My lactation consultant said what??!!

This piece is not satire.

I have complained several times that it is getting harder and harder to parody homebirth advocates and lactivists. No matter how outrageous the parody, there is a comparable example in real life.

Several days ago I wrote a satire entitled Natural childbirth is a risk factor for tyranny. I was satirizing the penchant of natural childbirth advocates to fabricate outrageous claims about the benefits about unmedicated birth (“Peace on earth begins with birth.”) Now I learn that a counselor for the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA), a government funded organization, was caught by a reporter insisting that baby formula is like AIDS.

That’s right. Lest you think someone is exaggerating, a major Australian newspaper sent the reporter (who is pregnant) to the class to confirm a complaint that an Australian Breastfeeding Association counselor was teaching utterly fabricated assertions.

Formula is a little bit like AIDS… Nobody actually dies from AIDS; what happens is AIDS destroys your immune system and then you just die of anything and that’s what happens with formula. It provides no antibodies.


Every 30 seconds a baby dies from infections due to a lack of breastfeeding and the use of bottles, artificial milks and other risky products. Every 30 seconds.

And in case anyone failed to get the point:

“Of course, there’s the higher IQ and all of the diseases that you don’t get,” the breastfeeding counsellor said in her opening remarks.

“We used to talk about all those sorts of things, but we don’t talk about any of those any more.”

She added: “A couple of years ago I broke this leg, quite badly. Nobody said to me ‘we have this wonderful range of wooden legs now’ … they fixed the leg.”

Like wooden-leg salespeople, formula companies would try to promote benefits, attendees heard.

“That’s what formula is; it’s pure sales pitch. They don’t say ‘look, a baby dies from this product every 30 seconds’ … they forget about that bit.”

All this from one of the ABA’s most highly regarded counselors, mentioned by name in the most recent Annual Report, available here:

Desley Hubner, a counsellor with the West End Group, was the counsellor who took the highest number of calls on the National Breastfeeding Helpline …

She received the ABA’s highest honor in April:

The remarks got a swift response from Mamamia, a major Australian parenting website:

If you didn’t read yesterday’s papers, get ready to have your jaw hit the floor.

Yesterday the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) were accused of using ‘scaremongering’ tactics following revelations one of their most popular counsellors told a class that, “Baby formula is a little bit like AIDS’ and that a baby dies ‘every 30 seconds” from formula feeding.

The author put her finger on the real problem:

Baby formula

… it is time to acknowledge that there is a fanatical, zealous undercurrent to the ABA that is disturbing. And it is undermining all the good they do.

Frightening vulnerable parents into breastfeeding by using blatant lies and propoganda [sic]; intimating that formula is akin to AIDS and that babies are dying every thirty seconds is nothing short of a disgrace…

What is without doubt is the fact the ABA counsellor in question is not alone. We know from past posts on Mamamia … that there are many more stories of ABA counsellors who are discrediting the name of the ABA and doing the organisation damage …

A spokeswoman for the ABA appeared on Australia’s Today Show this morning.

Fortunately, the ABA is denouncing the counselors claims, but the spokeswoman could not explain why a counselor would have made such outrageous statements or what the ABA plans to do to prevent others from making the same mistake.

This incident shines a harsh light on a phenomenon that I have described repeatedly: the propensity of natural childbirth advocates, homebirth advocates and lactivists to simply make things up.

It is unlikely that the ABA taught these claims to the counselor. There is no reputable organization or book that advances these claims. Moreover, these claims are ludicrous on their face and betray a woeful ignorance of immunology, AIDS and the benefits of breast milk. But in the world of homebirth, natural childbirth and breastfeeding advocacy, whether or not a claim is true is irrelevant. If it makes sense to an advocate (an extremely low standard), it is deemed to be true and it is proudly proclaimed to others.

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  • MLC

    I, and others in the Lactation field, appreciate your honesty. You have every right to make a choice as to what is to be done with your body.

    Now, if the rest who don’t want to breastfeed (and give vague or wild “medical reasons” instead of admitting what their CHOICE is) and would be as honest as you are, we’d have a lot less fear from new moms about “all the medical reasons women can’t breastfeed.”

    Your honesty is refreshing. Thank you.

    M, a Lactation Consultant

  • MLC

    There are dozens of ways to correct latches, I’ve done it thousands of times and had successful outcomes in my clients. “A baby who is not latching correctly” is a baby whose mama needs some help. He is NOT “a baby who can not latch.” With some help from an IBCLC most babies with problematic latches are nursing well and with no pain for Mama in a matter of minutes. If your LC can’t fix it…. she haven’t been trained properly or doesn’t have enough experience… or she isn’t a Board Certified LC. “Lactation Educators” and others with titles that sound like LCs but are not Board Certified IBCLCs can do more harm than damage. (Although a good number of LLL leaders can help with low level breastfeeding situations, most need help with a serious latch issue… from an IBCLC.)

    • MLC

      Sorry, I meant “Lactation Educators” and others with titles that sound like LCs but
      are not Board Certified IBCLCs can do more harm than GOOD.

    • anonomom, LLLL, IBCLC

      I’d love to learn your secrets then. I’ve been an IBCLC since 2005, and LLLL before that, and there have been plenty of babies that seemed to be unable to latch, even with nipple shields, SNSs, snipped frenulums etc. So please, share!

  • MLC

    Seriously? LC bashing? I’ve been an LC for almost 25 years and have never heard anyone in my profession say anything like “formula is like AIDS.” Hyperbole or a rogue LC at best. Not the standard LC in any case. But, calling attention to it makes ALL LCs look like nut cases.

    It’s amazing that when people choose not to do at something important, the first thing they do is blame and disrespect the expert they hired and then DIDN’T listen to, when that person gave them information that may have helped them. I’ve seen it happen with OBs, with Veterinarians, with nurses, plumbers, electricians on and on and, of course with LCs.

    Most LCs are certainly amendable to help a woman use formula, if it’s medically necessary. The thing is, it usually isn’t. (Even some who claim they had a “medical reason” to use formula simply are stretching the truth to justify their CHOICE.) That’s what it is 99.9% of the time; a choice. *And, that’s OK.*

    If you choose not to breastfeed OWN that choice. Don’t make up nonsensical and vague medical reasons that you “couldn’t do it.” (In many studies, only 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 2,000 women MEDICALLY have a reason not to breastfeed, the rest who formula feed made a choice to feed their baby this way, The baby doesn’t get a choice, he has to eat what his mother chooses for him.)

    I don’t “give permission” for my clients to give their babies non-medically necessary formula. WHY? Because 99.9% of the time, it’s a CHOICE. (That she has every right to make.) If they CHOOSE to give a baby who doesn’t medically need formula this substance, I want her to OWN the decision, and realize she is making that decision, when other, less problematic decisions are available.

    Also, every women who seems to NEED a “medical reason not to breastfeed” scares an other woman away from breastfeeding with her woes and stories about how difficult full breastfeeding is. And… sometimes it is. But, many, many women persevere, and some use some formula, and those that CHOOSE to use formula (especially those whose babies develop formula intolerance or whose babies get nipple confused and refuse the breast or those who DO get sick or the small percentage who do worse than get sick) need to simply OWN the decision, say, “I COULD have breastfed, but had reasons, non-medical ones, for doing otherwise.” And leave it at that.

    In 25 years of Consulting, I have NEVER seen, nor heard of a clinical case of a “nipple hanging off of a breast.” (my guess is this is not only rare, but would require hospitalization.) However, I have seen a second, third or even fourth or even eight time mother have a child who was not latching properly and perhaps needed a shield. Every child is different, simply because your first child latched well doesn’t mean the next one automatically will (although chances are good that this child WILL, either with or without help.) The reason we offer suggestions, like the LC who gave you a nipple shield, is that we often need to anticipate problems, and if you are already in pain, and the latch isn’t great, it’s better to cut that problem off at the pass, instead of waiting until you are in so much pain and so cracked that you think you DO have a “medical reason” for not breastfeeding.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD


  • Katie

    People, lets stay real here. There is debate whether the DHA and ARA in artificial baby milk which is derived from fish or algae sources, actually does any good. It is simply not as bio available as human milk fatty acids.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Happy to get real. Let’s start with you telling us your qualifications to read, understand and evaluate the breadth of the scientific literature on breastfeeding. Do you have an MD, a PhD in a science or statistics discipline?

    • Sullivan ThePoop

      Most women in the US have very low DHA and ARA in their breast milk unless they supplement and need special supplements because it has to be the precursors for it to be of benefit.

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