The real secret of breastfeeding: it kills a lot of babies.

Burundi African woman and child

Is there anything more emblematic of white privilege than medical colonialism?

Colonialism is the practice one country occupying another country or region and exploiting it for the benefit of the occupier. Medical colonialism is the practice of exploiting black bodies, knowledge and practices and co-opting them for the benefit of the well off white people.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”Invoking simple, contented black women who function based on instinct not intellect is racism, pure and simple.[/pullquote]

Classic examples of medical colonialism come, not surprisingly, from medicine. The Tuskegee experiments, when black men with syphilis were deliberately left untreated, are the most egregious example, but medicine has plenty more including the story of Henrietta Lacks and the use of her HeLa cells for research, and the work of gynecologist J. Marion Simms, who practiced on female slaves to perfect his techniques for repairing obstetric fistulas.

Lactivists have enthusiastically embraced medical colonialism and today’s piece on NPR is a paradigmatic example. Entitled Secrets Of Breast-Feeding From Global Moms In The Know, it romanticized the lives of “primitives” in order to justify the practices of the privileged.

It’s almost like in the U.S. we’ve lost the breast-feeding instinct. That Western society has somehow messed it up. [Evolutionary biologist Brooke] Scelza wanted to figure out why: What are we doing wrong?

So a few years ago, she traveled to a place with some of the best breast-feeders in the world.

In the desert of northern Namibia, there’s an ethnic group that lives largely isolated from modern cities. They’re called Himba, and they live in mud huts and survive off the land…

Moms still give birth in the home. And all moms breast-feed.

“I have yet to encounter a woman who could not breastfeed at all,” Scelza says. “There are women who have supply issues, who wind up supplementing with goat’s milk, which is not uncommon. But there’s basically no use of formula or bottles or anything like that.”

And Himba women make breast-feeding look easy, Scelza says. They even do it while they’re walking around.

See the simple, contented black women who function based on instinct not intellect!

What’s their secret to instinctual breastfeeding? It’s the same as their secret to in homebirth. They and their babies die in droves.

According to USAID, the infant mortality rate in Namibia is 32.8/1000 and maternal mortality is 265/100,000. In the US, The infant mortality rate is 5.82/1000 and the maternal mortality rate is 26.4/100,000.

Their secret is that instinctual birth and instinctual breastfeeding leads to an infant mortality rate 450% higher than in the US (where we have easy access to formula) and 900% higher than in the US (where we have easy access to obstetric interventions).

It is reprehensible that the NPR article doesn’t even mention infant mortality, let alone address it, but it is typical of medical colonialism to ignore the appalling rates of suffering of black babies and mothers. Instead, we are treated to cluelessly racist “happy, simple black people” version of life in nature.

One idea is that the mom and her newborn have long, uninterrupted contact right after birth. Since women are at home, there are no doctors and nurses whisking the infant away for weighing, fingerprinting or tests. This contact allows the newborn’s suckling instincts to kick in, researchers have hypothesized…

Or maybe it’s because when limited to exclusive breastfeeding, babies just die.

The second hypothesis is that Himba women learn how to breast-feed throughout their childhood. Because women see their moms, siblings and friends breast-feed while growing up.

“Breast-feeding in public isn’t stigmatized at all,” Scelza says.

So by the time they have their own babies, Himba women know what to do and it appears instinctual. Here in the U.S. we hardly ever see mothers breast-feeding. So women never really learn.

Or maybe it’s because when limited to exclusive breastfeeding, babies just die.

Well, turns out both hypotheses aren’t quite right.

“I’m telling you that’s exactly what I thought was going on until I started to talk to Himba women,” Scelza says.

A few years ago, Scelza interviewed 30 Himba women in depth about their experiences breast-feeding, especially in the first few days after birth. And guess what? Himba women are a lot like American women…

Two-thirds of the women said they had some problems at the beginning, such as pain, fear, troubles getting the baby to latch and concerns about the milk supply — just like American moms…

“Most women talked about having little knowledge about early infant care, such as how to hold babies or how to be sure they’re sleeping safely,” Scelza says.

So how do the Himba get over these problems? They have a secret weapon many American women don’t, Scelza says: Grandmothers.”

And yet when limited to exclusive breastfeeding, babies die in droves.

Prof. Scelza and NPR are practicing casual medical colonialism, exploiting black bodies, knowledge and practices and co-opting them for the benefit of well off white people. Scelza and NPR actually think the major issue here is how to increase breastfeeding rates in American women (a preoccupation of Western, well off, white women) and ignore the REAL issue here, how to decrease the infant death rate among the Harimba people. But what’s few dead black babies when you are trying to convince white women to breastfeed? Not even important enough to mention, apparently.

“I think that there’s enormous pressure to succeed with breast-feeding in the U.S. and that you feel like if you can’t do it that this is a huge failing as a mother,” Scelza says. But Himba women didn’t seem to think the problems related to breast-feeding were a big deal.

It’s hard to imagine how Scelza and NPR could be more racist if they tried.

  • Cat10
  • TsuDhoNimh

    “There are women who have supply issues, who wind up supplementing with
    goat’s milk, which is not uncommon. But there’s basically no use of
    formula or bottles or anything like that.”

    Of course there is no use of formula or bottles – they can’t afford it! So they are using goat’s milk, which is nutritionally inferior to infant formula. But at least she’s admitting there are women with “supply issues”.

    What would she expect someone to do in her home country – would she just as casually say “oh she has supply issues so she supplements” or would she say she’s not trying hard enough if she takes the easy way out and uses a readily available supplement? Would milking your own goat be OK in the USA or UK as much as it is in remote African villages?

  • pjq

    “Or maybe it’s because when limited to exclusive breastfeeding, babies just die.”

    Is it the exclusive breastfeeding in Namibia that causes high infant mortality?

    • Young CC Prof

      Lactation failure is one of many factors that kills babies in low-resource environments, along with contagious disease, prematurity and birth defects. Sometimes it’s a combination of factors, for example, a baby is malnourished due to lack of milk and then gets an infection.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      As YCCP notes, exclusive breastfeeding, or at least the attempt to, may absolutely be contributing to the infant mortality in Namibia. Then again, even if that weren’t true, it is also clearly the case that it is certainly not the panacea, preventing infant mortality problems. Seriously, 3%? That is 1 in 30 babies dying before the age of 1.

      Of course, your comment highlights something very important: obviously, when it comes to infant mortality, there are a lot of really important factors that have nothing to do with breastfeeding. Apparently, breastfeeding is not all that critical. Thanks for bringing that up.

  • Cynthia

    The writing had that “secrets of exotic cultures” tone, but the conclusion that support for new moms makes a differences is just common sense. Yes, breastfeed get can be harder than it looks. And yes, there is good reason to believe that support from people who know what they are doing in the early days can make a big difference. In my case, grandmas were worse than useless (love my mom and MIL lots, but not for this) and it was a public health nurse doing a post-partum house call who finally helped me latch without pain. It was also a public health post-natal group that helped me with a lot of early questions and information and which provided an early community for us. After that, the local community centre and the local YMCA had great drop-in programs for parents and babies, with resources and a chance to meet other parents. In a culture where knowledgeable and helpful grandmas can’t be assumed, creating those supports is so important, not just for breastfeeding but also for other information and reducing isolation.

    • Merrie

      I agree. I got some crucial help from a nurse at an ER visit when baby was 3 days old, then I joined a breastfeeding support group that met once a week in person and also through that got linked into a great peer-to-peer Facebook group.

  • mabelcruet

    Off topic a little. I’ve just been reading about the elimination communication method of potty training. This is the method of potty training your baby right from birth and not using nappies, the argument being that in developing countries babies develop bowel and bladder control far earlier because nappies aren’t used. Is this another example of colonialism? I would think that disposable nappies are costly and unaffordable to many mothers in some countries, and cloth nappies may be difficult to wash if you don’t have access to a steady supply of water, so potty training very early is a necessity. What does everyone else think?

    • MI Dawn

      It’s really not potty training for the kid, either. It’s more “mom training” as I see it – mom becomes hyper aware of the kid’s actions/facial expressions/sounds that signal imminent elimination, so can more readily get the kid to a potty/out of the sling/whatever. Sure, it works. But it’s really mom who is trained, not the baby.

      • mabelcruet

        Thanks (I’ve never potty trained a human, my furbaby cats generally litter-train themselves!).

        I was thinking that the article I read was emphasising this as ‘this is what is done in primitive developing societies so it’s more natural, more instinctual and more pure than using disposable or washable nappies’, and didn’t at all address why these families have to do it this way (limited funds, limited electrical supply, lack of access to laundry facilities-I’d imagine if you have to walk miles to a water supply daily you aren’t going to be wanting or able to wash multiple soiled cloth nappies daily). It struck me as it could be another example of privilege mis-appropriating a practice.

        • Gæst

          EC also requires a stay-at-home caregiver who does not have too many other demands on his or her time. So yes, your nanny can do it, but if you have four kids under five to watch, plus cleaning, washing, and cooking, I can’t imagine you aren’t going to miss some of those cues from the baby. Daycares won’t do EC, and working parents will find it harder to get in tune with baby’s facial expressions. It just seems like another way to make families feel pressured to have a stay-at-home parent and devote every waking minute of their lives to their children at the expense of all else (also, even if you EC, you’re going to need diapers or something at night).

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            Awe, hell, i’m a stay at home caregiver for 3 1/2 years with my spawn and I still can’t tell when he’s pooed. (We’re at the go poo, go into the bathroom and remove dirty diaper, then sit on the toilet stage.)

    • Cynthia

      It is an example of crunchy western parents latching onto something as the latest thing when it is simple normal elsewhere.

      Our former nanny had done this very early training in the Philippines and Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, it wasn’t a matter of necessity, although it might have been a cultural holdover from a time when it was. To her, this was simply what you do. She wasn’t sure how to potty train an almost-3 year old.

    • FormerPhysicist

      What about kids who sleep train late? I suspect they just slept in soiled bedding and/or on the dirt floor.

  • Ozlsn

    Reading the article now. Is there any actual evidence that taking the baby (or baby farm animals come to that) away from the mother in the first hour causes them to lose the sucking and attaching instinct? Because that sounds like total rubbish to me. I mean most micro prems are separated from their mothers for a lot longer than an hour and yet when they get to an appropriate gestation the sucking and latching thing kicks in (difficulties with tone etc are a whole different thing). Seriously you’d think if anything was going to “derail the whole process” it’d be three months in NICU. And yet a surprising number of women I know brought home their breastfeeding babies after weeks and months in NICU. It’s like that magical hour really… didn’t matter that much.

    Also did anyone add “while gritting their teeth” to the final sentence of this paragraph:

    “During the first few weeks, a newly delivered woman — especially a first-time mother … has a constant stream of visitors, particularly women,” Gottlieb writes. “Most have breast-fed many babies themselves, and they spontaneously share their nursing wisdom. Through them, a new mother is quickly socialized into accepting an almost continual round of breast-feeding suggestions dispensed by more experienced women.”

    Just me?

    • MaineJen

      Not just you, that sounds terrible.

      • Ozlsn

        I actually thought it sounded very familiar. Also it was kind of nice to see that new mothers around the world are apparently bombarded by hordes of advice, which I am willing to bet is frequently contradictory!

    • Azuran

      It’s just rubbish.
      For all their pretense that breastfeeding is ‘perfect’ they really think that it’s a ridiculously fragile relationship. If it was as easy to destroy breastfeeding as they say it is, we might actually have been extincted long ago.
      I do c-sections on dogs and cats. So far, the pups and kittens had no problems breastfeeding 1-2 hours after their birth. Despite being dried off and kept warm by humans while we finished the surgery, or even some times being fed the first meal with formula. They all attached to their mom, and the mom attached to them properly, they all had normal puppy behaviour. No breeder has ever commented to me that she saw any difference between litters born vaginally or by c-section, or by how long it took before the mother took care of them.

    • Dr Sarah

      I actually recall reading an article which said that in a large number of non-Western cultures it’s considered harmful to give colostrum, so mothers don’t nurse their babies in the first few days. Of course, these are also societies where breastfeeding is almost universal. So, no, it doesn’t look as though the first hour is some sort of make-or-break time for getting breastfeeding started.

  • Gæst

    Oh, I’m so glad you wrote about the NPR piece. I read it this morning and found it appalling.

  • yentavegan

    I read the article. The message I came away with is that because Westernized Women are not socialized to be at the beck and call of their adult daughters/granddaughters and be the in home resource for all things maternal , our breastfeeding rates reflect this. So if breastfeeding in the USA is going to succeed , women ought not find employment or fulfillment in activities that call them away from home and hearth.

    • StephanieJR

      That hits the nail on the head, really.

  • attitude devant

    I was speaking to a woman today who confided that she wants to go back to grad school and be a midwife and go into global health. To her credit she wants the CNM degree but she’s almost 40, has NO science background, no relevant life experience, and has some very serious health problems herself. Why that particular path? “I don’t like my job. It’s too stressful.” I’m sorry but I will never comprehend this idea of midwifery as personal exploration and development. I mean, what the heck?

    • Now, I could be wrong, but I would think being a nurse who is tasked with life and death decisions about women and babies, and who might have to work 12+ hour shifts and/or be on call overnight, might be a little stressful.

      • MI Dawn

        It’s only stressful if you give a tinker’s damn about the moms and babies you are taking care of. If you’re only in it as a “hobby” or because you like the birth high and don’t care about the family outcomes, it’s a lot less stressful, I’d imagine.

        @ attitude_deviant: If this woman isn’t even a nurse (as I’m guessing since she has no science background and no relevant life experience), she’s got a few years of catch-up classes to take before getting admitted to a BSN program, 4 years of college, at least 2 years experience in labor/delivery/nursery/postpartum before you get into a CNM program, especially if you’re looking for the MSN….AT LEAST 10 years before she’s able to practice as a CNM. Has she even thought that far ahead as far as stress, income, lifestyle?

        • attitude devant

          Not only stressful, but physically arduous.

          • Sue

            Hopefully the educational requirements will trip her up before she commits too much time and money.

        • Box of Salt

          If she already has a bachelor’s in an unrelated field, all she’ll need is the nursing prereqs in biology and chemistry, which she should be able to accomplish at a good community college (I know nothing about the quality of schools in the PNW where I believe attitude devant lives) in two years. But that only takes off 2 years of training.

          I’ve changed direction within my own field more than once, putting myself on paths most start at a much younger age. And I was an AMA first time mom.

          I will support those up for the challenge. But if someone is going to do this, they need to understand how difficult the challenge is.

          • MI Dawn

            Box of Salt – I actually have a daughter doing the accelerated nursing program right now! She got her BA in history, worked a few years, and decided she wanted to become a nurse, then CNM like I was. Even though she had a (recent) BA, she had to re-take some classes because it was more than 5 years since she’d taken that specific class. And the science classes took another 2 years of part-time schooling. So, you’re right. She may be able to drop off a few years.

          • Box of Salt

            MI Dawn – Good luck to your daughter! She seems to have an excellent role model to follow. 🙂

      • It’s a LOT stressful. Not to mention physically very demanding. I know.

        • I believe. I was being a tad bit sarcastic 🙂

      • mabelcruet

        It’s only stressful for those professional midwives who have the training, the insight and the knowledge plus the professional experience to recognise that virtually every decision they make could potentially have consequences for their patients and babies. That’s what proper midwives have to cope with. Birth junkie ‘midwives’ who think of birth as pink and fluffy happiness with sparkly unicorns and guardian angels gently escorting the baby Earthside-well, no, I doubt they’d be stressed at all.

  • Anonymouse

    I was born in South Africa and raised in an extremely rural village in the mountains of Lesotho, along with my older sister. My mother loves to tell the story of how when my sister became extremely ill due to tainted water, the women in the village reassured her and told her not to worry about it…because “You’re still young and can have many more children when that one dies.” There was not a single woman in the village who had not lost a child, most in infancy. The fact that my mother was able to leave the village and cross the border to South Africa to give birth in a hospital was impressive. Lack of access to safe water, formula, and maternal care including obstetric interventions kills these women and their babies. They’re not some goddamn magical white woman’s prop to feel superior.

    • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

      Thank you. I glad your mother was able to get to a hospital.

      I just don’t understand the demonization of “medicalized” pregnancy and childbirth by people who have access to it. Maybe it’s because I am older(56) and can remember my mother hemorrhaging in the living room and being rushed to the hospital by my grandmother. And I remember my grandmother telling me about growing up without a mother because her teenaged mother died delivering her second child and the baby died a few months later.
      Apparently my grandmothers 16 year old sister-in-law died about the same time, from pre-eclampsia judging from the symptoms.

      Lack of access to interventions kills people, I don’t get why they don’t see that.

  • Cody

    Yes, to this post!!! High five! Thanks for saying this.

  • Cat10

    I listened to this piece on NPR this morning and was cringing on the inside. Medical colonialism indeed. The noble savage is alive and well, never mind that babies and mothers die in droves.

  • Amazed

    Is it just me, or the lack of comment section is something that should make one immediately suspicious that perhaps the people writing this bullshit know it’s bullshit and can’t stand to be challenged, so they take care to stifle any such attempts in advance?

    • MaineJen

      They got rid of the comment section on the NPR website ages ago…you can probably guess why. The Facebook comments are about what you’d expect.

  • Alexis Garland

    I feel like the title of this article is a bit misleading – the actual contents, if anything appears to argue exactly that there is no secret, and that all cultures struggle with breastfeeding, and that it’s support of the mother that makes a difference in some cases, and that there is no stigma in getting things wrong or supplementing – at least that’s what I took away from it. It didn’t sound to me like they were idealizing home birth or implying that there was some instinctual secret, although certainly it isn’t presented as a thorough data-driven discussion by any means.

    • MaineJen

      I think part of the problem was the title, and also the descriptive sentence underneath about how American women have lost their “instinct” for breastfeeding. If it was a refutation of these points, the article should have been promoted in a *very* different way.

      • Alexis Garland

        Agreed – it struck me as a clickbait-ish title (like so much else out there), so I guess I just ignored it, or kind of expected it to be the opposite.

        • Petticoat Philosopher

          I haven’t read it yet so I’m not taking a position but one thing to keep in mind is that journalists often don’t choose their own titles.

    • fiftyfifty1

      To me it still seemed patronizing. The author was surprised to find that young African mothers don’t breastfeed by “instinct” as she imagined they would…but magical elders still save the day by imparting their ancient, unspoilt tribal wisdom. Barf.

      • Alexis Garland

        That sounded like the wording of the article’s author rather than the researcher to me, and even then, to my ear it sounded like she was summing up a potentially widespread and misinformed perception, not necessarily agreeing with it or promoting it. The researcher’s surprise, the way she is quoted in any case, just seemed to be about that breastfeeding was so much more difficult than she was expecting. Her (wrong) hypotheses stated later in the article seemed to focus on A) skin-to-skin contact, and B) exposure to public breastfeeding without stigma from what I understood. But certainly the way the article’s author phrases things, it does make her sound like she’s also making that assumption and not just describing it. In any case, it’s certainly interesting to me to hear other interpretations of the piece given that it seems it’s being read in completely opposite ways depending on the reader – always nice to hear other perspectives on it!

  • lawyer jane

    Wow. This piece extols Himba homebirth, while the Namibian government and WHO are working really hard to in fact give rural Namibian women access to maternity hospitals! Way to 100% miss the point, NPR.

    http://www.who.int/features/2016/namibia-maternity-waiting-homes/en/

    • Ozlsn

      Thank you for posting that link, that was really interesting. Looking at all the women camping outside the hospital to have the best chance of medical attention for themselves and their newborns made me really glad that there are some facilities available to them, and that they are building more (and with accommodation attached). I really don’t understand this romanticisation of homebirth or lack of medical attention in high income countries at all.

  • Allie

    I cannot, for the life of me, understand how this crap is considered even remotely appropriate! To romanticize these people’s lives while completely ignoring their suffering and deaths, is utterly appalling. I guess you don’t have to take any ethics courses to become an evolutionary biologist.

    • PeggySue

      I guess you don’t have to look at any numbers, either. You don’t have to recognize that the women walking around breastfeeding are the survivors.

  • Allison Grace

    Another point ~ I have given birth seven times in a hospital and not once have any of my babies been “whisked away” for anything. They make hospital births sound so anti-family.

    • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

      I will admit my daughter was “whisked away” when she was born, due to possible meconium aspiration. And that was fine and dandy with me and my husband because a) the NICU team was in the room and they had her on a table, 6 feet from me and b) I figured making sure they suctioned her and got her lungs working properly was WAY more important than skin-to – skin or breastfeeding…

      • Heidi_storage

        Same here. Getting that Apgar above 3 was, y’know, kind of important.

        • Mariana

          I’ve had two hospital births and in both they did whisk my term babies away. Apgar 9/10 and 10/10. I did not see my babies for hours (5 hours with the first 7 with the second). Where were the babies? At the nursery! Everyone but me could go see them. They even let my husband hold them. They were plump pink babies, there was no medical reason to keep them in the nursery. I pleaded and pleaded with the nurses to bring them to me, but they wouldn’t. With my first child they brought her when she started crying too much. With my second they only brought him when I got off the bed (I had a csection), and said I’d go get the baby myself. My IV was hanging from the ceiling, so I started to take it out. I have never seen a nurse run so fast! I had my son in five minutes (7 hours and 5 minutes by then). It seems they just didnt want to bother to walk down the hall snd get the baby. In both cases my husband and parents were in the room with me, I was well, and the babies were doing fine. I even got up and took a shower and had a snack after each baby. The nurses kept saying they would bring the baby when the anesthesia had worn off, or after I had showered, or eaten, or the baby was clean. They saw me crying and pleading to see my children and ignored me. Everyone in my family got to see the babies before me.

          It may seem very little, but it was traumatic for me. They had no right to do that. Some mothers may wish to rest before they get the baby, but I didnt. I wanted nothing else but to hold my babies. No one offered a good reason for the delay, they just kept talking to me as if I wee

          I would never give birth at home… but a baby friendly hospital doesn’t sound all that bad. At least they would have sent my children with me to our room.

          I don’t love my children any less because of that. But it still hurts to think they would treat me like this.

          • MaineJen

            Is it possible they were concerned for your own health and recovery, or that they just wanted to give you time to recover from surgery?

          • AnnaPDE

            Even then, she said she wanted to see and hold her babies, so they either come up with a medically necessary reason or get the bub. Ignoring is not an option.

          • Mariana

            It is possible they were concerned. But I don’t think keeping my babies from me helped… the only explanation they gave me was that the nursery was full and they didn’t have anyone available to bring the baby. I don’t buy it… the nursery was down the hall, if it were full that’s even more reason to send the healthy babies to their mom

          • Gæst

            The nursery wouldn’t be so full if they had just given people their babies!

          • cookiebaker

            Sorry that happened to you. I’ve had 6 hospital births (uncomplicated vaginal deliveries) and I was able to hold them immediately as long as I wanted. The baby stayed in the room the whole time. Our hospital only switched to BFHI for the last baby.

          • Heidi_storage

            That sounds crappy, I’m sorry. My hospital allowed us to keep the baby in our room, and handed the baby right over if there wasn’t a medical reason to keep the baby. From what I understand, this is fairly typical of maternity units even in non BFI-hospitals nowadays.

          • Dr Kitty

            That sounds awful.
            Mine were literally only out of my sight when I was being stitched up after the CS ( when DH was cuddling them in recovery) or when I was in the shower or lavatory.

            #2 is currently on my lap, drinking his bedtime bottle and pulling at my necklace (which is his comfort thing) while watching Despicable Me for the millionth time. I think I’d have preferred him to be *less* bonded at this point.

          • AnnaPDE

            Wow, I’m sorry! That’s a horrible way for them to have treated you.

          • MI Dawn

            Wow. I can’t imagine that. As a nurse, we never kept a baby away from mom unless one or the other was unstable. Csections didn’t count – the baby was with mom in recovery unless mom couldn’t handle it due to pain or drugs.

          • Busbus

            That sounds awful! I’m sorry that happened to you. Did that happen recently or was it a while back? And were you in the US or in another country?

            Something similar happened to my mom in Europe in the early 1980s when I was born. But I know it would never happen in those very same hospitals today. And from all I’ve heard about the US, I would be really surprised if that was someone’s experience in the states today.

          • Gæst

            I’m so sorry, that’s awful! Mine were in the NICU, but I had to cry and beg a nurse to get someone to come and tell me how they were doing, and it was terrible. I couldn’t walk yet because of the c-section, and my kids don’t have a father, so the hospital wouldn’t give any information to anyone else. I had no idea if they were dying or what (they were not, and my fears were overblown, but how was I to know?).

          • Mac Sherbert

            Yes, when I had my first. My LD nurse said they would bring the baby to my room when I got there. I had already been in recovery for hours. Anyway, no baby even showed. I called and asked several times no explanation. Thankfully, my mom showed up and started demanding answers and guess what they brought me my baby!

          • Kerlyssa

            what the hell. i could see maybe it happening if they were afraid you were going to drop the baby b/c of anesthesia or something, but in that case they’d need to communicate that to you. fucking bizarre, shitty behavior.

      • Amy M

        Mine were sort of “whisked” across the room to see the pedi, because they were pre term. But their Dad was there the whole time, and he was with them when I was getting a few stitches and taken to recovery. I think it was maybe 2h after they were born that I really held them, but I was ok with that. I was a mess immediately post-partum, and I knew they were in good hands.

        • guest

          My second was pre term and she wasn’t “whisked” away as quickly as I would have liked. They held her up for me to check her out and seemed in no rush for her to be looked over. This freaked me out as all I wanted was for her to be okay. I figured I could look at her all I wanted after we knew she was fine.
          Also, with both children, after holding them for a bit right after they were born, I really just wanted time alone to rest and process. I sent both of them to the nursery for a few hours almost immediately. Both times the nurses thought it was odd. I seem to be the only one I know that needed to decompress from the whole childbirth experience before I could enjoy my children.

          • Charybdis

            Nope, you aren’t alone. I had absolutely no desire to hold a goopy baby, nor did I want to have him in the room until after I had recovered from the anesthesia. ( I had a scheduled CS and although the epidural was wonderful, the extra stuff I got in the IV really got to me. I have a *fantastic* tolerance to anesthesia, so they have to use quite a bit and it tends to make me sick).
            DS got held and seen by both grandmothers, his father and 2 of my closest friends. Maybe there is something wrong with *me*, because I made full use of the nursery, let DS be taken for testing, baths, etc and wasn’t a nervous wreck until he was returned to my room.
            He seems fine now, none the worse for the wear and is turning into an absolutely normal teenage boy, attitude and all.

          • Mel

            My only request if Spawn had been term was that Spawn get toweled off before handing him to me.

            I’ve been covered in bovine amniotic fluid before and found the texture really repellent. I didn’t need to be fumbling around with a wet, slimy human baby.

          • Charybdis

            Yeah, being on the business end of a large animal birth and getting covered in fluids, mucus, blood, etc can really be an eye opener. Retained placentas are not fun to deal with either.
            Sort of OT, but what do you guys do with freemartins?

          • lawyer jane

            That’s exactly my experience! I appreciated the time to decompress. There’s no better place for someone else to take care of your baby than the hospital, after all …

          • Roadstergal

            I mean, I haven’t had a baby, but it’s been inside of you for months, constantly making its presence known, and you’ve just been through a helluva ordeal – it makes sense to me that some moms might want a breather and a rest before jumping into The Rest Of Your Life Will Never Be The Same of parenthood?

        • Sue

          Many fathers/partners love the experience of being the first to hold a new baby while the mother is being sutured or recovered.

      • Mel

        I was able to see my little guy in the OR before they took him up to the NICU – much to my surprise and delight. His whole head was the size of a tennis ball. The CPAP apparatus blocked his nose and eyes, but I could see his tiny mouth and chin – and he was crying! He kept saying “Wah! Wah! Wah!”. I was captivated.

        But you know, if they had needed to whisk him away to the actual NICU to do something important, I would have been OK with that.

        I figure parenting is a long-term deal….

        • fiftyfifty1

          “I figure parenting is a long-term deal….”

          No truer words.

        • mabelcruet

          Saying ‘wah! Wah! Wah!’ straight after birth? Well, we all knew Spawn was destined to be a genius, that’s why he wanted out so early, needed to make a start on those theorems and equations!

        • lawyer jane

          My baby had TTN when he was born and when the Peds team couldn’t get him to pink up enough in the delivery room, they said they were taking him to the NICU. Before they went they took him over to me to say “do you want to see him first?” I was like “NO TAKE HIM TO THE NICU NOW!!” I was very confused by the whole thing – my thinking was, “If he needs to go to the NICU I don’t need to see him now!” I didn’t totally understand that he was basically stable but just needed some more monitoring to make sure his 02 sats got to where they wanted them to be. I am super bonded to my child, but in those first few days, I really did not feel any burning need to be with him every single second. In fact I even enjoyed relaxing with a cup of coffee while I was waiting for him to be discharged from the NICU once they knew he was fine, but were taking their time …

    • crazy grad mama

      I was in no shape to hold my kid right when he was born, so he was removed from the operating room after a few minutes … followed by his dad, who got 45 minutes of uninterrupted baby snuggles.

    • aerie_star

      My daughter was ‘whisked away’ to the warmer across the room after I was allowed to see her for 30 seconds to do basic stuff like measurements (neither of us were in distress). I didn’t even get the chance to touch her hand before she was taken. I had a pretty normalish delivery without meds and she was full term. I had been told by staff that we’d do skin to skin immediately, that all the stuff the nurses needed to do could and would be done with her on me, and it was hospital policy unless I specifically didn’t want skin to skin or one of us was in distress, but that’s not what happened when she was born.

      I was handed her about 15 minutes later after my OB finished up my stitches. She was wiped down, dressed, and wrapped up like a burrito. I was and am pretty annoyed about it and it was disappointing, but it wasn’t the end of the world I guess.

      • Sue

        Being “handed her about 15 minutes later after my OB finished up my stitches” sounds quick to me – plenty of time for skin-to-skin over the rest of your lives together.

        Did you really feel that those first 15 mintues were important for bonding?

        • aerie_star

          For bonding? No I guess not, but I was pretty disappointed and upset that they did not follow their own routine procedures. I asked specifically what the procedure was because I wanted to understand what to expect and then hospital staff did not follow through. If I’d know they were going to blow off their own procedures, I would have made specific requests for my expectations to be followed. I was told my baby would be doing skin to skin during if I had any stitches and that the warmer would be used only if she was in distress, that she would be weighed and measured after the first hour. Btw I had like 2 stitches and delivered the placenta during that 15 minutes, my OB was done well before she was actually handed back to me, my OB actually sat and chatted with me while I waited for the nurses to finish.

          I also do not believe there was any reason for my kid to be removed from my sight since neither of us were in distress, and I found it rather upsetting to watch her be removed before I could register what her face looked like. I guess that wouldn’t upset everyone, but it did me.

          I’m getting the feeling you think it is wrong for me to be disappointed by this. Now what I’ve learned from this experience is not to believe what hospital staff tells me when it comes to their procedures, to expect them to do whatever they want, and that I should have written a birth plan detailing what should happen after baby was born instead of trusting them.

          • Sue

            aerie_star – it’s not my place to say what’s “right” or “wrong” for you to expect – I just don’t understand why those first few minutes were so crucial to you, though, clearly, they were.

            My only advice for the future would not be to abandon trust, but to make it clear to the staff how important that aspect is for you – even “can you please show him/her to me?”

        • Gæst

          I wasn’t at all worried about bonding and didn’t expect immediate skin-to-skin with a twin c-section (although some hospitals will do that), but I was disappointed too. I waited over a year to meet those babies, I wanted to see them and hold them right away. I wanted to see their face so I could put their name to it. It’s just they way I *felt,* even though there’s no measurable loss or damage in not getting what I wanted.

        • Mac Sherbert

          Mine were c-sections….And yes they were needed and no I don’t regret them that said I do wish the babies could have stayed with me and not been whisked away to another room. I feel we bonded just fine, but there is something about those first few minutes. It was a deep need I had to hold and see. I even pushed my husband away for trying to show me pictures. I wanted the baby.

    • Gæst

      My kids were whisked away, and that was expected as they were premature. Where I found my hospital anti-family, though, was when I was in the post-op ward and all the other c-section mothers were allowed to have their husband and their babies with them, but the hospital told me I couldn’t have anyone with me because I didn’t have a husband (I think boyfriend would have been accepted). And they maintained this position even when there wasn’t a bed for me anywhere else after I passed all my post-op monitoring – they wanted me to stay there overnight, with no one allowed to visit me because I was a single mother. We fought them on it and the nurse grudgingly made an exception for my mother to come in, but the policy was VERY at odds with my family. Hospitals are frequently uncomfortable, alienating experiences. I will always choose to give birth in one if I have the option, but I understand why people want to avoid them.

  • LaMont

    *Today* on Facebook a friend posted a heavy-handed video about how breastfeeding women shouldn’t be tossed out of public spaces, especially since breasts are on every billboard. About how infants shouldn’t need to feed in dirty bathrooms as opposed to in public. So far, so good! Then the clip showed powdered formula being *snorted through a dollar bill* while implications were tossed around that formula is only used because marketers are shaming breastfeeders away from the boob and into using dangerous “powder”. They showed dirty, brown water in bottles. Then they quickly added a “if you need to use formula and the water is safe, whatever” line to cover their asses but THEY IMPLIED IT WAS COCAINE. The “natural uber alles” thing totally overshadowed the point, which is that women should be empowered to make healthy and safe choices with their bodies. The idea that breastfeeding is a medical thing with medical concerns was glossed over in favor of a “your savior Jesus was breastfed”-style romanticization of the past. Still angry about it. I would bet that most women in that video don’t vaxx.

    • KQ Not Signed In

      Ugh.

      Aside from how horrible the propaganda is… Imagine railing a line of baby formula. I got a nosefull once when I jerkily opened a container and caused a mini explosion and THAT sucked badly enough. Sour milk in the sinuses for hours…gaaahhh.

      • Mattie

        It’s ok, the thing they were snorting in the ad that was supposed to be formula was just regular cocaine 😛

    • Sarah

      What a shame we can’t just have a campaign advocating for breastfeeding women to be able to feed anywhere they and the baby are allowed to be, and leave it at that.

      • MI Dawn

        Let’s have a campaign that parents can feed their babies in the way they see best fit for them, and no one looks down their noses at them!

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    Did she ask the most important question? Would these women continue with breastfeeding if there were safe and convenient formula to use instead?

    Yes, they all give birth at home. BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO HOSPITAL CARE!!!!!

    There is no nobility in your path when you have no choice.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    “There are women who have supply issues, who wind up supplementing with goat’s milk, which is not uncommon. But there’s basically no use of formula or bottles or anything like that.”

    WTF? It’s not uncommon to supplement with goat’s milk, but there is no use of formula or “anything like that”? Goat’s milk is a pale imitation of formula!

    • Sarah

      I know! She’s basically saying, they don’t have any access to formula, so they use something unsuitable instead when they need to supplement. Which cannot be seen as anything other than an unalloyed negative.

      • LaMont

        Well, science was used in the creation of formula. Only god gives us goat milk, not human intervention. Therefore, it is unalloyed *positive* for them. 🙁

      • Young CC Prof

        To extreme lactivists who believe that breast milk is much much better than formula and believe formula is only marginally better than goat’s milk, lack of access to formula is a good thing. To people who live in actual reality, however, there will always be babies who need another source of nutrition, and better that it be nutritionally balanced.

    • Busbus

      Yes, it even says: “supplementing with goat’s milk […] is not uncommon.” To me, this would indicate that there are just as many breastfeeding issues among Himba women as there are in the developed world, only with much worse consequences for the babies.

      • Emilie Bishop

        I was incensed reading that part. How the hell do they get from “Women all over the world have breastfeeding issues, so the supplement with whatever is handy or their baby dies” to “African women don’t use formula, only goat’s milk, so take that, Western bottle-feeders?” They have this story completely backwards.

        • Sue

          Yes!

          What the story tells us is that breast feeding is neither “instinctual” nor reliable, and that people everywhere, throughout history, have (had) to use substitutes.

          One of my elderly aunts told me about feeding her son with goats milk when she was unable to BF in southern Italy in the 1940s. No formula available – or perhaps too expensive – that’s why they used what they could get.

    • MaineJen

      Yeah, I love how they skirt right over that part, like it’s no big deal.

  • Christy

    I haven’t read the story yet but I listened to it this morning on the way to work. The woman whose baby couldn’t figure out the latch for 5 days before they brought in a lactation consultant? Good God, I hope that baby was supplemented.

  • MI Dawn

    Do these people even listen to themselves? She states it even in the article (bolding mine): ““I have yet to encounter a woman who could not breastfeed at all,” Scelza says. “There are women who have supply issues, who wind up supplementing with goat’s milk, which is not uncommon . But there’s basically no use of formula or bottles or anything like that.”

    So they use goat’s milk which is not uncommon. But at least it’s not formula or bottles – what, they drink from the goat’s teat? Or a cup is used?

    • MI Dawn

      I’m rolling my eyes so hard, it’s a wonder they don’t fall out of my head…

    • Young CC Prof

      Cup-feeding is safer than bottle-feeding in low-resource environments, because hard, heat-resistant cups are easier to keep clean than closed bottles with rubber nipples. And yes, sometimes women do let babies drink goat milk directly from the source.

      • lawyer jane

        I heard a radio story about this about wetnursing in Europe! They claimed that a goat would be assigned to a particular baby and would run over to nurse when they heard the baby cry!

    • Liz Leyden

      I wonder if being isolated cattle herders, living off the land, has any effect on lack of bottle and formula use.

    • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

      Does she realize that lovely natural goat’s milk raw has a host of possible problems?:
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20231186

      “Anecdotal reports have described a host of morbidities associated with that practice, including severe electrolyte abnormalities, metabolic acidosis, megaloblastic anemia, allergic reactions including life-threatening anaphylactic shock, hemolytic uremic syndrome, and infections.”

      http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/125/4/e973

      “There have been reports of infections such as Q fever, toxoplasmosis, and brucellosis associated with feeding raw goat’s milk.31,–,33 Consumption of unpasteurized goat’s milk has also been implicated in the development of Escherichia coli O157:H7–associated hemolytic uremic syndrome.34,35 Although raw goat’s milk is a proven vehicle for pathogen transmission, the belief persists that raw dairy products are healthier and that pasteurized products are less beneficial and even harmful.5”

      I do understand if you are far from any available safe infant formula and don’t have enough breast milk you have to feed the baby what is available.

      But the person extolling the “virtues” of avoiding formula is criminally ignorant.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        They need to know the history of formula. It was created as an alternative to the CRAP that mothers were using instead of breastfeeding. Like goat’s milk.

        • Sue

          Yep. “Formula” essentially meant “recipe”.

  • Karen in SC

    Check the US maternal mortality rate – doesn’t look right.

    • fiftyfifty1

      yep. should be per 100,000, not per 1000.