Breast. No Bottle.

To nurse, or not to nurse: that is not a question!

Technology as the Trojan horse for breastfeeding

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Medicalization of breastfeeding follows a predictable pattern of increased use of gadgets – breastpumps, shields, bottles, cups, pillows, etc. The reason for the increased use of some, especially for high tickets items such as breastpumps, is often not related to breastfeeding help, but to the desire to make money and/or increase income. When mother-to-mother breastfeeding counselors organize with the goal of establishing the profession of  a lactation consultant, the first place they go for more money is not paying clients, but breastpump manufacturers. This pattern has been observed by me in two countries – the US and Russia. Almost without exception many of the first lactation consultants become distributors for leading breastpump manufacturers, which allows them to either make money for themselves and/or make money for their organizations. Endorsement of products by the new occupation is essential in promotion of gadgets to the public.

The effect of technological interference in breastfeeding becomes evident on small scale very quickly. Here is the excerpt from the testimony of an IBCLC in the US from August 4, 1997, a mere decade since the establishment of the IBCLC credential in the US:

The phenomenal growth of “breastfeeding products” in the past few years has ridden on the backs of Lactation Consultants. Our expertise and professional
credibility has opened the doors (more like flood gates) for companies to expand their product lines — and to the detriment (in my not so humble opinion) of support
for breastfeeding. A few years ago I considered a quality breastpump a tool that could allow a woman to maintain lactation during a crisis, or compensate for
separations from the baby (return to employment or school). I have endorsed the products from these companies in my professional role. The proliferation of
products from even the “best” companies now undermines my (our) efforts.[…]
Increasingly, I am finding breastfeeding women facing the same catastrophic problems (losing supply, baby refusing breast) once associated only with women
who were seduced into casual use of formula. Now they are seduced into “breastfeeding technology.” And I, as an agent for a large pump company (the health
center I work for rents pumps) am feeling very uncomfortable, indeed. I don’t stock all the accessories, but the entire catalog is included with every pump kit — even those items I think are silly or detrimental. And I criticize health care providers who hand out various junk from formula companies! 😦  (original)

Once the conversion from no-tech breastfeeding to high-tech breastmilk feeding  takes place, very few in the lactation industry take responsibility for the current state of affairs. As usual for the medically oriented professions, the locus of responsibility is shifted to the personal choice of a woman (“It’s not me. It’s her fault. I’m just following the trend” sentiment). At times social factors like early maternal employment or inability to breastfeed in public will be blamed for the increase in exclusive pumping. However, the role of lactation consultants in promotion of gadget breastmilk feeding is always underplayed or outright silenced.

The fact remains that lactation consultant driven promotion of gadgets for breastfeeding on one hand undermines breastfeeding, on the other hand it maintains the status quo of the society that devalues women and breastfeeding.


Written by Medical Nemesis

July 2, 2013 at 08:06

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To nurse, or not to nurse: that is not a question!

Breast. No Bottle.

To nurse, or not to nurse: that is not a question!

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