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Ever since the promotion of breastfeeding as the best way to feed your baby, as compared to formula, there has been a counter-movement. We don’t want to push it too much because if moms don’t meet their breastfeeding goals we don’t want them to feel guilty, they said. I’ll skip over how insulting it is it to presume that women need to be protected from facts.
As breastfeeding’s value became increasingly supported by research, and as greater numbers of moms listened to that argument and planned to breastfeed, it became part of the mommy wars.
You know what the mommy wars are, don’t you? If you don’t agree with my choice, you must mean I’m wrong, and if I don’t want to be wrong, I have to make you wrong. And if one mom is trying to make another mom feel wrong, then it doesn’t matter what it’s about, she’s wrong.
Lately, we have had a deluge of articles telling us that breastfeeding’s “benefits” (you know, “those” benefits, the things nature intended) aren’t all that beneficial after all. They say, in fact, there are times when a mom SHOULDN’T breastfeed.
A colleague sent me a picture of from a Facebook group that listed reasons why a woman shouldn’t breastfeed. I came to think of it as lies woman are told about breastfeeding.
First on the list was if a baby is allergic to mom’s milk. Babies are never allergic to mom’s milk. They may not tolerate something in her milk. This problem can usually be resolved. They neglect to mention that there can just as easily be intolerant to something in formula.
Also mentioned were:
- A mom who has post-partum depression. Why would that exclude breastfeeding? In fact, research has supported the positive effect of breastfeeding on depression (1). Furthermore, if medication is necessary, many are compatible with breastfeeding.
- Moms who are victims of abuse. This is so vague. Do they mean previous abuse, current abuse? What kind of abuse? There indeed will be the mom what won’t even be able to tolerate the thought of breastfeeding because it brings back memories of some sexual abuse. I am never going to make that mom feel like she just needs to suck it up, no pun intended. But to just say abuse in and of itself is a reason a woman shouldn’t breastfeed is a disservice to those women who want to breastfeed and for whom breastfeeding might be healing.
- A baby with medical needs. Ok, this one is just as vague. Often a baby who has medical needs are the very ones who will need breastmilk the most. In fact, for some babies, getting breastmilk makes the very difference between life and death.
- If mom has to work and she can’t pump. News alert! The federal government has regulations that stipulate a mom must be allowed to pump while she is at work. If for some reason she chooses not to or finds the conditions too challenging (every mom has her own reality) she can continue to breastfeed when she is with her child, before and after work. Once you have established your milk supply, your body has an amazing ability to produce milk when asked.
The list does, in fact, provide some actual situations when a baby can’t be breastfed:
- When both parents are dads
- A mom has had a bilateral mastectomy
…Or shouldn’t be breastfed
Moms who have to take a medication that is incompatible with breastfeeding. There aren’t many, but there are a few.
Moms who have HIV, and have access to a safe formula preparation setting and clean water.
In their efforts to scare the most women about this topic, they forgot to list (2) the rare but real instances when..
- a baby has galactosemia
- a mom has active and untreated TB, or HTLV type I or II
- a mom is taking antiretroviral drugs or undergoing radiation therapy.
Don’t listen to these lies about breastfeeding. And don’t perpetuate them.
Don’t let them go unchallenged.
While it may not work for some moms or some babies, the bottom line is still…
BREAST IS BEST!
- Dias, C. C., & Figueiredo, B. (2015). Breastfeeding and depression: a systematic review of the literature. Journal of affective disorders, 171, 142-154.
- Eidelman, A. I., Schanler, R. J., Johnston, M., Landers, S., Noble, L., Szucs, K., & Viehmann, L. (2012). Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics, 129(3), e827-e841.
Andrea Tran RN, MA, IBCLC
Andrea has been working with new families as an RN for over 35 years and a Lactation Consultant for over 25 years.
She has her MA in Health and Wellness with a focus in Lactation.