1. Breastfeeding has become a topical issue in the USA. On the one hand, some organizations like La Leche League (LLL), emphasize the urge for natural nursing and reject usage of formula – and have their reasons, because there is nothing better for baby’s health and physical development than mother’s milk (besides, the feeder also benefits). But on the other hand, zealous breastfeeding advocates, reflecting a domineering thought of society, tend to exaggerate the advantages of natural nursing, which makes mothers who cannot provide milk to their babies due to medical reasons feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed with guilt about it. The pressure of not feeding the baby is stressful enough without all these appeals to return to nature. LLL, starting from the time of its appearance in 1956 and until nowadays has foregrounded the naturalness of breastfeeding and claims that it epitomizes womanliness, thus making non-adherent mothers feel inferior and robbing their babies of a full-fledged infancy. Moreover, some of the benefits of nursing are not scientifically proved. Mothers returning to work are also a category at which the criticism of LLL is aimed. Some women may perceive it as an implicit statement that they do not aim at being real mothers, but pursue career goals.
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Campaign against formula producers developed very rigorously. Breastfeeding activists go to extremes by nearly comparing bottle-feeding to smoking or drinking; according to them, harm to a baby and society is equal to it. Dictates from AlternaMoms.com, quoted in The Tyranny of Breastfeeding: New mothers vs. La Leche League by Elisabeth Badinter (2012), truly seem to be very strict and intolerant to any deviations. LLL, which “looked like a sect in its early days” (Badinter 2012), is firm in its principles. They really do not understand that these principles are impossible to comply with for some women, because they involve both strong will and physical disposition. The bottom line in this issue is that adherence to breastfeeding is a good practice, refusal to breastfeed is a mother’s choice, but it does not mean that any of them must be exclusive.
2. Prolonged breastfeeding is a mother’s choice. The benefits of this practice are not proved – researches show that neither IQ rises, nor immunity improves. The main problem of this matter is social awkwardness, uneasiness of society. Although, there is always a compromise – instead of shocking people by public exposure a nursing mother may resort to nursing at home exclusively and without vigorous sharing of information regarding this. In contrast with breastfeeding in public, in this case there is at least no physical harm for the mother. It helps mothers feel still needed, and children – safe and protected. Children beyond toddler age require shorter breastfeeding sessions. The emotional bonding supported by extended breastfeeding is probably the strongest and very special, even if grown-up children do not remember they had such an experience. On the other hand, sooner or later this bond must be broken, and the more breastfeeding is prolonged, the more difficult it will be for both parties to accept that. Besides, nursing over a long period may be a cause of misunderstanding and tense between the mother and the father. Those who find extended breastfeeding controversial also use the fact that mother gets physical pleasure from the practice as an argument.
Pro-breastfeeding organizations insist on defining the time of weaning based on mother’s own considerations, without regard to the general opinion. Naturally, they encourage women not to stop nursing for the sake of their own convenience, quoting a research results which state that “children are biologically meant to be weaned somewhere between the ages of 3.5 and 7” (Badinter, 2012, pp. 41-42). Such figures mean consistent breastfeeding considerably exceeding toddlerhood. Zealous mothers seem to prioritize the children’s needs so much that they cross the overprotecting edge. There might even be psychological damage done to children who shared this bond for too long. Either way, there is no large-scale empirical data to support the benefits of extended breastfeeding, so this practice cannot be considered warranted.
3. Wet nursing gradually becomes an obsolete notion. Yet, there are still some supporters of it who consider such a practice to be better than resorting to formula. These groups of women include mothers who adopt babies, ill mothers or those who cannot breastfeed and adherents of exclusively breastfeeding approach among others. The other party is presented by those who have a surplus of milk and are willing to share rather than to waste the valuable product.
In the days of technological advance the internet becomes a new source of solving situations. The web also helps with milk-sharing: a mother who cannot nurse may find a reliable milk “supplier” in special centers, free of charge (though some offer money for it). American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) emphasizes the advantages of breast milk over the artificial one, the major of them being the immunity-boosting content. But regarding breast-milk-sharing the opinion is far from positive: AAP and Food and Drug Administration warn mothers that “informal breast-milk sharing puts babies at risk of HIV, hepatitis B and other infectious diseases” (Shute). They offer to use official milk banks instead (there are 11 of them in the USA). But such state banks present a financial difficulty to mothers who prefer wet nursing to formula, as milk is rather expensive there. On the other hand, official banks are more secure and have advanced quality control. The majority of medical community members are especially bothered by the unverified health status of informal milk donors. They state there are a lot of unrealized risks. Nevertheless, the popularity of informal milk sharing is constantly increasing, reducing requests to official organizations.
All the above-mentioned leads to the conclusion that wet nursing is beneficial when executed through the official breast-milk banks. Every case of informal immediate milk sharing presents a potential danger, for the product is not medically screened. When a mother does not have access to the state organization or cannot afford its service, usage of formula is a better solution.
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