Hey, Fatso, we have some breastfeeding advice for you

Beautiful woman doing different expressions in different sets of clothes: be careful

Information for Porky Patients from Smug-Bigoted Maternity Hospital

Welcome to Smug-Bigoted Maternity Hospital! We know how frightening and disruptive hospital admission can be and we want to tell you we are are sorry that a big honking whale like you has been admitted. We’re not just sorry for you; we’re sorry for ourselves. Do you have any idea how hard it is to turn a fat cow like you in bed?

Hey, we’re not insulting you. We care about your health and obesity is unhealthy. Push yourself away from the table for a moment and listen up. Hungry Hippos like you often have trouble breastfeeding and have to resort to artificial baby milk. It’s your choice to be the size of a house so don’t think we’re going to provide you with powdered or ready to feed poison, a suboptimal choice for nutrition chosen only by shit mothers. Losers like you can bring your own.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Referring to formula as “artificial baby milk” is no more effective than addressing overweight women as “fatso” and just as harmful and unethical.[/pullquote]

Is this an ethical or effective way to address patients? Is insulting women about their weight likely to result in weight loss? Does insulting them make women more likely to follow healthcare advice? No, no, and no! We would rightfully be appalled at hospitals and healthcare providers treating obese and overweight patients this way.

So why is it acceptable for formula feeding mothers to be bombarded with insults under the guise of providing healthcare?

The BBC reports Hospital’s ‘artificial feeding’ letter to mothers criticised:

A hospital trust has been criticised for describing mothers who use formula milk as “artificially” feeding babies.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust made the comment in a letter that said it would no longer provide formula milk in its maternity units to mothers who had decided not to breastfeed.

One woman who said she had been unable to breastfeed said the letter’s wording made her “sick to the stomach”.

The trust said it would “consider carefully” feedback it had received.

Where did they get the idea that such language was acceptable in the first place? They got the idea from lactation consultant Diane Weissinger.

Risky Business: Breastfeeding Promotion Policy and the Problem of Risk Language a 2017 paper published in the Journal of Women, Politics & Policy explains:

In 1996 the Journal of Human Lactation published a guest editorial called “Watch Your Language!” by Diane Wiessinger, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant … In her editorial Wiessinger argued that, rather than providing a convincing case for breastfeeding, the language most commonly used to describe breastfeeding instead serves to reinforce formula feeding as the normative method of feeding infants. Words like “[b]est possible, ideal, optimal, perfect,” she insisted, “are admirable goals, not minimum standards”. Few people feel driven to provide the best, to “be far above normal,” she pointed out, but most people “certainly don’t want to be below normal”… [B]y using words like “best” and “benefits of breastfeeding” rather than “normal” and “risks of formula feeding,” breastfeeding supporters are depriving “mothers of crucial decision-making information”…

[Her] argument has become so well known among lactation consultants, [breastfeeding advocates] often introduce her “Watch Your Language!” piece as “seminal” or “classic.” It is perhaps even more telling that
her name has been made into a verb that is widely understood in the breastfeeding support community: to “Wiessingerize” means to refer to breastfeeding as the norm against which other infant feeding methods fall short…

The decision by the Worcestershire Trust to derogate formula as artificial baby milk is typical of the strategy.

The effort to promote breastfeeding by demeaning formula feeding has only accelerated in the past two decades.

Even just a cursory Internet search shows that breastfeeding promotion materials framed in terms of “the risks of formula feeding” are currently being used by some state breastfeeding coalitions, two hospitals, two private corporations, the Departments of Public Health in California and New York, the City of New York, as well as The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) programs in at least five states… The United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health publishes a 50- page guide to breastfeeding that points out that “among formula-fed babies, ear infections and diarrhea are more common”. It goes on to state that “Formula-fed babies also have higher risks” of a variety of conditions …

The authors note:

Making it hurt: The strategy of risk
The irony, of course, is that individuals and organizations so determined to convince women to breastfeed because of evidence-based claims about its health effects are themselves choosing a breastfeeding promotion approach that is not based on actual evidence.

Insulting formula feeding mothers is no more effective than insulting obese women. Indeed, there is a large and growing body of evidence that Weissingerizing breastfeeding promotion efforts is harming mothers and thereby harming babies as well.

They interviewed hundreds of women and found:

[Women] can recognize when they are being manipulated and that they distrust breastfeeding promotion materials worded in ways they identify as manipulative. Listening shows that many of them think it is cruel or unfair to make infant formula sound so dangerous, especially when it is the only option available to some mothers. Listening indicates that some of them believe that the science is correct and that others have doubts based either on their own experience or on their assessments of the science itself. Listening shows us that some of these women may not believe the risk is large enough, or that there are other risks that are larger or that matter more to them.

They conclude:

All of this suggests that breastfeeding promoters need to do more than simply “watch their language,” lest they themselves risk alienating their audience. Rather, they may want to consider stopping talking altogether, even for just a moment, so that they can hear what women are saying.

In other words, referring to formula as “artificial baby milk” is no more effective than addressing overweight women as “fatso” and just as harmful and unethical.