Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Language, Biology, and Boobs

This is an interesting piece on the language of breastfeeding and, somewhat counterintuitively, how the phrase "Breast is Best" might reinforce artificial feeding instead of that best breast product.

The thrust of the article is this: we all would love to be the best, most perfect, ideal parent and give our children the best, most perfect, ideal things. But that's probably not going to happen. So good enough is, well, good enough. And formula is good enough.  If we instead phrased the options as breastmilk = normal, formula = substandard, then the discussion takes on a very different tone and mothers get a substantially different message.

(Note - does this post conflict with post immediately prior? Maybe.  But regular readers of my other blog will know that I love little as much as I love a good linguistics discussion.)

One point that I liked - where's all the milk banks at?  There are some, but you need a prescription to get the goods.
There is a need for standard formula in some situations. Only because we do not have human milk banks. The person who needs additional blood does not turn to a fourth-rate substitute; there are blood banks that provide human blood for human beings. He does not need to have a special illness to qualify. All he needs is a personal shortage of blood. Yet only those infants who cannot tolerate fourth best are privileged enough to receive third best. I wonder what will happen when a relatively inexpensive commercial blood is designed that carries a substantially higher health risk than donor blood. Who will be considered unimportant enough to receive it? When we find ourselves using artificial milk with a client, let's remind her and her health care providers that banked human milk ought to be available. Milk banks are more likely to become part of our culture if they first become part of our language. . . .
.... All of us within the profession want breastfeeding to be our biological reference point. We want it to be the cultural norm; we want human milk to be made available to all human babies, regardless of other circumstances. A vital first step toward achieving those goals is within immediate reach of every one of us. All we have to do is...watch our language.

1 comment:

  1. This gets ugly if you expand the theory...
    Staying home = best; going back to work = substandard.
    No tv = best; watching Modern Family while the kid is still awake = substandard.
    Etc., etc...
    Are we all willing to accept we're a bunch of crappy moms?
    On another note, you can make serious money from selling your breast milk on the black market. Apparently, a lot of it is purchased by fetishists.