Philosophy of Early Motherhood

An interview with Fiona Woollard.  A small sample:

When we demand that mothers defend their choice to use formula, we treat them as if they have a defeasible duty to breastfeed.

When we treat arguments supporting breastfeeding, or even any celebration of breastfeeding, as an attack on formula feeders, we are assuming that if breastfeeding is good, then mothers must have a defeasible duty to breastfeed.

But the fact that something is good normally only give me a reason to do it, not a defeasible duty. Because it would be good to raise money for cancer research, I have a reason to run a marathon. But I don’t have a duty. If I don’t run, then other people can’t accost me, demanding that I justify this. And I don’t need to feel guilty. But the reason helps to make sense of what I do and gives other people reason to support me.

I think that if breastfeeding is beneficial, mothers have a reason to breastfeed, but do not have a duty to breastfeed. Once we recognise this, we can see that it is possible to argue for the need to support breastfeeding *without* implying that formula feeders should feel guilty.

One thought on “Philosophy of Early Motherhood

  1. There does seem to be an important point of disanology here. You don’t have a duty to run a marathon in the case as described, I immediately agree with FW on that. But if running a marathon would make your child healthier and better off in many ways, then I’m not immediately in agreement. Breastfeeding seems more like the marathon case as just redescribed, and not as FW initially presented it. FW takes an issue involving a duty to another and shifts by analogy to an issue involving a duty to oneself. This simplification is misleading, and the argument would require more subtlety if we avoided it. One might think that parents have a *default* duty to do whatever they can in order to make their young children better off. That might be false. But the argument here seems like a rather poor way of showing as much.

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