Are the philosophies of natural childbirth and lactivism abusive?

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If only I hadn’t said that.

If only she hadn’t looked at the waiter like that.

If only I hadn’t worn the dress that I know he doesn’t like.

If only she had had my dinner ready the minute I walked through the door.

If only I hadn’t disagreed with him.

Among the most tragic aspects of domestic violence are the victim blaming and the self-blame of victims.

It often appears that both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence have an idealized image of how partners in a relationship ought to behave and an overriding belief that they would have that idealized relationship if only the victim behaved better. Curiously, neither the victim nor the perpetrator blame the person who is actually responsible, the man who is perpetrating the abuse. Sadly the victim and the perpetrator may be inextricably tied to each other by sharing the same deep seated belief: their relationship would be ideal if only the victim had done what she was supposed to do.

I have begun to wonder if the relationship between women and the philosophies of natural childbirth and lactivism is also held together by the guilt, shame and self-blame that characterize domestic abuse.

Let me be very clear: I am NOT equating the philosophies of natural childbirth and lactivism with the soul destroying, bone shattering violence of partner abuse. I am raising the possibility that women stick with natural childbirth and lactivism because victim blaming, shame and guilt are as integral to these philosophies as they are to domestic violence.

The philosophies of natural childbirth and lactivism are harmful to the majority of women. The pain of childbirth is excruciating, the risk of death or injury during childbirth is high, and the interventions of modern obstetrics have saved countless lives and relieved an unimaginable amount of suffering. Those facts are immutable and yet they are denied by the philosophy of natural childbirth which claims that the pain of childbirth is women’s heads, that birth is inherently safe and that the interventions of modern obstetrics hurt women and babies. So why do women cling to a philosophy that fails them?

Because of guilt, shame and self-blame.

How many women plan for an unmedicated vaginal birth without interventions and end up requesting an epidural, needing interventions and requiring a C-section? Apparently the overwhelming majority of women will want or need one, two or all three of these. Yet when they don’t “achieve” the natural childbirth ideal of birth, they don’t question whether the ideal was appropriate, they question what they did wrong.

If only I had trusted birth more.

If only I hadn’t agree to the epidural when asked.

If only I hadn’t agreed to the induction just because I was 42 weeks pregnant.

If only my body didn’t fail me.

Guilt, shame and self-blame.

The philosophy of lactivism, that all infants should be breastfed exclusively, is hardly any better. Some women don’t produce enough milk, many women have excruciating nipple pain while nursing and some women simply find formula feeding safe, convenient and appealing. Those facts are immutable and yet they are denied by the philosophy of lactivism which claims that low milk supply almost never happens, that breastfeeding is painless when “done right” and that formula is harmful to babies. So why do women cling to a philosophy that fails them?

Because of guilt, shame and self-blame.

How many women plan to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months to a year and end up supplementing or exclusively formula feeding? Apparently the overwhelming majority of women will stop breastfeeding within days or weeks of leaving the hospital. Yet when they don’t “achieve” the lactivist ideal of exclusive breastfeeding, they don’t question whether the ideal was appropriate, they question what they did wrong.

If only I hadn’t had a C-section my baby would have been more skilled at breastfeeding.

If only I hadn’t had an epidural I would be making enough milk.

If only the hospital hadn’t give me the formula samples to take home, I would have let the baby scream with hunger instead of giving in and feeding him.

If only society were more supportive of breastfeeding, I would have kept at it longer.

Guilt, shame and self-blame.

There’s no doubt that the philosophies of natural childbirth and lactivism are good … for the industries and paraprofessionals who profit from them. It’s not clear that they are good for women or for babies. The science doesn’t support the exaggerated claims of benefits. The suffering from childbirth pain and breastfeeding pain (not to mention the hunger of babies not receiving adequate food) is extraordinary. And refusing the interventions of modern obstetrics or the use of formula can and does lead to injury and death.

But just like the victims of domestic violence blame themselves instead of the person who is abusing them, the victims of the philosophies of natural childbirth and lactivism blame themselves for their own suffering.

It is time to recognize the philosophies of natural childbirth and lactivism for what they are: retrograde, sexist, unscientific and …

… abusive.

179 Responses to “Are the philosophies of natural childbirth and lactivism abusive?”

  1. Dad
    August 8, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    I’m so glad that you raised this point, Dr. Tuteur. Most of the tactics used by militant bf’ing advocates, are textbook examples of psychological/emotional abuse (I can’t comment on the natural birth movement, as I have limited exposure to it). Analyze their actions further, & you’ll find an uncanny parallel to those with high levels of narcissism + martyr complex.

    Their aggressive, abusive campaigns are galvanizing people, who will (& have), in turn speak out.

    I hope that eventually, this behavior will be universally unacceptable. It belongs in the same category as bullying in schools & domestic abuse @ home.

  2. TsuDhoNimh
    August 4, 2014 at 9:23 pm #

    It’s interesting to look at the old medical books on infant care …. when a woman died in childbirth, couldn’t produce milk, was too ill to nurse, or who (in the case of wealthy women) didn’t want to nurse or (in the case of poor women) couldn’t take time off work to nurse they dod one of two things.

    1 – They fed the baby appalling combinations of gruel and milk and other things. Modern formula is far superior.

    2 – If the baby was fortunate, they found a wet nurse for it – a healthy woman with abundant milk – and paid her to feed the baby.

    Maybe some of these lactivists could volunteer to be a wet nurse to spare the child from the evils of formula.

    • jenny
      August 4, 2014 at 9:24 pm #

      Oh I know some that would wet nurse.

      • Cobalt
        August 5, 2014 at 1:23 am #

        Or sell the milk online for $2 an ounce. Formula, for comparison, is generally less then 25¢ per ounce.

        • araikwao
          August 5, 2014 at 1:55 am #

          Well they do call it “liquid gold”, right? 😛

        • RNMomma
          August 5, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

          Aside from the shadiness of selling milk online, if they really cared that much they would donate it.

          • Trixie
            August 5, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

            If they really cared, they’d donate it to regulated milk banks who would give it to the only babies for whom it would actually make a lifesaving difference.

    • Amy M
      August 5, 2014 at 7:37 am #

      They probably would, only you wouldn’t necessarily know if they were taking any drugs (prescribed or street), if they were eating something that disagreed with baby, and if they didn’t have enough for both their child and yours, whose gets short-changed?

      • Mac Sherbert
        August 6, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

        In addition you would know if they had any diseases that could be spread via the breast milk…or if they were vaccinated.

  3. Beth S
    August 4, 2014 at 9:14 pm #

    I remember when someone I’m facebook friends with posted her “recipe” for homemade GMO free formula which included making what is basically sweetened condensed milk (cooking down milk and sugar) then adding a little bit of water and a little bit of rice cereal. I’ve also seen this done with goats milk, rice milk, and seen people recommend just giving EBF babies bottles of water if you have to supplement because it teaches babies to eschew bottles. I still wonder how this can be healthier than formula which is you know scientifically as close to breast milk as you can get without breastfeeding.

  4. Amy M
    August 4, 2014 at 9:10 pm #

    What about all those mommy bloggers? I have seen so many posts about Mom Guilt. It drives me up the wall, but there seems to be a cultural expectation that [American/Western middle-upper class] mothers naturally feel guilty about something child-related, all the time. There are memes about it, too. And all the commentors joke and make light of it, or say things like “OMG! I totally agree!” Maybe they launch into a story of what they feel guilty about—usually the things we are “supposed” to feel guilty about: using any convenience or short-cut, having any time to ourselves, and not “doing things right.” Which, in the current mommy-blogger land generally means AP-lite, and foregoing epidurals.

    Why are we expected to feel guilty? And who expects it? Clearly some other mothers, but does the non-mother portion of the population give a crap? I don’t feel guilty about my child-having/rearing choices. I never have. And I resent this cultural ideal of the Mommy Martyr that every mother is supposed to be striving to be, at the expense of herself. Not only does it lead to these poor women who end up all anxious and depressed and blaming themselves, (cause that’s what they’ve been taught, its always mom’s fault), but it holds women back. Mothers get embroiled in a pointless bickerfest about who is the best mommy (as evidenced by who feels the guiltiest), while everyone else gets on with life.

    • Beth S
      August 4, 2014 at 9:17 pm #

      The Mom guilt posts are the reason I’m starting to wish that Mommy bloggers would just go away. How is it at all productive for women to bash other women about their child raising choices? How does forcing every mother or father to parent the same equal being an advocate for children?

    • anion
      August 4, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

      Several years ago I wrote on my own blog about how adulthood sucks so much these days, in large part because the things our parents used to be able to do or say when we were kids are now considered horrible neglect/abuse. Like, our parents used to have other adults over for cocktails once or twice a year, and we kids were sent to our rooms. For the whole evening! Without a big-screen TV and cable and video games! Our parents used to be able to sit outside with a baby monitor while the baby napped, or even go next door for a few minutes, or leave us in the car while they dropped off the dry-cleaning. They made us do our own homework and clean up our own messes and amuse ourselves while they talked to friends or read books or watched TV shows they wanted to watch, and they refused to spend all day every day supervising our activities or carting us to a million different groups and clubs or build inflatable amusement parks in our backyards and rent out entire gymnasiums or movie theaters for our birthdays.

      Adults used to be able to be adults. It was assumed and accepted that children would fit themselves into the adults’ lives and not the other way around; mothers weren’t expected to spend hours playing Barbies or whatever, and they’d joke about wanting us to go away and nobody was horrified. But somewhere along the way the idea that parents could have lives outside of their children just evaporated, and now we have this stifling parent/mommy culture that says there’s something wrong with you and you’re a horrible parent if you don’t spend every second with your children. It’s just sad and annoying.

      • Dr Kitty
        August 5, 2014 at 4:42 am #

        We watched ET with the kiddo the other day.
        Young child wandering alone in the woods, cycling alone through the neighbourhood at night, staying up all night, left home alone when sick.
        Kids left home alone until mum gets home from work, kid reversing a car out of driveway.
        All of it looks like neglect now.

        • Amazed
          August 5, 2014 at 6:24 am #

          How terrible it is for a kid to come home from school and heat their own food. Write their homework on their own.

          Should really call my mom and tell her that she was a terrible mother – not only did she left me to heat my food, ever so often she left me to COOK dinner for both of us. Every day, I returned home to a note specifying what I should d0 – vacuum the flat, wipe the house, etc.

          Terrible, I tell you!

          • Dr Kitty
            August 5, 2014 at 7:44 am #

            Your mum was a great mum, doing what what perfectly normal at the time and you’re none the worse for it.

            But standards are changing and what WAS considered perfectly normal and safe and sensible is now considered too “risky”.

            Doesn’t mean the risks have changed, but our perceptions of how acceptable they are have.

            Some things are clear cut (the three siblings under 8 who flooded their house by trying to run themselves a bath, and the fire service finding their parents passed out drunk in bed upstairs and unrousable…) some things aren’t, and the goal posts have changed.

            I was walking the 10 minutes to my best friend’s house alone from when I was six or seven…would I be OK letting my kiddo roam alone around our housing development next year…probably not.

            I can’t really speak to being left home alone as a child, because I grew up in a multigenerational home. My grandmother was always home, even if she usually left us to our own devices.

          • Amy M
            August 5, 2014 at 7:51 am #

            I think about this a lot. I was a latch-key kid at age 10. I walked home from school, with a friend and my younger sister, where we stayed by ourselves for a couple hours until my mom got home from work. There was never a problem. This was also before the age of before/after school programs.

            In my state, there is actually no minimum age for when it is ok to leave a child alone, though 12 or 13 is the recommendation. Personally, I think it has a lot to do with the children themselves—are they trustworthy by themselves, as well as where you live (is it a generally safe place, or does your neighbor run a meth lab?) I figure we’ll see how the boys are when they are in 5th grade or 6th grade, and whether or not they can handle being home alone after school until my husband or I return. If not, we hold off until they are older. It may not be an issue if they do some sort of extracurricular activity. We shall see.

          • FormerPhysicist
            August 5, 2014 at 10:18 am #

            There’s no minimum in my state either, though they start middle school at 11 (for 6th grade) and are expected to be able to stay after with no notice and allowed to stay in the school library or gym without parental notice or permission. That rather implies that parents are expected to leave them to their own devices at least some of the time.

          • Roadstergal
            August 5, 2014 at 11:34 am #

            All through grade school, I went back and forth between being a latch-key kid and going to my mom’s work, depending on how things worked out day-to-day. Home and work were only a few bus stops apart, and on days when she wasn’t in the lab, I could hang out in her office and read. But sometimes I liked to go home, play in the park with friends, be latch-key. And I was very bonded to my mom and loved her massively. I don’t see why you have to be sewed together to love and adore someone.

            And I think it was good for me, long-term as an adult, to learn to a: care for myself and b: be happy alone, in my own skin, every now and then.

          • Beth S
            August 5, 2014 at 3:43 pm #

            I was just thinking that, my mom not only let me come home to an empty house, but baby sit my younger brothers until she got home from work!
            I didn’t know it was abusive.

          • Amazed
            August 5, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

            My mom actually taught at the school I was attending – me till noon, she after noon or vice versa. When I was 13, I got accepted to another school and I turned out to be home at the same time as my mom. It was very hard for both of us to get used to each other’s constant presence. How I envied my classmates whose mums worked out of home full time and they had the house for themselves.

            It was years before I got to realize that hey, my mum was just as thrilled (not!) to have her teen daughter at home all the time as said teen daughter was to have the possibility of parental nosing whenever mum decided.

            We both felt abused. I am serious, it took a lot of adjustment.

          • Beth S
            August 5, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

            Doesn’t surprise me. When I was thirteen Mom finally got a job that allowed her to be home around the same time us kids all made it home from school, and the adjustment drove us all crazy. It felt to me as if I had someone looking over my shoulder, it felt to Mom as if she had another mother trying to parent her children, and my brothers were just confused as to why this was all important.

        • Durango
          August 5, 2014 at 9:03 am #

          I was just talking with my friends about this the other day. We would roam the neighborhood and surrounding greenbelt all day and make sure we were home for dinner. That was great.

        • Beth S
          August 5, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

          My kiddo couldn’t believe all the stuff the kids in that movie got away with. I mean I’m one of the more easy going parents in our neighborhood yet I’d never let a kid that young ride alone. And my kiddo getting in the car and playing with the gear shift is one of my worst nightmares cause I did that as a kid and ended up putting my head through the windshield. All I had was a concussion and bruised butt, but I still remember doing it and that is one of the few things I would spank for.
          However because of the nosey neighbors there’s still stuff I would love to allow my daughter to do, like walk to the playground ten feet down the street alone since there’s no street to cross and we live in a safe neighborhood, that I can’t allow my kiddo to do because some of these moms would call CPS.

          • anion
            August 5, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

            Last summer I had my girls (8 and 11 at the time) go to the corner store on their own for the very first time. (It’s four doors down from us and the lone entrance/exit is clearly visible from our house.) I gave them a list of three things to get and some cash. I walked outside with them, helped them cross the street, and watched them the entire way. Then I waited outside, not taking my eyes off the door, until they emerged and helped them cross the street back to me.

            It went great, and they were thrilled with themselves. I was thrilled, too, until they told me how the woman behind the counter said something about how she was surprised their mummy let them come to the store by themselves and it could be dangerous because they’re “so young.” Then I was just pissed. They’re not toddlers, ffs, and I watched them every step of the way. I almost went back over there myself to say something but decided it wasn’t worth it, especially since anything I might say would automatically be just an example of how crazy/stupid/overdramatic Americans are. But ugh.

            (The best part is that in this small town there are unsupervised kids their age all over the place, all the time. But MY kids deserved to have some smarmy comment made to them because they went to buy milk at one in the afternoon.)

            So, yeah…I hear you on the CPS thing.

      • Smoochagator
        August 5, 2014 at 8:02 am #


      • Pseudonymous BC
        August 5, 2014 at 11:14 am #

        Ugh, agree! Tired of the mommy guilt. Specifically, I am tired of the Working Mommy Guilt. I am teaching college in the fall (as an adjunct) and I teach. When I announce I’m an adjunct (an accomplishment, I think!), I’m reminded that my children are only young once. Apparently, I am harming my children by working. Apparently, my children don’t benefit enough from the time I am home with them. Sigh.

        Of course, there’s not too many working-mommy bloggers out there. Seems that instead of spending hours in front of a computer getting our “brand” just right and perfecting the art of passive-aggressive critiques if other styles of parenting, we are taking care of our children and families when we are home. And enjoying out children in all their messiness and despite all of the modern conveniences we resort to (frozen pizza!) to ensure that we get to spend quality time with them as often as possible.

        • Beth S
          August 5, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

          Hey now, nothing wrong with Frozen Pizza in moderation! I’m kinda ticked off at my husband for burning my daughter out on it when I was on bed rest because my easy Friday night Mom’s not going to cook meal is now out of the question.

          • anion
            August 5, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

            Friday night at our house is Hamburger Night. Because they’re easy to make and cook, and I have a deep fryer so making fries to go with them only takes a few minutes. And there aren’t many dishes to wash after, which is good, too.

            Just mentioning it in easy-Friday-night-dinner solidarity. 🙂 I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s a little lazy on Friday nights.

          • Guest
            August 5, 2014 at 10:53 pm #

            My family has weekly take-out nights. Support your local take-out shop!

          • anion
            August 6, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

            If we could afford it, we would. 🙂

          • Mishimoo
            August 5, 2014 at 11:22 pm #

            We’ve just changed to easy-Tuesday-night-dinner (local family-owned takeaway as a treat), but yes, easy dinners are awesome.

          • Beth S
            August 6, 2014 at 4:35 am #

            Have you tried deep fried hamburgers? We buy them frozen then throw them in the deep fryer, three and a half minutes later and you get an awesome burger, and for some odd reason you don’t even taste the oil you cook them in.

          • anion
            August 6, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

            Huh, interesting! I make my own burgers by hand (most of the burgers sold here are loaded with fillers like bread crumbs and egg, and of course not too long ago they were found to contain horsemeat, too, ugh) but I wonder if I could freeze them and then put them in the deep fryer?

            As it is, I do them in a frying pan with a little butter, so they’re still “fried,” to some extent. 🙂

            Thanks for the suggestion!

          • Pseudonymous BC
            August 5, 2014 at 10:34 pm #

            I’m not hating on frozen pizza! Like I said, there’s something to be said about those modern conveniences that allow us to cut down on the minutia and spend time with the family or take care of all of the hundreds of other things we need to take care of. We’re a big fan of our crock pot, too!

          • Beth S
            August 6, 2014 at 4:36 am #

            My DH and I have a crock pot set that’s actually three in one we were given for our wedding that we love! It’s like the best invention ever and makes holiday cooking so much easier considering we have to go three different places.

          • Pseudonymous BC
            August 6, 2014 at 9:13 am #

            We have a 3-in-1 too! I love fall cooking, too, because all of those soups and chili and casseroles make AMAZING leftovers! It makes the start to the school year just a little bit easier.

    • RNMomma
      August 5, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

      I’ve been making it my goal not to feel guilty and do more away from my home and infant. I never thought I would want to work as a parent, but now I find my career a critical part of being a parent. I need to be my best self to be the best mom I can be and that means not constantly centering my life around my child and not feeling guilty about my choices. It means doing things that make me feel good about myself.

      For me, it’s the “guilty mom” bloggers and the ones who say “you can have it all” that get to me. I personally think you can’t have it all but that it is nothing to feel bad about. It’s life.

      • Amy M
        August 5, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

        I was bored when I was home on maternity leave. I mean, I was busy with the babies, and exhausted, but mentally unstimulated, so in general, I was glad to go back to work. Being home felt very lonely and isolating as well. I’m sure someone out there thinks I should feel guilty for having those feelings, but I don’t. It was bad enough that I had PPD…if I’d been with my children all day, every day and depressed, I can only imagine that the depression would have been worse and and a depressed mother is no good for the children.

        I agree, that you can’t have it all. Or more that you CAN, but not all at the same time. There are only so many hours in the day, and you can only give so much of yourself before someone or something is getting shortchanged.

        • Beth S
          August 5, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

          I’m a full time SAHM and there were times before the baby was born that I was bored out of my skull and wished I could work. I love being around people and right now I feel like the most stimulating conversation I have is the argument as to when my 6 year old has to go to bed.

  5. Beth S
    August 4, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

    For me at least, I was shamed for refusing to change a medication cocktail that’s working for me. I’m epileptic, and on my birth board I was told these things: 1: If a woman is a woman she can make milk (False for me, I’ve always said my boobs produce powdered milk.) 2: There are medications for epilepsy that are safe to breast feed with. (Never mind it took me two and a half years to find a cocktail that works for me as an adult and I refuse to change now.) 3: That if I do break down and feed my child the demon formula I should use organic (Ummm yeah I’m on WIC and it doesn’t pay for organic formula.) 4: I should buy breast milk off of craigslist or find someone else who can give it to me. (Nope, no way no how) and finally 5: I am feeding my baby synthetic hormones, GMOs and poison and she’s going to be fat, stupid and sickly. (Never mind everyone in my family is formula fed, and while epilepsy is an inherited condition I got it from my biological father, guess what he couldn’t breast feed me anyway.)
    Same for the C-section I had, I have a history of precipitous labors as well as a history of post partum seizures, but I denied my baby the chance to get fluids squeezed out of it’s lungs by my magical vagina just to save my health so I’m not a real mother. I’ve also had to explain the brain blood barrier and how if you don’t get narcotics in an IV while in labor there is no way an epidural can get to the baby. I’m not an anesthesiologist but I ended up having to act like one and seriously I had to come here to make sure what I was saying is right.
    A friend of mine has breast cancer and is facing a radical mastectomy and chemo after the birth of her child, but her sister told her she should put off life saving treatment that she’s already put off for three months in order to carry her child safely in order to breast feed.
    So yes the breastfeeding advocates can be abusive and do like to make new mothers feel like failures because they can’t do what others can. It’s gotten to the point where if I’m around the BF hardcore I walk into another room to feed my child, because I just don’t want to hear that I’m doing something wrong in the way I choose to feed my child. I don’t tell my birth story to the NCB AP hardcore for that reason either. I get tired of hearing I couldn’t possibly be bonded to any of my kids because I didn’t carry them around 24 7 or because I didn’t breast feed them until they were 15.

    • Guest
      August 4, 2014 at 6:33 pm #

      Yep, according to lactivists and natural childbirth advocates, we all have the same lives and bodies and they know more about what your baby needs than you do. Good for you for ignoring it and taking care of your epilepsy and having concern for post partum seizures and not dying!

      • Beth S
        August 4, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

        I had the support of all my doctors, plus most of my family which includes two nurses. So when people question me I bring up those two things and remind them that doctors and nurses both are pushing EBF more and more.
        For me it was the militant LC’s and LLL members who would come into my room to try to push it that got on my last nerve when I was in the hospital. And then of course there are the BBC threads that call formula poison and the tool of the devil.
        I mean seriously giving new mothers the false information that milk banks will just give you breast milk if you can’t nurse is irresponsible. NICU’s get milk bank milk, regular mothers don’t have that access.

        • TsuDhoNimh
          August 4, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

          For me it was the militant LC’s and LLL members who would come into my
          room to try to push it that got on my last nerve when I was in the

          WTF? I’d call security and have them removed! That’s downright rude and prevents you from recovering.

          (It’s right up there with having unwanted strangers deciding to have a prayer circle around my bed … I woke up and shrieked, had no clue who they were I just wanted them out of my room)

    • anion
      August 4, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

      It is absolutely disgusting that you were shamed and abused in that manner. This is one of those times where I wish I’d been around physically when that happened, so I could have told them all to go f* themselves and backed you up. (I’m small but intimidating.) 🙂

      I hope your friend’s treatment leads to a full and safe recovery.

    • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
      August 4, 2014 at 8:42 pm #

      I sure as hell hope you don’t interact with those people any more?

      • Beth S
        August 4, 2014 at 8:45 pm #

        I got kicked off the board for telling those people to go fuck themselves, that they had no idea about my individual circumstances.

        • Smoochagator
          August 5, 2014 at 8:05 am #

          GOOD FOR YOU.

        • moto_librarian
          August 5, 2014 at 9:49 am #

          Wear it as a badge of honor! Getting kicked out of a group like that is a rite of passage around here.

    • Elizabeth A
      August 4, 2014 at 11:07 pm #

      Okay, you don’t need to hear this from me, because you’re not stupid, but I appear to have a need to say it.

      A friend of mine has breast cancer and is facing a radical mastectomy
      and chemo after the birth of her child, but her sister told her she
      should put off life saving treatment that she’s already put off for
      three months in order to carry her child safely in order to breast feed.

      Hell no.

      I’m a breast cancer survivor (so is your friend – did you know you’re a survivor from the moment of diagnosis?), and my treatment started about five months later than it should have because we initially believed the lumps in my breast were just cystic tissue. The information I couldn’t get until the post-mastectomy pathology report came back was that I had HER2/NEU+ cancer, which is highly aggressive. Those five months meant more radical mastectomy, MUCH more aggressive chemotherapy, and radiation that I otherwise might have been able to skip.

      On the long list of things my children care about, breast milk does not make an appearance. They care deeply about Pokemon cards, cupcakes for the entire class, uppy hugs, and what earrings I wear… but not what I fed them when they were teeny.

      I hope your friend has an uneventful course with breast cancer, and recovers completely. And feels free to not take her sister’s calls.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym
      August 5, 2014 at 10:22 am #

      Formula feeding or breast feeding will make, at most, a minimal difference to the baby in 10 years. Mother living and healthy or dead or badly damaged from uncontrolled epilepsy makes a vast difference in the child’s life.

      • Beth S
        August 5, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

        Yep, my kids need me more than they need my boob. The child I placed for adoption at birth wasn’t breastfed because you know adoption and she’s top of her class and graduating early. And all of my kiddos border on being too skinny never mind the fact that they eat like horses, I wish I could eat like they do and never gain weight.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym
      August 5, 2014 at 10:28 am #

      A friend of mine has breast cancer and is facing a radical mastectomy
      and chemo after the birth of her child, but her sister told her she
      should put off life saving treatment that she’s already put off for
      three months in order to carry her child safely in order to breast feed.

      Nope, nope, nopity nope, no, hell no, forgetaboutit, and absolutely not. Nein, nie ins Leben, vergiss es. Non. Jamais. Nunca. I’m out of languages.

      Bad plan.

      • RNMomma
        August 5, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

        Seriously? Good lord, these people don’t think properly.

      • jenny
        August 5, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

        What? I’m sure the baby would much rather have his or her mother than be breastfed!

        • The Computer Ate My Nym
          August 5, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

          And breast cancer. Breast cancer’s a killer, still, despite substantial progress in its treatment. But who does it kill most often? Those who delay treatment. That 3 month wait could mean the difference between life and death. Breast feeding is not worth it.

          • Somewhereinthemiddle
            August 5, 2014 at 6:56 pm #

            Exactly. And I have zero clue if this has any foundation at all, but I just don’t think I would be comfortable breastfeeding a baby from a breast that has cancer anyway. I mean, there is probably no reason that should be an issue, but the idea just isn’t very appealing.

      • Beth S
        August 5, 2014 at 3:45 pm #

        Yeah, she’s mouthier than I am in real life and told her sister that her kid needed her around more than they needed her boob.

  6. Sadlady
    August 4, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    I agree there are tangible victims of NCB (even up to death) but I don’t see any victims of lactivism. I am tired of women being told to cover up for nursing in public. This is tantamount to asking a formula fed baby to cover up. (Because you know I don’t want to be reminded of the virgin gut flora stripping of baby, or the fact that many babies in Toledo, Ohio can’t drink the water needed for formula, or in countries where the water is bad yet hospitals send new moms home with powder or whatever stupid reason I want to justify, when I can merely look away) But maybe I’m not a real lactivist. Maybe I just am a nursing-in-public advocate. I guess I thought lactivism was just a backlash against being told to “please do that in the bathroom.” Is it really that fascist? Should I stop doing nurse-ins where women have been mal-treated for nursing in public? What crosses the line between advocate and lactivist abuser?

    • RNMomma
      August 4, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

      I may have skipped over something, but I don’t think Dr. Amy is saying not to support maltreatment of women for nursing in public. I’m a huge supporter of nursing in public. I do NOT support exclusively breastfeeding at all cost.

      • RNMomma
        August 4, 2014 at 2:46 pm #

        Whoops. *she’s not supporting mistreatment of nursing moms.

        • sadlady
          August 4, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

          Yeah I am saying maybe I don’t have the definition of lactivist down. :/ I thought I was one but I’m not a formula basher. Is lactivist in the dictionary? What do they believe?

          • Amy M
            August 4, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

            I think there’s a bit of a range.

          • RNMomma
            August 4, 2014 at 3:13 pm #

            I agree there is a bit of a range… I think this article is referring to those who place a standard (exclusive breastfeeding) on all women without thought to the individual, thereby attributing to women feeling bad about themselves for not achieving that standard.

          • Amy M
            August 4, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

            Yes, our favorite feminist breeder likes to say that ceasing breastfeeding causes PPD, so if you stopped breastfeeding and have PPD, that’s why. All your fault, you horrible mom, you. You’d be feeling like sunshine and roses today, if you’d just kept breastfeeding.

          • Wren
            August 4, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

            Huh. I breastfed my daughter to 35 months and the girl absolutely refused to ever take a bottle. Guess I didn’t really have PPD? Or maybe Feminist breeder is full of crap.

          • moto_librarian
            August 4, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

            Well, she is a “public health scholar,” dontcha know?

            On a serious note, I am very sorry that you had PPD.

    • Stacy48918
      August 4, 2014 at 2:48 pm #

      *Waves hand.* Hello, my name is Stacy. Nice to meet you.

      I breastfed my son for a year because it was the “right” thing to do. When I dried up at 3 months post-partum with my daughter and she wasted down to 7 pounds 10 ounces at her 4 month visit I had to start formula. EVERY. DAY. for the last 8 months I have pulled the carton of formula from the cabinet – formula that quite literally saved my daughter from starving to death – and had to read “breast is best for babies’.

      NO. It wasn’t. My daughter was starving and I am shamed every time I make her a bottle because – no matter the circumstances – “Breast is best”.


      If I showed up at your nurse in and wanted to feed my daughter formula side by side with you, you honestly think I wouldn’t get more than a few nasty looks? I absolutely would. And yet, all I’m doing is “feeding my baby”. What’s wrong with “feeding a hungry baby”?

      • sadlady
        August 4, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

        My second baby also had failure to thrive. we supplimented for 2-3 months after we discovered it. I felt so stupid to not know she was starving since her big sister was a natural. I figured same boobs, same sustenance. I pumped around the clock and fixed her latch while doing so. After that she got really plump. Then again I was a stay at home mom for second baby so I had the free time to do all that. Not that all stay at home moms must work through it. I am pretty sure I would lose my lactivist card if they knew. I LOVED breastfeeding but I loved my baby more, so for a few months, formula. I guess I feel the need to NIP because teen girls and tweens get to see bottles out there all the time, and they are given toy bottles for their dolls. So to me formula feeding in public is normal. So why need a demonstration for the commonplace? I guess I fear if the public doesn’t see it (breastfeeding), it will go extinct because of the unfair public representation. Like if the US is 50/50 breast/formula but the representation is 10/90, won’t the statistics mimic that one day? But maybe a bottle at a nurse-in would be a demonstration that they have an equal right to be seen in public. Sorry if you were publicly shamed for formula feeding. I don’t believe in that.

        • Melissa
          August 4, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

          Lactivism is different than nursing-in-public. Lactivism has created hospital policies that ban discussions of formula feeding and lock formula behind closed doors in maternity wards. Lactivism is found on message boards where women who are asking for help because of FTT babies or nursing pain that formula is poison and that using untested donor milk from the internet is better than using formula.

          It is getting to the point in the mommy wars where women who bottle feed in public are given dirty looks. There was a blog post from a lactivist blog about how to tell the difference between pumped milk and formula so that if you saw someone bottle feeding in public that you would be able to yell at them without worrying that they were using pumped milk.

          • Stacy48918
            August 4, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

            There are plenty of women that breastfeed quite happily without ever feeling the need to attend a “nurse-in” just to prove their point. It is lactivism.

          • anion
            August 4, 2014 at 7:08 pm #

            I nursed my second for 17 months without ever needing to do it in public. I guess I would have in an emergency (one time I went out to the car, as we were walking around a store and walking & nursing didn’t appeal) but quite frankly, while I don’t have a huge issue with public breastfeeding, neither do I enjoy the thought of exposing my breast(s) to all and sundry. I don’t care how much of it would be exposed; I simply do not wish to show my naked body parts to strangers.

          • Somewhereinthemiddle
            August 4, 2014 at 7:08 pm #

            Exactly. I’ve breastfed all three of my children, supplementing with formula with the first. I’ve donated milk, nursed someone else’s baby (with their express permission), and nurse in public without a cover on the regular. I do not attend nurse-ins but understand to a certain degree why they happen, give a shit how someone else feeds their baby as long as they are being fed, and I support formula feeding mothers 100%. I’ve had FF people in my life who have felt the need to be suuuper defensive and even straight up lie to me about their feeding decisions simply because they know I breastfeed. It really is sad that people take the whole breastfeeding thing to such an extreme that it is assumed that you are a complete asshole about it simply because you have chosen and are able to breastfeed.

          • Beth S
            August 4, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

            I’ve gotten to the point where if they yell at me about bottle feeding in public I tell them to fuck off because it’s best for my child and that’s what’s important.

          • guest
            August 4, 2014 at 5:57 pm #

            No need to explain why you tell them to F-off!! I would love to see a group of bottle-feeding moms hold a “formula sit-in”.. it sure would be interesting to see their response!!

        • anion
          August 4, 2014 at 7:04 pm #

          Pregnant women and new mothers are BOMBARDED with “breast is best” messages everywhere they look and everywhere they go. All you’re doing by deliberately turning the feeding of your baby into a pointed political message intended to “prove” something to women is shaming them and implying they’re too stupid to make the “correct” decision if you don’t show them the way.

          • Beth S
            August 4, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

            It’s even on the back of the can of formula. You just can’t go anywhere without being bombarded with the message. As far as teenagers being given dolls with bottles, I’ve yet to find a teenager that’s interested in dolls, and even when you get the doll in health class to simulate a baby they tell you breast is best, but that because of the way the dolls are made you can’t breast feed ’em.

          • anion
            August 4, 2014 at 9:17 pm #

            Lol, yes, all those sixteen-year-old girls getting baby dolls as gifts and then being very very confused at the idea that living humans can breastfeed, because aren’t living human babies just exactly like silent immobile dollies with permanently-pursed lips?

            If your tween or teen thinks a plastic baby is the exact equivalent of a live one, perhaps the question of whether she should breastfeed isn’t the most important one that needs addressing just now.

          • Beth S
            August 4, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

            I remember being sixteen, if someone had given me a baby doll as a gift I’d have looked at them as if they were nuts and asked what drugs they were doing. Sixteen year olds want cars, I-Pads, Phones, Computers, clothes, they don’t however want baby dolls and the like.
            And if your sixteen year old needs to make a breastfeeding decision you’ve got bigger worries than a doll.

          • Amazed
            August 4, 2014 at 10:08 pm #

            I was 4 1/2 year old when my living baby doll, otherwise known as baby brother, arrived. I remember watching my mom breastfeeding him and I asked what she was doing. Alas, she included the word “milk” in her explanation, so to me, the message was “poor poor baby”. Soon after, I tried to feed him something truly delicious – a bun.

            Pretty sure I would have been equally horrified if I had seen her formula feeding and she used the M-word.

        • fiftyfifty1
          August 4, 2014 at 7:17 pm #

          ” I guess I feel the need to NIP because teen girls and tweens get to see bottles out there all the time, and they are given toy bottles for their dolls. ”

          My my but don’t you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders! Why bless your heart. Everyone must be so grateful for your selfless service.

        • Amazed
          August 4, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

          Teens and tweens are still given dolls? Oh my. And they are still so very vulnerable to the toy bottles dolls have?

          Methinks society have a much bigger problem than normalizing breastfeeding.

          For the record, the teens and tweens I know don’t feed their dolls. And they are most emphatically unimpressed with women who are trying to impress their environment by breastfeeding uncovered. It shows. Usually, people can tell when it’s done for convenience and when it’s done to stick it to something.

          Nursing uncovered? Fine by me. Nursing covered? Fine by me. Strutting your breast for the world to see how brave/selfless/rebellious you are? Not so much.

          My impression is that normal people almost never notice a mother feeding her baby, no matter by breast or bottle. But demonstratively breastfeeding uncovered is just the same as going to the centre of a hall where people are focused on their things and whip the bottle out, so everyone can see that you’re formula feeding. No matter that they don’t care about your business either way.

        • auntbea
          August 4, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

          And if it goes away…so what?

          • Cobalt
            August 5, 2014 at 1:42 am #

            If it does go away, moms have lost an option. Breastfeeding isn’t always the best choice, but it is sometimes. I wouldn’t want breastfeeding to become so rare that support for it disappeared. The current swing to militant lactivism is bad for moms and babies, but a society in which breastfeeding is culturally unacceptable is also bad for moms and babies.

            Having real freedom to make the best choice, based on individual circumstances and factual information, is what is best for moms, babies, and society.

        • Bombshellrisa
          August 4, 2014 at 8:57 pm #

          “I guess I fear if the public doesn’t see it (breastfeeding), it will go extinct because of the unfair public representation.” I was raised to see breastfeeding as normal, my mother nursed both my brothers until they were a year. She also always mentioned that while she enjoyed breastfeeding, she had the ideal circumstances and had no problems during any time while nursing and neither did her babies. Circumstances and what works best for both mother and child should be what a choice is based on. It is not unfair for me represent formula feeding as a choice to my own daughter, which is the way I am feeding my son. She might as well see both sides represented now.

        • Beth S
          August 4, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

          My mother wanted to breastfeed me, however it was impossible because she had no milk supply. I wanted to breastfeed my children but it was impossible for several reasons. I’ve never thought breastfeeding would go extinct, in fact it’s probably better accepted now than it has been in the last 50 years or so.
          I will tell both my girls that if they want to breastfeed and it’s possible for them to do so, go for it. But I won’t tell them that there’s anything wrong with formula feeding either, even if they just don’t want to breastfeed.

        • KarenJj
          August 4, 2014 at 9:54 pm #

          “I am pretty sure I would lose my lactivist card if they knew. ”

          And that’s the damned irritating thing about “lactivism”. You don’t have to breastfeed to support the right to breastfeed. It’s so divisive.

          • fiftyfifty1
            August 5, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

            “And that’s the damned irritating thing about “lactivism”. You don’t have to breastfeed to support the right to breastfeed. It’s so divisive.”

            And that right there is proof that Lactivism is not about supporting women who breastfeed but rather about shaming those who don’t. If it were about supporting breastfeeding there would not need to be any purity tests or metaphorical membership cards. It’s a nasty clique.

    • Staceyjw
      August 4, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

      It is that nasty.
      The biggest difference between an advocate and a lactivist is their inflexibility regarding “breast is best”, which show’s in their attitude towards formula and non BF moms.

      A BF advocate can love BF, talk about the good points, help with BF issues, encourage when needed, help make policies that make BF easier (like free pumps, better leave, more protections), answer questions, offer suport, all without denigrating formula, or those that use it. A good BF advocate will also realize that judicious use of formula can actually help start, and extend the nursing relationship.

      A lactivist has a set idea about BF- that it’s not just best, but the only right way to feed a baby, that formula is tantamount to poisoning, and moms who don’t BF are lazy losers. They believe that if you just try hard enough, and follow the “rules”, BF will work. If it doesn’t, well, you didn’t do it right. These are the types that cannot accept that sometimes, a little formula is needed, that BF isnt right for everyons, and those moms that choose FF? They are seen as bad moms.

      Just like NCB being in part a reaction to bad hospital policy, lactivism started out as a way to reintroduce BF to a culture that had pretty much given up on it, and to ensure moms that BF weren’t treated poorly. Sadly, BOTH have turned into nasty little cliques that have abandoned reason, evidence, and developed too much hate for things they don’t like.

      • Staceyjw
        August 4, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

        Forgot to add I am a NIP advocate too, and can be found BFing my 2.5 yr old all over town.
        I still loathe modern lactivists.
        I am also all for FF in public, which may sound funny, but in this town, you are most likely to get nasty looks and smart remarks for using a bottle.

        • Bombshellrisa
          August 4, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

          I hate those people who assume a bottle=formula. My little guy couldn’t latch on for a long time but he got pumped breast milk. My least favorite person was the woman who went on and on about how soy in formula “exposes babies to estrogen 75x more than what is in a birth control pill”. I don’t think she knows much about formula, birth control pills or how much estrogen babies are exposed to in the womb, but I was annoyed none the less that someone felt the need to lecture me.

          • Beth S
            August 4, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

            I didn’t know it was bad to expose my two girls to estrogen, don’t they have it running through their veins? I mean I thought that was part of being a woman?

          • August 4, 2014 at 11:32 pm #

            Actually, babies get quite a bit of their mother’s circulating estrogen. The worst that happens is that sometimes little girl babies are occasionally born either menstruating, or with a few drops of milk in their own breasts [“witches’ milk”]. The estrogen is soon metabolized and the phenomenon ends.

          • Bombshellrisa
            August 5, 2014 at 11:28 am #

            This is one of the things I was sent-i am feeding my son just plain formula so not sure why she sent me an entire Pinterest board with stuff like this on it

          • fiftyfifty1
            August 5, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

            I am so sick of hearing this stupid rumor about soy formula being like a birth control pill. First they claimed a day’s formula was worth 1 pill, now I see they have upped the ante to 5 birth control pills per day! What total bullshit. Kids sometimes do get into their mothers’ BC pills and eat them (cute colored candies!) and when they do you know it because they temporarily grow little breasts. If a baby was eating the equivalent of one birth control pill per day, much less 5, you would know it within a few days.

            I suppose this rumor has its basis in a theory that was prevalent in the 1990s. At that time, cross-cultural studies suggested that Asian women reported fewer menopausal symptoms than Western women. It was theorized that the soy in their diets might be acting as a weak estrogen as the molecules share some structural similarities. Herbal remedy companies made millions selling soy supplements to menopausal women even after the double-blinded studies came back showing that soy supplements were no more effective than placebos. And then when they went back and looked at the original cross-cultural studies it turns out that they were flawed! Asian women do indeed suffer from menopausal symptoms after all, it’s just that the language and symptom conceptualizing used in the surveys wasn’t familiar in many of these cultures so they had said “no, I don’t have problems”.

          • Hannah
            August 6, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

            That’s fascinating! My aunt ate her weight in soy products for YEARS based on those studies to help her through the ‘dry up’.Twenty years later and it turns out she’s had Hashimotos for years and that diet probably didn’t help matters.

          • August 4, 2014 at 11:30 pm #

            Yes, I think it’s absurd to equate the presence of a bottle with the idea that it just must be filled with formula.
            I can see — although I don’t agree with — the position that breast milk is to be preferred to formula for several small benefits. But whether the milk comes directly from the cow, excuse me, mother, via her nipple, or in a bottle is irrelevant. The bottle itself is not some sort of antibody-destroying implement.

      • anion
        August 4, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

        This +100!

        I am a total advocate for breastfeeding. I always recommend to the women I know–when/if, and only when/if they ask or bring it up–that they at least try it, and commit to trying it for a short period of time, which they can then extend if they like. I tell them what a great experience it was for me with my second, and how sad I was when we finally stopped at 17 mos.

        But I always, always, tell them in my next breath that there is no shame or fault in deciding it’s not for them, or in not having enough milk or enough time or in simply hating it or whatever else; that it is their baby and their body and their choice and that if they decide to stop that’s perfectly fine and their baby will not end up stupid, obese, or imprisoned because of it.

        I love it when my friends decide to give it a try because of my advice. But I also love it when they know they can tell me, “Yeah, I hated it so I switched to formula,” and that I, at least (unlike some of the people they know), will not think one bit differently of them or judge them in any way (and will probably be glad, because it means I can send them off to bed and spend a few hours cuddling and feeding the baby!).

        Advocate =/= activist.

      • guest
        August 5, 2014 at 12:03 am #

        The next thing you know, they’ll be reporting Moms who formula feed their babies to DSS! These people are just over the top..

    • moto_librarian
      August 4, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

      Sadlady, unless you tell mothers that formula is poison, you aren’t a lactivist. I wholeheartedly agree that women should be able to nurse in public without harassment. I also think that I should be able to bottlefeed in public without being asked why I am not nursing my child.

      • Beth S
        August 4, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

        I’ve been told I’m feeding my child poison more times than I want to think about. It pisses me off that there are people who think they know more than the mother of a child about how to feed said child.

        • Amy M
          August 4, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

          And here’s what I trying to get at below: You (Beth S) have been targeted by these jerks, but you seem to have handled it with grace, and you come across as confident in your decisions. You don’t seem like you felt ashamed or guilty, or were blaming yourself for things that were beyond your control.

          However, Burgundy’s friend was also targeted and reached the conclusion she was an unfit mother. What is the difference between you and Burgundy’s friend? Is it just personality? That some women are higher risk for depression/anxiety for a number of reasons and are more vulnerable to this sort of thing? Would understanding the difference and being able to screen (for lack of a better word) for women who are more likely to be victimized by the NCB/lactivist people help?

          I mean, I don’t see the “mommy wars” ever going away, if its not breastfeeding vs. formula, it’ll be something else. But, maybe better mental health services/support/understanding could go a long way toward dealing with the issue from the other direction?

          • Beth S
            August 4, 2014 at 8:30 pm #

            I think for me the reason I’m confident in my decisions is because I’m small but stubborn. Plus I have the support of my family which has helped me in ways I can’t imagine. I think the important thing is a balanced educational system when it comes to parenting choices. Sure breast feeding should be promoted, I’ve never said otherwise, but the pendulum has swung so far the other way in doing so that the balance is out of whack. A mother should never be shamed for any decision she makes, and baby friendly hospitals are close to doing so. If I hadn’t had medication reasons I would’ve had to deal with LC’s, nurses and other hospital staff trying to change my mind.
            Hospital staff should be required to be impartial, instead of carrying biases for one way or the other that way a mother is armed with the best information she can get for whichever parenting choices she makes for her child.

          • Amy M
            August 4, 2014 at 8:48 pm #

            Oh absoluately, hospital staff/medical caregivers, etc should be required to be impartial. But that won’t stop the non-healthcare professional brigade of mommy blogger lactivist types that haunt the internet, so in deference to reality (there will always be jerks trying to shame women for their parenting choices), I’m trying to think of the best way to either prevent the women from falling into that trap (by being more like you) or getting them help asap, if it happens anyway.

            In my experience, some it is just that: experience. It’s a lot easier to ignore a bunch of nosy strangers on the internet, or even nosy friends/family if you’ve been in the trenches awhile and have seen that your choices work for your family and no one has ended up dead or seriously wounded because you gave formula or whatever. I think first time mothers run into this problem way more than mothers on their 2nd or later children.

            I warned several friends/family when they were pregnant with their firsts—watch out for lactivists. Some of those friends/family successfully breastfed, some didn’t, but I didn’t want any of them getting depressed because some busybody bitch tried to tell her she was a crap mother for how she fed her baby.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD
      August 4, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

      Here’s a radical thought, Sadlady.

      How about discussing what I actually wrote instead of what you wish I wrote because it would be easier to demolish?

      I cannot figure out any plausible way that what I wrote could be construed as opposing breastfeeding in public, so perhaps you could point out where I said ANYTHING that could lead you to that conclusion … besides your obvious desperation to ignore the way that lactivists shame those who don’t mirror their choices back to them.

    • Dr Kitty
      August 4, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

      PERSONALLY, I EBF for over a year and NIP without a cover all the time, because it was the easiest, best option for me and kiddo at the time.

      If someone tells me she is EBF, hasn’t slept more than 2 hrs at a stretch in 12 weeks and nearly fell asleep at the wheel, I’ll tell her she needs to hand the baby off for a night to get some sleep. Expressed BM, formula, don’t care, but she needs to sleep.

      If an EBM infant has faltering growth, I’ll suggest formula supplementation, expressing round the clock to increase supply, adding a fortifier to expressed BM or just going with formula so we know exactly what in going in to the baby- no judgement, mum can pick whichever she wants to try.

      If someone comes to me at the six week check up and says they are bottle feeding I’ll ask how it’s going and if they have any questions about infant feeding.

      If someone tells me they can only nurse in public with a cover, or in very private areas, I’ll recommend the places I found that were the most helpful and

      • Dr Kitty
        August 4, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

        …and where I found the most private.

        It is never about making me and my choices the default, it is about supporting other women to make the choices that work for them and keep their baby thriving.

        No judgement, no shame, no guilt.

    • Burgundy
      August 4, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

      Hi Sadlady,
      My best friend was told by her lactivist aunt that she should forget about the glaucoma eye drops and risking losing her eyesight; because you know, “breast is best”. It was her first baby and she ended up thinking she was an unfit mother because she was not able to breastfeed. Please tell me if she is not a victim of a lactivist abuse, then what was this?

    • DaisyGrrl
      August 4, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

      It appears to me that you are equating “tangible victims” with people suffering permanent physical damage or death. I don’t think it’s that straightforward. Aside from cases of FTT, or making jaundice worse than it needs to be, the push to EBF can be very stressful for a new mother, even if she doesn’t have a medical reason driving her decision to formula feed.

      The problem isn’t simply that lactivists push for the normalization of breastfeeding in public. The problem is that many lactivists believe that breastmilk is best for the baby *no matter what* and do not hesitate to push their beliefs on others and judge and shame women who formula feed for any reason. It’s at the point where I know a mother who felt guilty for supplementing with one bottle so she could have an evening away from the baby!

      The evidence shows that bf and ff are pretty much equivalent in developed countries where access to clean water is a given. Since that is the case, mothers shouldn’t be made to feel guilty or lesser because of how they chose to feed their infants. It’s part of the cult of all things natural are good. The big problem is that the idea of breast is best has seeped into our cultural consciousness and can do tremendous damage both physically and psychologically.

    • fiftyfifty1
      August 4, 2014 at 7:07 pm #

      “I don’t see any victims of lactivism.”

      Then open your eyes.

    • anion
      August 4, 2014 at 7:13 pm #

      You really think asking a woman not to show her breasts to random people in public is the same as asking someone to cover up an inanimate piece of plastic? Is asking that women cover their breasts also tantamount to hiding glasses, forks, knives, and spoons because they are also food/liquid delivery systems? What about plates, are those okay? I assume straws are out of the question.

      (Note: I don’t have a particular problem with discreet public breastfeeding, I just think that’s an outrageous and ridiculous comparison. I also don’t think being asked to cover up is “mal-treatment,” though, either.)

      • Bombshellrisa
        August 4, 2014 at 8:50 pm #

        After that one woman who was photographed nursing her child on the floor in the middle of the baby fair all in an attempt to “advertise” breastfeeding (while topless and wearing a wreath), I haven’t thought it is abusive to ask some women to cover up either.(( I guess it does depend on the culture of the area. Breastfeeding in public is pretty common in the Seattle area, it’s just part of the culture. There is also an appalling amount of nosiness and unsolicited advice given if you choose to supplement or formula feed))

        • Beth S
          August 4, 2014 at 9:10 pm #

          That had nothing to do with advertising breast feeding and everything to do with her own need for attention.

        • MLE
          August 4, 2014 at 11:11 pm #

          Yet another way to set the bar high – must breast feed while in the costume of a woodland nymph with matching cherub baby

          • Bombshellrisa
            August 4, 2014 at 11:21 pm #

            I guess I am a bad mother then, I just don’t feel the need to costume up and sit topless on the floor of the nearest mall to “advertise” breastfeeding.

          • Cobalt
            August 5, 2014 at 1:28 am #

            When I see that picture, I think: Where is the puke? Any of my kids would have vomited profusely all over me, just as the camera went off, just to get that kind of stupid out of my head.

    • KarenJJ
      August 4, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

      “What crosses the line between advocate and lactivist abuser?”

      When women are denied accurate information about feeding options in order to influence one choice over the other.

      I asked a nurse for information on expressing and bottlefeeding and she said she couldn’t do it because I was meant to be “exclusively breastfeeding” and the information would sabotage that – nevermind that for 4 out of the 5 days of my hospital stay I was expressing. When I was still having difficulties a week later the child health nurse discussed supplementation but couldn’t/wouldn’t give me information on how to actually do it. I had to figure it out for myself in my sleep deprived state and somehow missed the memo that you are meant to throw out the remains of a bottle of milk after an hour until a few weeks later.

      I have argued with breastfeeding advocates on a mainstream baby forum who tell me that they don’t believe if happened, can’t see why nurses would not give me the information I was asking for and disbelieve my account.

      The stories are there they are just not being believed. Why would a relatively simple account of being withheld information not be believed I’ve no idea? This was the same baby forum that if you asked for formula advice you would be bombarded with breastfeeding cheerleaders. When asking for a space to discuss formula issues and formula feeding (so same as the breastfeeding forum) I was told it was against WHO regulations. I see that they’ve since changed their minds and put one on. But the whole situation surrounding breastfeeding when I gave birth (3 and 5 years ago) was poisonous to women that were having issues.

      For more stories you can go and read the Fearless Formula Feeder.

      And for the record I’m not at all against public breastfeeding. I’ve done it myself.

      • auntbea
        August 4, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

        I also don’t believe it. I mean, I do believe you, but the story is just unbelievable.

        • KarenJJ
          August 4, 2014 at 9:49 pm #

          This is in Australia. We’re not able to access formula samples for fear we’ll “cave” and decide not to breastfeed. That is the breastfeeding culture here. Nanny state for sure. Not that our breastfeeding rates are all that much higher for it..

      • Beth S
        August 4, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

        I’m a formula feeder, and honestly if a woman wants to NIP covered or uncovered I say good for her. Women should be able to feed their babies whichever way works for them.

    • MLE
      August 4, 2014 at 8:22 pm #

      Let’s see, here is just one minor example. I couldn’t nurse without crying from the toe curling pain, yet I was told to avoid nipple shields because they would ruin the BF relationship and also it wouldn’t be natural. So I didn’t use nipple shields for the first excruciating month until I nearly wanted to die since we nursed every 2 hours. I finally gave in and bought the evil shields, and…..everything was fine. Oh except the shame spiral.

      • Bombshellrisa
        August 4, 2014 at 10:11 pm #

        I was encouraged by the LCs to use a nipple shield-so all the less qualified people who tried to tell me I was ruining my chance to breastfeed were told “nope, lactation consultant told me I had to, gonna keep using it”. And it worked!

        • MLE
          August 4, 2014 at 10:59 pm #

          I wish I had met anyone ith any sense. Now expecting #2 in six months and I am budgeting for pretty much just nipple shields (and diapers). Somehow even though they were a roaring success, I still felt bad for breast feeding wrong (?).

          • August 4, 2014 at 11:20 pm #

            There isn’t any “wrong” way to breast feed. Common sense is everything. Do what works.
            End of lesson.

          • MLE
            August 4, 2014 at 11:58 pm #

            Easy to see now that I’m not a sleep deprived hormonal wreck 🙂

    • Bombshellrisa
      August 4, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

      “I don’t see any victims of lactivism”
      Women should not be made to feel that they are lazy, whiny or selfish if they choose to supplement or formula feed.

    • TsuDhoNimh
      August 4, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

      ” Is it really that fascist?”

      Some are, shall we say, only slightly less fervent than a street preacher and more aggressive than a Kirby salesman.

      One of my nephews had to intervene in a “counseling” session when the so-called lactation counselor got “pushy” with his wife and was apparently telling her that BF was the only way to be a real mom, that she’d never bond with her baby if she didn’t … the whole party line for the Breast is the only way to feed group.

      Normally his wife can take care of herself, but she was punchy from lack of sleep, full of pain meds, and too physically exhausted to do much. So, in his words, “I told that bitch to shut up and get the hell out of the room or I would throw her out.”

    • Anna T
      August 5, 2014 at 7:20 am #

      Many women don’t feel comfortable nursing without a cover, even if nobody says anything about it. I’ve nursed, so far, two children for a total of 3.5 years. That’s a lot of time spent breastfeeding and you bet I didn’t (couldn’t, in fact) spend all that time locked up in a private room. I’ve nursed on crowded buses, at train stations, at family events, on the playground bench, at the back seat of a (parked) car, and basically wherever I happened to be with a hungry baby. I’m an Orthodox Jew and would never feel comfortable nursing without a cover in front of men. Nobody ever saw even a bit of my breast in public, thanks to the simple device of a little cotton blanket I carried with me everywhere.

      Once, my husband and I attended his yeshiva school reunion. What do you have at such a reunion? That’s right… lots and lots of babies. One rabbi totally exaggerated with the length of his speech, and soon, you could see one woman or another covered up with such a cotton blanket, under which was a nursing baby. At one point around 25% of the women in the room were breastfeeding simultaneously, and it was all done in a very discreet way. I think none of the men even paid attention, unless it was their own wife.

      • KT
        August 5, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

        Thank you! I too feel uncomfortable nursing without a cover and get so annoyed when other women imply that because I use a cover to nurse I’m somehow failing other moms. Nope – just following my own convictions and making myself comfortable, thankyouverymuch.

        • anion
          August 5, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

          I personally find the insistence that mothers should be thrilled to expose their bare breasts to the general public to be problematic, to say the least. Our culture keeps pushing women to expose more and more skin and insinuating that modesty is some sort of anti-woman weakness and if you’re not dying to let every random man on the street see your breasts there’s something wrong with you, you’re some kind of prude or freak.

          Again, I don’t think nursing mothers should be forced to cover up, but I do wish the “why u so repressed?” brigade would give women who don’t wish to be on display a break.

    • moto_librarian
      August 5, 2014 at 10:13 am #

      It was just about five years ago that I found Dr. Amy’s blog. I came across it while trying to determine just how much my inability to nurse was actually hurting my newborn son. I had planned on breastfeeding him, but it simply did not work. The LC came to see me the day after our son was born. He was in the NICU for TTN, I was still in a wheelchair because I was so weak from blood loss that I couldn’t stand up, and I was exhausted. When I tried to nurse our son for the first time, she was not helpful. She grabbed my breasts and nipples without asking, telling me that I was latching him wrong. I’m sure that I wasn’t probably doing it right, but it was the first time we had the opportunity to even try it, and her demeanor was extremely unfriendly. I was so out of it that I did not advocate for myself well at all, and my husband happened to not be in the NICU when this occurred. (If he had been, I think he would have kicked her out). She then told me that I had to pump every three hours to try to get my supply up.

      So I did what she told me. I pumped, visited our son in the NICU and tried putting him to the breast, and did not rest. When we were discharged three days later, the LC told me she was “concerned” that my milk was not in yet, and recommended fenugreek. She had access to my chart, and should have known that fenugreek is contraindicated for anyone with moderate to severe asthma. I figured it out by looking it up in the appendix of my copy of “A Nursing Mother’s Companion.” So I kept up the routine of pumping, putting baby to breast, and supplementing with what little breastmilk I had and formula. It felt like everything that I did revolved around feeding the baby. Bottles to wash, pump parts to wash, time spent pumping, etc. Our son screamed in anger and frustration every time that I put him to the breast, and I began to dread feeding him. It was about that time that the baby blues hit, and I spent an entire day sobbing because I just knew that he was going to get H1N1 and die if he couldn’t get antibodies from my breastmilk (H1N1 was at its peak – the vaccine was just coming available, and I knew he couldn’t get it until he was 6 months old). My eyes nearly swelled shut from crying, and I was so anxious that I was unable to sleep.

      I kept this routine up for a couple of weeks. Friends kept telling me to keep going, that it would work eventually. It was my mother who finally talked me down. She reminded me that it did not matter HOW my son was fed as long as he was being fed. I finally let it go and went fully to formula. I started to get some rest, and I came to enjoy feeding our son because it was no longer so stressful.

      With the benefit of hindsight and a release from postpartum hormones, I hate that I did this to myself. I hate that I could not relax and simply enjoy my baby during his first few weeks of life. I also now know that the benefits of breastfeeding a term infant in the developed world are miniscule, and I remain angry that “breast is best” continues to be pushed on women to such an outrageous extent. This has to stop. Dr. Amy is right – the tactics of lactivists are abusive, and they are hurting women.

      • RNMomma
        August 5, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

        I’m at a crossroads right now trying to decide what area of nursing to go into (was in pediatric pulmonology). I have interest in becoming a lactation consultant, but I don’t like the lactivist philosophies that I would inevitably be around often. I’m not interested in constant debate in my life, but I am interested in kindly and compassionately helping moms who desire to breastfeed and supporting them in alternate options when things are not working out. Your post is encouraging. There need to be more people out there to actually CARE for women.

        • moto_librarian
          August 5, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

          I honestly think that we should emphasize FEEDING rather than the method. If there were feeding consultants rather than lactation consultants, women might feel more comfortable with combo feeding. This “breast or nothing” attitude is really detrimental. I feel like nobody was really looking out for me during the postpartum period. As a new mom, I wasn’t assertive when I should have been. When our second was born, I decided to give breastfeeding another go, but when he was clearly hungry (after being latched on my breasts for close to an hour), the LC recommended some formula because he was clearly hungry. I fed him that bottle, and he slept for several hours, and I did too. When it was clear that I was not producing much, I didn’t have any issues with letting it go. I know what the research really says, and I also know that it’s not really anybody else’s business how I feed my child. If I had a better LC the first time around, things might have been different. I think that we need more people like you out there who remember that the mother’s physical and emotional needs are important too.

        • An Actual Attorney
          August 5, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

          Please do. We need you. The women of earth need you.

          • anion
            August 5, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

            Exactly what I was going to say.

        • Burgundy
          August 5, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

          I am forever graceful to the LC that told me it was ok to supplement formula, gave me samples of formula and put me on 2 weeks of “no breast feeding” when my 2nd baby tore up my nipples. I had couple terrible LCs that made me just want to cry whole day. I had very little issues with my 1st baby but my 2nd one was hell. We need more LCs like you!

        • anion
          August 6, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

          RNMomma, when my second was born I attended the hospital’s “new baby care class,” more for fun/something to do than anything else (since she was my second). I am SO GLAD I did, because the lactivist teaching the class made so many outrageous statements about formula that it brought more than one of the new mothers to tears (Ms. Lactivist hated me, because in addition to my loud sighs and head-shakes, I turned around a couple of times to the freaked-out and terrified postpartum women and flat-out told them that [whatever crap about obesity or low IQs or not bonding] was absolutely not true and there was nothing wrong with formula and it did not make them bad mothers).

          I’m glad I spoke up and was gratified that a couple of them thanked me afterward, but it would have been much, much better if they hadn’t been deliberately shamed and fed misinformation to begin with. Because honestly, no matter what I said, the “teacher” has more authority, so they’re more likely to internalize her crap.

          Please, please do enter a specialty where you can help those women and counter the breast-fundie madness (as well as, of course, being of help to those who want to breastfeed, and encouraging them if they want it). It could make a huge difference.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym
      August 5, 2014 at 10:33 am #

      I am tired of women being told to cover up for nursing in public.

      The law in NY states that women are allowed to remove their shirts anywhere that men are allowed to remove their shirts and rules that allow male nipples to be shown but not female nipples are illegal sexism. If anyone objects to you breast feeding in NYC, point this out to them and threaten to show them the other one. I know, that doesn’t help for Ohio, but the precedent being there perhaps the law could be changed? It really is sexist to not allow women to take off their shirts on a hot day if you allow men to.

  7. Anna T
    August 4, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

    “Apparently the overwhelming majority of women will stop breastfeeding within days or weeks of leaving the hospital.”

    Indeed? I wonder what the exact statistics on this are. Totally anecdotal, but most of the women I know breastfeed exclusively for at least as long as their maternity leave (in Israel, 14 weeks) and then usually continue to breastfeed while supplementing with formula for 6 to 12 months.

    Also… this puzzles me: “refusing… the use of formula can and does lead to injury and death.” I mean, obviously in theory it’s possible that a mother with extremely low milk supply is religiously devoted to breastfeeding and refuses to provide, or to see the need to provide, an alternative source of nutrition. But I’ve never heard of a baby that was literally starved to death, or sustained long-term damage, in a developed country because the mother refused to give formula. Usually the baby will go to the pediatrician or baby wellness clinic for a check-up, it will be seen that the baby isn’t gaining, and then either a breastfeeding problem will be corrected or formula will be given, or both. Do you actually have examples of babies suffering damage because their mothers didn’t want to give formula?

    • Rabbit
      August 4, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

      There are a couple of cases of infant death if you do a google search, although they do appear to be rare. (If you’d like to find the specific cases, search Tabitha Walrond, and Sergine and Joel Le Moaligou)

      There are more of babies diagnosed with failure to thrive, or extremely poor weight gain, because they just weren’t getting enough through exclusive nursing. How long does the harm have to occur before you’d consider it an injury?

      • Cobalt
        August 4, 2014 at 3:12 pm #

        I looked up those cases and I shouldn’t have. Horrific. Thank goodness modern formula is an option, or there would be more of these.

    • attitude devant
      August 4, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

      I recently had a case where the infant was harmed by Mom’s insistence on EBF. I know of another case in the last year. Details not shareable due to HIPPA, but both these moms were hard-core lactivists. They literally could not see that their babies were starving, and they were really good at hiding from follow-up.

    • RNMomma
      August 4, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

      If you consider most women either only have six weeks of paid leave or none at all, this line makes sense.

    • RNMomma
      August 4, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

      I have to humbly say I spoke before checking facts… Apparently, “overwhelming majority” does seem to be a bit of an overstatement. In 2013, 76.5% of moms started out breastfeeding. Only 37.7% of moms are EBF at three months and 16.4% at six months, but reportedly 49.0% of moms are breastfeeding at least some at 6 months.

      • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
        August 4, 2014 at 8:34 pm #

        So you could say that 76.5% start out breastfeeding, and 2/3 of them are still breastfeeding to some extent at 6 months.

        Sounds reasonable to me.

        • August 4, 2014 at 11:42 pm #

          My UK experience was that, in hospital, the ward sister would ask, in her plummiest accent, if the new mother was intending to “feed the baby HERSELF, or ARTIFICALLY feed” him. Since most of the women giving birth where I was were quite young and not highly educated [and accents, in the UK, are evidence of class and education], they were almost 100% intimidated into agreeing to breast feed. It sounds so awful to want to feed a baby “artificially” as if formula consisted of some form of liquid plastic, and the implication was clear that a formula-feeding mum was not a good mum.

          When the community midwife made a home visit, more often than not, she discovered that the new mother had abandoned breast feeding, which she hadn’t really wanted to do anyway. The new mother simply hadn’t had the guts to tell the ward sister that she wanted to bottle feed.

          • Sue
            August 5, 2014 at 8:54 am #

            The answer to ”do you intend to feed the baby YOURSELF?” would have to be:

            “No, of course not. I’m going to stop a stranger in the street and get them to feed her.”

          • Amy M
            August 5, 2014 at 11:45 am #

            Or, “No, I’m going to leave her out in the woods and hope a nice wolf family comes along to raise her and feed her, ala Romulus and Remus.”

    • sadlady
      August 4, 2014 at 3:13 pm #

      A vegan couple a few years ago, because the formula was not vegan. (No soy formulas can be vegan because their D3 source is always animal) She tried to nurse and supplemented with apple juice, so the baby died. But I think that was extreme veganism rather than lactivism. Even Alicia Silverstone’s book Kind Mama recommends not using any formula except for a home-made grain-milk based one, if you need help (the recipe looks really bad IMO). Not giving formula up to the point where baby dies I think happens more to vegans than lactivists…or when they are combined.

    • Cobalt
      August 4, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

      I think the damage ends up being to the mother’s mental health. Typically when the pediatrician says to supplement, the baby gets formula (or donor milk for the really determined). It’s the punch to the mother’s heartstrings from “failing” that causes the damage.

    • ArizonaInBoston
      August 4, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

      You say that most of the women you know breastfed exclusively for the length of their maternity leave. Isn’t it possible that some of them were unable to breastfeed exclusively, but didn’t feel comfortable saying so?

      • Anna T
        August 5, 2014 at 7:25 am #

        I can’t imagine a situation when a woman would be shamed into *lying* about breastfeeding. Not in my circle of acquaintance. That sounds really twisted.

        • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
          August 5, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

          Really? My daughter is 19 years old and back when I had her the hospital Lamaze instructor, a nurse by the way, was adamant that breastfeeding, cloth diapers(while living in an apartment with no washer?) and preferably no pain meds was the ONLY right way to go. I have enough selfimage issues I did not need her making them worse , so yeah I lied about intending to breastfeed. I actually did not breastfeed after I left the hospital , because I didn’t want to. I TRIED at the hospital because trying to explain over and over to the nurses and LLL person why I did not want to was EXHAUSTING . my daughter survived formula, pampers and my epidural and she will be a kickass engineer soon, so I guess I didn’t manage to kill to many of her braincells…

          • Anna T
            August 6, 2014 at 12:07 am #

            I’m sorry you had to defend your parenting choices right after you gave birth. Hospital staff should be supportive of whatever works for YOU (as long as your child’s needs are met, as they obviously were).

            Well, perhaps there are things I am unaware of. But then, I live in Israel, never took a childbirth class, and hang out with the “mainstream” moms, many of whom had unmedicated births and breastfed for extended periods, but none of whom feel those experiences are the highest highlight of their lives.

          • Hannah
            August 6, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

            I think that may be because Israelis have real issues to worry about and, frankly, in my experience lactivism and railing against modern obstetrics tends to be the preserve of middle and upper class women who appear to have too much time on their hands. I know I am generalising, spectacularly, but that’s just my experience of it.

        • Hannah
          August 6, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

          I live in Northern California and I absolutely believe that women would lie. The shame associated with formula feeding is enormous.

    • araikwao
      August 4, 2014 at 6:10 pm #

      I heard a case presentation where the neonate ended up with ischaemic legs requiring amputation (I think both?) because the home visiting midwife did not identify lactation failure and the poor baby was so badly dehydrated. It was at least 7 years ago, so please don’t quiz me on the details!

    • Jenny_from_da_Bloc
      August 4, 2014 at 7:08 pm #

      There was just a news story about a woman in FL whose baby was diagnosed withfailure to thrive and the doctor said it was urgent to give the baby formula and take him to the hospital for treatment. She refused and was arrested after being given hours to do the right thing. She based her decision to not give the formula because she was vegan and didn’t know if it contained animal products. People do dumb shit all the time that hurts their kids in the name of their personal beliefs regardless of consequences

      • Anna T
        August 5, 2014 at 7:24 am #

        Oh no, I can’t believe anybody would be that stupid.

      • The Computer Ate My Nym
        August 5, 2014 at 10:38 am #

        She based her decision to not give the formula because she was vegan and didn’t know if it contained animal products.

        Wow. First, the breast milk very definitely did contain animal products. Second, it took me literally seconds to do a google search for “vegan baby formula” and find a number of soy based versions and people willing to sell them to me. There’s got to be something else going on there.

    • GiddyUpGo123
      August 4, 2014 at 11:18 pm #

      This one: Mom was convicted of criminally negligent homicide in the death of her exclusively breast-fed baby, who died of starvation.

      • GiddyUpGo123
        August 4, 2014 at 11:19 pm #

        Eh sorry, she’s mentioned in the comments below, too.

      • Anna T
        August 5, 2014 at 7:35 am #

        That’s terrible. I can’t believe it was allowed to go this far before anyone saw something is wrong. Obviously it’s important to pay very, very close attention to the condition of a vulnerable newborn. As a new mom I was taught to count wet diapers and consult a nurse or doctor immediately if I didn’t see enough of those.

        • Cobalt
          August 5, 2014 at 9:19 am #

          I got a cute little chart from the hospital (well, actually six of them, one for each week with instructions to make copies if more were needed), to keep track of one of my baby’s wet/dirty diapers. They were a great tool, and I ended up using them to track other info, too. Came in really handy because that baby had digestive and sensory issues and the data set helped define and diagnose the issue.

          I still have them, more than a decade later. Can’t seem to throw them out.

      • RNMomma
        August 5, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

        Just read this… It’s awful that no one noticed something was wrong, but the comment that juror made? “She should have been strong enough to do more.” Heartbreaking.

        • GiddyUpGo123
          August 5, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

          It really sounds like it was a mom who didn’t have a lot of resources and no support in the community. Her well-check appointments kept falling through and she was listening to the advice that I remember hearing all the time, that “everyone can produce enough breastmilk.” Honestly when I first read this story I kept going back and forth about what I might have done if I was on the jury. I have a lot of compassion for her situation and the fact that the odds seemed stacked against her, but if I’d seen pictures of her emaciated and starved baby … I don’t know, I might have convicted her too. I remember my first baby losing a couple of ounces after the first couple of weeks of being EBF, and I went running to the pedi wanting to know what was wrong. I could tell just looking at him that he wasn’t thriving, and that was just after a couple of ounces. I don’t know how you could let it get to the point where your baby is on the brink of death without seeking help.

          • RNMomma
            August 6, 2014 at 8:40 am #

            She had just graduated from high school though, and lived with her own mother, who said the baby was fine. It’s not right and I’m not necessarily saying she should not have been convicted, but I can see how she trusted that things were fine.

  8. Mel
    August 4, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    It’s all about the magical thinking.

    My experiences watching NCB and NCB converts has (so far) been limited in my life, but there are a few overarching themes:

    Women I know who get really into NCB tended to:
    1. Engage in concrete thinking patterns. (Something is ALWAYS bad or ALWAYS good. No grey allowed.)
    2. Are willing to attribute causal relationships to magical practices. (My favorite so far was the “I prayed (don’t remember which saint’s) novena AND a week later I started dating What’s-his-name!” (Boy, did I have fun ripping that one apart.)
    3. Are deeply afraid of a negative, nebulous outcome.
    4. Don’t believe that they have the skills to survive, let alone thrive, if the negative nebulous outcome occurs.

    In plainer terms, the same co-eds who were praying novenas to “discern God’s will for my life” – and were so relieved when a boyfriend appeared to save them from (imaginary) spinsterhood – are diving head-first into NCB for the “health of their kids” without ever really being able to admit their fear of a child with a disability or even a difficult personality.

    On the flip-side, the co-eds who were of the “I’d like to get married and it sucks I can’t seem to meet a good guy. Oh, well, life goes on” are having an easier time accepting that LIFE SUCKS SOMETIMES but we will make it through.

    • Beth S
      August 4, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

      I just wish we as women could all agree that as long as the way we are parenting our children produces happy, healthy well adjusted kids, then it’s no one else’s business but the parent’s.

  9. Alannah
    August 4, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

    With the many abusive practices perpetrated on women, often other women are the main enforcers.
    Female genital mutilation is exclusively performed by older women. Men never do the cutting.
    In countries like Afghanistan, the strictest enforcers of traditions that keep women uneducated and out of the public sphere are other women who keep an constant eye on their family members` “chastity”.
    We are our own worst enemy when we create this type of martyrdom competition.
    NCB/lactivism is of course far less serious but the same mechanisms are at play.

    • Staceyjw
      August 4, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

      Women are the main enforcers of certain norms, because of the way Patriarchy works.

      For example: In cultures where men WILL KILL a girl for being “unchaste”, and then the entire family will suffer even die, policing your family for obedience becomes a survival tactic for women that have no power to change anything.

      When you see life as more difficult and dangerous for an educated female, you do what you can to keep your daughter from that misery, so she has at least a chance at a decent life.

      When a good marriage is the only guarantee for a decent survival, and you have to have FGM to make that happen, women ensure their girls get FGM.

      When you are aware of how horrific is can be to be female, you will abort your daughters, or commit infanticide, as a way to avoid bringing a daughter into the world just to be raped, sold, beat, humiliated.

      I agree that we work against each other to our own detriment, but thousands of years of patriarchy will do that. If we don’t realize that WE have to change things, and that change only happens when we all get together and force it, we will be oppressed forever.

  10. Amy M
    August 4, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    One nitpick: you say “the man perpetrating the abuse” (after speaking in a gender neutral way) and granted, most domestic violence is committed by men, but women can and do commit domestic violence. Maybe they are more likely to go after children than men, but it happens.

    As for the rest, I think you have some good points. So do you think its more that women who are naturally of a type that will blame themselves (and possibly be at risk for domestic abuse if they crossed paths with the wrong man) are drawn to NCB/breastfeeding more than other women? That the NCB/lactivist movement deliberately preys on these women? Or just that there is some percentage of women who behave this way (likely to feel guilty, easily shamed, self-blame) and they are vocal on the internet now, so we hear about them?

    I know it has been discussed on here before, the idea that a decent number of sexual abuse/rape survivors seem to make up the NCB population. Based on their past, would it be fair to say those women are more vulnerable to feeling guilt, shame and to self-blame than women who haven’t been abused in some way?

    • RNMomma
      August 4, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

      Maybe. I think a lot of it has to do with misguided “support.” If a woman is in tears daily and working herself into exhaustion over trying to build up her supply, the answer isn’t “do this, do that, have you tried this?” The answer sometimes needs to be “supplement” and “you need to be at your best more than your child needs breast milk.” I equate it to people trying to be supportive of someone struggling with infertility. It doesn’t help to just say “have you tried… Or thought of….?” Well meaning, but not supportive of women.

      • Amy M
        August 4, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

        So you are addressing the NCB/lactivists preying on these women part, is what I’m getting here, and you think a lot of it is unintentional. Ok. I think that is true in some cases. Certainly when someone is depressed, it is common enough for that person to fixate on one thing, and use that thing as the focal point of blame. Like a new mom who gets PPD and the trigger is inability to breastfeed, and she obsesses about her inability to breastfeed, and blames it for everything (her PPD, every sniffle the baby gets, etc). Am I understanding you?

        I think there is an actual group, probably small, out there that doesn’t mean well though. They only see their ideology, and damn the collateral damage (the woman and/or baby). The CPMs who won’t transfer women clearly in need of it, or the stories we’ve heard here, of IBCLCs who have shamed women who came to them for help, because the women used some formula. Some women seem to be able to tolerate these situations and get through them, without self-blame and guilt. But other women can’t, so I’m sort of getting at: what is the difference between those women?

        • RNMomma
          August 4, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

          I wouldn’t say it’s unintentional per say; I’d say that the person offering “support” thinks they know everything and therefore think they are helping by offering their advice.

          • Beth S
            August 4, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

            I had three or four different women tell me that it was my fault I couldn’t/wouldn’t breast feed and that domperidone used off label is the best thing in the world, never mind that even with breast milk my kids would have gotten sick from my seizure medication.

          • RNMomma
            August 5, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

            It’s the stupidity of thinking their way is the only way. Some people don’t intend to be nasty, but others don’t care if they are, and they all just think they are “right” and that you need to know it.

        • RNMomma
          August 4, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

          Not typing well today… I meant to continue. Thinking you know everything put people in the mindset of their way being the only way. I think that actually merges these two groups.

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