All around the internet, women are circulating an article. Whether you’re formula-feeding and proud or an out-and-about breastfeeder, this article is for you.
When people say that breast-feeding is “free,” I want to hit them with a two-by-four. It’s only free if a woman’s time is worth nothing
Hanna Rosin wrote “The Case Against Breastfeeding” for the Atlantic. Monday, it was reposted on MSNBC.
Her argument is that breastfeeding isn’t nearly as beneficial as its made out to be.
At best, kids get a few less tummy aches and colds. At worst, breastfeeding is a tool that keeps us from true equality with men.
Rosin breastfed her two older children. Now for her third, she is questioning the benefits.
She lives in this uber-urban world where mamas compare organic snacks and clothing for their kids and choosing not to breastfeed would turn her into a leper with the other yoga moms. She’s trying to have a career and juggle her children and her marriage, and she wants to quit.
This time around, nirvana did not describe my state of mind; I was launching a new Web site and I had two other children to care for, and a husband I would occasionally like to talk to. Being stuck at home breast-feeding as he walked out the door for work just made me unreasonably furious, at him and everyone else.
Go ahead and read the article. Then we’ll discuss. It’s three pages, so you might want to put the baby on a leash, or at least in a baby cage, so you can have peace for a few minutes. I wouldn’t want you to be hindered by the chil’ens.
Too harsh? Maybe. I don’t fault Rosin for choosing not to breastfeed, though her science (degree?) is questionable. Breast is best, but you already knew that. I’m a recovering formula-feeder myself. And I promise, I definitely noticed a difference when Little L quit breastfeeding at 10 months. Immune system, shmimune system. Bless you!
Rosin poses that the science on breastfeeding is flawed. Even the sibling studies. Older one breastfed, younger one not = older one has better immune system. But what if, she says, we were more careful, as all parents are, with the first child? You know, keeping the pacifier clean and not letting the cat climb on baby’s face? But by the second or third, we’re like, “Hey, it won’t kill ’em!” Yes, good argument.
But what about me and others like me? I was once a single mom, so my first did indeed get doted on. But now I have a dh and a Baby E, who has breastfed longer and is healthier. In my relationship with Mark, I have a bit more peace of mind and solidarity, so I feel more supported. And Baby E is indeed getting treated like “the first”, because he is our first. Anecdotal evidence says breastfeeding improves health. I’d put my anecdotal evidence against Rosin’s any day.
But here’s what I believe happened to this woman. She confused “feminism” with “just like men”. I’ve been a feminist since I knew what the word meant. And I’ve got a confession: the more feminist I became over the years, the more domestic, too. Yep, during my Women’s Studies education in college, right after my “Shaving Your Head and Growing Your Armpit Hair” class, I’d go home and try out a new recipe from my cookbook or hand-sew backless hippie shirts. I’m not sure that was a cause & effect type of relationship. Rather, I was probably doing what we all do in college: becoming a whole person.
Somewhere along the way, it seems like Rosin was told that to be “equal” meant to be “the same”. Let me give some her some news: women have breasts. Breasts make breastmilk. Breastmilk is for feeding human children.
(One could also argue that breasts are also for attracting mates, considering other primates don’t have the prominent T&A that human females do, but I digress. Point is, there’s also a useful purpose to the boobies.)
Rosin could also argue that having our periods makes us unequal to men. In the corporate world, we have to spend a bit more time in the washroom one week a month. There’s an argument, then, that if we took hormonal birth control year-round, we’d never have our periods and therefore “be equal”. Sure, we might be off our rockers and pumping millions of dollars into pharmaceutical companies, but that’s what we do with formula!
Let’s not think that just because our amazing bodies were made to do something like give birth or breastfeed or menstruate, we’re not equal.
Anyone else think that the corporate, working world should bend toward equality? How about bringing your baby to work? Paid maternity leave? (Or paternity leave, for that matter?) Working from home? Tossing on a sling and getting everything done? Works for Sarah Palin and Kathleen Sebelius.
I think that Rosin, who is a helluva writer and will no doubt be successful in any arena, chose to give up breastfeeding her youngest child. It worked for her; it was a choice that she made for her family. Then, as an intelligent, articulate woman, she made the “Case Against Breastfeeding”. She attacked the act of feeding our children naturally because she knew that in her little world, she’d be the one attacked.
In my world, out here on my island deep in the country, what I do (that is, feed my child) is seen as odd. Especially for a year-old. But just because I’m the outcast of my little niche doesn’t mean I’m going to point fingers at the other side.
“Beat the Formula Feeder” is indeed one of those familiar blame games. But how about “Gape at the Public Breastfeeder“? That’s also a popular one.
One thing I like to say about parenting is that you’re going to be wrong no matter what you do. Somewhere, someone will question your parental choices. And once they’re old enough, your kids will join in the fun.
Rosin took a preemptive strike against breastfeeding. Though I think she’s wrong in her reasoning, I don’t fault her for choosing formula for her child. I fault her for attacking the natural processes of my body in the name of feminism.
I, too, have bought into the wealth of studies about the benefits of breastfeeding. Silly ol’ me!:
- Premature baby girls have respiratory benefits from breastmilk.
- Breastfed babies have a better food palette.
- Mamas who breastfeed get more sleep, an average of 45 minutes per night, which is precious.
- The smart thing. This study provided interventions on randomized mothers so they wouldn’t stop breastfeeding, and those babies who breastfed for a year-ish scored higher on IQ tests.
- Breastfed babies are better behaved, though that could be the close contact. Also a large study, this time 100,000 families.
For the intelligent breastfeeder: “Response to ‘The Case Against Breastfeeding‘” and The case against “The Case Against Breastfeeding”.
My bloggy interview with my Breastfeeding Guru friend on extended breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding for Working Mamas, our guide to help you adjust to the corporate world. (Sorry, doesn’t help with your boss’s bad jokes.)
Breastfeeding is a Feminist Issue.
Image: Raphael Goetter on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.