“Lactavist” has become a dirty word. The more we share our feelings on social media about how we love breastfeeding, the more we are attacked and put on the outs. We are called a “lactavist” or someone who is “pushing breastfeeding” onto people. Any research that is shared is torn apart and disregarded. I’ve heard people say, “I’m afraid to say anything about breastfeeding in case I offend someone…”
I really feel that in many of these circumstances this happens because we are so passionate about breastfeeding. I mean let’s be honest here we all know I LOVE breastfeeding my children and they loved it to. It’s why I became a volunteer breastfeeding counsellor and then an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). I’m passionate about this and I know many of you out there are too! This is why I do what I do! Speak, blog, write, do breastfeeding consultations…it’s my life 24/7 alongside my mothering! I care about this and really feel as though breastfeeding does matter. But you know what also matters? Being a lactavist without being obnoxious. I know I’ve had my moments and annoy people from time to time. Believe me, they do write me when I’ve stepped over the line and I’ve learned a few things over the years.
How to be a lactavist without being a jerk…
1. Before you do ANYTHING ask the mother if she is looking for support or advice. Giving someone breastfeeding advice (especially online) is completely unnecessary (and downright annoying) for a woman who does not want to breastfeed. Believe me, she knows that “breast is best” as it’s been stated to her 549 times since she became pregnant. She may just be looking for a place to vent and is actually not looking for information or advice. This is SO. HARD. when it’s a friend or family member and you want them to breastfeed because you know how much you and your child love it…but she may not.
2. Ask the mother what her breastfeeding goals are. By asking a mother what her goals are you will have a much better picture as to what information she is really looking for. If she says, “I just want to get through today.” Then give her specific information and suggestions on getting through TODAY. Not a lecture in how she needs to breastfeed for at least two years as recommended by the WHO or her baby will become obese and have a lower IQ from the formula she gives her.
3. Make sure you are not repeating the same things that the mum has heard 20 times before. Saying, “You know, MOST women can make enough milk”, “Have you tried pumping?” or “Eat a bowl of oatmeal each morning.” Can be extremely irritating for someone to hear again and again. Instead ask her, “What information has been given to you up to this point?” or “What have you tried so far? Who has helped you and has their advice been helpful?”
4. Stop saying “formula is poison” or “formula should be prescription only”. How is this helpful for a woman who is struggling with supply and suffering anxiety or depression because she is unable to breastfeed exclusively and is sleep deprived? Instead ask her if she wants your help and what sort of support she is looking for. Then send her here if she is starting to think about switching completely to bottles and formula.
5. Keep stating your truth and sharing your stories! Keep up your passions and keep sharing information and evidence based research! Don’t stop being a lactavist because you are afraid of hurting people’s feelings or being called, “judgmental”. Just share the info, share your experiences and approach people with compassion. We can be passionate about breastfeeding without being jerks…it just takes some practice leaving our emotions and ego out of our responses… it’s something that’s even harder to do when we are sitting at our keyboards.
Don’t let people make “lactavist” a dirty word. Supporting breastfeeding mothers is important. We don’t have to shy away from our passions, from our activism and from our beliefs because someone else had a negative or challenging experience breastfeeding. Wear the lactavist badge proudly and “keep on boobin'”!