This is not aimed at mothers and fathers, or at the many caring medical staff whose hands are tied by red tape. This is aimed at those who endorse or blindly follow the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative Protocols
When Did Babies Become Seen as ‘Things’ Instead of as Humans With Rights ?
I am not writing this to spark a debate about the pros and cons of breast or formula feeding, I am writing this as a compassionate human being who has dedicated her entire working life to caring for babies…because I love them.
I have seen the changing attitudes towards feeding over the last twenty years from ‘whatever works for you’ to a breastfeeding mania that in some cases borders on a near fundamentalist fervour.
The extremist voice has got louder and louder, aided by the boom in social media, and has even infiltrated major organisations.
The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, was, I believe, originally well meaning, if very biased, but has had the unfortunate effect of seeming to encourage the extremist lactivist voice. This has, in turn, led to what appears now to be state sanctioned bullying and active discrimination against formula and combination feeding parents by pretty much everyone from medical staff to random stranger on the street.
The priority used to be on making sure baby was fed and healthy but today’s altered priority list seems to be
• First – Hospital protocol and ‘exclusive breastfeeding’ box ticking.
• Second – Parents expectations and wishes
• Third (and last) – Baby’s need to feed
Common sense, and our species survival instinct tells us that that if a new baby cries due to suspected hunger, then we feed it. What could be simpler or more compassionate ?
Baby Friendly hospital protocol, on the other hand, says that if a new baby cries as a result of trying to feed from an empty breast it is ok to ignore it…for hours, or even days.
How is that Baby Friendly ?
How is that compassionate, or even humane ?
Well, apparently, compassion and humanity are not boxes that need to be ticked.
Being born is not easy, baby has just lost their supply of nutrients and hydration from the placenta, and therefore need us to provide them with 100kcals per kilo per day, and 100mls fluid per kilo per day.
For an average 3.5k baby (6.5lbs) this means they need 300Kcals and 300mls fluid per day.
Just look at the Fed Is Best Foundation meme below and see how few kcals there are in even 100mls of colostrum, and then think about how many women just produce a few drops or none at all.
Whilst some babies do get enough colostrum and early milk to keep them happy, many more, through a combination of physical and biological factors do not get enough.
These are the babies who should receive temporary supplementation and they would if it was left to the mother’s instinct, because they want to feed their babies, but all too often, the so called Baby Friendly protocols confuse and mislead the mothers and, indeed, many of the medical staff too, and treat the babies as ‘things’. A thing that doesn’t feel hunger or thirst, doesn’t need comfort, and that just cries for no reason, a thing that might mean they don’t reach their 80% target for exclusive breastfeeding on discharge.
That exclusive breastfeeding box has to be ticked.
What is even more harsh is that these babies who endure the first few hours or days of their lives in an agony of hunger and thirst are even denied by the BFHI protocol the comfort of a pacifier or dummy. This cruel edict is based on nothing more than a vague (un-investigated and unproven) feeling that it might make them less likely to want to breastfeed.
I have worked with babies in this situation and I promise you that they are so desperately hungry they will suck furiously on anything they can, so when milk finally does come in, those babies do their damndest to latch because their instinct to survive is telling them to suck or die…it is that simple.
The BFHI, apart from ignoring such tenets as compassion and common sense, is also ignoring a long-known truth and that is that humans have never been exclusive 1 person breastfeeders.
We have always given pre-lacteal feeds, that is, temporary feeds to keep baby going until the mother’s milk comes in in sufficient quantity to fully satisfy the baby.
We have fed each other’s babies, used animal milks, and any other other sweetened liquid we could create, because our historical selves recognised that hungry babies needed to be fed…any way they could. Even then…Fed was best.
Would any mother who was shipwrecked on an island with their baby, and had a dwindling milk supply refuse to use formula that washed up on shore ?
No, of course you wouldn’t, because that is a survival situation, but what we are forgetting, in our first world luxury, is that for your new born baby it is a survival situation. Every instinct in their tiny bodies is screaming at them to drink to survive.
They don’t understand hospital protocols or parent’s preferences…they just understand hunger and thirst.
Babies need us to feed them and it is, or should be, our over-riding duty to give them this sustenance in sufficient quantity to meet their needs, to protect their vulnerable brains, and for them to feel full, safe and comfortable enough to sleep peacefully.
Babies are not things, not statistics, and not collateral damage. They are human beings with rights.
Breast milk and formula milk BOTH have everything babies need to survive and to be healthy, and nobody…not parents, or hospital staff, or protocol writing committee members have the right to deny those babies their right to be fed.
Many of the stories we hear about in Fed Is Best are from the USA and Australia so I would love to hear from anyone who has experienced either the good or the bad side of any of maternity hospitals so we can get a clearer picture of what is happening here in the UK.
You can share your stories or thoughts here in the comments, or via the email on the contacts page.
All comments are moderated before being approved so that we can keep this a safe area, free from hate and shame and judgement.