I came across this article from The Onion, titled New Study Find Link Between Breastfeeding, Always knowing What's Right for Everyone, and it resonated with me.Sometimes ideas are best conveyed in the form of satire.
I have every intention of breastfeeding and I am well aware of the numerous potential benefits that it poses for our daughter's health and our bonding. I have nothing against women who breastfeed or those who do it publicly. I do have a problem with the be-all-end-all message that often goes along with these benefits and the high-and-mighty attitude that some advocates flaunt.
One of my first jobs out of graduate school was working in a Feeding Disorders clinic, treating young children with significant oral aversions and often failure-to-thrive or malnutrition. Not a week went by where I didn't hear the guilt pour out from mothers who attempted to breast feed their babies but, for numerous reasons, were unable to get their babies to grow and thrive. Some infants were incapable of properly latching. Some had such strong reflux or unidentified allergies that they became so averse to the idea of feeding that they refused all attempts at breastfeeding. Some mothers did not produce enough milk. Almost every mother carried around a huge burden of guilt because of the strongly held belief that feeding your baby should be a natural, automatic, and easy process.
In my dealings with infertility, I have become additionally sensitive to the message that anything about our bodies and reproductive systems should be automatically easy and natural. Or that the "natural" method is always the better method and that anything other than this is considered less than.
Breast feeding is great, and so is natural family planning or getting knocked up the old fashioned way, if it works for you and your child and your beliefs and your lifestyle. But breast feeding isn't the only option and the benefits of breastfeeding don't always outweigh the negative consequences that come from a more challenging experience. For some mothers and children, it does not promote bonding but rather resentment and guilt. For some mothers and children, it does not result in healthier babies. It is not a one-size-fits-all, perfect solution for everyone. It is not always better and the implication that mother's who chose or are forced not to participate in breast feeding are less than or unfit in some way should make us all feel a little unsettled.