There have been an avalanche of commentaries since Hanna Rosin’s publication of “The Case Against Breastfeeding“ in The Atlantic, April 2009, which came out last week. Rosin, a contributing editor and mother of three, challenges whether women want to breastfeed or feel pressured to do so by society. She argues that the evidence showing that breast milk is better than formula is slim. I’m not sure where she’s getting her information, but we seem to be reading from very different sources. Just this week I’ve posted numerous stories on this site with studies proving the medical benefits of breastfeeding. Check them out for yourself.
Rosin states “breast-feeding exclusively is not like taking a prenatal vitamin. It is a serious time commitment that pretty much guarantees that you will not work in any meaningful way.” She says that breastfeeding mothers are really disadvantaged because they lose out on careers, income and promotions while relinquishing their independence and even their own lives all because they choose to nurse their children. Wow, I think that’s a big generalization and I totally disgree. I elected to stay home with my son full time as I felt this was the best thing for him, but I do work as a nanny part time as well as running this website (which requires daily work). Sure, I’ve given up on full time employment but that was a conscious choice because I wanted to stay home and raise my son. It had nothing to do with breastfeeding.
In my opinion, if breastfeeding seemed like such a chore to Rosin, perhaps it is time for her to wean (she is still currently breastfeeding her third child). The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends you breastfeed for at least 12 months, and afterwards “for as long as mother and baby desire.” If Rosin resents breastfeeding her children, she should simply stop. I know plenty of mothers who love nursing their babies and treasure the bonding experience wanting it to last as long as their child is happy to continue. I count myself amongst those. I am appalled that she suggests that I am chained to my baby and breastfeeding keeps me from more fulfilling things in life. Sure, in the 21st century you probably don’t spend all your time gazing lovingly into your child’s eyes while you sit there nursing for hours. I read, watch TV, reply to email and talk on the phone or entertain guests, all while breastfeeding. I incorporate it into my life instead of stopping my life to do it. Frankly, with my crazy schedule and all the running around I do after my toddler, I’m happy to get a few minutes to sit down while he is attached to my breast.
The only time I have felt the burden of breastfeeding was very early on with my newborn when I felt I had to go and nurse him in another room as he needed some quiet while people were enjoying themselves. Then I felt left out and that I was shouldering more of the parental responsibility. I quickly learned to adapt and instead of withdrawing, I stayed part of the action proudly breastfeeding my son right there included in all the fun.
I also know plenty of moms who return to work and continue breastfeeding. I have nannied for two such ladies, one a therapist and another an OB/GYN. Both pumped while they were at work so their was breast milk while they were away from their daughters and then brought them to their breast when they were together again. I really believe if you want to make pumping work for you, it is possible. If your employers create conditions that don’t support you pumping then campaign to change it.
I actually wonder if Rosen wrote this knowingly controversial article simply to drum up publicity for The Atlantic and increase readership. If you look at the article published in June 2008 on Foliomag.com, they outline the magazine’s strategy to save the 150-year old publication by increasing the focus on their website. Something to ponder anyway especially since the web is abuzz with debate about this article and Rosen was even interviewed on the Today Show. Sounds like good publicity to me.
From everything I have read, I definitely believe breastfeeding is one of the best things you can give your child. I am so convinced of this that I pour hours each week into this website to support and encourage mothers out there to continue to nurse their children. Also, watching my son grow and seeing how independent he is rewards me and I believe it is as a direct result of our breastfeeding relationship.
If you have any doubts about why breast is best I invite you to visit the information on Reasons to Breastfeed for a more detailed look at the motivations for breastfeeding. Now, let’s get back to the important things like bonding with our babies. One of the best ways I know to do that is breastfeeding. See below under the edit section for another great way to get involved and have your voice heard.
Additonal Information from the United States Breastfeeding Committee:
A storm is brewing against breastfeeding with the publication of Hanna Rosin’s article “The Case Against Breast-Feeding” in the April 2009 issue of The Atlantic. Rosin was also featured on the Today show on March 16 with NBC News Chief Medical Editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman. Although their discussion deplorably misrepresented the medical research on breastfeeding, it also appropriately highlighted a much bigger issue: it can be very challenging to achieve optimal breastfeeding recommendations in the United States.
View the clip from The Today Show:
The United States Breastfeeding Committee has sent a letter to the editor of The Atlantic, co-signed by many of its members and other national organizations:
But we also need your help to bring an end to this unnecessary and irresponsible “debate” about the proven health risks of not breastfeeding, and to reframe the discussion to focus on what’s really at stake: support for mothers and families.
Write a letter to the editor of The Atlantic today using USBC’s easy online tool and sample talking points. Letters to the editor can reach a large audience, allowing readers to comment on the way issues are addressed in the mass media.