I’m for Breastfeeding, Not Nitpicking

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Here’s something for Think About it Thursday.

The other day I was reading Jennifer Laycock’s The Lactivist blog. Jennifer is a wonderful blogger who is obviously devoted to the cause of breastfeeding. But lately she’s under fire from a few nitpicky mothers who want to strip her of her lactivist title… because she’s weaning her two year old.

Yep, you heard that right. Jennifer is referring to the backlash as “Weaner Gate“. Turns out you can’t be a lactivist unless you allow your child to decide everything about the nursing relationship! Bet you didn’t know that did you? :-)

Last time I checked, giving a child 2 years of breast milk was a pretty darn good accomplishment. After all, according to recent stats, only about 12% of tots in this country get breast milk at one year of age, and it’s probably far less for 2 year olds. Instead of getting a pat on the back, Jennifer is getting criticism.


I probably wouldn’t have posted about this except today I got an email from a woman who subscribes to my newsletter. She had a problem with my mentioning that Tylenol would be ok for a nursing mom suffering pain from mastitis. She said:

“I would appreciate a correction of this statement to use tylenol.  It’s simply not good advice.”

While she did say that she “loved my work.  I felt all of your other tips were wonderful advice.”, she still felt the need to comment that:

“I disagree with your suggesting a mother take tylenol for the pain of mastitis.  That is not anything close to a natural handling and is actually destructive advice.  Tylenol has known to cause liver damage and even death from a regular dose.  It’s dangerous.  Have a look on mercola.com for more data.  Also, the baby would get the drug in the breastmilk and a young baby does not have a fully developed elimination system to metabolize the drug in his or her liver… I know of the dangers of drugs from my work.”

Now, I am not picking on this woman in any way. I actually agree with most of what she’s saying. I personally don’t take Tylenol for aches and pains and don’t give it to my kids either. However, I also know a couple of things from my work.

I know that most nursing mothers have an overly cautious view of using medications while breastfeeding due to the ignorance of the health care community. Time and time again I’ve heard moms say that their Doctor gave them that old knee jerk “pump and dump or wean” response when they were faced with having to take some medication. Many people in the health care community (erroneously) think that NO meds are safe for nursing moms – and weaning is recommended as the answer. That’s very rarely true.

In fact, many medications can be used during lactation. There are several factors to weigh including the age and weight of the baby, the seriousness of the mother’s health condition, the emotional effects of weaning, and the individual nature of the drug in question.

The comprehensive resource for this would be Medications and Mother’s Milk by Thomas Hale. It’s not a bad idea for a nursing mom to keep a copy of this book around, or at least have the phone number of a La Leche League leader who owns one.

Point two: For some women, especially those susceptible to it, breastfeeding pain will trigger postpartum depression. Mastitis can be awful. I had a bout with it several months ago when my youngest went on a nursing strike and I felt like I had the flu. My entire body hurt. I shook in bed all night long because of the fever and chills. But I knew what was going on and knew how to solve the problem so I chose to tough it out.

I would much rather see mom take a dose of an over the counter pain medication to feel better fast and then tackle the problem than to give up because nursing hurt. This is what so often happens:  Women start out breastfeeding, run into a problem they can’t solve, and quit.

I’m for breastfeeding, not perfection.

There are those who think you’re not a “real” nursing mom if you do this or don’t do that. I’m for stopping this elitist type of thinking and celebrating any amount of breastfeeding.

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10 Responses to I’m for Breastfeeding, Not Nitpicking

  1. Kristin Park says:

    Hi there! Great post! I only got stopped by one part — where you said that “many” medications can be used during lactation. I’d be interested to know which ones and how many infants they were tested on and for how long. And did those clinical testing infants have any side effects, etc.

    I’m personally so SICK and TIRED of doctors and nurse practitioners saying that certain medications are “safe” for breastfeeding for moms and/or small children, when the fact is that the meds haven’t even been tested in infants/small children. I gave my 12-year-old son a medication back when he was 7 years old that his doctor swore up and down was safe, only to find out a couple of years later that the drug was being removed from the market for children due to the high risk of liver damage.

    I’ve blogged a bit on my PPD blog about the issue of breastfeeding while taking medication and it never ceases to surprise me how polarizing this issue is among moms.

    Anyway, I digress. Thanks for the interesting post. I’d be interested to hear any facts on the infant-tested safe meds that are out there for breastfeeding moms to consume.


  2. Mel says:

    Great post, i totally agree – any amount of breastfeeding should be celebrated not criticised! As for taking medication during breastfeeding, i agree that people are a little over causious, dont they say that even if you drink & smoke its still better for you to breastfeed than use formula? personally i wouldnt do that but shows just how much better breastmilk is!

    mel :D

  3. I’ve always felt that the extreme breastfeeding community was quite judgmental. Sad to see they’re turning on one of their own. Only a few long term, pro breastfeeding Mama’s I know never made me feel bad for not going longer than I did…and you were one of them. I appreciated your help and support when I needed it…it came from a kind place.

  4. Qtpies7 says:

    The only time I’ve had to stop nursing for meds was after a surgery. My doctor even lets me nurse while using Vicodin. He won’t let me use ibuprophin during most of my pregnancy, but he does give me Vicodin. Works great (I have cronic horrid pain) and no effects for my child.
    I am not into meds, and mostly don’t take anything unless I just can’t handle the pain. However, I am not freakish about it.
    I recently had mastitis and I was healed in a day by using raw cabbage leaves in my bra. That’s it! I went from fever and agony to only feeling bruised in 24 hours. I used nothing else.
    Love your post!

  5. Darlene Hull says:

    Oh, Carrie!

    Thanks for speaking out. Personally I believe our perfectionist nature has created a whole epidemic of “failed” moms who spend their days beating themselves up. It breaks my heart that we put such a burden on our fellow sisters – as if just getting a child to graduation alive weren’t accomplishment enough!

    I was unable to breastfeed enough to satisfy my kids due to an operation I had to have on my breasts when I was 18. The amount of guilt heaped upon me by the local La Leche league (with comments like, “if my little boobs could feed my babies, your big ones should be able to cope”) and other such thoughtless remarks towards a struggling first time mother. My whole job these days seems to be to let moms know they’re doing a great job!

    Ok, rant over. Preach it, sister. Give moms who are doing a great job a break, and moms who are struggling, a hand. Let’s throw the critique out altogether. None of us needs it.


  6. Alaina says:


    Your thoughts are great even though sometimes I feel I heard it all before….one thing really stuck out to me.

    “I’m for breastfeeding…not perfection”

    So many moms that breastfeed (or don’t) have this preconception that breastfeeding is going to be this perfect art form. Guess what it’s not! Sometimes it’s down right hard to do—but SO worth it!

    Don’t give up just because of a few imperfect moments!

  7. Pingback: Interview With League of Maternal Justice’s Kristen Chase | Natural Moms Talk Radio

  8. J Jones says:

    As I’m sitting here in front of the computer at 3 am in the morning, racked by chills and discomforts of engorgement and trying to find information on the internet, I’m in near tears by the harshness of how we moms judge one another. Why are we doing that??? As mothers, we all want the best for our children and we sacrifice so much to ensure that they have the best of everything we can provide. Please stop judging each other. Let’s all help each other out by offering advice and solutions but at the end of the day, support all mothers in making choices that are in the best of interest of their children. Do not judge another person until you have walked in their shoes.

    I hope Jennifer hold her head up for doing an amazing job and thank you for this article.

  9. I know I’m late to the party, but I breastfeed until my children are 3 and struggle, struggle with chronic mastitis. It’s actually better this go-round, but I have had some hard times in there. Thanks for understanding that it’s not just the breast pain, but the fever (104 for me!) and the chills and the feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck! I really don’t think it can be fully understood until you’ve gone through it, maybe? Just thanks!

  10. Carrie says:

    Thanks for your comment. Yes I agree, one has to experience that “special kind of pain” to appreciate it.

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