Why don’t lactation consultants believe women?

Two pieces of white paper with the word inconvenient turned into convenient

Women tell inconvenient truths.

That leaves us with two choices: we could believe them and deal with the resulting cognitive dissonance or we could ease our discomfort by insisting, without evidence, that they are wrong.

Guess which is easier.

Women tell inconvenient truths about breastfeeding.

For years women have been telling inconvenient truths about sexual aggression, harassment and assault. I doubt there is a woman alive who has not been the recipient of unwanted attention, unwanted touching or unwanted attacks. The problem is not rare; it is commonplace and equally commonplace is the response: that didn’t happen; it wasn’t him; you misunderstood; you’re overreacting; boys will be boys.

The tendency to ignore women’s incovenient truths is not limited to accusations of sexual assault. For example, within medicine it is well known that women’s pain is often undertreated. When women complain of severe pain, they are often dismissed in ways that men never are: it’s not that painful; you can tolerate it; you’re overreacting; it’s all in your head.

Sadly, this tendency to dismiss women’s pain and perceptions about their own bodies is not restricted to paternalistic male doctors. It is widespread among female lactation consultants.

Women tell inconvenient truths about the difficulties of breastfeeding, the pain they experience and the fact that many produce insufficient breastmilk to fully nourish an infant. Lactation consultants, who only make money when they convince women to breastfeed, respond dismissively: you must be doing it wrong; you’re overreacting; it’s all in your head; you’re a victim of formula manufacturers; you just need more support.

Consider this meme from Lucy Ruddle, IBCLC:


This is Enid. Enid formula fed her babies, has no training in supporting breastfeeding, and wouldn’t know a letdown from her elbow. But Enid feels qualified to say you aren’t making enough milk for your baby.

Lucy seems like a decent person and I imagine this was supposed to be humorous. But it has serious — and ugly — implications. It suggests that when women report insufficient breastmilk they can be ignored since they are unwitting dupes of formula feeders.

It’s uncomfortably similar to suggesting that women who report sexual assault can be ignored since they are unwitting dupes of feminist extremists.

What do lactation consultants lose when they believe women who report insufficient breastmilk? They lose income and ideological satisfaction; that’s why they have no trouble dismissing women’s perceptions as flawed, invalid or manufactured by “Enids.” So what if it’s both disrespectful and untrue; the end — maintaining lactation consultants’ belief in the perfection of breastfeeding — purportedly justify the means.

But, as in the case of sexual assault, there are no ends that justify disrespecting and refusing to believe women. It’s just misogyny in the service of self-dealing.


P.S. for Lucy: Think about how my piece makes you feel — angry, misunderstood, bullied — and realize that this is how women who struggle with insufficient breastmilk feel as a result of your meme.