We Are Not the Breastfeeding Gestapo

Though the culture of breastfeeding and attachment parenting has been growing so much, and spreading the good news of natural parenting so far and wide over the past decade, I still come into contact with so many women who see breastfeeding supporters as women to be wary of.

Anyone who truly loves and advocates for breastfeeding gets a bad rap once in a while for “pushing” breastfeeding. Even though our society truly needs the connected and compassionate culture that exists in the natural parenting community now more than ever, breastfeeding advocates are too frequently still seen as the “Breastfeeding Gestapo”. . .  and I’m writing today to reassure you that it couldn’t be farther from the truth!

In a world that needs a good dose of compassion, the nurture and nourishment of nursing at a mother’s breast is vital to our children now more than ever. But many still struggle with questions surrounding breastfeeding. Is it “for me”? Will I be good at it? Will my milk come in? Do I have to change my whole life in order to breastfeed? Do I have to be an attachment parent to breastfeed?

And the best place to go for answers to those questions is to another breastfeeding mama. So, don’t fear. We are not the “Breastfeeding Gestapo”. Go out and find yourself a fellow breastfeeding mama – we are all just like you, and we want to connect and help!

La Leche League and Other Support Groups

As I traversed the beautiful and crazy trails of parenting, I found that a great place to find a breastfeeding mama is at a La Leche League Meeting. But regardless of this truth, even my own mother, a child development expert who would agree with everything that the La Leche League advocates – gave me a slight warning when I mentioned that I had called the La Leche League for advice with my first child (now 4).

“Some of those ladies can be a bit extreme.”  she warned.

And yet the stubborn, “radical” views . . .  the”cult” ideology that many people attribute to the group . . . couldn’t be farther from the truth. The ladies in my La Leche League group could have been cut and pasted from any parenting magazine, coffee shop, or Babies R Us catalog, and they’re all devoted to helping each other.

Wearing normal, stylish tops and jeans and toting our diaper bags, snack cups, and sippies, we gather in the parish hall at the church that hosts our meetings, and parent our little munchkins while talking about the latest news and sharing advice from mom to mom.

This kind of group also exists in attachment parenting groups and holistic moms groups and parenting groups in every community. Getting together with other parents is so healthy for us!

There isn’t any trash talk about moms who are not in our group, and there’s not a ritual or a creed. We really could be any other moms group meeting at any other place in America.

The only difference is that at the sign of need from our little ones, we lift or shift our shirts up or down and offer a breast for nourishment – instead of shaking up a bottle of formula.

We should all have a beautiful parenting experience

I wouldn’t go back on my breastfeeding experience for anything. . . and my vision is that more women worldwide will get the chance to say that about their experience feeding and raising their children. That’s why I breastfeed my children, why I advocate for breastfeeding, and why I proudly pursue my goal to become an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant with fervor and pride.

Breastfeeding is more than food- it’s nourishment and nurture. And those of us who love, educate about, and advocate for breastfeeding. . . don’t be afraid of us. We really are not “breastfeeding Nazis” – we’re not the Breastfeeding Gestapo. . . we’re just moms (and dads and friends and neighbors) just like you, who want you to have a beautiful time nourishing and nurturing your baby!

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This post has been edited from a previously published version posted at www.amywilla.com.

About The Author: Amy W.

Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work Amy_willa My NPN Posts

Military spouse, breastfeeding advocate, natural parent, and seamstress, Amy ran into natural parenting by accident, and now blogs at Amy Willa: Me Mothering, and Making it All Work and Natural Parents Network, in order to share her experience and inspire others to live an authentic life and seek peace in parenting. Amy enjoys sewing, selling Silly Bear Handmade cloth diapers and eco friendly home goods at her Etsy shop, and is a passionate and compassionate breastfeeding advocate. She is active in La Leche League International, and pursuing a Public Health Degree and certification as an IBCLC.

11 Responses to We Are Not the Breastfeeding Gestapo

  1. Allyson Bossie  

    I think breastfeeding has gotten such a “Gestapo” rap as you labeled it because of how pushy many breast feeding supporters are. I will never forget how pushy the hospital was I gave birth to my first in. They literally had these little grandmas that came around pushing trying to breastfeed. This old lady actually reached out and tried to grab my naked breast to show me how to feed. I was appalled and felt violated! I absolutely didn’t want her in my room much less touching my naked body. I wasn’t planning on trying to breast feed my first, and thanks to them pushing me I did do it for about 6 weeks. He was completely tongue tied, couldn’t lift his tongue at all, and the result was he would literally suck blood out of my nipples. It was the worst experience for me.

    The second and third go round, they insisted on showing me how to nurse, although I didn’t need help nor want it. I wanted quiet and peace in my room with my baby and family, but they come around everytime it’s time to feed my babies and want to watch, assist, explain.

    I have had four kids, and with all, there were varying degrees of pushiness, and not one time would they allow me my quiet in my hospital stay. This was in four different hospitals.

    I am an attachment parenting mom, and my kids have been worn, carried, co-slept (right beside me in a bassinet so I can cuddle, but not put the baby at risk of being rolled on), and while I did nurse each one for a short time, I ultimately chose to bottle feed.

    I am all for people breast feeding if they want to, but my frustration is with the refusal to accept my decision to bottle feed and to continue to try to “encourage” me to breast feed that first go round. It changed my breasts forever, and they will never be perky or pretty again unless I have surgery.

    My point is, I think like religion, it’s the pushy people who are gaining a bad rap for the whole community which may not be fair, but in my four experiences, was very very true!

    • Amy W.  

      I’m so sorry that you had such a negatively memorable experience with Breastfeeding advocates. Passion to help can sometimes be seen as “pushiness” and that’s not good for either party! I have personally been working to voice my passion for Breastfeeding and my desire to help moms be educated and empowered in a compassionate and balance manner, and I know that all of the Natural Parents network authors and volunteers do so as well.

      My goal for this article was to paint a different picture of passionate Breastfeeding moms that are interested in helping others, and I think that you received that message, which is great! I hope that you also understand that we in no way judge your decision to bottle feed- or find you to be a lesser mother because of it. Thank you for joining the discussion! We definitely have a long way to go to address topics with compassion and respect- throughout our culture, on many topics, not only Breastfeeding! :)

  2. Dr Sarah

    Amy, I don’t think the problem is that ‘passion to help can sometimes be seen as pushiness’. I think the problem is that many breastfeeding advocates genuinely are pushy. Or, sometimes, downright insulting.

    Of course this isn’t all breastfeeding advocates, not by a very long chalk, and it’s a terrible shame that people who act this way have given the many, many compassionate and supportive breastfeeding advocates out there a bad name. I quite agree that it’s worth advising women not to be scared away from breastfeeding support by such people. But I don’t think it helps anything to talk as though such people didn’t exist or as though it was simply a matter of their actions having been misinterpreted.

    • Amy W.  

      Sarah, thanks for reading and commenting! You have a valid point: some people are pushy. The fact that some people are pushy shouldn’t scare women away from asking for or accepting help and insight from Breastfeeding advocates, and this is my point.

      I’m sorry you didn’t think my perspective was helpful. I hope that you can understand that I wrote this in the best interest of moms everywhere. I want to empower people to accept help and then have the confidence to say “I need you to be more compassionate and less judgmental/pushy/whatever the fault is” instead of shying away/being scared of ALL Breastfeeding help because we are generalized as “pushy”

      Authenticity is very valuable, and I feel that it can make Breastfeeding support available to more mothers who would succeed with it yet shy away because they are afraid of pushy helpers.

  3. sabrina

    If more mothers understood the inferior quality of formula and some of the crap that is legally allowed to make up the ingredients maybe then noone would need a push. the fact we have astounding health problems in the world is not a coincidence nor an accident. so if formula wasn’t an option…then what? breastfeeding may not suit every mother or every parent but it sure suits every baby! and when a problem arises such as tongue tie or lip tie we can seek out help. motherhood and parenting have many challenges along the way and encourage us to dig deeper.

    • Amy W.  

      Oh, I LOVE the idea that motherhood and parenting’s challenges encourage us to dig deeper :) It’s true that it’s not an accident that breastfeeding can help us with many of our public health issues . . . it’s definitely a key player in transforming our culture’s health and that’s why I advocate so strongly for compassionate empowerment, education, and support for moms!

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, Sabrina.

  4. sabrina

    Thank you for taking the time to gather your thoughts & write about this. i myself was not breastfeed. maybe a week at best. i’ve had to recover my own health as i got older & breastfeeding is one of the pieces of the puzzle. when we come into the world we come into it immature. imamature digestive system. immature immune system. so to give a babe who’s still developing an inferior food just raises some major concerns for me. just look around. what’s happening in the world. so much coruption. food supplies etc. its time to take back our biological blueprint and honour it. this is what every human is wired for. this kind of nourishement & nurturing. i just always wonder how many breastfeeding issues would just disappear if there were no ‘other’ choice? you know. humans seem to be the only species who decide to disregard what they were made to do. its a strange wilderness out there.

  5. sabrina

    i’d like to add :) the digging deep i was speaking of, comes from personal experience. hee hee. another reason i find natural childbirth the greatest rite of passage & initiator of that ability. again. many thanks for your writing. conscious parenting will lead us back to putting the ‘nurture’ back into raising children.

  6. Jacquelyn L.

    I feel very strongly about breastfeeding. I wanted to do it from the start and 7 months later, I am still doing it. My daughter went to the NICU right after birth and I stayed up, never leaving the hospital, for a week straight insisting that no one give her formula. I was determined to breastfeed, but my baby was too weak to do it. But I nearly got her put on a feeding tube because the breastfeeding advocates I had encountered during my pregnancy and in the hospital after my childbirth were so pushy (though I never perceived them as pushy until recently because, no wonder, I agreed with everything they were saying!) that I was too ASHAMED to let anyone give my daughter a bottle. But after 2 months, a sick baby takes a toll on you. I did eventually shake up that bottle of formula and she’s been getting formula supplements most days since, for a variety of medical and personal reasons. All of these reasons are really legitimate and I was basically forced into supplementing by my (extremely pro-breastfeeding, anti-formula) pediatrician and personal care doctor. But to this day, I work so incredibly hard to hide that I ever give my child any formula. I’ve even lied to her baby book, noting that she was exclusively breastfed, because I have been so shamed by breastfeeding advocates and the culture of attachment parents that I so desperately wanted to be a part of. I even know this is ridiculous, yet that is how deeply the words and actions of these women, who I wanted to badly to support and care for me as a new mom, have cut me. I know, 100%, that this doesn’t represent all breastfeeding advocates (I consider myself an advocate and I would never treat anyone that way) or the overall culture of attachment parenting. But I think my story represents how it only takes a few bad apples to really hurt a new mom and, with her, her chances of successful and happy nursing. I have been mostly successful with nursing (I’m still doing it, though I have struggled to keep my supply up without pharmaceuticals since day 1), but my enjoyment of it is constantly undercut every time I mix a bottle of formula and feel like an utterly worthless failure of a mom. I really appreciate your article and I really hope that some of these pushier moms and advocates will take note and realize that they do more harm than good if they cause a new mom to feel like she’s never good enough for her own child and has to hide from the very people she really needs help from. I probably wouldn’t have all these issues with my supply, etc. if I felt like I could go for help without someone balking at my use of formula! :(

    • Amy W.  

      Jacquelyn,

      Thank you for reading and for posting such an authentic experience! There are hundreds and thousands of mothers that I’m sure have had similar experiences, and it’s a shame that our culture even has this shame based (on both sides!) “breast vs bottle” issue in the first place.

      I totally agree that your story is a prime example of how the mothering experience is undercut by shame-based ideals from everywhere. . . it’s crazy how much pressure we feel as moms! Thank you for writing!

      And please, please, do NOT think of yourself as a failure! Formula was made for a reason – and you are using it because your daughter needs it. Every ounce of your breastmilk that she gets, and every second that she is nursing at your breast is so meaningful and vital to her little life. It doesn’t matter if you nurse exclusively or only part time, or nurse for three days or three years – you are doing wonderfully!

      If you would like to chat more privately about your experience, I’m always available, via email, through my blog. Maybe we could brainstorm some ideas for you and find a group in your area with LOVING support for nursing moms (whether the nursing relationship includes formula or not!)

      Again, thank you for reading and joining the discussion – and please know that you’re doing awesome, and that we here at NPN are dedicated to loving support of parents, no matter what the circumstance! You rock, mama!

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