Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Case Against "The Case Against Breastfeeding"

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Breastfeeding’

Many of you may have seen Hanna Rosin’s article ‘The Case Against Breastfeeding’ in The Atlantic. You may have heard it referenced, most commonly by mothers who chose not to breastfeed for personal reasons. If not, here’s a link. Grab your vomit bucket before you read it because you are about to be bombarded by a claptrap of whining and self-pity.

Done reading? Good. Now let’s pick this apart, shall we?
“In certain overachieving circles, breast-feeding is no longer a choice—it’s a no-exceptions requirement, the ultimate badge of responsible parenting.”
According to Rosin breastfeeding has only recently become a requirement. How interesting! I thought it was something all mammals have been doing in order to survive for thousands of years. You would think us overachievers would have known that!
“Yet the actual health benefits of breast-feeding are surprisingly thin, far thinner than most popular literature indicates”
Actually there are no health benefits to breastfeeding. You see, breastfeeding is what is biologically normal. Anything less is simply inferior.
“Is breast-feeding right for every family?”
While it may not be the preferable choice for every mother, it is the right choice for every baby. Anyone who argues otherwise is severely misinformed on human infant physiology.
“Or is it this generation’s vacuum cleaner—an instrument of misery that mostly just keeps women down?”
Again Rosin seems to think that breastfeeding is a new fad. If you are miserable and its keeping you down I think it’s safe to say: You’re doing it wrong.

Next Rosin muses about the times she told other mothers that she was planning to stop breastfeeding after one month. She says she ended up “…in the class of mom who, in a pinch, might feed her baby mashed-up Chicken McNuggets.” Is that really such an unfair comparison to lump together mothers that knowingly feed their infant an inferior product? What is really in infant formula? Let’s take a look at Enfamil, the most popular brand of formula in the United States:
• Cow milk, a substance designed for a 100 lb. creature with three stomachs.
• Extra lactose to sweeten it up a bit (and we wonder why so many people are lactose intolerant!)
• Palm Olein Oil, a modified triglyceride, which is known to cause constipation in most formula fed babies.
• Soy milk, a substance known to cause hormonal problems, especially in boys (and we wonder why kids are hitting puberty so much earlier these days!)
• Excessive amounts of iron, turning baby’s feces green and contributing to lowered I.Q. and other neurodevelopmental delays (For more on that see Martha Kerr’s 2008 research study "Neurodevelopmental Delays Associated With Iron-Fortified Formula for Healthy Infants," Medscape Psychiatry and Mental Health ).
• Whey, a waste by-product of producing certain dairy products, particularly cheeses. Now dairy factories have a place to send their trash!
• Melamine, a dangerous chemical which causes kidney damage.
That’s just brushing the surface. I could keep going but I think you get the point. Let’s continue with Mrs. Rosin.
“From the moment a new mother enters the obstetrician’s waiting room, she is subjected to the upper-class parents’ jingle: “Breast Is Best.” Parenting magazines offer “23 Great Nursing Tips,” warnings on “Nursing Roadblocks,” and advice on how to find your local lactation consultant (note to the childless: yes, this is an actual profession, and it’s thriving).”
Yet more contempt for those who promote breastfeeding. What a horror that soon-to-be-moms are bombarded with information designed to help them and their infants! Yet Rosin fails to mention that pregnant women are also besieged with formula advertisements and samples from the day they get pregnant until the day they take their baby home from the hospital or longer (hell, I got an unwanted sample of “Next Step” formula for my toddler in the mail just the other day!). How dare those parenting magazines squeeze in breastfeeding related articles in between all of the formula ads! It appears she doesn’t have much respect for lactation consultants. I suppose it’s better to be a woman who writes articles full of misinformation than to be someone who helps mothers successfully feed their babies.
“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.”
I’m not sure how breastfeeding would interfere with your ability to talk. I think that would, again, fall under the “you’re doing it wrong” category. But there is no reason at all for breastfeeding to keep you stuck at home. If you can bring bottles, water, and formula out with you and find somewhere to measure, mix, and warm your formula than surely you can find somewhere to sit down and lift one side of your shirt!
I’d like to take a moment to point out a few subtleties in Rosin’s article such as “…ratio of tasteful wooden toys to plastic…” and “…barking at my older kids to get their own organic, 100 percent juice.” It seems like Rosin feels pressured by any suggestion she receives as a parent and only listens to them because she is pressured. I suppose if she wouldn’t be looked down upon by other mothers Rosin would be content to give her children formula, lead-filled plastic toys, and sugared down juice cocktails. Maybe it’s a good thing there’s so much pressure put on her. Her motives are never “I’m going to do this because it’s best for my child” but instead are “I’m going to do this so people will shut up and leave me alone.”
Rosin then spends several paragraphs trying to poke fun at the hippie founders of La Leche League and then moves on to a weak attempt at debunking research studies that have shown breastmilk’s superiority over formula. There’s no point even attempting to correct her claims, anyone can easily search and find hundreds of studies showing how much healthier breastfed infants are and how their health risks proportionately decrease as the amount of time they breastfeed increases. She argues that observational studies don’t take into account other factors, like the fact that higher income educated women are more likely to breastfeed. This is true, and may affect the studies showing that breastfed infants have higher IQs and lower obesity rates. But do diabetes, heart disease, ear infections, and other illnesses magically know whether your mom went to college and has a lot of money? Probably not.
“Given what we know so far, it seems reasonable to put breast-feeding’s health benefits on the plus side of the ledger and other things—modesty, independence, career, sanity—on the minus side, and then tally them up and make a decision.”
According to Rosin, the negative impacts of breastfeeding are “--modesty, independence, career, [and] sanity—“. If she thinks modesty has anything to do with it she is clearly a part of the “breastfeeding is offensive” crowd, people who think that nursing mothers should have to hide their breasts. They do nothing but make breastfeeding difficult and uncomfortable for mothers and babies because of their own personal hang-ups. Apparently independence is more important to her than feeding her baby properly. Of course, if she really needed to get away from the baby for a while all she would have to do is pump breastmilk and let daddy feed the baby. As far as career goes, there are thousands of working and breastfeeding moms out there (see previous sentence, Re: pumping). And finally: sanity. If breastfeeding is driving you insane, once again I say… you’re doing it wrong!
“In 2004, the Department of Health and Human Services launched the National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign. The ads came out just after my second child was born, and were so odious that they nearly caused me to wean him on the spot.”
Another stunning example of how she doesn’t do anything because she wants what’s best for her child – a commercial was almost enough to make her wean her son in protest.
Rosin complains about the unequal dynamic between a husband and a breastfeeding wife and how her husband continues to sleep while she is up during the night breastfeeding. This is a common argument you hear against breastfeeding, and yet is one that makes no sense. Who was the one waking up to pee all night long because of a pregnancy induced weak bladder? Who was the one that spent hours in labor pushing a baby out despite excruciating pain? It’s always the mother because it is her biological responsibility. That’s not an anti-feminist statement, it’s simply the truth. Perhaps Rosin and her cohorts will only be satisfied when they can make men get pregnant and give birth.

In Rosin’s conclusion she states,
“I continue to breast-feed my new son some of the time—but I don’t do it slavishly. When I am out for the day working, or out with friends at night, he can have all the formula he wants, and I won’t give it a second thought. I’m not really sure why I don’t stop entirely. I know it has nothing to do with the science; I have no grandiose illusions that I’m making him lean and healthy and smart with my milk. Nursing is certainly not pure pleasure, either; often I’m tapping my foot impatiently, waiting for him to finish.”
And that alone solidifies what I already knew: I feel quite sorry for her children. Besides the fact that she blatantly says that she only breastfeeds because society told her to, she admits that she is impatient and wants him to finish. She doesn’t care about his comfort or enjoyment, just that she does her duty and can get back to her life in which her son seems to be little more than an annoying accessory. If it is such a chore to feed your baby how nature intended that all you can do is gripe about how miserable it makes you and attempt to ridicule and belittle those who actually enjoy and support it then perhaps you just are not cut out to be a mother.

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