or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Baby › Breastfeeding › Lactivism › Article in Atlantic
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Article in Atlantic - Page 2

post #21 of 143

Evenhouse and Reilly

Hi, I have a lot of problems with the article and the way that it was written -- though I do think it is valuable for presenting another perspective (and for trying to peel back some of the hype).

I just want to encourage readers to look at the original paper Rosin cites (by the economists Eirik Evenhouse and Siobhan Reilly), because it is more nuanced, more cautious, and more precisely focused than Rosin suggests.

Also, it should be noted that Evenhouse and Reilly -- two Berkeley-trained economists who are married to each other -- have 4 kids, all home-birthed, all breastfed past the age of 3. Believe me, if they could have made the data say that the studies demonstrated a huge health advantage for breastfeeding, they would have.
post #22 of 143
I find her tone to be the nasty underbelly of second wave feminism. I think this is something that the third wave has tried to correct: men and women can be different and still be equal. Second wave feminism often sought to eliminate differences in the name of equality, which is ridiculous. Second wave feminism also often prioritized economic equality- and now, that's important, don't get me wrong, but it's not the only thing. Just like the author of this article points out, NOW came out with a statement about how the HHS campaign against formula feeding would place a burden on WOH moms. Even at the time, I found this to be a brain dead statement. I am pro-BF because I am a feminist. It's not an either/or position. And yes, while I want to see paid maternity leave so more women BF for a year, I'll be d@mned if I'm going to use some excuse about our gov't being negligent to whine about how or why I can't do it. If women did that, feminism would have never gotten anywhere.

About the author's science: her grasp of what makes a good study good and how to apply study results is miserable. I have a degree in public health (pursued at full time status while nursing/pumping for an infant, work that I found very meaningful, TYVM), and there is way more to epidemiology than knowing that correlation is not causation.

For me to refute all the psuedo scientific points in this article would take forever, but I'll hit the high points:

-She points out that many of the infant deaths caused by formula feeding are due to tainted water and/or the expense of formula, especially in third world countries, but she seems to think that this does not make the case for breastfeeding. This is patently illogical (and without logic, kids, we'd have no science). What's the baby supposed to eat if not formula or BM? Air? Dirt? Formula or BM is an either or proposition in the first year of life. It's a zero sum game- those who do not BF will FF, and vice versa.

Now, if she were saying that lack of potable water is a problem, and we need to fix that, and it's not an entirely separate problem from infant mortality, okay then. But the fact is, if a mom BFs her child exclusively for 6 months, and continues on for another 18 months, that child has a much better chance of surviving one of the bugs that has tainted the family's water, because s/he's been exposed to the mom's antibodies through BF.

-There is a heckuva lot more going on with the human immune system than cutting edge science can grasp, much less old, flawed science. The author's statement about IGA being the only immunological factor in breastfeeding is just plain wrong.
Also just plain wrong: her statement that IGA just sits in the baby's gut, and never makes it into the bloodstream. I literally laughed aloud when I read that. How does she think stuff gets into the human bloodstream? Fairy dust? Tiny demons? Or does everything have to get there though a needle? All kinds of stuff, good and bad, gets into the bloodstream through the digestive system. The author really reveals her cluelessness (not to mention her editor's) in this one statement.

The transfer of antibodies and other immunological factors is our best hope for fighting diabetes, cancer, lupus, and a ton of other autoimmune problems. Now, the reason that BF'd people have less autoimmune disorders isn't because of a single immunological factor- IGA isn't the magic bullet, neither is IGT or interferon or whatever. Science isn't quite sure what the mechanisms are, but the best guess is that it's no one single thing- it's that BFing sets up the immune system. The baby's immune system learns from the mother's via milk. Just because we haven't figured out the precise mechanisms by which this happens doesn't mean we don't have a good idea, borne out by real epidemiology, what direction we should be looking toward.

-The author takes worldwide statistics and tries to apply them to a specific group of well educated, upper middle class Americans. Epidemiology doesn't work that way. To say, "Oh, I don't live near a Superfund site... therefore, my child probably won't get leukemia... therefore I don't need to breastfeed," is ridiculous. I understand her point that studies about BFed babies and IQ were generally small and flawed, and didn't control for other factors... but the IQ test isn't scientific, in and of itself.
The primary reason to BF is physical health, period.
To discount all studies that indicate the inferiority of FF because the IQ studies are stupid is... well, stupid.

-The major study that indicated that dietary fiber reduces the chances of colon cancer was conducted on U.S. and Ugandan men. Ugandan men eat three to five times the fiber that U.S. men do, on average. Therefore, Ugandan men poop a lot more often. Also, they tend to squat, rather than sit, when pooping, so they poop faster.

Now, I've heard the argument that it's not the fiber that's preventing colon cancer, it's the pooping frequency and speed that's preventing colon cancer. Silly- you aren't going to poop more or faster without more fiber in your diet.

The author's take on BFing studies are basically the same false logic. It's not that U.S. babies who are breastfed are healthier, it's that they come from more priveleged backgrounds. Well, no- U.S. babies from more priveleged backgrounds are more likely to be breastfed. She has it backward, as is proven by all the worldwide studies of people from all sorts of educational and economic situations proving that BFed babies are healthier.

Bottom line: she's a journalist, not a scientist. She's out of her depth, and her conclusions are not based in science- they're based in emotion, and she's tried to twist the science to back up her emotion. It isn't working.
post #23 of 143


Great post, Leta -- thanks!
post #24 of 143
Quote:
Originally Posted by songbh View Post


Great post, Leta -- thanks!
Oh yes, yes, yes! Ditto!
post #25 of 143
What upset me more than anything else is her description of a pumping mother. "a footnote from the Josef Mengele years."! I have a friend who exclusively pumps, but that is her CHOICE. I can't believe the author even went there. I am offended.

She is obviously in a hard place emotionally, but this article seemed like an attempt to support her discontent with her own life with selective science and sensational journalism.

Oh, and just to spite her I bf'd my son during the last two pages of her diatribe.
post #26 of 143
Leta--a third you expressed so many of the things I was feeling MUCH more eloquently than I ever could.

Dewi--re: The Atlantic--I totally agree. My first thought was actually, shame on them for printing such a divisive and blatantly "hotbutton" story just to get people to read their obscure magazine. (And as a lit teacher, I actually used to subscribe.)
post #27 of 143
Hello ladies, I'm new here and I have to say it's so refreshing to read what you guys have to say about this article. It's very nice to discuss with like-minded mamas. I'd just hate for someone to read this and not breastfeed because of it. I'm usually pretty supportive of moms no matter how they want to feed their babies but this article really ticked me off.
post #28 of 143
Quote:
Originally Posted by lrgs View Post
and multiple people have commented about how it proves they were right in deciding not to breastfeed their babies (really?....based on one article?). I'm usually pretty supportive of moms no matter how they want to feed their babies but this article really ticked me off.

welcome!

I just wanted to say this is one of my big fears: some younger women will read this and keep it in the back of their heads....so when they are having babies, and they have a rough 2 weeks (which I did), they'll just quit and this article will make them feel better.

Argh!

And, I do feel sorry for her kids. How is she going to feel when she realizes her 10 year old needs to be driven around to 4 activities a week? Will she resent that too? Oh, wait, maybe she'll enjoy her kids when they're driving and gone all the time. No bother there. Makes me sad.

It reminds me of an ob in our town who had an elective primary c/s. She said, "I don't do labor." Oh, well, gee, what else don't you do? Don't do middle of the night feedings? Don't do middle of the mud stains on clothes?? Why do some people have children if they are always seen as such a burden?
post #29 of 143
I get the frustration with this article, but some of the responses questioning her dedication to her children cross a line. Also, I don't think the article was anti-breastfeeding altogether, just a response to what she perceives to be judgment about her ambivalence.
post #30 of 143
puke- it was very hard for me to read the article and take in that perspective-It really seems logic is lost many times, what she is using as why BF is not better then FF is beyond the basic point of why we are intended to feed our babies. Which IMO does not need science to back it up because it's just obvious IMO.
post #31 of 143
A couple gentle reminders.

Discussing other boards, even if they aren't named or linked, violates MDC's User Agreement:
Quote:
Do not post to invite MDC members to other boards for adversarial purposes or post inflammatory information about MDC discussions at other boards, or about communities and discussions elsewhere, regardless of whether or not you link to that discussion or community. This is to maintain and respect the integrity of our own and other communities.
Additionally,
Quote:
Any user who feels that a posted message is objectionable is encouraged to contact us immediately by email or private message. We will make every effort to remove objectionable messages within a reasonable time frame, if we determine removal is necessary. If you feel another member is behaving in a manner that is in violation of these rules, do not take matters into your own hands. Let us try to resolve the situation. Simply alert the moderator of the forum or the Board Administrator.
Feel free to PM me with any questions or concerns.
post #32 of 143
Oops!!! Sorry....I edited my post.
post #33 of 143
Lets contrast this article with the one on today's New York Times front page about the babies and mothers in India so severely malnourished that mothers (who are children themselves) cannot produce breast milk because of malnourishment, and babies remain sick and malnourished with formula.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/13/wo...n.html?_r=1&em
Click on the audio slide show!

Shines a light on the luxury of self indulgence to be able to complain about breastfeeding as this author does. I see it as the possibility that many American mothers are still living their life like High school and they cast women who enjoy motherhood and breastfeeding as the "mean girls"!

I am a mean girl who nurses and feeds kids snacks on rice cakes!

The greatest irony in this article is that she likes nursing her son! Maybe she really just wants to sit at the cafeteria table with us mean girls!!!!
post #34 of 143
Quote:
Originally Posted by threadbey View Post
What I think is unfortunate is the implication that once we have reached a certain point of education and economic status, physically mothering our own children is beneath us.
Right! This drives me nuts when people construct pregnancy, birth and bresatfeeding as lower-order activities. Why don't we view the physical aspects of mothering as higher-order activities, just as important to the continuation of our society as anything else.

I think the real problem - which she fails to address, at all - is that breastfeeding in a contemporary context alters the relationship between bodies and public space. The workplace (in most companies, for most mothers) simply does not accommodate the kind of parenting we are discussing here. If more companies offered breastfeeding lounges, or on-site daycare, or flex-time, or longer paid parental leave, or allowed mothers to bring their not-yet-mobile babies to work with them, then we wouldn't be talking about this.

The author's beef is not with science, or breastfeeding or other mothers. It's with a society that doesn't recognize or support mothers as full participants in the public sphere.
post #35 of 143
Quote:
Originally Posted by lrgs View Post
Hello ladies, I'm new here and I have to say it's so refreshing to read what you guys have to say about this article. It's very nice to discuss with like-minded mamas. I'd just hate for someone to read this and not breastfeed because of it. I'm usually pretty supportive of moms no matter how they want to feed their babies but this article really ticked me off.
irgs...totally agree, and nice to see you on this board. swan3 is often here as well

and i really found this offensive "One of them sat on my couch the other day hooked up to tubes and suctions and a giant deconstructed bra, looking like some fetish ad, or a footnote from the Josef Mengele years." to be compared to a fetish ad or a nazi-experiment is absolutely vile. i pumped exclusively for 3mths before my son latched and can't imagine what goes through someone's mind to compare ugly, inhumane experiences to a mama pumping milk for her baby. i can't imagine walking through life saying things that obscene!
post #36 of 143
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leta View Post
I find her tone to be the nasty underbelly of second wave feminism. I think this is something that the third wave has tried to correct: men and women can be different and still be equal. Second wave feminism often sought to eliminate differences in the name of equality, which is ridiculous. Second wave feminism also often prioritized economic equality- and now, that's important, don't get me wrong, but it's not the only thing. Just like the author of this article points out, NOW came out with a statement about how the HHS campaign against formula feeding would place a burden on WOH moms. Even at the time, I found this to be a brain dead statement. I am pro-BF because I am a feminist. It's not an either/or position. And yes, while I want to see paid maternity leave so more women BF for a year, I'll be d@mned if I'm going to use some excuse about our gov't being negligent to whine about how or why I can't do it. If women did that, feminism would have never gotten anywhere.
exactly. the author's in a time-warp.
post #37 of 143
Quote:
Originally Posted by laneysprout View Post
The author's beef is not with science, or breastfeeding or other mothers. It's with a society that doesn't recognize or support mothers as full participants in the public sphere.
Well said, Alana! As I read that article (and so many others like it), I keep thinking, "But breastfeeding doesn't have to be this way." With the right social environment, feeding one's baby is not an oppressive experience. And with the wrong social environment, there's nothing particularly liberating or enjoyable about formula-feeding -- how many mothers are pressured into weaning "so daddy can feed the baby," only to find themselves still doing 95% of feeding duty?

Bernice Hausman in her book Mother's Milk discusses the logical fallacy of blaming "the near enemy," a very common rhetorical tactic in a lot of mainstream criticism of breastfeeding. Arguments like, "only privileged women can afford to breastfeed for a year" attack the wrong enemy -- it's not privileged women who make breastfeeding too difficult for many, it's the lack of maternity leave, workplace accommodations, etc etc. This Atlantic article is rife with near-enemy blaming.
post #38 of 143
Quote:
Originally Posted by minkajane View Post


She works at home. Does she really think preparing bottles takes less time than nursing? Especially if you hold the baby to feed them (which I very much doubt she does, based on this article). And it's not like there's nothing you can do while they eat except sit there and stare at the walls and wait for them to finish. Pop the kid in the sling or set a pillow on your lap, latch them on, and get some work done on your computer. It's not that difficult.
I know! I watch a formula fed baby, and formula feeding is stressful! And not hands free at all. It takes two hands/arms, and it smells bad. : I wish I could just nurse her. It would make things so much easier.
post #39 of 143
I have to admit, I've never understood the sentiment that "I'll nurse because it's so good for the baby's IQ, or immunity, or makes it less likely that they'll get cancer/diabetes/whatever. Or it'll make me thinner faster." BF might do all of those things for me, but those are nice little bonuses, not reasons to BF.

I nurse because I am a woman, I bore children, and this is how mammals feed our young. I like nursing. I enjoy nursing. I nursed DD to age 4 3/4, and at no time in that nursing relationship did I think "It would be so much EASIER if I weaned her." When I started thinking something was too hard, like NIP, we changed it. Yes, there are challenges, like the early weeks, and the fact that DS is in the biting stage, and I've had mastisis twice, and I've pumped at work for about 9 months, and being bone tired at times.

But formula/food wouldn't be easier for ANY of those things. The early weeks trying to make formula one-handed while holding the baby? Worrying about sterilizing bottles? DS would still be in a biting stage, he's doing it to show what his feelings, and he'd just bite some other body part probably. I would have had to rush around my work schedule to find the right formula that didn't make the baby as gassy/fussy/spitty/whatever. I wouldn't have gotten mastisis, probably, but I'd have dealt with finding out what formula baby could tolerate. And I still would have been bone tired at times. I would have had to worry about DD getting enough nutrition through her super picky eater stages. And it wouldn't be warm, bonding, soothing, beautiful.

So I guess I just don't get what the author is trying to say. I don't care if/when she weans. I don't care if she nurses at all.

I care to support women who want to nurse to nurse for as long as they desire. For them not to be derailed by outside forces. For people not to call 12 month olds on nursing strikes to have done "child led weaning" (That's opportunistic weaning, and while I don't care if people know it's a nursing strike and decide to take advantage of it, it GRATES on my nerves for them to mislabel it so that my nursing 4 year old seems like a freak "bc my friend's children self-weaned too, but they were like 18 months old!") That's it.
post #40 of 143
Articles like this make me sad. People in our culture won't do a bloody thing unless there are scientific studies to support it. ("Ooo, look, Dr. Bunny McMonocrop has found lettuce is good for me, better go get a salad!") I'm surprised people still use toilet paper, as I haven't seen any studies indicating that it can prevent colon cancer.

Breastfeeding science is essentially nutritional science - most of it - and it tends to be either epidemiological, correlational, or reductionist "how many fun molecules can we find in this stuff?" Science works best when all the variables can be isolated and tested independently, but that is impossible when it comes to feeding humans. Here's the thing though: we KNOW breastfeeding works, since the human race survived hundreds of thousands of years - if not more - formula-free. YES there are times when it doesn't work so well, I went through one of those after my daughter was born. But overall, it's a pretty sure-fire, no-brainer. Formula, on the other hand... lots of babies have issues with it. In the absence of clean water, it's a killer. Even in the presence of clean water it can kill - one of my DD's friends lost part of her lower intestine thanks to formula (which, sadly, her mother had no choice but to use... long story involving a broken medical system). These things just don't HAPPEN with breastmilk.

I just don't get the whole "scientific rationale" debate. Do you really NEED some scientist to tell you to do what every other mammal on the planet does by instinct???

In the end, I think common sense and past history would dictate that faith in evolution (or God, whatever) should trump faith in human ingenuity, especially when even formula manufacturers don't even pretend to have closely duplicated breastmilk, and we don't exactly have the best track record of being able to do stuff better than nature. Arguments against breastfeeding all come down to cultural factors - "I have to work" or "I don't want to bf in public" or whatever. These *aren't* arguments against breastfeeding, they're evidence that our culture forces us to live in unnatural, damaging and anti-feminine ways. Dragging science into the mess only obfuscates the real issues.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Lactivism
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Baby › Breastfeeding › Lactivism › Article in Atlantic