What’s the difference between promoting breastfeeding because it’s natural and promoting heterosexuality because it’s natural?


For years many US and world health organizations have behaved likely wholly owned subsidiaries of the breastfeeding industry. La Leche League has been an advisor to such organizations for decades and had engineered near complete replacement of scientific evidence with the goals and personal beliefs of lactivists.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Whether or not a woman breastfeeds is no more your business than whether or not a woman is gay.[/pullquote]

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has begun to push back ever so gently and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine is not happy, not happy at all.

The latest piece on their blog is dripping with their hallmark contempt for women who can’t or don’t want to breastfeed.

Dr. Joan Meek lays out the problem as the ABM sees it:

Recently, the USPSTF proposed a new recommendation: “The USPSTF recommends providing interventions during pregnancy and after birth to support breastfeeding.” Note that this statement does not state “promote and support,” but just “support.” … In explanations about this change, a member of the Task Force, Dr. Alex Kemper, as quoted in MedPage Today, stated that “the reason the Task Force made this slight word change is to recognize the importance of a mother doing what she feels is best for her and her baby and not wanting to, for example, make mothers feel guilty or bad if they decide not to breastfeed,” he said. “It’s really a personal choice that needs to be made based on her own personal situation.”

In other words, the USPSTF has decided to support ALL new mothers in choosing the feeding method that is right for them and their babies, not only the mothers who breastfeed.

According to the USPSTF:

“We systematically reviewed the literature for a variety of potential adverse events associated with breastfeeding interventions, including mothers reporting feeling criticized by the interventionist, guilt related to not breastfeeding, increased anxiety about breastfeeding, and increased postpartum depression. Only two of our included studies reported adverse events that mothers experienced related to the intervention and included reports of increased anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, and concerns regarding their family’s confidentiality. Although the goals of these interventions focused on initiating and continuing breastfeeding and empowering women to do so, it is important that interventionists respect family’s individual decisions.”

Meek responds with a statement of doublespeak that would make George Orwell proud:

If breastfeeding is truly a public health issue with benefits that have been widely documented for both women and children, then health care providers should be promoting breastfeeding to empower women to make an informed decision about their infant feeding choice.

Pro tip: You aren’t empowering women when your goal is to convince them to do it YOUR way.

Why isn’t supporting breastfeeding enough for the ABM? Because they like shaming and humiliating women who don’t knuckle under to their efforts to intimidate them into breastfeeding.

We don’t seem to worry so much about guilt when counseling patients about smoking cessation, weight reduction, or need to increase exercise.

Actually, physicians DO worry about inducing guilt and have long recognized that it is not effective in motivating people to undertake healthy behaviors. Moreover, last I heard smoking cessation, weight reduction and increasing exercise can and do save thousands of lives while promoting breastfeeding doesn’t save the life of ANY term infant.

Dr. Meek’s protestations remind me of our long national debate about homosexuality. In just a few generations we have gone from viewing it as a form of deviancy to legalizing gay marriage and there are large groups of people (particularly religious fundamentalists) who are still upset about it. They spend their time devising ways to promote heterosexuality such as privileging “traditional marriage” and promulgating laws to allow discrimination against the LGBT community. They insists that heterosexuality is normal because “that’s what nature intended.”

Dr. Meek, what’s the difference between insisting that we promote breastfeeding because “our bodies are designed for it” and religious fundamentalists insisting that we promote heterosexuality because “our bodies are designed for it”?

I don’t see much difference at all. In both cases those who demand that we promote the preferred choice instead of merely supporting it WANT to shame those who don’t make their preferred choice. It’s ugly when fundamentalists do it, and it’s ugly when breastfeeding advocates do it.

Whether or not a woman breastfeeds is no more your business than whether or not a woman is gay. There is no more need to promote breastfeeding than there is to promote heterosexuality. Promoting either does not empower women, it humiliates and shames … just as it is designed to do.