Could anyone be more tone deaf in response to criticism than midwives and lactivists?


I’ve spent the past 12 years writing about the dangers of radical midwifery and lactivism. Surprising, I recently acquired powerful new allies: midwives and lactivists themselves. Their mind boggling tone-deafness in responding to media criticism reinforces — in a truly nauseating way — the central point of all my writing:  natural childbirth advocates and lactivists really don’t care that their ideologies harm babies and mothers.

In the UK, midwives were recently forced to shutter their Campaign for Normal Birth in the wake of scores of preventable deaths of babies and mothers, multiple investigations placing responsibility of midwifery ideology, and nearly £2 billion in insurance payouts in the past year alone.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]It’s hard to imagine that anyone could be as tone deaf as Godfrey-Isaacs and Martinez-Sullivan in addressing preventable infant deaths, but I for one am grateful. They are doing my work for me![/pullquote]

If UK midwifery were devoted to improving outcomes for babies and mothers, we should have seen a public apology, a promise to learn from their mistakes, outreach to the families of those harmed by their ideology, and dramatic changes in policy. Instead we’ve gotten claims that dead babies are “fake news,” insistence that midwives will go on promoting the very policies that killed mothers and babies, and, above all, self absorption and self pity.

UK midwives are channeling Donald Trump: responding to facts that show them in a negative light by ignoring those facts, labeling them “fake news,” berating the media, and insisting they are being persecuted.

Consider this response, Birth (and midwives) in the media, from Laura Godfrey-Isaacs, “midwife, artist and feminist academic & activist”.

Godfrey-Isaacs starts off thus:

We will all experience a ´media-informed´ birth wrote Fleming et al in 2014, with information that is ´fragmented, weakly linked and poorly referenced´ – how pertinent this seems of the journalism displayed in major UK newspapers in August 2017, and how it highlights the responsibility journalists have to portray birth in a balanced way, as most women will not witness birth before they are in labour.

In 2016, I undertook an extensive literature search examining birth in the media since the 1980s. I identified the same themes. They are very much in evidence as you trawl through the articles. These themes have been seen to reinforce certain dominant ideologies and narratives of birth, as well as around motherhood and gender.

In a piece that is ostensibly a response to the reports that scores of babies have been injured or died on the altar of midwifery ideology, Ms. Godfrey-Isaacs can’t be bothered to mention preventable deaths of babies and mothers. Indeed, in a piece of over 1400 words, Godfrey-Isaacs doesn’t mention dead babies beyond chastising the media for reporting them.

I invite you to read Godfrey-Isaacs piece for yourself, but suggest that you take an anti-emetic beforehand. It’s hard not to vomit when you realize that ideological cant and extreme self-absorption betray a horrifying reality; midwives apparently think they — not dead babies and dead mothers — are the victims.

Thank you, Ms. Godfrey-Isaacs, for demonstrating vividly that normal birth ideology isn’t about what’s good for babies, but what’s good for midwives. Thank you for further demonstrating that it doesn’t matter how many people die as a result, midwives will continue to promote THEIR OWN best interests.

Lactivists have recently been confronted with a similar problem — an ideology that purports to be about what’s best for babies is killing babies. The problem is so widespread that the American Academy of Pediatrics has repeatedly called attention to the fact that breastfeeding promotion efforts ignore scientific evidence and lets babies die — from hypoglycemia, dehydration and starvation — on the altar of lactivism.

The Fed Is Best Foundation was formed by Christi del Castillo-Hegyi, MD and Jody Segrave Daly, RN, IBCLC, specifically to prevent injuries and deaths from aggressive breastfeeding promotion. Their message has resonated both with mothers (400,000 following their Facebook page) and the media, which has highlighted stories of preventable tragedies cause by the insistence that breastfeeding is always best even when it is killing babies.

The success of the foundation has led to an outpouring of vitriol. That hasn’t been very effective so lactivists organizations are trying a different tack, Moving Forward to Constructive Dialogue, by Lucy Martinez-Sullivan of 1000 Days, as if the appropriate response to preventable infant deaths is to discuss them instead of prevent them.

Dr. del Castillo-Hegyi had called 1000 Days to account for publicly chastising an organization that provides formula to babies whose mothers are DEAD. Just as in Mosul, where babies are dying due to lack of formula, lactivists are attempting to PREVENT them from getting life saving formula.

As Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations pointed out:

Promoting breastfeeding is a laudable goal, but in some cases, international policy ends up determining women’s on-the-ground reality, even in wartime settings, rather than the other way around. In the process, policies run the risk of treating nursing mothers as children themselves, whose needs are best known by global policy makers sitting thousands of miles away, not doctors and humanitarians nearby doing their best to help.

How does Martinez-Sullivan respond to similar criticism of 1000 Days? With ideological cant:

…[T]he aggressive promotion of infant formula in sub-Saharan Africa and other impoverished parts of the world in the 1970’s led to a rise in infant deaths and horrific cases of malnutrition. This became an international scandal when the UK charity War on Want published their ground-breaking report “The Baby Killer” in 1974 which detailed how “more and more Third World mothers are turning to artificial foods during the first few months of their babies’ lives. In the squalor and poverty of the new cities of Africa, Asia and Latin America the decision is often fatal.”

What does the fact that fifty years ago formula companies convinced mothers who were successfully breastfeeding to switch to formula have to do with babies starving today for lack of breastmilk? Absolutely nothing except to burnish the ideological cred entails of Martinez-Smith and her organization. No matter, ideological purity is apparently more important than whether babies lives or die.

Martinez-Sullivan insists:

While opposing the aggressive and unethical promotion of breastmilk substitutes, 1,000 Days supports the safe and appropriate use of infant formula when necessary in accordance with the World Health Organization’s infant feeding recommendation.

Here’s a thought, Ms. Martinez-Sullivan, when you find yourselves letting babies die in order to promote what’s “best” for them, you might consider that you aren’t promoting what is best for them.

In my view, the entire episode is yet another example of lactivists trying to discredit the Fed Is Best Foundation for having the temerity to point out that lactivist campaigns are killing babies.

I understand if you do not wish to meet with me or 1,000 Days because of what I wrote in response to the aforementioned post. But please do not let that be the reason you decline the invitation to meet with the 43 other organizations that represent parents, physicians, health professionals and volunteers working tirelessly to help families give kids the strongest start to life and that signed the letter sent to you seeking a constructive dialogue with the Fed Is Best Foundation… 1,000 Days does however stand together with these groups in genuinely wanting to explore if there is common ground with the Fed Is Best Foundation when it comes to providing families with accurate and unbiased information on infant feeding.

But why should the Fed Is Best Foundation want to meet with 43 other organizations that have publicly opposed their effort to save babies lives? What is there to discuss when these organizations think that process is more important than outcome? Unless and until lactivist organizations acknowledge the preventable deaths that have occurred as the result of their commitment to ideology and, more importantly, take aggressive steps to prevent further deaths, there’s really nothing to say …

Except thanks Ms. Martinez-Sullivan for demonstrating that lactivism isn’t about what’s good for babies, it’s about what’s good for lactivists. Thank you for further demonstrating that it doesn’t matter how many babies die as a result, lactivists will continue to promote THEIR OWN best interests.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone could be as tone deaf as Godfrey-Isaacs and Martinez-Sullivan in addressing preventable infant deaths, but I for one am grateful. They are doing my work for me!