Don't Buy Into the Big Breastfeeding Con

Vox writer says it's 'overhyped, oversold, and overrated'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 11, 2016 1:54 PM CST
Don't Buy Into the Big Breastfeeding Con
Just a lot of hype?   (Shutterstock)

A political science professor at the University of Toronto who decided to breastfeed her kids also decided to go down what she calls the "rabbit hole" of breastfeeding research, and what she founded completely upended her opinion of it. In a piece for Vox entitled, tellingly, "Breastfeeding is overhyped, oversold, and overrated," Courtney Jung reveals that while she initially didn't get the "moral fervor" surrounding breastfeeding, she still ended up doing so with her own children, figuring they'd reap the much-publicized benefits and "be better off for it." But as she started poking around to see why it was such a polarizing topic, she says she stumbled on some troubling discoveries—"almost all of them … things I wish weren't true." And her list is extensive, including "strong evidence" that breastfeeding has "no impact" on obesity, diabetes, allergies, cancer, and a slew of other conditions.

There are also the more practical considerations, she notes, such as the fact that the US doesn't offer federally required maternity leave (making it more challenging for women to keep breastfeeding once they're back at work). And there are psychological tensions, such as the pressure women feel to pump and the fact that not only are some women not able to breastfeed—because of medical issues or even trauma such as sexual abuse—but some, including those on certain medications or diets or those with particular health conditions, shouldn't. On a more cynical note, Jung points out that breastfeeding has also become "big business," with a "booming" market for pumps, breastfeeding accessories, and even breast milk itself. "Do we really want to embrace breastfeeding with the passion we have, given that it sets us up for wildly unequal parenting obligations and has little health benefit for our children?" she asks. Her entire piece appears here. (Some counterpoints are here and here.)

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