More on breast-feeding from the Times

Op-Ed contributor Judith Warner takes another look at the paper's breast vs. bottle reporting.

Topics: Broadsheet, The New York Times, Motherhood, Love and Sex,

The kerfuffle continues! Late last night, New York Times “Domestic Disturbances” blogger Judith Warner posted a critique (subscription required) of the government’s new breast-feeding scare campaign and the subsequent Times story detailing the dangers of bottle feeding. Her piece makes many of the points that Broadsheet’s Lori Leibovich made last week — that the Times failed to emphasize that some of the studies on the benefits of breast-feeding have been more conclusive than others, and that the paper failed to ask these finger-shaking government experts how a working mother is supposed to breast-feed exclusively for six months — but it’s a relief to see those criticisms coming from within the Times.

Especially since Warner is pissed. “Last Tuesday’s Science Times article on the U.S. government’s public awareness campaign to promote breast-feeding left me feeling queasy,” Warner begins. But, she clarifies, “not because I question the superior benefits for babies and mothers of breast- over bottle-feeding.

“Rather, I think — and let me not mince words here — that bullying women into breast-feeding and vilifying those who don’t is disgusting.”

Regarding the scaremongering public service ads that compare bottle feeding with riding a mechanical bull while pregnant, Warner notes that the Times article “neglected to say was that the American Academy of Pediatrics — hardly an enemy of breast-feeding — had found the ads so aggressively negative, and some of the science supporting them so questionable, it had decided not to support the campaign.”

Warner notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics’ breast-feeding division disagreed with the academy’s decision not to support the ads. She went ahead and asked one of the members of the breast-feeding division, who also helped with the medical review for the mechanical-bull ad campaign, whether moms who don’t breast-feed are really as criminally negligent as a pregnant woman who rides bulls or goes logrolling. And the expert, pediatrician and professor, Ruth Lawrence, said yes. “I suppose so,” Lawrence answered, “because you could fall off a log and not get hurt at all.”

You Might Also Like

Wait, bottle feeding is riskier than falling off a log? Warner calls on the scientific director of the Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Michael Kramer, for the answer. Which is no.

Bottle feeding “is not the same as dropping a baby out of a third-floor window,” Kramer says. “It’s not even as bad as driving without a car seat. It may be as bad, though, as smoking during pregnancy or at home. You’re talking about an increase in risk. If a kid is dumb and the mother formula-fed, can you blame the formula? No. At the level of individual people, you can’t make these one-to-one links.”

The thrust of Warner’s piece is that it’s reprehensible for the government to attempt to scare mothers into breast-feeding without providing the social support that would make that decision feasible for moms who have to work. And that really is the central disconnect in this maddening mother blaming.

But she also wonders why it’s acceptable for the government to beat up on mothers this way. “I can’t imagine doctors and public health officials bullying and condescending in this way to any group in America other than mothers,” she writes. “I can’t imagine any other group taking it, or the public at large showing such tolerance for it. But mommy-bashing is nothing new. It just mutates to fit the changing times.”

For our particular times, mommy-bashing has taken the form of a mechanical bull. How sad is that?

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>