Sarah Godoy responds to MacLeans’ Jan 2011 anti-breastfeeding article

Re: Jan 2011. Macleans – article: “Heat Up the Bottle? Book says breastfeeding is overrated” (broken link)

There is a major problem with Wolf’s argument here. In the beginning of the interview, she says that evidence shows that breastfed babies are healthier, but says the reason why can’t really be known because women who breastfeed are also more likely to be middle class or more highly educated. Wolf goes on to say that placing emphasis on breastfeeding puts unnecessary pressure on working-poor women because of the hurdles they face to breastfeed. However, with the examples she cites, namely that working-poor women aren’t afforded adequate time or an appropriate place to pump, Wolf does not address the total absence of any kind of system that would afford working-poor women a humane length of time as maternity leave in order to have enough time and closeness with their babies to actually be able to nurse them. (Con’t… See part B)

A major argument that Wolf is making is that we shouldn’t promote breast milk as being ideal because not all women want to or can afford to do it. But in making this argument, does Wolf not realize that she is actually making it harder for working-poor women to EVER obtain the necessary conditions to be able to nurse their babies? If there were real support for working-poor mothers to be able to nurse and care for their children, maybe we would see similar outcomes for them as we see for ‘middle and better educated’ women who nurse their babies. But if we follow Wolf’s logic, we’ll never find out. Working-poor women will be condemned to return to ‘waitressing’ or ‘shift work’ shortly after giving birth, and will continue to spend large amounts of their wages on infant formula. Wolf suggests that her argument is in favour of ‘choice’, when in reality, saying that breastfeeding is not important will essentially condemn working-poor women to NEVER have the CHOICE to breastfeed. And that is a travesty.

Whether it is the actual milk that produces better outcomes for children, or the anti-bodies, or the skin to skin contact, or the closeness, or the responsiveness, or the bond, or the mutual enjoyment that most mothers and babies share in the process, or even the extra time that mothers in higher income brackets are afforded to spend with their children – or some combination of the above – the bottom line is that if Wolf’s argument gains any traction, working-poor women will never get the chance to find out whether breastfeeding would have been a positive experience for themselves and their babies.

See also the Kids First update: “Heat Up the Bottle?

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