Lactivists unwittingly reveal their true goal: forcing women back into the home


A political analyst once defined a gaffe as a politician accidentally telling the truth. The lactivism industry has just committed a gaffe.

As Pediatrics Professor Steven Abrams writes, Guidelines for Breastfeeding and Early Childhood Nutrition Have Value But Go Too Far:

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]In a society where women can no longer be forced to stay home, advocates have to manipulate women into forcing themselves to stay home.[/pullquote]

As written, [the proposed guidelines] would block the marketing of whole milk for toddlers who are 1 to 3 years old. They also would strongly support the feeding of solid (weaning) foods that are homemade, as opposed to those that can be purchased at stores…

But in the United States, relatively few — less than 5 percent — of mothers breastfeed after their children reach 12 months of age, and the use of whole milk or similar products for toddlers 12 months old and older is nearly universal.

The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and many others provide milk for toddlers, and the recent Dietary Guidelines for America support the use of milk in the population covered by these guidelines, 24 months and above. It’s reasonable to allow the marketing of these products for small children, if only to provide alternatives to soda and other inappropriate beverages…

There is no reason to automatically assume that homemade food — no matter its source or preparation — is superior to commercial products, no matter where they come from or how they’re prepared. There simply is not a reason to forbid reasonable marketing of these foods.

In other words, the lactivist lobby, the same people who moralized infant feeding are now attempting to moralize the feeding of toddlers and small children. Why? For the same reason they moralized breastfeeding: to force women back into the home.

They have grossly exaggerated the benefits of breastfeeding far beyond anything supported by the depth and breadth of the scientific literature. In the case of opposition to cow’s milk and prepared infant foods, they’ve become unmoored from the scientific evidence altogether.

Let’s be clear: there is NO scientific evidence — none, zip, zero, nada — to support any restriction on cow’s milk for toddlers. There is NO scientific evidence — none, zip, zero, nada — that homemade infant foods are better than commercially prepared infant foods.

But this was never about science in the first place. In a society where women can no longer be forced to stay home, advocates have to manipulate women into forcing themselves to stay home. Natural parenting is the perfect stealth vehicle. While ostensibly promoting the wellbeing of infants and small children, it’s really about weighing down mothering with so much work and so much moralizing that a “good mother” can’t possibly do anything but mother.

One of the greatest occurrences of the 20th Century was the emancipation of women. Finally some women in some cultures achieved political and economic rights. Finally some women in some cultures were judged for their intellects, talents and character instead of how they used their uteri, vaginas and breasts.

Seismic shifts like women’s emancipation are inevitably met with backlash. Regrettably part of that backlash has been the rise of natural parenting — natural childbirth, lactivism and attachment parenting — a not so subtle effort to use women’s love for their children to restrain them.

For most of human history, children were considered property of the father. A woman who wanted to leave an abusive relationship had to weigh her freedom and perhaps her very life against the threat that she would never again see her children, the very people she loved most.

With the emancipation of women that overt threat could no longer be used to manipulate women so a new, equally vicious threat had to be contrived. Opponents of women’s emancipation, this time sadly including many women themselves, fell back on the traditional methods for measuring women: the function of their reproductive organs. Since they were no longer able to mandate that women be judged by reproductive functions, they moralized those functions in the natural parenting movements.

Indeed, as I explain in PUSH BACK: Guilt in the Age of Natural Parenting, La Leche League, which dominates the breastfeeding industry, was started explicitly to force women back into the home. In the book La Leche League: At the Crossroads of Medicine, Feminism, and Religion, Jule DeJager Ward explains that the La Leche League was founded in 1956:

… by a group of Catholic mothers who sought to mediate in a comprehensive way between the family and the world of modern technological medicine. . . . [A] central characteristic of La Leche League’s ideology is that it was born of Catholic moral discourse on family life. . . . The League has very strong convictions about the needs of families. The League’s presentations and literature carry a strong suggestion that breast feeding is obligatory. Their message is simple: Nature intended mothers to nurse their babies; therefore, mothers ought to nurse.

Once again, according to natural parenting advocates, women’s needs are irrelevant; women must be judged — valued or excoriated — by how they use their uteri, vaginas and breasts. There must ALWAYS be more work for mother. And that’s precisely what is intended by the proposed guidelines. They are meant to force women to breastfeed for 2 or more years (just like our utterly disenfranchised foremothers). No conveniences like prepared baby food for them! The good mother spends her time preparing special meals for her toddler.

Maybe the next step will be to insist that she grow her own food, too. After all, she’s forced to stay home and her needs are irrelevant; she might as well farm as she breastfeeds.