Tag Archives: feminist parenting

Breastfeeding and Capitalism: A Provocation


National Breastfeeding Month ended yesterday. So did Black Breastfeeding Week. World Breastfeeding Week was apparently at the beginning of August. Over the course of the month, I read and heard a lot of stuff that made me angry and sad and confused: medical professionals promoting breastfeeding with a disturbing prescriptive zeal, mothers pointing to their bleeding nipples as evidence of a glorious martyrdom, other mothers and doctors claiming that breastfeeding is already mainstream, that it needs no further promotion or celebration, that to do so is to shame parents who feed their infants formula, white mothers claiming that Black Breastfeeding Week was unnecessary. In the middle of all of this I sort of started to wean my daughter, who turned two smack in the middle of World Breastfeeding Month, and I cried a lot, and I sort of stopped weaning, and felt weird about that, too. I wanted to write something about these thoughts and feelings. A manifesto, or a well-researched, well-reasoned essay about how we’re living at a historical moment when parents are shamed for formula feeding and for breastfeeding; the precise level of shame may vary by region or race or ethnicity or socioeconomic background, but in my experience you can feel deeply ashamed of both of these choices in the same city, the same neighborhood, the same pediatrics practice. (Oh wait, did I say that this is a historical moment when an issue primarily affecting women results in the shaming of women’s bodies and the removal of their agency? Ha ha ha ha. Sorry, I meant to say, Infant feeding is primarily a women’s issue, so of course it’s a fucking nightmare.) I always stopped, too daunted to grapple with the tangle of social, cultural, emotional, biological, economic, and public-health issues surrounding infant feeding. Now Breastfeeding Month is over and I’m swamped with work and I definitely don’t have time to work out a nuanced response to “The Skeptical OB”’s kind of horrifying dismissal of breastfeeding advocacy, or the weird structure of the Wikipedia page about breastfeeding (they start telling you The Way You Should Do It in the second sentence). I just have time for a provocation, followed by a rant. Here it is:

DID YOU NOTICE that breastfeeding was only allowed to return to the mainstream when it could be fully integrated into capitalism? Continue reading

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