Backlash on Breastfeeding, or just (more) Judgmental Parenting

Let’s face it – we all do it. You see the eczema on my boy’s stomach and blame me for using wool diaper covers. I hear about your kid’s reflux that kicked in after your wife stopped breastfeeding and I blame the formula. Neither of us is saying “you’re a bad parent,” heck, neither of us even really think it, we’re just both feeling slightly more justified about the choices we’ve made as parents.

Now take that to the next level and you get the recent and much discussed Atlantic article, The Case Against Breastfeeding. Written by Hanna Rosin, who is breastfeeding her third child… well, let’s just copy the abstract directly lest I misrepresent:

In certain overachieving circles, breast-feeding is no longer a choice—it’s a no-exceptions requirement, the ultimate badge of responsible parenting. Yet the actual health benefits of breast-feeding are surprisingly thin, far thinner than most popular literature indicates. Is breast-feeding right for every family? Or is it this generation’s vacuum cleaner—an instrument of misery that mostly just keeps women down?

My reading of this article boiled down to “breastfeeding can be a pain, and I don’t want to have society make me feel guilty for not wanting to do it anymore. And since I’m a woman and society is forming an opinion about what I should do with my body, it is anti-feminist to comply with this social norm.” Yes, I’m being hyperbolic. And yet…

“No-exceptions requirement”? Even Rosin states that only 17% of women are breastfeeding at 6 months – and this is despite the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months. Clearly we aren’t talking about America in this article, we’re talking about the “certain overachieving circles” she both mocks and admits to being a part of:

In my playground set, the urban moms in their tight jeans and oversize sunglasses size each other up using a whole range of signifiers: organic content of snacks, sleekness of stroller, ratio of tasteful wooden toys to plastic. But breast-feeding is the real ticket into the club.

 So we are now making a case against something as far reaching as breastfeeding because it feels as pressure-filled and shallow as owning a Bugaboo? Really? That’s like deciding that we shouldn’t promote healthy eating because the upper east side-er’s are making me feel guilty about have the occasional side of fries. This whole “backlash” against Breast is Best to me sounds like “Formula’s not poison so quit making me feel bad.” To which I have to ask the question – who’s making who feel bad? Are we so PC these days that this is really an argument? To me, it sounds like yet another symptom of the competitive parenting disease, with maybe a dash of F**k You for the occasional, over-zealous lactivist.

I guess what I’m getting at is, go ahead Hanna – stop breastfeeding if you don’t want to do it anymore. Sure, somebody at your posh playground may snicker, but somebody at the coffee shop across the street would be equally horrified at your breastfeeding in public.

I just don’t see how this was worthy of an Atlantic Monthly article, but that’s just me (and it sure has increased their web traffic, says the cynic in me). I’d say it’s more worthy of, I don’t know, maybe a blog post?


I’m not going to touch her “survey” of the scientific literature, as enough people have taken her to task on that already. Just google it, folks.


One Response to “Backlash on Breastfeeding, or just (more) Judgmental Parenting”

  1. Pat Says:

    Bless you.

    Made my day.

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