I Agree With Mother Nature On This One

Have you read the latest article floating around in which the professor declares that she will never again choose to breastfeed her baby? Although she had a magical experience breastfeeding her first son and enjoyed the experience and all went well, she has decided to swear off any and all future breastfeeding on the grounds that it creates an “inequality” in parenting.

Breastfeeding mom

Fresh from the womb, she declares, breastfeeding — an entirely female ability — sets up a rocky and unequal footing for the foundation for modern parenthood. Breastfeeding, she believes, is the one last hindrance in allowing modern-day fathers to flourish as equal parenting partners.

And I’m sorry, but she’s completely off her rocker.

Women shouldn't breastfeed because men can't

The woman behind the "women shouldn't breastfeed because men can't" movement is Karla A. Erickson, an associate professor of sociology at Grinnell College. Her online campus biography boasts an interesting and diverse background, including 13 years of waitressing and work in feminist and end-of-life issues.

She penned her impassioned plea against breastfeeding for the Iowa City Press Citizen back in August and I have to admit that when I read it, I really couldn't believe what I was reading.

Although Erickson admits to breastfeeding her son the first time around, she explains in her opinion piece, "why, next time, I won't breastfeed" with supporting statements about the inequality that breastfeeding produces in the parent-child relationship.

She cites the fact that her son "prefers" her over her husband, that he runs to her first when he's hurt, or he prefers snuggling with her — simply because he's used to it, having spent more literal time skin-to-skin with her own body.

I would argue that in many parental-child relationships, even if the child is not breastfed, many times the mother is the one whom the child will run to and snuggle with. But even if we grant Erickson her point on that one — because, yes, it makes sense if the baby grew up being comforted by his mother's skin that he has learned that mom = comfort — I have to ask the question.

Why is that a bad thing again?

According to Erickson, a hurt child preferring his mother (and let's keep in mind that we're talking about young children here... my son loves me now, but in a few years, when Dad's going out to work on the farm, who do you think he'd rather be with?) is not just a detriment of a false relationship cruelly imposed on both of them, but a deliberate smack in the face to the father.

Breastfeeding says to the father, Ha! You will never be as good as any mother because you can't do this. Na-na-na!

The solution to all of this bitter gender equality?

Well, obviously, it's for no mother to breastfeed. Ever. Because that's the only way that fathers can learn to step up to the plate and become equal parents while their children are weaned off the devious crutch of their mothers' bosoms.

It's hard to know where to even start with this theory. For starters, I think it's insulting to adoptive parents, insinuating that no one — or nothing — is as good as a biological mother with bountiful breasts. And what about mothers who want to breastfeed, but are physically unable to? Are they somehow "less" of a mother too?

At its basis, I think this whole notion that there's something inherently unfair about the fact that I can breastfeed and my husband can't is taking the whole equal parenting movement a tad too far.

I'm not mad that my husband can't breastfeed. Did I ever resent him in the middle of the night when I was up nursing a baby and he snuggled cozily under the covers? Well, sure. Or did I ever sigh the sigh of a martyr when I came down with mastitis three times or had to excuse myself, yet again, from the restaurant meal to feed the baby? Probably.

But my goodness, I don't think I am any more of a parent or that my children somehow love me more than their father because they spent the first year of their life getting food in a way that babies have since the dawn of time. There are so many things that he can do for them that I can't — namely, no one can make those kids belly laugh from a good tickle fight like my husband. So does that mean I should pull him aside and gently tell him, "Honey, it's not fair that you make the kids laugh more than me because you are physically stronger and can throw them higher in the air than I could possibly — so I need you never do it again so we can be equals as parents."?

Um, no.

I'm grateful that my husband can do things as a father that I can't. All parents — birth parents, adoptive parents, single parents and married parents — rely on others to provide their children with roles that they can't solely fill. One parent can't be all things to a child, nor should he/she be.

And that doesn't mean that they are somehow less of a parent or on unequal footing with their partners.

So, no, Ms. Erickson, I don't agree with you at all. I respect the choice that mothers can make in regards to feeding their babies and I'm glad I was able to breastfeed mine.

And I'm certainly not mad at my husband for lacking the ability to breastfeed.

Because, let's be honest... that would just be a tad awkward.

More on breastfeeding

What to do when your baby stops nursing
Breastfeeding tips for first-time moms
Back-to-work breastfeeding tips


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