The Politics of Breastfeeding

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SHAME ON YOU, Michele Bachman and Sarah Palin for your lame attempts to score political points by criticizing First Lady Michelle Obama’s pro-breastfeeding position.  We finally have a public figure who has the gumption to state the obvious: Breastfeeding is beneficial to public health.  It should be promoted and encouraged.

But for no other reason that Obama is a Democrat, and therefore your political “enemy,” you slam her, saying that she is promoting a “nanny state.”  Never mind the science, the facts, and the soaring rates of obesity and health care costs in this country, both of which could be reduced if more babies were breastfed for a longer period of time. 

This issue has long been an elephant that no one will speak about in the midst of public health care debates.  The formula industry in this country is a massive one, and it’s done a real snow job on generations of parents and even doctors, convincing too many that formula feeding is “just as good” as breast milk. After all, it’s so much easier and more convenient, blah blah blah.

And so formula-making has grown to a 5+ billion dollar business in the U.S. alone. As I detail in my book “My Two Year Old Eats Octopus: Raising Children Who Love to Eat Everything,” (Bull Publishing), it is a marketing machine that has skillfully insinuated itself into the medical profession and the hearts and minds of too many new mothers, with well-time giveaways, products samples and coupons. 

All while the evidence continues to mount that breastfeeding helps to protect babies from a host of maladies, as infants, throughout childhood and perhaps beyond.  (And, to my particular focus about kids and flavors/ tastes, it is a terrific way to start down the path of feeding them “real” foods.)

Representative Bachman said that she has five children and that she breastfed all of them.  Well, great.  If that’s the case, then she as well as anyone should know how important it is to the health of those kids. And as one who has gone through the trenches, she should be aware of the mounds of misinformation floating around about breastfeeding, and how critical early support, education and encouragement is to many new mothers. 

“To think that the government should go out and buy my breast pump… that’s the new definition of Nanny State,” Bachman self-righteously fumes.  Oh, really?  Does she turn down the mortgage credit the federal government gives to her for buying a house?  The government’s role is to encourage its citizens – usually through monetary incentives — to do what is best for themselves and society.  That includes home-ownership, and it also includes breastfeeding kids.

As a female voter who has pulled both the R and the D levers at various times, a position like this from Michele Bachmann is a big red flag to me.  If she will stoop to politicizing something as uncontroversial as breastfeeding, then I will forever see “political opportunism” in everything else she says.

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2 Responses to “The Politics of Breastfeeding”

  1. Betsy Says:

    Well said, Nancy! I am not a big Sarah Palin or Obama fan but I love Michelle! She has done more for the future health of our country than anyone else has. While breastfeedimg is not always easy, it is best and the cheapest way to feed your baby! I have two perfectly heathy kids to prove it. However, new moms do need support instead of formula thrown at them. I have always said marriage and breastfeeding are the two hardest yet rewarding things I have ever done!

  2. Michelle Says:

    With the number of breastfeeding mothers in this country, it seems incredibly shortsighted for Palin and Bachman to attack Obama’s comments. I am no Obama fan, but she is right on the money here. The benefits of breastfeeding are unarguable, yet even many medical professionals will push formula at new mothers the minute the baby is delivered! I was given countless samples at the hospital and pediatricians office, even though I told all of the medical professionals I was nursing exclusively. It’s no wonder formula is a billion dollar industry, the companies market at a very vulnerable time for young moms. I, for one, am thrilled about the IRS breastfeeding tax credit!

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