Reply turned post, breastfeeding bullies style

In my years of discussing breastfeeding promotion on the web, I have witnessed many conversations that started with the discussion of the health benefits of breastfeeding and ended with a lactation consultant bashing session. This is yet another permutation of the argument that lactation consultants are somehow bullies who, in this comment section on Stand and Deliver, commenters contend that women should not be “forced” to breastfeed, and that people (I am assuming they mean lactation consultants) do this by “yelling” and “nagging”.

I really have never met a lactation consultant who yelled or nagged at a new mother. I am not really sure where this stereotype comes from, or why discussions about breastfeeding often evolve to ignore the proven health benefits and turn into bashing sessions for these evil hypothetical people who force moms to breastfeed by yelling at them or guilting them.

I trained for two years at a birth center which treated breastfeeding as the norm and formula feeding feeding as a medical based intervention, which is sometimes necessary. We had a more than 90% success rate with breastfeeding initiation and continuation. Working moms, moms on public support, moms with mental problems, etc.

They were incredibly supportive, with home visits and moms having unlimited phone and in clinic support for breastfeeding problems. Women who were having problems would come and stay all day in clinic sometimes, and would have help with every nursing session.

I saw moms who were having problems who cried. I have personally wiped tears off of a mom’s bare breast while helping her tape a Supplemental Nursing System tube to her skin. She was not sad because I yelled at her or that she felt guilt. She was sad because she was facing health obstacles in the success of her breastfeeding, and she was very grateful for our support.

I have seen moms (just this week!) furious because nurses disregarded their wishes to breastfeed and fed their babies formula, even though there was no medical indication. I have seen many more health care practitioners pushy about feeding and recommending formula than the other way around. I have seen lactation consultants bend over backwards to support moms emotionally. I am sick of these roles being flipped in the discussion.

OK, off my soapbox.

6 Comments

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6 responses to “Reply turned post, breastfeeding bullies style

  1. I had trouble getting the nursery nurses to believe I actually wanted to breastfeed and that in order to do so they would actually have to get off their butts and bring me my baby. I also got conflicting information about switching breasts mid feed from the pediatrician and the LC. The LC matching everything I had read and the ped – very concerned about the fact that my boobs might look lopsided after a feeding. My LC was very supportive and helpful. Everyone else I encountered in that hospital, not so much. (Save for one very nice day time nurse.)

  2. I wonder if the LC bashing or talk about them nagging, yelling, or bullying from personal perception. I also have never witness this type of behavior, and am happy to say that all of the LCs I’ve ever worked with were nothing but kind, supportive, and helpful to both mothers and nursing staff.

    I often care for women who say they plan on breastfeeding but everything they do or say once the baby is born screams that they really don’t want to. I often wonder if these are the women who say LCs bullied them because they are sensitive to their stated choice and what they really want (subconcious or not). I think the guilt some of these women have skew their perception.

    And I am not saying that they should feel guilty, just saying that I think that plays into it.

  3. I agree that I have never seen LCs actually do this – just heard stories from moms without getting to see/hear the other side of the story. I don’t disbelieve that there are a few bad applies out there, but I agree with Labor Nurse that some stories might come from a mother’s reluctance to say out loud “I want to quit”. Hands-on postpartum, I have seen nothing but positive support, patience and working toward’s a woman’s breastfeeding goals whatever they are.

    I will say that prenatally I could see more of a challenge, because that’s I think when people feel comfortable being a little more hardline, and it is hard to advocate breastfeeding without stepping into a minefield. Just a few weeks ago I was at a birth where the mom told me that at the last minute, she had made up her mind to formula feed. I asked her why, then let it go for a while. But it was a long birth, and I kept sitting there and thinking, Was I letting this go too easy? Maybe she just needed someone to nudge her back in the other direction, since she had been equivocating so recently. I didn’t think her concerns (returning to work, getting baby used to the bottle) were such big barriers as she saw them. But maybe they were proxy reasons for some deeper issues. Would I be a good doula by giving her more facts? Would I be a bad doula by not supporting her decision? Might she think a year later “That dumb doula at my birth who nagged me to breastfeed” or might she think “I’m glad she sat down and talked to me, because that helped me decide to give it a try and now I enjoy it”? I think sometimes my drive, or an LC’s, to give all the facts could be seen as nagging even when we are doing our best to be nonjudgmental and supportive. (OK this is getting long. I see this reply is turning post as well!) So while I don’t see LCs haranguing new moms “Don’t give up! Or you’ll kill your baby!” I could see some prenatal behavior being interpreted as stronger.

  4. Yes, it’s strange how all the other bullies, the ones in favour of mother-child separation and artificial feeding, get no attention.

    During my postpartum stay, I had to fire a pediatric nurse who yelled at me and scolded me for holding my baby. He was perfectly well and stable, she just had decided that all “her” babies should stay wrapped in their bassinets except for feeds. I didn’t raise my voice or abuse her, just told her firmly to leave the room and never return. Apparently she was later in tears – I hope this was because she had a good hard look at herself, and not just because the charge nurse supported my decision, but I’m not at all confident that that was the case.

    It was actually very difficult, in that situation, to do the firing, because I felt so utterly powerless – and I’m a doctor myself, and used to hospitals in some ways. There was other episodes of bullying that I wasn’t so effective in dealing with, including one notable one by a paediatrician pushing AF and dismissing my concerns. None of them were by lactation consultants, that’s for sure. The LCs were my oasis.

  5. I have witnessed this with one LC. Thank G-d she does not work in my area. She works in Nicu. I feel so bad for the nicu moms!!

    Most LC’s are at the very least nice. One of my alltime favoirite LC is no longer practicing. I took my baby to go see her when we had some trouble and I was an emotional mess because I could not feed my child. She was great. Gave us clear direction. She even called us the next morning to see how we did. Later I worked with this same LC on the labor floor. She is the woman who taught me how to teach breat feeding.

  6. Pingback: Us vs. them (or a blog retrospective) | Mom’s Tinfoil Hat

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