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The Breastfeeding Advocacy Page


Renoir Feeding What is wrong with this picture?

  • She is nursing out in the open.
  • She is not carefully hiding her breast while she nurses.
  • That baby is much too big to be nursed.
  • All of the above.
  • None of the above.
There is nothing wrong with this picture. The mother in this Renoir painting is simply feeding her child in a normal manner, as mothers have for millions of years. Why, then, is a woman nursing her child in public an unusual -- even shocking -- sight in most of the industrialized world? Public breastfeeding so offends against deeply-imbedded cultural misunderstandings about breasts and breastfeeding that some jurisdiction have had to enact laws protecting public breastfeeding.

In addition, the health consequences of the choice between human milk and formula are far from common knowledge, so there appears to be no excuse for using a breast to feed a baby when a bottle of formula would be "just as good." This misconception leads many (including many in the medical professions) to dismiss the importance of breastfeeding and to regard the advocacy of breastfeeding as "trying to make mothers feel guilty."

With the culture so hostile to breastfeeding, it is no surprise that breastfeeding rates are low. For example, barely half of all babies in the U.S. receive even a taste of their mothers' milk, and breastfeeding rates in the rest of the industrialized world are -- with a few notable exceptions -- equally dismal or worse. Of those babies that nurse at all, only a small fraction are exclusively breastfed for the recommended six months. The percentage of babies who continue to receive human milk as a part of their diet through the recommended age of two years is miniscule.

This web site advocates a change in our culture, to an acceptance of breastfeeding as the normal way to feed babies. To accomplish this change, I propose that public policies and media messages be developed that:

  • provide parents with sufficient data to make a truly informed choice about whether or not formula feeding is in the best interests of their children,
  • normalize and de-sexualize the experience of breastfeeding so that it does not need to be hidden from public view any more than bottle-feeding is,
  • support a woman's choice to breastfeed her baby, whether she returns to the paid work-force or not,
  • encourage parents to allow their children to wean themselves without imposing artificial and unnecessary barriers to breastfeeding past the first months of life.



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The Breastfeeding Advocacy Page