If you thought I’d stop at a trilogy – you were sadly mistaken, my friend. Alas, the bookstores and libraries of the world are shamelessly marinating in books that, by no stretch of the imagination, can be deemed to spit on the name of breastfeeding. It’s my mission to expose them one-by-one, even if it means writing these posts into old age.
A few disclaimers before we begin: This post will be depressing at times. It will stretch the boundaries of belief. It will contain swearing. It will showcase jaw-dropping evidence of ass-hattery. It will make you fear for humanity and want to live with wolves. On that note, let’s begin!
You’re the Daddy: The ultimate guide to being a new dad for blokes.
This book is written for dads, by a dad. Women are not the target here. Yet dads have an important role to play in facilitating breastfeeding, which makes this book even more insidious with its anti-breastfeeding mansplaining marathon. Before I leap into the bog of despair, I concede, to his credit, the author Stephen Giles, does mention that breast is best, albeit in a half-assed manner:
“Breastfeeding is the best method of feeding by far. Your partner has this fact rammed down her throat at every opportunity by the hospital, midwives and health visitors and the pressure can be huge” (p60).
This outburst sets the tone for the book’s resistant approach to breastfeeding. The book follows Stephen on his journey through early fatherhood, month by month. And boy, does the misinformation start early. On postpartum day one, Stephen warns us that women will suffer from:
“seriously engorged and painful breasts filled with milk” (p6).
On day one? Really? The average mother’s milk does not come in until 3-5 days postpartum. Imagine the panic a well-weaning dad could evoke when he tells his partner that her breasts should be engorged less than 24 hours after birth.
‘The first week’ chapter is heralded with a bottle icon. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, here Stephen tells us that Oliver (the baby) “isn’t taking well to breastfeeding” (p56). There’s no elaboration given, leaving the reader to presume that babies simply reject breastfeeding for no good reason. Stephen adds to the mystery by berating his newborn:
“I can see why so many women give up breastfeeding early on. The genuine belief that it is the best form of feeding for a baby is clear to anyone who reads the facts. But no one takes time to explain the real frustration felt by both parents when their child can’t master the essential skill necessary for their own survival” (p58).
I think you hit the nail on the head yourself there Stephen. If babies simply ‘malfunctioned’ at the breast, we would be extinct as a species by now. Yet Stephen believes the answer is to reach for the bottle, something our ancestors never did:
“I’m pretty mixed up as to how we are expected to increase his body weight but not resort to bottle feeding. It’s like a sick joke” (p58).
No Stephen, I’ll tell you what’s a ‘sick joke’, your next pitiful, defeatist lament:
“You have a balancing act on your hands – while you want to keep your baby healthy, now is the time to be the ‘master of your house’ and insist the baby goes on formula milk” (p60).
BOOM there it is. As master of the house it is the father’s job to insist on bottle-feeding! After dropping this bollock, Stephen loses no time in dropping the other:
“Feeding the baby yourself is a great experience, and is about as close as you can get to your baby” (p61).
Following this recital of the paternal bonding myth, he then moves onto the topic of postpartum recovery, reassuring his male readers that:
“with a sensible diet and a bit of gentle exercise your partner should be able to get her pre-pregnancy figure back sooner rather than later” (p69).
I don’t know what’s worse – that enhancing the mother’s physique is at the forefront of his concerns (a week after delivery!) or that he fails to mention breastfeeding’s pivotal role in the process.
Rather than being the gift that keeps on giving, this book is the tight-ass that keeps withholding – the facts. Whilst throwing in some token nods to the ‘breast is best’ rhetoric, it fails to list any of breastfeeding’s actual advantages. For instance, the book devotes an entire section to “Guarding against cot death” (p53) but fails to mention that formula feeding increases the risk and therefore breastfeeding is a notable safeguard.
Instead, Stephen gleefully adds to his menu of myths. This time, the dish of the day is breastfeeding’s incompatibility with sex:
“Breastfeeding women aren’t likely to be too fussed about having their nipples chewed by an enthusiastic lover. Nipples might be especially sensitive and ones that have a baby clamped to them for best part of the day can be sore and cracked” (p89).
After this delightful narrative, it should come as no surprise that after exiting the ‘first month’ chapter Stephen informs us that his baby is….drum role…..
“…on the bottle now – the cup feeding was messy and inefficient and I don’t think Elle’s [his wife] nerves could stand feeding him directly from the breast. This way around we know how much he is drinking” (p91).
Oh, that old nutshell – the need to gauge how much baby is drinking. In reality, this information is not as useful as the novice may assume. What goes in, often comes out prematurely, in the form of reflux and posseting (common in bottle-fed babies). Rather, a baby’s diapers will tell you what’s been happening over the last few hours, and his behaviour, weight and general appearance will tell you what’s been happening over the last few days. No need to go all Science Club on it. But regimented routine is where it’s at for Stephen and his missus:
“He feeds every four hours, like clockwork” (p91).
I wish Stephen ran like clockwork, then I could remove the key. But alas, he keeps trotting out more and more bovine fecal matter. In a section titled ‘A solid start’, he looks at the correct time to introduce solids. This, he believes, is whenever baby exhibits signals that sound suspiciously like normal growth spurts:
“If the baby starts to show interest in what you’re eating and doesn’t seem full after a normal milk feed, then it’s probably time to start introducing solid foods” (p137).
The mansplaining then shifts up a gear in the “Three months” chapter where Stephen resumes his hobby of harping on about women’s post-pregnancy physique:
“You may be shocked by how slowly your partner’s pre-pregnancy figure is returning…help her regain her slender shape by encouraging her in two key ways…” (p97).
I’m stifling a headdesk here. Go on then Stephen, what are the two ways men can get their women into shape, educate us.
“Number 1: Food. The food your partner eats is still being converted into essential nutrients for the baby, through her breast milk. So she will need to eat well for the next few months. However, eating a lot of empty calories won’t help her or the baby” (p98).
Woe betide the man who tells his postpartum, lactating wife that she shouldn’t be eating cake.
“She needs to cut out fatty foods and eat plenty of starchy vegetables as well as salad, fruit, eggs and fish. If you want her to look her best, you could offer to cook more and gradually introduce high-energy, low calorie food into your diet” (p97).
Right, so Daddy should cook for Mommy only under the pretence of getting her to ‘look her best’, whatever the fuck that means. Dare I ask Stephen, are there any other figure-enhancing low-fat chicken nuggets of wisdom you wish to impart?
“Number 2: Exercise: The best way to eliminate the post-baby bulge is to keep going on the pelvic floor exercises and some additional abdominal exercises should help” (p97).
Oh I’m sure with an attitude like yours Stephen, your wife will do some floor exercises – kicking you to it, then making you sleep on it.
He then goes on to talk of encouraging one’s partner to “go for some medium-length walks while pushing the baby” and “swimming” (p98).
As we speak, Andrea Dworkin is preparing a special seat in hell for Stephen.
But alas, I’m going on a feminist tangent. Let’s return to breastfeeding. If you’re still feeding the baby straight from nature’s tap by 6 months (bravo), Stephen suggests that you now consider weaning the baby off breast milk. Yup, at six months. WTAF!
“She’s [his wife] begun the slow and difficult process of removing herself from him. We’re working out ways to wean him gradually off breast milk – Elle’s never going to be able to work in her ultra-male office environment and still express milk every day” (p129).
Stephen doesn’t bother to mention the legislation that exists specifically to enable poor Elle to do so. And with this, Stephen’s tentative journey with breastfeeding draws to an abrupt close. I’m sure when his son reaches adulthood, he will appreciate picking up this book and reading that everything is his fault.
Children’s Medical Guide
Dr Jane Collins
If you ever wanted another example of an ill-informed physician, have I got a book for you! This encyclopaedia of boobie-traps is disguised as an encyclopaedia of child health. The usual drivel resides between its pages, including:
“If you breastfeed, fathers may feel they miss out on an opportunity to be close to their child” (p17).
Yeah, cry-me-a-river material here.
As is customary with encyclopaedic black and white thinking, this book begins by listing the advantages and disadvantages of each feeding method. Thus it assumes that mothers are automatrons and one can separate their experience into neatly designated boxes of ‘good’ and ‘bad. For instance, a supposed advantage of bottle feeding is that “feeding in public is easy” (p16) which presupposes that breastfeeding in public is hard. News flash: it’s not. Indeed, the pros of breastfeeding in public outweigh the cons. As another example, the book asserts that a disadvantage of breastfeeding is “only the mother can feed” (p16). This, of course, totally ignores the existence of breast pumps.
The semantics in this book reflect the same regressive ironies present in most mainstream ‘infant-care’ literature. The book asserts that a disadvantage of bottlefeeding is that it has “none of the health advantages of breastfeeding” (p16). If this text were factual, it would read: “Bottlefeeding carries health risks that are absent when you breastfeed”. But that would probably lead to hurt feelings, right?
Speaking of hurt feelings, the book then predictably and oh-so-tiresomely engages in a politically-correct back-rub for formula feeding mothers:
“It is important that a woman who decides to bottlefeed her baby does not feel she has failed as a mother…Formula milk is specially formulated to replicate maternal milk as closely as possible” (p17).
This is clearly faux-reassuring hyperbole. The implicit message is: “Hey, breastfeeding is inconvenient, and heck, why bother, because formula is very close”. Sure it’s close, about as close as I am to having a polygamous threesome with Colin Firth and Jude Law in a bath of Lindor chocolates.
Just in case you haven’t been turned off breastfeeding by the trash spouted thus far, the author has another bash in the next chapter which she dedicates to the topic. Indeed, the breastfeeding chapter is a smorgasbord of myths, featuring such rot as:
“You should eat an extra 500 calories a day if you are to produce enough milk” (p19)
“You should drink an extra litre of water a day in order to help milk production” (p19).
People, listen up, just eat and drink whenever you’re hungry or thirsty, like nursing mothers have done for millennia. A mother’s breasts take what baby needs from her body stores. In countries throughout the world, during famines and wars, women have nourished their babies perfectly. One of the pleasures of breastfeeding is that you don’t have to weigh and measure everything – and that includes your dietary intake. Advice that imposes burdens on the breastfeeding mother serves no purpose other than making the act of breastfeeding unnecessarily complex.
Speaking of unnecessary complexity, get a load of this:
“Try to rest as much as possible to allow your body to recover between feeds. An afternoon nap is good” (p19).
This advice is given under the bold heading “Your milk supply”. However surely such advice is applicable to all new mothers? Having a newborn is exhausting. Being tired is not the exclusive domain of the breastfeeding mother. In fact, with all the bottle washing, sterilizing and kettle boiling, it stands to reason that formula feeding mothers need more rest than their breastfeeding counterparts.
Other boobie traps in this breastfeeding chapter include:
“It is best to empty one breast per feed” (p19)
Restricting a baby to one breast per feed is known as ‘block feeding’ and can reduce supply, don’t do it folks. Whether your baby feeds from one breast or both at each feed is up to him and how hungry or thirsty he is. A breastfeed can be as short as a few sucks or as long as three-quarters of an hour. Only your baby knows what he needs at that particular feed.
“Be prepared for problems” (p19)
News flash: bottle-feeding has problems too, so why restrict this advice to the breastfeeding chapter?
Then, on the boobie-trap conveyor belt:
“You can express by hand, but it rarely proves to be a very satisfactory method” (p20)
To this I diligently ask, ‘source?’ (or “SAUSE?!” if I’m feeling extra-sarcastic). Fact: hand expression has been shown to trigger the hormonal responsible for letdown more effectively, actually extracting more milk, improving the composition of milk extracted, with the added bonus that your hands are free and portable – literally, at your finger-tips. Yet this book omits those points and suggests the exact opposite!
It also denies the existence of tongue-tie. In all its 335 pages, tongue-tie isn’t given a look-in. This is very worrisome given that this is a medical guide, and given that 1 in 10 babies suffer from tongue tie. But think about it: arguably the largest impact of tongue-tie is upon successful breastfeeding, so its absence from this book is simply in line with its anti-breastfeeding paradigm.
Indeed, this book is uniform in its application of convenience-based (aka selfish) principles of babycare. The author is obviously a fan of detactchment parenting, as evidenced by this cliché:
“If you always accommodate your baby, he may become inflexible and used to having his own way in everything” (p26) – this advice is given in the ‘newborn’ section of the book. God help us.
And again, in this cliché:
“If you decide to have your baby in bed with you beyond the first few weeks, you should be prepared to share your bed with her for several years… It can put stress on your relationship, not to mention your sex life” (p28).
The author clearly hasn’t sampled the delights of sans-bed intercourse. Is there anything better than having sex on the tumble-drier whilst it’s on full spin? I don’t think so!
And on that note, we’ll turn to the next book:
How Safe Is Your Baby…?
Even the title of this book is needlessly alarmist. Hark at it, with its three periods followed by a question mark. Who does it think it is?
Essentially this book is a whistle-stop tour of a curiously narrow self-selection of ‘studies’ showing the dangers behind everything from flying whilst pregnant, toxoplasmosis, sniffing glue, eating cheese, and yes, even breastfeeding. Guess which one thing it doesn’t associate with risk? Go on, have a guess. It begins with F. No not that, you dirty mare, I’m talking about formula feeding.
To give you an idea of the anal depth this book is prepared to go when looking at safety, here’s an example from the first section on the topic of pregnancy. The text tells us that listeria can trigger miscarriage, and then asserts that:
“Via manure, listeria can affect vegetables, particularly root crops like potatoes and carrots. However it’s no good vowing to eat out of tins or packets, because they can contain it too” (p7).
Fact: listeria effects only 1-3 cases per million of the population per year. Scaring pregnant women away from consuming vegetables is not big and it’s not clever. At any rate, let’s not dwell on the topic of veggie-avoidance and instead take a gander at infant feeding. The breastfeeding chapter is 10 pages long and begins with a scaremongering lecture on alcohol consumption:
“Alcohol is not recommended. It does get into breast milk, and this can slow down your baby’s progress in motor skills. Crawling and walking can be delayed. It may also make your baby restless and fractious, and as it can alter the smell of your milk, it could put the baby off feeding” (p129-130).
Back on planet earth, the reality is that breastfeeding mothers can still enjoy a tipple. Is the book referring to a bottle of alcohol or a thimble-full? Who knows! That vital info is omitted. Instead, the text swiftly moves onto caffeine:
“Lay off the caffeine, tea, chocolate and cola drinks” (p130).
Lay off chocolate?!! Back off! Chocolate is every breastfeeding mother’s birth-right! Coca-beans are a valuable antioxidant (or so I tell myself). To suggest that breastfeeding mothers lay off chocolate is analogous with masochism. It’s akin to ordering us to chain ourselves in a dungeon, wait for Mr Grey and be done with life!!
But the book isn’t finished with breastfeeding’s supposed life-restrictions. Next on the list of bad stuff to avoid is, ironically, most foods:
“Everything you consume will pass into your milk, and there are some foods that your baby just won’t like (“Mother! Not foie gras with pop tarts, please). Common triggers for colic include broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and onion and dairy products” (p130).
See what the book is doing here? It is taking a time-honoured perk of breastfeeding (that baby receives a range of tastes via breast milk, priming the taste buds of your little future foodie) – and turning it on its head, implying that this evolved-for-a-reason mechanism is somehow pathologic! Similar bogus limitations are imposed with regard to allergies:
“Does what you eat affect whether or not your baby has allergies? The short answer is yes. If it has a reaction to something you’ve eaten it may get a skin rash or hives, start wheezing, and produce green or slimy poo. A study looked at whether peanut allergens could be detected in breast milk. 23 lactating women were given 50g of dry roasted peanuts to eat, after which their milk was sampled at hourly intervals. Peanut protein, including 2 major allergens, was detected in 11 of the 23 subjects’ milk. In 10 of the 11 it showed up within 2 hours of ingestion” (p142-143).
Sure, you could base your decision of whether to enjoy a Snickers on a study of 23 women – OR – you could listen to the UK National Health Service, who reassuringly assert that if you want to eat peanuts whilst breastfeeding, go right ahead, it’s a-okay.
More alarmist info abound, re: smoking while breastfeeding:
“The same provisos for smoking while pregnant apply to breastfeeding. Nicotine does get into breast milk, and it can decrease milk supply and cause nausea and vomiting in your baby” (p131).
The text then gives a sermon on the abomination of smoking around children, which is an admirable stance, however why restrict it to the breastfeeding chapter? Surely some formula feeding mothers smoke too? Also, the claim that smoking while breastfeeding is on par with smoking while pregnant is hyperbolic nonsense. Yes, some nicotine enters breast milk but nowhere near the amount that crosses the placenta. What is particularly insidious is that the book conveniently forgets to mention that for smokers, it is still better to breastfeed than formula feed. Even the NHS explicitly directs that mothers should not stop breastfeeding if they smoke.
Just when you think it can’t get any more skewed towards shitting on breastfeeding, out plops this steaming turd:
“Breastfed children are more prone to atopy (allergies) such as dust mites, cats, and grass pollen, and also more prevalent to asthma” (p134).
Oh, and with regard to asthma:
“In a 2002 study breastfeeding not only didn’t have any protective effects, it may even increase the risk” (p134).
So the author hand-picks one single study to deter mothers from breastfeeding, yet as Unicef have assured, breastfeeding works to prevent asthma with the majorityof the evidence showing a protective association.
If you still have the balls (on your chest, obvs) to breastfeed after reading this, you may be wondering how long to do it for. The sensible answer is, of course, for as long as you and your baby are comfortable, but this book takes a piss on that parade:
“In many cultures children are breastfed for a couple of years, but this is often seen as impractical in the west… with the prevailing opinion being somewhere along the lines of ‘still breastfeeding at 18 months – how weird’” (p141).
And chuck in this needlessly-irrelevant throw-away remark:
“Bitty at 23 is a tad extreme” (p141)
… and I’m sensing this book isn’t a fan of full-term breastfeeding.
Then, as a finale to the breastfeeding chapter, a recap is provided:
“Keep your diet free of known triggers like nuts, dairy products and eggs. And fish. Plus alcohol, caffeine, soya, broccoli, cabbage, onions (in case of colic) and no fags. Still, look on the bright side: you’ll be getting so little sleep that you won’t notice” (p136).
After this glowing appraisal of breastfeeding, we turn to the ‘bottle feeding’ chapter – all one single page of it. Yup, the chapter consists of one page. Just three itty bitty paragraphs:
I shit you not, this is the bottle-feeding chapter in its entirety. Notice advantages are listed, yet no disadvantages. Not a single one. Bias agenda much? That’s precisely what this book is, in an (allergy-inducing) nutshell. Which is hardly surprising when you consider that it’s published by the same folk who brought us: You’re the Daddy (above). In fact, it even advertises said publication at the end:
Like sticks with like.
Jump to: PART FIVE (If you dare).