Fed Is Best- And I’m Fed Up!

“Are you breastfeeding or formula feeding?”  I cringed as I overheard a complete stranger asking my husband this question while we were shopping for baby clothes. “Formula,” my husband replied. “I can’t believe she asked you that!” I exclaimed as she walked away. “How is that any of her business?” He shrugged and replied, “maybe she’s pregnant and is trying to figure out if she should breastfeed.” “It’s still none of her business,” I said. “If she had asked me, I would have said we’re breastfeeding.” 

Yes, that’s right, I would have lied to a random woman because I was afraid she would judge me. Despite my anger at this stranger, however, I wasn’t necessarily worried about what she thought of me; it was about what I thought of me. I felt guilty about formula feeding. 

It wasn’t that I didn’t try to breastfeed. It just happened that my nursing journey didn’t exactly work out the way I’d planned, and not a day goes by that I don’t feel bad or like I somehow failed my son for my inability to breastfeed. 

New moms are faced with a barrage of breastfeeding materials and recommendations. The baby books tout the benefits of breastfeeding, and the hospitals march lactation specialists into your room to show you proper breastfeeding techniques and how to pump. I took the prenatal breastfeeding class the hospital offered and followed all of the directions from the lactation consultants. We were never told during our breastfeeding classes,  nor was it mentioned in any of breastfeeding books, that it may not work out… and more importantly, that you’re not a complete failure if you can’t breastfeed. 

 The lactation consultants in the hospital informed us that he might not be able to transfer any milk from me because he had a ‘slight’ tongue-tie and early on my supply was very low. To attempt to stimulate my milk supply, the lactation consultants encouraged me to start pumping the day after he was born. Since he wasn’t latching properly and couldn’t transfer the tiny amount of colostrum I  had his blood sugar plummeted, and the medical staff in the hospital advised us to supplement with formula. “It’s only temporary,” I thought. “We’ll get this all worked out exactly as I planned.”

When we left the hospital, however, things did not look up in the breastfeeding department. The pediatrician advised me to “triple-feed” and have my son latch on both sides to stimulate the hormones for milk production, and then have my husband bottle feed him while I pumped. We did this every three hours, and honestly, the three of us were miserable; my baby cried and screamed when I would try to get him to latch. I was experiencing postpartum anxiety and feared that I could not take care of my son or be the mother I needed to be. 

And of course, all this stress and anxiety didn’t help my milk supply. I couldn’t sleep because my brain was clouded with thoughts that I would somehow hurt my baby because I couldn’t breastfeed, that something would go wrong because I couldn’t give him the nourishment he needed. I would dread feeding time because it was just a constant reminder of my inability to produce for my son and my self-inflicted feelings of inadequacy.

 

Sleep deprivation has very serious consequences. As health professionals, we need to protect maternal mental health when developing complicated breastfeeding plans. Very serious sleep deprivation conditions while triple feeding has resulted in postpartum depression, anxiety, psychosis, deteriorating physical health, and serious accidents.

In those first few weeks, I was unable to comfort my baby when he cried because I couldn’t hold him without trembling from nerves and anxiety. I immediately thought this meant I was a bad mom and didn’t have the “mom instinct” I heard so much about while I was pregnant. When I was beside myself with anxiety and fear, I remember feeling like I was just a burden to my family. If my husband could just give our son a bottle, it would be easier for him if I wasn’t around, and then he wouldn’t have a baby plus an erratic, emotional wife to take care of. I told Drew this one night between my shaking and uncontrollable sobs

He hugged me and told me, “Your son needs you, and I do, too. I can’t do this without you and I wouldn’t want to. We will get through this.”

I  read countless books and articles about breastfeeding and was convinced I was doing my baby a disservice if I chose not to breastfeed. We had a consultation to potentially reverse the tongue tie, but even the ENT told us it was minor and may not be necessary.

My husband was right there in the trenches with me, trying to make breastfeeding work because he knew it was important to me. But he also stressed the importance of taking care of myself, and knew I couldn’t be the best mom and partner when I was riddled with depression, anxiety, fear, and constant thoughts of inadequacy. He sat and listened patiently and empathetically through countless tear-filled conversations.

“This is our decision, it’s not up to anyone else,” he told me. Even with his support, however, I told him if we ended up going full formula, I didn’t want anyone to know. “We’ll just say I’m pumping and bottle feeding,” I told him with tears welling up in my eyes.

Despite my reservations, we decided to exclusively formula feed. We put the breast pump and all its pieces in storage. Looking at it was a constant reminder of what I’d perceived to be my personal failure—but we made our decision and we were sticking to it. 

Although part of me felt like I simply gave up on my son, my anxiety instantly lessened when I stopped pumping and being constantly angry at myself for my low milk supply. The trouble I had comforting my baby vanished. I was more calm and confident. It seemed like I instinctively knew what to do to take care of my son, when just a few days before I had felt lost and hopeless. My sense of humor came back, and I enjoyed my time with my baby versus feeling like I couldn’t provide for him. I could actually smile, make jokes, and admire my beautiful little boy. I still felt uneasy about the decision, but I also felt more emotionally and mentally available for my family.

We’re all just doing the best we can. Your best may look different from someone else’s, but that doesn’t give us the right to pass judgment or lecture anyone else for their decisions or parenting style. We are women, which means by nature we’re too hard on ourselves. If you’re a mom and you’re anything like me, you’re constantly raking yourself over the coals and your own mom-guilt is worse than anything that could come from another mom. 

While the love for our little ones seems to come so naturally, let us not forget to love each other, and most importantly, to love ourselves. 

Who knows what my son will grow up to be, but what I do know is this: I couldn’t feed him the way I wanted to, but that doesn’t mean I can’t give him an unlimited supply of unconditional love, kisses, cuddles, support, and life lessons. I couldn’t be the food supply he needed, but I will do everything in my power to be the mom he deserves.

 

To my son: I may not have been able to give you my milk, but you always have my whole heart and all of my love. ~MT

The Fed Is Best Foundation will always be my voice. They speak for so many families by listening without any judgment or shame and I am grateful. 

 


Contact Us/Volunteer

Mothers Describe Their Triple Feeding Experiences And The Impact It Had On Their Mental And Physical Health

Maternal Mental Health Feels Like it Comes Second to Breastfeeding When It Should Be First

My Inability to Exclusively Breastfeed Was a Constant Destructive Force in My Life After My Son’s Birth – I Had a Suicide Plan

The Breastfeeding Support I Received Almost Killed Me And My Daughter; I’m Still Suffering From Breastfeeding Trauma

Clinicians’ Guide to Supporting Parents with Guilt About Breastfeeding Challenges

I Attempted Suicide From The Pressure Of Breast Is Best

I Shared My Story a Year Ago And I Was Told To Go Kill Myself – How I Am Healing

 

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Hospital Drops Baby-Friendly Program After Doctor’s Baby Was Harmed

Written by an anesthesiologist and Intensivist physician

“The biggest achievement of my life as a physician was stopping my hospital’s Baby-Friendly program after my child was harmed.”

It was September 20th, and we were headed to the hospital for my induction.  I was nervous, as any first-time mother would be. I was worried that I was doing the wrong thing, even though I knew the literature, and my physicians supported my decision for an elective induction at 40 weeks. I was already dilated to 4 cm and my baby had dropped way back at 33 weeks.  We all thought it would take just a hint of Pitocin, but I labored for 24 hours until my son was born. I was later told that he was born with a compound hand (up by his head), causing the prolonged pushing time and his distress with each contraction.

While pregnant, I had decided to attempt breastfeeding, even though I had had a breast reduction in 2003. I tried to read as much as I could, but honestly, I didn’t have any idea how much information one needed to do something that everyone swore was “best” and “natural.”  My baby was born at 4:14 a.m. I thought this would be ideal, because I would have the support and help as I learned how to be a mother, knowing more staff were available during the day.  As the first day melted into the first night, nursing became more and more painful, and he needed to feed almost continuously. When he wasn’t feeding, he was either rooting or screaming.   Continue reading

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Baby-Friendly USA Acknowledges Their Mistakes; Are They Going To Make Real Changes In The New Year Or Are They Providing Lip Service To Mothers?

Dear BFUSA,

Thank you for your long-overdue public acknowledgment endorsing what the Fed Is Best Foundation has been fiercely advocating for over the past 3 years. 

According to your recent blog post you now agree with us that:

1. Delayed onset of copious milk production is common. 

BFUSA: “Delayed lactogenesis is actually increasingly common because the risk factors for it are potentially increasing,” Dr. Rosen-Carole says. “When a baby is born into that situation, the goal is to closely monitor what the baby is doing, instead of giving a bottle right away. “If the baby is hungry and they’re not getting enough milk out of the mother’s breast, then they need to be supplemented,” she says. 

FIBF: We have been passionately educating parents about safe breastfeeding since the beginning of our advocacy over 3 years ago with the current scientific studies that have confirmed over and over again that delayed onset of milk production and low milk supply are common.  We question why it took you so long to acknowledge this deadly and 100% preventable consequence of insufficient breastfeeding? Does this mean you will ban the belly bead stomach models that do not reflect the current science?

Will you please apologize to the thousands of mothers who bravely told their stories of accidental starvation?  You have previously tried to discredit their stories, called them “‘anxiety-provoking,” and characterized our foundation as BFHI detractors— simply because we offer a social media platform for mothers to be heard by you. Have you ever heard a mother break down and scream in horror when she learned her baby was starving to death because she followed your breastfeeding education and protocol?  We have—over and over again, and it is the most haunting sound. It’s what drives us to fiercely advocate for safe breastfeeding because no other health organization is doing so.

BFUSA: Dr. Bobbi Philipp agrees. “If you see signs that the mother’s milk is insufficient, you need to feed the baby,” she says. “And if the mother is really committed to breastfeeding, you’ve got to bridge the gap in a way that you support her, feed the baby, and don’t undermine the breastfeeding. It’s that simple.”

FIBF: Now that you are acknowledging delayed onset of milk is common, something that we have been passionately writing and speaking about for years, we expect that you will stop calling us “fibbers.” Name-calling is what a child having a temper tantrum does, not what a professional organization should do; the appropriate response to being called out and held accountably, is to take responsibility and revise your guidelines based on current research and patient feedback. Continue reading

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Dear Parents, Did You Know Just 2 Teaspoons Of Supplementation Can Protect Your Baby And Your Breastfeeding Journey?*

Written by: The Fed Is Best Foundation IBCLC Team

There have now been six studies showing that in some infants, a little bit of supplementation with two teaspoons (10 mL) of formula or donor breast milk after nursing had no effect on long-term breastfeeding. One study showed it prevented hospital readmissions in all of the supplemented newborns. Another showed it actually helped breastfeeding! 

Why aren’t medical and lactation professionals recommending this intervention?

Many medical and lactation professionals believe that a tiny amount of formula will contaminate the baby’s gut, causing lifelong health problems. They refuse to admit that formula supplementation can be helpful, and they have baseless concerns that temporary formula supplementation will become routine for all babies.  According to Baby-Friendly USA, “donor [breast] milk takes the fight out of this.” What they mean is that the few babies who are born in a hospital with donor milk can be fully fed, while the vast majority of babies who are born in hospitals without donor milk just have to tolerate hunger and thirst so as to avoid a few teaspoons of formula.  

Did you know two teaspoons of formula or donor milk has seven calories?  

Continue reading

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Lies, Slander And Lack Of Accountability By Lactation Consultant Serena Meyer

Dear Serena Meyer, RN, IBCLC:

Your post has made unsubstantiated accusations and we would like to respond with the truth. Please start by reading our actual statements and the science we present, which can be found in our FAQs.  [Note: since Ms. Meyers has now edited her original post and deleted over 200 comments, screenshots of the post are included below.]

You (Serena Meyer) wrote:

Have you heard about Fed is Best? It’s an organization that believes that breastfeeding essentially starves babies, there is a lot of vitriol about breastfeeding and brain damage and death. It makes me feel pretty argumentative.

Every statement issued by the Foundation is cited. We rely on scientific evidence, not “belief.” We have never said breastfeeding starves babies; we have provided factual educational information that exclusive breastfeeding with insufficient supply or transfer can lead to acute and/or prolonged starvation. “Starvation” is a medical diagnosis, not “vitriol” or fear-mongering. Continue reading

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Baby-Friendly: Failure and the Art of Misdirection

By Alex Fischer, PhD Candidate, Brooke Orosz, PhD, Jody Segrave-Daly, RN, IBCLC and Christie Del Castillo-Hegyi, M.D.

Any good magician will tell you that the secret to their trade is misdirection—making the audience look one way while doing something the other way. And even knowing this, most of us are still baffled by a magician’s tricks. So it’s no wonder that Baby-Friendly USA (BFUSA) has tried to employ that same tactic in their statement titled “Fact vs FIB: The Impact of Baby-Friendly on Breastfeeding Initiation Rates.”  In this statement written by an anonymous author representing BFUSA, they attempt to dispute the findings of a recent study published in Journal of Pediatrics, “Outcomes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2018 Breastfeeding Report Card: Public Policy Implications” by Bass et al. This study examines the impact of statewide breastfeeding initiation rates as well as the impact of BFHI facilities on continued breastfeeding after hospital discharge (exclusive or combination). The Fed is Best Foundation read this study and agreed: “Baby-Friendly does not work.” These five words are the instigators of the entire statement by BFUSA and its misrepresentation of a very robust scientific study.  Continue reading

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Nurses Quit Because Of Horrific Experiences Working In Baby-Friendly Hospitals

Photo Credit: Victorian Agency for Health Information

We regularly receive messages from nurses, physicians, LCs and other health professionals. They express their concerns while asking for help and patient resources. They tell us their stories and they need support and direction of what to do about unethical and dangerous policies they are forced to practice. We collected their stories and are beginning a blog series of health professionals who are now speaking out about the Baby-Friendly Health Initiative and the WHO Ten Steps of Breastfeeding.

Dianna Talter, Pediatric Emergency Department Nurse

I am a pediatric emergency department nurse traveler and sometimes, I worked on the mother-baby unit. I will never work on a mother-baby unit again because of the terrible conditions that mothers and babies are forced to endure because of the “Baby-Friendly” (BFHI) protocol!

Mothers were expected to assume full responsibility for their babies and themselves while they were recovering from birth. Mothers were profoundly exhausted and would fall asleep in bed holding their babies. I was taken aback at the number of crying breastfeeding babies who were hungry. To meet the metrics of exclusive breastfeeding rates (80%), we could not supplement the babies and our goal was to get them discharged as exclusively breastfeeding.

Now I know why the emergency department admissions have climbed significantly for hyperbilirubinemia, hypernatremia, hypoglycemia, and seizures. I have worked in a pediatric emergency department for 20 years, and I am appalled at the lack of comprehensive breastfeeding education that is provided to mothers. They are not taught about the signs that their baby is not getting enough milk. These parents are GOOD parents and were following their breastfeeding education guidelines. It’s pure insanity! 

I took care of two babies who died needlessly from complications of acute starvation. One baby had a glucose level of 14, sodium level of 160, and was seizing. We did everything we could to save the baby, but it was too late. Her parents were failed by the current breastfeeding education, which is based on the BFHI/WHO Ten Steps. The other baby was stabilized in the ED and was transferred to the PICU [pediatric intensive care unit] only to die the next day.

Continue reading

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U.S. Study Shows Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative Does Not Work

by Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, M.D.

On October 14, 2019, the Journal of Pediatrics published astonishing findings regarding the effects of the Baby-Friendly hospital certification on sustained breastfeeding rates as defined by the 2020 Healthy People Goals of: 

  1. any breastfeeding at 6 and 12 months
  2. exclusive breastfeeding at 3 and 6 months. 

They did so by measuring the relationship between statewide breastfeeding initiation rates data and the above breastfeeding rates. They then measured the contribution of Baby-Friendly hospital designation on these same breastfeeding outcomes.

According to the study authors, the increase in hospital designation in the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) began in 2011 when the U.S. Surgeon General issued a call to action for maternity care practices throughout the U.S. to support breastfeeding. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) became involved in promoting the BFHI policies in hospitals and health facilities, as breastfeeding was thought to be associated with lower rates of childhood obesity. The assumption was that by increasing breastfeeding rates through the BFHI, there would be a concomitant decline in childhood obesity. Upon initiation of this program, the CDC initiated surveillance of state-specific data on breastfeeding outcomes after discharge including BFHI designation rates. This data is made available to the public through the CDC Breastfeeding Report Card, which provides annual reports from 2007 through 2014 and biennial reports from 2014.

As expected, they found that states with higher breastfeeding initiation rates had higher rates of these sustained breastfeeding outcomes. You cannot have high breastfeeding rates unless mothers are given education and successfully initiate breastfeeding. However, when they measured the effects of Baby-Friendly certification, this is what they found.

“Baby-Friendly designation did not demonstrate a significant association with any post-discharge breastfeeding outcome (Figures 1, B and 2, B). There was no association between Baby-Friendly designation and breastfeeding initiation rates.” Continue reading

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FAQs Part 3: Do You Believe Exclusive Breastfeeding is a Good Goal to Promote?

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Our goal is to respond to the many statements that have been made about the Fed is Best Foundation and to answer questions we receive about what the Foundation stands for. Unfortunately, our #FedIsBest phrase has been used incorrectly by others, and it’s important that we clarify what it means and doesn’t mean. Our mission statement has evolved over time and reflects what our parents tell us they need to support them. Click here and here for FAQs part 1 and 2, respectively.

7. Do you believe exclusive breastfeeding is a good goal to promote?

 We do if a mother wants to exclusively breastfeed and they are fully informed about their individualized risk factors for delayed onset and or potential low milk supply. We promote and educate families about safe exclusive breastfeeding because no other health organization informs parents about the risks of insufficient feeding complications and how easy they are to prevent. To be fully informed, parents must be educated about both the benefits and risks of exclusive breastfeeding. Currently, they are only taught about the benefits and not the risks. Continue reading

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