Are you a good mother who feels bad? Remember the 7 R’s.

CBCB34E2-C277-49AB-87DB-586CA27861B1

I write a lot about scientific papers, policy and philosophy around childbirth, breastfeeding and mothering. But papers, policy and philosophical principles aren’t very helpful when you are up at 2 AM crying with exhaustion — trying to breastfeed a baby screaming from hunger — and convinced you are a bad mother.

That’s why I’ve created the 7 R’s. Think of them as a reality check and emergency boost for your maternal self-confidence.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Are you providing food, diaper changes, sleep and love? Your baby thinks you are a good mother, regardless of how others have taught you to judge yourself.[/pullquote]

1. REMEMBER what your baby actually needs

You’re crying because your baby is crying and you fear you are failing him or her. Let’s consider what your baby actually needs and whether you are fulfilling those needs.

Your baby needs to be fully fed, with regular diaper changes, plenty of sleep and lots of love. That’s it!

Your baby does NOT need an unmedicated birth, a vaginal birth, breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact, baby wearing or any of the myriad rituals promoted by natural mothering advocates.

Are you providing food, diaper changes, sleep and love? Your baby thinks you are a good mother, regardless of how others have taught you to judge yourself.

2. RECOGNIZE propaganda

According to Wikipedia:

Propaganda is information that is used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, which may not be objective and may be presenting facts selectively to encourage a particular synthesis or perception, or using loaded language to produce an emotional rather than a rational response …

The best propaganda is hard to recognize because it seems like conventional wisdom. The conventional wisdom of natural childbirth, breastfeeding and natural mothering is exceedingly fine propaganda. Its loaded language includes:

  • Natural
  • Normal
  • Physiological
  • Traditional
  • Best

This is the language of marketing, not science. A good rule of thumb is: if it is used to market products like yogurt or vitamin supplements, it has nothing to do with science.

Propaganda presents facts selectively, sometimes even presenting falsehoods as facts. It’s meant to influence the way that mothers’ view themselves and each other. Don’t fall for it.

3. RECALL the history of these movements

Natural childbirth, lactivism and attachment parenting were created by anti-feminists for the specific purpose of keeping women out of the workforce and stuck in the home.

Grantly Dick-Read, the father of natural childbirth, was a eugenicist who feared that upper class women with political and economic rights would have fewer children; he taught that childbirth pain was the result of “overcivilization” and he fabricated the claim that “primitive” women had painless labors because they knew their place.

La Leche League was started by members of a traditionalist Catholic women’s group as a way to convince mothers of babies to stay out of the workforce. They claimed no scientific benefits for breastfeeding, merely insisting that if Mary mother of Jesus breastfed, other women should emulate her.

Attachment parenting was created by Dr. William Sears, a fundamentalist Christian who has written that the philosophy was vouchsafed to him by God as His preferred method of family organization. He supposedly wants the father as the head and mother restricted to care of children.

Is this your philosophy, too? If not, there’s no need to feel bad for not conforming to the propaganda.

4. REALIZE: other women are trying to boost their self-esteem at your expense

Babies don’t care how they are born. They don’t care whether they are breastfed or formula fed. They don’t care if they have mandated skin-to-skin contact or if they are worn on their mothers’ bodies. Only adults care about those things.

Sadly, many women have been taught to boost their fragile self-esteem by submitting themselves to natural mothering propaganda. To maintain their self-image they believe they need other women to mirror their own choices back to them. Don’t let them boost their self-esteem at the expense of yours!

5. REMUNERATION: follow the money

What would happen to the salaries and employment prospects of midwives, doulas and childbirth educators if women discovered that babies DON’T benefit from unmedicated vaginal birth? What would happen to the salaries and employment prospects of lactation consultants if women discovered that breast ISN’T best for many babies? What would happen to the sales of books and services by self-appointed parenting “experts” if women discovered that MOTHERS know what their own children need far better than any parenting experts?

Now you understand why they enthusiastically use propaganda to manipulate you into improving their incomes.

6. RISKS: There are no benefits without risks

Anyone who tells you the benefits of unmedicated vaginal birth without detailing the considerable risks is manipulating you and potentially threatening your health and your baby’s health. Anyone who counsels you on the benefits of breastfeeding without disclosing the substantial risks (breastfeeding is now the leading cause of newborn hospital readmission) is manipulating you and threatening your baby’s health. Anyone who counsels you on the benefits of attachment parenting without mentioning the cost to your job, career and mental health is also manipulating you.

If you don’t understand the risks, guilt can be used to control your behavior. Do you want others to control your choices for their own benefit or do you want to choose what’s best for you and your baby?

7. REST: you can’t think clearly without sleep; childbirth is exhausting and leaves you vulnerable

Sleep deprivation is a form of torture and is routinely used by cults in order to subdue potential recruits. It’s not a coincidence that natural mothering advocates normalize maternal exhaustion; natural mothering functions as a cult and sleep deprivation makes it easier to manipulate women.

The pain of labor exhausts women and renders them vulnerable. Natural childbirth advocates pressure women to endure the pain; it makes it easier for midwives and doulas to manipulate them.

Childbirth exhausts women and renders them vulnerable. Natural mothering advocates pressure women to begin caring for their infants from the moment the placenta detaches. It makes it easier to manipulate them.

Breastfeeding around the clock exhausts women and renders them vulnerable. Lactation professionals are obsessed with exclusivity and promote barbaric regimens (triple feeding) that INCREASE exhaustion. Not, coincidentally, it makes it easier for lactation professionals to manipulate women.

The bottom line:

Are you a good mother who feels bad? It’s almost certainly because others are pressuring your for their own benefit. They will tell you what your baby supposedly needs and make you feel bad if you aren’t providing it.

I promise you that there is no benefit to natural mothering that your baby needs more than your physical and mental health. YOU are enough! Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

  • rational thinker

    I was thinking about the whole “just one bottle of formula will damage the breastfeeding relationship” and the “virgin gut” lines used to brainwash women to EBF

    Most of you know I have an autistic daughter and that I fell for the gluten casine free diet thing, but thankfully it was not too long (3 months) before my rational mind took over and I stopped that horrible restrictive diet that did nothing but make my usually happy daughter completely miserable.

    They used similar lines to push that diet onto desperate vulnerable parents. I remember being told that if I gave her just one bite of bread (or anything with gluten) that it would stay in her system for 6 months and damage her body. They basically said gluten acts like the drug LSD in an autistic person and that is a powerful guilt trip to be told that when you give your child bread you are giving them hardcore drugs.

    • PeggySue

      I am so sorry, how horrible.

      • rational thinker

        Thanks.

        Thankfully after 3 months I realized it was all bullshit. Normally I would never have fallen for it in the first place, but it was soon after the diagnosis and many parents are very vulnerable in the first few months after the diagnosis.

        Too many parents never realize they are being preyed upon and continue to subject their children to all these supposed “cures” for autism. Eventually these cures get even more invasive like the bleach enema cure.

        This is a good reason to never support organizations that want to “cure” autism. A lot of the time these groups are also anti-vax.

  • Courtney

    How I wish I could have seen this with my 1st!

  • fiftyfifty1

    This post is going to be a classic. Something I can refer my friends and patients to.

  • mabelcruet

    OT a little, but there is currently a big splash about a home delivery midwife service in Scotland (Fife). It’s been open nearly 9 months, has had 112 referrals and 52 deliveries. So half of women who are referred don’t meet the criteria for homebirth, and the unit is currently delivering 5-6 babies a month. How on earth do the midwives maintain any level of expertise at that rate? Our midwives are usually nurses first, with some newer direct entry degree level midwives, but still-5 babies a month? Do they rotate through the main hospital based delivery unit (they have a midwife led unit and a medical led unit that delivers over 3000 per annum). That side of Scotland suffers from geography-it take a while to get anywhere so any mum in trouble has a long way to go, which is why they are so strict on accepting cases, but I wonder if mothers are choosing it only because there is no other option?

    • StephanieJR

      Maternity services here are horrible- I’m not sure about Fife, but I know that my small town at the top, with little money being spent up here, has serious issues with being referred to our nearest actual city, which is two hours by car away down south. My brother linked me to an article where I think a woman was sent down for an emergency c section, that went okay with her and the baby, but her partner was working or had to look after an older child, and no one else could drive her or give her a ride in an ambulance, so she had to, recovering from surgery and with a newborn in tow, take the train back home (might have fudged a couple of details there).

      I can see people choosing it only because you get to stay in your town, with your spouse, family and friends that can help afterwards. (We’ve had issues with having to take my gran down south to see specialists/consultants at this hospital, too, with only my dad and uncle able to drive, and arranging appointments to fit with all our schedules; one week, she had to go down twice, when they could have easily had both meetings on the same trip).

      We suffer in other ways, being so far away from the major decision makers; no one seems to care about us up here.

      • mabelcruet

        I have a friend who is a general paediatrician in Cumbria-by distance (as the crow flies) its 50 miles to the nearest large hospital where they have paediatric intensive care and neonatal intensive care, but because its all bendy twisty country roads its a good 2 hours or more to get there. They end up with a lot of blue light transfers that have to be accompanied by the specialist paeds nurses, paediatrician or anaesthetist, just in case of deterioration, which isn’t good for anyone, not least the patients staying in the base hospital. It’s hard to get enough staff to fully staff the more geographically isolated hospitals. A lot of medical and nursing education is regionally organised, and people travel to a regional centre for seminars and lectures-that’s hard to do when even a 2 hour teaching session would mean you being gone the entire day. They are also at the mercy of technology-when it works, telemedicine/skype type conferencing works really well, but IT in the NHS is abysmal generally. The government has wasted billions on crap IT systems-they ended up abandoning a patient record system that cost them just over 10 BILLION POUNDs-because they have a very peculiar talent of choosing the very worst system and the most inept providers every single time for these big contracts.

        Most politicians seem to think we all live within the M25-or at a push, within the M25 or within spitting distance of big cities like Manchester or Birmingham. Even though we are only a small country, health care in the more distant regions is very different.