The Anatomy of an Anti-Breastfeeding Article

9 Aug

The moment I see the article pop up on my newsfeed, my heart stops a little. My blood pressure rises. My heartbeat quickens. The anti-breastfeeding article. You’ve seen them. Some of you have shared them. There may be one flaming up the feeds this week.

Whether they’re written by journalists or moms or so-called “experts,” they can be really confusing. They try to turn everything we believe about breastfeeding (being good for moms and babies, for instance) on its head, making us all feel like we’ve been duped.

If you take a closer look, though, what you’ll find most of the time is they are not nearly as convincing as their flashy headlines.

Breastfeed Chicago is all about arming mamas with the weapons for survival in this big, bad world, so here’s a little anatomy lesson for you that reveals the naked truth of these little beasts.  

Anti-Breastfeeding Articles… make it personal.

They all find a way to touch on the exquisitely painful personal experiences some mothers have with breastfeeding, instead of focusing on the CONTEXT in which mothers are trying to breastfeed. What’s the context of breastfeeding for many American mothers?  It’s booby trapped. We don’t fail at breastfeeding. We. Are. Failed.

Our systems are broken, and we come to breastfeeding out of those broken systems.

Our health care professionals lack the education to support us. Our medical insurance fights us on our legally-entitled reimbursements. Inequities abound in our healthcare institutions. Our families and sometimes spouses may not support our decisions. We have been fed mixed messages our whole lives about what our breasts are really for. Human milk and breastfeeding support can be hard to access for sick babies. Some of us have never seen another breastfeeding baby before we have our own. We may struggle with a history of sexual abuse that impacts what’s comfortable for our bodies. We lack access to paid leave after the birth of our babies, and we may have to fight our employers for break time to express our milk. I could go on… CONTEXT.  Is it any wonder that we struggle to meet our own breastfeeding goals?  

Anti-Breastfeeding Articles… imply inadequacy where none exists.

Anti-breastfeeding articles make their case so very personal, they take away from the bigger picture: the population. At the level of population, breastfeeding is not about personal choice.  Breastfeeding is about health for babies and moms, saving lives and dollars.

Not the Mommy Wars; health. Not control freaks; health. Public health. Plain and simple.

Breastfeeding recommendations like those from the AAP and the WHO are not, as the articles would have you believe, a tool used to measure one’s personal worth. Recommendations do not in any way imply that moms who do not or cannot breastfeed are not good, amazing, thoughtful, kind, and loving mothers, nor are they intended to make anyone feel bad or feel less than because they don’t or can’t breastfeed.  An anti-breastfeeding article usually finds a way to go for the emotional quick and subtly – falsely – connect the notions that if one does not achieve the recommendations, that one is somehow “not enough.” Couldn’t be further from the truth.

What your breastfeeding journey may actually look like.  Your outcome may be different than recommendations or expectations that that’s OK!

What your breastfeeding journey may actually look like. Your outcome may be different than recommendations or expectations and that’s OK!

Life sometimes does not pan out as expected. Breastfeeding journeys may occasionally involve some formula, donor milk, tools like supplemental nursing systems, or even weaning after giving it your all and then coming to terms with the journey itself. It’s sometimes messy. It’s OK. YOU ARE ENOUGH!  

Anti-Breastfeeding Articles… often have questionable timing, authors or motives.

Is it any coincidence that anti-breastfeeding articles tend to be published in the weeks leading up to August and often even DURING World Breastfeeding Week? No. Why criticize a public health initiative during the month that celebrates it? Who has an interest in contradicting breastfeeding love? Think about it.

Who is the author? Is it a person of integrity or someone who has a history of internet sensationalism? Does the author have training in science writing and public health? Training in lactation? Is the author someone who is experiencing feelings of guilt or inadequacy (likely due to a confluence of circumstances brought up in the points above)?

And last, but not least, in this day and age of sponsored news content, was someone PAID to bash breastfeeding? I’m actually not naturally paranoid, but the fact is that news coverage in the age of social media is big business, and sponsored news stories are a real thing. There’s lots of money to be made off of moms who don’t breastfeed and almost nothing to be made off moms who do.  

Anti-breastfeeding articles… cherry-pick evidence.

Cherry-picking evidence is a method often employed by authors who lack training in public health or have had traumatic breastfeeding experiences.

I find it odd that so many anti-breastfeeding articles claim to be shedding light on a giant lie, but then completely ignore the ENORMOUS body of scientific knowledge supporting breastfeeding. It’s important to note that usually the studies these authors cite to make their points are flawed studies to begin with. Flawed studies = flawed outcome.  Breastfeeding wouldn’t be considered “a public health issue and not only a lifestyle choice” (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2012), promoted by organizations ranging from the World Health Organization to the March of Dimes, if the larger body of scientific literature didn’t point to hugely positive outcomes.  

Anti-breastfeeding articles should be seen for what they are.

Let’s be clear: everyone has a right to their own opinion. If you really hate breastfeeding, I can’t stop you from shouting it from the rooftops. And if you chose not to or couldn’t breastfeed, know that great parents come in many forms, and the way you feed your baby has nothing to do with how much you love your baby.

BUT… let’s also be clear that these articles are not written with the interest of mothers and babies in mind. They are written for the express purpose of inflaming a fight. Let’s give the bad behavior as little attention as possible, to snuff that fire right out. Instead, focus on what’s important: Loving our babies with all we’ve got and following that little voice inside our heads that says, “nurse on, mama.”

Written by Breastfeed Chicago board members Elise Fulara and Katrina Pavlik. Special thanks to Beth Bejnarowicz.

Happy World Breastfeeding Week! “Let’s Make It Work!”

3 Aug download


Happy World Breastfeeding Week! “Let’s Make It Work!”

(originally posted in and shared with permission from Mesa Birth)

August 3, 2015

You might have seen a lot of posts of photos of nursing moms celebrating World Breastfeeding Week — but what the heck is it?

World Breastfeeding Week has been around since 1991 when WABA (the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action) organized the event as “one unique unifying social mobilisation event that can build solidarity and action.”

A Big "Latch-On" circa 2005

A Big “Latch-On” circa 2005

The call this year is for “concerted global action to support women to combine breastfeeding and work.” WABA describes three necessary factors to make this happen:

TIME: Time for maternity leave (six month minimum!), time for breastfeeding breaks, and flexible work hours.

SPACE/PROXIMITY: Childcare near the workplace and transportation for women to be near their babies, private facilities for expressing breast milk, and clean work environments free of harmful chemicals.

SUPPORT: Includes positive attitudes about breastfeeding in public, job security and non-discrimination on the grounds of maternity and breastfeeding, and information about national laws and benefits as well as education about women’s health so women are better able to combine employment with breastfeeding and childcare needs.

Clearly the US has a long way to go to meet these goals! Kudos to all of the many women who have combined work and breastfeeding in today’s (and yesterday’s) less-than-ideal climate.

Really cool Breastfeed Chicago tattoo

Really cool Breastfeed Chicago tattoo

Here in Chicago, we celebrated World Breastfeeding Week with the help of Breastfeed Chicago and The Big Latch-On! Dozens of nursing women brought their children to the beautiful

Garfield Park Conservatory to mingle with other parents, get free temporary tattoos, and meet representatives from various nonprofits including Babywearing International, Chicagoland Rainbow Families, Chicago Region Breastfeeding Taskforce, and Breastfeeding USA. At 10:30 am, everyone “latched on,” joining over 13,000 latches worldwide!

Nurse on, mamas! What are you doing to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week?

Melissa is a mom, labor and postpartum doula, placenta encapsulator, and a newly appointed Board Member of Breastfeed Chicago!! Check out her blog at MesaBirth.

Is Your Insurance Company Failing You?

3 Jul


Did you know that the Affordable Care Act requires non-grandfathered insurance plans to cover lactation services and pumps? Yup. Awesome, right? Problem is, some insurance companies are not following either the spirit or letter of the law. Great news, the smart, savvy ladies over at Breastfeed Chicago have been working on this issue for a while, and we’ve got a whole mess of info for you, if you are looking to get your lactation costs covered.

First, take a look at this (FRONT PAGE!!!) article in the Chicago Tribune: It outlines all of the discrepancies between what insurance companies say they’re doing and how hard some moms have to work to get services reimbursed. Shameful.

Second, take a look at all this great info from the National Women’s Law Center – they’ve explained the law in detail and have created templates for reimbursement requests and appeals:

Third, share your story with us! Comment below and let us know if you’ve had luck getting lactation services covered! If you haven’t, tell us that story, too! We want to hear from you.

Easy Way to Support Breastfeed Chicago

26 Jun

Change your Amazon Smile recipient to Breastfeed Chicago!!!

And thanks!

Support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act!

5 Jun

Mamas! It’s not often that we get the chance to band together and help to protect our fellow moms – pregnant moms who are forced to work without accommodations like stools, water bottles and modified tasks. No one should have to choose between supporting their family and maintaining a healthy pregnancy.

What is the Act?

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is a bi-partisan effort that helps protect moms by requiring employers to give pregnant women reasonable accommodations in the workplace.

What can you do?

Our very own Senator Mark Kirk has not yet signed on as a supporter of the bill! Help him make this choice by telling him how much his support would mean.

Call him: 

  • Chicago: 312-886-3506
  • Springfield: 217-492-5089
  • Washington, D.C.: 202-224-2854

Message him:

Sample Tweets: @SenatorKirk

  • Bipartisan support means #PWFA has a much bigger shot at passage. Let Congress hear how important this is to you
  • Having a healthy pregnancy should not have to mean giving up a paycheck. #PWFA is justice for pregnant workers. #MissionPossible
  • Fired for drinking water? Or for asking not to lift heavy boxes? This should never happen. Protecting workers with #PWFA is #MissionPossible
  • Most people agree pregnant workers shouldn’t be pushed off the job right when they need work most. #PWFA would help keep them on the job.
  • @SenatorKirk, pregnant workers need your support. Will you join @KellyAyotte & @SenDeanHeller in co-sponsoring #PWFA?
  • We are counting on @SenatorKirk to stand w/pregnant workers. @KellyAyotte & @SenDeanHeller co-sponsor #PWFA —will you?
  • @SenatorKirk, IL did it and so should Congress. Join @KellyAyotte & @SenDeanHeller to co-sponsor #PWFA. Will you sign on?

Letter to Senator Kirk:

PWFA-Letter to Sen. Kirk from Illinois coalition in support of PWFA

Senators Casey (D-PA), Shaheen (D-NH), Ayotte (R-NH), and Rep. Nadler (D-NY) - Heller (R-NV) not pictured

Senators Casey (D-PA), Shaheen (D-NH), Ayotte (R-NH), and Rep. Nadler (D-NY) – Heller (R-NV) not pictured

Dear Labor and Delivery Nurse…

1 Jun

Heather&Chris_2014 11 26_3829_edited-3


Dear Labor and Delivery Nurse,


My clients want to breastfeed–thanks for helping to make that happen! Whether they are planning a water birth or a scheduled Cesarean birth, we’ve talked in our prenatal visits about how their choices in birth will impact breastfeeding. They have carefully considered some preferences for the birth that were made with immediate and exclusive breastfeeding in mind. Thank you for respecting their birth preferences and working with us to navigate changes if labor and birth brings something unexpected.

For a vaginal birth, thank you for realizing that immediate skin-to-skin means that the baby needs to be placed directly on the mother’s skin (not on a blanket, not on her hospital gown) immediately after birth. Help us remind the doctor that my clients would really like the baby to land on the mother’s chest, not on the bed or sterile drapes, or be held by the doctor while drying and suctioning and cutting of the umbilical cord takes place. For a cesarean birth, thank you for honoring my client’s desires for as much of a physiologic and empowering experience as possible. Ideally, a gentle cesarean enables immediate skin-to-skin, with the baby being slid under the sterile drape right after birth and the potential for breastfeeding initiation in the operating room. If that isn’t possible, skin-to-skin after a few minutes, with the baby remaining in the operating room for the entire surgery if everyone is healthy, is also great! Studies have shown that when babies are brought to the warmer and dried and suctioned, breastfeeding initiation and exclusivity rates are not as high. Plus, for my client and her partner, the emotional experience of the event and bonding with the baby is a crucial part of this process, so separation from the baby may be difficult and traumatic.Thank you for being an advocate that supports breastfeeding and sees the impact that birth and early postpartum experiences can have on breastfeeding and parenting.

We know that the baby is working hard to breathe for the first few minutes, so we expect that baby isn’t going to breastfeed right away. But my clients would still like to hold and snuggle their baby during this transition time, knowing that breastfeeding will happen soon, and touching, smelling, and admiring their baby in the mean time. Thanks for avoiding the urge to get all the weighing and measuring done so that mom can breastfeed after that. We know you’re busy, and we know the baby needs to be weighed in order to be admitted to the motherbaby unit, and for that, we appreciate your patience wholeheartedly. Thank you for giving us the time to allow the entire process of breastfeeding, from those very first breaths to those last sleepy sucks, to unfold.

You may be wondering why I am not helping with breastfeeding. I trust moms and babies, and I know that babies are equipped with all the instincts to make it happen. My clients can’t wait to watch their baby do the breast crawl. I know baby has latched on five times to the wrong spot, and is bobbing around frantically, but it’s all part of the process. I have also talked with my clients about how skin-to-skin and breastfeeding colonizes a baby’s gut, and I want the mother and her partner to be the ones that do that, so I do very little handling of their baby during this delicate time. Thank you for giving us the space for these new parents to believe in their baby.

I believe in empowerment. I believe that nature has designed a system that works. Thank you for giving us space and time and trust–this hour is brief but it lasts a lifetime.

Best, Maura Winkler Birth Doula


This article only focuses on how a birth doula prepares clients prenatally and supports them in the very early postpartum, but birth doulas continue to provide support during the early weeks of breastfeeding, and postpartum doulas also are a resource for breastfeeding support in the early weeks and months. To find a doula that is perfect for you, check out

Maura Winkler is a birth doula, placenta encapsulator, and Breastfeeding USA counselor. She is currently pursuing the nursing portion of a nurse midwifery program at UIC. She has a passion for women’s rights, especially those related to birth and breastfeeding, and enjoys helping women and families advocate for their healthcare wishes. She is mama to a 2.5 year old girl, still breastfeeding!

UPDATE ON SENATE BILL 0344 “Lactation Accommodation in Airports”

12 May

On Wednesday, May 13, 2015 at 8:30 a.m., the Human Services Committee will hold a hearing on SB0344 “Lactation Accommodation in Airports” in Stratton Building Room C-1 in Springfield, IL. Please contact the members of the Human Services Committee by email and telephone and ask them to support SB344. Their contact information is included below. A sample email template is also included, but your personal stories and handwritten notes are most effective.

Illinois Senate bill SB0344 “Lactation Accommodation in Airports” is making its way through the Illinois General Assembly. It was voted on and passed by the Illinois Senate on April 22, 2015. The bill is now in the Illinois House of Representatives. Chief House sponsors are Rep. Camille Y. Lilly, Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch, Rep. Elgie R. Sims Jr., and Rep. Jehan A. Gordon-Booth.

Human Services Committee – Members (99th General Assembly)

Chairperson : Robyn Gabel- (217) 782-8052 (D)
Vice-Chairperson : Litesa E. Wallace- (217) 782-3167 (D)
Republican Spokesperson : Patricia R. Bellock- (217) 782-1448 (R)
Member: Carol Ammons- (217) 558-1009 (D)
Member: Jaime M. Andrade, Jr.- (217) 782-8117 (D)
Member: Kelly M. Cassidy- (217) 782-8088 (D)
Member: Tom Demmer- (217) 782-0535 (R)
Member: Laura Fine- (217) 782-4194 (D)
Member: Mary E. Flowers- (217) 782-4207 (D)
Member: Norine Hammond- (217) 782-0416 (R)
Member: Sheri L (217) 782-8151 (R)
Member: Cynthia (217) 782-0150 (D)
Member: Brian W. Stewart- (217) 782-8186 (R)
Member: Michael Unes- (217) 782-8186 (R)

Sample email–

RE: SB 0344- “Lactation Accommodation in Airports”

Dear Representative :

Please vote to support SB 0344 “Lactation Accommodation in Airports” and help this bill make its way through the Illinois General Assembly.

O’Hare International Airport (O’Hare) and other Illinois airports do not have designated lactation rooms for breastfeeding mothers. Midway Airport recently opened a Mother’s Room on Concourse C. There should be additional lactation areas in each airport terminal and each concourse. At a minimum, a comfortable space for breastfeeding mothers should include an electrical outlet, a sink, and wash area.

Currently, O’Hare airport asks mothers to feed their children in the restroom or to contact Travelers Aid in Terminal 2 to arrange a private room to pump or breastfeed. O’Hare Airport is planning to open one Mother’s Room during the summer of 2015, and that is a step in the right direction. This legislation will ensure that airports accommodate breastfeeding mothers and young families looking to feed their babies.

One of the greatest struggles for breastfeeding mothers is to have our voices heard and accommodations met in order to express milk and feed our children in public places. Women have lobbied and fought for years to establish lactation rooms in their places of employment and public facilities. Only recently have states begun to pass laws that help ensure that mothers have a private place to nurse their children and pump breast milk (if they choose to do so in private).

This campaign seeks to make Illinois airports nursing friendly and to build public accommodation for breastfeeding mothers. This grassroots petition started just two months ago and the Illinois Senate swiftly passed this bill on April 23, 2015. California passed similar legislation last year. Illinois should do the same.

We hope you will listen to our collective voices and vote YES to SB 0344 “Lactation Accommodation in Airports”.

Thank you for your support.



Want more info on this topic??? 
Establish Lactation Rooms in Illinois Airports Petition:
Fly and Feed facebook page:
Breastfeed Chicago:
Rep. Duckworth OpEd- Airports fail to accommodate breastfeeding mothers:


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