When breastfeeding isn’t working


Trust breasts?

It’s not the motto of the lactivist movement, but it could be. If breastfeeding advocates are sure of anything, they’re sure that breasts are the one organ system in the body that never, ever fails. In their view, if breastfeeding isn’t working for you and your baby, there are myriad possible reasons, but it is never the fault of your breasts.

Baby nursing for hours at a time yet still frantic with hunger and not gaining weight?

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Don’t trust breasts. Trust women![/pullquote]

A reasonable person might conclude that you aren’t making enough breastmilk. But lactivists aren’t reasonable people. Since breasts are perfect, you surely have enough milk but:

  • You are “misperceiving” the amount of breastmilk you are producing.
  • You are ignorant of normal infant behavior. All babies cry like that.
  • Babies don’t really need to gain steadily. You’re misled by the way that formula fed infants grow.

See, it’s all your head! Because you can trust breasts to work perfectly.

Except that it’s not all in your head. The scientific evidence shows that up to 15% of first time mothers don’t produce enough milk to fully nourish an infant in the early days.

So if you aren’t producing enough breastmilk, especially in the first few days before your milk comes in, a reasonable person might suggest small amounts of formula to tide your baby over, but lactivists aren’t reasonable people. Their “solution” it to flog your breasts and yourself more.

  • You should just nurse more; breastfeeding depends on supply and demand.
  • Pump in between nursing sessions; getting rest is not important.

See, you should just try harder! Because you can trust breasts to work perfectly.

Except that trying harder is not guaranteed to work. Breastfeeding may depend on supply and demand, but so does insulin production. In people with type I diabetes, the pancreas no longer responds to supply and demand as it should. Advising women whose babies are hungry and nursing constantly to just breastfeed or pump more is the equivalent of advising diabetics to just eat more sugar. If an organ is not producing optimally, stressing it more doesn’t work.

Experiencing excruciating pain while breastfeeding?

A reasonable person might conclude that having the force of a vacuum applied to the sensitive tissue of nipple and areola can be profoundly painful, especially early on, but breastfeeding advocates aren’t reasonable people. They’re sure that your pain is your fault!

  • Adjust the baby’s latch. You must be putting him on the breast the wrong way.
  • You aren’t getting enough proper support. If the previous generation had breastfed they would help you.
  • Hire a lactation consultant. She will show you what you are doing wrong.

See, you must be doing it wrong! Because you can trust breasts to work perfectly.

Wait, what? The lactation consultant says that there is nothing wrong with the latch?

Well, then the baby must broken! Maybe he or she has a tongue tie.

While tongue tie can cause pain while breastfeeding, it is relatively uncommon and certainly never cut in nature. Though tongue tie surgery seems simple, it is quite painful for many babies, especially the repeated sweeping of the wound to prevent the tie from reforming during healing.

Think about how painful biting your tongue it; now imagine cutting it. A reasonable person might conclude pumping and bottle feeding, or formula feeding from a bottle were excellent alternatives to subjecting a baby to searing surgical pain, but lactivists aren’t reasonable people.

  • He must have an anterior tongue tie. Cut it.
  • She must have a posterior tongue tie. Cut that, too.
  • Maybe it’s a lip tie. Just keep cutting.

See, it’s the baby’s fault, never the fault of your breasts!

Ready to give up on the painful, frustrating, exhausting process of breastfeeding because your child is starving? A reasonable person might sympathize with your suffering and recommend formula to alleviate it, but breastfeeding advocates aren’t reasonable people:

  • You don’t care about your baby.
  • Where did you get the idea that your pain, exhaustion and mental health matter? They don’t.
  • Who says you need to return to work?
  • You’re obviously a dupe of the formula industry.

Blame formula manufacturers! Blame capitalism! Blame society!

But whatever you do, don’t blame breasts because they’re perfect.

Ridiculous, right? But many women fall for it and end up feeling guilty, anguished and blaming themselves.

I have a better solution:

Don’t trust breasts; trust women.

You know whether breastfeeding is right for your baby and yourself. Don’t let breastfeeding advocates convince you otherwise.