Our breastfeeding fetish


There once was a time when all babies were breastfed … and they died in droves.

That’s because the benefits of breastfeeding are very small. Breastfeeding can’t overcome poor sanitation; it can’t prevent or treat deadly childhood diseases; and many women don’t make enough breastmilk to fully nourish a child.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Breastfeeding is a natural process in exactly the same way that menstruation or pregnancy are natural processes and every woman knows how painful, inconvenient and disappointing those natural processes can be.[/pullquote]

So why are we fetishizing breastfeeding?

Yes, fetishizing. There are a number of definitions of the word “fetish” and two have particular relevance:

1. Something worshipped for its supposed magical powers.

2. Something regarded with irrational reverence and devotion.

Our fetishizing of breastfeeding begins with those purported magical powers. To hear lactivists tell it, exclusive breastfeeding could save hundreds of thousands of infant lives around the world each year.


It didn’t prevent an astronomical infant death rate prior to the advent of sanitation, vaccinations and antibiotics. Why would it suddenly start saving lives it couldn’t save for nearly all of human history? It wouldn’t.

It doesn’t prevent astronomical infant death rates in poor countries today. Indeed, the countries with the highest infant mortality rates have the HIGHEST breastfeeding rates (essentially 100%). If millions of infants in poor countries die each year in spite of exclusive breastfeeding, how exactly is it going to prevent the much rarer deaths of infants in wealthy countries? It isn’t.

Breastfeeding is a natural process in exactly the same way that menstruation or pregnancy are natural processes and every woman knows how painful, inconvenient and disappointing those natural processes can be.

Breastfeeding shares many similarities with menstruation. It can be painful; it can be inconvenient; and it is subject to complications. In the case of menstruation those complications can be severe pain, heavy bleeding, irregular periods or polycystic ovarian syndrome. In the case of breastfeeding those complications include severe pain, poor latch and inadequate breastmilk.

Just like menstrual pain, heavy bleeding and irregular periods are COMMON, painful breastfeeding, difficulty emptying the breast and inadequate breastmilk are also COMMON.

Similarly, established pregnancies have a miscarriage rate of 20%. In other words, one out of five pregnancies that have implanted in the uterus DIES. If a process as critical to human survival as pregnancy has such a hideous death rate, why would we ever believe that breastfeeding doesn’t have a death rate, too?

Breastfeeding does not have magical properties no matter how much the breastfeeding industry pretends that it does.

Why all the pretending? Precisely because breastfeeding IS an industry, complete with trade unions, lobbying groups and public relations campaigns. The moralization of breastfeeding — the claim that breastfeeding makes infants healthier, smarter and less subject to the diseases of wealthy societies — parallels the monetization of breastfeeding.

I don’t mean that the breastfeeding industry is cynical. They actually believe their own propaganda, but it is propaganda nonetheless.

The fetishization of breastfeeding extends beyond imagining magical powers to irrational reverence and devotion.

Consider the myriad brelfies (breastfeeding selfies) of women dressed up in ludicrous outfits, nursing in ridiculous photo shoots, and gathering for mass breastfeeding photos while dressed in uniform or not dressed at all. The ostensible reason for these breastfeeding stunts is to “normalize” breastfeeding. But why should breastfeeding need to be normalized? Its benefits in first world countries are trivial. It would make far more sense for naked nurses to administer vaccinations in an effort to normalize vaccines since they really do save lives. It would make far more sense for naked mothers to pose with infants properly buckled into car seats to normalize proper car seat use.

Why don’t we see that? Because brelfies and breastfeeding stunts aren’t about normalizing breastfeeding; they’re about blasting the supposed superiority of breastfeeding mothers into everyone else’s faces.

Breastfeeding has been fetishized because it allows some mothers to feel superior to other mothers.

Remember the mean girls in middle school who would imperiously declare who could and could not sit at their table in the cafeteria. Those mean girls have grown up and they are now patrolling the playgrounds and mommy and me groups to enforce submission to their whims.

Or worse. Some, like chiropractor Heather Reed Wolfson, are now representing themselves as healthcare providers and using their positions of authority to bully women who don’t mirror their own choices back to them.

Wolfson had this to say to a woman who chose to feed her child pumped breastmilk:


It was NOT your choice to not breastfeed and instead pump. Did you ask your newborn if they minded being fed out of an artificial nipple and plastic bottle that was probably heated up in a microwave?? Missing out on the natural skin to skin bond and immune boosting behavior when you were perfectly capable of nursing the way natural intended?! Did you I know that the mother’s milk changes every time the baby puts his/her mouth (saliva) over her nipple depending on the babies needs? If they are sick the mother’s body will produce antibodies to their babies illness. I would imagine that you don’t know any of this because you are an incredibly arrogant and ignorant mother who thinks she knows it all and has the right to pass nature because of her own screwed up reasons!

This is NOT in your face breast feeding mentality. You are pathetic for even commenting on this article. You need to get your head checked for even saying such crazy comments. Maybe if you nursed your babies the way they deserved to be nursed, you would understand these pictures.

I know mothers who have adopted and spent months prior trying to make milk by pumping and even taking hormones for milk production despite not giving birth! Some still use their breast as a pacifier even if they were never able to develop milk because they know the importance of this behavior.

You have to live with yourself which is why you find it necessary to put other women down who do the right thing. Makes you feel better about yourself and your pathetic “choices” in life.

It is Wolfson who is incredibly arrogant in her ignorance.

Apparently she doesn’t have a clue that antibodies for most childhood diseases (immunoglobulin G or IgG) CAN’T be passed through breastmilk; it is secretory IgA that can be passed through breastmilk and that is effective only against colds and diarrheal illnesses.

There is NO evidence that breastmilk is customized to a particular baby nor any realistic mechanism by which it might be customized. The theory of spit back-wash invoked by Wolfsohn is pure speculation unmoored from actual scientific evidence.

Wolfson is a mean girl spewing a vicious mean girl rant because someone refused to fetishize breastfeeding as Wolfsohn has done.

Wolfson is a particularly ugly example of our breastfeeding fetish, but that merely emphasizes the true purpose of fetishizing breastfeeding. It has nothing to do with what is good for babies and everything to do with some mothers desperately trying to feel superior to other mothers … and sadly revealing their arrogant ignorance of science in the process.