Posts Tagged ‘breast pump’
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.
Medicalization of breastfeeding is accompanied by the increasing use of technology. Breastpumps have become the inseparable part of the Western “breastfeeding” experience. As any technology breastpumps do not come without consequences. Breastpumps contribute to breastfeeding* failure. Women are hooked on breastpumps in the early postpartum period for a multitude of reasons which all feed into each other. Infants sleepy after drugged labors cannot orient themselves to nurse. Women pumped full of IV fluids are swollen making it harder for infants to take the breast. Lactation education rarely involves demonstration of rooting behaviors, relying on “feed every 3 hours” routine making it hard to nurse at the times when the infant is not ready. Mothers and infants have almost no opportunity to get to know each other during a brief hospital stay because of the constant interruptions that normally take place in the public hospital space. Nursing at the breast under these circumstances is often impossible or unreliable. To increase the medically desirable reliability to predict infant milk intake pumping is initiated, often under the pretext of “protecting milk supply” and the goal of “feeding the baby”.
Feed the baby – protect the milk supply fails to acknowledge the relational aspect of breastfeeding that only takes place when there is an interaction between a woman and her child. Insertion of the breastpump between the mother and her child effectively separates them and prevents them from spending the necessary time to learn to breastfeed. The workload of the woman increases at the cost of spending time getting to know her baby. It is not unusual to spend more time pumping and cleaning the equipment than nursing or bottle-feeding pumped milk. Even in cases when women do partially breastfeed, accumulation of milk stashes in the freezer and the medically instilled uncertainty in their own ability to establish successful breastfeeding without breastpump, contribute to diminished milk supply due to supplementary feeding of the pumped milk. Thus the infant spends less time at the breast and the milk supply eventually dwindles. Then the infant show less and less interest in the breast and it becomes easier to switch to formula feeding.
Other reasons for breastpump epidemic is direct financial interest of lactation specialists in breastpump generated income. Some IBCLCs rely on breastpump sales and rental as their primary source of income. Many leading lactation scientists and LCs have been on breastpump manufacturers’ payrolls since the beginning of the profession.
It is not surprising that the lactation specialist industry does not keep track of breastpump induces breastfeeding failure rates because breastfeeding is not valued in the medical field of lactation management. Medical research focuses predominantly on breastmilk. Breastmilk feedings are equated with breastfeeding. Scores of women mourning the loss of breastfeeding at the breastpump go unacknowledged. Business as usual.
*Breastfeeding is nursing at the breast.
How can this be? Maybe, it’s in the name.
Lactation is secretion or formation of milk by the mammary gland. Therefore lactation consultants are focused on precisely manipulation of secretion, production or extraction of milk. Judging by the texts about breastfeeding written for the medical professionals, there is indeed an unhealthy obsession with the milk. It comes as no surprise that many women in Western hospitals are coerced to use a breast pump or hand express milk (a recent fad in lactation field) instead of concentrating their efforts on nursing at the breast. It’s no wonder that many private lactation consultants find themselves to be more of breast pump dealers than breastfeeding helpers.
With its roots in La Leche League, the occupation of a lactation consultant started out more as a breastfeeding consultant. La Leche League places the strongest emphasis on a mother-baby relationship, not on breastmilk. Over 70% of people who sat for the first in history lactation consultant certification exam were La Leche League Leaders. The second year the exam was administered the percentage of LLL Leaders dropped to just 40%. From then on most of the lactation consultants have been medical professionals, not the mothers experienced in breastfeeding.
Why does it matter? Breastfeeding is a social practice that thrives in a certain environment. Breastfeeding is something that women do. La Leche League have been the environment that made breastfeeding possible. Pay a very close attention to the fact that it was not an individual LLL Leader who was saving the day. It was a group of women that were tremendously successful in making breastfeeding work for anybody who would immerse themselves in the nurturing atmosphere for as little as one hour once a month.
Can a lactation consultant accomplish the same thing? No, she can’t. The environment of a hospital is smothering to breastfeeding. A lactation consultant is but a tiny screw in a huge medical machine that can do very little in a short rushed visit to a postpartum ward within the constraints imposed by the hospital policies. Breastfeeding needs time to flourish and maneuver. It cannot be rushed. A hospital isn’t a place for such frivolities. Hospitals thrive on efficiency and measurement. Since we can’t measure and optimize breastfeeding, we can do it with breastmilk. It can be weighed and measured. It can be extracted on a schedule. A mother doesn’t even have to be involved, because we can manage her milk for her. Breastmilk conforms to what the medical field finds manageable within its realm. Breastfeeding, like birth, is much too wild and unruly for the hospital to handle. “Here’s you a breastpump. Use it every three hours.”
If your vision of breastfeeding is pumps and bottles, head on to a lactation consultant. For those of you aiming to nurse at the breast, find some women who breastfeed or go to a La Leche League meeting.