By Jody Segrave-Daly, MS, RN, IBCLC
(Contributing Editor, Lynnette Hafken, MA, IBCLC)
We. listened. to. them.
We validated their stories and offered them compassionate and judgment-free support. We didn’t blame them when they were struggling with their breastfeeding journey. Instead, we apologized for what happened and found a way to help parents breastfeed/chest-feed their babies safely, with confidence and with love. We helped them heal in a safe place while lactivist zealots vehemently judged them and blamed them for not having the right breastfeeding support, the right breastfeeding education, the right nurse, doctor, LC, or hospital. They even blamed mothers for not recognizing HUNGRY signs when their babies were starving while under the trusted care of lactation professionals.
Today begins World Breastfeeding Week 2019.
I want to bring awareness to what we do every day to support breastfeeding parents successfully at the Fed Is Best Foundation. Our goal is to bring awareness to lactation professionals to inform them of what parents are telling us they need to successfully breastfeed because they tell us no one is listening to them.
We launched The Fed Is Best Foundation three years ago.
We contacted every medical organization possible to express our concerns as medical professionals and as parents about the serious gaps in our current breastfeeding policies but our concerns were not listened to. We decided the purpose of our Foundation would be to provide infant feeding and perinatal mental health educational resources, that were not available to parents who were contacting us regularly for support on Dr. Christie’s Facebook original page (which was called: Breast is best if you have enough breast milk). We also wanted to provide a safe social media platform for all the voices that have been silenced by shame and guilt, because of the intense mommy shaming culture over breastfeeding “failure.” We never ever imagined our Foundation would grow so rapidly. Then an alarming number of stories began to pour in. We have taken to heart the tens of thousands of letters we have received from mothers describing the pressure they feel to exclusively breastfeed from birth to 6 months. They talked about the consuming fear they have that formula milk will hurt their babies’ health and their future potential. They describe suffering from unbearable shame and guilt when breastfeeding was not possible for biological, economic, psychological, and/or other personal reasons. Some of the worst letters came from mothers whose babies were harmed or failed to gain weight for weeks, sometimes months, due to fear of supplementing while breastfeeding.
Somehow the “risks of formula” narrative have superseded the first rule in lactation support: “Feed the Baby.”
The conversations about Fed is Best Foundation from some lactation professionals
As time went by, the conversations from some lactation professionals about FIBF were very unprofessional, untrue and sometimes absolutely devastating, hateful and cruel. Our stories were called lies, supporters were called “FIBers,” speakers at breastfeeding conferences would talk about us in an insulting manner but they would not talk to us to answer their questions. Articles were written telling everyone to ignore those breastfeeding horror stories, and tweets accused us of being anti-breastfeeding and some called us “baby-killers.” BFUSA claimed we were unresponsive and divisive but would not respond to our letter, requesting a meeting with us and the mothers who wanted them to hear their stories. Rumors have been spread with no evidence that we are funded by formula companies or that our supporters are “paid Facebook likes” instead of real families. The personal attacks on both Christie and I were relentless, threatening, hateful, criminal, and sometimes unforgivable. But the pattern of not listening to mothers continued because too many lactation organizations do not want to listen to our concerns about the serious gaps in the current breastfeeding policies.
Other supportive lactation professionals
We have been privately contacted by countless nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians, and IBCLCs supporting our concerns, but they have asked for anonymity for fear of being ostracised and harassed by the lactation professional community. The support from our health care professional advocacy team and our parent supporters gives us the strength to move forward. We agreed to not shrink back or allow parents to be silenced or babies to be harmed by serious gaps in the current breastfeeding policies, that while well-intended, have turned out to cause unexpected devastating results.
Many mothers want to breastfeed
Day after day in our support group, we help mothers achieve this goal by developing an individualized, actionable breastfeeding plan that works for them specifically. Contrary to what you may have heard, we don’t ever tell breastfeeding mothers, “just use formula and stop breastfeeding!” Many mothers have told us they “gave up breastfeeding” when they got home because they were not making enough milk, when in fact their milk arrival was simply delayed. Many of these mothers had not been shown how to preserve their milk production when their full milk production was delayed. Many stopped breastfeeding because they were told combination feeding was not possible or good enough. They endured weeks of unsustainable triple-feeding regimens (nursing, supplementing, and pumping) to attempt to become an exclusive breastfeeder, which ultimately led to weeks of sleep deprivation and eventually postpartum depression and anxiety, some giving up altogether because of the mental stress. Babies have also been deprived of their mothers’ comforting embrace and lost significant bonding time while their mothers were pumping after every breastfeed 8 or more times a day. If these mothers were educated about their risk factors for delayed or insufficient milk supply, how to supplement while waiting for their milk to come in, how to increase their production safely, or how to sustain a combo-feeding relationship if their supply is limited, they would have gone on to have a sustainable breastfeeding relationship instead of losing confidence and stopping breastfeeding altogether. They lost their choice and right to breastfeed their baby while under the care of lactation professions.
Mothers who experience breastfeeding complications are no longer willing to be blamed or shamed for their breastfeeding failure.
Parents have unknowingly harmed their infants under the guidance of their breastfeeding educators and health care professionals. Some of these mothers lose trust in breastfeeding altogether, which is not what any of us want. They are sick and tired of being told to try harder and be told they did something to cause this. We asked mothers who struggled and were let down by the breastfeeding support they were given to tell us what support they need. Their responses were genuine and heartbreaking, and we learned it’s well past time to call attention to the fact that mothers are not being listened to when they express their breastfeeding or mental health concerns. Health care has a long history of not listening to women or downplaying their health concerns, and it’s still happening every single day!
I believe it’s time to have a very important and meaningful conversation, starting with listening to the stories of what mothers are telling us, while under the care of lactation and health care professionals so we can improve our care while improving breastfeeding rates. Nearly all of the problems mentioned above could have been prevented by listening to and believing mothers when they say their babies aren’t getting enough milk.
The time is now to Listen to mothers
“Breast is Best support let me down because I was never educated on risk factors that could delay my milk coming in, and I had MANY. My first baby lost 13% of his birth weight in 3 days, but I was constantly reassured that my body was producing was enough. My body didn’t produce any milk until day 6. The first 4 weeks of his life were some of my worst memories until I found a better way to feed him.” — D.N.
“Breast is Best support starved my baby for 4 months while under the care of 3 IBCLCs. My post-natal depression spiraled with the addition of the guilt of knowing he was always hungry! I ended up being admitted to a psychiatric facility because I had risked my son’s health with my ridiculous obsession to breastfeed because of exactly this sort of shit.”— K. R.
“Breast is Best support failed me by perpetuating the idea that breastfeeding = love, and bonding. Thus, when I couldn’t breastfeed my baby any longer, it naturally meant that I didn’t love him enough to give him the best. On top of that, since the Breast is Best movement perpetuates the lie that all women can breastfeed if they try hard enough, it meant that I was lazy and selfish for not giving him my milk. What a horrible and abusive thing to tell a recovering new mom!” — F.C.
“Breast is Best support doesn’t tell you about how nursing can exacerbate perinatal mental illnesses after birth. Instead, mothers are told breastfeeding prevents depression, which is flat out wrong.” — J.S.
“Breast is Best support failed my breastfeeding journey because I thought I didn’t make milk when in fact my milk didn’t come in until 7 days after birth. I simply gave up. With my second baby, I supplemented immediately, and we are still breastfeeding because I supplemented after each nursing session until my milk came in on day 5. I am still breastfeeding thanks to the information I received from Fed is Best.” — C.P.
“Breast is Best support never prioritized my breast cancer diagnosis as important and instead told me my needs didn’t matter that every baby deserves to be breastfed. It didn’t matter if I was fighting for my life!”— A.L.
“Breast is Best support emotionally abused me just like my childhood sexual abuser did. I talked to my OB about my childhood abuse and how any touching of my breasts triggers me into a full-blown panic attack. My husband and I decided formula feeding was best for our family. But when I delivered they MADE me try breastfeeding when I told them NO! Then, the nurses and LC’s got angry with me when I cried hysterically and then they told me if I fed my baby formula, there are risks and I had to sign a form to feed my baby without using my breasts. As a grown woman who is well educated, I had to call my mother to come to the hospital to protect me from the predators. One in five children are sexual abuse victims and the BFHI could care less about mothers like me.” — S.P.
“Breast is Best support failed me because I had no knowledge or understanding of the risks of low supply. My son was unresponsive at 4 days old and hospitalized for dehydration and jaundice. His doctor told me to keep trying even with obvious signs he wasn’t getting enough. I made myself crazy triple feeding. I remember crying while feeding my son a bottle and said to my husband “bottle-fed babies love their moms, right?” We switched to formula feeding about 4 months of age and everything about life improved so much. And now I look at my 2-year-old and realize how much of his newborn days I missed being obsessed about breastfeeding.”— L.B.
“The Breast is Best support I needed was for the countless lactation consultants to see my tears and the signs of PPD and recognize that my baby’s inability to latch was not the problem in the room that needed to be addressed. I was needing to be addressed.. not my boob..ME.”
“Breast is Best education let me down because they never taught me about the risk factors Ithat could prevent me from exclusively breastfeed. I felt like a failure and like I was disappointing my son when we had to supplement. It also took away my dream and choice of being able to breastfeed my baby!” — T.F.
“My mental health declined, and I had so much anxiety when I couldn’t produce milk. I went into isolation to avoid telling anyone my breasts do not make milk.” — G.C.
“Breast is best support failed to inform me that breast isn’t best for every baby because two of my sons had multiple severe food allergies and could not tolerate any human milk. I was told by the breastfeeding community that this was impossible, and my doctors were simply advertising formula instead. This was after multiple anaphylactic reactions as tiny infants, but it didn’t matter to them.” — A.N.
“Breast is best support failed my baby. He had a medical condition that necessitated he drink thickened liquids, and he couldn’t tolerate my breast milk. The “breast is best” support message persuaded me to continue giving him food that caused him to be in an immense amount of pain, for much longer than I would have otherwise. When I saw how breast milk hurt him and specialty formula allowed him to eat without pain, I realized that breast is NOT best for my baby. Had I not internalized the Breast is Best message, my baby wouldn’t have suffered as long as he did.” — O.S.
“Breast is Best support failed me by thinking I was failing my daughter because I couldn’t feed her in a way that’s supposed to be “natural,” she lost over 10% of her birth weight, wasn’t latching and even when I pumped nothing came out. I was going insane feeding her allll of the time and developed severe anxiety from no sleep. My lactation consultant was great and showed me that my daughter needs a happy healthy mom more than breast milk, so we switched to formula and it was wonderful. She gained weight and my husband could feed her too.” — J. B.
“Breast is Best support didn’t offer me any flexibility, so I felt trapped and could only be by myself for short periods. It ignored teaching safe bottle feeding and pumping, so I had to figure that out on my own, and it left me isolated which eventually resulted in postpartum depression. It was full of misrepresentation and shame. It led me to doubt myself as a mother and a human being.” — M.H.
“Breast is Best support failed me because it made me feel like there was no other way of feeding your baby, that I wouldn’t be close to my baby, that my baby would have a poor immune system. This phrase made me feel so guilty for feeding my baby formula. I felt ashamed when I didn’t need to. Breast is best requires that the nursing staff presume you will automatically breastfeed instead of asking and supporting the mother’s choice. It also failed me because I wasn’t aware of the pain it would cause me physically or the lack of milk supply.” — H.W.
“I was so obsessed with Breast is Best when my mental health took a nosedive, I didn’t see it. My mother has struggled with mental illness for decades and I promised myself I would be aware, but I was just too focused on breastfeeding because I was taught breast is best. It’s not.” — R.S.
“Breast is Best support failed me and my son. My son lost 8% of body weight by 4 days old. He was born already small, 6lb 7 oz and skinny, so that weight loss didn’t help. He was Coombs+ so he had a higher risk of jaundice than average, yet no one offered formula. I nursed him for 4 hours on night 2, and when he fell asleep, I was told it’s because he was full. No, he was just exhausted. I asked about giving formula before I was discharged from L&D and was told NO! The first night at home I nursed him ALL NIGHT and he kept crying. I blame myself for not giving him formula right away. The next day at pediatrician’s office, the NP took one look at him and gave us formula to feed him right in the office. He ate it so quickly like he was starving. He was! He was readmitted for jaundice and was under the lights. That was the worst day of my life and when my milk came in on the same day of his admission, it would not come out due to stress, anxiety, and crying. I was never able to breastfeed because no one offered formula. Had I given him formula, he would not have started his life hungry, would have had enough strength to nurse, and I would not be so stressed. Thanks ‘breast is best’ for putting my son in danger and crushing my dream to breastfeed.” — E.Z.
“I struggled to find my place as a mother. It didn’t really come naturally like it’s “supposed to”, I didn’t want to breastfeed, but you’re “supposed to”. Throughout my pregnancy, I doubted whether I could be a good mother and I hid the fact that I planned to formula feed out of shame. Then after my son was born, I was scared, overwhelmed, and already worrying about my “inadequacies”. In the hospital I was told he won’t bond to me, he won’t be healthy, it’s not natural, formula is poison, so I felt guilty and I decided to try to breastfeed and COULDN’T do it. My feelings of inadequacy got worse. I suffered horrible PPD and was extremely insecure and anxious because I always felt everyone was judging and looking down on me. The pressure to breastfeed is too great. It shouldn’t even be a conversation. The number of times I was asked by people whether I was breastfeeding was shocking!” — B.T.
“Breast is Best support let me down because I was told: “the only way to be the best mom you can be is to breastfeed”. It also led me to believe that my body would produce the perfect amount of milk for my baby and that we would just instinctively know how to do it. Both of those were so wrong and my baby was starving.” —J.J.
“Breast is best support failed me because it made me feel like formula feeding was giving my baby inferior nutrition and even harming her when my breasts were not making enough milk to meet her needs. It made me feel like a failure as a mom and robbed me of my first 2 months of parenthood.”—N.H.
“Breast is best support let me down because it made me believe that the only right feeding way for my baby was breastfeeding. It didn’t matter if I had anxiety, pain, fear, lack of sleep, exhaustion, intrusive thoughts, nothing was more important than getting my boobs out anytime anywhere no matter how uncomfortable that made me feel. As a mother my needs were not considered important. Breast is best convinced me that my baby only needed drops of milk each feeding and that his dry lips and jaundice were expected in newborns, that “it will go away” if only I kept breastfeeding. It failed me and my son because we lost months of bonding and precious memories because I was too busy worrying about him losing weight, both not sleeping at all, both crying, me feeling like a failure as a mother. Please, please stop telling parents that Breast is best and instead encourage a healthy and safe feeding method and that not every method works for everyone, that is ok to combo feed, to FF, to safely EBF. Please support a mother’s mental health. Please let us enjoy the beauty of motherhood however it works best for us as individuals.” — P.K.
“Breast is Best support let me down because medical professionals missed multiple signs of insufficient milk supply and after being indoctrinated by “breast is best” I felt too intimidated and guilty to speak up until I was desperate. Even then I let them first try an approach I now know is medically dangerous (giving water to a 3.5 week old) even though all my instincts were saying my baby needed formula.” — J.M.
“Breast is best support failed me because I was told that my baby was going through “cluster feeding” and to get used to being up all night nursing him because I didn’t have any milk in yet. I also have flat nipples and had a hard time getting him to latch even with a shield. The lactation nurse told me that I was “too impatient and that it could take up to 45 minutes to get him to latch” It got so bad that at home he stopped peeing and had red brick dust in his diaper. I wish someone had been honest with me and I would have supplemented him earlier. I needed someone who was willing to work with me! The whole experience was very traumatic for me and I am not sure I would try breastfeeding again.” — L.H.
“Breast is best support let me down because I hadn’t had much luck breastfeeding my first two boys, when pregnant with my 3rd I was obsessed with exclusively breastfeeding because I was told that all moms can breastfeed. In hindsight I now know we had a poor latch, but didn’t at the time, it was horrendously painful to breastfeed without a nipple shield. He had slow weight gains from early on, so I started giving him one bottle of formula a day, his weight gain improved but a lactation consultant told me that it wasn’t the formula so I need to stop the bottle as it would confuse him. Just breastfeed more often she advised.” — L.C.
“I did. I was in agony constantly; I was desperately sleep deprived and medicated for post-natal depression. The slow gains continued, I again saw the same LC and questioned whether formula top-ups would help, she said to only pump and feed him expressed breast milk. I pumped after every feed and halfway between all-day feeds. My depression increased, and with it my medication dose. A visit to the GP for conjunctivitis alerted my doctor to be very concerned about his weight and referred us to a Paediatrician immediately. My son was born on the 50th percentile, by the time we saw the paediatrician at 4 months old he had fallen below the 3rd percentile. His length had slowed, and his head circumference had stopped increasing entirely. Up until that point my son had gained less than 500 grams from his discharge weight. I had been starving my baby, because “breast is best” was everywhere and I allowed it to become an obsession. I had put my own desire to deliver on Breast is Best above my child’s health.” -M.C.
“Breast is best support let me down because I starved my baby and then I stopped breastfeeding entirely, partly because I felt so guilty that it had caused more harm than good, and partly because I had what I now believe to be DMER but didn’t know at the time, I just knew that every time I breastfeed I had waves where I was overwhelmed with anxiety, and feelings of despair and I was struggling to cope with it.” — A.S.
“Breast is best support let me down because when my own serious medical issues separated me from my baby and made it impossible to safely breastfeed, I knew NOTHING about formula or bottle feeding. In the midst of my guilt about not being able to breastfeed, and not being capable of caring for my brand-new baby myself — I also found myself completely clueless about the most important part of his life, his food. I fell prey to the idea that having any knowledge or prior preparation regarding formula feeding would be a “booby trap” and would sabotage my ability to stay committed to attempting breastfeeding. What an infantilizing idea! That a grown woman can’t decide to continue her commitment to one type of feeding just because she learns the basics about another type? It’s like saying if you learn about the process of a cesarean birth that you’ll automatically decide to choose that or be more likely to give birth that way, than someone who only learns about “natural” birth prenatally.” — K. R.
“Breast is best pediatrician let us down when we became a formula feeding family and asked for information about choosing the best formula – and we were told that it’s all the same. We asked about preparation instructions and were told to just follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the package. Months and months of prep and reading about learning to breastfeed and preparing to breastfeed — and a formula feeding parent is so second class that it doesn’t even merit a conversation with the pediatrician. No wonder a formula feeding mom would feel like a second-class citizen who has just been left in the lurch to feed “the easy way” and have zero support in place.” — C. K.
“Even though my son is a few weeks off turning three, “breast is best” education continues to let me down. While countless numbers of new parents around the world are being taught in antenatal classes that exclusive breastfeeding will essentially “prevent” obesity, coughs, and colds, ear infections, cancers, developmental delays, toddler tantrums (because of bonding) etc., the truth that these findings are not in any way statistically significant (once, for example, socioeconomic status and mother’s IQ has been controlled for) is not being mentioned. This means that when my son is acting out or sniffling over his peers at daycare, the suggestion by BiB and its students, is that “if only I had breastfed him” I could have “protected” him.” — D.B.
“Breast is best support didn’t bother to educate me prenatally about the basics of formula feeding and even encouraged to make a choice ahead of time as to what formula brand I wanted to use in case it was medically necessary, it would have done a world of good for me — it would have helped me feel like a capable mother who was ready and willing to feed her child under any circumstances. Instead, I felt completely shattered and had no confidence in my role as his mother when he required supplementation. Even the most basic familiarity with formula and bottle feeding could have given me a much greater sense of confidence and made me feel like I was prepared to make great decisions about how to feed my child.” —T. V.
“Breast is best support made me feel like a failure when being looked after a midwife who believed it with every fiber of her being. I was never told that c-sections can delay milk or that some people have trouble with breastfeeding. Who knew it wasn’t as easy and beautiful as she made it out to be?” —
“Breast is Best support let me down because it didn’t tell me that sometimes babies aren’t strong enough and nipples aren’t shaped right. It made me feel like a bad mom because I was supplementing right away because she was premature and weighed only 4 lbs 12 ounces at birth. The lactation consultant scolded me for not taking the breastfeeding class before she was born even though she came earlier than she was supposed to. It made me cry in the doctor’s office at 4 days old because I “didn’t know how we were going to feed her.” It stole my joy by making me dread every time she needed to eat, making me hate my body for failing us, and making me angry with her for not being able to breastfeed. Of course, those things all made me feel even worse about myself as a mother—who gets mad at their baby?? I didn’t sleep for days because I became obsessed with reading anything and everything about breastfeeding even though nothing changed our situation. Fed is Best saved my joy and if I had gone any farther down the path, I was on it could’ve stolen much more than my joy.”
“Breast is best support let me down as it told me not to pump for 6 weeks old. So, I didn’t buy a pump and I didn’t even learn how to pump and then my son needed surgery. I didn’t know you could supplement and breastfeed; I thought it was either formula or breastmilk, not both. I wasn’t educated about how to cope with nipple pain and instead was told to deal with it. But it was unbearable for me and was destroying our bonding relationship. When I fed him formula exclusively, I was judged for not giving my son the ‘best.'”
“Breast is Best support It let me down because the hospital breastfeeding classes didn’t teach me anything about the danger signs, or about how to prepare formula if we needed to supplement. When I asked the nurses, they specifically said they weren’t allowed to cover formula feeding. I was googling “why are baby’s diapers rusty pink?” and “how do you prepare formula” that first week of life. Fortunately, my friend had given me a bunch of different formulas to try “just in case” because I knew my mom had low supply, so I was determined to be prepared. But the midwives never asked about that or helped me plan, which they really should have.”
“Breast is Best support let me down because it created a culture in which lactation consultants felt perfectly comfortable berating me for letting my twins have formula in the hospital, repeatedly waking me from limited sleep to try to force me to pump, and trying to force me to tandem nurse after birth during which I hemorrhaged to a point that I had a hemoglobin level of 6.”
“Breast is Best support let me down because it’s factually inaccurate. My town has clean water and I am fortunate to have the slack in my budget to be able to buy formula even though this was not my plan by any means. Breast is great, but evidence shows that formula is very nearly just as good. And for my family, with my low supply, physiological challenges for both myself and my son, and my mental health history, formula is best. I am so grateful that it exists and my baby and my family are thriving.”
“Breast is Best support let me down because the background chant of “breast is best” interwoven through every healthcare setting was not person-centered care, it was not care that took me and my baby into account as individuals and it left us alienated from the healthcare system. Professional advice given to me was not the best for my baby’s health or my mental health.”
“Breast Is Best support let me down because it was an overriding emphasis on one element that promised health gains and advantageous bonding. It meant that my daughters’ reflux and my own mental and physical health were ignored and breastfeeding was constantly promised as a magic wand. I was told it would fix everything. It didn’t and it couldn’t.”
“Breast is best support let me down and I am still having medical treatment with one of my breasts 19 months on. It is the one that was infected and the one where the nipple basically rotted away. But even with infections, nipple and tissue damage, I was still told to use it to feed and pump. My baby’s health trumped mine even though there was another way to feed her.”
“Breast is best support didn’t inform me that there could be reasons that breast wasn’t best. Getting my daughter fed and on medication was. Sleeping and resting rather than pumping gave her mum back.”
“Breast is best let us down because I spent hours each day struggling with exclusive pumping, all we heard was ‘at least you’re giving him breast milk’ and never ‘how are you coping? It is ok to stop.'”
“Breast is best let us down because both of my babies lost a lot of weight. With my first, I tried everything I could to keep going, even with bleeding nipples and terrible anxiety. Second time around I stopped very suddenly on day 3 before I lost my mind, but the guilt is still heavy. This guilt doesn’t seem to come from within but from external sources. Friends and relatives that have been indoctrinated and feel that it’s okay to tell me how they feel about how I feed my baby. My babies are 2 years and 2 months old and I still cry at least once a week about not breastfeeding even though I have two perfectly healthy happy children.”
“Breast is Best support didn’t tell me how hard it would be after a long labor. I had no colostrum at all and didn’t realize my poor little boy was starving. I also was told repeatedly about the feeding frenzy thing called ‘cluster-feeding.’ Thank goodness I landed in the hospital (for eclampsia) for a week so my husband could feed him formula. I was never informed in any class you could supplement and breastfeed or even that pumping and supplementing until my milk came in as possible.”
“Breast is Best education let me down when it failed to mention the many complications with breastfeeding; they’re completely glossed over, which means when you go through them, the suggestion is that YOU must be doing something wrong, because breastfeeding is natural and perfect, and ‘breast is best’ will not admit to complications, either physical or emotional.”
“My personal story briefly is that on day 4 my son had lost 11.8% of his birth weight, I was blamed by a midwife for starving my baby but I had not been offered to supplement my son. He remained on formula after that, I attempted to breastfeed and express for two months but never had enough supply. He’s now a beautiful, healthy, intelligent, loving toddler, and has no idea what all the fuss was about. ❤️”
“Breast is best support failed me and my daughters. The first time I was pregnant, I was naive and a first time mom. I assumed that I would nurse my baby. That was it. I was told over and over that breastfeeding is the best for baby and for mom. I believed it, and I never crossed my mind NOT to nurse. In one of our birth prep classes, we were told not to have a can of formula at home because it might be ‘tempting to use’ when nursing is tiring at first. Knowing what I know now, that statement disgusts me.”
“Breast is Best let me down big time because I wasn’t told by ANYONE that I had multiple risk factors for low milk supply: PCOS and history of infertility (took me 5 years to get pregnant with our first baby). I just assumed I’d give birth and my baby would nurse right away. Well. My baby cried and cried and cried in the hospital and the nurses all assured me that was normal and she was just cluster feeding. My nipples were bleeding. I now understand she wasn’t sleeping because she was starving. We got home, and she refused to latch. Refused. I had genuine breakdowns. I would cry hysterically. My husband had to call my mom to fly in to help. The same day we came home, my husband also went to buy bottles and formula because he realized we needed to feed her, however it looked. I also tried a hand pump, and literally only pumped blood. We had to take her to the doctor on day 4 because she wasn’t having wet diapers. She finally peed at the clinic, and we were sent home. At her day 5 visit, the LC told me to make another appointment and to stop using formula. We saw LC after LC, and even THEY struggled to get my baby to latch, yet I was told to ‘cut out bottles to motivate the baby to latch.’ How evil that sounds to me. Starve my baby. They had me taking all kinds of supplements and triple feeding. I struggled every single time to latch her. My final straw was her losing almost half a pound between weeks 5 and 6. I didn’t even try to latch her again. I exclusively pumped until she was 7 months and fed formula as needed. She is now 2 years old and is so smart. I regret so much trying to force nursing on her when clearly, she was starving and miserable. Formula saved her life and has made her into a thriving, smart and thriving toddler.” -Amber
“Breast is Best support let me down because It failed me by making it seem as though not being able to produce enough milk was somehow my fault and that I was a terrible mother for even considering formula. I blame it for the majority of my postpartum depression and endless crying in the first months of my daughter’s life. It robbed me of the ability to speak to others with the same problem without feeling as though I was somehow broken, diseased, or unfit to be a mother. Formula allowed my daughter to thrive, my stress to improve, and my tears to dry. Formula allowed me to focus on my daughter, get better rest, and raise a healthy child. ‘Breast is best’ still haunts me with this unrelenting feeling that somehow, I failed, even though the evidence of a smart, healthy, vivacious toddler speaks of a different truth”. -P.O.
“Breast is best (BiB) failed me because I tried to take my own life from the profound feelings of inadequacy and was told my baby deserved a REAl mother. My suicide attempt was not successful (Thank GOD) and I recovered and my baby thrived on formula and love.” — Trisha N.
“Breast is best support said my flat nipples wouldn’t be a problem (wrong – baby never latched correctly). Breast is best said that breastmilk was perfect (wrong – mine was “skim”, which I didn’t know was a thing). Breast is best said that breastfeeding would be this amazing bonding experience (wrong – it fueled my PPD and actually made me resent my baby). Breast is best said that formula was a minimal, substandard food (wrong – my baby absolutely thrived on it). Breast is best said that women just need “support” and “education” to succeed (wrong – ironically, I probably would have had more success if I’d had REAL education around the aforementioned issues)” —E.J.
If you are still reading this lengthy blog, I applaud you as you had the courage to listen to the voices of breastfeeding mothers who are not heard. This is a very small sampling of stories, but the same things are being said with the common denominator of feeling ‘let down’ by the current breastfeeding support offered by lactation professionals.
These mothers have no real place for unconditional support. These mothers are the reason WHY The Fed Is Best Foundation exists and is growing rapidly.
If you need help, please contact me directly at email@example.com
Jody Segrave-Daly’s entire 30-year nursing career has been dedicated to caring for healthy and medically fragile babies in the nursery and NICU. When she began her community-based infant feeding practice 10 years ago, she was not prepared to see the significant numbers of babies who were suffering from accidental starvation complications from insufficient breast milk intake. The stories she heard were the same —distressed mothers were being told to never supplement their crying, sleepy, jaundiced, and dehydrated babies — or risk ruining their breastfeeding relationship and milk supply. She has comforted countless mothers all over the world who believed it was rare to under-produce breast milk and often felt betrayed by their healthcare teams, their own bodies, and the social pressure that insisted “Breast Is Best.” Now a staunch advocate for the Fed Is Best movement, Jody now works to debunk those myths while supporting mothers to breastfeed, mix-feed, pumped-milk-feed, formula-feed, and tube-feed their babies. She has her own Facebook page and blog at the Momivist where she uses science and her years of clinical experience to support infant feeding. Read about her journey as a lactation consultant at Why I’m a Momivist.
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HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT FED IS BEST
There are many ways you can support the mission of the Fed is Best Foundation. Please consider contributing in the following ways:
- Join us in any of the Fed is Best volunteer and advocacy, groups. We currently have: Health Care Professionals group, Advocacy Group, Research Group, Volunteer Group, Editing Group, Social Media Group, Legal Group, Marketing Group, Maternal Mental Health Advocacy Group, Private Infant Feeding Support Group, Global Advocacy Group, and Fundraising Group. Please send an email to Jody@fedisbest.org– if you are interested in joining any of our volunteer groups.
- Make a donation to the Fed is Best Foundation. We are using funds from donations to cover the cost of our website, our social media ads, our printing and mailing costs to reach health providers and hospitals. We do not accept donations from breast- or formula-feeding companies and 100% of your donations go toward these operational costs. All the work of the Foundation is achieved via the pro bono and volunteer work of its supporters.
- Sign our petition! Help us reach our policymakers, and drive change at a global level. Help us stand up for the lives of millions of infants who deserve a fighting chance. Sign the Fed is Best Petition at Change.org today, and share it with others.
- Share the stories and the message of the Fed is Best Foundation through word-of-mouth, by posting on your social media page and by sending our FREE infant feeding educational resources to expectant moms that you know. Share the Fed is Best campaign letter with everyone you know.
- Write a letter to your health providers and hospitals about the Fed is Best Foundation. Write to them about feeding complications your child may have experienced.
- Print out our letter to obstetric providers and mail them to your local obstetricians, midwives, family practitioners who provide obstetric care and hospitals.
- Write your local elected officials about what is happening to newborn babies in hospitals and ask for the legal protection of newborn babies from underfeeding and of mother’s rights to honest informed consent on the risks of insufficient feeding of breastfed babies.
- Send us your stories. Share with us your successes, your struggles and everything in between. Every story saves another child from experiencing the same and teaches another mom how to safely feed her baby. Every voice contributes to change.
- Send us messages of support. We work every single day to make infant feeding safe and supportive of every mother and child. Your messages of support keep us all going.
- Shop at Amazon Smile and Amazon donates to Fed Is Best Foundation.
- If you need support, we have a private support group– Join us here.
Or simply send us a message to find out how you can help make a difference with new ideas!
For any urgent messages or questions about infant feeding, please do not leave a message on this page as it will not get to us immediately. Instead, please email email@example.com.
Thank you and we look forward to hearing from you!