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Tell Mommy: The Case Against Breastfeeding

Tell Mommy: The Case Against Breastfeeding

Since 1997, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended exclusive breastfeeding for a baby's first six months of life and in 2004, the Department of Health and Human Services launched their famous National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign. With these two influential organizations strongly advocating "breast is best," new moms have been inundated with statistics and information encouraging them to nurse.

This month's Atlantic Monthly presents the opposing view, with Hannah Rosin's Case Against Breast-Feeding. In her article, Rosin claims that statistics showing the benefits of breast milk have been greatly exaggerated and that societal pressure to breastfeed is preventing women from advancing to powerful positions in the business world. She suggests that the act itself leads to gender role assignments that also make co-parenting unattainable. It said:

Even in the best of marriages, the domestic burden shifts, in incremental, mostly unacknowledged ways, onto the woman. Breast-feeding plays a central role in the shift. In my set, no husband tells his wife that it is her womanly duty to stay home and nurse the child. Instead, both parents together weigh the evidence and then make a rational, informed decision that she should do so. Then other, logical decisions follow: she alone fed the child, so she naturally knows better how to comfort the child, so she is the better judge to pick a school for the child and the better nurse when the child is sick, and so on.

Do you believe that societal pressure to breastfeed has played such a central role in defining parental roles and career advancement?


Join The Conversation
Mendara Mendara 8 years
It is very unfair to mothers who want to breastfeed but can't to say what a perfect mother and breastfeeder pumper you were and how easy it was. I for one had a horrible time trying to breastfeed my son, we tried everything, I cried most times, I was in pain, I was fighting with my husband who insisted I keep trying because he didn't want to feed the baby formula. I kept running into mom's who breastfed until the kid was like 10 years old and they kept tellign my husband how easy it was and how much formula sucks and was for lazy mothers. I finally had a nervous breakdown due to PPD and told everyone to please leave me alone, swith to formula and was happy and healthy enough to raise my little boy. NO ONE has a RIGHT to tell a mother what to do with her child and how to do it, nor to flaunt their way as the best.
sarahinparis sarahinparis 8 years
I kind of took some of the statments in the article to be presented in the same light that breast feeding has been presented: "If you don't breast feed you are ruining your child for the rest of his or her life" . . . If you don't breast feed your child will be fat, stupid, and a failure". Similarly, the author stated "If you breastfeed you will ruin your career and your ability to co-parent" . . . same type of flawed argument. In reality, there are people have carried on with their careers and breastfed, as well as their are skinny, intelligent, successful adults who were formula fed. The reverse is also true. I think the point is that breastfeeding has been used to place an enormous amount of pressure on mothers making a whole subset of the population feel judged and guilty because they have failed to meet this expectation when in reality it is not the end-all-be-all to child rearing. So many other elements come in to play on a child's future: education level of the mother plays an enormous role on the health of a child, to give one example.
LilaBo LilaBo 8 years
didn't breastfeed. tried my hardest with the first and reluctantly gave up, completely depressed that i was letting my daughter down. couldn't again with my second and accepted it without killing myself trying. my girls are healthier and smarter than many breastfed kids that i know. so far, they've turned out perfect and i couldn't be happier.
Evalicious Evalicious 8 years
This is purely the parents decision, one that other people should not judge. I breast fed and pump fed for nine months and can not complain, my husband and I took turns and when we were in public or around family we fed our daughter formula and she has turned out very well. People should not be so quick to formulate opinions that are centered around their own prejudices.
Lily-Inferno Lily-Inferno 8 years
With my first child I stayed home and nursed, but I also pumped so that his father could help with the feedings. I didnt work bc I had to stay home and nurse, instead I stayed home bc that was my choice. Of course, I was only able to actually nurse for 4 months, the rest of the time he was bottled fed pumped milk. (He started getting teeth at 3 months) But the pressure to continue nursing was overwhelming. And not from my family, a family of nursers basically. It was mostly from other mothers who held themselves as the greatest mothers in the world. Luckily, I have selective hearing. heh. As for this article, I dont really think nursing ruins the mother in any way. And not nursing doesnt hurt the child. Nursing does however help the wallet some..saving from not having to buy formula..but, to each their own really.
techkim techkim 8 years
my first son nursed without any solids until he was 10 months it was great he wasn't ready to eat foods so we just nursed. His brother is now 7 months and more interested. He is just starting little tastes of things nothing big yet. So I think its fabulous if you can I love it but have NO problem of you can't or don't want too.
lickety-split lickety-split 8 years
not everyone can breast feed. i had a lot of trouble breast feeding and only did it with my first. i had an odd situation and was advised not to breast feed again. anyway, i did get rude comments about bottle feeding even at my moms support group! hello, here we are, all just a few weeks post partum and other moms are judging me? women need to be more supporting of each other. what ever works best for individual families is what a woman needs to do. i have zero desire to go back to a paid job, and even on this site i have been called "lazy" for that choice. certainly ends the discussion, because when it comes down to it, my family needs me to be a sahm; end of story.
iieee_grrl iieee_grrl 8 years
I think for me, I had been given all the information I felt I needed as to what was best for MY child and chose to breastfeed. My husband actively participated, whether through other interactions or bottle feeding pumped milk, and I never felt any demise in my professional life. Honestly, if your professional life is such that breastfeeding your child keeps you from being successful, I think your professional life is built on shaky ground to begin with. Personally, I feel that if you think that breastfeeding is best but you chose to formula feed because of your career, your priorities are seriously screwed up. Being a good parent is the most important job you can have and putting your career before your child is selfish.
HLHArts HLHArts 8 years
As an expectant mother myself, I can tell you that the pressure to breast feed is tremendous. Everyone seems to feel they have the right to pass judgment or offer unsolicited advice, and everyone wants to tell me how if I choose not to breast feed I will end up with a fat, stupid, sickly child. Thanks to several circumstances, I was not breast fed, and I am a healthy, successful and intelligent woman. Every family must make their own choices without so much pressure being placed on them by other women.
mhg mhg 8 years
i meant educated :)
mhg mhg 8 years
i am perplexed by the intent of the article...i will agree, though, that there is tremendous pressure to breastfeed, especially among highly eductated women of means. i'm not sure if this is b/c of the true benefits of breastfeeding or if it is just another feather in the cap of increasingly competitive mothers (the kind who apply for preschool while the kid's in utero...). and i do absolutely feel breast is best, but have witnessed first hand the rude looks when formula feeding my 1st son, who was born w/ a cleft palate and was physically unable to breastfeed. i did pump for 4 months, but supplemented, then switched to formula b/c of the tremendous stress caused by having a baby with medical issues. but i can understand why there is such a strong pro-breastfeeding force. the formula companies and generations past pressured mothers too, so, some of this is reactionary. i'm glad for it too and wished more mothers, especially those from lower socio-economic realms, would give it a go. but at the end of the day, mothers need support in their decisions - not judgment.
ladygrace ladygrace 8 years
As a mother whose child stayed at home with daddy during the day while I went to work, and still managed to never have a drop of formula, I think statements like this: "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." make any point she was trying to make lost in her ridiculous banter.
macneil macneil 8 years
I also expressed my milk, it took the entire day because my supply never increased. I read all over the internet about the harm the formula I was topping up with was doing my baby, I spent almost no time with her because I was hooked up to a machine for an hour at a time every three hours, then sterilising bottles. All through the night, too. I felt better giving her breastmilk, but in retrospect, wish someone had told me it was okay to stop, to spend time holding my baby, talking to my baby, being with my baby. Instead, I expressed, because this was just a few months, and mattered for the rest of her life. That's what I mean about the benefit being overstated. Really, I don't think expressed breastmilk and compromised time with the baby was better than formula and spending all my time with the baby. But the benefits of breastmilk (cancer fighting! intelligence boosting!) were written everywhere, and my fear of ruining the rest of her life for time neither of us would remember was too great. Turns out I will remember that time, and regret it.
Gruberr1 Gruberr1 8 years
As someone who had some significant issues nursing, I ended up pumping and feeding my son bottles of pumped milk. You would not believe the comments I would get from complete strangers when I would pull out a bottle in public. Like it or not, there is a lot of social pressure to breastfeed and it is pressure women seem to place on each other.
jessielynn657 jessielynn657 8 years
breast milk can be bottle fed by the other partner.
macneil macneil 8 years
I think what is said in those thoughtful articles is a good point: that the difference in breastfeeding is there, but is not enough to justify making women feel they have psychologically damaged their babies by being unable or unwilling to breastfeed. I feel that there is so much pressure on women to breastfeed that when they fail they feel guilty and heartbroken, particularly as we're told that the effects will last for their child's ENTIRE LIFE. I understand too that there are so many factors that deter women from breastfeeding and make it hard for them to continue - poor medical support and advice, unhelpful husbands and grandparents. But breastfeeding should be promoted as its own reward, a method for helping mother and baby get close, not a chance to give your baby a good life, which, when missed, guarantees your baby a bad life.
Roarman Roarman 8 years
Why in the case of mothers does it always have to be one or the other? Breast feed or bottle feed. Stay home or work. Everything is always so contentious and you are right and I am wrong. A family should choose what is best for them and their child/children. To say that breastfeeding is hurting woman is ridiculous. But I also think to say bottle feeding is hurting the child is ridiculous as well. And many woman who stay home with their children bottle feed. It is not only breast feeding mothers. And many breast feeding mothers go back to work.
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