Planning to breastfeed? Bring formula and pacifiers to the hospital!

Milk bottle for baby feeding and dummy

I’ve been writing for years about how the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is harming babies. The incidence of severe dehydration, sometimes accompanied by permanent brain damage, is rising. Also rising is the incidence of skull fractures of babies who fall from their mothers’ hospital beds and smothering deaths when mothers fall asleep while feeding or cuddling their babies. In a truly appalling development, exclusive breastfeeding has become the leading risk factor for newborn hospital readmission.

I’ve advocated for ending the BFHI on the twin grounds that it is not friendly to babies and it doesn’t work to promote breastfeeding. It’s going to be around for the near future, though. How can mothers learn to successfully breastfeed AND protect their babies and themselves from the harmful, unscientific Ten Steps of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative? Bring formula and pacifiers to the hospital!

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]It’s YOUR body and YOUR baby. Take back control![/pullquote]

I recommend bringing formula and pacifiers for both practical reasons and philosophical reasons.

The practical reasons include:

  • We KNOW that many women won’t have their milk come in for more than two days after birth, but babies may get hungry before then.
  • We KNOW that up to 15% of first time mothers don’t make enough breastmilk to fully nourish and infant, especially in the days following birth.
  • We KNOW, as even Dr. Alison Stuebe of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine acknowledges, that as many as 44% of babies will need formula supplementation in the early days.
  • We KNOW that judicious formula supplmentation INCREASES rates of successful breastfeeding.

In other words, women who have easy access to formula supplementation in the first few days are MORE likely to breastfeed successfully, not less. The BFHI explicitly ignores this.

Sadly, breastfeeding promotion has become both humiliating and punitive.

  • The BFHI mandates refusing to offer supplementation to hungry babies.
  • It forces mothers to beg for formula and subject themselves to lectures on the benefits of breastfeeding (as if they aren’t already aware).
  • It muzzles postpartum nurses from appropriately counseling women about the risks of dehydration and the benefits of supplementation.
  • It mandates counseling mother about purported risks of pacifiers even though there is no evidence that pacifiers interfere with breastfeeding and a growing body of evidence that they reduce the risks of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

These practices aren’t merely humiliating and punitive. They are fundamental violations of medical ethics and they rest on a deeply misogynistic view of women.

Lactation professionals cling to their beloved fiction that women don’t breastfeed or stop breastfeeding because they are too stupid and gullible to resist the marketing of formula manufacturers. The truth is quite different. The truth is that women don’t breastfeed because initiating breastfeeding can be frustrating for both mother and baby, and painful. They stop breastfeeding because continuing may be frustrating, painful,  inconvenient and may fail to provide the baby with enough nutrition.

Lactation professionals are afraid. They fear that if mothers see how easy, convenient and satisfying formula is, women will be seduced into using it instead of breastfeeding. So they prattle on about how easy and convenient breastfeeding is when it’s neither. They babble that breastmilk is the perfect food when it isn’t perfect if there is not enough of it. And, of course, they grossly exaggerate the benefits of breastfeeding when the truth is that in countries with clean water the benefits are limited to a few less ear infections and episodes of diarrheal illness across the entire population of babies in the first year.

Women are not selfish fools who must be forced into breastfeeding. Most women want to breastfeed and will make strenuous efforts to do so.

If you are one of those women I recommend that you take both formula and pacifiers to the hospital. Your baby will probably never need the formula, but knowing you have it will be reassuring. If your baby screams incessantly from hunger, you can offer a little formula to settle her and allow her (and you) to get some sleep. Pacifiers can also help in bridging the gap between your baby feeling distressed and your milk coming in.

The practical reason for bringing formula and pacifiers is that they can promote successful breastfeeding, but there’s a philosophical reason, too:

Having easy access to formula and pacifiers puts mothers, not lactation professionals, in charge of both babies and their own bodies. It eliminates the ability of hospital personnel to pressure and humiliate women into fulfilling the lactivist agenda and leaves personal decisions to the person actually affected by them, the mother.

HER baby, HER body, HER breasts, HER choice!

If you want to control your own body, protect your baby from the excesses of aggressive breastfeeding promotion AND ensure a successful breastfeeding relationship, take formula and pacifiers to the hospital. You may not need either, but if you do, you’ll be very glad you brought them.