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Take Your Grubby Little Cause off My Wife’s Boobs!

J. Kevin Ament
Friday, August 3, 2007

It’s World Breastfeeding Week , and so continues the tired pseudo-debate between bottle and breast, exacerbated by fanatics who shame women who don’t nurse, and shadowy alarmists who claim government officials are “stepping in to make the choice for new mothers.”

Although the formula people have conceded that breast milk is the gold standard, New York City health officials now feel compelled to pull free formula samples from all maternity ward gift bags and replace them with nursing pads, educational pamphlets and novelty t-shirts . Because free samples would confuse new mothers who were otherwise planning on nursing. How did the pro-choice capital of the United States decide women can no longer be trusted to make personal decisions regarding their bodies?

Now, before you go all La Leche League on me, my wife nursed both of our daughters as long as physically and professionally possible. We joined your damn guild, so don’t paw at me with your statistics. I know the International Formula Council is the most obvious front group since The National Smokers Alliance . And yes, I recognize immoral marketing campaigns designed to convince women their own bodies were no match for Science single-handedly maligned the most natural of all processes.

But I also know that today’s women are a little different than their 50s predecessors. They work in offices that make pumping difficult and embarrassing. Their culture celebrates the sexuality of the covered breast, while shaming its exposure . And after decades of popular culture’s association of nursing with hemp necklaces and granola, should we really be surprised that some mothers, through no fault of their own, aren’t capable of seeing their breasts as anything but aesthetic?

Look, this isn’t Mozambique. Formula, while not the preferred choice of doctors, is far from life-threatening. Pulling Similac samples isn’t going to change that, so let’s stop further victimizing women by turning a personal decision into a public shibboleth of maternal responsibility. Granted, NYC hospitals have no obligation to distribute samples, and a little more education won’t hurt anybody. But I’m sick of insignificant policy decisions being amplified by spokespersons into catalysts for needless “debate.” Breast-feeding advocates, you’ve beaten the formula peddlers already . Let them have their gift bags and go fling your nipple cream at the puritans who cancelled their Baby Talk subscriptions .

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