Why I’m a Momivist: how a Lactation Consultant quit Lactivism

Jody

This is a picture of me with my youngest son, who was born 10 years ago during World Breastfeeding Week. It is hard to believe that just 10 years ago, the method a woman chose to feed her baby was not a heated subject, like it is now! Today, five years after opening my private lactation practice, and during World Breastfeeding Week, I have decided I no longer want to be a lactivist.

That’s right – I QUIT!

I think I should define the word lactivist. This is from Wikipedia:

Lactivism (a portmanteau of “lactation” and “activism”) is the advocacy of breastfeeding. Supporters, referred to as “lactivists”, seek to promote the health benefits of breastfeeding over formula-feeding and to ensure that nursing mothers are not discriminated against.

Ironically, if a woman cannot breastfeed, or simply chooses not to, she may now be the one facing discrimination! How did this happen?

After working as an RN in the clinical trenches of the NICU for 20 years, and more recently working in the community as an RN-IBCLC, I am weary to the bone trying to make sense of the very confusing mixed messages that many new moms receive from the breastfeeding establishment. There are a plethora of lactivists, who use language freely and proudly about “the risks of formula feeding” and other similar negative language breastfeeding campaigns.

I can’t wrap my head around WHY some lactivists would use fearful, negative, language to promote breastfeeding in our culture, when breastfeeding is certainly not the societal norm currently. It is well established by cognitive scientists that using fear-provoking language will greatly increase the likelihood of a negative outcome! When lactivists talk about the risks of formula feeding vs. the benefits of human milk, struggling breastfeeding moms will shrink back and become defensive, tearful, and ashamed of their inability to successfully breastfeed. As a result, the very message lactivists are trying to convey is simply not heard or respected!

When lactivists lose their ability to connect with new mothers, especially struggling moms, the breastfeeding movement will stall and not flourish. We know breastfeeding and human milk are beneficial for both mom and baby, but the physical act of breastfeeding itself is not right for every single mom. We also know there are some babies who need specialized formulas to thrive. Knowing this, we must NOT pass judgment on any mom for their feeding methods, and we ought to be sensitive with infant feeding campaigns, because we do not know any individual woman’s circumstances!

The recent CDC breastfeeding report tells us that while we are improving breastfeeding initiation rates in the hospital, we are failing miserably when new moms go home. These are the moms I work with every single day. Their emotions are raw, and they are left helpless, without expert community support to breastfeed their babies. In my state of Pennsylvania, 72.9 percent of moms initiate breastfeeding. At 3 months of age, 34 percent are exclusively breastfeeding and at 6 months of age 15. 5 percent are exclusively breastfeeding. If we do the math, a whopping 66 percent of moms are not exclusively breastfeeding at 3 months! Breastfeeding is HARD work and we are setting moms up for failure because we lack community-based support. We are setting moms up for emotional struggles because they are being told that feeding their babies formula, has risks! I have never met a mother who wants second best for their baby, EVER!

I believe we should do all we can to break down this emotional, disturbing barrier and instill positive infant-feeding messages. No mom will ever know until her baby is born what feeding methods she will need to choose for her baby to thrive. I believe we need to denounce ALL negative infant feeding campaigns. I believe we should unite moms on ONE infant feeding team, and insist on more research efforts for human milk. I believe as ONE infant feeding team we could create and sustain the best human milk banks possible, so that babies have the opportunity to be nourished by SAFE human milk. I believe we should reach out to formula companies to develop the best formulas possible, for those babies who need to use it.

Finally, I believe ALL moms possess never ending compassion and will support each other, if we encourage them to reach out and extend their support to each other, versus setting up polarized infant feeding camps. I believe when moms are united on ONE feeding team, they will have the single most powerful force on the planet for making changes for how we nurture our babies and each other! This is why I am I am no longer a lactivist … I am, instead, “A Momivist”. I support ALL moms, first.

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3 thoughts on “Why I’m a Momivist: how a Lactation Consultant quit Lactivism

  1. I love this post 🙂
    I have been a maternity nurse in the UK for 22 years and have seen, first hand, the harm that is being done to vulnerable mothers, and fathers too, by pro breast feeding activists.
    Your article ring very true and I wish more people, in every walk of life, could just support parents in their choices and work together to create happy and healthy babies,
    Thank you,
    Sarah x

    Like

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