Monday, March 30

When science goes wrong..or why I find this women's take on breastfeeding so irritating

I did another one of those link hopping things today. Followed a post from one place to another and finally ended up on the Atlantic Monthly's page.

There is an article from the upcoming issue about breastfeeding.

It's titled: The Case Against Breastfeeding

It made me want to throw a few things at my computer.

I decided that my computer was not to blame, and neither is the woman who wrote the article.

She actually makes several good points.

Women often face enormous amount of social pressure to do the right thing for their children, even when the 'right' thing can really be one of many things.

Women are often blamed for doing too little (Uh oh. Cold mother? Your child's autism is a reaction), too much (Clingy mother? You've made your son gay!) or things that are just plain bad (A glass of wine? Shame on you! Your child's delay is your fault!).

While I'm not advocating for being a non-responsive/overly-aggressive/drinker during pregnancy and childrearing, there's a pretty good body of evidence that women cannot and should not be blamed for the complexity that is human growth and development.

Anyway, back to my rant about the breastfeeding article.

The author, Hanna Rosin, spends most of the first page talking about the difficulties of being shackled to her baby during its breastfeeding months.

She points out that women are ostracized if they choose to bottle feed, and that scare tactics are used to keep women breastfeeding lest they create undernourished, stupid acne ridden children.

She's right about the weak evidence that links IQ or acne to breastfeeding practices.
She's right about how her baby would likely grow up to be equally intelligent, happy etc whether she bottle feeds him or not.

But she's forgetting that she's obviously living in a rather lovely bubble, vacuum cleaners and all forms of male oppression included.
She has high SES, which is the great equalizer for many other things.

Lead poisoning in your child? High SES will help ensure that their IQ remains along a normal path (not so if you're low SES).
Bottle fed or breastfed? Probably doesn't matter if you have enough money for good food, schools and ongoing parental involvement.

But she totally erases the expediences of many women, both in the US and around the world who cannot rely upon their wealth and status as the great equalizer for their children.

Maybe breastfeeding does not give your baby extra IQ points (and maybe it does! weak evidence does not mean no impact..just need more info!).

But in countries where the infant mortality rate is 7x (or even higher) that of the United States, early and exclusive breastfeeding has been found to be one of the most effective ways to save lives.

So while it's something worthy of a healthy debate among the playgroup tight jean set that Ms. Rosin so cleverly mocks, it's literally a matter of life and death for infants around the world and even in Ms. Rosin's own city.

So while I don't disagree with her characterization of breastfeeding as a personal decision (one for which women should not be shamed or ostracized no matter the outcome), it's rather upsetting that she repeatedly compares this important and life saving measure to vacuum cleaning.

I'd love to go toe to toe with her mountain of research.
I'm pretty sure my 'saves lives' research is more compelling in the argument for breastfeeding than the evidence against because it may or may not help prevent acne.


Brian said...

Did you see Salma Hayek breast feed that baby in Africa? That was crazy. Kristin loved it.

SasZ said...

I did! I thought it was awesome.