Monday, March 30, 2009

Breast feeding or not

Hanna Rosin has an aggressively provocative piece in this month's Atlantic.  I'm irritated with the (male) editors of the Atlantic titling it "The Case Against Breast-Feeding" when it's no such thing.  Rather, it's something of an extended whine . . . "why should I have to when I don't want to?"  There is no actual case against--rather, Rosin makes the argument that there isn't a strong case for breast feeding.  That in fact, it doesn't make much difference.
I've been thinking about this piece for a while and have really settled out what I want to say about it.  Certainly, if she has experienced the sort of harassment that she reports from using formula, I can see how that would be irritating, though the circle of moms that I've been around have been pretty easy going about formula.  And her contention that breastfeed is "only free if a woman's time is worth nothing" is problematic.  As my husband pointed out--the baby has to be fed.  Someone is going to be spending their time doing it.  And whoever that is is not using that time to be doing something else.  The cost of the time is part of having children.  It is the question of the additional cost (or not) of the milk.
I have said before that one of the reasons that God gives us children is to make it clear to us just how selfish we really are.  Hanna Rosin sounds in this piece like a woman who has run up against the horrible fact that parents really need to be selfless in an awful lot of ways in order to do their job and doesn't like it.  Breastfeeding a third child is one sacrifice too many--why should she be inconvenienced?  What right does anyone have to tell her how to raise her child?  My own battle with parenting involves regular use of the prayer "Dear Lord, am I really this self-absorbed?  Please forgive me and help me get my priorities straight."  Rosin sounds like someone who has realized that her self-absorbtion can't withstand too much more battering and is desperately trying to shore up her defenses.  
I will note here at the end, that I really don't get how formula can be viewed as more convenient on a regular basis than breast-feeding, at least before the kid is sleeping through the night and has a sizable portion of solid food in their diet and so is down to a handful of milk feedings per day.  Washing and sterilizing all the bottles and paraphenalia is a pain.  There's no mixing and getting the temperature all right.  Breastmilk is always clean and always perfect body temperature warm.  You can't forget it anywhere.  Breast milk is the perfect solvent for pregnancy fat.  And newborn formula diapers are horrible, breastmilk diapers comparatively inoccuous.  Formula has the advantage of . . . letting the mother delegate  the job of full time parenting to someone else.  Not the reason I had kids.


Susan said...

Yes, I agree. I found breast feeding so much more convenient.

Erin said...

I'm with you on this one. I wouldn't have had it any other way. If you are with your baby all the time, there is nothing more convenient or healthier for baby and mom.

However, I wonder if the formula argument (based on what I know from my different friends) is a work-based one. It seems women who are stay-home mom's, at least in the first year or two of their child's (children's) lives are more likely to breastfeed, and those who work full time outside the home are more likely to formula feed and skip the pumping. I'm not advocating for that, but I never worked when my kids were small and so never had to face the struggles of pumping at work. I have friends who did and it was so difficult for some of them that they only made it for a few months. Being harassed at work, not having any privacy, having the milk disappear from the company fridge...

Now, I'm not an advocate for working when someone has an infant, either, however, for some people it's unavoidable.