So, with thoughts of boobs in hand (hand?), I thought of this rather topical letter printed in the British Medical Journal:
"Breastfeeding tackles both obesity and climate change" (proving, yet again, that the BMJ will publish anything).
By enabling more women than currently do so to exclusively breast feed their children for the first six months of life, we could reduce the number of children requiring attention for overweight (sic). There would be less need for the diversion of foodstuffs through dairy animals to produce breastmilk replacements, and less need for the use of materials and energy to fuel the processes required to modify, package, and distribute animal milk to make it less unsafe for human infants. Breasts do not require scrupulous washing with detergents in hot water between feeds. Families would have more of their income available to purchase better food for their older members, many nations would be less reliant on the import of essential foodstuffs, and population fertility would be reduced when fewer children are weaned from the breast prematurely.
Oh, my aching sides. I'm not even going to dignify this with a full rebuttal, but some key bits that could do with some pointing out are:
- I thought we were "enabling" as many mums to breastfeed as possible already? Maybe we could put a tax on formula, like cigarettes, to discourage people from using it?
- Ever heard of infant mortality? Sometimes the boob+baby=happy equation doesn't work, and we need to feed the little sproglets somehow. Wet nurses are hard to find, and people get all funny about hiring people to feed their babies in this age of blood borne diseases.
- Population fertility reduced? Ha! You try using breastfeeding as contraception. Go on, I dare you. The average time from parturition to resumption of ovulation across our population is something like 3-4 months. Just because some hippy friend didn't get their period for 2 years after breastfeeding little Birckenstock, doesn't mean you won't end up with kids 1 year apart and a ripped-off attitude.
As someone who has breastfed for far too many years of my life, I am as pro-boob as anybody who now has no boobs left because of breastfeeding can be. However, I think telling mothers who need to formula feed that they are destroying the planet is possibly going a little far. They are already being told that their babies will grow up to be atopic, sneezing, allergy-ridden little fatties with a higher incidence of leukaemia, maybe we could refrain from pinning the impending demise of our coastal cities on them, too.