Because of spam, I personally moderate all comments left on my blog. However, because of health issues, I will not be able to do so in the future.

If you have a personal question about LI or any related topic you can send me an email at I will try to respond.

Otherwise, this blog is now a legacy site, meaning that I am not updating it any longer. The basic information about LI is still sound. However, product information and weblinks may be out of date.

In addition, my old website, Planet Lactose, has been taken down because of the age of the information. Unfortunately, that means links to the site on this blog will no longer work.

For quick offline reference, you can purchase Planet Lactose: The Best of the Blog as an ebook on or Almost 100,000 words on LI, allergies, milk products, milk-free products, and the genetics of intolerance, along with large helpings of the weirdness that is the Net.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Breastfeeding: Any Time, Any Place, It's Still Good

Breastfeeding is a subject that seems to drive people insane. Despite my public stance of encouraging breastfeeding for any woman who is able to do so, I've been attacked by fanatics because I also give advice on formulas to women who can't or even won't breastfeed. For some women, breastfeeding is an absolute. All women should do it. I'm not sure what they're supposed to do with their baby if they can't. Give it for adoption, I suppose. This is apparently a position equivalent to that of abstinence for sex education. There is an enormous amount of proof that abstinence doesn't work as a policy, but that matters not to its advocates. Better to have a failed, unworkable, counterproductive policy than change one's mind.

Did you know that 38 U.S. states have laws stating that women have the basic right to breastfeed in public? I don't know why the other 12 don't. Perhaps it's too obvious for them to bother with.

Yet the fanatics persist. Breastfeeding, they say, is obscene. Horrid. Indecent. (Twenty-three states have exempted breastfeeding from any violation of their indecency laws.) A photo of actress Maggie Gyllenhaal breastfeeding her child started an uproar. Here's another photo of her doing so, less blurry than the original.

Are you properly shuddering in horror? Why not? You can clearly the entire side... of her baby's head.

Don't believe me that breastfeeding is sickening? Check out this letter from a woman - a woman, mind you - writing in to the Dear Amy advice column to say that:

I am as uncomfortable knowing that a woman is breastfeeding even if the mother is wearing a tent, as I would be with a couple groping each other with all their clothes on. It just isn't public entertainment.

Well, no, it isn't. It's a function vital to the health of babies. All children should be breastfed for at least the first six months. It doesn't happen. No more than about 30% of American women do so.

In a Newsweek article Karen Springen wrote:
Even formula makers say "breast is best." Nursing reduces a baby's risk of diarrhea, ear infections, urinary-tract infections and bacterial infections (and perhaps food allergies, obesity and diabetes). It also lowers a mom's risk of breast and ovarian cancer—and, since it burns 500 calories a day, helps her lose weight. And it's free, while formula costs about $1,500 a year.

Look, the human body is not obscene. Nudity by itself is nothing special. It can't harm anyone, even children. Breastfeeding was witnessed by children and adults for the first 99,900 of humanity's 100,000 years of existence without corrupting anyone, slowing down progress, disrupting morals and ethics, or contributing to blindness.

It is time to put these antiquated notions about the human body in the same cultural trashcan as putting coverings on piano legs so as not to offend someone's delicate sensibilities. Encouraging breastfeeding is as valuable and as productive as encouraging energy conservation. Sorry, I forgot that that's controversial too.

When American society gets into these fits of collective insanity, the only thing to do is shock it back to its senses. If you run into those who object to a mother's discreet breastfeeding of her child, shout "nipples" at them at the top of your lungs. See if they get the message.

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