Finally there is something this lactation consultant and I agree upon

Cheerful diverse young girls sitting together in sports studio before starts training giving high five feel happy and healthy, close up focus on hands. Respect and trust, celebration and amity concept

I suspect that Lucy Ruddle, IBCLC feels put upon by me.

First I took her to task for her meme that analogized formula to cake.

I created this:

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Then she implied that anyone who recommends formula supplementation for starving babies is trying to “sabotage” breastfeeding mothers. I created this to express my incredulity that a lactation consultant could discuss breastfeeding problems without once mentioning the baby and his or her suffering:

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Most recently Ruddle posted a meme questioning the existence of pressure to breastfeed:

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It was a classic example of gaslighting and I called her on it.

She was angry. That’s the typical response of people who suffer from attribution bias, the tendency to assume that one’s own motives are pure while simultaneously insisting that anyone who disagrees has malicious motives.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The continuing insistence that “breast is best” is designed to create anger, anxiety, and to pitch us against one another.[/pullquote]

I don’t doubt that Ruddle’s motives are pure. I simply point out the harmful impact her claims have on women who can’t or don’t wish to breastfeed.

But finally there’s something on which we can agree, the Facebook post she wrote today:

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The entire point of (“insert feeding method of choice) is best” is to create anger, anxiety, and to pitch us against one another. They aren’t about true support, because if they were, there would be no need to argue. X is best relies on divides… women beating each other up… it relies on our fears. Because while we’re arguing over who is best, we’re not focusing our attention on the real issue. Which is that mothers are not valued, heard, or encouraged to trust their instincts. That we are routinely silenced, are subject to abuse from professionals, and that we are not given access to the quality of respectful, kind support we all deserve…

I would modify that only slightly:

The ORIGINAL point of “breast is best” was to maximize the health of babies. At the time it came into widespread use many professionals believed that breastfeeding must be best because it is natural. There were also studies that suggested that breastfeeding had major health benefits.

But over the following years several things became clear:

  • Breastfeeding in industrialized countries is socially patterned. Most benefits that were ascribed to breastfeeding are actually benefits of wealth.
  • Breastfeeding, like most natural reproductive processes, has a high failure rate.
  • Tens of thousands of babies are hospitalized each year for breastfeeding complications.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding has become the leading risk factor for newborn hospital readmission.
  • Women who can’t breastfeed successfully are suffering soul searing guilt.

Indeed, it’s been clear for MORE THAN A DECADE that breast ISN’T best for many babies and many mothers. The response of lactation professionals has been to ignore the evidence and dig in their heels. They keep shouting “breast is best” regardless of the fact that the claims of benefits have been largely debunked.

Why?

I agree with Ruddle’s assessment:

The continuing insistence that  “breast is best” is designed to create anger, anxiety, and to pitch us against one another.

Breastfeeding promotion in 2019 isn’t about what’s best for babies. It’s about what’s best for lactation consultants and there is no limit to the amount of anger and anxiety (not to mention harm to babies) that they are willing to provoke to pitch women against each other.

Ruddle’s point is the one I have been making repeatedly for years:

This isn’t about true support, because if it were, there would be no need to argue. BREAST is best relies on divides… women beating each other up… it relies on our fears. Because while we’re arguing over who is best, we’re not focusing our attention on the real issue. Which is that mothers are not valued, heard, or encouraged to trust their instincts. That we are routinely silenced, are subject to abuse from professionals, and that we are not given access to the quality of respectful, kind support we all deserve.

Fed is best is a REJECTION of that mentality. Fed is best doesn’t divide women; it doesn’t promote women fighting with each other; it soothes fears. The POINT of “fed is best” is to VALUE and HEAR women and to encourage them to trust their instincts about whether formula, breastfeeding or both is best for their babies or for them.

Breast is best is designed to silence women; there can be no argument. It serves to justify the abuse that lactivists heap on women who can’t or don’t wish to breastfeed; and it promotes a culture that insinuates that women who formula feed are “dupes” of the formula industry and lazy, selfish women who aren’t “baby friendly.”

Ruddle’s words are words to live by. She and other lactation consultants should try to live by them instead of merely paying them lip service.

  • Anna

    I’m prepared to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe shes genuine and is remorseful – and laying awake feeling bad about it might have given her a little taste of how it feels to be bombarded by the inescapable message day in day out that you’re a rubbish parent if you aren’t breastfeeding. I doubt she’s sat awake sobbing going down that path of “my baby would be better off without me” – which so many of us have been down when its all turning to shit and exhaustion and hormones are overriding logic. Lets see if she can truly just stick to promoting breastfeeding, providing helpful, practical services to her clients and her followers – not just hashtags and if she can do it without trashing formula and with a reasonable moderation of her community then I’ll take my hat off to her! (I don’t expect she deletes every comment thats shitty but if she makes some attempt to keep her comment threads reasonable). Remember the glee with which the cake meme was shared and many of the comments were saying it was apt to compare formula to cake? – then another blogger took the torch and compared formula to smoking in a meme that did not require any reference to formula at all to be effective in her message. She should be calling that shit out if she claims to genuinely support women in all feeding methods. It is hard to fathom that shes been in lactation this long and hasn’t seen numerous memes comparing formula to fast food and reflected on that, but lets give her the benefit of the doubt. I’m genuinely curious to see what she does with it.

  • fiftyfifty1

    Hold it, what does she mean by “(insert feeding method of choice) is best” ? Is she seriously claiming that there are women who say “formula is best” and use that to create anger, anxiety and pitch women against each other? No, the only ones who have ever done that are lactivists saying “breast is best.” Formula feeding moms (and non-zealot breastfeed moms) are not the ones going around claiming what they do is best and denigrating what other moms do. Or is she trying to draw some false equivalency between lactivist bullying and Fed is Best? Ugh, she is so full of bullshit.

    • rational thinker

      “(insert feeding method of choice) is best”

      yeah, I think she was trying to take a shot at fed is best foundation.

      • That’s what I thought too. They like to ignore the fact that Fed Is Best does not actually encourage formula or discourage breastfeeding.

  • JDM

    I’d like to point out that Ruddle uses a logical fallacy to try to create an equivalence which doesn’t exist. When she says

    The entire point of (“insert feeding method of choice) is best” is to …

    she pretends that Fed is Best is a method, when it’s a desired outcome (which you’ve regularly pointed out). This allows her to sidestep your entire following argument by pretending she’s already addressed this by criticizing “methods”.

  • Courtney

    Ha ha YES! *mic drop*