Lactivism: How Feminists and Fundamentalists, Hippies and Yuppies, and Physicians and Politicians Made Breastfeeding Big Business and Bad Policy
When it comes to parenting, "breast is best" has become cliché, and while its truthfulness isn't usually questioned, Courtney Jung's Lactivism does just that. Her research is extensive, and she devotes each chapter to an issue concerning breastfeeding in the U.S. She separates those who advocate for women's right to breastfeed in public from the "lactivists," a term she uses to describe zealous advocates, policy makers and others who believe breast milk is vital for infant wellness despite the lack of scientific evidence. Jung (The Moral Force of Indigenous Politics) explains that the science that extolled the benefits of breast milk was inaccurate and poorly interpreted, promoting alleged long-term benefits of the "good" bacteria and other breast milk components.
The dark side of lactivism shames mothers who use formula, and has influenced the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program so that women who do not breastfeed receive grossly unequal benefits compared to breastfeeding recipients. Jung describes how some lactivists have worked to hide the risk of transmitting HIV from mothers with the virus. Ironically, these social and financial pressures encourage women to use breast pumps, removing the only proven benefit of breastfeeding--bonding--from the equation. American women receive no mandatory paid maternity leave, and most of them don't have such leave via medical insurance, yet medical insurance pays for breast pumps. This encouragement to pump is perversely presented as a freedom for women, a choice they can make so they can continue working. Jung's Lactivism illustrates how a woman's choice has become a matter of public health and a socially enforced necessity. --Justus Joseph, bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company