Breastfeeding “support” served with a side of cruelty

944E7E01-D1EC-4208-8D33-5084D845F264

Fed is minimal.

Is there anything more emotionally abusive than this “rebuttal” to the Fed Is Best campaign?

The definition of minimal is:

barely adequate or the least possible

Could there be anything more cruel than telling a mother who couldn’t or didn’t want to breastfeed her child that SHE is barely adequate?

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]It often seems that for lactation professionals, the cruelty is the point. They find fellowship in contempt for women who don’t breastfeed.[/pullquote]

The Fed Is Best Foundation was started to protect infants from dehydration, severe jaundice, brain damage and death, all of which have been rising alarmingly since the advent of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.

While infant health remains the primary focus, the Foundation also provides support to all women regardless of how they feed their babies. As anyone who is part of their many groups can see, that support comforts women who are struggling with deep emotional pain, depression and self-hatred.

Is there anything more vile than when faced with that pain, lactation professionals responded NOT with compassion, but with cruelty?

Prof. Amy Brown, in her subtly titled piece Why Fed Will Never Be Best, writes:

…Fed is therefore not best, because best implies that there are other acceptable alternatives.

Secondly, at what other point in our lives do we believe that fed is best? With older children do we accept that any food at all is best? No. We campaign for children to receive optimal nutrition. As adults we know that diet can play a major role in our health and wellbeing so why would this be any different for those whose sole nutrition comes from their milk?

Cruella de Vil could not have said it better!

Amy Brown is hardly alone among lactation professionals in her viciousness. Dr. Jack Newman famously had this to say about formula feeding:

Dr. Jack Newman, author of The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers, contends that “no close holding of the bottle-fed baby can duplicate the nursing relationship.” We asked whether there are any studies that support his thesis. “Feeding a baby with a bottle is akin to making love with a condom,” replied Dr. Newman, who founded the Newman Breastfeeding Clinic and Institute in Toronto. “Ask the men. They’ll tell you direct contact is different.”

Kathy Dettwyler wrote TO a mother who had left a positive review of Courtney Jung’s book Lactivism on Amazon:

Your children may or may not be “inferior” to breastfed kids … But formula-fed children definitely WILL BE INFERIOR to how those same individuals would have turned out if they had been breastfed.

Not to be outdone, Kimberly Seals Allers counsels women to ignore pediatricians when they warn about the dangers of exclusive breastfeeding, now the single largest risk factor for newborn hospital readmission accounting for tens of thousands of readmission each year.

No one would accept a nutritionist trained at a’McDonalds Health Institute’ but every day mamas face pediatricians only trained in breastfeeding by infant formula industry. The ones who financially benefit from failure of breastfeeding. We deserve better!

What proof does she offer for this slander? None of course.

These statements, and others like them, constitute a clear pattern of emotional abuse. They involve many of the behaviors commonly associated with abuse:

Denying something you know is true. An abuser will deny that an argument or even an agreement took place. This is called gaslighting. It’s meant to make you question your own memory and sanity.

Using guilt…

Denying their abuse. When you complain about their attacks, abusers will deny it, seemingly bewildered at the very thought of it.

Accusing you of abuse. They say you’re the one who has anger and control issues and they’re the helpless victim.

Trivializing. When you want to talk about your hurt feelings, they accuse you of overreacting and making mountains out of molehills.

Saying you have no sense of humor… If you object [to vicious accusations], they’ll tell you to lighten up.

If you want to see the emotional abuse in real time, check out the Twitter feeds/Facebook pages of the lactation professionals mentioned above and those of their colleagues.

Over and over again, I have been astounded to see the obvious pain of new mothers met with a wall of derision, gaslighting, dismissal and contempt. Twitter in particular is the mean girls’ equivalent of the lunch room table. Lactation professionals won’t let anyone who is not a part of their clique sit near them; you can almost see the eye rolling and hear the cruel laughter. Lactation professionals often freeze suffering women out altogether by blocking them completely.

It often seems as if the unifying factor among lactation professionals — the concept around which they bond with each other — is not support for breastfeeding; it is contempt for women who don’t breastfeed. They appear to find fellowship in exacerbating and then celebrating the suffering of women whom they condemn as “minimal” mothers for not breastfeeding.

That’s why it’s so hard to stop their cruel behavior; it has become a social ritual for lactation professionals. Like all bullying, it isn’t just about tormenting someone else; it’s about impressing one’s peers by jointly tormenting others.

Fed is minimal? Only if the cruelty is the point.

  • Amy Tuteur, MD

    Maureen Minchin demonstrates the kick in the teeth cruelty of lactation professionals: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/788c47543dc22a0ec0e1e6fb69bbbae0c9761a2cbc971b58d8c3f544d191fe41.jpg

    • rational thinker

      “problem children” Are babies who cant breastfeed really being called problem children? Oh I forgot babies always “know how to be born” and “how to breastfeed”. Am I the only one who wants to slap this condescending bitch in the face right now?

    • swbarnes2

      I think the “some will die” part deserves a highlight

  • Amy Tuteur, MD

    Maureen Minchin demonstrates the kick in the teeth cruelty of lactation professionals:

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b4c2c15135b90fd1c2e02dc4fe2de18ad4b6251b1f1aeecc566bb0801fa7e563.jpg

  • Caravelle

    “Feeding a baby with a bottle is akin to making love with a condom,”

    Sooo… highly recommended, then?

    That sentence is so hilariously pre-AIDS crisis, but I’m afraid to find out when it was actually said.

  • Heidi

    Ugh, Jack Newman. A lot of women don’t particularly get a lot out of PIV sex and would be rather okay with leaving it out altogether. I bet there are heterosexual men who don’t particularly like it either! My personal experience tells me a lot of men are fine with an alternative to PIV sex. Bottle feeding is simply an alternative to breastfeeding, an alternative that my baby preferred.

  • rational thinker

    I guess in Jack Newmans world feminism never happened and womens bodies are only here for men to use and abuse.

  • namaste

    Is it just me, or is Jack Newman equating infant feeding with sex more than a little creepy? It’s nice to know he’s shown his true colors, though. Feeding method has jack the f shit to do with what the baby actually consumes and everything to do with putting women in their place as sex objects.

    Dear Dr. Newman,
    If you ever happen to read this postyou’re a sexist, perrverted asshole. Sincerely,
    Namaste

    • fiftyfifty1

      “everything to do with putting women in their place as sex objects”

      Exactly. A good wife will never deny her husband unhindered direct access to her vagina. A good mother will never deny her baby unhindered direct access to her breast.

    • fiftyfifty1

      “everything to do with putting women in their place as sex objects”

      Exactly. A good wife will never deny her husband unhindered direct access to her vagina. A good mother will never deny her baby unhindered direct access to her breast.

  • fiftyfifty1

    Lactivists are always insisting that more women would choose to breastfeed if only our society didn’t “inappropriately sexualize” the breast. And then Dr. Newman tells us that bottle vs breastfeeding is like condom vs barebacking. OK then.

    • RudyTooty

      “You thought this was about breastfeeding? Oh, no! This is really about my penis. Just ask any man. Or ask my penis. My penis prefers breastfeeding. You should listen to my penis. Did you know it wrote a book? You should read that book. It’s called My Penis’s Guide to Breastfeeding.”

      Dr Jack Newman

  • RudyTooty

    JACK NEWMAN.

    What.

    The.

    F.

    ???

    That’s horrid. I don’t have the words for how fleeping horrid that is.

    • mabelcruet

      That’s nearly as horrible a thought as IMG and her nipple tweaking, button-flicking assaults.

  • rational thinker

    How would a male doctor even know if it feels differently between holding a bottle or breastfeeding has he tried it? I think not.

    • AirPlant

      In what world is this parent thinking about the mom? I read his statement as saying “You might think you are feeding and bonding but your baby knows the difference and HATES IT and by extension HATES YOU just like your husband if you make him wrap it up.

      • RudyTooty

        Yeah, no sympathy from me for the man whining about wearing a condom. NONE. If bare skin is his thing, what’s wrong with his hands? He’s got two of them.

        And why are (some) men so obsessed with their penises?

        Really, Jack Newman, what does breastfeeding (or not) have to do with your dick? Oh, NOTHING. Your ego can’t take that, can it?

        • AirPlant

          It really doesn’t compare well with his breastfeeding stance either. Slightly less good sex is apparently a loveless human rights violation while breastfeeding pain and inconvenience is not even something to be considered.

        • Azuran

          And of course, only what the man thinks matter. Women’s opinions and preference don’t matter.
          Who cares that condoms can have textures or lubricants that can make it a fun/different experience that a woman might enjoy. Or that it can help sex last longer. Or that some times maybe I don’t want to have to worry and deal with all the mess that comes with sex.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            From a guy’s perspective: what Azuran said

            Heck, my wife and I have used condoms just for something different (by my suggestion).

            My response to guys who whine about condoms in general is just an eyeroll. This takes it beyond that.

            Seriously. Different does not necessarily mean worse. It’s like I figure with any guy and sex: are you really complaining? If it’s really that bad, just don’t do it….

            “It’s like taking a shower in a rain coat.”
            No, it’s not. Because no one ever takes a shower in a rain coat. But guys won’t turn down the opportunity to have sex even if they have to wear a condom. They will whine and complain about it, but when it comes to wear a condom or no sex, that choice is easy. If it were a question of take a shower with a rain coat or no shower, you’d skip the shower.

  • mabelcruet

    I’m not on twitter (although I occasionally read the posts), but I met one of the more prominent midwifery ‘leaders’ at a conference a few years ago. It was about stillbirth, bereavement and coping mechanisms (my bit was about the value of post mortem examination and how this could answer some of the questions the family might have and help in managing any subsequent pregnancy). One of her suggestions was that mothers who had a stillbirth should be encouraged to pump and donate their breast milk, because that would make them feel like they were contributing something, and feeding someone else’s baby would give them meaning. I wasn’t impressed.

    Edit-her comment was in reply to a panel discussion about a post-stillbirth pathway- offering footprints, locks of hair, a naming ceremony/blessing, photography etc. She didn’t think milk suppression was a good idea.

    • RudyTooty

      I know of a midwife who runs a milk-bank with milk from her clients who lost babies under her care. It’s SICK. She sells it as “Even though you lost your baby, at least you can provide magical milk to some other woman’s baby.” Sick. Sick. Sick.

      • rational thinker

        That is sick. Taking advantage off a loss mother is one of the most horrible things you can do. Is she making money off these moms and does she screen the milk for disease?

        • RudyTooty

          Oopsy, it’s a ***milk-sharing*** service, not a milk bank.

          I don’t think it’s a profitable business – but more of an emotionally manipulative one.

          It is not exclusively a loss-mother milk sharing organization, but they’ll take loss-mothers’ milk and donate it to others.

          I believe there is some sort of testing.

          http://www.mothersmilkalliance.org/

          • mabelcruet

            As I said above, if it was the mother herself asked about it, and asked if donation was possible, then that might be the way that particular woman needs to go to deal with her loss, but to think that bringing it in as a universal step in a bereavement pathway for all loss mothers is a reasonable suggestion just beggars belief

          • RudyTooty

            I’m cynical. I think it’s a way for the midwife to keep the grieving mother from questioning the care she received. It’s probably somewhat sub-conscious on the part of the midwife – because the whole philosophical underpinning of midwifery is natural birth and lactation. But I find it disturbing. How ever conscious or unconscious the intention is.

            There are nefarious patterns of bonding in relationships between midwives and their clients. And when I found out there was more than one loss mother participating in this particular milk-sharing group, I became pretty disgusted by it.

          • mabelcruet

            To me, I got the impression that the person making the suggestion placed more value on the mother’s breasts and what they produced than they did on the person-like the benefit of obtaining this magical elixir of life outweighed the trauma and emotional impact this would have on the woman. But that’s fairly typical of lactivists-breast milk trumps everything, no matter what.

            In my role, I’m always humbled by the sheer altruism of loss parents-the overwhelming majority of parents who consent to an autopsy examination also consent to the use of their data and their baby’s tissues in medical education, training and research. But I think expecting them to automatically accept being used as a filling station is a step too far.

          • RudyTooty

            It’s why I’m skeptical of the motivations of the midwife who runs this milk sharing service.

            The parents are feeling devastated, and they want the loss of their baby to not be completely meaningless. So if mom can make some milk and nurture someone else’s child, then it doesn’t feel like a complete waste. Altruistic, yes.

            What is the midwife’s motivation? Is she making lemonade out of lemons? How many ‘tragic losses’ need to happen in her homebirth practice before she questions the quality of care she is providing?

          • rational thinker

            Do you know if they still give loss mothers or moms that request it the shot to stop milk from coming and what was it called?

          • AirPlant

            Last I heard it was not approved in the US due to some dangerous side effects. You can get it in other countries though.

          • RudyTooty

            You mean a medication to suppress lactation? I don’t believe so.

          • rational thinker

            When I was younger my mom used to tell me that if you weren’t going to breastfeed they would give you a shot, but by the time I got pregnant they did not do it anymore you just had to dry up on your own.

      • rational thinker

        Should report her to board of health.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        I’m just trying to imagine….the woman is sobbing as she’s pumping milk, reminding her how her baby is not going to get it….

        Talk about PTSD and triggering and all that.

        • Wetnurses in the past were often women whose own babies had died.

          • rational thinker

            Yes but in the past it was it was so common for the baby or mom to die that It may not have hit a woman as hard emotionally. Today it is rare for the baby not to make it (because of modern medicine and obstetrics). Today I think women don’t really consider that possibility of the baby dying so when it does happen it is devastating. In the past they saw it happen all the time so maybe they were more emotionally prepared for it, and if you were poor and lost the baby it is an opportunity to have some financial security as a wet nurse.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Weren’t wetnurses paid of some sort?

            For these women, it’s “do it because you will be doing something good for others”

      • mabelcruet

        That was my immediate response. I could understand if it a bereaved mother asked if it was a possibility, and it was led by her, but to suggest that women who lost a baby should be asked this as part of a standard bereavement pathway?? Unfortunately, the person suggesting it wasn’t forcefully opposed, just a lot of mumbling and the topic was quickly dropped.

        Edit-she argued that it was more natural, she didn’t approve of treating loss mothers with milk suppression medication and suggested this as a natural alternative and meant the mum wasn’t being given unnecessary drugs.

        • Anna

          I cant think of much worse than stimulating the hormones after loss. I remember sobbing my heart out in the shower looking at my full breasts. I suppressed milk and it took about a week after coming in late due to shock I suppose. I do know some bereaved women that have donated milk and it gave them some sense of satisfaction but it was totallly their idea.

      • demodocus

        I could see a bereaved woman offering, especially if the other baby’s mother is a close friend/relative, but the so-called professional bringing it up is just f’ing cruel.

  • BeatriceC

    I sometimes wonder what might have been different if I hadn’t been starved as a newborn. I certainly wouldn’t have heard my entire life how I was such a miserable baby and had that been used as an excuse to tell me I was just a foul person and blow me off every time I was upset about something growing up.

    • demodocus

      I’m not sure that -they- wouldn’t have found some other pseudo reason. Please pardon my cynacism

  • Cartman36

    People do the same thing to obese people. I have heard people say that having a gastric bypass or a gastric band is “cheating” to lose weight. I’m sorry but if you will tell someone who is trying to save or improve their life they are “cheating”, you are a jerk who is missing the point.

    And I have special contempt for someone who would tell a vulnerable new mother that “fed is minimal”. I’m pretty sure, that our fore mothers, who struggled to keep their kids alive in cliff dwellings, teepees, caves, etc would have wholeheartedly embraced formula. It reeks of ugly privilege and abelism to pretend like formula is anything other than a miracle food for babies.

  • Young CC Prof

    Their whole perspective is so incredibly privileged that it disgusts me.

    Being fed with breast milk or formula to satisfaction is best. Because it’s better than suffering hunger and slow growth because breast milk supply is insufficient, or becoming dangerously dehydrated because there’s almost no milk at all. It’s better than getting food poisoning or malnutrition from the stuff that people used instead of formula for thousands of years.

    And yet they call formula feeding the “bare minimum.”

    • Cartman36

      What pisses me off too is that whether or not you make enough milk is nothing more than genetics and chance. If you had an easy time with breastfeeding and are ugly to other women that had problems, its like you were born on third base but you act as if you hit a triple.

      I have lots of friends that EBF for a long time and none of them are jerks to me because I supplemented. Normal people understand that just because someone else does things differently doesn’t mean that they are doing it wrong.

      • AirPlant

        For all the world it reminds me of the pretty girls in highschool/life. Beauty care is a joy filled game because their bodies and faces comply and they think that if you opt out it is just laziness or a lack of self love rather than a rational choice to invest in the talents and gifts that bring you fulfillment.

  • NoLongerCrunching

    As a lactation consultant, I 100% agree with this post. While some of my colleagues are truly compassionate and nonjudgmental, there is a true cruel streak in many, which is especially evident when they’re talking behind mothers’ backs. Mothers sense this even if the consultant’s mouth is saying the right words. When someone has contempt for you, you know it.

    Moms, trust your instincts, and never accept shaming about how you feed your baby. Your love is more important than the kind of milk you feed your baby.