Yes, you heard me right.
Three weeks ago, I rushed to the hospital. One of my best friends in the world was battling a life-threatening infection. The diagnosis? Complications from breastfeeding.
She had been dealing with medication-resistent thrush pretty much since her son was born. What does this feel like? Let me quote her:
“The pain is getting so intense that I am starting to get very anxious about feedings.”
Translation: every feeding was so painful she dreaded the next, and still she continued on. First trying a natural solution, Gentian Violet, and when that didn’t work, she began taking Diflucon. Her symptoms did not improve. She continued seeing lactation consultants and doctors, but nothing worked. Friends and family members implored her to quit, but she wouldn’t. Why?
“I suppose some of the “breast is best” campaign has seeped into my psyche and maybe that is part of the reason I want to keep going. The truth is I haven’t done much of my own research into formula vs breast milk, though I’ve read the thoughts and opinions of lots of people on both sides of the argument. I have personally never liked the ‘breast is best’ campaign or any message that declares breastmilk’s superiority over formula and I have argued for formula feeders time and time again. Still, I feel almost certain that subconsciously I do believe that breast milk is better.”
One week later, she would be in a hospital bed with sepsis.
How Being Able to Breastfeed is Like Being a Range Rover Owner
Giselle, our modern day Marie Antoinette, wants to jail those who can’t breastfeed. She’s a clueless airhead, so it’s easy to dismiss her comments.
But there’s something in the analogy of a super-priviledged celebrity telling everyone to do something that they, in many cases can’t physically or financially do, that is telling with this issue.
What many breastfeeding proponents don’t seem to understand is the physical impossibilities for many. Just like some women are blessed to be fertile, some are blessed with the ability to breastfeed. For many women, they are blessed with neither of these capabilities.
Like Mel, who does not produce prolactin. Or me, someone who was unable to increase her supply after pumping every three hours around the clock for four months and taking an experimental drug (domperidone) that led to a chronic acid reflux problem I am still grappling with 6 years later. I wish I had not taken that medication in retrospect, but I was so desperate to breastfeed. I was so convinced my children would NEVER BE OK if I didn’t breastfeed.
It’s so stupid.
Yet, the breastfeeding police (from La Leche League to members of a twins club I belonged to) descended upon me as I struggled, prescribing all sorts of pseudo science explanations to increase my supply, and they guilted me into continuing.
When I asked those policing me about their OWN struggles around breastfeeding, what was described were problems so much more minor than what I was dealing with. Yet, they felt justified to look down their noses at me and say: “Breast IS Best, you know.”
You KNOW WHAT? It’s NOT.
How is this reaction different than someone who can afford a Range Rover looking down on those who can’t?
The ability to breastfeed is a PRIVILEGE. You are LUCKY you have the physical ability to do it and you are lucky to have the financial resources to be able to do it. That’s all.
Sisters Doing It For Themselves
Most of the people I know who breastfeed are, of course, not like this. For those who are lucky enough, for whatever reason, to be able to breastfeed? I support you. I have your back. I will fight for your right to the resources you need to make it happen. I admire you.
And I know you too, in turn, have the backs of those who are not able to breastfeed, for whatever reason. You know that you are fortunate and priviledged, and others are not, and you would NEVER make mothers feel bad for not having the resources to do this.
But society has not caught up with this sisterhood. We need to stop with the “Breast is Best” propaganda. Because this propoganda can kill.
I am furious that it almost killed my friend.