Persecution, harassment, and exclusion of experienced breastfeeding women
The other day an experienced breastfeeding mother was harassed and excluded from Milk Cafe community run by lactation consultants. The reason was most prosaic, the one we have witnessed a million times in history – heresy. Something akin “The Earth is round”. In a way, this is the continuation of the previous post US vs. Them. Chasm between mothers and lactation consultants – concrete evidence of the shift that happens when mothers become lactation consultants.
An experienced breastfeeder stated that there is no need to express milk at night in the hospital if the baby is separated from a mother for just one night. Milk will still come regardless of stimulation. A mother whose colostrum will not be used for feeding and who has difficulty expressing colostrum should sleep the first night after birth and focus on nursing at the breast when she is reunited with her baby.
All hell broke loose. This simple truth sent scores of lactation consultants into convulsive spasms. The suppression of maternal experience and knowledge followed a predictable path that I have witnessed many times.
- Attack, diminish, and eradicate personal experiential knowledge “Oh, but we cannot rely on personal experience”, “the number of children you breastfed is irrelevant to evidence-based medicine”
- Elevate and appeal to “objective” knowledge “Do you have objective data to support your claims?” “Evidence-based medicine tells us otherwise”
- Censorship of women’s experiential knowledge as risky and wrong “personal experience can deviate from what evidence-based medicine tells us. We get our advice from evidence-based medicine, not personal experiences”.
- Instill fear of sharing experiential knowledge “Are you willing to accept the responsibility for potential risk of insufficient lactation?”
- Question maternal ability to evaluate advice and decide for herself “Are you sharing your advice to test mother’s ability to evaluate advice. This is not the best of times for that”
- Elimination of living women from breastfeeding and appeal to mythical “higher order laws” “Physiology based recommendations are fundamental. We simply don’t know everything about this physiology.”
- Denial of your own personal experiential knowledge and professional roots “We just have to follow the laws of lactation without leaning on our own, frequently horribly wrong experience.”
- Deny the experience and intelligence of women throughout history and time “The percentage of exclusive breastfeeding until six months in the world is very low. This comes from ignorance”
- Underscore forward vision and helpfulness of experts vs. short-term thinking of mothers and their lack of good intentions “It’s only logical our approaches are so different. We look two steps forward. It’s important for us to help mothers. You are just insisting upon your opinion for the sake of insistence”.
- Enforce abstract theoretical biomedical knowledge to any and every situation without regard for time, place, and personal circumstances of individual women.
The above methods and their underlying philosophies are not any different from the underpinnings of medicine that has held exactly identical views of women and women’s experiential knowledge. This is concrete proof how both perception of self as “us lactation consultants-not them mothers” and uptake of formal biomedical knowledge to replace collective experiential knowledge are damaging to women’s confidence in their abilities and agency (ability to act in any given environment).
Ultimately, the Wise Woman exited the oppressive, disrespectful, and suffocating community that promotes “tyranny and dictatorship suffocating dissent” (joking quote from the members that is true though the consultants are unaware of it) to preserve her dignity, sanity, and the highly nuanced skill of combining experience with formal knowledge and situating it here and now. As much as the wise woman builds her own house, a mother sifts through a lot of information to find what works for her and figures out how to breastfeed. Oppressive and enslaving system of biomedicine robs women of their shared experiential knowledge. It’s time we exited the system.