I am sharing my story because I know new parents are struggling with lactivism right now; they need to hear my story to protect themselves. It was lactivism that compromised my mental health, and it was lactivism that caused my child to suffer.
I thought lactivist rhetoric existed only on social media, but I was wrong. It’s also part of our medical institutions and is harming moms and babies.
When I was pregnant, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to feed my baby, so I planned to try breastfeeding and switch to formula if it didn’t work. After her birth, my daughter had a difficult time breastfeeding. My nurse told me that babies are born to breastfeed, so I should keep trying until she does. I stayed up all night with her trying to breastfeed, but she just wouldn’t for more than a few minutes and would fall back asleep.
I was concerned my baby was not getting enough colostrum. Every medical professional assured me that her wet and dirty diaper count was normal and meant she was getting enough. I trusted they knew more than I did as a first-time parent, but my baby was now crying and still was not breastfeeding well. When I attended breastfeeding classes at my hospital, the instructor told us crying is the last sign of hunger.
When the lactation consultant came, she saw my baby screaming, not nursing. I practically begged her for baby formula, but she firmly said everything was normal and insisted babies don’t need much milk in the first days of life. She told me formula would mess up my milk supply, cause obesity and nipple confusion, and provide “instant gratification.”
The lactation consultant provided misinformation and was overtly wrong.
After she left, I broke down and cried uncontrollably; I knew she wasn’t getting enough milk out of my breasts, but no one cared. Every health professional watched my baby scream in hunger, but supplementing her was not supported or offered. I was told repeatedly that her crying was normal and that my milk would soon come in if I continued breastfeeding her.
That’s when I realized how damaging lactivism was. They didn’t care about my baby being hungry. They only cared about breastfeeding. There’s no denying that this was *ucked up!
According to the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine: An infant who is fussy at night or constantly feeding for several hours does not meet supplementing guidelines, and expressed drops of colostrum are enough.
Maybe this is why 1 in 71 exclusively breastfed babies are rehospitalized for complications of insufficient colostrum intake. Babies are forced to endure hunger and thirst until they meet thresholds to warrant “medical necessity.”
Due to our desperate situation, my husband suggested that I use the pump I had brought, so I began pumping milk. I fed her all the milk I pumped, and she gulped it down. She stopped crying and slept for hours.
She was STARVING, BUT NOBODY CARED.
I continued to pump, hoping she would nurse, but she didn’t. I dreaded telling her doctor I was pumping and bottle feeding my baby. The guilt consumed me during my most vulnerable time as a new mother.
Why would I feel guilty for providing my child pumped milk?
It was clear to me, looking back, that I had been brainwashed into thinking I needed to breastfeed my child to be a good mother. The effects of lactivism are devastating emotionally; they are insidious, unrelenting, and harmful. I shudder to think about what would have happened to my baby if I hadn’t pumped in the hospital.
I was lucky to find parenting communities where I learned that any valid feeding method (including pumping) is healthy for my baby. I was fortunate to hear the words “fed is best.” And I was lucky that someone told me to value my mental health over breastmilk.
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