There is a call today to stop calling breastfeeding “natural”.
A surprising call from respected members of the medical profession. Framed with good intent, but a call that might leave many women, like me, wondering whether they just think we are all stupid.
Its been prompted by an (unproven) link between the use of the phrase “natural” in respect to breastfeeding and the anti-vaccination movement, who claim that latching on to the notion that natural is better.
It came from an article in the journal Pediatrics. The authors ask health professionals to stop saying that breastfeeding is natural as doing so, they claim, gives the impression that natural parenting practices are healthier.
If we hammer home that breastfeeding is the best because it is natural then we could be giving the impression it’s best to avoid drugs. Via IStock.
In the article, Unintended Consequences of Invoking the “Natural” in Breastfeeding Promotion, Jessica Martucci and Anne Barnhill, Medical Ethics and Health Policy researchers at Penn Medicine started a public campaign to end the positive use of the word natural, claiming that it is associated with such "problematic" practices as home birth, homeschooling and the rejection of GMO foods, and that natural parenting movements are interfering with vaccination efforts.
While it could be easy to dismiss it as politically correct nonsense from a couple of policy researchers far removed from the real world, it is troubling that their call has been today backed up by Brisbane obstetrician and former AMA Queensland president Gino Pecoraro.
He told The Courier Mail:
“If we hammer home that breastfeeding is the best because it is natural then we could be giving the impression it’s best to avoid drugs or medical advances that can save lives — like vaccinations.
“The word ‘natural’ for breastfeeding is judged and makes it seem easy. Breast is best seemed a better message to me.
“If it is possible to breastfeed then it’s the better option but you are not a failure if you can’t do what is ‘supposed to come naturally’.”
Dr Pecoraro is a well respected professional with decades of experience but I have to wonder whether his comments are based on an assumption that people are dumb.
Whereas I like to think that for the most part women are pretty cluey.
Bottle-feeding mums are doing nothing wrong and its their choice and a safe, healthy choice at that. Via IStock.
It’s a big stretch to assume that a woman will be blindly influenced by the anti-vaccination movement with a reference to breastfeeding being natural.
In fact the authors even point out that they still want to ban the word natural in association with breastfeeding even though “there are currently no studies demonstrating a direct link between the promotion of breast-feeding as natural and the rise of parents who don’t vaccinate their children.”
It’s an odd argument.
Breastfeeding IS natural, by the very definition of the word natural. But further to that it assumes that everything “natural” is better.
In order not to start a debate I feel this is the point I must state the obvious - bottle-feeding mums are doing nothing wrong and its their choice and a safe, healthy choice at that, heck most of us bottle feed at some stage – its just that breastfeeding, if possible should be encouraged for the benefits it provides. It’s a preferable, natural option, but an option of two methods that are both okay.
So we agree that yes, breastfeeding is natural and yes breastfeeding is "best" but why does that then mean that everything natural is better.