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Now Breastfeeding Is Unnatural?

'Natural'? Isn't that potentially sexist and transphobic? Medical ethicists ask
Now Breastfeeding Is Unnatural?

From a 2016 issue of the medical journal Pediatrics, a paper arguing that promoting breastfeeding as a “natural” alternative to formulas is wrong because it doesn’t help the Cultural Revolution. Excerpts:

Medical and public health organizations recommend that mothers exclusively breastfeed for at least 6 months. This recommendation is based on evidence of health benefits for mothers and babies, as well as developmental benefits for babies. A spate of recent work challenges the extent of these benefits, and ethical criticism of breastfeeding promotion as stigmatizing is also growing.1 Building on this critical work, we are concerned about breastfeeding promotion that praises breastfeeding as the “natural” way to feed infants. This messaging plays into a powerful perspective that “natural” approaches to health are better, a view examined in a recent report by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.2 Promoting breastfeeding as “natural” may be ethically problematic, and, even more troublingly, it may bolster this belief that “natural” approaches are presumptively healthier. This may ultimately challenge public health’s aims in other contexts, particularly childhood vaccination.

These authors are actually claiming that promoting breastfeeding as natural — as it certainly is — may support anti-vaxxers. By that standard, doctors have to quit calling anything “natural,” because it might give aid and comfort to anti-vaxxers. I find it hard to believe that this is the reason for their complaint.


It makes sense that breastfeeding promotion would make appeals to the “natural.” The resurgence in breastfeeding rates over roughly the past 4 decades is rooted in a history of women’s organized efforts during the 1950s and 1960s to redeem the value of feeding babies “naturally” in the face of widespread medical support for formula feeding. Coupling nature with motherhood, however, can inadvertently support biologically deterministic arguments about the roles of men and women in the family (for example, that women should be the primary caretakers of children). Referencing the “natural” in breastfeeding promotion, then, may inadvertently endorse a controversial set of values about family life and gender roles, which would be ethically inappropriate. Invoking the “natural” is also imprecise because it lacks a clear definition. For similar reasons, the recent Nuffield report states that public agencies, governments and organizations contributing to public and political debates about science, technology, and medicine “should avoid using the terms natural, unnatural and nature” unless they make transparent the “values or beliefs that underlie them.”

Emphasis mine. You see what’s happening here? The reader who sent me this does. She writes:

The real agenda is trans. Let’s de-gender motherhood because gosh. Breastfeeding isn’t just for girls, Right?

Not only that, but this looks like an attempt to force nature to agree with contemporary gender ideology. These medical ethicists appear to be trying to stigmatize breastfeeding as sexist and transphobic.



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