Hanna Rosin paints breast feeding, in a recent item in The Atlantic, as a social requirement for the privileged, a “no-exceptions requirement” and a badge of being a good mother. She also examines the possibility that breast-feeding is ” … an instrument of misery that mostly just keeps women down.”
I dutifully breast-fed each of my first two children for the full year that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends. I have experienced what the Babytalk story calls breast-feeding-induced “maternal nirvana.” This time around, nirvana did not describe my state of mind; I was launching a new Web site and I had two other children to care for, and a husband I would occasionally like to talk to. Being stuck at home breast-feeding as he walked out the door for work just made me unreasonably furious, at him and everyone else.
Rosin externalizes her own ambivalence about breastfeeding her child, to whom she feeds her milk part-time and enjoys the skin-to-skin contact, by blaming public health campaigns, volunteer organizations like La Leche League and a present day frenzy of parenting perfectionism for making her and other women feel guilty. Public health campaigns promoting breastfeeding seem then to have been designed as a means of making privileged, educated, literate, upper class women like Rosin feel bad about themselves for not mothering properly. Rosin makes them sound like an extension of the eugenics movement from the first half of the 20th century which in part sought to encourage reproduction of desirables by tying women to the hearth through pseudoscientific education and the glorification of all-things-motherly.
(See also the Feminist Breeder Blog)