Last summer I had a chance to sit down in a indoor playground cafe and share my unfortunate workplace nursing storywith Jennifer Grayson, an author, journalist, columnist, and a leading expert on environmental issues. She is also a mother of two. At that time she was working on a book about the breastfeeding debate.
Surely breastfeeding has been a hot topic and there were already plenty of books out there revolving around this topic. But I was happy to see one more book adding to the list. Not because I’m a (crazy) breastfeeding activist as Wikipedia labeled me, but because I see the fact that we have so many books, articles, discussions about breastfeeding points out another fact: breastfeeding, the bond that makes us human, is not deemed a nature and normal thing, but a topic worth debating. And this is exactly why breastfeeding mothers in today’s society aren’t getting the support they deserve. A book that explore the controversy is exactly what we need at this time.
So I’m excited to know that Grayson’s book is finally coming out this July, titled “Unlatched: The Evolution of Breastfeeding and the Making of a Controversy.” And Grayson and I agree on at least one thing: while the benefits of breastfeeding have been well documented by many researchers, breastfeeding itself is not normalized in our society.
“The very fact that we refer to it as the ‘benefits’ of breastfeeding makes it very clear that breastfeeding is not normalized in our society,” Grayson told me in an earlier chat. “It seems more like formula is the norm and the natural elixir that our bodies have provided for eons is now seems as some sort of ‘boost’—like the one you might get from a pack of vitamins.”
Human milk is supposed to be the human norm, but since the rise of artificial formula, it has became the center of a never-ending controversy. Grayson believes that the root of the current mommy wars is the utter lack of support for most mothers in American society. “Nearly 80 percent of US mothers now start off breastfeeding, yet half give up entirely or start supplementing with formula after just a few weeks,” she said.
Why? “We’re one of pitifully few countries in the world without paid maternity leave, there is scant medical support for nursing mothers, and there are zero regulations on formula advertising in the country,” said Grayson. “Many governments around the world have taken dramatic steps to rectify this, in the name of public health. But more and more in the US, being able to exclusively breastfeed for the six months recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization boils down to a question of economic privilege. These are harsh truths, and I think it’s been easier to point fingers at each other than uncover the deal with the real issues.”
Grayson thoroughly explored the real issues in this book. The book is inspiring, well researched, and beautifully written. I sincerely think it’s a must read not just for mothers, but for anyone. Like I always said, breastfeeding is a human right. You don’t need to breastfeed--you don’t even need to be a mother--to support a human right issue.
I told Grayson that I’ll save the book for my now 3-year-old son when he becomes a father. She said, “Here’s hoping that by the time he becomes a father, he can’t imagine a time when a book like this would have ever need to be written!”
So we hope.