Natural childbirth, breastfeeding and the narcissistic fallacy


Most people are aware that natural childbirth and lactivism are based on the naturalistic fallacy. I’d like to propose an new logical fallacy that also animates them, the narcissistic fallacy.

The naturalistic fallacy, also known as the is/ought fallacy, assumes that because something is a certain way, it ought to be that way. If all childbirth in nature is unmedicated vaginal birth, than all childbirth everywhere at all times ought to be unmedicated vaginal birth. If all infant feeding in nature is breastfeeding than all children everywhere regardless of circumstances ought to be breastfed.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The narcissistic fallacy: if I don’t want it, you can’t have it.[/pullquote]

The narcissistic fallacy, in contrast, is the I/you fallacy: if I don’t want it, you can’t have it.

The naturalistic fallacy uses the past as the touchstone for how the present should be ordered. The narcissistic fallacy — as it’s name implies — uses an individual’s preference for how the world should be ordered.

But, but, but SCIENCE! Science shows that natural childbirth and breastfeeding are best!

No, science actually shows the opposite. As Hobbes wrote in the political context, life in the state of nature was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. Indeed, there once was a time when all childbirth was unmedicated vaginal birth, all infant feeding was breastfeeding and in that glorious time gone by … babies and mothers died in droves. The natural neonatal death rate is 7%, meaning that nearly every woman lost at baby at birth or knew someone who had lost a baby at birth. The natural maternal death rate is 1%; to put that in perspective, if maternal deaths still occurred at the natural rate as many women would die in childbirth each year as die from breast cancer.

The naturalistic fallacy assumes that nature cannot be improved upon, a conceit that none of us — even the most ardent partisans of the wisdom of nature — actually believe. Houses aren’t natural; clothes aren’t natural; deliberately growing our own food is not natural. I’ve yet to find anyone willing to live “as nature intended,” though I find plenty of women willing to berate others who don’t give birth or feed their infants “as nature intended.” The ultimate irony is that these women use their computers and smart phones to gather in cyberspace to preach the superiority of natural birth and breastfeeding.

The narcissistic fallacy reduces the purported state of nature to whatever a particular individual or group wishes to do. The narcissistic fallacy says things like:

“If I want a vaginal birth without an epidural, you should be prevented from, or denigrated for, getting one.”

“If I want to breastfeed, you should be forced to breastfeed.”

“If I want 24 hour rooming in with my baby, they should close the newborn nursery so you’ll be forced to room in, too.”

Both the naturalistic fallacy and the narcissistic fallacy are logical fallacies. Like all logical fallacies, they are errors in reasoning that undermine the argument being made. The naturalistic fallacy is a fallacy because determining what something is, tells us nothing about how it ought to be. The narcisstic fallacy is a fallacy because an individual’s personal preferences tell us nothing about what others can or should prefer. Neither, of course, is supported by science.

If you don’t want an epidural, don’t have one.

If you don’t want to formula feed, don’t do it.

If you don’t want to send your newborn to the nursery, don’t.

Just don’t tell the rest of us that if you don’t want it, we can’t have it.