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A feminist footnote on the money-saving wonders of breastfeeding

May 22, 2009

I feel the need to clarify a few points from my previous entry on the “magical” money-saving properties of breastmilk and breastfeeding.  Call it the result of my inherent concern for maintaining a feminist perspective on women’s bodies and choices.

First, I do not think that the dude who wrote “112 Ways to Save Money” has any right or normative claim to tell me or any other woman that we should use our bodies in any particular way in order to save money.  So I’m in no way suggesting that this is what he or the other money-saving gurus should have done.

Even when it comes to breastfeeding, the well-meaning (and much-needed) lactation consultants and educators, pediatricians, La Leche League leaders, and other breastfeeding advocates of the world only have the right to present us with evidence-based information about the benefits of breastfeeding and to encourage mothers (even if very strongly) to  breastfeed.  But the choice itself it still up to each individual mother–it is her body (and her breasts), after all.

Furthermore, although there are numerous biological and and health-related reasons to breastfeed one’s child, and although I will be the first to wax sentimental about the “miracle” that has allowed my body to nourish my children all on it’s own, I do not think that women should be confined to some sort of inescapable biological destiny that prevents them from choosing to do something other than what biology “dictates.”  Artificial milk (i.e. formula) has done wonders not only for working women of the world but also for women who literally cannot breastfeed their children, such as mothers who are seriously ill and/or must take medication that is counterindicated for breastfeeding, those who have had previous breast-surgeries that interfere with their ability to breastfeed, or those who have hypoplastic breasts.

That being said, however, I do not want to suggest that the formula companies of the world shine some sort of feminism-inspired light upon the world.  Quite the contrary, in fact.

For one, I don’t think that formula companies (who, let’s face it, ultimately care about the bottom line) do anything to remind women that their bodies are perfectly capable of feeding their infants.  (Women with absolutely adequate and powerful bodies–imagine that!)  I also don’t think that formula companies do women any feminist-inspired service by praising the “convenience” of formula-feeding.  Breastfeeding is not always easy (and, admittedly, can be a downright struggle for some women), but neither is getting entirely out of bed at 2 a.m. to warm up formula in a sanitized bottle.

So, in spite of and because of my feminist concerns about women’s bodies, and as a doula, a breastfeeding mother, and a future lactation educator, I still encourage women who can to breastfeed their children, both for health reasons and for economic reasons.  A reduced risk of SIDS, a transmission of important antibodies to one’s baby, a reduced risk of certain cancers for the mother, and savings potentially in the thousands: who could ask for more?!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 22, 2009 12:27 pm

    I’ve been following your blog as my husband and I plan on having children in a year or two. I really enjoy reading it.

    Another benefit to breastfeeing, when possible, and cloth diapering as well is that it is much better for the environment. All the packaging that formula comes in is thrown out, the trucks that have to transport it to the stores… same thing with disposable diapers. Convenience with a cost.

    The top reasons I would like to breastfeed/cloth diaper:
    -Best interest of the baby
    -Better for the environment
    -Saves money

    This is a good post- in these economic times it might actually interest more mothers in breastfeeding!

  2. BirthingBeautifulIdeas permalink*
    May 24, 2009 1:54 pm

    Megan, I’m so glad that you are enjoying my blog!

    You make such a good point about the environmental impact of formula feeding (and cloth diapering, for that matter). As you mention, it is one of the many (many, many…) reasons that make breastfeeding preferential to formula-feeding!

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