Dr. Jack Newman, how dare you?

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To Dr. Jack Newman, pediatrician and professional lactivist:

Dr. Newman,

How dare you?

I just read your execrable piece on Huffington Post and I’m angry. The title is Do Mothers Really Have The Choice To Breastfeed? but it’s the subtitle that’s the greatest outrage: “Breastfeeding is not just about breast milk. It is a relationship.”

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]How dare you imply that a woman who breastfeeds has better relationship with her baby than a woman who bottle feeds?[/pullquote]

How dare you imply that a woman who breastfeeds has a different and better relationship with her baby than a woman who bottle feeds?

When did you ever breastfeed a baby?

For that matter, did you ever mother a child?

What precisely qualifies you to opine on what breastfeeding means to women and babies?

Wait, what? Doctor knows best? Where have I heard that before? Oh, right, from lots of other men telling women just how they ought to use their reproductive organs.

I am a mother of four adult children. From the moment each was born I loved him or her more than life itself and I still do. To this day, I would cut off my right arm to spare any of them pain. I love them for who they are and how I fed them has NOTHING to do with my feelings for them.

How dare you imply that I would love them less had I not breastfed them?

How dare you imply that I would have a different, inferior, relationship with them had I not breastfed them?

Do you think I love my children more than my friends who bottle fed or became mothers through adoption love theirs?

Do you understand just how vicious your statement is or do you simply not care how it impacts women and babies?

Let’s be honest. We’ve read the same research and we both know that the scientific evidence shows that benefits of breastfeeding in first world countries are trivial. We both know that the outlandish claims of lactivists are based on research that is weak, conflicting and riddled with confounders. We both know that breast milk isn’t magic, merely one of two excellent ways to nourish and infant.

But I know what it’s like to breastfeed and you haven’t a clue. That’s why I know that your claim that women who don’t breastfeed haven’t been given the choice to do so is ugly and untrue.

You write:

Often, in fact, mothers do not seem to have the right to breastfeed and are forced, by health professionals, judges and child protective agencies to bottle feed.

Often? Really? I’ve cared for thousands of women and I’ve never seen a single one forced by a health professional, judge or child protective agency to bottle feed against her will. You’ve made an empirical claim; where’s your empirical evidence?

From our experience with many thousands of mothers having come to our breastfeeding clinic during the past 32 years, I can say that in many such cases, with a little good help, the mother could carry on breastfeeding exclusively.

This may come as a shock to you, but women who come to your breastfeeding clinic WANT to breastfeed. They are not in any way representative of women who DON’T want to breastfeed or lack the socio-economic advantages that make breastfeeding easier for privileged women.

You simply ignore those women, a substantial proportion of mothers.

You insult your neonatology colleagues by implying that neonatal hypernatremic dehydration, malnutrition, hypoglycemia, and hyperbilirubinemia either don’t exist or aren’t dangerous even though we all know they can lead to brain damage and death; preventing them is of critical importance.

You treat women as if they are nothing more than cows, reducing them to the milk their breasts might produce, without any regard to their pain, needs and desires … and then you insult them on top of that.

Women have the right to control their own bodies. It is no more your business whether a woman breastfeeds than whether she terminates a pregnancy. She doesn’t have to justify herself to you and you have no way to know what motivates her unless she tells you.

Don’t you dare imply that women who bottle feed are lesser mothers than those who breastfeed. You’ve never breastfed; you’ve never been a mother. You have no idea what you are talking about.