Responding to The Case Against Breastfeeding

posted by Mama Hope | March 21st, 2009 in Attachment Parenting

If you haven’t heard the buzz lately, much debate and wagging of fingers is a brewing amongst mom bloggers about Hannah Rosin’s Atlantic piece “The Case Against Breastfeeding.” I have to admit I haven’t yet read the piece, and as I owe the babe and the fam (and myself) a bit more quality moments

Not to mention the fact that I’ve been entrenched in enough controversy and debate in the last couple of weeks between my post “Is It Wrong to Openly Support Breastfeeding” and my call for bloggers to speak up about affiliate marketing ethics. Have you answered my anonymous poll yet on your thoughts on online advertising? You can do so here!

So the long and short is I probably won’t get the time to delve deeply into Rosin’s self-made controversy for the next few days. However, I didn’t want to leave any of my readers in the dark about such a thrilling occurrence, so I thought I’d post a few relevant links on the issue.

  • Rosin’s original anti-breastfeeding article, much discussed, is here.
  • An excellent response defending breastfeeding regarding the feminist argument is on  PhD In Parenting.
  • It seems a highlight of Rosin’s argument centers on the idea that breastfeeding unnecessarily subjects women to taking on an unfair share of parental duties. Many breastfeeding women would contest that fact, I believe, and I am one of them. I said as much in my piece on sharing responsibilities in a happy marriage. That piece also has some excellent comments by a Todd Tyrtle, a daddy blogger I respect who, like my husband, takes on a healthy and vital role in his family dynamic.
  • The outcry is so deep over Rosin’s piece that even respected medical associations are speaking out. The Feminist Breeder has chronicled them well, and includes her response regarding the damage the Rosin piece does to the advancements in health that are possible when breastfeeding rates are on the rise.
  • You can also find a chronicle of the blog responses to the Atlantic piece on PhD In Parenting.

That’s right, major medical associations are actually speaking out about Rosin’s “Case Against Breastfeeding”. In case you don’t have a moment to follow those links, I’ll quote some highlights here for you:

From the American Academy of Pediatrics, quoted on The Feminist Breeder:

The evidence for the value of breastfeeding is scientific, it is strong, and it is continually being reaffirmed by new research work. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages women to make an informed decision about feeding their infants based on scientifically established information from credible resources.

From the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine:

Clinical and basic science research supports the role of breastfeeding in the development of a baby’s immune system and the presence of maternal antibodies protect infants against infection. Artificial feeding is also associated with increased risk of common disorders of early childhood such as ear infections, asthma, skin disorders, digestive problems, and respiratory tract infections. Studies have also linked artificial feeding to increased risk for obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, childhood leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and necrotizing enterocolitis. Mothers benefit as well, and a history of breastfeeding has been associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and of breast and ovarian cancer.

The moral of the story? Breastfeeding is a personal choice, but it’s supported by the major medical associations as well as millions of happy breastfeeding mothers around the world. Don’t let one voice, anxiously seeking a popularized notoriety, convince you otherwise.


Mama Hope

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9 Responses to “Responding to The Case Against Breastfeeding”

  1. I like that you listed the response the American Academy of Breastfeeding. I admit, this article ruffled my feathers! I wrote my own response, which I am sure Comment Luv will link.


    T@SendChocolate´s last blog post..Don’t Tell Me Motherhood Sucks

  2. Did you see this letter from The United States Breastfeeding Committee

  3. Thank you for your informative response. I appreciated Rosin’s raising awareness of the extreme and sometimes judgmental views of breastfeeding supporters. However, there are sooo many things that we try to protect our children from, everything from food to shampoo and even the wrong advice from a well-meaning doctor. It seems wise to give them the best and most natural start possible as long as we can. Thanks again!

    Mandy´s last blog post..Another Great Resource

  4. It’s a good article. It’s not very long, and would probably have taken less time to read than to write this post about it…

    I don’t mean that in a snarky way, just that if you are going to discuss an article and its arguments, it might be a good idea to read it first. It just gives some credibility to your post.

    Sarah´s last blog post..Picture perfect

  5. Green Mamma,
    Thanks for the link! I am still only one-third through the Rosin article and a ways to go to read the many responses! The news is that we are moving in April, so I’ve begun packing! Very excited! I’ll blog about that soon!

    Thank you! I actually agree very much with your attitude and I think it’s one that we should all keep in mind as parents. I’d word my version as this: though we won’t be perfect and we’ll all make our own decisions that relate to our situations and our strengths and weaknesses, there is much we can do to help build strong immune systems and avoid damaging toxin exposure for our children in this fragile period of their lives. Breastfeeding is only one choice to help give them a leg up, but science supports it in my estimation, no matter what journalist Rosin has to say. I see this evidenced by the throngs of medical professionals that have gone out of their way to respond publicly, including my links and the one mentioned by Green Mamma.

    Some parents may make other choices for their kids — BPA-free bottle feeding mixed with a VOC-free household and an educated immune-supportive diet for example. Another contrasting example is myself: I’m kind of low on funds and can’t afford expensive organic mattresses, so that option is out for me. So I’ll happily take criticisms that I’m unnecessarily exposing my child to PBDE’s. It’s true. I do what I can. One of the reasons breastfeeding works for me is that it is both less expensive and less time consuming in my world. It’s just such an easy option I can’t imagine not having taken it. I’m too busy to mess with bottles!

    My goal here was actually not to discuss the article but to help disseminate information. Heck, maybe that’s why Mandy chose the word “informative” rather than “persuasive” or “intelligent” when complimenting my response. (Thanks again, I do strive to inform!) Not that it matters (I think!), but I’ve spent about half an hour reading the article so far and I’m one page in. (’Been noting my thoughts too, it’s very stimulating, definitely!).

    I may or may not post more directly on the Rosin article as that post may not be timely once I can get to it. But I completely understand if you think my opinion is not credible with regard to the Rosin piece. I haven’t read it yet, so how could I have a credible opinion! It is true, though, that I did state one opinion above: you shouldn’t let one person’s voice dissuade you from breastfeeding. I stand by that!

    I won’t apologize for posting before I read the piece, because the reason I posted was to help spread the word on some interesting writing, which I hope I’ve done. There are six links and quotes above to people and organizations I respect (seven if you count Green Mamma’s); I posted them with confidence in their value to others. In a way, I’m glad that I was open about not reading the piece, so that you wouldn’t be misled as to my position! But if you’d like to read more credible responses, please follow my links!

    No problem regarding being snarky. If anything you inspire me to finish my reading, and to think more fully about why I have a website — sometimes to share my own words, sometimes to promote those of others.

  6. Informative, true. I too have posted about this article and it was only upon reading this post (I happened upon this site after googling “lentils” and “iron”) that I found out there was all this hoopla surrounding it.

    I’m all for breastfeeding and have done it on more than one occasion(!) and I would encourage any new mom to do t for as long as possible. You can even see at the end, the last paragraph, where after tearing down the medical reasons and stating her feminist arguments against it, she confesses that there is still something intangibly wonderful about it. I think that should be the main “argument” for breastfeeding.

    Sarah´s last blog post..Food Inc.

  7. I have heard that Rosin has gone on talk shows stating that she’s actually not against breastfeeding. Which of course begs some questions as to why she would write such an article… Perhaps those will be answered in her conclusion.

    The portions I’ve read so far seem pretty vehemently judgmental of breastfeeding as classist and isolating. It’s all fascinating to me as I’m poor and have a great relationship with my husband. Dunno? Maybe only rich women suffer when they breastfeed? LOL, I have no idea.

    Breastfeeding has a lot of pro’s so I guess we can all promote our favorites (or promote our favorite con’s as the case may be). I agree about that wonderful bond that brings us into something, different… I also happen to think it’s cheap and easy, as I’ve stated above! Pretty good for losing weight too, if I do say so myself. *Wink*

  8. Thanks for the link, I hadn’t heard about this. Have you seen this article by Erica Jong against attachment parenting?:


    These things really ruffle my feathers. I think the feminist movement should be about empowering women and giving women freedom of choice and equal stature in society, NOT about simply replacing the old dictated role of women for a new one that assumes “success” and “happiness” necessarily include corporate ladder climbing and minimal time in the home, particularly the kitchen or nursery.

    I choose to breastfeed and be with my kids as much as possible, and I consider myself a strong feminist. I have a master’s degree and received mixed responses to my decision to put off a career in my field in order to start a home daycare and be home with my kids while they are young.I think women should be supported in whatever informed decisions they choose to make, not told which decisions are most valid.

    Instead of insisting that women use formula or leave home to work in order to be considered “equal”, we should support women whatever their choices. We should support mothers in the workplace with better pumping and breastfeeding accomodations. We should consider mothering a career of as equal status as any corporate career, and reward it accordingly. If some mothers choose to use formula and work long corporate hours that is absolutely valid, but such choices shouldn’t be a requirement any more than breastfeeding or staying at home should be requirements. That’s really the whole point; there shouldn’t BE requirements or expectations! We should get to choose, and be supported in our choices.

    Forest Lake child care

  9. Breastfeeding is the natural choice [hence usually better than any man made replacement], promotes bonding, gives the emotional well being needed for the baby, gives the loved, security and soothing to contribute towards an emotionally secure baby, promotes intelligence, the list of benefits go on & on.
    But ultimately it is a private choice, that no one should presume to pass judgment on. Each person’s circumstances are different, they have to make that call.
    I see the point from a feminist perspective, men should share in the care of the baby. Surely education and encouragement could overcome any tendencies toward a lack of engagement from the fathers?
    One passing thought, I find it ironic that the medical community is now all in favor of the benefits of breastfeeding. Where were they 20 years back, when it was so frowned upon & discouraged? When many hospitals and nurses sabotaged the efforts of those few women who insisted they were going to breastfeed their baby? Funny how times change.


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