SHESPEAKS Your Power to Influence

Is Breast Always Best?

SS Member Image By drodriguez 04.09.09
Is Breast Always Best?
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When discussing the ways to feed a new baby we have all heard the popular phrase “breast is best”.  For decades now we have seen the breastfeeding movement take shape and become a mainstream piece of advice among doctors, friends, and family.  The American Academy of Pediatrics now advises mothers to breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first six months of life. 

Through television ads, newspaper articles, and the latest scientific studies we are told breastfed babies suffer less illness and have higher IQ’s than those given formula.  This is why an article by Hanna Rosin from The Atlantic magazine entitled The Case Against Breast-feeding along with a 4-woman sit down podcast discussion follow-up about the article is causing quite a stir.

Rosin voices the opinion that breastfeeding is not necessarily what’s best for a family. She feels the modern campaigns that urge women to breastfeed are counteracting the feminist movement as well as overstating flawed scientific data in favor of breastfeeding.  After doing some medical research she found that, “The medical literature looks nothing like the popular literature? A couple of studies will show fewer allergies, and then the next one will turn up no difference.  Same with mother-infant bonding, IQ, leukemia, cholesterol, diabetes?” 

Rosin also discusses how the breast pump can make a woman feel more like a machine than a mother, later adding, “I’m hoping pump companies will just disappear.”  As unpopular as Rosin’s opinions on modern-day breastfeeding may sound she has struck a chord with many women, especially those who spend a good deal of their workday behind closed doors with a plastic pump in hand.  One woman who felt a kinship to the views expressed in The Case Against Breast-feeding was New York Times writer, Judith Warner who wrote an opinion piece in response called Ban The Breast Pump.

Both Warner and Rosin admit they have enjoyed breastfeeding their children, but feel the idea of feeding a baby formula should be a choice and not a doomed alternative that elicits fear and guilt in women.  Warner writes in response to Rosin’s article, “Is it at long last possible ? on this side of the Atlantic ? to suggest that we’ve maybe taken ?breast is best’ a bit too far?  That a mother’s need for some semblance of physical dignity is perhaps a right worth respecting?  That supplementing with formula ? if it makes for greater happiness (and emotional availability) in the baby’s most important caretaker ? isn’t necessarily an act of gross irresponsibility?”

What do you think of the views expressed that the “breast is best” movement has gone too far?

Do you think the breast pump serves a meaningful purpose to women and babies or is it a negative tool that we can do without?

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  • am_i_lost By am_i_lost

    I breast fed both my girls; which was years ago. I wouldn't have been able to make it without a breast pump! I had soo much milk and getting my body in tune with their nursing habits was a nightmare. My oldest started sleeping through the night at 3 weeks; yes, I was blessed, but was paid back with my second daughter. But anyway, my milk didn't just stop, I had to do something! It was just in the beginning and then I used formula if needed. I think you can be "TOO" influenced by what you read or by what you are told by others. That's your fault. Make your own judgement and decsions.

  • Texmel By Texmel

    I nursed my son, who is now 7, and would not give up those precious times or memories for anything. He was in the 95% percentile til he started crawling (then he got kind of skinny like the rest of the family) but he has been incredibly healthy and happy. I did use the pump; when I got mastitis and once ate a jalapeno-heavy appetizer it was a lifesaver (the latter b/c baby's tummy did NOT handle strong spices for awhile). I have friends on both sides of the question. Some have had to use formula, some breastfed, and their kids are great and happy. Why does someone else's opinion on this very personal matter need to direct what a woman chooses to do with her body and her family?

  • nubbin66 By nubbin66

    I've nursed all of my childred(6) for different lengths of time. The last 2 was totally breast fed. They were hardly sick at all, did not have any digestion problems. I loved not having to wash bottles. I wouldn't trade those moments of bonding and love that I felt towards my babies.

  • kikirose78 By kikirose78

    I BFed both of my children over a year- never used a bottle and only pumped if I was engorged due to Mastitis. I am due with #3 in a few weeks and plan to do the same with him. I would not trade the bonding time I had with my kids for anything!!! My kids are both 95th percentile in height and a healthy weight- we have never had any health problems. This is what breasts are made for- just like with every other mammal.

  • Grammy_J_Newton By Grammy_J_Newton

    Well my story is many years old - but I could not breast feed any of our three children. I was taking medication and it would have gone through my milk, causing them to have withdrawal symptoms when they were weaned. I bawled like a baby when I found that out with our first one -our girl and the only girl!- But, when I gained the perspective that I would cause something in her body that would create her to suffer, it wasn't even a choice then. I was so happy that I could even have children. And I agree, I believe the "choice" is a very personal one, which is best left on a personal level.

  • jemappel By jemappel

    I read the article and the author makes no sense. She talks about feeling trapped because she had to sit and, if you weren't breastfeeding, you'd still have to sit and give the baby a bottle. You'd still have to get up in the middle of the night and give the baby a bottle. I don't understand why breastfeeding would be considered more restrictive to a mom's life than bottlefeeding. Yes, there's the pumping thing when you work...but I found it a lot easier in the middle of the night to pop the baby on the boob rather than having to get up and make a warm bottle. Regarding the convenience argument, I think it evens out in the end. Plus, formula is expensive!! I just stopped nursing my baby at 9 months and I can't believe how much formula I go through! I agree that pressure to breastfeed is wrong, and it is a personal choice, but the author is just taking an opposite extreme view which is not a helpful contribution to the dialogue about breastfeeding.

  • msdst8 By msdst8

    As I read the articles and read your comments, I'm sitting at my desk pumping. I breastfed my son who is now 4 and I'm breastfeeding my daughter now (she's 5 months). I enjoy breastfeeding and wouldn't give my kids anything else. I have never seen this as restrictive. Actually it's so easy. The milk is always there and ready. I just make sure I have diapers and wipes. Travel is easy (I bring a manual pump). Some people are VERY selfish and feel that if they can't do what they want at minute X, there is a problem. As someone else said, if you weren't nursing, you would be bottle feeding. I tell my son that my super power is that I can make milk (he thinks running as fast as Flash is cooler)...Sad state we are in.

  • mkmac4 By mkmac4

    I did not breast feed my kids. They turned out very intelligent and healthy. I don't see why we need to be so obsessed with breast feeding. It's a personal choice and should stay that way.

  • hairs2u By hairs2u

    I did not breast feed my daughter and she is doing great. I have friends that did and their children have more sickness and are allergic to everything. I do not think it makes a difference. I would love to know why people are so obsessed with this and why they look down on you if you don't BF. It is a personal preference. I agree with mkmac4.

  • agaphmou By agaphmou

    I have never breat fed since I have no children unfortunately.I can though comment since I work in the healthcare industry that breast milk is definitey the best,and you should try to breast feed for as long as possible.Breast milk helps to boost the baby's immunity,and provides it with the best possible nutrition.I do have to say though that if you are taking any medication you should consult with your doctor before breast feeding because most of the medications are also found in the breast milk,and you do not want to transfer the drug to your baby.

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