Jamie Oliver and lactivists who lie

Man fingers crossed behind a backside

See what happens when you let men out of the kitchen where they belong? They start pontificating about subjects that they know nothing about and making fools of themselves in the process.

Take celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, for example. Oliver, whose US school lunch program designed to decrease obesity was a total failure because kids didn’t like the food, now turns his attention to breastfeeding.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]For many women, breastfeeding is NOT easy, and it is NOT convenient.[/pullquote]

Acting as a spokesperson for a British nutrition charity, he made a promotional video where he actually uttered the words:

It’s the next big thing. Breastfeeding is easy and convenient.

No, Jamie, it’s not the next big thing. It’s a very old, and very imperfect thing.

Women have been breastfeeding since the beginning of time and infant mortality rates have been hideous since the beginning of time (until the advent of modern medicine and, dare I say it, infant formula).

How could breastfeeding, “nature’s way” for feeding babies, be imperfect?

In the exact same way that pregnancy, nature’s way of making babies, is imperfect. We’ve all seen nature shows about turtles. Female turtles laboriously haul themselves out of the sand to lay and bury millions of eggs on a beach. Those eggs hatch at roughly the same time and the baby turtles have to scrabble to the water in order to survive. Only a fraction of them make it; the rest are eaten by predators waiting patiently for a feast.

Human reproduction, like turtle reproductions, like all animal reproduction is terribly wasteful. Consider that women produce millions of ova (eggs) that they never use and men produce billions of sperm that will never fertilize an ovum. Even when conception does occur, the carnage continues. Approximately 20% of established pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Death on a grand scale is inevitable in reproduction and breastfeeding is a part of reproduction.

At least 5% of women, perhaps more, cannot produce enough milk to fully nourish an infant. In the good old days when everyone was breastfed, those babies simply died. Just as miscarriage is the specter that haunts every newly pregnant woman, infant death from dehydration or failure to thrive used to be the specter that haunted new motherhood. Breastfeeding is so imperfect that the ONLY societies that have low infant mortality are societies where formula is readily available and readily used.

Oliver might be forgiven his ignorance of the entirely natural death toll of breastfeeding, but his claim that breastfeeding is “easy and convenient” is completely unforgivable. In facts, it’s the classic, self-serving lie of the lactivist movement.

Let me say this loud and clear so there’s no confusion on this issue:

For many women, breastfeeding is NOT easy, and it is NOT convenient.

Lactivists like to pretend that women stop breastfeeding because of lack of education, because hospitals give out formula, because of lack of professional support, because of lack of peer support, etc. etc. etc. All this pretending reflects the profound unwillingness of the breastfeeding industry to acknowledge  the real reasons that women stop breastfeeding or fail to start in the first place. The dirty little secret about breastfeeding is that starting is hard, painful, frustrating and inconvenient. And continuing breastfeeding is hard, sometimes painful, and incredibly inconvenient especially for women who work, which in 2016 is most women.

Why do lactivists lie about the reality of breastfeeding? Why do they sugarcoat it with little maxims like “breast milk is always available,” breast milk is always the perfect temperature,” and “breast feeding saves money.” Why does the breastfeeding industry (lactation consultants, manufacturers of breastfeeding supplies like pumps) ignore the very real challenges in initiating and maintaining breastfeeding?

They lie because they think they have a right to police women’s bodies. They fear that women will not attempt breastfeeding if they are informed honestly about the difficulties. Yet it seems that the opposite is true. By not acknowledging these difficulties up front, the breastfeeding industry sets women up for failure, guilt and possibly postpartum depression, when those women encounter the “normal” pain, frustration and inconvenience of breastfeeding.

Women are telling the breastfeeding industry that the way information on breastfeeding is presented has made them feel awful. It is the height of arrogance to tell a woman that what is hurting her is not really hurting her. When mothers tell lactivists that breastfeeding is often painful and often inconvenient, it is arrogant to tell them that breastfeeding is “easy and convenient.” When mothers tell lactivists that aggressive breastfeeding promotion leads fo crushing feelings of failure and inferiority, it is arrogant to tell them that it doesn’t.

This is the central paradox of contemporary lactivism. If breastfeeding is so easy and convenient, why do lactivists need to recruit Jamie Oliver to tell women that it is easy and convenient? Because it isn’t really easy and convenient; they know it and lie about it anyway.

Jamie Oliver should get back in the kitchen were he belongs and leave the hard work of nourishing infants to their mothers who love them, want what’s healthiest for them, and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that breast is NOT always best.