Boob Nazi? No.

The Laid Back LactivistOnce again, I came across a biased breastfeeding bashing article that demonized lactation consultants, and I’m royally pissed.

I’ll cut straight to the chase here:  There is a huge difference between a “Breastfeeding Nazi”, and a “Lactavist”. As an IBCLC, I’m insulted by being called the former, and proud to be called the latter.

I am NOT a Boob Nazi. I don’t belong to the Mammary Mafia, and I’m not a member of the breastfeeding police.

I’m not a fanatic, I  don’t spread propaganda, I’m not a bully, and I don’t use shaming or guilt trips to promote breastfeeding. I don’t grab mom’s breasts and shove them into their baby’s mouths, and I don’t burn crosses in the yards of formula feeding moms or accuse them of poisoning their babies. I don’t stand idly by while babies starve because I believe in ‘never’ giving bottles.

And if a baby needs supplementation, sometimes formula is the best option available and I’m not afraid to say it.

I’m sick and tired of being caught up in the political minefield of these ridiculous mommy wars. Blame whoever you want to: ignorant health care providers, sleazy profit driven formula companies, holier than thou crunchy granola moms, the smug judgmental bitch on a Facebook page who tried to make you feel like a bad mom because you formula fed your baby, or over zealous lactation consultants, but moms need to stop accusing all lactation consultants of being bullies just because they had a negative breastfeeding experience, and they need to stop bashing breastfeeding just because it didn’t work out for them.

I’m referring to the angry women who proudly proclaim themselves as  Fearless Formula Feeders, or use the Fed is Best movement to demonize lactation consultants by twisting facts and shameless playing on new mothers’ fears and exploiting their guilt. Of course “Fed is Best”.

Duh. That kind of goes without saying.

To imply that any health care provider who promotes or supports breastfeeding doesn’t care about whether babies starve is insulting and dangerous.

Nearly 80% of mothers in the US want to breastfeed their babies, and they work hard to meet their breastfeeding goals in spite of a system that, for the most part, sets them up to fail. Health care providers have let them down, and formula companies aggressively market their artificial human milk substitute, periodically adding new ingredients that supposedly make it ‘almost as good’ as mother’s milk. The WHO (World Health Organization) and the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) both recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, with continued breastfeeding for at least a year, but due to the barriers they face, fewer than 20% of moms in the US are exclusively breastfeeding by the time their baby is six months old.

Something is wrong with this picture.

I’ve  been beating my head against this brick wall for decades now. Unscrupulous formula companies will use any tactics to convince mothers and health care providers (HCPS) to use their products, and to undermine support for nursing moms. They have unlimited amounts of money to spend on product promotion, and they know how to use advertising to play on the insecurities and fears of new moms to convince them that the risks of formula feeding are exaggerated and benefits of breastfeeding are overrated, even when research has proved over and over that this isn’t the case.

What is so very sad about this situation is that women are lashing out at each other when we should be directing our anger at the medical system, the unscrupulous formula companies, and the HCPS who don’t provide us with the information and support we need in order to breastfeed our babies.

As an IBCLC, I am very proud of my professional credentials, my thirty-five plus years of experiences in breastfeeding advocacy and education, and the fact that I breastfed all six babies of my babies, starting back in the ’70s when breastfeeding rates were at an all time low (around 20%) and there was much less information and support available for nursing moms than there is today.

The most important part of my job involves giving mothers the information and support they need to set individual breastfeeding goals and help them take practical steps to make that a reality for them. For some moms, this means combining formula and breastfeeding from day one. For others, it means nursing for few weeks, then weaning when returning to work. It may be pumping and tube feeding a sick baby in the NICU, or it may mean extended breastfeeding and natural weaning.

I’ve always been extremely sensitive to how fragile a new mother after her baby’s birth, maybe because I’ve had six kids and I’ve been there myself so many times. Let me clue you in on a very important little secret:  It doesn’t matter how many books you read or classes you take or groups you join, there’s no way to really prepare for the reality of giving birth and nursing a baby. New moms are hormonal, sleep deprived, overwhelmed with the 24/7 responsibility for producing enough milk to feed this tiny new person, and they often don’t feel good physically.  Even if everything goes smoothly, it still takes time to physically recover from childbirth.

The last thing any mother needs is to be guilt tripped and bullied by the people who are supposed to be helping her nurse her baby. Any lactation consultant who makes new moms feel worse instead of better after working with her needs to find a new profession. Period.

Most of us are in the lactation field because we have a genuine desire to help moms and babies. We sure as hell didn’t do it for the money. I cant’t remember the last time I saw a lactation consultant buy a Beamer or take a cruise. There are always going to be some bad apples in the bunch, just as there are some doctors and nurses who are more competent, and caring, and compassionate than others.

Just don’t paint all of us with the same brush. The IBCLCs goal is to empower, educate, and encourage nursing moms, but don’t assume that an LC visit in the hospital will give you all the information and support you need. Most hospital lactation consultants  are under pressure to see more moms than they really have enough time to spend with. Answering all the new mom questions and showing them the basics of positioning and all the other information they need before leaving the hospital takes time, and there isn’t much of that when many moms are leaving the hospital 24 hours after birth. Many lactation consultants have nursed their own babies, and if you’re lucky enough to get someone who can relate on that personal level, it often makes a difference.

Make sure you develop a support system during your pregnancy so that when/if questions or concerns crop up after your baby is born, you’ll know who to call for help. Look into local La Leche League or other mother to mother support groups. Find out what resources are available in your community for lactation support. There may be peer counselling programs through WIC, or there may be IBCLCs in private practice in your area. Some hospitals offer prenatal or postnatal classes and have IBCLCs on site.

If you’re looking for online support, be aware that there are a zillion websites and groups and mommy bloggers that mean well, but give out often questionable, and sometimes really bad advice. There are also many, many sites that are more interested in selling you products that they are at providing solid evidence based information.

Breastfeeding Basics and Kelly Mom are sites you can trust, and so are Best for Babes and La Leche League.

When it comes to breastfeeding information, look for articles written by IBCLCs. We’re all highly trained in the lactation field, we’re held to high professional standards, and are required to present evidence based research. Obviously some IBCLCs come on way too strong in person and need to develop their social skills, (the horror stories from new moms about their encounters  always make me picture Nurse Ratchet), but they rarely give out bad breastfeeding information.

And be leery of any site that posts formula ads next to their breastfeeding articles. You don’t go to a tobacco company for advice on how to stop smoking, and the same thing applies to the formula companies. It’s not in their best interest to promote or support breastfeeding, because that means less profit for them. They’re willing to spend an obscene amount of money on marketing, and it’s scary how good they are at promoting their product.

And don’t even get me started about the WHO Code and how the formula companies violate it every single day.

If you read mommy blogs, you’ve heard references to the WHO code, but if you’re wondering what it is and why it matters, read here: http://kellymom.com/bf/advocacy/what-do-i-need-to-know-about-the-who-code/.

Matt nursing 1978
Nursing my second son in 1978.

Anne Smith, IBCLC
Breastfeeding Basics

 

 

 

About Anne Smith, IBCLC

Anne Smith, IBCLC
As the mother of six wonderful breastfed children, three perfect breastfed grand babies, and an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) with over twenty-five years experience in lactation counseling, I can offer you professional support, as well as information and advice based on my personal experiences over the years.

13 comments

  1. Hello dear your article helps a lot still jet I left with much confusion I just deliver 3 days ago and I have a over supply on milk.I do nurse him every time he demands it’s so painful because of the excess milk but now to my question I do want to pump but I don’t have absolutely no idea how to start and how to go about it as the midwifed and doctors in the hospital all told me different things about nursing and pumping.Im living in spain and it seems like they do not know much about nursing and pumping and to keep the supply I did make a lot mistakes with my last child 2 years ago that my milk supply even stoped and after 2 month I had to give formular u was so sad about it and now this time I really want to do everything right!
    Thanks so much for your help & GOD bless you

    • Anne Smith, IBCLC

      Congratulations, Melanie! There are articles on the site that will give you the information you need. Check out “Establishing Your Milk Supply: Starting Off Right”, “Oversupply”, “Engorgement”, and “Pumping and Storing”.

  2. I feel you mommies! My little one is 4 1/2 weeks old and I have been pumping since the beginning to give her breastmilk. She is latching better now and after lip tongue release procedure but still she sucks for a little while and gets angry at the flow and tired. I am doubting she will get the hang of it at this point but I keep putting her to the breast and trying. But its very hard and I am always thinking about the pumping schedule.. ok 2 more hrs until i have to pump, I want to take a nap when baby is sleeping but no 30 more minutes until i have to pump, and the worst is when I am working with her on latching and she takes about an hour and I get nervous that its been over 3 hours since I pumped.. So i think ok I have to pump but I also have to give her time to nurse and learn.. But if i dont pump on a schedule then there will be nothing there for her to nurse.. And the same thing in 2-3 hours! :/ Its harder now that she is eating more and I dont have any leftover milk and am just barely ahead of her schedule. Today first time in a month I had to give her 45ml of formula and it left me so guilty that I couldnt pump enough for her! But Im not insane.. Im not going to prolong feedings or give her less breastmilk just so i dont have to supplement with formula obviously! And I get so mad when i read breastfeeding articles and they refer to breastfeeding and make it seems so easy.. And mention things like off course breast if best but in extreme cases like adoption when a woman cant breastfeed formula is acceptable.. I feel not many people talk about how it can not work out.. I read all the books LLI , took the class, researched and I was hearbroken and felt awful I could not breastfeed only when I started searching the interned I realized I was not alone in this.

  3. I tried so hard to breastfeed my son. He latched in the hospital after birth and then slept for a long time. The nurse came in and tried to make him eat but he was sleepy. He would scream and turn away. He never really fed after that. I feel so heart broken. All I wanted was the bond of breastfeeding. I make tons of milk but he refuses to latch in any position, in any way. With or without a nipple shield. He won’t. I feel like he doesn’t have a bond with me now. I pump milk and feed him through a bottle. It’s just not the same. It really hurts and I feel jealous toward the other women who can.

    • I’ve had similar issues, breastfeeding was a battle from the get go. I never had enough milk, she pinched me so hard I bled, she always got so frustrated whenever I tried to nurse her to the point I felt it was hurting our bond and I even snapped at the nurse who was only trying to help. We tried for 5 weeks and supplemented and it was terrible and she was losing weight and I was crying every time and nothing was working. N.O.T.H.I.N.G

      She’s two months old now, we don’t nurse, I feed her formula. Almost every time she looks at me it’s like she smiles with her whole body! She was lifting her head at 2 weeks old, following things with her eyes at 4 weeks, and she’s already grasping and trying to figure out her toys. If I leave her with Dad she’s ok for a while but eventually she gets to the point where “she just wants MOM” and I’m the only one who can calm her down. She smiles in the morning at me, she smiles after I’ve made her cry from trying to use the snot sucker that she HATES.

      The bond will come. Breastfeeding is not the only bonding experience. Just hold him, look in his eyes, look in his eyes especially while he drinks from the bottle. Thats where the bond is, in his eyes and from skin to skin, and telling him how much you love him, and singing to him, and telling him how cute he is. Its ok Mama, just breathe, as long as he’s eating he’s going to be fine. You can keep pumping or if that gets too hard you can get donor milk, or even formula. Breastfeeding is not the end all be all.

      • Beth, what a beautiful message. I’m going through exactly this right now. So many things have gone wrong in the breastfeeding department since the birth of my beautiful boy 6 weeks ago. Even as I type this my left breast has all but dried up. I’ve been pumping all day but have some sort of clogging problem going on. The breast is hard and lumpy and I can’t get much out if it. I have been to hell and back trying to get my baby to feed from me but as the LC put it, he’s lazy and just can’t be bothered, he would rather take it from the bottle, so I hardly leave the house, my life revolves around my pumping schedule. The last 2 weeks I have cried and cried and cried but my wonderful LC had a great supportive chat with me as I cried and she told me I have been amazing and she can’t believe the sacrifices I have made to be able to provide my milk for the last 6 weeks. I will hang in there as long as I can but she reassured me that formula if we need it is perfectly safe & my baby will still grow up big and strong if he has it. She said the most important time for breast milk is the first 6 weeks due to the immunity it provides (before vaccinations/immunisations begin) and after that mixed feeding is totally fine. Yes, bonding with baby in other ways is the most important. I kiss and cuddle my baby so much he’s sick of me :-)). I have done everything I can but may soon have to introduce formula as his appetite is insatiable and I’m starting to not be able to keep up. No one knows any mothers story so noone should judge if a mother feeds her baby formula. I have to be honest and say before all my unexpected dramas I thought any woman who fed her baby formula just “couldn’t be bothered breast feeding”… Gee do I know a different story now,!!! There are so many reasons why a mother can’t get it happening and no one should judge her. Chances are she’s going through absolute hell over it and has just had to accept that it hasn’t worked out. I know I’ve given it my all but now need to accept how much it was affecting me mentally and emotionally which was ruining this special time with my newborn. The best mum is a happy mum. We need to accept some things are beyond our control, suck it up and move on. That’s where I’m at now and slowly I’m starting to feel happier within myself. I don’t want to spend this time crying in front of my baby over this when he is such a gorgeous, happy and healthy little Bub. There could be so many other things wrong…thank god it’s only this!! Hugs to all. To all new mums…lets all hang in there!!!

        • Oh you sweet dear. Your message is very touching. I’ve had struggles as well and felt so good when the LC told me, you’re doing such a great job for your baby. I’m happy to read yours told you that as well. You’re amazing & your baby is lucky to have you as his mama.

    • It took my son over 6 weeks to take the nipple with a shield – I pumped too, totally feel ya. Hang in there, you are amazing!!

  4. I couldn’t find a way to comment on breastfeeding benefits: how they add up, which led me to reading this article too. I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your site. VERY long story short, I am near the end of being able to provide my four month old any more breastmilk and am quite emotional about it. Your site and especially that article on how the benefits add up helps me focus on what I WAS able to do for my children rather than what I was not. It is so important for us to be supportive of one another and trust that we are all doing what is best for our families. At the end of the day, babies need to be fed! Anyway, just wanted to express my gratitude. You are a sweet soul in a sea of women ready to judge or tell you how they did it so much better. Thank you!

  5. I cannot tell you how much I agree with this article! I’m also a lactation consultant (although, alas, not an IBCLC… yet) and I can relate so much to what you say. Especially this: “Any lactation consultant who makes new moms feel worse instead of better after working with her needs to find a new profession. Period.” I’ve seen moms cry with relief when I tell them that using formula does not mean you’re a bad mom; everyone was pushing breastfeeding so hard that no-one took the poor mom’s feelings into consideration! My job is not to force anyone to breastfeed – but if you want to, boy oh boy, I’ll run through walls to help you. Thanks for reminding us that we can support and promote breastfeeding without being pushy or harsh.