Thursday, April 24, 2014

An Open Letter to {CityLine} -- Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers


    Dear CityLine,

    I find it puzzling that you are doing a segment on breastfeeding and rather than conferring with a lactation consultant, a La Leche League Leader OR (Toronto's own) Dr. Jack Newman in conjunction with Medela; instead you are solely relying on Medela (a bottle and pump company) to provide balanced breastfeeding advice.

    Medela's business model relies on women being unable to exclusively breastfeed; do you truly feel that they will provide complete, accurate and biologically sound breastfeeding advice?

    Successful breastfeeding does not rely on fancy gizmos and gadgets; at the root it is a very simple process (albeit, one not without challenges), one based off of supply & demand. The nursling (baby or child) indicates their need for nourishment and the mother responds, as the nursling breastfeeds they give the mothers breasts the signal to create more milk. Breastfeeding is learned by being around other mother's who breastfeed and by breastfeeding. A pump cannot teach a mother how to breastfeed.

    I understand that even though the current medical stance is exclusive breastfeeding to 6mos (continued in accompaniment with solid foods to two years and beyond; as long is mutually desired by mother and child); I understand that not all mother's will choose to do so, and I also understand that not all mother's have the luxury afforded to them to be able to stay home for 12mos and securely establish their nursing relationship with their child. In those instances, where the mother cannot stay home or does not wish to exclusively breastfeed, in those instances a pump and bottle are a possible alternative; and I do see the value in discussing these alternatives.

    No matter what a mother's decision, she needs to be supported with integrity, and I do not believe that exclusively relying on a company which makes money off of mother's not being able to exclusively breastfeed their children, is an appropriate way to support nursing mothers.

    I strongly urge Cityline to step up and contact the plethora of services, tap into an absolute wealth of knowledge that is at your fingertips; encourage and accurately inform women of the benefits, challenges and joys of the mother/child nursing dyad.

    And may I further the discussion with the following: A pump is not an essential breastfeeding tool, milk ducts are an essential breastfeeding tool. The majority of women, when PROPERLY supported (i.e. by LC's, by mother-to-mother support groups such as LLL, by physicians with breastfeeding knowledge and the willingness to refer women to experts when the questions and concerns are beyond the scope of their personal knowledge)... if they choose to do so, when properly supported the majority of women can breastfeed.

    It is a choice that every woman should be given whole and unbiased information to come to the right decision for their family. They should fully receive support, no matter what their decision and if they choose to breastfeed, they should be given help to work through the challenges so that they may reach their goals.

    A company which profits by interrupting the biologically evolved mother/child nursing dyad is most likely not going to provide unbiased, balanced breastfeeding advice. The company needs to turn a profit (as all companies do... I am not judging Medela for wanting to make money; money makes the world go round), and helping a mother *exclusively breastfeed* (which results in no profit for the company) is not beneficial to the business.

    And lastly: I applaud CityLine for hosting a segment on infant nutrition, but please call it what it is "infant nutrition"; for this to be a balanced segment including biologically sound and unbiased breastfeeding advice you should have lactation specialists included in your panel.

    I am absolutely positive that Medela is capable of fielding many an infant nutrition question, I do not have faith (when taking into consideration the nature of their business) that their breastfeeding advice will be neutral and completely unbiased.

    I do not understand why, when you are surrounded by a wealth of breastfeeding knowledge, you would not tap into the sources that are literally at your fingertips.
    A Muddled Mama 

    Edited to add: 
    The following sentiment could be taken as me implying that breastfeeding is easy-peasy lemon squeezy "Successful breastfeeding does not rely on fancy gizmos and gadgets; at the root it is a very simple process (albeit, one not without challenges), one based off of supply & demand."  
    I failed to include a disclaimer, that I was breaking breastfeeding down to its nuts & bolts (supply and demand); I didn't include that there are instances where mother's are concerned with their milk production, I didn't include that many mother's need outside sources to help establish and maintain their nursing relationship, and I didn't include the pitfalls & challenges of nursing.  I didn't include that there are some mother's who choose to pump, that there are some mother's who need the help of pumps to help boost their supply, or that there are some mother's who need the help of galactagogues to boost their supply.
    I did not include those things because I was not discussing the challenges of breastfeeding (they are real and they do exist, it is why mother-to-mother support groups such as La Leche League are so important, as well as grassroots mother led organizations such as I hate it when people act like breastfeeding is obscene,  GET OVER IT!, they are why Dr. Jack Newman's Breastfeeding Clinic exists and they are why LC's are so very important), I was discussing why I felt CityLine was doing expectant and breastfeeding mother's a disservice by exclusively relying on breastfeeding advice from a company that manufacturers pumps, bottles & other various breastfeeding alternative products.
    Pumps, bottles and breastfeeding alternatives all have their place; for some mother's, they can make or break a breastfeeding relationship (or they offer mother's the opportunity to choose how they wish to nourish their child), but not every mother needs (or wants) to use them.  Some mother's just need guidance, advice and support from a friend, their mother, or another mother who has nursed a baby; someone to bounce ideas off of (i.e. is this normal?, what is this?, what do I do now?).  

    May 5th -- Additional Edit:
    I wrote this letter after watching an episode on Cityline, when I originally went to the Today's Parent link, the expert had not yet been released as Dr. Dixon.  I went with the assumption that a segment sponsored by Medela would be biased towards pumping, I stand by that assumption.  No Medela is not providing the 'expert', but they are sponsoring the segment and I don't think it's unreasonable to believe that Medela is hoping to gain customers from some of the mother's calling in.  If you check out my follow up post here, you will see that even though the 'expert' isn't a Medela employee I am still questioning what makes this individual a breastfeeding expert.  

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