Let’s place the blame where it belongs

Let's place the blame where it should lieThere is a group out there that is making me pull out my hair. This group is “Fed is Best” which was formed in 2016 as far as I can tell.
A mother who is also a physician, had a terrible experience with her baby. In an open letter, she claims that because her newborn did not receive adequate nutrition from exclusive breastfeeding her child has permanent damage. Because of this experience she has become a champion of Fed is Best which claims that many, many babies are being hurt by exclusive breastfeeding in the first weeks. Is this a tragedy? Yes! Is breastfeeding the culprit? NO! Poor medical care, lack of accurate assessment, and gross lack of medical oversight are the cause of this woman’s tragedy. I understand when you have a tragedy you lose your mind and do crazy things but this has gone too far.

Blaming breastfeeding, support for breastfeeding, Baby Friendly Hospitals, and me, as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, for these tragedies (and there are many heart breaking stories) is flat out wrong.

Let's place the blame where it should lieThese babies died or have been damaged because they were not being fed properly. They were not receiving adequate nutrition. But wait, what is the first rule of lactation? The first rule of lactation, breastfeeding, is FEED THE BABY. Always. And if mom doesn’t have enough breastmilk we will feed the baby something else. It may be banked human milk, shared breastmilk, or FORMULA if needed. Formula is not considered evil in my profession. We hate, hate, formula manufacturers and their marketing practices. They are sneaky, tricky, and highly manipulative. That is a whole different subject which I have written about in the past in a blog called Who is the real enemy? But we don’t hate formula.Formula helps keep babies alive.

The mother who founded Fed is Best said that on day 3, “Despite producing the expected number of wet and dirty diapers, he had lost 1 pound 5 ounces, about 15% of his birth weight.” This is unacceptable. I don’t know who their doctor was, it is interesting that they are not named, but in my world, as a professional 15% weight loss is not OK. This mother needed to supplement her baby with: her own expressed breastmilk, if there was not enough, then banked human milk, shared milk if she was interested, or formula. Period. This mother’s health care providers did not have either the time or the expertise to counsel this mother properly. Whose fault is this? The medical system. Not breastfeeding.

Let's place the blame where it should lieThis post has been circulating lately. More Fed is Best. This poor mother says that pressure to breastfeed led to accidentally starving her baby. “We were brainwashed!” “In the case of Johnson and her son Landon, he did not get enough colostrum (a mother’s early milk) in the first days of life, which ultimately resulted in his death just weeks later. Johnson never imagined that pressure to exclusively breastfeed — every new mom has heard the mantra ‘breast is best’ — could have such fatal consequences.” This is a straight out lie. Babies don’t die from not having colostrum in the first days. Many babies never get colostrum or any breastmilk at all! This poor baby didn’t get fed for days and it sounds like that is what caused his death. The article goes on. “Babies can suffer days of non-stop crying and hunger while nursing day and night without sleep, as they are receiving a fraction of the calories and fluid they need to live,” she says.

Babies crying for days is also not acceptable. In the first weeks babies tend to eat and sleep. That is normal. The fact these babies were crying for long periods of time, and many of the mothers report their babies were crying all the time, means that someone should have taken a closer look to make sure they were receiving adequate nutrition.

As an IBCLC I believe all babies need to be fed appropriate amounts of food throughout their lives. Let’s change the way our medical system doesn’t have time or expertise for complex problems and stop blaming breastfeeding.

Let’s place the blame where it belongs.

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