[Parentsgroup-list] anti-breastfeeding article in the Atlantic Monthly

Joy Geren joygeren at gmail.com
Mon Mar 16 15:21:12 EDT 2009

This is an interesting article but it feels a bit like a bitter blog.
Perhaps we just don=92t like being told how to raise our children, that is =
women resumed nursing 50 years ago against the suggestion of their doctors
and why we feel oppressed when we are told to nurse.

For the record I have belonged to La Leche League for nearly 4 years, since
they supported me after the birth of my son who couldn=92t nurse worth bean=
My son had a problem with his latch, the lactation consultant at the
hospital told me he was doing fine, the lactation consultant I paid $200
said he was nursing well. When the pain was too bad and I had to pump the
milk was pink from all the blood and I knew all was not fine. The La Leche
League leaders taught me that a mom knows her baby best. They called me to
see how I was doing, not just how much milk I was getting into my baby. I=
spare you the details but after 11 very tough weeks I was able to stop
pumping and just nurse and that was when I felt like I finally got to know
my baby. La Leche League encourages a lot of things beside nursing, they
encourage parenting through breastfeeding. Nursing encourages us to spend
some precious time with our babies and to think about, or even feel, what
they need. (La Leche League is not religiously affiliated and actually
disagrees with the modern =93Bible based parenting=94 method despite the
suggestions of the article. E-mail me if you want details.)

I=92m in developmental psychology and after giving several hundred children=
tests I don=92t place much confidence in them except at the extremes. So I
don=92t worry about whether breast milk raises IQ. (Let=92s face it our gen=
should ensure something regardless of what we feed the kids.) My personal
unscientific theory on the weight control issue is that breastfeeding
prevents us from controlling our children=92s food intake and allows them to
learn to eat when they are hungry. My breastfed baby eats as often and as
much or as little as she wants. Despite knowing better I catch myself trying
to get my preschooler to finish his meal, or eat 4 rather than 6 or more
times a day. Of course you want your kid to finish their bottle, that
formula is expensive (or you worked darn hard to pump that milk) and you
don=92t want them to be hungry right away, but you are teaching them to eat
based on convenience not hunger and this could be one source of weight

So do I believe there are real benefits of nursing? Definitely! Here are a
few of my personal favorites-

   1. It lowers my risk for breast cancer
   2. I don=92t have to get up in the middle of the night to get a bottle
   3. I am forced to sit down and snuggle frequently with my wonderful
   little one
   4. I can eat as much as I want
   5. I don=92t have to worry about the next dangerous toxin they find in
   bottles/formula containers or our water
   6. I have a really easy way to calm my toddler when he or she gets into
   that tired out of control state
   7. I don=92t have to plan ahead and take snacks/bottles/meals along for =
   baby, the food is always made and at temperature as needed
   8. I don=92t have to worry about pregnancy for a couple of years after I
   have a child (and yes, I realize that this is certainly not true for all
   nursing moms)
   9. I won=92t say that breastmilk diapers smell delicious but they sure b=
   formula/solid diapers
   10. I have to spend a lot of time with my baby. No one else can feed her
   so I have a great excuse to be near even when a million other things dem=
   my attention

I certainly have nothing against moms who end up formula feeding. In fact I
often feel that I nurse for my own convenience. Pumping especially isn=92t =
(I did that for 18 months with my first) and some women decide that nursing
is just not worth it in their situation and only they can look at their
families needs and make that decision. But at the same time I think that we
need to continue to promote nursing because as the article says those who
are least likely to nurse now are those whose children could stand to
benefit from it the most. We know to properly mix formula, to carefully
clean bottles, to take care about what water we use for young infants, and
not to substitute something cheaper, like regular cow=92s milk for formula,
but less educated people sometimes make these mistakes. And I firmly believe
that nursing can make parenting easier, a bonus for women with limited funds
or knowledge to sink into the cause.

Kudos to all parents who survive grad school and parenting!


Joy  (mom to Toby, nursed for 2.5 years, and Della 10 months and 23lbs of
breastfed beauty cause she won=92t take solids yet)

-- =

Joy Geren, M.A.
Doctoral Candidate
Laboratory for Developmental Studies
Department of Psychology
Harvard University
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