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The Today Show and The Atlantic Article About Breastfeeding

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The Today Show did a story this morning on breastfeeding, calling it “Is Breast-feeding Really Best?” It featured Dr. Nancy Synderman and Hanna Rosin, the author of The Atlantic article about breastfeeding. You can watch The Today Show piece below.
At the outset, the segment actually does a good job of outlining some of the health benefits of breastfeeding for babies. Rosin talks about how she is still breastfeeding her third child. And Synderman and Rosin talk about how hard it is to go back to work and continue to breastfeed. (True). They also discuss the “peer pressure” some moms feel to breastfeed. (True, too).
But Synderman and Rosin don’t talk about a key point… Formula is an invention. So Rosin’s argument that the science backing up the benefits of breastfeeding isn’t clear, seems a bit superficial. I’m not a statistician, so I’m not going to argue the merits of different scientific studies. But it seems logical that something made by our bodies is going to be better than something made in a factory. (For a more reasoned argument of the health benefits of breastfeeding see The Motherwear Blog).
Rosin and Synderman also overlook that fact that using formula, in place of breast milk, is a luxury. It’s a luxury we have in developed nations. So all this talk about worrying how moms feel about their “choice” whether or not to breastfeed is really a discussion about affluence. If moms didn’t have access to clean water and electricity to sterilize bottles, how would they give babies safe formula? If there was an emergency (natural or man-made), and moms couldn’t get access to formula, what would they do? How would they feed their children?
I support a mom’s right to choose whether to use formula or breast milk. In this country, it’s a highly personal decision, and moms should feel good about whatever choice they make. But let’s not forget how fortunate we are to have this choice. Furthermore, if we had better family leave policies, we wouldn’t worry about how hard it is for breastfeeding moms to go back to work.
Finally, to the mainstream media outlets… of which I used to be a part… let’s try not to sensationalize breastfeeding any more. Using headlines like “Is Breast Best?” may draw in viewers and make your advertisers happy, but it doesn’t address the real issues going on here.


What Are Your Thoughts on This Anti-Breastfeeding Article in The Atlantic

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The April issue of The Atlantic has a piece titled, “The Case Against Breastfeeding.” Here’s a quote:
In certain overachieving circles, breast-feeding is no longer a choice—it’s a no-exceptions requirement, the ultimate badge of responsible parenting. Yet the actual health benefits of breast-feeding are surprisingly thin, far thinner than most popular literature indicates. Is breast-feeding right for every family? Or is it this generation’s vacuum cleaner—an instrument of misery that mostly just keeps women down?
And another quote:
In Betty Friedan’s day, feminists felt shackled to domesticity by the unreasonably high bar for housework, the endless dusting and shopping and pushing the Hoover around—a vacuum cleaner being the obligatory prop for the “happy housewife heroine,” as Friedan sardonically called her. When I looked at the picture on the cover of Sears’s Breastfeeding Book—a lady lying down, gently smiling at her baby and still in her robe, although the sun is well up—the scales fell from my eyes: it was not the vacuum that was keeping me and my 21st-century sisters down, but another sucking sound.
So here’s my two cents… we’re truly fortunate, in this country, that women have the choice whether to breastfeed or formula feed. We have access to clean water to make formula. We can sterilize bottles. Choosing formula isn’t a choice between life and death as it can often be in developing countries. (For that reason, most likely, the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until at least the age of two).
So I think this is an opinion piece masquerading as reporting. The author, Hanna Rosin, misses an essential point… We’re mammals. Mammals breastfeed. It’s how we survive. Formula is an invention. And if there is absolutely no empirical advantage to breast milk over formula, as she suggests, then why are we here? Why are we even having this discussion?
What do you think?