Want to know the “Inconvenient Truth” about breastfeeding? Here it is:
Women are being pressured to breastfeed but set up to fail!
Most moms are not making it past the first few weeks of breastfeeding because they are being sabotaged daily by cultural and institutional barriers — or as we call them, the “booby traps!” Think about it. Why, all of a sudden, for the first time in millennia, do women fear that they are not capable of producing enough milk for their babes? Why do we hear so many stories of women who “couldn’t” breastfeed, or that it was hard, or painful? Why are so few women making it to the recommended goals? Have our breasts mutated? Have our babies mutated? Of course not!
FACT: Moms are being booby-trapped! Here is a snapshot of how women are experiencing the booby traps–please note, this is just a snapshot, it doesn’t cover ALL the booby traps that keep moms from succeeding, and there may be some moms for whom only some of it rings true. There are many, many wonderful professionals and institutions that are helping moms with herculean efforts. But just to put yourselves into the shoes of what currently constitutes the majority of moms planning to breastfeed, pretend it’s you — sadly, it has already happened to many of you:
Your mother (or step-mother, or mother-in-law, or mentor), didn’t breastfeed, so she can’t show you how, share her experience, or tell you what to expect. Not so with burping and diapers. At worst, our mothers may be uncomfortable with breastfeeding, have unresolved feelings of guilt or anger, be prey to myths and misinformation, and intentionally or unintentionally undermine us. While we understand that the previous generation didn’t know better, like seatbelts and sunscreen, it is a tough issue to deal with when we are at our most vulnerable as new mothers. At best, our mothers want to support us, but don’t know how. – Cultural Booby Trap!
You’ve taken a childbirth preparation class, and think you are ready, but breastfeeding got only an hour tacked on at the end, or you took a hospital breastfeeding class but, that unbeknownst to you, included myths and misinformation and was given at a hospital that does not have a good track record for breastfeeding continuation (ask how many moms leave the hospital exclusively breastfeeding if you really want to know how committed they are). – Institutional Booby Trap!
Most of your friends didn’t breastfeed, or maybe you are the first in your group to have a baby, so you have no peer group to turn to for support, questions and inspiration. If your friends did breastfeed, they had an unnecessarily difficult time because of all the barriers, so they tell you horror stories that scare you, without digging into the root causes of their suffering, or they disapprove if you breastfeed in public. - Cultural Booby Trap!
Your best friend shares stories with you of being judged, berated or guilted for giving her baby formula by overzealous breastfeeding advocates–or should we say militants (these can be perfect strangers, angry advocates, and even some health professionals!)–which puts you on the defensive and could make you less likely to breastfeed exclusively. – Cultural Booby Trap!
Your ob/gyn hardly speaks to you about feeding choices, because (s)he is short on time with increasing demands as a primary care physician, increasing pressure of lawsuits and managed care red tape, and is not supported with training by the professional association. Or, (s)he is too short on time to deal with this post-birth issue and expects the pediatrician to fill in the gap, even though by the time the mother sees the pediatrician, too much time has gone by, and breastfeeding problems may already have set in. Or (s)he is tired of enouraging mothers to breastfeed only to see them quit under family and peer pressure, or to see them be undermined by poor hospital policies. - Institutional Booby Trap!
You give birth in a hospital that is NOT one of the 6% to have been accredited as BFHI, and does not follow proven protocol to help mothers succeed with breastfeeding, so it is like starting a race in flip flops well behind the starting line–and hour after hour, you face Booby Trap after Booby Trap. Perhaps you also give birth in a hospital that is likely to have astronomically high caesarean and birth intervention rates, which negatively impact breastfeeding. While breastfeeding after caesarean is still completely possible, your hospital is not practicing protocol to support it. - Institutional Booby Trap!
There is no international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) on staff at the hospital where you give birth, or she doesn’t make it to your room, despite your many requests, until the last second, if at all, because she is part-time, or is too overwhelmed with patients (the lactation department is not high on the hospital’s priority list and is understaffed). Or, she is burnt out from a stressful, low-paying job and has a lousy bedside manner, turning you off to breastfeeding; or she’s a lactation “specialist” meaning she’s not been trained like an IBCLC. Or, if you are unlucky enough to deliver on a Friday, you may be discharged without seeing her at all before she comes back on Monday morning. – Institutional Booby Trap!
Your healthy, full-term baby is supplemented unnecessarily in the hospital with formula, quite possibly against your express wishes, whether or not there is any medical indication. This happens in 25% of hospitals and is one of the reasons the CDC determined that the average score of hospitals on breastfeeding support is a D. Yes, a D! Imagine if that was the score for how hospitals handle heart attacks, or breast cancer! - Instititutional and Cultural Booby Trap!
You are discharged from the hospital before your milk comes in and before you have gotten the hang of it (2 days for a vaginal delivery without complications; mature milk usually begins to appear between day 2 and 5), and health insurance won’t cover a longer stay. Your new mother discharge “gift” at 70% of hospitals is a diaper bag filled with formula samples which has been shown in studies to undermine your confidence as a breastfeeding mother and reduce the length of time you are likely to breastfeed. – Institutional and Cultural Booby Trap!
Because your baby was given a bottle in the hospital without needing one, he/she has now has a poor latch: breastfeeding becomes unnecessarily painful, your breasts are swollen (engorged) because your baby can’t get latched deep enough to drink the milk as often as (s)he should, and you have to track down a lactation consultant who makes home visits only to find out that there is little or no insurance coverage for lactation counseling, even though breastfeeding saves insurance companies money. - Institutional Booby Trap!
The clock is ticking and your husband or partner hates to see you suffer and struggle, so he tells you “it’s okay to give the baby formula, I wasn’t breastfed and I turned out fine,” instead of helping you get expert help to fix the problem. He means well, but he doesn’t know any better either. You go online and don’t realize you are swimming in a sea of misinformation–even from well-respected, popular parenting sites. You go to a breastfeeding website, and it is either totally unappealing, or the language is so technically scientific, it’s over your head.- Cultural Booby Trap!
You try to find a lactation consultant or counselor to help you, but your insurance company sends you into a tailspin trying to find one that is covered by your insurance. You don’t live near a peer support group such as a La Leche League meeting or Breastfeeding USA group, or if you belong to WIC, the quality of breastfeeding support is inconsistent. You may get lucky and get a tremendously supportive and knowledgeable peer counselor, or you may get one that tells you to just supplement with formula or who assumes that because you are low-income or African-American you won’t breastfeed anyway.
Let’s say that miraculously, you’ve gotten this far, have managed to get help and are still breastfeeding. You have not physically recovered from childbirth or interventions, yet you are expected to “entertain” guests who visit to see the baby, and who pester you to let them feed the baby a bottle. You may even go to great lengths to leave the room every time you nurse the baby, yet your mother-in-law and friends ask you “when are you going to give that baby a bottle,” get wildly defensive, or make comments to your husband that perpetuate myths and misinformation and undermine your confidence. - Cultural Booby Trap!
Your pediatrician charts your baby’s weight against formula-fed babies and thinks she/he is undernourished, undermining your confidence and self-esteem. Compared against breastfed babies, your baby is healthy and thriving, but your pediatrician doesn’t know that breastfed babies have different growth patterns so he recommends you supplement with formula. – Institutional and Cultural Booby Trap!
You ask your pediatrician a question about breastfeeding, but since only more recent medical school graduates are required to learn about human lactation, (s)he can not answer your questions. Your pediatrician may have their own unrecognized cultural bias against breastfeeding, and just recommends formula instead of trying to help you fix any breastfeeding challenges. Most likely, (s)he has no IBCLC on staff, and/or is not required to refer you to someone for your breastfeeding questions. – Institutional Booby Trap!
If you are lucky to have paid maternity leave (out of 178 countries, the United States is one of 3 that does not offer ANY ), or, if you are able to afford unpaid leave, you may feel, that you have to go back to work just as you have gotten the hang of breastfeeding. You may not be able to negotiate a flexible work schedule. Institutional and Cultural Booby Trap!
Most likely, especially if you are a blue-collar worker, you will have to fight your employer for pumping breaks. Your colleagues who smoke get a fancy lounge with a t.v., but you’ll have to find an empty broom closet or bathroom with an outlet. Regardless, you have to put up with rude comments or snickers and sneers from co-workers. You have no protection from discrimination or being fired for being a nursing mom (pregnant moms are protected, but not nursing moms). – Institutional and Cultural Booby Trap!
If you are a stay-at-home mom, you will be expected to STAY AT HOME, and not feed your baby while you are running errands, or taking the older sibling to a soccer game, or going to the PTO; you will face social disapproval, rude stares, and risk getting kicked out of stores, airplanes, restaurants and the mall. You will need to have the same endurance and perseverance as an athelete trying to run a race in flip-flops while being jeered at from the crowd. - Cultural Booby Traps!
Anywhere along this road, that free sample of formula starts to look quite appealing, and maybe some of the sneakiest formula advertising and marketing messages have worked their way into your subliminal consciousness; the smiling babies, the misleading claims, the false portrayal of health and vitality even though your rational mind, and health professionals and experts all over the world know very well that formula-fed babies, and their moms, are actually at greater risk for a host of complications, infection and short- and long-term diseases such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, and obesity. – Cultural & Institutional Booby Trap!
If you can’t breastfeed, or throw in the towel, which most new moms understandably do (the 77% who start in the hospital, have fallen to around 30% breastfeeding exclusively by around three weeks), you will experience social disapproval, judgment, and pressure for NOT breastfeeding, leaving you to feel that you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. – Cultural Booby Trap!
Pretty grim, huh? We wish this were a made-up story, but as many of you already know, this is the plain truth for the majority of moms planning to breastfeed. And there are many, many more Booby Traps than the ones we listed here–Booby Traps like poorly performed breast reduction surgeries, for example. But a gauntlet of Booby Traps is not the way breastfeeding was meant to be — it is a formula for unnecessary problems and failures. Breastfeeding was meant to be nourishing for you and baby, pleasurable and uniquely fulfilling, albeit with a learning curve to increase bonding and cement healthy development.
If this is your story, the struggle and suffering you experienced while trying to breastfeed with so many obstacles in your way and so little support may have resulted in feelings of guilt, grief and self-blame. We want you to know that we understand and that it’s not your fault! You didn’t fail, the system failed you! Most of you could have succeeded if it weren’t for the Booby Traps! Best for Babes is offering you a unique opportunity to turn your negative experience into a positive — for yourself and for other women. It’s time to beat the Booby Traps and stop beating up each other! Let’s put the pressure where it belongs: on the barriers that stand in our way, and not on each other. Help us help other moms avoid the same pitfalls you encountered. Join our cause to BEAT The Booby Traps! You, us, our babies, humankind, the planet — we all deserve better!
To find out how to avoid the Booby Traps, and enjoy breastfeeding from the start, read Prepare: How to Overcome the Booby Traps, and see our Checklist. You will also want to read our sections, the Learning Curve, and Get Your Best Game on Girlfriend.
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