Lactivists can’t bear to apologize for the harm they’ve caused


Lactivists are spluttering on Twitter.

They’ve been apprised over and over again about the harm that they’ve caused:

  • The epidemic of neonatal hospital readmissions (tens of thousands per year) for dehydration, hypoglycemia and jaundice.
  • The permanent brain injuries and deaths that result.
  • The heartless closing of well baby nurseries to force women to undertake full care of their babies the moment the placenta has been delivered.
  • The babies who’ve been injured and died because of smothering in or falling from their mothers hospital beds.
  • The mental anguish of mothers who have been encouraged to let their babies scream in hunger because “breast is best.”
  • The guilt and suffering of women who want to breastfeed but are physically unable to do so.
  • The thousands of testimonials, Facebook posts and tweets from women who are angry that lactivists lied to them, pressured them, and shamed them.

How dare anyone mention the babies who have suffered as a result of their propaganda? How dare any mother share her own anguish at breastfeeding pressure? How dare anyone fail to recognize that lactation professionals are the “good guys”?

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]If lactation professionals acknowledge the suffering they’ve caused maybe they aren’t the good guys after all.[/pullquote]

It’s this last issue that’s most important.

As I written repeatedly over the years, breastfeeding activism is not about babies; it’s about mothers and how they wish to view themselves: as better, more loving, more educated, more committed to self-sacrifice than women who bottlefeed. And what goes for breastfeeding mothers goes double for lactation professionals since they “support” mothers into becoming better, more loving, more educated, more committed to self-sacrifice than the lazy, stupid, selfish women who bottle feed.

Lactivists can’t apologize for the harm they’ve caused because they can’t bear to acknowledge suffering they’ve caused. Because if they acknowledge the suffering they’ve caused maybe they aren’t the good guys after all and that is simply intolerable.

How intolerable?

They are incredible snowflakes. Most lactation professionals have blocked me on Twitter because they can’t bear to have their beliefs called into question.

They are furious at the charges I have leveled against them for the above mentioned suffering, as well as their sexist invocation of biological norms and their mind boggling hypocrisy, yet they can’t seem to respond in a measured way with facts and scientific citations.

They are so indignant at the possibility that they have harmed anyone that they have endlessly tried to smear the Fed Is Best Foundation and Christie del Castillo-Hegyi and Jody Segrave Daly who run it.

They prefer to tell each other that the formula industry is behind every woman who cries out in anguish rather believe their cries.

They have the temerity to insist that breastfeeding is not supported when there is an entire profession, an army of providers and government policy supporting it.

They cling fiercely to the notion that they are the victims, while assiduously ignoring the babies and women who are the real victims. They must be the victims when they are the good guys, right?

But here’s the problem, lactivists:

When someone shows you evidence that you’ve hurt them, you don’t get to decide you haven’t. If you want to hold yourself blameless you must provide evidence that those harms did not occur or that aggressive breastfeeding pressure wasn’t responsible for those harms.

When someone tells you that they felt anguished, pressured and shamed by lactation professionals, you don’t get to decide that they misunderstood or it’s all in their head.

When women whose babies have been harmed or have seen the harm that has befallen other women’s babies set up a Foundation to promote safety in infant feeding, you don’t get to impugn their motives, imply they are taking bribes from the formula industry, or declare that they hate breastfeeding.

When you have hurt as many infants and mothers as you have, you don’t get to claim that you are the good guys. It doesn’t matter how pure your motivations, if you hurt babies and women — and there is no doubt that you have done so — you aren’t the good guys.

I don’t expect apologies from the Amy Browns and Kimberly Seals Allers of the world, but is it too much to hope for personal reflection? The Fed Is Best Foundation currently has over 560,000 supporters on Facebook; that’s a lot of women and babies who have suffered and continued to suffer because of aggressive breastfeeding promotion. Are they all lying? Are they all misunderstanding? Are they all in the employ or under the sway of formula companies? Or is the real problem that lactation professionals have been lying to themselves about being the good guys?

When thousands of women tell you they are hurting because of your actions, you aren’t entitled to call yourselves the good guys.