When it comes to breastfeeding, The Lancet infantilizes mothers


I just finished reading The Lancet’s new editorial on breastfeeding with its recommendation to ban all formula advertising. I have some advice for the editors:

Stop infantilizing women and mind your own business!

The piece, No ifs, no buts, no follow-on milk, is a masterpiece of elitist nonsense.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Trust women to make their OWN decisions.[/pullquote]

…[T]he International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes was drafted in 1981 amid widespread concern about the advertising and promotion of infant formula, particularly in settings where mothers lacked access to the clean drinking water and sterilisation equipment needed to safely prepare formula milk. The Code prohibits direct advertising of breastmilk substitutes to mothers, claims that formula milk provides health benefits, and gifts or free supplies to health-care workers and facilities…

Strikingly, it is high-income countries (including the USA, Australia, and much of western Europe) … that have the fewest legal protections—and some of the lowest breastfeeding rates, particularly beyond 6 months…

And the consequences of that are … nothing, zip, zero, nada. Many of these countries have the lowest infant mortality rates in the world and there is ZERO EVIDENCE that even a single term baby has ever been harmed by formula feeding.

You’d never know that to read the hysterical pronouncements of The Lancet:

From tobacco, to sugar, to formula milk, the most vulnerable suffer when commercial interests collide with public health. Robust advertising regulation—covering all milk products for children up to 3 years, and banning social media promotion—is the next step to protect them.

That is pure bombast.

Tobacco kills millions around the world each year. Sugar doesn’t kill anyone and infant formula does not harm term babies. Why put them in the same category? Because condemning infant formula (and sugar) is a contemporary cultural conceit based on the firmly held belief that the less privileged should adopt the preoccupations of their betters.

Privileged, Western, white women are preoccupied with producing children who look perfect on paper, racking up achievements that position them to compete in a modern economy. They are obsessed with the idea that breastfeeding produces superior children despite a lack of scientific evidence that it provides significant benefits. They have made breastfeeding into a form of virtue signaling.

What is virtue signaling?

Virtue signaling is the popular modern habit of indicating that one has virtue merely by expressing disgust or favor for certain political ideas, cultural happenings, or even the weather…

Celebrities who publicly express panic about the environment without knowing much about science are virtue signaling. So are those who seize on current events to publicize their supposedly virtuous feelings …

Breastfeeding selfies are a form of virtue signaling, equally beloved of celebrities and ordinary women. “Normalizing breastfeeding” is a form of virtue signaling, as well as decrying formula feeding. Advocating bans on formula advertising and formula gifts are yet another form of virtue signaling that benefits no one except those signaling their virtue.

The Lancet is signaling its virtue in advocating a ban of advertising and formula gifts in industrialized despite a complete lack of evidence that either practice has any impact on breastfeeding rates in those countries. But that’s not the worst aspect of such bans. The worst part is that they treat women like idiots who must, for their own good, be manipulated by their betters.

Banning ads and gifts rests on ugly assumptions

1. The ugly assumption that women are morons. Despite decades of incessant blathering about the purported benefits of breastfeeding, women who can’t or choose not to breastfeed are imagined as unaware of the benefits.

2. The ugly assumption that women are silly creatures easily manipulated by industry. The editors of The Lancet imagine that women aren’t smart enough to form and maintain their own philosophies on parenting. They are so flighty that a packet of powder will entice them away from plans to breastfeed.

3. The ugly assumption that women are incapable of protecting themselves and their babies from evil corporations and need their betters to do it for them.

Given that the benefits of breastfeeding in industrialized countries are trivial, the editors have no business dictating to women how they should use their breasts. Given that women are intelligent, there is no need for endless hectoring in an effort to force them to breastfeed. Given that women are capable of protecting themselves from industry, there is no reason to infantilize them by banning formula advertising and gifts.

My advice to the editors of the Lancet (and to the breastfeeding industry itself) is simple:

Keep your virtue signaling to yourself, mind your own business and trust women to make their OWN decisions not the decisions that you prefer.