Mothering Through the Darkness

Throughout the publication process for Bottled Up, there was a lot that ended up on the cutting room floor (um, like my entire first draft). I’m incredibly grateful to my editor, Naomi Schneider, who turned what was basically a disgustingly navel-gazing account of my own breastfeeding struggle into a serious, research-heavy social commentary. But one thing I do regret is that much of my struggle with postpartum depression was removed from the final manuscript, because as years go by, I become more and more passionate about the intersection of breastfeeding and postpartum mood disorders. I think it’s easy to dismiss anecdotal evidence of women claiming that breastfeeding provoked or exacerbated their PPD or PPA, until you’re faced with the bloody, exposed guts of what this actually looks like. The more we speak out about our experiences, the more people will (hopefully) listen and consider what the pressure to breastfeed is doing to the collective mental health of mothers. MOTHERINGTHRUDARK-1

That’s a big part of why I’m bouncing up and down with excitement today, as the announcement for the next HerStories Project anthology goes public. Coming from SheWrites Press in the fall of this year, Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum Experience features a diverse group of incredible writers (including #ISupportYou co-founder Kim Simon and a forward by Katherine Stone, founder of Postpartum Progress) coming together to battle the stigma and silence associated with postpartum depression. I’m honored to be one of those writers, and my essay – “The Breast of Me” – details how intricately entwined my breastfeeding experience was with my postpartum depression.

As I said on the Contributor Page for the book,

“As soon as I delivered my first child, I felt a cloud pass through me, over me, erasing all happiness and hope. I remember them handing him to me, and thinking, ‘please take him somewhere safe.’ In the weeks that followed, I failed to breastfeed in every which way, and hearing him scream at the sight of me, at my incompetence, my inability to nourish him, reaffirmed what I already thought: I wasn’t fit to be a mother. This piece is about my first important lesson of motherhood: that in some circumstances, what society says is the right way to mother can sometimes be the absolute wrong way…

What I wish people understood about postpartum mental health struggles is that there is no blanket way to understand them or approach them. Sometimes it is hormonal, sometimes it is situational, sometimes it’s a combination of both. And for this reason, it is vitally important that we approach women as individuals. What will help one won’t help another. We need to do a better job of listening, and realizing the impact our media (and more importantly, social media) messaging has on vulnerable moms…

…The most important aspect of my recovery was giving up breastfeeding. It still took medication to truly resolve my depression, but I wouldn’t have been able to heal if I had kept on nursing. I needed the bodily autonomy, the lack of physical pain and dependence… I needed to be important to my son for my brain, and not my body. It may not make sense to most people, but that was what I knew I needed, and it was so hard to have nobody listen or respect that.”


I also want to share that HerStories Project is asking other mothers to step up and join the conversation, through a blog post link-up and social media blitz. My hope is that the FFF community – who include some of the most insightful, honest writers I know, if your FFF Friday essays are any indication – will answer this call and speak your truth. For more info, visit

And no matter what, keep talking. Keep sharing. Because there’s always another mother out there, stumbling around in her own darkness, needing to know she’s not the only one to falter; needing other survivors to light her path.



Vital Signs: Ignoring postpartum depression and psychosis won’t make them go away

Another horror story. Another mom. Three beautiful girls who will never have another birthday, whose last memory will be terror at the hands of the person they trusted the most.

I don’t know the details. I don’t really want to know the details. I do know that this mother reached out, told her own mom she was “feeling crazy”. I do know that she had three babies in a row, and that the youngest was 2 months. I do know that there’s a strong chance that this was the result of postpartum psychosis.

And I know that this has got to stop.

Can we protect every family, prevent every case? Of course not. But postpartum mental health is taking a backseat when it should be sitting shotgun to every maternal and child health program. That’s a start, at least. We spend so much time worrying about a woman’s breasts, while we dismiss her mind. We worry about how hormones and birth practices affect lactation, while we disregard how they affect our emotions.

After we give birth, we are whisked off to the maternity ward. Our vital signs are monitored, but other vital signs are ignored. A mom who can’t seem to connect with her baby. Who is scared, and asking for help. Who is alone and voiceless. Her pulse may be steady, but her hands shake. Her breasts may leak colostrum, but her eyes may leak silent tears. And we ignore this.


OB/GYNs don’t see mothers until 4-6 weeks postpartum. In some cases, that will be too late.

Pediatricians see moms with their newborns several days postpartum, but they are focused on the infant. As they should be. We don’t expect a heart surgeon to be concerned with the diabetic foot of his cardiac patient’s wife.

When I see the role of lactation consultants and breastfeeding counselors growing, gaining more attention, more insurance coverage, I also see an opportunity. What if these professionals could be trained to screen for postpartum mental health issues, if they could recognize red flags and know how to refer families to the proper resources? What if they were trained to support families in their feeding journeys, with the goal being a happy, healthy family and not just a breastfeeding statistic?

With the state of our health care system, I don’t expect that an entirely new support staff can be instilled at every hospital, for the sole purpose of protecting maternal mental health. But when 1 in 7 mothers suffer from postpartum depression or anxiety, I think that constitutes just as much of a public health concern as the supposed risks of “sub-optimal breastfeeding practices” in developed countries. If we are going to focus so heavily on breastfeeding, could we at least give a little simultaneous attention to a mom’s mood while we inspect her breasts?

What happened to the Coronado family is sub-optimal. What passes as “support” for postpartum women is sub-optimal. There is no reason we can’t support breastfeeding while prioritizing maternal mental health. Both are important, but one has been systematically ignored, shoved under piles of paperwork, given lip service. We only seem to worry about postpartum depression in terms of how it affects breastfeeding “success”. There are so many things wrong with that sentence, with that mentality. It’s like worrying about prostate cancer only in terms of how it will affect sex and procreation. Biological norms are important, but support also means protecting those whose biology turns on them.

If we can only speak of maternal needs under the umbrella of lactation support, I can live with that. As long as those needs are met, I can live with that. As long as those needs are being met, maybe we can all live with that.

Survive with that.

Thrive with that.



“Where is the mother in the discussion?” An interview with Walker Karraa on maternal mental health and infant feeding

Some of you may know Walker Karraa from her comments on our Facebook community page, or from her fantastic posts on Science & Sensibility. But I doubt you’re aware of the full magnitude of her bravery and dedication to issues surrounding maternal mental health. I recently interviewed Walker for a short piece on formula feeding and postpartum adjustment, and was so blown away by her answers – I was only able to use a few of her wise words due to word count constraints, so I’m thrilled she’s agreed to let me post the interview in full here on FFF.

Walker is a doctoral candidate at Sofia University, where she is conducting a study on the transformational dimensions of postpartum depression. She was also the founding President of PATTCh, an organization founded by Penny Simkin dedicated to the prevention and treatment of traumatic childbirth, and is a perinatal mental health contributor for Lamaze International’s Science and Sensibility, Giving Birth With Confidence, and the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) Midwives Connection. Like that wasn’t enough on her plate, Walker also served as social media manager for the Integral Leadership Review, and has her own social media consulting business, On My High Horse, and is currently working toward co-authoring a book regarding PTSD following childbirth with Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D., IBCLC, FAPA. 

I’m exhausted just reporting all of that. And did I mention she has two kids and is a breast cancer survivor? Yeah, she’s all that and a bag of reduced fat potato chips.

I hope you guys will appreciate the revolutionary nature of Walker’s discussion here – her opinions, while brilliant, probably seem uncontroversial to those who follow this blog, but they are quite “rogue” in the birth/maternal-child health community. I can’t thank her enough for being a dissenting voice and speaking up for the benefit of all women. 

FFF: Here on FFF, we see stories almost weekly which discuss how a perceived “failure” to breastfeed can lead to depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues. Do you think the maternal mental health community has recognized how breastfeeding (or lack thereof) can affect the emotional state of new moms?

Walker Karraa

WK: I think that overall breastfeeding is very well addressed in the health psychology, and developmental psychology fields. What’s lacking is the reframe of the research to integrate more qualitative data, and methods, into the consideration of the full range of implications of breastfeeding from multiple perspectives—including the woman’s perspective.

In a 1985 Lancet article on maternal mortality, Allen Rosenfield asked the famous question, “Where is the ‘M’ in MCH (Maternal Child Health)? In the discussions of MCH, it is commonly assumed that what is good for the child is good for the mother.” (Rosenfield & Maine, 1985, p. 83). In many ways this is relevant in the discussion of breastfeeding and maternal mental health. Where is the mother in the discussion? And in what ways do we still assume what is good for the child is good for the mother? For me, this is all about reproductive rights and a deeper issue about our discomfort with women’s sovereignty over their reproductive, physical, and mental health.

The mental health community has responded to the growth in published data regarding infant health and breastfeeding. This has also been the funding stream for a large part of the last 20 years. But maternal mental health has yet to directly address a woman’s infant feeding choice as a part of her reproductive choice, rather than discrete periods of time that occur with as a continuum of events that are inextricably woven through reproductive events—none of which, taken by themselves, gives either the best data on mental health.

FFF: What do you feel needs to change in order for new mothers to be better supported in terms of mental health in general?

WK: I think one of the first calls to action must be for maternal care providers to get support in knowing that perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are common and create the conditions for morbidity and mortality for mother and children. This is starting to happen, but still very slow. I think new models of medical care such as Dr. Michael C Lu’s life course model, which places the woman at the center of care, not the doctor. And, she is treated across the lifespan, not merely when she is pregnant. This facilitates better reproductive health in preconception and interconception, and uses a reproductive life plan for women and families from an early age. At puberty, to have a conversation with medical, nutritional, mental health providers as to planning one’s reproduction (girls and boys) would be ideal.

FFF: Many women struggle with the decision of whether to treat postpartum or prenatal depression/anxiety with psycho-pharmaceuticals, especially when they are breastfeeding. Why is there such mixed information and messaging about what drugs are safe, and what the relative risks are (ie, breastfeeding without meds vs breastfeeding on meds vs formula feeding and taking the meds)?

WK: Not having good information is a barrier to care for everyone involved. The OB/GYN or midwife, the social worker, the woman, her partner and family—when we don’t have good information, we cannot make informed choices. And for women in poverty, the risk is twofold. Specifically regarding breastfeeding, but also education across the board regarding psychopharmacology, pregnancy, and lactation. With organizations such as OTIS (Organization of Teratology Information Specialists) and Motherisk, there really is no excuse for not having current evidence-based data regarding risk and benefit of untreated depression and anxiety, as well as risks and benefits of medications used to treat them.

Byatt et al. (2012) did a wonderful grounded theory study regarding community mental health provider reluctance to providing psycho-pharmacotherapy. 28 obstetric care providers (nurses, OB/Gyns, etc.) shared how they perceive community mental health practitioners as obstacles to psychopharmacology for perinatal women. The participants felt community mental health providers “99% of the time” discontinued a patients’ medication, and put women at risk of relapse. Secondly, Byatt et al., (2012) reported that participants perceived a lack of collaboration and communication between community mental health care providers and OB/Gyn providers, and that pharmacists also “further impede or delay depression treatment by not filling needed psychotropic prescriptions, often exacerbating women’s mental health symptoms” (p. 3).

FFF: Why do you think so many women express grief, guilt, and feelings of failure around the subject of infant feeding?

WK: Because that is their experience! And I attribute all of it to social constructs that are completely ingrained in medical, social, and mental health systems that have been made for and by men. The intentions of those men is not necessarily nefarious, and not really the point. It is that the constructs we have to measure ourselves (abilities and weaknesses) are made by men. We tell women from the get-go that they need us to be good mothers. They need our insight, knowledge, treatment, book, video, technique, services, product to be taught how to mother. This is so ironic, because so many of the birth movements have evolved from a call to empower women. But to empower, we have just made more systems of knowledge that mimic the ones we refute. That is not very popular to say, but it is true. The messages still given to women is that if they “know” something analytically, they are devoid of femininity, and if they “know” something inter-subjectively, they are devoid of ration.

Shame is a powerful force for women. And at no time in her life is a woman more susceptible to shame than early motherhood. If they are lucky enough to find a safe space to share their feelings without judgment, such as your blog, they are given the gift of voice. They can speak their truths.

FFF: Any tips for a mom who is having a tough time reconciling her use of formula?

WK: You know, when I was a doula, I had clients ask me to go buy formula for them so they wouldn’t be seen in public. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after the birth of my second, I underwent two mastectomies before she had turned one. I learned that my body parts have nothing to do with my inherent ability to love her. My breasts were gone—off of my body, one in one hospital and another at a hospital down the road. I fed, nurtured, attached with, loved, and parented without them…and still do! So my advice is to write down on a piece of paper: My breasts have nothing to do with my love for my child. And keep it where you can see it. Memorize it, know it.

FFF Friday: “We have to do what’s right for our family, not what’s right for others.”

Welcome to Fearless Formula Feeder Fridays, a weekly guest post feature that strives to build a supportive community of parents united through our common experiences, open minds, and frustration with the breast-vs-bottle bullying and bullcrap.

Please note, these stories are for the most part unedited, and do not necessarily represent the FFF’s opinions. They also are not political statements – this is an arena for people to share their thoughts and feelings, and I hope we can all give them the space to do so.

Shannon’s story describes – in exquisite, painful detail – how different pregnancy can be when dealing with a prenatal mood disorder. With all the talk of mental health lately, I find it discouraging that we still pay so little attention to maternal emotional well-being. I think when we become pregnant – and again once the baby is born – we become invisible. We are no longer women, with our own needs, desires, and emotional struggles; we become incubators, and then feeding receptacles. It’s okay to subjugate ourselves, because it’s self-serving to do anything but. We are expected to be happy, glowing, and head-over-heels in love with our offspring, ready to do whatever it takes to give them the best. 

But there is so much more to it than that. There is so much more to us.

Thank you, Shannon, for giving us a glimpse into how too many women suffer during their pregnancies, and beyond. And most of all, thank you for doing what you needed to do in order to take care of yourself as well as your child. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones,



Shannon’s Story

Most women are fully aware of post-natal depression and are highly oblivious of prenatal depression and anxiety. You see, pregnancy is supposed to be this happy thing. You glow. You are growing a baby. You are becoming a mom. Total strangers are quite curious creatures and want to know about mom-to-be. Your family members spread the news among their friends. Prior to the first appointment, our entire group of friends knew. Who then, in-turn, spread the ‘wonderful’ news to their friends. All of whom made me the center of attention, which was what I was trying to avoid. I wanted life to continue as normal. I am not the center-of-attention type of person nor am I a type-A personality. Unfortunately, my pregnancy was beyond normal filled with severe prenatal depression, anxiety attacks and suicidal thoughts. It was horror from the beginning.

I had major tendon reconstruction in my left foot a mere two weeks prior to conception. You would think two doctors in the same network with computerized access to my files would understand the predicament. How could I assume that? They were not on the same page; not even in the same book. My OB wanted a minimum of 35lbs. My podiatrist, on the other hand, wanted a maximum of 20lbs. That particular foot was braced and wrapped for my first three OB appointments. Both the OB and her nurse noticed and commented, but could have cared less. Quite possibly, could that have been my first red flag about how bitchy and cold this OB was? Maybe. However, I continued to go to her appointments.

Although I was discharged from the Air Force Reserves a few months prior, I still had the military mentality of being a gym-rat and keeping my weight in-check. Yes, in this day in age, that is great. Work out, be healthy; Eat right, be healthy. It was in-grained into my lifestyle. That almost perfect, athletic body was gone. I could not see past the ever-growing alien. Nor did I develop an understanding that I was supposed to gain weight. The weight gain was only the start of my life-altering struggles.

When I wasn’t highly denying the pregnancy to family friends, I raised my voice in terror. I wanted to disappear from this Earth; never wanting to leave the house, not talking about the pregnancy. To blatantly put it, I was becoming depressed caught up in the anxiety attacks, trapped in my own place, and terrorized by cameras. The flags where there. Yet, my OB, who I trusted with both of our lives to, ignored them. She asked the same questions every appointment. Never once asking about my mental health. I brought up the depression; she ran out of the examination room. She mentioned that my depression was not ‘deep enough’ for a mental health treatments. From that point on, I was repeatedly bitched at for lack of weight gain, for losing 10lbs prior to the 3rd month, hospitalized for dehydration and extreme nausea and most importantly, for continuing to use the gym. For me, the gym made me happy by equalizing the hormones in my brain. I felt normal for 2-3 hours. I swam competitively, ran on the treadmill and tossed 20lb weights like they were candy. Pregnancy is not a handicap, why must this OB believe I couldn’t do anything except walk? I cried prior to every appointment in fear of what new development to be horrified about. I cried after each appointment because I wasn’t gaining weight like I was supposed to. I checked into every appointment, but wanted to turn around and leave. My husband was actually supportive, listened to the complaints, witness the crying and was clueless on how to speak pregnancy without me overreacting in horror and terror. My pregnancy was far from normal and she wanted nothing to do with it. I could have followed a family request to switch, but I remained under her care.

I couldn’t get time off for the anatomy sonogram. I was on a days shift rotation at that time and worked 12 hour days. Needless to say, my work schedule didn’t sit well with either the scheduling nurse or the OB. They wanted the sonogram report yesterday. I didn’t want it done. Most importantly, I didn’t want to find out the sex. I was wishing this alien would leave my body. The earlier, the better. I was wishing for the sonographer to not find a heartbeat.  After the sonographer blurted out the sex of our child, I cried. I found out that we were having a baby girl. By this time, both families were extremely anxious for baby showers. Against our families wishes, I refused the baby showers. With my mental angst against the world, baby showers were out. I wasn’t in the mental capacity to act happy nor was I thrilled to see a camera. I was horribly petrified of cameras and mirrors. I didn’t want to see myself. There was no way that I could have gotten through a baby shower without crying or disappointing party go-ers. I was lectured about the so-called importance of baby showers and was called selfish for not putting my unborn child first.

I’m extremely anti-pink, so pink was immediately out. To blatantly put it, my husband owns more pink than I do. A baby girl is beautiful. She doesn’t need to wear tutus and pink to prove that. The thoughts of pink from my family members echoed sin and sorrow in my mind. My mother-in-law threw herself a grandmother shower and basically forced me into Babies R Us, Wal-Mart and Target to get ‘ideas’. The rule that I refuse to budge — absolutely NO pink. I painfully picked out some needed supplies. Did I get those supplies? No. What did I get from her co-workers? Ugliness, pure pastel pink ugliness. I do understand the thought was there, but why is it so difficult to respect the new mother’s decision? This made me hate my unborn child even more. I cried as I realized that my unborn child had to be photographed in clothing that resembled pepto-bismol vomit.

After being hospitalized for pre-term labor at 29 and 30 weeks, my OB’s colleague was appointed my care due to her vacation. He was an idiot and tried giving me medication I was highly allergic to. The doctor had zero bedside manner. None. He didn’t read my charts, missed the bright red band on my wrist with my drug allergy and refused to listened to the nurses who believed my daughter was well ahead of the suggested gestational age. By this point, my husband and I were discussing a switch to another OB. We finally had the third strike. How could we trust this colleague to possibly deliver our baby if he doesn’t understand medical allergies? He put me on bed rest. Four days later, I took myself off. The medication given to slow the progress of pre-term labor did nothing to ease the contractions. I returned to her care and 34 weeks, I immediately switched OBs. Granted it should have been MUCH sooner, but regardless, I stuck it out. Every legitimate complaint I had about the pregnancy was pushed aside. My daughter’s foot was painfully wedged in between my ribs, ripping apart the muscle. She acted blind about the problem, not feeling for my daughter’s foot or giving a suggestion about re-positioning her foot. Never once during my antenatal care, did she feel the position of the baby. Only measuring for growth.

I was debating about breastfeeding pumping at first, but soon felt trapped with my mother-in-law as she tried to take my bras into Babies R Us to find the ‘perfect’ pump. Neither one of her boys were breast fed. Quite honestly, she was living vicariously through me. She wanted the best for her grand-daughter, not some laboratory formula. She also had to take pictures of everything– Including the delivery (which I immediately shut down) and me feeding our newborn ‘properly’ with human milk. Every time my mother-in-law brought up the front row seat at the delivery, the terror re-surfaced. I screamed at her. I told her to watch the paint dry at her own place. I told her son will be the ONLY visitor until we go home. I wanted to deliver at a hospital without her knowledge.

The new OB immediately noticed the flags. She stepped in and talked with my husband and I about formula feeding. She mentioned that because of my imminent threat to develop postpartum depression, breastfeeding would have been the death of me. She understood the predicament and questioned the surgical scar on my foot. By delivery, I had gained only 22 lbs. Most importantly, I was still in MY clothing. Due to the severe depression and the painful position of my daughter’s foot in my rib cage, I was medically induced at 38weeks. She saved my life. Come to find out, she also saved my daughter’s life. Her placenta was in the process of rupturing. I had no symptoms to question that my daughter’s health was in jeopardy, just my typical every few minute Braxton Hicks.

As I checked into the hospital, the assigned nurse asked about my feeding preference. I gave her my formula requirement. All but one nurse happily understood. The night nurse was a so-called breastfeeding nazi and tried everything to get me to give my daughter the colostrum. The moment she woke me up to feed my daughter and pushed breastfeeding, I asked her to leave. The lactation consultant was nice enough to give me pointers on how to dry up my milk, if, and when it did come in. As my almost 9lb daughter was being examined by the pediatrician, she quickly noticed my daughter was approximately 41 weeks gestation. That would explain the partial placenta rupture.

As I talked with the OB the next morning, she made a comment that has stuck into my mind. Happy Momma = Happy Baby = Happy Family. My delivering OB in her greatness, worked with my husband and I on how to alleviate postpartum depression. Breastfeeding was out. Leaving our place with a newborn in tow was in. Talking to friends and family was a must. After the tumultuous pregnancy, our marriage has thrived and my husband taught himself how to bond with his daughter. My husband became a stay-at-home father for eleven months. Yes, it was a role reversal, but financially, it was our only option because I carried the insurances. He could feed her without needing me to pump. Most importantly, he could bond and developed his own style of parenting and feeding. After a year of infant and parental development, anxiety and challenges, I can happily say that postpartum depression has not reared its ugly head.

I’m all for breast is best for baby, but what many people fail to understand, in some situations, breast is not best for the new mother. Some mothers cannot breastfeed due to a medical condition, severe mastitis, surgery or a crazy work schedule. Some infants do not accept the mother’s breast. I could not stay home any longer than 6 weeks. Pumping in my line of work is not appropriate nor accepted. I work corporate aircraft flight planning and cannot step away from the flight planning desk for a five minute lunch break, let alone ten minutes to pump. We do not have a pumping room and work a twelve hour swing shift rotation. Pumping in traffic was also not an option. We have to do what’s right for our family, not what is right for others. Our daughter is an extremely healthy and active one year old. She’s absolutely perfect, formula baby.

Share your story for FFF Friday. Email me at

Good versus “Evil”: How ignorance can bring out the best in the breastfeeding/formula debate

Question: If a misguided, extremist tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?

Answer: Yes, if the tree is talking about the breastfeeding and/or formula feeding debate.

For those of you who don’t live in the forest, the tree in question – a sprawling, giant redwood of ignorance – was planted by one Darcia Narvaez, PhD. Narvaez wrote a series of articles for her blog on Psychology Today, so aptly titled “Moral Landscapes”, on the importance of breastfeeding; each one was more offensive and misleading than the last, culminating in her piece de resistance, Is Pushing Formula Evil?” (Spoiler alert: she thinks it is.)

This most recent article included such oldies but goodies as:

Formula is a starvation diet. It gives kids the equivalent of bread and water right when they are growing the most…”


Formula is the first junk food. Do we want our kids to be healthy? Then we know they should not have foods that are out of balance with nature. So we don’t want to give them formula. We don’t want them to get used to the same flavor day after day (unlike breastmilk). We would be setting them up for eating disorders…”

Plus, if you order now, you’ll receive hits like:

99% of moms with full-term infants can breastfeed successfully. It is ignorant doctors, nurses, family members and the push of pharmaceutical companies that make it seem untrue…”


“This is a moral issue because of how much damage is being done to children, society and our future by not breastfeeding…”

And those greatest hits were from the edited version of the article, altered after Narvaez received numerous comments from therapists, lactation consultants, and mothers, some harmed, and all offended, by her words.

I could go through every one of Narvaez’s bullet points and explain why they are 95% horse poop, but I’m not sure that would get me anywhere; we’ve pretty much covered all of them in past posts (just check out the tags at the bottom if you want to hear what I have to say about her claim that formula is linked to lower intelligenceor that “99% of moms with full-term infants can breastfeed successfully. It is ignorant doctors, nurses, family members and the push of pharmaceutical companies that make it seem untrue”ironic, as the stress this writer is causing with her foreboding article could harm supply) Plus, it would legitimize her in a way that I’m not interested in being responsible for. She is so far from rational in her facts and presentation that I wasn’t even offended by her post.

In fact, I kind of liked it.

Here’s why: within hours of this drivel being posted, women were coming out of the woodwork to school Narvaez on the realities of infant feeding. Therapists finally spoke up about the link between postpartum depression and the pressure to breastfeed (Narvaez tried to pacify these folks by adding a warning at the beginning of her post:
NOTE TO MOMS: Don’t read this if you are feeling vulnerable, guilty or overstressed”. Yep. Really. I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or demand a retraction from Psychology Today); lactation consultants, even if they were nowhere close to my end of the breast-bottle-right-to-choose spectrum, told her that her approach was wrong and damaging. Sure, there was the requisite “formula feeders are sociopaths” type of fare in the comments section (mostly from Narvaez herself, who- I kid you not – blamed the selfishness of the Baby Boomer generation on formula), but overall, the sisterhood was stronger than I’ve seen in a long time.

Over on the FFF Facebook page, there was discussion about how for any “hot” topic, the extremists get all the attention, and moderate voices are seldom heard. There’s a silver lining to this unfortunate truth: Sometimes, it takes deafening zealotry to provoke the quiet, moderate voices to speak up a little louder.

I truly believe that it will be these voices who can put an end to this ridiculous “battle” and start making some real strides in improving the lives and health of women and babies. Voices like the postpartum therapist who worries that the obsession with perfection will exacerbate women already rendered vulnerable by the monster of PPD, or the PPD survivor who urges that breastfeeding is a matter of personal preference. Or the feminist activist who manages to promote breastfeeding and choice simultaneously. Or the breastfeeding mom who understands the concept of correlation versus causation, and can cherish both her belief in/love for breastfeeding and her belief in/love for using evidence-based science for prescriptive claims. Or the mother who was once riddled with guilt, caught up in the whirlwind of caring for a micropreemie, and who now has the strength and confidence to stand up for her choices and show the world how breast is best is not so black and white.

So, I applaud you, Darcia Narvaez. You’ve managed to bring lactivist and formula feeding advocate together in mutual disgust for your approach to breastfeeding promotion. You’ve made us take a step back, and reaffirmed the need for a dose of common sense, for a middle ground, for sensitivity and reason.

I applaud you. But that doesn’t mean I don’t hope someone cuts your aforementioned poorly-written tree down to make toilet paper.

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