March 15, 2009

Shapely Science-Distorting Lactivists Annoy Pump-Hating, Stressed-Out, Guilt-Ridden, Haranguing Shrew

The specific arguments Hanna Rosin makes in her new Atlantic Magazine piece, "The Case Against Breast-feeding," are as follows:


  • The increasingly strident culture of breastfeeding activism culture misuses science to induce guilt among upscale, "overachieving" mothers.

  • The claims of scientifically proven health and developmental benefits of breastfeeding--or more precisely, for breast milk--are greatly overstated, in large part because most of the research of breastfeeding's impact uses inherently imprecise observational and statistical correlation methodologies.

  • Though third-generation feminist lactivists pitch it as liberating and self-fulfilling, breastfeeding's biological determinism and work-incompatibility freeze out dads' and condemn a woman to default sole caregivership.

Which doesn't amount to a "case against" anything, really, except for well-intentioned but under-informed activism and shoddy, sensationalistic science reporting. Unfortunately for Ms. Rosin, the strongest case against freakout parenting journalism is her own hysteria-soaked article.

Rosin starts off an argument about dubious scientific credibility with her own wildly unscientific datapoint of one: she began baiting the "urban moms in their tight jeans and oversize sunglasses" in her "playground set" by claiming she was considering giving up breastfeeding after just a month, and then waited for "icy politeness" to descend as the horrified organicists shunted her into "the class of mom who, in a pinch, might feed her baby mashed-up Chicken McNuggets."

While Rosin may, in fact, be a lovely woman and an endearing parent, on the page she comes across as an over-dramatic, kvetchy, slightly unhinged crank who makes offhand wishes of violence upon those who disagree with her ["...you know what you can do with this damned fork." "This is why, when people say that breast-feeding is 'free,' I want to hit them with a two-by-four."]

When Rosin asked rhetorically, "So how is it that every mother I know has become a breast-feeding fascist?" at the end of the first page, I worried that even with a nice Israeli girl talking about feeding her children, Godwin's Law would be proved correct yet again. Sure enough. Rosin held out until the fourth from the last paragraph, when she described a mom using a breast pump as looking like "a footnote from the Josef Mengele years."

So yes, maybe her breezy ambivalence makes her unpopular in playground discussions of breastfeeding, or maybe it's, you know, something else.

While by Internet rules, Rosin's Nazi reference means she'd automatically lose on a technicality, it's worth pointing out that she cites very few actual examples of how breastfeeding advocates distort or misrepresent scientific research findings; instead, she focuses almost exclusively on how these evil lactivists make Mothers feel--and by Mothers, I mean Rosin herself, since there are no quotes from any other moms, not even from her friend the breastpumping Mengele victim, who was sitting on her sofa.

Rosin is certainly right that the findings of breastfeeding researchers are far less definitive and significant than the straw woman exaggerations she puts forward. But that's the result of the language and interpretive gap between scientists and health policy makers, between doctors and publicists, between the medical community and journalists--and between all these professionals and new parents. Rosin pretty much ignores these distinctions; instead she freaks out and treats every careful qualification of every research result as a personal betrayal of the promise of unwavering certainty that Science apparently made to her.

In at least one case Rosin seems to have cherrypicked and exaggerated a negative result of a breastfeeding study, while ignoring the major, positive finding. Scientists are frank to acknowledge that the research isn't yet conclusive on whether all the seeming benefits of breastfeeding come from breast milk directly, or from breastfeeding as a practice, or from the family environment in which breastfeeding is a priority. Rosin described a 2005 study designed to eliminate sample bias by studing differences between breastfed and bottlefed sibling pairs:

The economists Eirik Evenhouse and Siobhan Reilly compared rates of diabetes, asthma, and allergies; childhood weight; various measures of mother-child bonding; and levels of intelligence. Almost all the differences turned out to be statistically insignificant. For the most part, the "long-term effects of breast feeding have been overstated," they wrote.
Actually, what they wrote was, "Our results also suggest, however, that many of the other long-term effects of breastfeeding have been overstated." This is attributed, they said, to selection bias in nonexperimental studies. As if in anticipation of an overstatement of their results by a journalist, the next paragraph begins, "The applicability of our results should not be overstated."

I would add that the key element of their results should not be completely ignored. Here's Evenhouse and Reilly's stated conclusion: "This study provides persuasive evidence of a causal connection between breastfeeding and intelligence." Rosin mentioned other studies linking breastfeeding and cognitive development, but she promptly dismissed them as irrelevant, since intelligence is too amorphous to be properly studied anyway.

dhhs_pregnant_bull.jpg

Even when Rosin is partially right, it's hard to actually agree with her. She correctly called out a 2004 DHHS breastfeeding awareness campaign for using alarming, simplistic imagery--a pregnant mom on a mechanical bull was the silliest--to imply that not only is breastfeeding good, not breastfeeding is dangerous. But she also ignored the chorus of criticism when the campaign's existence was first reported in 2006. [Q: Does an awareness campaign that no one's aware of until a year after it's over make a sound?]

The traditional model of breastfeeding is obviously complicated by work, gender roles, health, and myriad cultural expectations, but Rosin barely touches on this complexity, except to bemoan the worst-case scenarios women in her upscale demographic niche face. She rightly points out that lower-wage working moms have an even harder--i.e., impossible--time of integrating work and nursing or pumping. But thanks to her self-absorbed focus on imaginary women like herself, Rosin ignores or dismisses as historical anomaly the persistent differences of breastfeeding vs formula in different cultural groups, as well as the formula companies' concerted international efforts to supplant, not supplement breastfeeding.

There is not even a mention of the formula companies' involvement with WIC, for example, which might tip the scales against breastfeeding among poorer women; manufacturers negotiate state-by-state monopolies to provide free formula to low-income mothers, which reduces effective incentives to breastfeed almost to zero, and which makes state governments the biggest formula buyers in the US market.

And I can't believe how depressing her view of the threat breastfeeding poses to co-equal parenting and involved dads:

I recalled her with sisterly love a few months ago, at three in the morning, when I was propped up in bed for the second time that night with my new baby (note the my). My husband acknowledged the ripple in the nighttime peace with a grunt, and that's about it. And why should he do more? There's no use in both of us being a wreck in the morning. Nonetheless, it's hard not to seethe.
Why should he do more? Because you're a seething wreck, and he's a father of three. Throw an elbow and hand him a bottle, dammit. Whether it has breast milk or formula in it is really beside the point.

On the bright side: Uma!

The Case Against Breast-Feeding [theatlantic.com]
Previously, 2006, though now I realize it's OWH, not WHO: WHO: Show us you're breastfeeding!
2004: Be down with EBB: Everything But Breastfeeding

23 Comments

Gee, Greg, I don't know; I liked her article although Rosin was a bit neurotic about middle class and upper-middle class moms, and I liked it despite her lack of interviews simply because there is a lot of breastfeeding propaganda aimed at new moms and a lot of guilt-tripping laid on us. Look at the backlash when someone like Jennifer Lopez told the public she chose not to nurse her twins. Imagine women commenting to you, "But breastfeeding will make your child smarter and less prone to illness!" I'm not sure Rosin needed to outline every single piece of propaganda because we've heard it all! (You're a bad, selfish mother if you don't breastfeed for one year!)

Even in my mom groups moms self-congratulate a lot on breastfeeding and point out how their kid never gets sick and is ahead of milestones (without pausing to rethink causation vs. correlation, and forget family history and heredity).

All the hype already exists in our popular (parenting) culture.

Re: "she promptly dismissed them as irrelevant, since intelligence is too amorphous to be properly studied anyway," well, it is! Any attempt to quantify intelligence always leaves a segment of people in the dust because we are also shaped by environment, culture, and individual experience. People who have had enriched education and lives tend to do better on IQ tests.

Was missing Uma. Knew I'd see her if I kept reading down.

you've hit the dilemma of the piece for me, really; even when she's empirically right about something, she's neurotic and projecting. And what I see as unpersuasive is exactly that she outlined the propaganda without quoting any.

I would love to call out a BF organization for saying, "You're a bad, selfish mother if you don't breastfeed for one year!") but frankly, that sounds like how BF messaging is received and processed, not what's actually what's said.

The closest would be the 2004 DHHS campaign, where the tone was actually watered down after Big Formula lobbied hard against it. So, an interesting, illuminating, factual example that would have undermined Rosin's personal point.

As for J.Lo or momgroup dynamics, I don't have any data, so I can't say. Sounds like both would have made excellent supports for Rosin's argument; instead, she quotes Pete Wentz. Frankly, the way you describe your momgroup sounds more persuasive than anything Rosin wrote, but it also sounds like a more subtle, internalized issue than she seems to address.

I think this is the really salient paragraph:
The debate about breast-feeding takes place without any reference to its actual context in women’s lives. Breast-feeding exclusively is not like taking a prenatal vitamin. It is a serious time commitment that pretty much guarantees that you will not work in any meaningful way. Let’s say a baby feeds seven times a day and then a couple more times at night. That’s nine times for about a half hour each, which adds up to more than half of a working day, every day, for at least six months. This is why, 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.

And I think her "offhand wishes of violence" are actually nothing more than hyperbole directed at "What to Expect" and that ilk. And I'll back her up on that.

The whole notion of a breastfeeding "debate" is horribly classist and aimed at a fairly narrow demographic. Whether it's Rosin complaining that women are misled by scientific reporting and formula isn't that bad, or Dr. Sears' chapter on returning to work (his suggestion? Borrow money from the grandparents and stay home longer), the discussion hinges on options available to a subset of mothers.

It reminds me a lot of the going to work vs. staying home debates.

The real work of promoting breastfeeding isn't being done, by and large. Creating a society where ALL parents, no matter their sex or their income level, have the flexibility to attend to their families while holding down a job is a lot tougher than debunking a few studies or distributing some good-natured guilt.

As long as the wider culture insists on pitting mothers against each other, we'll continue to fight the imaginary battles that Rosin takes so seriously, rather than turn our anger outwards towards the real problems.

all of which I agree with, though where you see Rosin taking this "so seriously," I see her [self-]obsessing over the same narrow demographic and missing the serious larger points which you just nailed.

As for the hyperbole, it's true, she has both "half naked in public for the millionth time," hyperbole and "hit'em with a 2x4" hyperbole. I'm not suggesting she's going to go postal at a LLL convention, but it's still annoying, and if it's indicative, I wouldn't want her argumentative drama killing the buzz in my momgroup, either. But since I'm not a mom and don't have a group, that view probably doesn't matter too much.

Dang - just made a well thought out comment, then lost it when I tried to submit and now I'm pressed for time. So to sum up, Bobbini, I think you've really got something there. To add to that, I think Rosin has hurt feelings and is lashing out at a paper tiger instead of going after what would really help. I think that would be talking with each other about being more sensitive, to put it badly. Wouldn't it be great if we all assumed that the choices parents are making (from whether to have an epidural to breastfeeding to discipline to whatever else comes after that) are just as considered as the choices we are making for own selves and children? Then we could offer support and understanding and acceptance that there are different ways of doing things, rather than yelling at each other (or quietly judging each other) about breastfeeding and all those other things we feel so strongly about because we've thought so much about (and implicitly assume that no one else has). I can't make the best decision for Rosin; I can only make the best decision for me. I'm guilty of this myself sometimes and am trying to stop. Sorry, that's the shoddy recap.

As we prep for our second child's arrival this Fall, I know that there is nothing my wife dreads more than the anxiety associated with breastfeeding. Were hoping it isn't as difficult as the first child (took a month of hard work with a lactation consultant to really work effectively) and that my wife doesn't suffer the curious mix of stigmas associated with bf-ing (stares from both older/younger women who respectively don't/do want us to bf in public).

All of which is to say that Bobbini's comments hit the nail on the head. This is so much more complex than upper-income moms with their momgroups and conflicts about returning to work. This is about deep-rooted anxieties about the role of women in American culture (specifically, post-WWII American culture, with the increased role of women in the workplace).

Anyways, I do find it interesting that once we got beyond bf-ing, raising our daughter became a lot less stressful and much more enjoyable. That is neither an argument for or against bf-ing, just an observation that it's a shame that something with such well-documented health and social benefits as bf-ing should be the focus of so much anxiety and hostility. It reminds me of the similar degree of rage/hyperbole in the abortion debate, in which a woman's body is again, not coincidentally, at the center of the debate. The point being that gender inequity is probably at the root of all of this anxiety.

Thank you so much for writing this.

I don't know that I'd go so far as to call her "shrew," I will say that her article is simply not as advertised. She presents it as if it's a get-to-the-bottom journalistic piece about science and communication, but it's really just an excuse for her to rail at the modern world for the social guilt and social pressures she faces as someone who wants to divert from the mainstream. The hyperbole she uses is self-defeating because she has the luxury of debate: she rails against class-related strictures but fails to acknowledge in a real way the true situation of people not in her exact situation.

I sympathize with her position, and I do think the prevailing culture is way off to one side when the science is far closer to the middle. The stress the decision causes isn't helpful, and I wish all these "debates" were really treated in a more holistic way that acknowledges that there are many ways to raise a healthy child. What works for one may not work for another. But ultimately, if you don't have the gumption to back up your conviction in your own life, and you're sitting on the side waiting for someone else to have the guts to stand up to it, so you can follow, you have no right to make references to Nazi Germany.

God bless you Greg for caring so much about breast-feeding, one of the things that is most needed to move breast-feeding from a women's issue to regular issue is men caring.

Which the dad of my two children did very much, supporting the considerable logistical headaches & inconvenience of the pump (I returned to work with both kids in what felt like seconds) as well as feeding pumped bottles when things were too much for me. So, we made it to 18 months breastfeeding #1, and are 10 months in with #2. Husband, I will note, feels he has a dog in the fight: He sees supporting breastfeeding as giving him smart, possibly less sick kids. When our little ship has seemed like it might (emotionally) capsize he always rights it. Dads are important in all things! Especially breast-feeding.

For me, I have been through many stages of breastfeeding, feeling like a failure, feeling pressure, feeling feeling feeling, and now feel concluded: What kind of heart and brain can you grow on formula? Anyone who thinks breastmilk and formula are the same and are choosing that path for someone who can't choose it themself should join in solidarity with their baby and eat nothing but Ensure for a year.

Thanks for the supportive comments and story; I was with you until the last, probably unintentionally judgmental questions. Both of our kids' brains have been grown on formula, after complicated, challenging, even painful periods of breastfeeding that the BF Industrial Complex would automatically consider "too short." Both are perfect geniuses whose only health problems involve falling off of or running into things.

"Both are perfect geniuses whose only health problems involve falling off of or running into things."

i think that running into things and/or falling off of things are perfectly healthy - that any child who doesn't do such things shows lack of intrepidness and spirit that kids should have.

We had a terrible time breastfeeding. My little devil cried for 3 days straight (starting on day 2) and lost almost a full pound. The nursing assistants were no help at all, simply saying that he was getting enough to eat, and that everything was going just fine.

FINALLY we had a nurse who suggested supplementing with formula via a small tube taped to the nipple and a syringe. Once he'd BF'd and started to get cranky we'd squirt the formula thru the tube and he'd continue to eat.

He finally slept and started gaining weight back. We pumped for 3 months and supplemented with formula until my wife went back to work and then made the transition to straight formula.

As for affecting his 'brain development', he was signing at 7 months, talking at 9.5, and by 15 months we stopped keeping track of the number of words he'd learned, as it was 10-20 per week, and we simply couldn't remember all of them by the weekend when we'd fill in his baby book.

I think in the best circumstances breast feeding probably IS best, but life frequently doesn't work like that.

One last comment from me. Yes, Rosin's piece has flaws, and quite honestly, I didn't facebook it because many of my 'mom friends' are the silently judgmental type although they would never admit to it, and breastfeeding is one of those hot issues for them.

In my personal experience the lot of propaganda starts in the hospital. I had already attended a nursing class and decided to breastfeed, but the nurses didn't know that. At UCSF the lactation consultant came to 'check on me' without my request, etc. etc. It was all a bit contrived and pushy, and I was not the only new mom there. Let the indoctrination begin!

That's what I was talking about. The staff of hospitals and birthing centers want you to breastfeed and tell you it's best for baby, and it doesn't take too much to infer that if you *choose* not to do it, there's something wrong with your head. I saw that a lot on forums and in mom groups where moms chastized others for being "FFers" (formula feeders).

I hated it. It's just another part of the mommy wars I don't care for.

I breastfed and was lucky enough that it wasn't difficult, either physically or in terms of time. My cousin, whose baby was born a month before ours, had a lot of difficulty & had to quit early. I know she still feels really guilty about it (the baby is now 21 months) & it pisses me off that all the hype makes her feel that way. I know she feels like she failed somehow. Don't get me wrong, I'm pro-breastfeeding, but plenty of women have really good reasons not to do it. And although I believe there are health benefits, I'm not convinced that they're that significant, and I certainly don't believe that feeding formula is evil. I sure as hell know that my cousin is a great mom, with a very healthy, smart little girl to show for it.

I do both--breastfeeding and formula--and it's awesome. I don't have to pump. I don't ever have to make a bottle in the middle of the night. I can decide on a case-by-case basis if I want to nurse in public, or pull out a bottle. It is liberating.

I nursed my oldest until she was 14 months, which is probably longer than I would have is she was exclusively breastfed. My youngest is 3 months now, and is a heavy eater, so on weekends it is nice to get the occasional break by giving her a bottle of formula. I don't have any angst or guilt.

I breastfed my son for 14 months, but he still got sick every other week for the first two years, and is now on set #3 of ear tubes. When you put a kid in daycare, he's going to get sick, no matter what he eats.

As in most things pregnancy-related, Vicki Iovine got it right: if breast feeding works for you and your baby: great. But to everyone saying you should do it because it's the most "natural" way of feeding a baby: if your kid can't latch, formula is going to seem like a pretty dang natural solution, right?

The first year of a baby, especially the first child, is incredibly challenging and world-changing. We need to let people decide what's best for their families during that time and not get judgey when they don't do it the way we think is best.

And I'm totally with you, Greg, re: seething about the unfair balance of labor. A conversation - possibly heated - should be all it takes to get things balanced.

Sorry if I sounded judgmental -- but you do realize that there's no difference whatsoever between Ensure and forumula, don't you? You do realize that you spend your days eating a variety of real, wholesome, true foods -- salmon, ground oats, cheese, whatever -- and you're consigning a little baby to eat vegetable oil and vitamin powder.

You do know that the reason some formula manufacturers use a trio of vegetable oils instead of a single one is because that lets them stick the three behind powdered milk on the ingredient list, right?

You may like to think the 'speak truth to power' in this situation is: Those mean upper-class lactivists make me feel bad! It's an adult-against-adult war, let's all respect each others' opinions.

However, in fact the speak truth to power in this situation is that you are choosing to feed your vulnerable, needy babies a vegetable oil, dehydrated milk, and vitamin powder mixture and articulate and defend that decision as it relates to your adult emotions, and not the nutritional needs of a baby.

It's vegetable oil, milk powder, and vitamins. All I'm saying is try living it on yourself if it's so great. Put your own body where your mouth is.

Everything else you do for your children you do because you would like the equivalent if it were provided for you -- nice furniture, nice comfy clothes, a safe place to sleep, nice lotions, good caregiver attention, and so on. So why does food, of all things, food, go into another category? Because it makes you feel bad?

I guess my kids would have been better off with what my parents were fed: evaporated milk spiked with corn syrup. Vary the amount of corn syrup to produce your preferred stool consistency.

You're treading on thin discussion ice here, and I think you know it. That is a manipulative, illogical and medically unsound comparison that's geared specifically to push emotional and guilt buttons of new parents exactly the way Rosin writes about. You should be ashamed. I don't know which makes me angrier with you: that you make such a manipulative argument, or that you force me to sympathize and agree with Rosin.

No one pretends that formula is made from the nectar of the gods, chocolate eclairs, or camomile tea. The point of it is to provide nutrients and calories that a baby needs and can digest. Its composition is regulated and prescribed by the FDA precisely to that end, and millions of kids--tens of millions, including me and most anyone who was born outside of a hippie commune in the 60's and 70's--was kept alive for the first six months of life because of formula. So if there are dire--or even minor--health downsides for giving formula to a baby, I don't see it.

I will ignore the basic differences in dietary needs and abilities between a baby and an adult, because they're so glaringly obvious. Though I'll point out that as soon as she proved able to do so, K2 has basically eaten the same foods we eat--wholesome, real, true, and McDonalds, though truth be told, she only eats McD's flour tortillas and the corner of my cherry pie. For fries, she prefers Five Guys, where she also gobbles peanuts.

And as for the shittiness of formula's taste, that's news to no one around here. I conducted the first formula taste test with the first kid; published the incredible story of a dad who still prefers formula to milk, and I railed against Similac's inclusion of sugar in their formula precisely because it's a purely competitive move to use "good" taste that could screw up kids' palates later on when they eat actual food.

And as luck would have it, I just posted about Ensure on my other blog yesterday. Turns out it was the food of choice for keeping prisoners alive under the torture program George W. Bush oversaw at the CIA. Though it'd make a fascinating new variation to Godwin's Law, I'll assume you didn't know that connection when you compared formula and Ensure.

What you wrote, Dara, is exactly the type of hostility and judgmentalism from moms that nobody needs or wants, and it just goes to show that there are extremely critical and self-righteous parents who deliberately argue online to make others feel lesser. You do know that, don't you?

But I have to thank you for being so damn blunt and coming out like that. You just proved what I alluded to earlier. No wonder other moms are so guarded around others. Thanks for perpetuating the mommy wars! Go you!

1) that woman needs to learn how to breastfeed laying down. Pop the baby on and go right back to sleep.

2)that husband needs to pick up more slack during the day so that wife can get some much needed rest. those first couple of months are rough.

I feel compelled, as a mom who breastfed all three of my children (including twins), to comment on this post. I agree with you that Rosin's article is a little overwrought, but find that her thesis to be true - the idea that "breast is best" has been replaced by lactivists with the diatribe "breast feed only."

With my son, I used the pump to express milk for supplementation - but did not pump with the twins because I wanted to ensure moments in the day when my boobs were covered up. So with my girls, I supplemented with formula.

As one who pumped quite a lot of milk back in the day, however, I know it is not shrewish to hate using a machine to pump milk out of your boobs. It's a strange and awkward activity that I never really became comfortable with. EVERY breastfeeding mother I knew hated the pump. Every last one of us.

Though, as you noted, there was a chorus of criticism over the breastfeeding PSAs - and few people saw them - they certainly illustrate the mindset of the lactivists - the people Rosin has a beef with. The lactivists spent a significant chunk of money to portray women who use formula to be as stupid and as ignorant as a pregnant woman whooping it up at a bar on a mechanical bull. It is inflammatory imagery - and spreads a false message. There is not one pediatrician in the country who would suggest that using formula is as dangerous as riding a bull when pregnant - and there is not a shred of evidence to back up that claim.

Lower-income moms have a tough enough time feeding their families (not just the baby.) And most lower-income employers do not support breastfeeding at all. The money spent on those ads would have been better spent lobbying companies like McDonalds and WalMart to educate their managers on the importance of supporting lactating women with time to pump and places to do it - instead of making ads that lay a huge guilt trip on new moms.

I acknowledge that I am biased because of an encounter I had with a La Leche League lactivist when my son was eight weeks old. I had had surgery to drain an abscess (a clogged milk duct that had gotten horribly infected) - and needed to supplement with formula until the breast healed. The LLL contact gave me medically inappropriate advice - and a huge guilt trip. You can read more about that here: http://sippycupnation.wordpress.com/2009/03/17/the-boob-job/

Perhaps you'll think that I'm just a failure of a mother because at times, I supplemented with formula. But I'm not a failure. I'm just glad I live in a time where there are options for mothers - even if the lactivists disagree.


Here's what I see as the crux of the matter:

"Other recent studies, particularly those that have factored out the mother’s IQ, have found no difference at all between breast-fed and formula-fed babies. In Kramer’s study, the mean scores varied widely and mysteriously from clinic to clinic. What’s more, the connection he found “could be banal,” he told me—simply the result of “breast-feeding mothers’ interacting more with their babies, rather than of anything in the milk.”

The IQ studies run into the central problem of breast-feeding research: it is impossible to separate a mother’s decision to breast-feed—and everything that goes along with it—from the breast-feeding itself."

Yes, it *is* impossible. Because breastfeeding really isn't only about nourishing the baby with whatever molecules science has broken down breastmilk into. It is an essentially intimate act, and Rosin's feeling 'half-naked' is not an exaggeration. She is naked, almost totally, as an emotional experience when nursing her kids. And no, these intimate acts force her to stay home, unless she wants to feel exposed for a large part of her waking hours.

Well, that and the judgmentalism of those who rail that breastfeeding is 'gross' or should be done in public bathrooms *gag* or out of sight, or AT HOME. Where she already felt stuck. It's difficult to surrender oneself totally this way; it's difficult emotionally, it's difficult mentally - and it's especially difficult to swallow your resentment when your former 'partnership' is suddenly so uneven, and not in your favor. "Breastfeeding costs nothing ... only if you think women's time is worth nothing." Every industrialized country BUT THIS ONE offers PAID maternity leave for mothers. Every. One.

Isn't it logical for her to feel resentful? Is it reasonable to quit nursing, when your options are moving (and gaining right to work) in another country? Really, I think it is. The biggest flaw I see in the article is the direction it takes because of the title. It's not a case against breastfeeding that needs to be made; it's a case against how consumer-driven and achievement-driven our culture is - and that the fact that monetary gain colors our value of *everything* ... including the intimate act of rearing children. It doesn't earn money, so people resent doing it. Mostly, women. As mothers and as child-care givers.

I read her frustration as real, and not exaggerated, Greg. I don't know if it's possible to convey that to someone who hasn't lived an entire life of being judged as mildly inferior in most regards. Woman is the deviation from Man. And Man does not breastfeed. Exaggerating that difference by nursing in public exposes you to more criticism. And it's true that you will be criticized whatever you choose.

I see 'hysterical' as a misogynistic label. It's not overstating the fact to say you feel trapped and judged when you do, however you say it - it's just her luck that the circle of friends she had developed during the early phase of motherhood couldn't follow her to the place of frustration from where she was deciding she didn't enjoy breastfeeding any more.

Pitting women against women is such a waste of energy. It's perfectly clear to me why some women don't choose breastfeeding, and it's nothing to do with nutrition. It's to do with the fact that this intimate act of nurturing is not supported in any way at all by our culture. Acknowledging that it is the piece that doesn't fit and the easiest to discard is honest and logical in its own way - it's the simplest thing to do to get things back in balance without abandoning society as we know it. It's not the direction *I* would like to see society take, but it's not up to me. And nothing I said in the way of judgment would help anyway.

Personally, I think society has PLENTY of flaws that would benefit from more visible displays of true and honest intimacy, a role that nursing in public fills admirably. But I also understand why a person may not have the desire or disposition to be on the front lines of that kind of social change. It's uncomfortable, involves sacrificing your privacy, and opens you up for verbal abuse. At least when you're presenting a choice *not* to breastfeed, you don't have to feel that exposed. But really, you'll be criticized either way - as this article (and hers) proves.

I can't wait to get past this, to a more elevated discussion of exactly how fucked up our society is that we ignore the abuses by a company like Nestle while taking the piss out of someone who wrote an honest article about how she felt about her own experience with breastfeeding. Without calling anyone 'hysterical'. Boy, do I look forward to that day.

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