Podcast Episode 10: The Case Against the Case Against Breastfeeding

October 5, 2010

in Feeding

In April 2009, The Atlantic published Hanna Rosin’s article “The Case Against Breast-Feeding.” In it, Rosin, a nursing mother of three young children, concludes that evidence supporting the health benefits of breastfeeding is surprisingly thin and that “breast is best” has become the upper class jingle without real thought to the negative effects of exclusive breastfeeding.

Although Rosin brings up good points about the imbalance of parenting roles in many marriages, her overall argument against breastfeeding is misleading, judgmental, and aimed at a very small subsection of American women. I talk with Jamie, an experienced nursing mother, about the case against Rosin’s case against breastfeeding.

“The Case Against Breastfeeding” by Hanna Rosin in The Atlantic, April 2009.

Blog Responses:
“My Case Against Hanna Rosin’s Case Against Breastfeeding” by desmoinesdem at Bleeding Heartland, 24 March, 2009.

“The Scientific Benefits of Breastfeeding” by PhD in Parenting, 14 May 2009.

Health Study

*Yes,  I noted that the study does not infer causality, but this doesn’t make the study any less compelling.

Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Developed Countries, Structured Abstract. May 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Abby October 7, 2010 at 5:40 pm

I actually think Rosin makes a good point–I imagine it would be highly demanding to be employed in a full-time job as well as be a breastfeeding mother. But, I think there’s a major elephant in the room. Why does she try to find so many alternatives to breastfeeding and justifications for not breastfeeding, when she could just as easily have said mothers shouldn’t work (and would therefore have all the time they need to breastfeed)? If she is addressing her article to a class of society that can afford that luxury, it seems a bit odd to me that she can’t even conceive of that option.


2 Meredith, i.e. the Overthinking Mom October 7, 2010 at 10:51 pm

I agree that breastfeeding and working full time would be incredibly difficult, and I actually think this is the strongest part of her article, which means all the stuff refuting the health benefits of breastfeeding feels misplaced. You are right she is talking about a particular group of women who could afford to leave the workforce, but an article suggesting women leave the workforce…now that would get headlines (and I’d probably post a rambling podcast called the the case against the case for leaving the workforce:)). Abby, you managed to make her controversial article even more controversial. You just one upped Rosin. I’m impressed.


3 Erin October 9, 2010 at 6:55 am

My father sent me an electronic copy of Rosin’s article when it first came out. I was pregnant at the time and, thus, most focused on how this little being inside me would emerge — and less concerned about how I would feed the baby when it (who turned out to be “she”) got here. But I had been to the obligatory “What to do with baby” classes at my health center, and felt a strong push from the staff to BREASTFEED EXCLUSIVELY AT LEAST FOR A YEAR OR RISK YOUR BABY’S HEALTH. Knowing this, and also knowing my tendency to do whatever people tell me to do even at the cost of my own comfort and happiness, my dad sent me the Atlantic article, saying something like “Erin, there are different ways of doing everything and whatever choice you make about breastfeeding your baby will be the right choice for you and the baby.” With this gentle and generous introduction to the breastfeeding wars that Rosin describes in her piece, my father prompted me to approach my decision about how to feed my baby without any of the guilt that Rosin herself was faced with. I decided to try breastfeeding, to hope to make it work, but to NOT FEEL BAD or HATE MYSELF if it wasn’t easy for me or my baby. And, like you Meredith, I ended up finding it very easy. Sadie came into this world ready to eat and for the first year of her life — despite my working full time (MORE than full time, really) — formula never touched her lips. Am I proud of my “accomplishment”? Most definitely. Breastfeeding, when it works, is a truly wonderful gift. (And it wasn’t a gift I alone gave to Sadie. My employer, my husband, my family — they all helped make it easy for me as well.) Would I ever suggest to anyone that they should do what I did? Never. Just like I would tell anyone that she needs to jump on a treadmill, do some yoga, or eat less meat. Personal choices are personal; the most we can do as fellow human being is to be as gentle and generous with our information as my father was. Present our studies, keep people informed, provide help when asked. But never, ever judge.

Thank you for your podcast and for continuing the conversation, without judgment!


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