Ignore lactivist Amy Brown when she tells you to ignore breastfeeding horror stories

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Tobacco executives tried to convince people to ignore horror stories about lung cancer.

Car company executives tried to convince people to ignore the horror stories about exploding Pintos.

Pharmaceutical executives tried to convince people to ignore the horror stories about Vioxx.

Now lactation professionals are trying to convince people to ignore breastfeeding horror stories.

Try not to pay too much attention to breastfeeding horror stories. People like to share stories – it makes them feel better – without thinking about the consequences for you…

What Brown really means is: ignore breastfeeding horror stories. People share them without thinking of the consequences for ME!

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]When Brown tells you to ignore breastfeeding horror stories, she’s really telling you to ignore breastfeeding brain injuries and deaths. Don’t![/pullquote]

The tobacco executives, car company executives and pharmaceutical executives feared they would lose money, market share and status if people learned about the risks of their product, so they hid them. What’s a few dead people compared to their profitability? Brown and other lactation professionals fear they will lose money, market share and status if people learn the risks about their product — breastfeeding — so they hide them. What’s a few dead and brain damaged babies compared to their profits and prestige?

Make no mistake, when Brown tells you to ignore breastfeeding horror stories, she’s really telling you to ignore breastfeeding deaths, brain injuries, neonatal and maternal suffering.

She wants you to ignore Christie del Castillo-Hegyi’s horror story of her son who sustained permanent brain injuries from dehydration due to insufficient breastmilk.

She wants you to ignore Monica Thompson’s horror story of suffocating her daughter to death in her hospital bed trying to breastfeed.

She wants you to ignore Jillian Johnson’s horror story of losing her son to profound dehydration 12 hours after leaving the hospital which had assured her that her baby was receiving enough breastmilk.

She wants you to ignore the fact that the scientific literature is burgeoning with papers* detailing the high rate of insufficient breastmilk especially in the early days after birth (up to 15% of first time mothers) and the brain-threatening, life-threatening consequences. We are experiencing a dramatic increase in neonatal hypernatremic dehydration, hypoglycemia and kernicterus (severe jaundice). Exclusive breastfeeding is associated with tens of thousands of newborn hospital readmissions per year at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Brown, like other breastfeeding professionals, fears that mothers will learn the single most important fact about breastfeeding: like pregnancy, it has risks as well as benefits.

She and they are terrified of the impact of the Fed Is Best Foundation:

The Fed Is Best Foundation is a non-profit, volunteer organization of health professionals and parents who study the scientific literature on infant feeding and real-life infant feeding experiences of mothers through clinical practice and social media connections. We work to identify dangerous gaps in current breastfeeding protocols, guidelines, and education programs, and provide families and health professionals the most up-to-date scientific research, education and resources to practice safe infant feeding with breast milk, formula, or a combination of both. We provide safe, brain-protective infant feeding education for breastfeeding, mixed-feeding, formula-feeding, pumped-milk-feeding and tube-feeding mothers and families to prevent feeding complications to babies that have become too common in today’s “Breast is Best” world.

Breastfeeding professionals treat Fed Is Best like Voldemort: it’s the organization that must not be named!

They strive to diminish it by labeling it a social media campaign, refusing to acknowledge its 501(c)3 charitable status, its physician advisers and its tremendous resonance with ordinary mothers (its Facebook membership exceeds La Leche League).

That lactivist terror is expressed in the most recent issue of Clinical Lactation devoted to breastfeeding’s “bad press”:

Over the past few years, we have seen a distinct risk in social media campaigns that have claimed that breastfeeding harms babies. The gist of these campaigns is that we should focus on the fact that babies are fed, not on how they are fed …

In this special issue, we want to equip you to address the challenges presented by these negative social media campaigns …

It is replete with articles like these:

Debunking the Misunderstandings of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative and Designation Requirements

Sensational headlines and messages surrounding breastfeeding in the media are leaving the public confused. There are also myths being circulated about the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) that are causing some to question the value and safety of its practices.

The False and the Furious by Kimberly Seals-Allers

…Negative social media campaigns have highlighted the “dangers” of breastfeeding and used extremist language to brand breastfeeding supporters. This article suggests some specific strategies for addressing gaps in our current system and countering the negative information…

Is Exclusive Breastfeeding Dangerous? By Marsha Walker

Social media has been alight with descriptions of exclusive breastfeeding being dangerous, resulting in significant and severe negative outcomes in infants whose mothers wished to breastfeed. This backlash has been led by a campaign that uses inflammatory anecdotes and misleading and inaccurate interpretation of research to bolster its assault on breastfeeding…

What Do Women Lose if They Are Prevented From Meeting Their Breastfeeding Goals? by Amy Brown:

Many women stop breastfeeding before they are ready, often leading to feelings of anxiety, guilt, and anger. Critics of breastfeeding promotion blame breastfeeding advocates for this impact, claiming that if the focus were merely on feeding the baby, with all methods equally valued and supported, maternal mental health would be protected. Established health impacts of infant feeding aside, this argument fails to account for the importance of maternal breastfeeding goals, or the physical and emotional rewards breastfeeding can bring…

Amy Brown bemoaning breastfeeding disappointment is like the fashion industry bemoaning negative body image.

Pious concern for women’s feelings is difficult to take seriously when it comes from the very people who make women feel anxious, guilty and anguished for failure to breastfeed. In the case of the fashion industry, idealized representations of the female body lead to self hatred when women’s bodies don’t meet the fashion industry norm. In the case of the breastfeeding industry, idealized representations of breastfeeding lead to self hatred when women’s bodies don’t meet the breastfeeding norm.

Professional lactivists are right about one thing, though. The Fed Is Best campaign is making tremendous headway against the breastfeeding industry refusal to acknowledge the risks of breastfeeding.

Unfortunately, as the special issue of Clinical Lactation illustrates, lactivists are still missing the point. Instead of publishing a special issue about publicity around breastfeeding injuries and deaths, they could have published a special issue about preventing breastfeeding injuries and deaths. But that would involve caring about babies more than profits, something that appears beyond them.

Instead, like the tobacco executives, car company executives and pharmaceutical executives before them, they will just tell people to ignore the horror stories while they ignore them, too.


* Recent publications:

  • United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guidelines
  • Interventions Intended to Support Breastfeeding: Updated Assessment of Benefits and Harms
  • Unintended Consequences of Current Breastfeeding Initiatives
  • The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative and the ten steps for successful breastfeeding. a critical review of the literature
  • Health Care Utilization in the First Month After Birth and Its Relationship to Newborn Weight Loss and Method of Feeding
  • The Effect of Early Limited Formula on Breastfeeding, Readmission, and Intestinal Microbiota: A Randomized Clinical Trial

32 Responses to “Ignore lactivist Amy Brown when she tells you to ignore breastfeeding horror stories”

  1. carovee
    December 7, 2018 at 12:33 pm #

    The more I read, the more I realized I dodged a bullet. I don’t know how but my son survived a week with almost no food because I had so little milk in my body. I’m so grateful he didn’t develop any complications before the (wondeful, non-judging) pediatrician sent me home with formula.

  2. rational thinker
    December 7, 2018 at 11:13 am #

    What always bothered me most is how most lactation consultants tell you that all baby needs all day is a teaspoon of colostrum. Anyone with a little common sense should realize that cant be true. So the next lactivist I hear say that im going to tell them that when they get up in the morning all they have to do is take a really good multi vitamin and don’t eat or drink anything else all day. Then at the end of the day see if they have the balls to tell me they aren’t freaking hungry.

    • Daleth
      December 7, 2018 at 12:23 pm #

      Seriously! And the basis for this belief of theirs is two ideas that are clearly wrong:

      (1) “Its stomach is only X size, therefore it only needs X amount of food.” Dude, your own stomach is only as big as your fist until you eat–then it STRETCHES. Do you only choose fist-sized portions for your meals? And do you only choose one fist-sized portion per day? No? So why do you think babies should–especially since, unlike you, they’re still growing?

      (2) “Most women’s milk takes a few days to come in, therefore babies must not need milk until then.” Wait… at what point in human history did people start living in nuclear families, in which only one woman at a time was lactating? Like 100-150 years ago, tops. Humans are a tribal species and even in urban civilizations, in many places we STILL share a family compound or a city block with our sisters, cousins, friends etc. So we’re talking tens or hundreds of thousands of years in which mom spent a few days recuperating from childbirth while her sisters, cousins, etc. took turns feeding and caring for her baby.

      • Alia
        December 7, 2018 at 1:45 pm #

        And then for the upper classes there were wet nurses, whose occupation was basically to breastfeed babies.

    • StephanieJR
      December 7, 2018 at 3:08 pm #

      I know for a fact that newborn rabbits need only a teaspoon of milk a day. Even the largest breeds only have kits that weigh a few ounces each. A newborn human is many hundreds of times larger. My adult rabbit is eight pounds and if I only gave her a teaspoon of food a day I’d be abusive. She lets me know when she’s hungry; it’s impossible to hear a screaming baby and not want to care for it.

  3. Hannah83
    December 7, 2018 at 7:42 am #

    I had my third baby in a hospital that was not baby friendly. It was the baby-friendliest place I’ve been to. I had told the nurses that my milk takes a couple days to come in so when crying baby K and I showed up in the middle of the night, the nurse said to my baby “You are super cute and you look hungry. Would you like a double portion of formula?” and I was unsure what to do with the long and elaborated monologue about needing formula.

  4. JDM
    December 6, 2018 at 10:41 pm #

    The nerve of people actually focusing on babies getting fed enough! Surely the method is far more important than the outcome!

    How do people like these lactation consultants manage to not hear what they are saying when they say it?

    • Anj Fabian
      December 7, 2018 at 4:27 pm #

      They aren’t hearing what they are saying. They are watching to see if their client agrees. That’s how they know if they are supporting the mother correctly.

      Now you may say “Wouldn’t listening to someone explain what they need be a better way to support them?”.

      That’s because you are interested in supporting the mother, not supporting breastfeeding.

  5. demodocus
    December 6, 2018 at 6:48 pm #

    There’s some room for saying not to pay too much attention to the horror stories, though I suspect Brown has a broader definition than I do. I just remember how many of my fellows have PPA (a for anxiety). Granted, that’s like telling me to try not to be so depressed; that line alone will not work, but avoiding your triggers definitely does help.

    Brown is probably just telling people to not consider possible outcomes

  6. BeatriceC
    December 6, 2018 at 6:01 pm #

    Completely off topic: I’m extremely distraught and could use some internet hugs. Goofy, aka the Evil Attack Parrot ™ is in bad shape, possibly critical. We don’t know what’s wrong. Through process of elimination the running theory is something GI. He’s currently hospitalized. We are doing everything we can for him, but we need to start preparing for the worst. MrC has had Goofy for 20 years and he belonged to a family member before that who bought him as an egg and brought him home as soon as he was weaned, so he’s known him literally his entire life. We have pictures of Goofy at MrC’s daughter’s first birthday party. They turned 34 just recently. I simply cannot imagine life without my grumpy green gremlin. (Picture of Goofy with his vet this morning. He’s got the best vet care money can buy. His vet has been an avian specialist since before there was an official avian specialist designation. He’s a pioneer in the field and one of the very best avian vets in the US, if not the entire world. Also, I have consent to post his picture.) https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2ec0aa13d1a6041ed54a7567871dc13245e7e4a5b9c53cdf1ba4850e69761e0d.jpg

    • December 6, 2018 at 6:38 pm #

      I’m sorry; that’s very rough! All the best to you and Goofy. I’m glad you’ve got great hospital care available.

    • demodocus
      December 6, 2018 at 6:50 pm #


    • rosewater1
      December 6, 2018 at 8:40 pm #

      Hugs. What a kind, loving face your vet has! Hugs and prayers coming you, your family’s, and of course, Goofy’s way. We are all here with you.

      • BeatriceC
        December 7, 2018 at 11:15 am #

        He really is just an amazing human, not just a fantastic vet. He follows my birds’ Instagram page, and commented on one of yesterday’s posts to let me know that Goofy looked a little bit better than he had in the morning by the time he left the office last night. It’s a really little thing, but those little things make such a huge difference. I’m sitting here clock watching, waiting for an appropriate time to call to check on him. The office opens at 8am (15 minutes ago), but I wanted to give them an hour to get through the rush of phone calls all doctors’ offices have first thing in the morning, so I’m patiently waiting. I figure if they’re not calling me, he’s stable, and that’s a good thing.

    • Sue
      December 7, 2018 at 12:45 am #

      So sorry to hear that!

    • StephanieJR
      December 7, 2018 at 9:24 am #

      I’m so sorry; it’s so stressful when they’re ill, especially when you’ve had them so long, and don’t know what the problem is. Many hugs, and I hope he pulls through.

    • Lilly de Lure
      December 7, 2018 at 9:26 am #

      So sorry to hear that – have some internet hugs!

    • rosewater1
      December 11, 2018 at 9:42 pm #

      Any news on Goofy?

      • BeatriceC
        December 11, 2018 at 9:51 pm #

        He’s still alive. One week and $2000 later, we still don’t know why he won’t eat. We did a barium study yesterday but it didn’t show anything obvious. Dr J sent the images to a board certified avian radiologist this afternoon to see if there’s anything subtle that we missed. Every single test we’ve run has been perfect. He’s also maintaining his weight perfectly with formula. He appears to be an extremely healthy 34 year old bird (middle aged for his species), except for the fact that he refuses food. Friday we got him to take formula from a syringe, but by Sunday he’d stopped swallowing. My extraordinary vet checked in on him Sunday evening and decided to have us meet him at his office and readmitted him. He’s swallowing again so we brought him home tonight. We are taking it day by day. We should hear from the radiologist tomorrow or Thursday.

        • rosewater1
          December 11, 2018 at 10:06 pm #

          What a personality he has! Fingers crossed. Thank you for the update. 🙂

  7. StephanieJR
    December 6, 2018 at 2:37 pm #

    It’s a weird parallel, but I’m seeing a lot of behaviours in common with certain people involved in a fandom I’m in. The false moral outrage, the obsessive focus on process over outcome whilst treating the baby like a prop, attacking the other ‘side’ and accusing the supporters of things designed to shut down the discussion, bait and switch tactics, moving goalposts, ignoring anything that doesn’t fit in with their worldview. These people are literally acting like teenage cyber bullies, replete with narcissism and lack of empathy. Tell me when the death threats start showing up.

    • KQ Not Signed In
      December 6, 2018 at 5:46 pm #

      Oooh oooh what fandom what fandom??

      • StephanieJR
        December 6, 2018 at 5:55 pm #

        Voltron Legendary Defender (I’m an animation fan); specifically, some of these lactivists could give the Klantis a run for their money. I have no idea how a show about giant robot lions got such a toxic fandom, and I have no idea how feeding babies became so controversial.

        • Lilly de Lure
          December 7, 2018 at 12:10 am #

          As a Star Wars fan I feel your pain!

        • December 9, 2018 at 7:52 am #

          Oh sweet god the Klantis. I don’t hang out in the online fandom, but they keep escaping and actually harassing poor Bex and the other voice actors, and I do follow Bex. When your fandom starts harassing the people who bring them the show they love for not taking sides in a ship-war, you got problems.

          • StephanieJR
            December 9, 2018 at 11:05 am #

            Actual death threats, severe cyber bullying and harassment (including to CSA survivors), trying to prevent actual money being donated during a Sheith zine for real children over cries that two fictional adults in a not even canon (yet) relationship was ‘paedophilia’, calling all the producers, writers and staff paedophiles (in particular Josh Keaton, to the point where he feared for his family’s safety), harassing Bex and other voice actors, talking about getting a gofundme set up to break LM’s hands (and other talks of hiring hitmen to kill her and JDS), blatant homophobia, biphobia and racism, and attempted blackmail of the studio, which could have gotten a lot of people in trouble/fired, over making their ship canon.

            And that’s just the stuff off the top of my head and a quick glance at Google; I’m more than a little salty over it all. It’s a real dumpster fire, and I’m glad I came to the fandom relatively recently, I’m too old to bother with fandom wank now. There are far more important things to worry about than fictional characters. Though I will say that every Klanti post just makes my love for Sheith grow stronger!

          • December 14, 2018 at 8:58 am #

            I could give a @#$% about the ships. It’s the constant escalation of their pedophile hunt that’s grinding my gears. Now I hate kiddie diddlers as much as the next guy, but people who write fan-ficiton of relationships which would be covered under the “Romeo and Juliet” clause of most states are not pedos. People who right teenage romance are not Pedos. If they were, every High School AU would be pedophillia. The writers did not write pedophillia because they’re both frickin adults anway. The actors are not “supporting pedophillia” by treating all the ships as valid. All parties involved in the show who have told Antis to shove off when they were actually @ed directly are not “harassing minors.” They’re telling their OWN harassers to go away. Just because you’re under 18 doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible for your actions. And the sad thing is it basically spread out of the Voltron Fandom to infect all of tumblr, to the point where people were posting that “people over x age who interact with people under x age are groomers.” Interact. At all. A kid could post “How do I get grass stains out of my shirt” and if someone over 21 replies, they call them out “why are you talking to kids? Are you a pedophile?” or even “What are you doing on Tumblr is you’re over 30? Are you a pedophile?” I swear this is why Tumblr is having that purge. These same people started accusing the website for supporting pedophilia too. They found a battering ram they can use to get whatever they want and harass whomever they want and have no consequences “because we’re minors.” Tumblr is not a teenage space. Adults on Tumblr are not creepy adults at high school parties. Tumblr is an everyone place. Adults on Tumblr are adults at McDonalds. It’s not creepy for them to exist in this online space. Auuugh…

          • StephanieJR
            December 14, 2018 at 12:47 pm #

            Agree with just about everything. I’ve been in fandom since I was a young teen, over a decade by this point, I’ve seen bullshit and wank before, but this has been on a whole new level. I’m too old to be tolerant of these assholes. But since the last season dropped on Netflix earlier today, although the fandom won’t stop, at least they’ll have to shut up with canon (side note: Voltron literally has alternative universes, they can write whatever they want and it can sort of be canon in the show, we don’t know, but they can’t just be content for five minutes…). I’m watching it later tonight.

            I’ve watched fandom spaces change; I cut my tooth on fanfiction.net and learned to walk on livejournal. I graduated to archive of our own a few years ago, and joined tumblr a couple of months back, to talk about Avatar The Last Airbender and Voltron, although I’ve barely posted or reblogged. I’m now witness to a mass exodus, I’m even looking into getting an account with the brand new site pillowfort.

  8. Cartman36
    December 6, 2018 at 1:56 pm #

    Do these people not hear themselves? “The gist of these campaigns is that we should focus on the fact that babies are fed, not on how they are fed”. WTAF?

    Most parents clip their babies fingernails as carefully as if they are performing brain surgery because they want so desperately to protect their baby from any amount of pain. And these lactation “professionals” really can’t understand why as a parent, I think my baby being fully fed is more important than him being breastfed.

    They can’t figure out why FIB is so successful with parents? Really?!?!?!

    • Anna
      December 6, 2018 at 8:13 pm #

      That jumped out to me too.

    • space_upstairs
      December 7, 2018 at 6:07 am #

      As I mentioned on the other thread, I think it’s based on the principle that overuse of mainstream food or medicine is the primary cause of nearly all chronic illness, therefore any attempt to prevent an acute ailment with mainstream food or medicine will probably cause a chronic one. They don’t believe that formula will spare their child any pain: it’s either hunger now or diabetes/dyslexia/some other long-term issue later.

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