maybe* 1 oz. of breast milk. This cult of breastfeeding is gross, and it’s so disgusting that it has permeated so deeply into healthcare.

    • yentavegan

      I am so ashamed of the women who market themselves as professionals in the field of lactation. I am so sorry that this bitch put you through mental and physical torture.

    • Daleth

      That’s horrible.

      Did you know that Domperidone has been banned in the US since at least as early as 2004 because it can cause sudden cardiac death? See FDA link below for details. If your nursing nightmare was more recent than 2004, then the people “helping” you breastfeed were even more unethical than you thought.

      https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/ucm173886.htm

      • FlyingAspidrista

        Yes – this is the reason I decided to stop using Domperidone. It’s legal in the country where I live, but I had to get EKGs regularly to make sure my heart was OK. After a couple of months of taking it and not seeing much difference, I decided that increasing my milk supply wasn’t worth my life.

        • Daleth

          Yes! I can’t believe people STILL try to get their hands on Domperidone. How could breastmilk possibly be worth risking your life?!

      • AnotherOor

        My goodness. I’m on it now, it’s commonly prescribed in Canada. I asked my OB about the risks and he essentially said nothing to worry about.

        • Daleth

          Wow. That’s scary. Call me overcautious, but I can’t think of any health problem where the benefits of taking a drug could possibly outweigh a risk of sudden death from cardiac arrest. And if you’re taking it for milk supply, holy crap, your baby needs a living mother infinitely more than it needs breast milk!

          As a lawyer, thinking about your OB’s horrifying answer to your question, the word “medical malpractice” comes to mind.

      • Madtowngirl

        WOW. I refused Domperidone, but it was offered to me. I was NEVER informed of this risk.

  • NoLongerCrunching

    I honestly think that it is less a economic motivation and more of a cult-like mentality. All of the lactation consultants and lactivists that I know are not in it for the money; they’re in it for the belief that they are literally saving babies and giving mothers a better mothering experience.

    That doesn’t make it any less bad that they are frequently disrespecting mothers’ choices, feelings, and intuition about what their babies need. It reminds me of evangelicals who believe they must convert people to save them from burning in hell for eternity.

    Maybe for some people it is about the money. I don’t know any midwives. But I can attest that you don’t make much money as a lactation consultant even if you charge high rates for private consultations. Your expenses as a private practice certified IBCLC are going to eat into a huge amount of your income. And knowing hundreds of these people, they truly believe they are saving lives and facilitating bonding. That doesn’t make it any less repulsive to allow babies to be at risk from insufficient milk supply, or trigger depression in mothers from shaming.

    I think it’s important to make this distinction, because attacking a cult mentality probably requires a different approach than attacking greed.

    • space_upstairs

      I agree there’s a genuine notion that they’re saving people or promoting prosperity when they push these things, but there may also be a second motive more similar to that of the teenage boys: status. All things “natural” in body care seem to be strongly associated with the subcultures of the upper middle class, and so to choose and promote these things marks you as “woke” or well-educated and of high social and moral status (even if you’re technically broke at the moment), much as the successful pursuit of sex marks young men as “real men” according to popular notions.

      In bringing up status, I could just be projecting my own issues on to others, given that health concern really does seem to be linked to status for me. Like, if I don’t do enough for health or what I do doesn’t work, I’ll be a failure (low status) because I should have known better and been able to control myself. I’m working on coming to terms with the fact that I just don’t value status and material prosperity all that highly deep down, and it just might be (psychologically) healthy not to. I really don’t want my future kid to suffer as I have over fear of being a “loser” or “failure” in the health game or other matters. I therefore believe I will actually be a better parent by rejecting “natural” body care on philosophical grounds.

      • Who?

        I do know what you mean about ‘status’ in health matters. There is a lot of that about-driving all over town to buy organic; which brand of which supplement you take; the exercise regime of the week. The bit that makes me cranky is if you do then get sick, the very people who encouraged all this will say that you must have somehow ‘done it wrong’.

        • Juana

          That’s protecting yourself against the insecurities of life: It can’t happen to me because I’m doing everything right, so if it happens to you (even if we’re both doing the same), you must have done something wrong.

          (And if it happens to me, I can double down and do everything even right-er (or I might leave the high ground like other sane people do and finally learn to feel compassion, which includes acknowledging I was wrong).)

          • Who?

            The bit about compassion is so true. It’s like there’s a signpost, and some people go down the hunker down path, and some go down the compassion path. The folks on the hunker down path are not having a happy time, and they do share their pain around. A lot.

      • Daleth

        there may also be a second motive more similar to that of the teenage boys: status. All things “natural” in body care seem to be strongly associated with the subcultures of the upper middle class, and so to choose and promote these things marks you as “woke” or well-educated and of high social and moral status

        Yes, I agree that that’s a huge part of the motivation. It makes them feel morally superior and more intelligent than the rest of us.

        And that is, honestly, also at play in many people’s approach to religion. They feel like God’s chosen ones, like near-angels doing God’s work on earth by (insert activity here: doing missionary work to try and convince people in other countries to change their religions; marching outside Planned Parenthood with picket signs; harassing people to convert; etc.).

    • The Kids Aren’t AltRight

      Money is often over-rated as a motivator. I have definitely been accused of shilling for multiple industries when I call out people for being full of shit. Idealism, masochism, identity, etc are all much bigger drivers off political thought and can’t be bribed away, so such motivations create the ugliest debates.

    • Daleth

      It reminds me of evangelicals who believe they must convert people to save them from burning in hell for eternity.

      That’s exactly it. The crunchy natural-fallacy types are actually following a religion.