Possible potential trigger warning – traumatic birth is mentioned, and separation of mother and baby. You may also detect a hint of sarcasm.
Disclaimer: As a doula, I support parent’s choices. If a woman doesn’t want to breastfeed, that’s her choice and I support it. This post is not about that. It’s about how breastfeeding women are treated. Mothers who don’t breastfeed don’t get off scott-free, either (that’s a post for another day!) but the way breastfeeding women are treated seems especially unjust, given how normal and necessary breastfeeding is for the health of women, children and wider society. Sometimes that treatment is obviously bad (the media’s treatment of women as commodities, health care professionals with no current training in lactation); sometimes it is insipid (formula advertising, the puke-worthy “breastisbest” mantra); sometimes it is innocuous and well meaning (this is usually from friends and family who are trying to support a new mum, but don’t know how to help her achieve her goals since they are living in a bottle culture).
Step 1 – Ensure all women and girls grow up saturated in a bottle culture. Feeding babies is a right brained activity, we learn it by seeing it. So make sure that breastfeeding is not “seen”. Make sure it’s hidden away or covered up, if it happens at all. Do not show it on television or in magazines, unless you are referring to it in a negative way. A baby can’t breastfeed if his mother won’t offer him her breast.
Step 2 – In a weird contrast, elevate breastfeeding to something elite: extra, a luxury, ie – not necessary. This normalises bottles and formula and marginalises breastfeeding in one fell swoop. “Breast is best!”
Step 3 – Instill in young women and girls an inherent distrust in their bodies. You can do this quite effectively by drip feeding her negative messages about breastfeeding, birth, motherhood and womanhood in general. Anything that makes her dislike her body (it’s size, shape, how it looks etc.) is great bonus material. Convince all young women that their bodies are only valuable as ornaments. Bonus points for perpetuating the myth that breastfeeding makes breasts sag.
Step 4 – Spread misinformation about infant behaviour and sleep patterns. If “everyone knows” that babies will “sleep through the night” at X weeks, then when a mother reaches that age and her (perfectly normal baby) is waking at night, or not “self settling” for naps…. she is all the more likely to blame her body and her milk, especially if you have been thorough with step 3. “He must be hungry, I am not producing enough.” Plant these seeds early, enlist the help of “baby experts” and make sure that there are plenty of formula ads on TV in the evening when babies are cluster-feeding and you will see results.
Step 5 – If you’re not allowed to send vouchers or free samples for formula while she is pregnant, don’t worry. You can still target her with advertisements for follow-on milk and these are still very effective.
Step 6 – Set her up to have a difficult, or even traumatic birth. This may increase her desire to breastfeed, but it will probably also make breastfeeding harder so it’s well worth doing. (See also: ~How To Make Labour As Painful, Difficult, Long, Complicated and Dangerous as Possible~ https://bloomingmiracledoula.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/how-to-make-labour-as-painful-difficult-long-complicated-and-dangerous-as-possible/ and also http://www.normalfed.com/Starting/birthsilly.html)
Step 7 – Make sure she does not get skin to skin contact at birth – this will stimulate rooting behaviours in the baby and milk production in the mother, with disastrous results! The best way to prevent this is to separate the two immediately. Delay the return of the baby as long as you can, and when you must send the baby back to his mother, make sure he is bundled up like a burrito. The newborn hat is a HIGHLY valuable barrier to normal, physiological maternal behaviours that would only encourage breastfeeding. So please don’t forget his hat! It’s helpful if the mother is wearing clothes that are not nursing friendly. Ideally, the baby should be removed to a nursery as much as possible which should be situated as far as possible from the maternity ward. All the little obstacles add up.
Step 8 – Give the baby formula or sugar water as early as possible. Failing that, use a dummy (pacifier). Not only does this reduce how much the baby suckles at the breast, having a negative effect on her milk supply, but it also makes sure she has plenty of doubt in her ability to nourish and comfort her baby. If you are very fortunate, it will also result in “nipple confusion”, causing even the most determined breastfeeder significant problems.
Step 9 – If you are in a country that allows it, cut the genitals of the baby. This is likely to interrupt feeding as it is very painful while it heals. The less they feed the less milk she will make and eventually she will have to resort to top ups and it won’t be long before she has given up completely.
Step 10 -Interrupt the mother and baby as much as possible. Give them no time to bond and discover each other and get to grips with breastfeeding. An endless parade of visitors is helpful – they can have fun cuddling the baby while the mother wears herself out doing that housework and playing hostess to the people drinking all the [cow’s] milk and dirtying all her cups.
Step 11 – Weigh the baby incessantly. Use charts designed for formula fed babies (who tend to be heavier) for maximum anxiety.
Step 12 – Keep drip feeding doubt – hint that baby will sleep better or cry less if bottle fed. Any ailment you can think of can be blamed on breastfeeding, and cured by quitting. Fatigue, colic, wind, slow weight gain, you name it! Relatives can be very helpful in undermining a new mothers confidence with thoughtful phrases like “Are you sure he’s getting enough?”, “You only fed him half an hour ago, your milk must be poor quality”. Seeing her baby fed by someone else ad apparently content afterwards when she struggled with him for several hours will knock her confidence almost as much as her health visitor interrogating her as to her pumping routine (what pumping routine?? commence panic!)
Step 13 – She is likely to be wobbling now. If you are fortunate, this might be the last nail in the breastfeeding coffin. REASSURE HER. Tell her it’s OK to give up. Tell her not everyone can breastfeed (even if it’s likely that she could with the right support.) Point out to her all the people who “weren’t breastfed and are just fine”. Then clinch it with the “Happy mum, happy baby” line. It doesn’t matter about her own goals. It doesn’t matter how much she wanted to breastfeed. It doesn’t matter that it’s a biological imperative. It doesn’t matter how far she has come, how close she may be to turning a corner, or how she will feel about this loss in the months or years to come.
Step 14 – Isolate the mother. Cut funding to breastfeeding support groups and lactation specialists in hospitals. Failing that, demonise them by calling them “nazis”, ignore their hard work and encourage her to dismiss their support.
Step 15 – Guilt trip the mother – insist she is being selfish unless she uses a bottle so the baby doesn’t have to be with her so much. If her baby is not passed round like a dolly they will grow up needy and clingy. The father, being only a man, is obviously incapable of bonding with his child without some kind of calorie transfer taking place – capitalise on his inaedquacy. Insist that she have “me-time”, sex before she is ready and quiz her again about that all-important pumping routine. You know, so everyone can have a go at feeding the baby.
Step 16 – Among your weaponry in the fight against breastfeeding are such elements as: embarrassment, shame and social ostracism. Ask the mother to cover up or go to another room whenever she feeds in front of you. Or just get up and leave, that is very effective, too. If you see a breastfeeding mother sitting nearby in a public place, complain to the manager if applicable and attempt to have her removed. Use gems like “She is making me uncomfortable” or “My children shouldn’t have to see her boobs!” or “She is waving her tits around/pushing them down my throat!”This will allow for maximum humiliation and will really hit the mother where it hurts.
Step 17 – Assuming the mother clears the hurdles you set in front of her as she started on her journey, repeatedly ask her when she is going to stop. While her child is an infant, innocuous phrases like “When will you start giving him a bottle?” might well be enough. The older he gets, the more blatant you must be about your disapproval. “When do you think you will stop?” is fine and not at all nosey. It’s completely your business when this phase of their relationship will end. “You’re not still doing THAT are you?” is very effective and not at all rude or obnoxious. Little Britain impressions are hilarious. Don’t forget your stock items, “ew!” “GROSS!” and a disgusted facial expression. None of these make you look socially inept, immature or ignorant.
Step 18 – Tell her that her child no longer needs it when they can ask for it/have teeth/will be able to remember it later. Because none of these milestones are arbitrary or irrelevant in the slightest.
Step 19 – Tell the mother she is going to make her child gay (regardless of gender, this totally makes sense). This includes a nice big dollop of homophobia, because not only is it TOTALLY plausible (no, really) it also correctly implies that being gay is just about the worst thing her child could possibly be.
Step 20 – Tell her that what she is doing is child abuse, she must be forcing her child to breastfeed for her own twisted needs. Yes, that’s right, accuse her of being a sex criminal and exploiting her own children. As a bonus, it will probably secure your place as her never-to-be-dethroned-BFF.
The Final Step: If the mother stops breastfeeding early in her babies life, or if she chooses not to for any reason, heap scorn on her for not “giving her baby the best start”. This isn’t part of the program for ensuring low breastfeeding rates, we just do it for fun.
In closing: if you still breastfed despite these obstacles (not to mention the natural ones like sore nipples, fatigue and engorged breasts!) no matter how long for, I salute you! And if you did not, well, I salute you, too. That is not an easy choice to make either, given Steps #1, 2 and 21 in particular.