Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

“The Case Against Breastfeeding” March 21, 2009

Filed under: maternity — Jender @ 11:08 am

That’s the title of an article causing a huge controversy online. Its main contention is simply that there IS a case against breastfeeding, and that this deserves to be weighed up against the case for breastfeeding in each individual case– and that a decision not to breastfeed can be a reasonable and even good one. This shouldn’t be a surprising thought, really, or even a controversial one. But it goes against the widespread orthodoxy that breastfeeding is not only best but the ONLY acceptable decision. The thing that seems to make the case against breastfeeding so hard to see is that it requires taking mothers’ own needs and desires seriously. It requires seeing the following as expressing legitimate desires that deserve respect rather than expressions of contemptible selfishness:

I want to get back to my job.
I’m losing my mind from sleep deprivation and I want to sleep.
I don’t want to be hooked up to a pump for hours every day.
I want to share baby care equally with my partner.
My nipples are bleeding and I want the pain to stop.
I don’t like breastfeeding and I don’t want to do it.
My partner wants to be an equal partner in baby care and I want him/her to do that.

If these were seen as legitimate, it would be obvious that there are disadvantages of breastfeeding to be weighed against the advantages. But, all too often, they are not. Mothers are still supposed to do whatever they’re told to do for their babies, and any expression of a desire to do otherwise is emphatically not OK.
(I should note that the article also contains critiques of some of the science supporting breastfeeding. I’m not in a position to evaluate that.)

 

 
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