Pro tip: If you’re using the Virgin Mary to make your point about natural mothering, you need to re-evaluate your point

Nativity Scene

Once again, the natural parenting crowd rushes to demonstrate what I’ve written. This time they’re demonstrating how cultural constructions of both women and nature are used to promote the misogynist belief that mothers ought to suffer.

Both professional lactivist Dr. Jack Newman and artist Natalie Lennard have expropriated the Virgin Mary to make their sexist points. That’s not surprising. Religion is one of the most powerful sources for culturally constructed views about women, nature and the “need” for suffering. That’s why it has been traditionally used to keep women in their place.

You know what else was never seen in nature? Men mainsplainin’ breastfeeding to women and profiting from it.

This is hardly the first time that the Virgin Mary has been used in this way. Indeed, La Leche League was created explicitly in order to convince women to breastfeed so they wouldn’t go to work. It is named for a statue of Mary nursing Jesus, Nuestra Senora de la Leche.

In the book La Leche League: At the Crossroads of Medicine, Feminism, and Religion, Jule DeJager Ward explains that the La Leche League was:

…founded in 1956 by a group of Catholic mothers who sought to mediate in a comprehensive way between the family and the world of modern technological medicine…

The League’s presentations and literature carry a strong suggestion that breast feeding is obligatory. Their message is simple: Nature intended mothers to nurse their babies; therefore, mothers ought to nurse…

Emulating the tradition of using religion to convince mothers they must suffer, Dr. Jack Newman offers this bit of idiocy:


I have many photos of paintings of mothers breastfeeding. Not one of them shows a nipple shield. At our clinic one day last week, 5 out 16 of the mothers were using a nipple shield. I am appalled. There is nothing that can be done with a nipple shield that cannot be done better by a skilled helper without one …

Wait a minute while I pick myself up off the floor and catch my breath from laughing so hard.

Jack Newman has never seen a painting of the Virgin Mary breastfeeding with a nipple shield and he therefore concludes that nipple shields are never needed? Seriously? We’re supposed to believe that a woman who had a virgin birth is a perfect role model for human physiology?

You know what else was never seen in nature? Men mainsplainin’ breastfeeding to women and profiting from it. The very idea would have horrified Mary and her contemporaries. Women helped other women learn to breastfeed, no money exchanged and men had absolutely nothing to do with it. If Jack Newman thinks nipple shields are not necessary because they weren’t used in the Middle Ages, then he ought to be horrified by the notion that he is making money browbeating women into breastfeeding. There is absolutely nothing natural about what he does and he ought to stop immediately.

There was no internet, no Facebook, no books, no blogs and no videos in nature, either. Why does Dr. Newman finds it perfectly appropriate to use technology to profit from breastfeeding — something that never occurred in the entire history of the human race — yet is horrified by the idea of using technology to help women reduce pain in breastfeeding? It’s obvious: good mothers are supposed to suffer and Dr. Newman, a man, considers himself an appropriate arbiter of just how much suffering is required.

Natalie Lennard tries to make the same nonsensical point with her artwork, The Creation of Man. Apparently Lennard has used Photoshop to create a composite of a woman giving birth in the natural childbirth approved manner and an old painting of the birth of Jesus. Lennard fancies herself transgressive when she is nothing more than another gullible woman credulously quoting the charlatan Ina May Gaskin:

“The human species is no more unsuited to give birth than any other of the 5000 species of mammals on the planet. The birth-giving woman is the central agent in the ancient drama of bringing forth new life”. – Ina May

Every year we celebrate a natural birth, a story that takes place in the most primitive surroundings. Mary, giving birth to the Son of God in a stable … Yet how is it that beyond Julius Garibaldi’s 1891 painting of Mary and Joseph slumped in raw exhaustion, we have never seen a ‘real’ depiction of birth biology, particularly of Mary in upright, ecstatic primal instinct that such an environment would have helped facilitate?

Risking controversy to use universal characters to portray the ultimate ‘birth undisturbed’ amongst other mammals in a dim and lowly environment, suggests to modern woman that often in birth, less is more…

Ecstatic primal instinct? No one in Mary’s time thought birth was ecstatic. That’s a conceit created by Western, white women who have easy access to medical care and who pretend to themselves that they are oh so impressive for refusing it. Once again we are supposed to believe that a woman who had a virgin birth is an appropriate model for human physiology.

Back in Mary’s time there were no women artists, no Photoshop and no internet. If Lennard believes that women should give birth the way that she imagines Mary did, why doesn’t she live the rest of her life the way that Mary did?

Obviously, the invocation of Mary by Dr. Newman and Ms. Lennard is absurd in the extreme, but the purpose behind it is as ancient as the Bible; the purpose is to control women. It’s all about convincing women that suffering is the lot of women in general and necessary for mothering in particular. There’s a bitter irony to portraying nature as the touchstone for how much women ought to suffer, yet discarding it to use technological means to convince women to suffer naturally.

These efforts aren’t just ironic; they’re ludicrous. If you’re using the Virgin Mary to make your point about the physiology of mothering, you need to re-evaluate your point.

129 Responses to “Pro tip: If you’re using the Virgin Mary to make your point about natural mothering, you need to re-evaluate your point”

  1. kirsty mitchell
    December 27, 2017 at 12:03 pm #

    I personally know Ms Lennard, and happen to know a great deal about every last detail of the picture you seem to find so offensive. Firstly you would do well to bother to watch her film about the creation of the photograph because your ‘Photoshop’ headline is completely inaccurate. This image was not made in photoshop is was staged using a prosthetic baby, made especially for her birth series. Ms Lennard has has two natural home births, and is an advocate for natural birth. Why is this something that bothers you and prompts you to sneer at? Her portrayal of a natural birth by Mary seems pretty accurate – they would have had to handle the experience alone, and yes there would have been blood and pain and yes… shock horror…. Jesus came out of her vagina. Seriously, there are worse things in the world for you to pick at. Such a childish response to someone who is trying to normalise scenes of birth. No woman ever sat down and had a baby without blood or a whimper of pain this is reality. I think it’s time someone gave a more realistic vision of the nativity, instead of Mary magically popping out Jesus in a clean swaddle, with angels stapled to the barn roof and three wise men sitting around like nothing happened.

    • Poogles
      December 29, 2017 at 3:09 pm #

      “Her portrayal of a natural birth by Mary seems pretty accurate – they would have had to handle the experience alone, and yes there would have been blood and pain […] No woman ever sat down and had a baby without blood or a whimper of pain this is reality.”

      From the post:

      “the purpose behind it is as ancient as the Bible; the purpose is to control women. It’s all about convincing women that suffering is the lot of women in general and necessary for mothering in particular.”

      I don’t think anyone here is saying that Mary didn’t experience pain and the mess that comes with giving birth – we’re criticizing holding up that sort of messy, painful experience as some sort of ideal, as “the ultimate ‘birth undisturbed'” (as Ms. Lennard put it).

      • kirsty mitchell
        December 29, 2017 at 4:07 pm #

        Help me out here …. how else can a birth look? This is what birth looks like! It’s nothing to do with controlling women, it’s a bodily function and this is what it looks like. I find it utterly bizarre and ludicrous that any woman thinks this is an attempt to control them. Lennard is all about empowering women and giving them the control of their birth situations back – hence her plight for the independent midwives crisis . Why would a female artist want to make other women feel controlled and afraid by her work? You people have completely and utterly misunderstood everything she stands for, I can say this because I know her very closely and we have discussed this project at great length. You should read her birth stories, they are heartbreaking and uplifting in their tragedy and joy. She lost her first child, at birth, this is her story – . If anything blogs like this telling women how to interpret others expressions is more controlling. Why don’t you move on if you don’t like the image, instead of standing around sneering and poking at the work of a woman who has suffered greatly and is now putting her energy into powerful female art. Get a life

        • Who?
          December 29, 2017 at 4:51 pm #

          A birth can look like most of our other bodily functions now look-well understood and anticipated, in a clean safe environment, with help at hand if needed or wanted.

          Should we go back to a time when there was no refrigeration for food? When there wasn’t clean, safe to drink water piped to every home? Would we be more authentically alive if blood in our stools, discovered by a blood test, was just considered ‘one of those things’ that would resolve, or not?

          It’s bizarre to sit in a safe, warm house, with food in the fridge and however many bathrooms to hand, and fetishise fear and danger, pain and risk. Particularly when the bulk of the risk is with the baby, who has no say in the decisions of the mother who wants a particular experience.

          • kirsty mitchell
            December 29, 2017 at 5:37 pm #

            You are completely missing the point. This is meant to be a recreation of a famous historical birth. This didn’t happen in an age of hospitals, do you think Mary should be surrounded by doctors, what on earth are you talking about?

          • attitude devant
            December 29, 2017 at 5:55 pm #

            Mythic perhaps, but definitely not ‘historical.’

          • kirsty mitchell
            December 30, 2017 at 2:55 am #

            Attitude Devant – yes true, Im just trying to point out that for some odd reason everyone is going on about choices, doctors and hospitals when none of those existed. Im giving up trying to explain the work here, it’s being completely misunderstood, there’s no point in wasting my breath. The difference between myself and those commenting is that I know the artist closely and I know the intentions of this work. You all might be interested to know that Ms Lennard has been researching c-section births in great detail as a potential future image …. but of course that would all throw your arguments about your narrow mindedness out the window wouldn’t it? I give up, how sad women are attacking each other over one of the most beautiful moments in our lives.

          • Who?
            December 30, 2017 at 4:00 am #

            The artist puts her work out there, and writes about it. If people were exalting about it, I’m sure she’d be delighted with the attention.

            If she wants to interpret her experience for private expression, that’s up to her. If she publishes her work, and then commentates on it, she will need to learn to live with others interpreting it through the prism of their experience.

          • kirsty mitchell
            December 30, 2017 at 4:32 am #

            Well, the photograph has been massively well received, and has become one of her most successful pieces. So I guess it’s just this bitter little corner of the internet that has misunderstood her. I’ll leave this conversation now as it’s pointless trying to explain her work here.

          • Who?
            December 30, 2017 at 4:54 am #

            You don’t have to be bitter to find someone’s artistic endeavours shallow and lacking in originality.

            Her choices for the care of herself and her children are a matter for her, but if she wishes to fetishise dangerous practices she can expect some pushback.

            Let’s see if you can stick the flounce this time, your record on that isn’t great.

          • Who?
            December 29, 2017 at 6:20 pm #

            Making art out of a story is as old as humans. Using a story, and the art made out of it, as a paradigm for life in the modern world, is fetishisation.

            Many, many babies continue to be born in circumstances far more challenging than those outlined in ‘Mary’s’ story. I’m sure many little boys were born on the night of 25 December this year in circumstances not dissimilar. Is that something everyone should aspire to?

  2. niteseer
    December 22, 2017 at 11:37 am #

    “The human species is no more unsuited to give birth than any other of the 5000 species of mammals on the planet.”

    I was thinking last night, about kangaroos. They give birth to tiny embryos, who then climb up their mother’s fur and into her pouch, then find the nipple and latch on to it securely, all without mother’s help. I was wondering if there were EVER any cases of a kangaroo needing a c section for CPD, or suffering from pre-eclampsia. And I am guessing labor is a breeze, with no vaginal tears or pelvic floor damage.

    Comparing this to what women go through in childbirth, to bring our helpless, big headed, ineptly breastfeeding young into the world, I think women are probably less suited to give birth naturally than a kangaroo. And I think there are probably many more species who have easier births. Not to mention, so many other species have 8 to 12 nipples…….if one is flat, just move on to another. All without a lactation consultant to assist. I would not hold up human women as the shining pinnacle of childbirth. Just saying.

  3. aurora
    December 19, 2017 at 2:38 pm #

    I googled nipple shield to see what the fuss is about, and omg…it’s legit just thin plastic that covers the nipple with some holes. I can totally see how this helps women whose nipples have been gnawed off, or whose are inverted, flat etc. He’s acting like women are taping formula dispensers to their breasts. Which you know what, there would be nothing wrong with that too!! He needs to be quiet and better yet , go away! I am pregnant and already squeamish about anything touching my nipples. I don’t know if I want to breast feed due to that. If this thin piece of plastic helps me breast feed then great.

    • Empress of the Iguana People
      December 19, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

      I had one for a bit when my poor boobs were bloody.

    • guest
      December 20, 2017 at 12:42 pm #

      I am the same way about my nipples and it’s why I ultimately decided against breastfeeding. It didn’t seem important enough to suffer through multiple times a day of someone sucking on them. **shudder**

    • Amy
      December 22, 2017 at 8:45 pm #

      I had such badly inverted nipples that my CNM, knowing how much I wanted to breastfeed, made sure to alert the hospital LC to my presence before the baby was even born. The LC took one look at my breasts and produced a shield.

      And even then, my daughter’s mouth was too small to latch and my nipples were too inverted to make it work. I *really* wanted to breastfeed, though, so I fed exclusively pumped milk until my daughter grew a little bigger (and the pumped helped draw out the inverted nipples). Then we went to a shield, and then finally, several months in, were able to go shieldless.

      I’m sure Newman’s prescription would have been lots of skin-to-skin time and starving my baby into accepting my bare breast, which in practice would have been nothing more than starving my baby, full stop.

  4. NoLongerCrunching
    December 19, 2017 at 1:03 pm #

    Clearly the woman in this painting is being fitted for a nipple shield.

    • Roadstergal
      December 19, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

      I thought that was an unasked-for LC grabbing a tit unasked?

    • StephanieJR
      December 19, 2017 at 3:03 pm #

      *Monty Python flashbacks increase*

  5. AnnaPDE
    December 19, 2017 at 7:07 am #

    I don’t remember seeing any life jackets on paintings of fishermen and other boat-sailing people, even in dangerous weather conditions. In contrast, the bible gives a clear account how these things are totally unnecessary, with that one guy simply walking on water and the other parting the sea as needed. Really the whole business of boats and bridges is completely unnatural and counter-productive, if only people could be bothered to master these basic skills… And what’s the worst that could happen if you don’t get it right the first few times? End up with a big sea animal swallowing you and carrying you to shore, laying the fundaments for an excellent career in the prophecy industry. Can’t see any drawbacks here.

  6. ukay
    December 19, 2017 at 4:42 am #

    Lol, who does this guy thinks he is, being „appaled“ by mothers taking care of their babies? God‘s very own lactation prophet to judge mothers‘ breastfeeding performances on Judgment Day?

    Apparently it was not uncommon to lose nipples due to breastfeeding difficulties which made it harder to impossible to feed subsequent babies. Is he advocating mutilation for ideological purity?

    • NoLongerCrunching
      December 19, 2017 at 12:55 pm #

      Interesting. Do you have a source? (Not doubting it could have happened, just wonder If there is documentation.)

      • ukay
        December 19, 2017 at 3:26 pm #

        The book I have it from is called „Breasts, Bottles and Babies: A History of Infant Feeding“ by Valerie Fildes. It is a history if baby feeding in the pre-industrial ages and seems to be very thouroughly researched.

  7. fiftyfifty1
    December 18, 2017 at 7:39 pm #

    Oh that Creation of Man picture, LOL! Mary looks like a 30-something white woman from Whole Foods. Love those toned thighs and her super cute off one shoulder white blouse with elastic. Please.

    • StephanieJR
      December 18, 2017 at 7:48 pm #

      I can’t even see a bump!

      • guest
        December 19, 2017 at 1:53 pm #

        Yeah, What’s up with that?

        Maybe I’m just cranky ’cause I’m currently at 39 weeks. But pregnant women in art and media are never depicted accurately.

        You know, sweaty, forgetful, clutzy, unable to stand up without assistance, or put on their own shoes, waddling around the grocery store and accidentally knocking over displays with their giant bellies…we are slapstick personified.

        Or is that just me?

        • Lilly de Lure
          December 20, 2017 at 1:43 am #

          Nope, definitely not just you!

        • Steph858
          December 20, 2017 at 11:59 am #

          Genuine question: do you ladies who actually got baby bumps while you were pregnant ever actually do that ‘cradling the bump’ thing that heavily pregnant ladies do on the telly? You know, that thing where one hand rests on the top of the bump as if it’s a special shelf for tired arms, while the other holds the bottom of the bump as if the baby will somehow fall out otherwise? Like this:

          Because I never ever did anything even close to that. But then I never got any kind of baby bump when I was pregnant with my son (IUGR – he weighed all of 1.5kg when he was born at 34 weeks); well, no more than an “I’m pregnant; the father is an all-you-can-eat buffet!” bump. So I’ve been wondering whether pregnant women with proper bumps really do that ‘cradling the bump’ thing in real life, or whether that’s just something they do on TV to tell the viewer: “I’m not getting fat, I’m pregnant!”

          • Heidi
            December 20, 2017 at 12:21 pm #

            I never cradled mine but I think I did rub it a lot. I think just because it was there and so novel to me.

          • MaineJen
            December 20, 2017 at 12:47 pm #

            Me too. I loved feeling the kicks. Although, if I’m being totally honest, there was sometimes an element of “I’m not fat, I’m pregnant” in there too 🙂

          • Heidi
            December 20, 2017 at 1:19 pm #

            My bump never got huge and really wasn’t noticeable from the front. So yeah, I think I was a little self-conscious of people wondering if I was pregnant or just belly pudgy.

          • December 20, 2017 at 12:37 pm #

            I used to groan and hold my abdomen, simply to take strain off my poor back.

          • Dr Kitty
            December 20, 2017 at 1:50 pm #

            I don’t think I cradled it like that except in the last week or two, but I would usually pat and rub the kicky little monkeys, or try to poke them until they moved if they were particularly uncomfortably situated.

            My two weren’t large but were very, very active and in both pregnancies I was pretty much always trying to get them to kick me somewhere else than wherever they were currently doing it.

            I’m 5’ tall with a very short torso- I was pretty much ALL bump from about 24 weeks, and I had to stop wearing t-shirts and anything clingy after 28 weeks because their movements were visible through my clothing and that isn’t something most people care to see.

            A lot of people seem to think pregnant women touch their bellies for attention- in my case it was about bonding with the babies or my own comfort, and nothing to do with the feelings of third parties.

          • guest
            December 20, 2017 at 2:01 pm #

            I only did it if it felt like the baby was unusually active and restless. Sometimes gently holding or rubbing the bump seemed to calm them. It was less of a maternal cradling, and more of an attempt to communicate and acknowledge their presence. It always had me thinking: “what are you doing in there kid? Holding a kickboxing class? You are such a mystery”

          • Roadstergal
            December 20, 2017 at 5:36 pm #

            I have a friend and a co-worker who is almost 6 feet tall, slender and fit, and she has been having the most photogenic pregnancy I’ve ever seen. She’s due in January, and she just walks around looking radiant with a baby bump and no other visible signs. For the last month or so, she’s been resting a hand on top a lot – but like it’s a convenient shelf she grew in order to not require a desk. 😀

            This seems to be the exception, as all of my other friends have had pregnancies that varied from ‘bearable’ to ‘horrific.’

          • December 20, 2017 at 7:47 pm #

            Sounds like a friend of mine, cheerfully sashaying around in high heels at 40 weeks with her third kid and renovating her house to boot.

          • Steph858
            December 21, 2017 at 5:42 pm #

            I had one of those pregnancies, minus the visible bump. If my son had been an accident, I could honestly have been one of those women you read about in magazines who didn’t know they were pregnant till they went to take a dump and a baby plopped out. If my next pregnancy goes as smoothly, I think I’ll become a surrogate afterwards; be a shame to let my ‘superpower’ go to waste.

          • fiftyfifty1
            December 21, 2017 at 7:06 pm #

            I love that superpower! It was not me, that’s for sure, but I am always so pleased for women who have glowing pregnancies and straightforward, fast labors. It really is a beautiful thing to behold.

          • Steph858
            December 24, 2017 at 12:11 pm #

            I didn’t even have a labour (fast or slow): C-Section, no TOL. Never had a single contraction. Which means that now I can (and often do) legitimately say that anything from a stubbed toe upwards “Hurts more than giving birth”!

          • Daleth
            December 24, 2017 at 1:27 pm #

            Weeeeellll but you’re forgetting how much it hurts post-c-section when the nurses are forcing you to get up and walk, and your pain meds are wearing off. Omg omg ouch.

          • Steph858
            December 24, 2017 at 1:45 pm #

            Yes that’s true. That doesn’t technically count as ‘giving birth’ so much as ‘recovering from giving birth’ though. So I still reserve the right to moan that the slightest pain is worse that giving birth, because I do like a good moan. 😉

          • Daleth
            December 25, 2017 at 8:26 am #

            Fair point. 🙂

          • Steph858
            December 24, 2017 at 12:11 pm #

            I didn’t even have a labour (fast or slow): C-Section, no TOL. Never had a single contraction. Which means that now I can (and often do) legitimately say that anything from a stubbed toe upwards “Hurts more than giving birth”!

          • swbarnes2
            December 20, 2017 at 6:39 pm #

            Never, though I’d put my hands on top. But I also didn’t have much bump, in part because mine was petite, and early.

            (I’m so glad my kid stayed in just long enough to be safe, and not longer. And her haste means she will turn 18 before a presidential election.)

          • Manly Seadragon
            December 23, 2017 at 8:08 am #

            Nope. But it did make a handy shelf to rest my giant bowl of ice cream on

        • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
          December 20, 2017 at 2:20 pm #

          Not just you! I am 5 feet tall and had a 9 pound kid, I was also all belly, I not only knocked things over I actually had people get off elevators when I got on (or look at me and decide to take the stairs. My belly got everywhere 2 minutes before I did. the last month or 2 I couldn’t remember anything it seemed like and the kid kicked so hard she woke up my husband. My feet grew two shoe sizes(from US size 6 to size 8) and I had non-stop hearburn the last 6 weeks. When the anesthesiologist walked in to do my epidural and said “cross your arms over your chest and bend over” I just glared at him.
          I was in the Navy and wearing summer whites uniform(white polyester skirt and shirt, I looked like Moby Dick..

    • Russell Jones
      December 18, 2017 at 9:22 pm #


      Hipster Joseph serves as coach while Hipster Mary gives birth to Hipster Jesus.

  8. KeeperOfTheBooks
    December 18, 2017 at 4:40 pm #

    I don’t know to what religion, if any, Dr. Newman subscribes. However, given the Catholic history of the LLL and the bent of his post, I wanted to offer this from a Catholic theological perspective:
    Okay, so Mary didn’t use a nipple shield. You know what? In Catholic theology, Mary was conceived without original sin, meaning that, among other things, her body wasn’t subject to all the physical nuisances that the rest of us humans have to deal with: colds, the flu, childbirth pains (possibly–there’s a lot of very boring debate about that which can be summed up as “we have no idea,”), et all. This also meant that, in this line of thought, her body worked brilliantly at what it was “supposed” to do in this situation–i.e., she was pregnant, she had a baby, her body needed to produce milk for a baby, and so it did, no muss, no fuss, no need for a nipple shield.
    The remaining 99.999999999999999999% of humanity? Well, our bodies ARE subject to all that stuff. Some of us have great eyesight, while others need glasses. Some give birth easily, and others would die without C-sections. And some have breasts that function brilliantly at feeding a baby, while others don’t. And that’s just the way things are, so no need to shame anyone because they need glasses or a hearing aid or a C-section or a nipple shield. Period, full stop, end of sentence. Telling someone “well, someone who was uniquely not subject to having nipples that aren’t a great shape for breastfeeding didn’t need a nipple shield, so you don’t either” is about as pointless as saying “Suzy has 20/20 eyesight, so you must have 20/20 eyesight, too, despite tests saying it’s more like 20/200, and you CERTAINLY don’t need glasses to make up the difference!”
    (Apologies for the rant, but this stuff really did a number on my head when I was a new young mom, and writing out a common-sense response is very cathartic for me.)

  9. yentavegan
    December 18, 2017 at 4:02 pm #

    I want to talk about how lack of formula is killing infants in Venezuela. I realize that all the breastfeeding in the world can not save these children. They are dying from lack of FORMULA in a country flush with oil.

    • Empress of the Iguana People
      December 18, 2017 at 4:27 pm #

      Venezuela seems to be having even more craziness than the US does. I only have half an idea about it from reading National Geographic, though, so I don’t know nuffink

      • StephanieJR
        December 18, 2017 at 4:33 pm #

        Hey, I actually have a vaguely appropriate Rabbit Fact! To combat malnutrition, the government in Venezuela sent their people rabbits, to raise, breed and butcher. When they checked back in, however, they discovered that the people were treating the bunnies as pets, not food. They were naming them, letting them share the bed, even putting bows on them. Some of them probably did eat the rabbits, but at least a few people preferred their companionship.

  10. Amy Tuteur, MD
    December 18, 2017 at 2:51 pm #

    I found a paper that says that nipple shields have been in use for at least 500 years:

    “NS use has been recorded in history for at least 500 years. Historically, NSs were fashioned from many materials such as silver, wood, lead, pewter, and animal skins.“

    • Sheven
      December 18, 2017 at 3:52 pm #

      That’s scandalous. People have been sabotaging women’s self-confidence and forcing them into suboptimal, non-natural breastfeeding practices for five hundred years? The medicalization of childbirth is worse than we’d ever feared.

      • The Kids Aren't AltRight
        December 18, 2017 at 10:33 pm #

        That is probably the worst thing done to women over that 500 year period!

    • HailieJade
      December 20, 2017 at 11:31 am #

      Of course they have. People have also been using condoms and abortifacients and pain relief for thousands of years! That’s the thing about humans: when we notice something we don’t like, we find a way to avoid it. Our caveman (cavewoman?) ancestors would be rolling in their graves if they could see the state of the NCB movement today!

  11. Casual Verbosity
    December 18, 2017 at 2:49 pm #

    OT: Since this article is about a woman for whom not even abstinence was an effective contraception, I wanted to ask this learned audience about natural family planning. Personally I am dedicated to the pill for the predictability and control it provides over my periods (from 11 – 18 my body could not fathom a regular menstrual cycle) as well as its assistance to keep my acne at bay, but I’m in a fitness group on Facebook where this issue comes up a lot and I’d like to be better educated. Inevitably whenever a woman there asks about what forms of contraception other people have found to suit them, a pack of women start clamouring about natural family planning and how there is only a minuscule window in a cycle in which conception is possible and you only have to abstain from sex on those days to have fool proof contraception… This seems suspicious to me, but I am happy to be enlightened. From what I presently understand, fertility is not a dichotomous state of yes/no, rather it’s a scale of more or less. There are some days in the cycle when you are most likely to conceive, and some days when you are least likely but those likelihoods aren’t in the realm of certainties. Is that correct? I was always told that NFP was designed to help couples who are actually trying to conceive to know when they would have the greatest chance of success, rather than how not to conceive. At the very least there seems to be quite a sizeable margin for error with NFP as it involves taking temperatures, examining mucus, and tracking your cycle. With this much potential for user error, it would seem that NFP is anything but fool-proof, but my question is whether it could be good enough to be considered on the same level as the pill, implants, and barrier methods of contraception? I imagine the answer may be: “If you do it perfectly. But doing NFP perfectly takes far more skill and precision than doing the other methods perfectly.”

    • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
      December 18, 2017 at 3:01 pm #

      According to some studies NFP has a 25% failure rate in “real life” and 10% even if you do it perfectly.
      (there are some studies that suggest that being exposed to male pheromones may trigger ovulation theres that too)

      If you have periods that are extremely regular you may be able to make it work for you but there’s a reason for that old Catholic joke my aunts used to tell: What to you call people who practice NFP….parents! (I have 15 cousins)

      • Casual Verbosity
        December 18, 2017 at 3:43 pm #

        Thank you for that link! When I’ve tried to research this myself I tend to get mostly pages promoting NFP, which tend to downplay the risks, or pages basically saying “use it to help you get pregnant”.
        A 10% failure rate for perfect use is pretty abysmal if your aim is to not get pregnant.

    • December 18, 2017 at 3:37 pm #

      I’ve never tried it (my cycles are, like yours, not predictable) but from what I’ve heard from people who do use it, it’s not terribly effective. There are times you absolutely cannot get pregnant, but that’s your period and (generally) right afterwards. Asides from that, there is a huge portion of time you should not have sex. The 4-5 days you ovulate, plus the week before and after- that’s a lot of time it’s “not safe” to have sex. NFP, when practiced rigorously, can be effective for some people some of the time, but it’s not nearly as good as any other form of birth control. Part of NFP means being “open to life”, which means if it fails you’re okay with getting pregnant. That isn’t very confidence-inducing, is it?

      • Casual Verbosity
        December 18, 2017 at 3:40 pm #

        That’s what I thought. It’s fine if your mentality is: “I don’t REALLY want to get pregnant right now, but if I do I’m okay with an abortion and have access to one or I’m okay with keeping the baby”.

        • Kerlyssa
          December 19, 2017 at 9:08 pm #

          Yes, it’s good for reducing pregnancy/spacing them out in general, but falls short of being proper prevention/planning.

      • guest
        December 20, 2017 at 2:21 pm #

        Yes. And for me at least, the days you are supposed to abstain are the days I am most in the mood. I never had to worry about tracking ovulation when trying for either of my kids. When I started getting in the mood, just keep having sex until the mood passed. Worked within a month or 2 both times, which scared us both as we were never careful with birth control. So after #2 I had a tubal ligation to make sure there would be no accidents.

      • Life Tip
        December 22, 2017 at 10:32 am #

        That’s not really fair though. “Open to life” is a religious/philosophical mentality. NFP or FAM is just the method. There’s just a big overlap because many people use NFP for religious reasons, and they are generally in committed relationships. In itself, it isn’t any more open to life than having sex with any method of birth control.

        I’ve used NFP (Sympto-thermal and Marquette methods) for 11 years with no unintended pregnancies. You absolutely can get pregnant right after your period, depending on your cycle length. NFP takes into account the individual woman’s cycle, which is why it is different than the calendar or rhythm method.

        • December 22, 2017 at 11:17 am #

          Yeah, but NFP or FAM fail often enough that the mentality of being “open to life” is required. They are known to be only sort of effective, and they are much less effective than LARC. In itself, you’re far more likely to get pregnant using NFP or FAM than with the pill or condoms, let alone something with much less user error like an IUD or an implant.

          I’m glad it works for you. It doesn’t work for a lot of people and it’s a lot of work. FAM and NFP are pretty bad birth control methods whose only saving grace is that it’s better than nothing. And even then, for people with unreliable cycles like yours truly, it’s not going to work at all. I wish I could check a calendar and see when I’d be on my period, but in my case it’s more of an investigation of how crampy I feel, if I had a similar crampy feeling ~2 weeks ago (ovulation), and how irritable at normal life things I am. How long it’s been since my last period is pretty irrelevant.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks
      December 18, 2017 at 4:10 pm #

      *raises hand*
      Anecdata warning/long post warning here. DH and I use NFP for religious reasons. Thus far, it has been effective for us both in avoiding and achieving pregnancy for the five years we’ve been married. However, I’ll be the first to say that the marketing tactics around it are inexcusably optimistic, oftentimes to the point of dishonesty.
      There are a half-dozen different methods of NFP. I personally use one developed by Marquette University which uses hormonal monitoring as a primary sign with mucus observations as backup. This monitoring is used in combination with a fertility algorithim. (Disclaimer: if you’re interested in this method, cool, but PLEASE DO NOT TAKE THIS POST AS YOUR SOLE EDUCATION IN IT. It’s not a complete analysis, and I do not want to be responsible for a woman getting pregnant in a bad situation, so please talk to an instructor and read the manual before using it.) So, for the first six months, fertility starts on cycle day six (cycle day 1 is day 1 of menstruation) and continues until five days after ovulation has been confirmed via hormonal testing, at which point you’re looking at 7-10 days that are available for sexual activity, depending on how long your post-ovulation phase is. So, if you ovulate on, say, day 16-18 (fairly common for me), you’re looking at about 2 1/2 weeks of abstinence per month for the first six months.
      Once those six months are past, fertility starts on whichever comes sooner: six days before your earliest ovulation for the prior six months, or when you get a hormonal test indicating that your estrogen is starting to increase. So, let’s say that your earliest ovulation was on CD 12–fertility/abstinence still starts on CD 6, and continues until five days post-ovulation, so yes, another couple of weeks of abstinence. Earliest ovulation was CD16? That’ll buy you another couple of days, though, to be frank, we are REALLY cautious about later pre-ovulatory sex when we need to avoid pregnancy because that’s where method failures happen. (More on that in a moment.) You then have about 7-10 days, depending on how long the post-ovulatory phase is, when sexual activity is possible.
      Does this involve more abstinence than is technically necessary? Absolutely. However, you can’t predict to the day, short of monthly ultrasounds, exactly when you’re going to ovulate in time to know that you can’t have sex lest you get pregnant. And yes, this amount of abstinence does certainly reduce risk. The primary reason we picked this method is that it’s objective vs subjective, as mucus observations are: that test is either positive or negative, no messing about, except secondarily, with “what is the exact stretchiness of this mucus?”.
      I mentioned method failures. Here’s where NFP marketing gets, IMNSHO, downright disingenuous: with the exception of the method I use, all published NFP method efficacy rates are based upon women in standard-length cycles who aren’t premenopausal, postpartum, breastfeeding, or have any sort of hormonal issues…but the marketers and instructors generally won’t tell you that. Instead, they say that “you only need 5-7 days of abstinence per month!” when that’s cutting it damn fine if you have any variation whatsoever in your cycle lengths…WHICH MOST WOMEN DO. My cycles are extremely regular as a rule, to within a day or two, but every once in a while I do get that one early ovulation per year, say if I’m on vacation/traveling/whatever. That’s also pretty common.
      For me personally, once I’m past the six month postpartum mark, I generally have days 1-7 available, abstain through about day 22-23 depending on when I ovulate, and then have days 23/24-31/32 available for sex. So…kind of a two weeks on, two weeks off sort of thing? It’s occasionally gone down to 10 days of abstinence, usually when I’m eating very well and exercising regularly, but that varies from woman to woman.
      And yes, it definitely does require more training than, say, having an IUD inserted–no arguments there. Another issue with the more subjective methods is that, due to their nature, nearly any method failure can be blamed as a user failure–my personal favorite being, as a popular blogger reported, when she used the words “yellow sticker” written on her chart to note a type of mucus in her method due to having run out of actual yellow stickers and subsequently conceived, she was told that that was a user failure because, apparently, placing a yellow sticker on a chart is far different from writing the same documentation…? ARGH! And to a lot of NFP users, perhaps because many of us are religious, NFP becomes itself something of an idol which Can Never Be Wrong, which I think is a grave mistake: it’s a tool, and it can be a useful tool, but there’s nothing theological about it, per se, any more than my car has theological significance because I use it to get to church.
      Like I said, we use it for religious reasons, so our view of it is probably different from that of many here. I did want to try to give an honest assessment of both what it means in our marriage and the issues with the efficacy/low abstinence claims, though, and hope I managed that.

      • Casual Verbosity
        December 18, 2017 at 7:06 pm #

        Thanks for your insight. I think you succeeded in your aim to give an honest appraisal of your experience. And thank you for explaining the process that you use. I didn’t realise there were multiple iterations of NFP. I think it’s great that these methods are available for people who can’t or don’t want to use hormonal or barrier contraceptives, but I get anxious about how some people promote them as being an appropriate method for everyone. As you said, it’s quite risky for women with highly variable cycles.

        I think what you said about the way some people try to defend failures of NFP as user error is similar to how people who deny the risks of exclusive breastfeeding defend cases of dehydration and starvation. “Oh no! It’s not beastfeeding’s fault, it’s your fault for not doing xyz.” (Especially when the xyz is actually a really long list of demands.) The fact is, if a method to achieve any outcome requires pitch perfect execution in order to be effective, that is a shortcoming of the method. It doesn’t mean the method is useless, but it’s a risk of using it that people need to be aware of. And just as it is unethical not to inform women about factors that place them at risk for insufficient milk production, it’s also unethical to inform women with variable cycles that they’re at a greater risk of pregnancy using NFP.

        I think you’re onto something with the veneration of NFP due to large number of people using it for religious reasons. The other group that primarily seems to use it are those who are very anti “chemicals”, and they can also have a religious like fervour when it comes to the natural, so that probably doesn’t help either.

        • Roadstergal
          December 19, 2017 at 12:42 am #

          I mean – to me, User Error is part of Method Failure. People aren’t perfect, and methods can be more or less resistant to user error. I know I am very capable of forgetting pills, especially when traveling, so it didn’t matter if a lot of the failure rate of the Pill is User Error – that’s a very relevant stat for me!

    • Sarah
      December 18, 2017 at 4:16 pm #

      The Family Planning Association, a British body who are as far as I’m aware not biased towards the method, rate both the ideal and typical usage rates as around the same as a diaphragm:

      Significantly below all LARCs and the pill, potentially slightly more effective than condoms with perfect usage.

      However I suspect the stats don’t compare like with like, because women who already know they have very irregular cycles and would therefore potentially be at higher failure risk, already know this and don’t bother trying. Same with eg couples who know they’re not up for abstinence during fertile periods. So they’re sort of self-selected out of the figures in the first place, whereas the same isn’t necessarily true for eg IUDs.

    • namaste
      December 18, 2017 at 6:23 pm #

      Question: what does one call a person who uses natural family planning?

      Answer: A parent.

    • Empress of the Iguana People
      December 18, 2017 at 8:19 pm #

      When my best friend graduated high school, one conversation with her grandma was a _very_ hedged around discussion of the rhythm method (grandma was a good 90yo Quebecois catholic). It was so hedged around that it actually took my friend about 10 minutes to figure out what she was on about. We both got a laugh out of that later. Bless Meme; she meant well. We had had health classes years earlier, even if our parents hadn’t taken care of explaining stuff.

      • December 18, 2017 at 9:09 pm #

        Is that pronounced Me-Me? Because I read it “Meem” like an internet meme…

        Just curious 🙂

        • Empress of the Iguana People
          December 18, 2017 at 9:50 pm #


          • Daleth
            December 19, 2017 at 11:26 am #

            Short for memere (may-mare), grandma. There are accents on the e’s in that word but I forget how to type them.

          • Margeary
            December 19, 2017 at 11:56 am #

            Here: Mémère. There is also the male version: Pépère (for grandpa)

          • Comrade X
            December 30, 2017 at 3:10 pm #

            My paternal grandparents are Mémé and Pépé (both born a grew up in Spain, but had to flee to a Refugee Camp in the south of France to escape Franco during the Spanish Civil War). 🙂

      • Margeary
        December 19, 2017 at 8:38 am #

        It reminds me of something my grandma told me. She was also a Quebecois Catholic. When I was younger, she told me that after 16 kids, she had to go to Montreal (she was living in a rural area) to get one doctor to prescribe her the pill because no doctor in her area would. And the rhythm method was obviously not working for her. After she began taking the pill, the local priest told her she was “preventing the family” which was not catholic. OMG, 16 kids! She was pregnant for most of her adult life and working on a farm.

        • Roadstergal
          December 19, 2017 at 12:27 pm #

          Loretta Lynn said it best:

          “You wined me and dined me
          When I was your girl
          Promised if I’d be your wife
          You’d show me the world
          But all I’ve seen of this old world
          Is a bed and a doctor bill
          I’m tearin’ down your brooder house
          ‘Cause now I’ve got the pill

          All these years I’ve stayed at home
          While you had all your fun
          And every year that’s gone by
          Another baby’s come
          There’s a gonna be some changes made
          Right here on nursery hill
          You’ve set this chicken your last time
          ‘Cause now I’ve got the pill

          This old maternity dress I’ve got
          Is goin’ in the garbage
          The clothes I’m wearin’ from now on
          Won’t take up so much yardage
          Miniskirts, hot pants and a few little fancy frills
          Yeah I’m makin’ up for all those years
          Since I’ve got the pill

          I’m tired of all your crowin’
          How you and your hens play
          While holdin’ a couple in my arms
          Another’s on the way
          This chicken’s done tore up her nest
          And I’m ready to make a deal
          And ya can’t afford to turn it down
          ‘Cause you know I’ve got the pill

          This incubator is overused
          Because you’ve kept it filled
          The feelin’ good comes easy now
          Since I’ve got the pill
          It’s gettin’ dark it’s roostin’ time
          Tonight’s too good to be real
          Oh but daddy don’t you worry none
          ‘Cause mama’s got the pill
          Oh daddy don’t you worry none
          ‘Cause mama’s got the pill”

    • December 18, 2017 at 9:08 pm #

      We were able to use NFP without any particular effort, because my cycle is so regular you could set a watch by it, complete with clear symptoms of ovulation. We used condoms during the week I might be fertile.

      Husband still got a vasectomy as soon as we were sure we were done.

      • Casual Verbosity
        December 19, 2017 at 2:27 am #

        I am so jealous of your regular cycle.

    • Allie
      December 18, 2017 at 10:13 pm #

      Mary and Joseph were probably using NFP, hence the need for a cover story : )

    • Dr Kitty
      December 19, 2017 at 2:13 pm #

      Pearl index for NFP for every 100 typical users for 1 year there will be 24 pregnancies.

      There will typically by 80 pregnancies in 100 women using no contraception for a year.

      Better than nothing, but pretty rubbish when compared to something like Mirena coil (0.5) and Nexplanon (0.4).

      If a 1 in 4 chance of pregnancy every year is something you’re ok with, you don’t mind period sex, you don’t mind abstaining for 1 out of 4 weeks, taking your temperature every morning and checking cervical mucus, knock yourself out.

      For most people there are too many caveats to make it something they are willing to rely on.
      NFP +condoms or spermicide or withdrawal are frequently practised too… without much evidence of improved efficacy.

      There will always be people who will prefer this method, but no, it’s historical track record does not suggest it is as good as more modern contraceptive options.

    • guest
      December 19, 2017 at 2:42 pm #

      “If you do it perfectly. But doing NFP perfectly takes far more skill and precision than doing the other methods perfectly.”

      Yeah, pretty much. As somebody who chooses NFP (mostly for spacing pregnancies) I wouldn’t recommend it to most people. It works because I am meticulous about tracking cycles and ovulation, breastfeed exclusively, and have a willing and cooperative partner. My husband and I are also OK with surprises and want a large family.

      If you don’t fall into all of those categories, for goodness sake, use a backup.

      The biggest problem with NFP is that most of the teaching materials available on it are really piss poor. It’s like the people writing them want women to pregnant and helpless. And to be honest, they probably do.

      When looking for science-based (not religion-based) NFP plans and information, I had to dig pretty deep at my local library and university library. The last books I found on the topic that bothered to cite any real studies or research were published between the 1950s and the 1970s. The advice they gave was also quite different than the advice books today give, and much more honest about the failure rate. There was some kind of cultural shirt after that, where the books started focusing on positive thinking and philosophy, rather than practical problem of helping women who had no other forms of birth control available to them.

      Positive thinking is all well and god, but it won’t stop you from getting pregnant. That “narrow” window of fertility every month can actually be quite variable.

      In many women, it does not fall into a “normal” range (for instance, I have 28-day cycles, but usually ovulate around days 7-9, which makes 90% of NFP advice worthless). And if you are under stress, or get the flu, or your cycles begin to change with age, you might have a random month where you ovulate at a totally different time than you usually do…and may have different symptoms. Plus, women in their late thirties and forties often start dropping multiple eggs during a single cycle, so…congratulations, you are not only more likely to get pregnant, but now you’re also more likely to get knocked up with twins.
      Also, sperm are viable in the body longer than most people realize. So if you have sex during your “safe” window, there may still be a few swimming around during the “unsafe” window…and it only takes one.

      But most NFP guides will not tell you any of this. They say “just avoid days 12-16 of your cycle and you’re golden”…Well, if your cycle is textbook perfect, that might work.

      Oh and here’s my favorite piece of bad NFP advice: “Lactating women can’t get pregnant”
      (*maniacal cackling*) …no. Ever hear of Irish Twins? If you breastfeed exclusively (no pumping, no supplementing with other liquids, no interruptions, and no exceptions) you are LESS LIKELY to get pregnant. This method works for MOST women who are lucky/insane enough to be able to adhere to it perfectly, but not all. There is still a small percentage of women who will ovulate anyway. And you can only find out if you are one of those lucky few through trial and error.

      So…damn. What am i getting at, here? Only experiment with NFP if you actively want kids. That is what I am getting at. Tracking cycles can be a great way for women to learn about their bodies and I would encourage everyone to do it, but don’t rely on it for birth control unless you truly understand the risks involved.

      • guest
        December 19, 2017 at 2:44 pm #

        Sorry, I meant to say cultural shift, not cultural shirt. Darn autocorrect.

    • carovee
      December 19, 2017 at 6:17 pm #

      Unless you have a very regular cycle, NFP is rubbish. Also, it doesn’t work if you double ovulate.

    • MaineJen
      December 20, 2017 at 8:45 am #

      Every discussion I’ve ever had about NFP is accompanied by the caveat: “Of course, if you do end up getting pregnant, you have to be okay with accepting that, too!” In other words, it’s NOT a reliable method of birth control in the real world.

      Yes, in a perfect world, where every woman’s cycle lasts exactly 28 days and you ovulate at exactly the time you’re expecting to ovulate every single month, it would work reasonably well.

      BUT, in the real world, you have women like me, who get very irregular, spotty/light periods, and who the hell knows when I ovulate. As a working mom, I’m not about to take on “monitoring my cervical mucus.” It’s just not going to happen. This is why I *heart* my IUD. Not only is it more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, I don’t even have to think about any of this mess. At all. Yay, modern medicine!

    • J.B.
      December 20, 2017 at 10:01 am #

      Well, I happen to know to the day when I conceived my second child…and no it did not line up at all with either NFP or an ovulation predictor kit.

    • Mariana
      December 20, 2017 at 5:24 pm #

      Do you know how we call a woman who uses NFP? No? A mother!

      I asked my doctor about it, because the pill gives me pms all month long and that is not fun, she said she recommends it as a pregnancy delaying method, but not as contraceptive. You’ll end up pregnant sooner or later.

      Also, the days you are most fertile are usually the days you have higher libido… it seems to me like a waste to keep chaste precisely on those days…

  12. maidmarian555
    December 18, 2017 at 2:42 pm #

    I can’t be the only one seriously creeped out by his collection of breastfeeding pictures and paintings. Urgh.

    • Casual Verbosity
      December 18, 2017 at 2:51 pm #

      It makes other men’s porn collections look healthy and well-adjusted.

      • Roadstergal
        December 18, 2017 at 3:06 pm #

        It makes MY porn collection look healthy and well-adjusted. :p

        • December 18, 2017 at 9:14 pm #

          Thanks for that; I got coffee up my nose laughing.

    • Russell Jones
      December 18, 2017 at 7:40 pm #

      You are most assuredly not the only one. That’s one jacked up Banco de Spanko ol’ Newman is maintaining.

  13. Glia
    December 18, 2017 at 2:22 pm #

    Now I’m even supposed to feel bad about using a nipple shield? Really? I managed to do the exclusive BF until starting solids (wasn’t actually a great idea, I think my kid would have been better off with a little bit of supplementing), extended past a year, and that wasn’t good enough either because I used a nipple shield? Gonna hitch a ride on those goalposts, they move faster than my car.

    • Sheven
      December 18, 2017 at 2:33 pm #

      Exactly. It’s never good enough. If women stop using nipple shields, it’ll be some other damn thing. No one ever made money, or felt superior, by turning to another person and saying, “You’re doing fine. Don’t even worry about it.”

  14. Sarah
    December 18, 2017 at 2:15 pm #

    Is anyone else totally shocked that women needing the services of a breastfeeding specialist clinician are disproportionately likely to be using nipple shields? Whatever next?!

  15. LaMont
    December 18, 2017 at 2:10 pm #

    Also, Mary’s “natural birth” was without labor pain, right? Because she was born without original sin in the Immaculate Conception? So, it has NOTHING to do with natural birth as actually experienced.

  16. KQ not signed in
    December 18, 2017 at 1:42 pm #

    Actually, I’d be fine with the photoshop art if it was just a different take on the Nativity. It’s the bullshit heaped into that stable along with it that makes me rage.

    • KQ not signed in
      December 18, 2017 at 4:06 pm #

      Okay, but I admit that it being called “The Creation of Man” makes me crazy. The Nativity isn’t the creation of man – freaking CREATION was the creation of man. And I’M AN ATHEIST. Seriously – get your own mythology straight, people.

      • December 18, 2017 at 4:19 pm #

        Nono, Jesus created people when he was born. He was born to, uh, not-people that were totally people because reasons, okay? And God created people, and God is Jesus, so that counts, right?

        Yeah, I got nothing. You’d think people would know their own religious stories and myths, at least the outlines thereof!

      • KeeperOfTheBooks
        December 18, 2017 at 10:19 pm #

        Why can’t I upvote this more than once?!

  17. StephanieJR
    December 18, 2017 at 1:15 pm #

    Jesus looks stoned, Mary looks drunk (and I’m pretty sure her boob shouldn’t look like that), and in the linked image, Joseph looks totally bored by the birth. “Son of God. Yay.”

    And I’m going to hell.

    • Roadstergal
      December 18, 2017 at 1:25 pm #

      Mary looks resigned. “Really? This is all I’m good for – no sex and a baby that won’t live to 40? And now this orange-shaped boob with no nipple that’s about 5 inches too high?”

      • StephanieJR
        December 18, 2017 at 2:21 pm #

        Also, you could probably insert a joke about gingers having no souls, too.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa
      December 18, 2017 at 2:18 pm #

      Is Baby Jesus holding an orange? Why is he doing that if he is EBF?

  18. Merrie
    December 18, 2017 at 1:01 pm #

    He could have just said “I know that using a nipple shield can be a nuisance and most mothers would rather not have to use them if they can help it. I have a very good success rate with getting babies to breast without needing a shield.” Since this appears to be his actual point. But that wouldn’t have had the rhetorical punch.

    • Casual Verbosity
      December 18, 2017 at 2:58 pm #

      From the statement “There is nothing that can be done with a nipple shield that cannot be done better by a skilled helper without one” it seems to suggest that it’s not simply knowledge that will help women to breastfeed without nipple shields so much as someone actually standing with you assisting you to breastfeed. In which case sure, a skilled helper can probably do more than a nipple shield, but what family can realistically afford to have someone there assisting mum at every feeding. Maybe I read too far into that, but I would have thought that if he simply meant he can teach you how to breastfeed without the shield he would have said so. The use of the phrase “skilled helper” seems to imply to me that this helper is not being used as a one off consultant so much as a permanent member of the breastfeeding team…

      • Sarah
        December 18, 2017 at 4:21 pm #

        So what he’s saying is that women who have problems with breastfeeding are more likely to overcome them if they can have afford to have a skilled assistant with them at each feeding than if they can’t? Well fuck me sideways.

        • Casual Verbosity
          December 18, 2017 at 7:12 pm #

          It’s not even just money it’s also time and practicality. If you could teach the woman’s partner or a close friend or family member to be a skilled attendant that would remove the money factor, but still wouldn’t change the fact that every feeding session would require two sets of hands, which is just silly.

          Basically what he’s saying is that it’s better to make feeding the baby into a massive two-man production so that you can do it properly, rather than using a bit of plastic/rubber/latex (not sure what they’re made out of) that allows the mother to easily feed the baby on their own. To parrot your phrase (which is also a favourite of mine) “fuck me sideways”.

          • Sarah
            December 19, 2017 at 3:17 am #

            I’m not willing to let him off on the money implications there even if it’s a partner or friend rather than trained professional. How many partners or friends can offer that availability over a period of many months, without the need to go and earn money and/or engage in caring responsibilities? There’d have to be a fair amount of money sloshing about. I had what was objectively much more support than most women have postpartum and I still didn’t have that sort of cover (not that I breastfed but you see my point).

          • Casual Verbosity
            December 19, 2017 at 4:01 pm #

            Oh I’m not either. I was just saying that even under the most charitable interpretation, his stance is still completely unreasonable.

      • Merrie
        December 19, 2017 at 11:10 pm #

        I got the impression that he was more getting at the idea that he (being himself the skilled helper) could get the baby to latch without a nipple shield and teach baby and mom this. Which, if it’s the case, would presumably be helpful to some moms… since nipple shields seem to be in the category of things that most users would just as soon not use if they could get things to go smoothly without. But if it’s what you’re mentioning, then his post is doubly stupid.

  19. Russell Jones
    December 18, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

    “These efforts aren’t just ironic; they’re ludicrous.”

    This is by far the finest contemporary multi-purpose verbal forearm shiver I’ve ever seen. The number of circumstances in which it applies here in 2017 America is basically limitless. I hereby pilfer it.

  20. namaste
    December 18, 2017 at 12:48 pm #

    I laughed my ass off at that picture. Judging by her teeth, Mary might not have had access to modern obstetrics, but she sure as hell had access to modern orthodontics. And I dont know about the rest of you, but I don’t see a woman roaring her raw power into the universe. i see a woman screaming in pain. GMAFB.

  21. Sheven
    December 18, 2017 at 12:42 pm #

    What does this show us?

    When women were, for the most part, feeding their children formula, it was important that they feed their children breast milk.

    When women, for the most part, started feeding their babies breast milk, it was important that they feed their children *from the breast* instead of pumped breast milk.

    And when this guy sees women feeding their babies from the breast, it’s suddenly important that women not wear nipple shields.


    • kilda
      December 18, 2017 at 12:45 pm #

      exactly! All that drama about how women need to breastfeed, and now he sees women who are trying so hard to make that work that they use a device to make it work better, and his response is that they’re doing it all wrong. Even if he didn’t bring the Virgin Mary into it, it very much seems like someone complaining that people aren’t following his religious rules strictly enough, or performing a ritual in the exact, god-prescribed manner.

    • Roadstergal
      December 18, 2017 at 12:47 pm #

      It’s a purity ritual, not science. And certainly not health care.

      • Sheven
        December 18, 2017 at 12:51 pm #

        It’s also a matter of control. “This irritates me. Stop it. All of you.”

        • Sarah
          December 19, 2017 at 3:21 am #

          You slags need to stop doing things with your bodies that I don’t like.

  22. December 18, 2017 at 12:42 pm #

    Sorry to go OT so early, but have you seen Slate’s hit piece on Gardasil? I can’t link to it right now, but they claim that the preapproval trials were poorly designed for safety. What I object to in the article is that although they state that serious adverse events are no more common in vaccinated vs. Unvaccinated women, they keep coming back to a vignette that heavily implies otherwise–a woman who participated in the trial and then developed CFS. Irresponsible.

  23. December 18, 2017 at 12:41 pm #

    Hate to rain on Newman’s parade, but many of the babies for whom a nipple shield works best for would have died – or been killed – as a matter of course back then. You know, preemies and kids with oral congenital defects.

    Plus, Mary’s kid seemed much less focused on shaming people who were different than reaching out to people who needed help and making them feel welcome. I’m assuming he got that idea from his parents so I really doubt Mary would like you nipple-shield shaming mothers.

  24. Roadstergal
    December 18, 2017 at 12:17 pm #

    Much like Dr Newman, the male painters of the day preferred the vision of their ideal woman, rather than the messy reality of starving babies and blood blisters. And women today use nipple shields to make his preferred method of feeding possible, heaven forfend.

    Did you know that there are no classical paintings of women using synthetic lubricant? Dr Newman insists his women be naturally wet if he graciously allows them intercourse.

    • December 18, 2017 at 12:30 pm #

      I’m sure he does. Plenty of people find lube immoral.

    • Empress of the Iguana People
      December 18, 2017 at 2:00 pm #

      Not to mention the Nordic Madonna thing. Clearly an accurate picture of Mary’s situation. /s

      • Roadstergal
        December 18, 2017 at 2:14 pm #

        Colbert’s Christmas Song – “The tree is frozen, the winter’s bright/who’d have thought the Wise Men looked so white?”

        • Sarah
          December 18, 2017 at 2:18 pm #

          I suppose they didn’t say from how far east they’d come. If you go east from Bethlehem for long enough, you eventually hit Europe.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa
          December 18, 2017 at 9:01 pm #

          Balthezaar is, of course, traditionally depicted as black.

          That was in an episode of Cheers, when Woody was missing Christmas at home. He asks his mom, “Is Balthezaar still black?”

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