Nursing Birth

One Labor & Delivery Nurse’s View From the Inside

My (Aggravated) Response to “Ban the Breast Pump” April 3, 2009

Hanna Rosin’s done it again.  It was bad enough that she was even published never mind the fact that she was actually invited onto NBC’s Today show.  But now there are journalists out there seriously supporting her cockamamie ideas and poor research by writing about her in major news papers!  Oh give me a break!

 

Case in point: April 2nd’s edition of The New York Times.  Gracing the opinion page, an article entitled “Ban the Breast Pump” by Judith Warner, author of the 2005 book “Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety.”  Oh brother… this should be good. 

 

Warner begins the article by quoting Rosin in a recent four-part controversial podcast conversation she has filmed with three of her gal pals.  The main target, among a host of other things, is the breast pump.  Quoting Rosin, “That was my least favorite thing I ever did in my whole life.  Who could blame [your husband] for never wanting to sleep with you again?

 

Oh jeeze, and here Warner goes… This is what she had to say in regards to watching Rosin’s podcast and reading her Atlantic article, “Hallelujah, I all but shouted at the computer, desperate to join in the conversation with these newfound sure-to-be best friends.  Rosin’s article, based upon a review of the relevant medical literature and some physician interviews, makes the case that the health claims about breast milk have been greatly overstated.  Why have we made such a fetish of breast milk when there’s no evidence to prove whether, as Rosin puts it in the Atlantic video, ‘what’s key about breast feeding is the milk or the act of breast-feeding’?”

 

If all of this is not infuriating enough, Warner decides to end her article with the following “take that” to every nursing mother out there who for one reason or another, desires to, has to, and likes to use a breast pump:

 

“In fact, I hope that some day, not too long in the future, books on women’s history will feature photos of breast pumps to illustrate what it was like back in the day when mothers were consistently given the shaft. Future generations of female college students will gaze upon the pumps, aghast.  ‘Did you actually use one of those?’ they’ll ask their mothers, in horror.  And the moms, with a shudder, will proudly say no.”

 

Of course I am not so naïve to think that there aren’t some women out there that don’t particularly enjoy, maybe even hate, using a breast pump.  I can remember my best friend telling me stories about when she was pumping for her premature twin girls when they were in the NICU.  She told me that it was very important for her to provide the girls with her breast milk since they were so premature, the gift, she said, of added germ fighting power she knew only she could provide for them.  But a month was her limit and she has said to me how she does not miss “milking” herself and how hard it was to “warm up” to a breast pump when she was so sad her babies were not at home with her.  I can totally understand her feelings.

 

On the other hand, I remember my mom pumping breastmilk for my three brothers and sisters before working evenings as a waitress while I was growing up.  So I called her up today and asked her how pumping made her feel.  “It didn’t much bother me,” she said, “It actually was pretty quick when I used to do it and I was lucky enough that I only missed one feeding being at work.  But if I didn’t have that pump, boy, that would have made things more difficult.”

 

First of all, it really boggles my mind that Warner can write, “Why do we, as women, accept all the guilt and pressure about breast-feeding that comes our way instead of standing up for what we need in order, in the broadest possible sense, to nourish and sustain ourselves and our families?” and yet be SO BLIND to the reality that there are hundreds of thousands of mothers in this country and in the world that DO NOT believe that breastfeeding is a burden, plaguing their marriage and self esteem, and hurting their independence and career!  That she can be so PIG HEADED to oversee how, for many families, breastfeeding is the ONLY way they CAN or CHOOSE to nourish and sustain themselves?!  And NEWSFLASH!  The real truth is that there are many mothers out there that breastfeed, not because they feel guilt if they don’t or feel societal pressures to do it, but that it is the best choice for them and their families.  Rosin & Warner’s stance falsely gives their readers the impression that all of the breastfeeding moms out there are just waiting for someone to give them an “out.”  How ignorant!

 

The following is an incomplete list of reasons that a mother might NEED, CHOOSE, or WANT to express their breast milk with a breast pump:

1)     Their own milk supply is higher than their baby’s needs and not pumping causes their breasts to become uncomfortably full

2)     Their own milk supply is less than their baby’s needs and pumping is required to build up a bigger milk supply (the physiology is: the more a mother breastfeeds or pumps, the more milk she will make)

3)     Breastfeeding must be delayed after the birth of a premature baby or sick baby that does not yet have the ability to coordinate a suck and swallow motion and therefore must be fed via gavage feeding (tube in stomach) and not pumping would render the mother with out an adequate milk supply to start breastfeeding when the child is ready.  Not to mention the proven evidence of how beneficial breastmilk is for a premature baby.

4)     The mother must be away from the child at some point of the day/week (for example, when she returns to work), and wishes to provide the baby with breast milk via bottle feeding when she is unavailable.  Pumping also allows the woman to keep her milk supply adequate especially if she works full time or long shifts.

5)     The father desires to participate in feeding the baby and both parents desire that the feeding provided still be breastmilk

6)     The mother would like to build up a supply of milk that can be frozen and used during a night out or in any situation where the mother might have to be away from the infant.

7)     The mother is experiencing engorgement after delivery causing the mother’s nipples to become flat and the skin on her breasts to become taut, making it difficult for the baby to latch on properly.  The temporary expression of milk with the aid of a breast pump can soften the areola so that the baby can latch on properly and hence, remedy a situation that could potentially threaten the mother’s confidence in her breastfeeding ability.

 

So as far as banning the breast pump goes, I think that it is one of the most judgmental, unsupportive, ignorant, selfish, and detrimental suggestions to come out of this whole “The Case Against Breastfeeding” debacle.  And articles like Warner’s are only the beginning. 

(See: Why The Today Show Hurts America (or, Battling The Case Against Breastfeeding)

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17 Responses to “My (Aggravated) Response to “Ban the Breast Pump””

  1. molly Says:

    Almost didnt comment… but felt the need to say….RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

  2. koganowski Says:

    Wow. Just. Wow.
    You’ve inspired me to start a blog, and I think I just may have to write something up about this NONSENSE. Allow me to work past the expletives first, however…
    (By the way, thank you for all of the awesome research you do!)

  3. nursingbirth Says:

    Molly, I think you hit the nail on the head!

    Koganowski, I am so honored that I inspired you to blog!! I would love to read it!

  4. Mama Kalila Says:

    Wow that is awful. I will admit that I’d rather just nurse than pump… but seriously. There is nothing wrong w/ pumping… I do it when I need to and don’t feel burdened by it or anything like that. And if for some reason I need to do it exclusively in the future… I will do so gladly. Still shaking head….

  5. nursingbirth Says:

    I appreciate your shaking head Mama Kalila!

  6. […] surprisingly, Nursing Birth has a fabulous response to Warner’s article, counting the myriad ways in which mothers may “need, choose, or even want a breast […]

  7. Katherine Says:

    I just found your blog, and wanted to say Bravo! I’m still reading through the archives . . . but wanted you to know how much I enjoy reading your perspective on things. Keep up the great work!
    🙂

  8. nursingbirth Says:

    Thanks Katherine! I always love when readers write comments and I appreciate any ideas you might have about what you would like to read more of!!

  9. Jennifer Says:

    Another great post–thanks again!

  10. Kathy Says:

    Love, love, love, love *love* your blog!

    I just recently wrote a post titled “Oppressive or Impressive” about this “case against breastfeeding” on my blog. It really bugs me that this woman feels so oppressed by breastfeeding, when I think it is one of the most impressive things that can be done! I like a little saying I saw once — “I grow people… what’s your superpower?” So many people think that pregnancy and breastfeeding and all of that is a drudgery — imagine the change that would happen if more people saw it as a superpower. 🙂

  11. nursingbirth Says:

    Kathy, LOVE your outlook! I’ll have to check your blog out! I DO belive breastfeeding is a superpower (as is growing humans inside of you!!) Holy Moley women are cool 🙂

  12. Joy Says:

    Some women NEED a breastpump if they are flat or inverted to “coax” their nipples out of hiding. What a kook that lady is!

  13. Steph L Says:

    Just found your blog and happily reading. As someone who has been pumping every morning in order to donate my milk to premature babies who desperately need it I CANNOT believe these women!! It is so unfortunate what gets printed these days as fact. I obviously don’t love to pump, but it’s a great opportunity to teach my 2 year old about mammals, sharing and the milk process. She thinks it’s excellent that mommy and her little sister are sharing Mommy’s milk with babies who need it.

    After making my first donation of 200 oz last week, that’s all I need to keep my handy dandy pump around!

    • nursingbirth Says:

      Steph L, you are a silent HERO!! Thank you for all that you do for premature babies by donating your breastmilk! I think that the ability to produce breastmilk is a SUPER POWER and luckily for every family’s life that you touch, you have been using your powers for good not evil, hahaha! Keep on pumping mama!

  14. Seneca Says:

    Rosin is disgusting. All her ‘facts’ are nothing more than opinion.
    Her article on breastfeeding will just prompt mothers who are having a hard time nursing to go ahead and switch to formula.
    Her wrong information is just going to hurt mothers and babies.

  15. […] My (Aggravated) Response to “Ban the Breast Pump”  and Why The Today Show Hurts America (or, Battling The Case Against Breastfeeding) Possibly […]

  16. monado Says:

    Your TV talking heads are way off the mark. But then, who takes medical advice from television” Oh-oh–lots of people.

    Hand expression of milk is a lot gentler and can get more of your milk out. That’s beneficial because you produce more milk for the next feeding.

    I found that by kneeling on the floor and then curling forward to rest my head comfortably on the floor, I could use two containers and both hands to express a full feeding’s worth in about ten minutes. You could use a pillow or phone book for your head if you don’t bend that much.


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