This is What Lactivism Does to Parents and I Was Lucky to Hear the Words “Fed Is Best”

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.

Nurses are given text scrips to respond to parents asking for formula supplementation.

Really?

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. 

-Marta O’Neil

Was your baby denied supplementation in the hospital? Please get in touch with us to share your story. Every story saves another child from experiencing the same and teaches another mom how to feed her baby safely. Every voice contributes to change.

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How Do Misogyny and Feminism Impact the Breast is Best Narrative?

Is Modern Day Breastfeeding Advocacy really feminist?

Breastfeeding advocacy is often characterized as feminist, and many people in the current breastfeeding advocacy community would describe themselves as feminists. Feminism, after all, is not just about demanding equality to men; it is about valuing women—our brains, bodies, and work—as much as we do men’s.[1] Breastfeeding and the provision of human milk is work, and many feminists—rightfully—expect that work to be valued.[2]

Modern breastfeeding advocacy started in the 1950s; La Leche League International (LLLI) began as a grassroots organization of women who wanted to breastfeed their babies and assist other interested mothers in doing so. Founders Marian Tompson and Mary White had experienced breastfeeding problems with their first children, leading to unwanted weaning; after successfully breastfeeding subsequent children and learning that many other mothers had been in the same position (bottle-feeding formula out of necessity rather than choice), they organized a group dedicated to helping others who wanted to breastfeed successfully. 

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The Ten Steps to Ethical, Successful, And Inclusive Infant Feeding

In most hospitals and prenatal educational materials, exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) is the recommendation for infant feeding. EBF is promoted as the only healthy way to feed a baby, with partial breastfeeding, temporary supplementation, and formula feeding falsely characterized as “suboptimal.” Other infant feeding options, such as exclusive pumping or formula supplementation, are discouraged, even when requested by parents. But does this narrow definition of healthy infant feeding support patient rights and ethical infant feeding principles? No, it does not

 Infant feeding support in postpartum units should consider ethical principles of autonomy, beneficence, justice, and non-maleficence when considering the extent to which lactation should be promoted. 

What Are The Principles of Ethical Infant Feeding?

Autonomy: The parents choose how they intend to feed their baby at each feeding, and maternal bodily autonomy is affirmed and respected.

Beneficence: The benefits of infant feeding types are provided to the parent to help them make an informed decision. Healthcare providers must not decide what is best for the parent.

Justice: Do not assume a feeding method. Ask the parent how they want to feed their baby. Affirmative consent must be obtained before touching a patient’s body. 

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I HAVE SO MUCH REGRET NOT QUITTING BREASTFEEDING EARLIER; WE SUFFERED AND FEEL VERY LET DOWN BY PROFESSIONALS AROUND ME FOR BEING SO ANTI-FORMULA

Knowing now how many babies have been lost or suffered an injury due to insufficient nutrition and dehydration in those early days, I feel so much anger towards those staff who dismissed my concerns, as we could so easily have gone the same way. By this point, my son’s urine was like brick dust and barely meeting the minimum frequency—but home we went, away from any medical supervision. 

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The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is The Worst Thing I Have Experienced in my 20 Years as a NICU Nurse

Dear Parents,

It’s taken me years to find the courage to contact the Fed is Best Foundation with my experiences of working in a baby-friendly hospital.  “Baby-Friendly” is the worst thing I have experienced in my 20 years as a NICU nurse. My colleagues and I have tried many times to express our concerns with the number of NICU admissions we receive. Eighty percent of our admissions are because of baby un-friendly protocols for hyperbilirubinemia, hypoglycemia, excessive weight loss, and dehydration in our hospital from insufficient breastfeeding. We are a small unit, and we have had around 150 plus admissions last year from insufficient feeding. Sadly, we’ve had bad outcomes.

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