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

bagneris at fas.harvard.edu bagneris at fas.harvard.edu
Mon Mar 16 15:48:15 EDT 2009

Knowing that "We know" in the previous post was not possibly meant to sound as
elitist as it might have come off as via e-mail, I am still going to point out
that "less educated people" are also less likely to have access to lactation
consultants (or to use them) or other breastfeeding support (let alone to be
able to afford anything in Isis Maternity!) or to adequate pediatric healthcare
to insure newborn's growth in the important early weeks (the ped and/or l.c.
weighed my kiddo at least once a week and usually more often because she wasn't
gaining appropriately for the first two months) and that children of low-income
women are much more likely to be low birth weight to begin with.  Also, being
poor doesn't mean you are too stupid to know that a baby bottle should be clean
(my grandmother who raised 5 kids in the projects still gives me what-for for
not sterilizing the darn things).  And some bottle-feeding mothers know better
than to push finish a bottle (besides, boob, bottle, or solid, you can't make
my baby eat if she doesn't want to and I think that's great if not always
convenient).  I re-iterate that I still STRONGLY support bfing, especially as
an economical alternative and a great way to parent (of course you can still
cuddle and even skin-to-skin with a bottle).  I still think all mothers,
including and especially low-income ones, should be encouraged to breastfeed
their babies, for a lot of women and their chidlren breastfeeding has just as
many cons and pros.  I just don't see this issue as the place for drawing the
line in the mommy-wars.

> This is an interesting article but it feels a bit like a bitter blog.
> Perhaps we just don’t like being told how to raise our children, that is why
> 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’t nurse worth beans.
> 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’ll
> 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 “Bible based parenting” method despite the
> suggestions of the article. E-mail me if you want details.)
> I’m in developmental psychology and after giving several hundred children IQ
> tests I don’t place much confidence in them except at the extremes. So I
> don’t worry about whether breast milk raises IQ. (Let’s face it our genetics
> 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’s 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’t 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
> problems.
> 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’t 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’t 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’t have to plan ahead and take snacks/bottles/meals along for my
>    baby, the food is always made and at temperature as needed
>    8. I don’t 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’t say that breastmilk diapers smell delicious but they sure beat
>    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
> demand
>    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’t fun
> (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’s 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!
> Best,
> Joy  (mom to Toby, nursed for 2.5 years, and Della 10 months and 23lbs of
> breastfed beauty cause she won’t take solids yet)
> --
> Joy Geren, M.A.
> Doctoral Candidate
> Laboratory for Developmental Studies
> Department of Psychology
> Harvard University

More information about the Parentsgroup-list mailing list