Since the invention of dextri-maltose and the subsequent rise of Similac in the early twentieth century, parents with access to clean drinking water have had a safe alternative to breast-milk. Use of formula spiked between the 1950s and 1970s, with some reports showing that nearly 75 percent of the population relied on commercial formula to at least supplement a breastfeeding routine. So how is it that most of those bottle-fed babies grew up to believe that breast, and only breast, is best?
In Is Breast Best? Joan B. Wolf challenges the widespread belief that breastfeeding is medically superior to bottle-feeding. Despite the fact that breastfeeding has become the ultimate expression of maternal dedication, Wolf writes, the conviction that breastfeeding provides babies unique health benefits and that formula feeding is a risky substitute is unsubstantiated by the evidence. In accessible prose, Wolf argues that a public obsession with health and what she calls “total motherhood” has made breastfeeding a cause célèbre, and that public discussions of breastfeeding say more about infatuation with personal responsibility and perfect mothering in America than they do about the concrete benefits of the breast.
Why has breastfeeding re-asserted itself over the last twenty years, and why are the government, the scientific and medical communities, and so many mothers so invested in the idea? Parsing the rhetoric of expert advice, including the recent National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign, and rigorously questioning the scientific evidence, Wolf uncovers a path by which a mother can feel informed and confident about how best to feed her thriving infant—whether flourishing by breast or by bottle.
Preface: Why Breastfeeding?
1 Monitoring Mothers
A Recent History of Following the Doctor’s Orders
2 The Science
Does Breastfeeding Make Smarter, Happier, and Healthier Babies?
3 Minding Your Own (Risky) Business
Health and Personal Responsibility
4 From the Womb to the Breast
Total Motherhood and Risk-Free Children
5 Scaring Mothers
The Government Campaign for Breastfeeding
About the Author
"Wolf confronts the stereotypes of ideal motherhood and explains how public health campaigns and advocacy groups have relied on flawed infant-feeding research to exaggerate any health risks associated with using infant formula."-Texas A&M University News,tamunews.tamu.edu
"Instead of disputing the science about the chemical makeup of breast milk . . . she (Wolf) posits that the benefits most people associate with breast-feeding studies cannot be separated from the fact that mothers who breast-feed may be more attuned to health and may take more precautions about hygene . . . Wolf rightfully contends that in the government's and acvocate's zeal to increase the numbers of breast-fed babies, they have vastly discounted the harsh realities of breast-feeding in a modern world"-Tara A. Trower,Statesman.com
“It is the all-encompassing nature of breast-feeding that is the crux of the most interesting part of Wolf's book. She makes a compelling argument that we are a risk-averse culture that has lost all perspective when it comes to risk assessment and our health, and this tendency is particularly pervasive on the issue of breast-feeding… In her book, Wolf rightfully contends that in the government's and advocates' zeal to increase the numbers of breast-fed babies, they have vastly discounted the harsh realities of breast-feeding in a modern world.”-Tara A. Trower,Statesmen.com
"Wolf offers a powerful and important cultural critique...this is an insightful and eye-opening book that will be of interest to sociologists of gender, medical sociologists, and science studies scholars."-Abigail C. Saguy,American Journal of Sociology
“Beautifully written, powerfully argued. . . . Challenges the science prescription that all infants must be breastfed.”-Linda Blum,author of At the Breast
"Wolf notes the 'insular and unidimensional zealotry' of breastfeeding campaginers and skillfully uncovers elements of racism and elitism in their behavior toward working women who do not have the luxury to breastfeed."-A. H. Koblitz,Choice
"Wolf looks at the breast-feeding studies much like ones that ask whether race matters in the way people vote. She scrutinizes the design of the research and how it's been executed and 'then how it's been reported, both to scientists and to the public'"-University of Chicago Magazine