Should government support breastfeeding?

The First Lady of the U.S., Michelle Obama, has made combating childhood obesity her mission. Her initiative, Let’s Move, has the ambitious goal of eradicating it within a generation. Given that obesity in U.S. kids has tripled in the last thirty years, it’s incontrovertibly an important issue. Yet the approach she takes has not been without its critics. This is especially true of late, when Mrs. Obama stated in a discussion with the press that she advocates breastfeeding because “kids who are breast-fed longer have a lower tendency to be obese.” Around the same time, the IRS announced that it would offer tax breaks for employed women who purchase breast pumps.

This two-pronged effort by the government set off a firestorm of debate. It also created interesting bedfellows. Some feminists and conservatives found themselves agreeing that, on this point, the government has no business interfering in the lives of women.

I think the government’s message puts undue pressure on women. As of yet, there is no evidence of a strong link between obesity and formula fed babies. Moreover, anyone who has breastfed a baby or consistently spent time with a woman who breastfeeds realizes that expressing milk takes a lot of time. Additionally, not all women enjoy the experience of breastfeeding or are even able to do it.

Certainly it is right for the government to protect working women who choose to breastfeed when corporate America fails to do it on its own. An admirable example of this is last spring, when the government required that businesses provide non-bathroom space and breaks for nursing mothers. Yet it is careless to send the message that breastfeeding is better than formula when the evidence is not there to support it.

Mrs. Obama has subsequently toned down her rhetoric and said that “[b]reastfeeding is a very personal choice for every woman. We are trying to make it easier for those who choose to do it.” This is fine if by “trying” she doesn’t mean supporting policies that are based on little scientific evidence.

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37 Comments.

  1. Odd article. Strange to equate breastfeeding with expressing – this is an issue for mothers working outside the home, with younger babies, but inside the home or for those older babies who are feeding less in the day, you might not need to express ever.

    The statement
    <>
    is also odd – I’m assuming you mean in the specific instance of obesity, but the sentence reads as if there is no evidence for benefits of breast feeding overall. This is not the case.

    I’d agree however that if governments want to increase the rates of breastfeeding, support and education (on how to) would be a more honest, less intrusive and probably more effective method. Let’s help all those who want to breastfeeding and don’t though lack of support first.

  2. “it is careless to send the message that breastfeeding is better than formula when the evidence is not there to support it.”

    Regan, For decades pediatricians have been saying “breast is best” based on medical research. That’s the received wisdom. Why do you dismiss it? Based on what evidence to the contrary?

    If breast really isn’t best, but just a preference for some women, then why is it so important for corporations to accommodate nursing mothers? Why should the government even require them to? That accommodation takes away resources from other employees, so does need to be justified (somehow).

  3. The USA, as I understand it, has the dubious honour of being the only ‘Western’ country that does not mandate paid maternity leave (and a good number of ‘non-Western’ countries do).

    The USA’s Family and Medical Leave Act mandates for the MAJORITY of American workers: twelve (12!) workweeks of UNPAID leave in a 12-month period for: ‘the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth’.

    Thus in the USA working during the period in which breast feeding is recommended (and the health benefits of breast feeding to mother and baby are well established) is not a ‘choice’ amongst the general populace in the way it might be in other countries.

    It is in this context that the question of whether the US government should ‘support’ breastfeeding must be understood. Many outside the USA may well be perplexed that it is even asked.

  4. I doubt that anyone will disagree with the argument that government shouldn’t interfere where they’ll do no good.

    It’s almost as unlikely that anyone thinks that formula is as good as breastmilk. Perhaps on the rather narrow point that there’s no evidence linking formula to obesity there might be some agreement but not on the overall benefits of breastfeeding v formula feeding.

    I suspect that the real argument that should be teased out here is where government should intervene in society. It’s an interesting question that’s well worth debating as it’s usually possible to pick holes in most ‘evidence’ but it needs different material to work with.

  5. Thanks so much for these great responses.

    @ Cathy:
    I meant to say there is not yet a study to support a strong link between obesity and formula. Thanks for the clarification. To me, it seems false to say that non-working mothers rarely have a need for a pump. Many stay-at-home mothers choose to pump for numerous reasons including: it’s too painful to nurse, temporary medical problems prohibit them from nursing, they need to increase their supply to keep up with the baby’s demands, or they need a break and need someone else to bottle feed their baby. But I don’t see this as problematic for my argument. Even if we’re just talking about working mothers who nurse, I still think it’s wrong for the government to put pressure on them (in the case of obesity, which is at stake here) to breast feed when there isn’t strong evidence in support of it.

    @ Jean:
    In addition to the slogan “breast is best,” pediatricians also call mother’s milk “liquid gold.” Nonetheless, it’s not the case that this is the received wisdom. Many major publications have come out against the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics for being too strict with their conclusions. (See links below).

    I am not, however, arguing that breast isn’t best, as you suggest. I am simply stating that the jury is still out. In light of this, I think that it is irresponsible for government to advocate breast feeding. But at the same time, I think that government has the responsibility to ensure that women have the resources to properly choose whether to breast feed or not.

    New York Times:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/18/us/politics/18breastfeed.html?_r=1

    Atlantic Monthly:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/04/the-case-against-breast-feeding/7311/

  6. Regan Penaluna:

    “I am not, however, arguing that breast isn’t best, as you suggest. I am simply stating that the jury is still out”

    “Yes, breast is probably best…” says Hanna Rosin in the cited Atlantic Monthly piece: “Given what we know so far, it seems reasonable to put breast-feeding’s health benefits on the plus side of the ledger”. Of course Ms Rosin does claim the benefits of breast milk over formula for babies have been overstated. And Kate Zernike, writing in the cited piece for the New York Times does indeed assert “that some studies have found it hard to make a strong connection between obesity and bottle feeding, or breast-feeding and a higher I.Q. or a lower incidence of allergies”. But as the The New York Times reports, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be fed nothing but breast milk for the first six months, citing its benefits for the child, the mother and the environment”. The AAP does this, in line with other bodies such as the World Health Organisation, on the basis of the best information currently available. The full medical case for breast feeding may not have been proven ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ but this is not the trial of a new drug, the jury is not out – it has ruled based on what the ‘preponderance of the evidence favours’. And given, this surely it would be irresponsible of the US government NOT to advocate breast feeding?

    Advocating breast feeding is not the same as mandating it. Even if all of the many health outcomes associated with breast feeding by correlation were proven this would not entail an obligation on the part of all women to do so. For many of the American women who are obliged to work in the early months of their child’s life, expressing milk at work will remain entirely impractical (not all small businesses are obliged to provide non-bathroom space and breaks for nursing mothers). And in any case, as Ms Rosin points out, there are things on the minus side of the ledger for mothers: “modesty, independence, career, sanity”. The mental well-being and life satisfaction of a mother is obviously (to grossly understate the obvious) a good in itself, and, of course, the well being of a child is hardly unrelated to this good (or the goods bought by her mother’s career). The US government should be doing all it can to ‘balance the books’ – to help make public breast feeding acceptable and to help make milk expression possible in work situations. Allowing working mothers to offset the costs associated with milk expression against tax is merely a very small step towards allowing ordinary working women the choice of breastfeeding. And why would any jury wish to rule against that?

  7. The jury’s still out?

    Sounds a lot like “smoking isn’t bad for you” or “climate change has nothing to do with CO2 emissions”.

    This phobia of “big” government is paranoid. Individuals *don’t* always know best – if that were the case, why would you need, e.g., the FDA?

    And why is it that a large percentage of Americans, including children, are obese in the first place? Certainly not due to the well-informed decisions and actions of the public.

    It’s funny that in the discussion above, so far no-one has mentioned the fact that breast milk is *free*, and that formula is a *product* – to be profited by.

    All this talk about freedom… it all boils down to being free to do nothing else but consume.

    You have to be pretty indoctrinated to perceive (the mere mention of the obvious advantages of) breast feeding as an *infringement* of your freedom!

    Especially in the light of growing child obesity!

    For crying out loud – is it really Cockaigne you’re aiming for?

  8. “Yet it is careless to send the message that breastfeeding is better than formula when the evidence is not there to support it.”

    Are you suggesting that a man-made substitute for mother’s milk should be considered its equal until we can prove otherwise? I don’t know about a link with obesity, but I do know that breast-feeding has passed the test of natural selection.

    Come back when ten thousand generations have been reared, and prospered, on “formula”.

  9. Thanks to all for the compelling arguments!

    @ Curious:
    Very helpful points. Thanks! Yes, WHO and AAP advocate breastfeeding. But they have their critics, including Hanna Rosin who, as you rightly note, argues they overstate the case. Or, French philosopher Elisabeth Badinter, who defends studies that indicate formula is as healthy as breast milk. Let’s say for the sake of argument that “breast is best.” Is this sufficient to advocate it? First, we need to determine what “best” actually means. Take for instance, the following comparison: Fresh tomatoes picked the day of harvest have more vitamins compared to 2-week old tomatoes and then to canned. But how significant is the difference? Is it so significant as to provide tax deductions for families that purchase fresh tomatoes? Is it so significant as to pressure families to plant them in their own yards using organic soil so that they can reap the benefits? Even if it means that they have to cut back on other activities, and livelihoods?

    I, like other feminists, tend to think that whatever benefits breast milk has over formula, that they are insignificant enough to not warrant putting pressure on women to do it–especially when women are already underrepresented in the workforce. Although the government is not trying to, by advocating breast feeding it is contributing to the oppression of women.

  10. @ Bjorn:
    Breastmilk is free if you think a mother’s time is worth nothing.

  11. I fail to see in what way the U.S. government is pressuring women or contributing to their oppression in promoting breast-feeding.

    By the way, obesity is a public-health problem or would be if in the U.S. there existed the concept of and the right to public healthcare.

    It seems obvious to me that governments should promote physical and mental health, although that may not be obvious to most U.S. citizens.

  12. I do think the scientific evidence is there to say that breast-feeding is superior to formula feeding (though not by such a huge amount as to make it mandatory). Its role in preventing obesity, on the other hand, is very much a matter of debate. In fact, the evidence that breastfeeding prevents future obesity directly is rather thin.
    btw, the panic about obesity is itself a good topic for debate by philosophers. It is fast assuming the characteristics of a “moral panic” and all kind of intrusive and unproven measures are being promoted in its name….the director of the Mayo clinic famously suggested that he would not hire a fat doctor, children in UK have been removed from their family(or threatened with removal) on the basis of mom’s inability to control their weight. Unfortunately, liberals (I say unfortunately because I regard myself as liberal) tend to fall into the trap of suggesting truly fascistic solutions to health problems more than conservatives do…all of this is good material for a philosopher to poke his head into..
    Disclosure: I am an obesity researcher, but since I research genetics, I may be relatively skeptical of overdone “nurture” claims (I know, that is a backhanded disclosure, but I could not avoid the word “overdone”)..

  13. Mrs. Obama stated in a discussion with the press that she advocates breastfeeding because “kids who are breast-fed longer have a lower tendency to be obese.”

    To give this statement by Mrs Obama any credence would be to commit the fallacy Argumentum ad Verecundiam. That is to say, appealing to parties who have no legitimate claim to authority in the matter at hand.
    This does not stop her having an opinion in the matter which may or may not be correct, However if one wants to know the best diet for one’s child then one consults a nutritionist and or paediatrician. Not a lawyer and political assistant.
    Whilst is it good to support a duly acknowledged body of authority on the problem of child obesity, one should not, by virtue of the power one has by being the President’s wife, speak authoritatively on subjects in which one has no formal training.
    This tendency by those who have the ears of the world is quite common and for the most part is best given, no serious attention.

  14. “I, like other feminists, tend to think that whatever benefits breast milk has over formula, that they are insignificant enough to not warrant putting pressure on women to do it”

    Regan, I think feminists can and do disagree about this issue!

  15. Thank you for comments Regan.

    “WHO and AAP advocate breastfeeding. But they have their critics, including Hanna Rosin who, as you rightly note, argues they overstate the case. Or, French philosopher Elisabeth Badinter, who defends studies that indicate formula is as healthy as breast milk.”

    When it come to the well being of infants, I rather think we should defer to the consensus of paediatricians rather than a reporter who has skimmed through some medical literature or even a noted philosophe such as Mme Badinter.

    But that is not the substantial point. Regarding your ‘tomato’ thought experiment, the Internal Revenue Service – obviously – will not give tax breaks to those who choose healthier forms of nutrition no. Indeed it was on exactly those grounds that the IRS initially refused the AAP’s request to make the considerable costs of breast pumps and other lactation supplies tax deductible. What the IRS has now done is accept the argument that such devices should be considered ‘medical expenses’. To argue that the IRS is wrong to define these expenses as such, the question of ‘pressures’, or affects upon on other activities, and livelihoods, is entirely irrelevant. All that is relevant is whether the IRS was wrong to conclude “that breast pumps and supplies that assist lactation are medical care under § 213(d) because, like obstetric care, they are for the purpose of affecting a structure or function of the body of the lactating woman”. You can, of course, argue that the IRS were wrong to treat breast-pumps in the same way as they do contact-lens solution but, you would have to argue against the general medical consensus and, I think, against the interests of those women who are obliged to work but want to nurse their children.

    Your general point that goods of health brought to mother and baby by breastfeeding may be outweighed by other factors is, to my mind, beyond contention. As is the claim that women should be free to make their own informed choices about what is best for them and their baby without pressure from judgmental peers (from either side of the feminist argument). But I do fail to see how the recent ruling by the IRS damages the interests of women who have no choice but to be in the workplace or, of itself, puts ‘pressure’ on anybody.

  16. nb – the rebuttal to Miss Rosin’s piece as issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics seems worth quoting in full:

    In the article, “The Case Against Breast-Feeding” by Hanna Rosin, the author skims the literature and has omitted many recent statements including the 2005 statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics which supports the value of breastfeeding for most infants. This policy references every statement with scientific evidence from over 200 articles which meet scientific standards for accuracy and rigor. The statement was meticulously reviewed by the Section on Breastfeeding, the Committee on Nutrition and numerous other committees and approved by the Board of Directors of the Academy. Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Developed Countries, a study released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (the AHRQ Report) strongly supports the evidence of benefits demonstrated in the breastfeeding research. The evidence for the value of breastfeeding is scientific, it is strong, and it is continually being reaffirmed by new research work. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages women to make an informed decision about feeding their infants based on scientifically established information from credible resources. David T. Tayloe, Jr., MD, FAAP President American Academy of Pediatrics.

  17. “Breastmilk is free if you think a mother’s time is worth nothing.”

    You’re confusing feminism with capitalism (without a decent welfare system).

    Loss of potential income isn’t really an argument against breastfeeding at all. If anything, it’s an argument against having children in the first place – regardless of gender.

    People may want to be able to have children, work, make money and feel free – all at the same time. But the fact that they can’t has nothing to do with “oppression”.

  18. Thanks for the links.

    As far as I can see, there is nothing inherently or morally “wrong” with Badinter’s view that children are a nuisance.

    She, herself, is and should be free to think and act as she sees fit, of course. But her *general* argument seems misdirected, overstated, and arrogant.

    It also strikes me as odd that parenting is taken to be a concern mainly for the (biological) mother. Again, this makes me wonder whether this is a feminist line of reasoning at all.

  19. For the benefit of those who do not live in the USA and are undoubtedly mystified at the whole issue under discussion, allow me to elaborate a bit on the larger context in which many of the more vocal critics are targeting our First Lady on this issue.

    As a click on the Let’s Move link in the original post will demonstrate, recommending breastfeeding is a miniscule portion of her overall anti-obesity education initiative; indeed a thorough search through the project’s deeper web pages is required to even locate a sentence mentioning it. There has absolutely never been the slightest suggestion or proposal by Ms. Obama of any sort of government requirements to be placed on individuals with respect to breastfeeding, nor any penalties or consequences for choosing not to do so. Claims by some that her evangelization of breastfeeding, as a tiny part of a general recommendation for mothers to heed well-accepted pediatric nutritional guidelines, constitutes what the Tea Party ominously refers to as Big Gummint interference in the lives of women simply have no connection at all to the larger, reality-based world. (If they had, a similar outcry at the prospect of jackbooted federal thugs would no doubt have been raised in reaction to Nancy Reagan famously recommending cookie-baking.) Similarly, care should be taken to consider any ostensible claims of reliance on scientific studies as a foundation for such objections in light of that particular objector’s prior history of bloviation and posturing with regard to actual scientific conclusions supporting similarly radical, controversial principles, such as evolution, climate change, vaccination, or the health benefits of crude oil-contaminated drinking water.

    Enlightened by a tedious series of Foxnews and Rushlimbaugh talking points, I can clarify with confidence that the hue and cry that may at first blush appear to be a Serious Outcry of Alarum is in reality merely a dogwhistle, signalling membership and solidarity to a small, angry American minority to whom every action taken by Mr. or Mrs. Obama is encouraged to be perceived as an outrageous threat to sacred Family Values. Some illustrative examples of underlying issues tormenting the souls of this group which are desired to be triggered by thus targeting Ms. Obama (but are not to be spoken out loud since that would puncture the veneer of Seriousness) include: angst at the further erosion of good-old-fashioned unequal gender roles in the workplace, irrational fear of imaginary Obamacare Death Panels, a general feeling of Puritan ickiness at the thought of women possibly exposing their breasts in public, and most fundamentally, indignant offense at being given parenting advice by a woman whose skin is an unsavory shade of less-than-whiteness and who just happens to be married to that awful Kenyan Muslim Socialist Usurper with no birth certificate.

  20. Thank you Melior:

    I now understand the whole issue.

  21. Re AMOS Feb. 24th:

    Really??

  22. @Regan
    “To me, it seems false to say that non-working mothers rarely have a need for a pump. Many stay-at-home mothers choose to pump for numerous reasons including: it’s too painful to nurse, temporary medical problems prohibit them from nursing, they need to increase their supply to keep up with the baby’s demands, or they need a break and need someone else to bottle feed their baby.”
    They may *choose* to, and some need to, but this is not the same as the implication that breastfeeding always requires equipment (if you want a break, why not feed formula for instance?) It doesn’t pertain to your argument, but it struck me as strange.

    “I, like other feminists, tend to think that whatever benefits breast milk has over formula, that they are insignificant enough to not warrant putting pressure on women to do it–especially when women are already underrepresented in the workforce. Although the government is not trying to, by advocating breast feeding it is contributing to the oppression of women.”

    Do you not think there is something off about the world of work when it cannot accommodate a normal biological function?

    The Atlantic article was an excellent exploration of the social implications of breastfeeding. However her analysis seems to me to be entangled with the social implications of being a mother. The formula-feeding mothers I know still tend to be the ones waking in the night, changing most of the nappies, knowing all the details of the kid’s lives.

    Regarding working outside the home, I come from the feminist position that the workplace itself is gendered (e.g. see Acker). The implicit norm is derived from the 50s male worker with support network (i.e. a wife) at home looking after his food, laundry, children, parents etc. Issues with breastfeeding are only one of an array of problems facing the mother who works outside home, starting, in the US, with a choice of loss of wages or loss of rest immediately after the birth. Look at childcare issues – who tends to be called when the child is sick, who takes days off when schools are closed?

    Something that tends to confirm this analysis is the reported “daddy track” for fathers who take on the responsibility for their children. The workplace wants 100% flexible dedicated workers. This sits badly with having anything in your life that cannot be cancelled.

    Maybe it’s work is the problem not breastfeeding.

  23. Don:

    As someone outside the U.S., what Melior says makes sense to me.

  24. AMOS that’s it then. I am outside the U.S. and I am just thick I guess. I honestly thought you were being sarcastic.

  25. Don:

    It’s very difficult to be sarcastic in internet, unless the person who is reading you knows you well.

    In the past, at times I tried to be sarcastic, but I realized that no one understood my irony, and I gave up.

    For sarcasm to be effective there must be a community of shared values and perceptions, and you can’t expect to find that in an open online forum.

    At the end of his post, Melior uses irony (the Muslim Socialist Usurper), but that is only understandable because he has already clearly established his point of view.

  26. AMOS Re Feb 24th.
    Thanks I just could not follow Melior’s train of thought in this matter. And from what you say it is now quite apparent that the fault lies with me not Melior. I think I am a bit thicker than usual the last two days.

  27. Don:

    You’re not thick. Melior’s post is geared to people like me who follow U.S. politics, but from a distance. Someone who does not follow U.S. politics would not understand it, and it is probably too simplistic and formulaic for someone who lives in the U.S. and follows politics in great detail.

    If I make a joke about Chilean politics, for example, you’re not going to see that it’s a joke.

  28. In Europe and America during the early 19th century, the prevalence of wet nursing began to decrease, while the practice of feeding babies mixtures based on animal milk rose in popularity. (Wikipedia)

    Suddenly kids are fat! why? The claim is made that kids who are breast-fed longer have a lower tendency to be obese. This is almost certainly a false cause which moreover clouds the issue of obesity. The real cause of obesity is ignorant parents themselves gormandising on fattening food and bringing up their children so to do. Mrs Obama does seem to be dealing with the problem from this viewpoint if “Lets Move” is anything to go by.
    The government should not dictate the manner in which infants are fed be it breast or bottle. Additionally all this is about women and their infants. In point of fact, It takes a female and a male to produce offspring they are both equally responsible for production of the child and its subsequent upbringing. Males have a responsibility to ensure that females generally, are not disadvantaged by the pregnancies which they (the males) have been a party in causing.
    Cathyby said “Do you not think there is something off about the world of work when it cannot accommodate a normal biological function? “ My reply to that is YES.
    The following address accesses an article in today’s “Telegraph” which has some relevance here.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/andrewmcfbrown/100005898/the-tragedy-of-fat-kids-who-have-lost-their-innocence/

  29. Melior has usefully placed the present topic in the context of recent American political events. (I presume the ‘particular objector’ with the ‘prior history of bloviation and posturing’ Meilor is refers to is Michele Bachmann – if I am wrong on this count I do hope somebody will put me right.) I do not dispute Melior’s interpretation of events (or the importance of drawing attention to them). And I personally have argued that the IRS are NOT wrong to give tax breaks on breast pumps and expressed grave doubts about the supposed science behind the arguments of Hanna Rosin (and indeed posted the AAP’s rebuttal to her article). However, although I was initially somewhat perplexed why anybody would argue that the US government should not support breastfeeding (I still maintain that they should) I do think that there are arguments that feminists have raised against the promotion of breast-feeding that at least merit attention (despite the motives of those who have created the controversy around Ms Obama’s remarks).

    It was in that spirit that I posted links to interviews with the controversial feminist Elisabeth Badinter above. Mme Badinter, of course, is speaking within one of the many countries that have welfare rights for mothers that will, tragically, remain the stuff of utter fantasy as far as working class American women are concerned. However, I think her arguments that societal pressures to breastfeed and adhere to other ‘norms’ of motherhood have the consequence of turning back the clock as far as the progress of women in the workplace is concerned do merit consideration (if not assent or support for the same remedies she suggests).

    Btw Bjorn,

    Your comment that it strikes you “as odd that parenting is taken to be a concern mainly for the (biological) mother” is suggestive of an enlightened viewpoint. However “parenting is a concern mainly for the (biological) mother” can be taken as prescriptive claim or a descriptive one. As a prescriptive claim, I think it is a good that this ‘viewpoint’ is increasingly being questioned. As a descriptive claim, outside the more enlightened sections of the more enlightened societies, it does seem to remain the stark and shameful reality.

  30. Yes, and that’s really what I’m getting at: there are so many more obvious things to correct when it comes to e.g. equality.

  31. is it involved?

  32. Bjorn,

    I think we are probably on the same page. I am trying to be open to the viewpoints expressed by Mme Badinter and at least give them charitable consideration. But really yes I think the argument about tax breaks on breast pumps is somewhat removed from reality. The New Scientist has a short Q&A piece online titled “Should breastfeeding women get tax breaks?”. They argue for all the health benefits of breastfeeding that some feminists have been disputing. Interestingly though they do conclude thus:

    Is expressed milk as good as breast milk?

    Maybe not. Chemicals that help babies sleep only appear in breast milk at night, for example.

    Moreover, breast milk changes in composition throughout feeding time, which might help babies realise when they’re full. Babies never overfeed at the breast, Rasmussen says, but they’re usually encouraged to finish all the milk in their bottles, be it formula or breast milk.

    So, should breast pumps be subsidised?

    Even if expressed milk does trump formula, many women lack the time to pump milk. Subsidising the cost of breast pumps won’t remove this logistic hurdle.

    The overall feeling from nutrition experts interviewed by New Scientist was that the only way to get more mothers to breastfeed is to provide them with more benefits – namely, longer and adequately paid maternity leave.

    Until that happens, health agencies should stop making recommendations about breast milk, Lee says. A lot of women have every intention to breastfeed, she says, but then run into unforeseen barriers. “These mothers feel really dreadful about not breastfeeding,” she says. “What a stupid social anxiety to give people for no reason.”

    – Sadly Bjorn in the USA, longer and adequately paid maternity leave seems to be the stuff of fantasy (as well as being something some feminists seem to argue against).

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