There's a weird disconnect in the way we talk about breastfeeding. It's treated as a lifestyle choice, as though it weren't vitally important to a baby's health and well-being.
For example, in this article in The Phoenix, Dr. Mary Jane Cadieux says that one of the most important decisions a new mother faces is whether she will breast feed. True!
She then lists several reasons why breastfeeding is "beneficial" for babies:
Breast milk reduces the risk of infections in the gastrointestinal, urinary and respiratory tracts, lowers the rate of ear infections and protects against allergies, diabetes and later in life, obesity.
Other important medical findings regarding breastfeeding include:
· Babies' intelligence has been linked to being breastfed - those who were breastfed were smarter.
· Higher pain relief and reduced stress levels have been found in breastfed babies.
· Breastfeeding helps build stronger bones for babies.
· Breast milk has higher levels of good cholesterol in it, which is essential for proper growth and development.
She leaves out that it also creates a secure bond with the mother that translates into secure attachments throughout life.
So, with all this evidence of the importance of breastfeeding, why is it always discussed as simply one option for mothers?
I realize that breastfeeding advocates don't want to alienate women, or make those who didn't nurse feel criticized. But, if a mother doesn't want her children vaccinated, she can face legal action. If she doesn't choose to keep her child clothed and fed, he can be taken away from her. Why does she get to decide to withhold the most important thing a mother can give her baby?