Have you heard the term Lactation Nazi? It is sometimes used to describe a Lactation Consultant or breastfeeding supporter who is very very PRO breastfeeding. Someone who thinks everyone and anyone can and should breastfeed. A Lactation Nazi is often very anti-formula, anti-bottle and anti-pacifier. She is a breastfeeding idealist, not a breastfeeding realist.
1. I don’t think everyone and anyone can and should breastfeed.
Most women can breastfeed. Most women want to breastfeed. But a small percentage can’t breastfeed and a small percentage don’t want to breastfeed and that’s ok.
It isn’t my job to make every woman breastfeed. Some women, for a variety of personal reasons choose not to breastfeed and I respect that choice. When a woman sets a goal to succeed at breastfeeding, I help her attain that goal, but I don’t set the goal for her.
I can’t guarantee a woman will be able to 100% exclusively nurse her baby. I can do everything in my power to help her to succeed, but sometimes there are circumstances beyond my control and a woman’s control that prevent this from happening.
2. I am not anti-formula, anti-bottle or anti-pacifier.
We are so lucky to have formula! We live in a country were there is an acceptable, affordable, accessible breastmilk substitute available to every baby! Wow! AND we have a clean water source to make this formula! Can you imagine what it would be like to watch your baby gain little to no weight even though you are breastfeeding furiously and have no alternative way to feed your child? Lactation Nazis love to say extremist things like “women have been breastfeeding their babies for millions of years.” True, they have. And babies have been dying before their first birthday from malnourishment, dehydration, or infection from contaminated drinking water for millions of years. If you weren’t making enough milk in the time when there was no formula, do you know what you would do? You would find a woman in your village who was breastfeeding and beg her to breastfeed your baby. You would go to the goat in your stable and latch the baby directly onto that goat. You would make gruel of oats, corn or vegetables and feed it to your newborn baby. Perhaps you would even feed your baby honey or tea or plain water (hopefully not teeming with parasites). You would do anything and everything you could to keep your baby alive. Wouldn’t you much rather feed your hungry baby formula than watch another woman breastfeed your baby because you can’t? True, formula companies are slimy, manipulative, money hungry businesses. But, I am grateful everyday for them.
I’m not anti-bottle or anti-pacifier. Why? Because sometimes you need to use them! A lot of women get the overly simplistic advice to “avoid bottles and pacifiers” but no explanation as to why. Inevitably, a new mother will be put in the position where a bottle is suggested by her pediatrician or a pacifier is the only thing that will make her relentlessly screaming baby shut-up for 5 minutes. She will give in to temptation and give her newborn baby that bottle or pacifier while simultaneously feeling horribly guilty for wrecking breastfeeding. She has no idea why or if she is ruining her chances at breastfeeding because she was simply taught not to do it. So, I opt to teach women when and why a bottle or pacifier is appropriate, so when the circumstance presents itself (and most likely it will), she knows how to release any feelings of guilt and take the necessary action to protect her breastfeeding relationship.
3. I am a realist. Not an idealist.
After working with hundreds of moms and babies over the past 10 years, I have learned that no two breastfeeding relationships are alike. If I apply the same breastfeeding rules to every breastfeeding couplet, I am disrespecting the uniqueness of the pair. If I have the same behavioral expectations for each breastfeeding woman, I am placing judgment on a mother’s choices. Breastfeeding is about balance and balance is a very personal and ever evolving dynamic of a family. It is not my job to tell a mother how she should breastfeed; it is my job to help a woman discover the best method for breastfeeding her baby within the construct of her life and her family.
Sometimes babies need formula. Some babies never latch-on. Some women never make enough milk. Some women choose to pump and bottlefeed. For some women, breastfeeding is excruciatingly painful despite the deepest and most proper latch. Some women need to use nipple shields.
Breastfeeding isn’t always ideal and it shouldn’t be expected to be. It is, however, a real-life experience with hurdles, setbacks, and triumphs.
So, call me a lactation consultant, a breastfeeding Specialist, an expert, or a boobie whisperer…
But please, don’t call me a Lactation Nazi.