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Let's Stop Milking an Overdone Argument

Posted by Kara Baskin  May 8, 2013 10:00 AM

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When you're a Playboy model, your breasts are everybody's business. Shanna Moakler ended up on TMZ the other night declaring breastfeeding "incestual" and "gross" to plenty of public outcry. And for probably the first time ever, Salon devotes considerable analysis to Moakler, ultimately declaring that her breasts are her business. At this point it's painfully clear that there's no "right" answer in the breast versus bottle debate; both sides can be obnoxiously smug when trumpeting their brave, hard-won choices. My question is this: Why is feeding such a lightening rod for judgment? The fact that people even care and bother to get worked up about what Shanna Moakler, whose children aren't even babies anymore, has to say on the subject illustrates my point perfectly. Would this even make headlines if she declared that toy guns are OK or that TV-watching is evil? Probably not.

Moakler, under heat, later called TMZ to "clarify" what she called her "selfish" stance:

“I understand this debate,” she said. “I’m highly educated on it…. I’m not saying that women who breastfeed are incestual or gross by any means. I celebrate breastfeeding. I think women should be able to do it in public. I will stand arm in arm for women’s rights to do it. When I personally tried to do it. It felt wrong. It felt immoral and it felt incestual and it wasn’t a good fit for me. I’m so sick and tired of women who are pro-breastfeeding – which is awesome – putting down other women who either don’t want to do it, don’t like it, have bad feelings about it, or physically can’t do it…. When I tried to do it, it didn’t feel like a wonderful bonding experience. It felt immoral to me and so I chose not to and I chose formula…. You can’t tell me that feelings are wrong.”

Moms love to judge other moms, either openly or secretly. It's not even hateful, at least not always. It's reflexive, a way of making sense of our own decisions and evaluating them in a world filled with (too many) choices. But nothing sparks as much indignation and self-congratulation as breast versus bottle. How we choose to feed our kids seems to capture our very essence and devotion as moms.

Why? I think it's because breastfeeding is a metaphor for parenthood itself. When you're breastfeeding, you actually have a human being tethered to your body, relying solely on you for sustenance. How many parents haven't felt this way at one time or another — attached, omnipotent, a tiny bit burdened — whether we breastfed or not?

Feeding is primal; toys and television and clothes are not. But the method of feeding we choose visually showcases how attached we are to our children, how willing we are to be available, how devoted we are, how tethered. So when a woman declares, articulately or inelegantly, that she didn't choose to breastfeed, she's perceived as one degree removed from her child, separated by a bottle. As a mom who bottle fed, I've dealt with this Mommier-than-thou reaction first-hand. (Salon also points out, accurately, that plenty of mothers are also mocked for breastfeeding past a certain age. This is an argument you can't win.)

Which is why I agree completely with the Salon story: Shanna Moakler's feeding choices are her business and should stay that way. The fact that she was asked about it and the fact that her opinions are a story at all and that she felt the need to backpedal showcases how desperate we are to keep the "argument," cloaked as a "conversation," going. It's time we embrace a post-validation version of parenthood, in which personal choices stay just that.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Kara Baskin (@kcbaskin) is a Boston-based writer, editor, and mom to Andy. She thinks Sriracha and garlic make everything tastier. She loves Steely Dan and "Murder, She Wrote." Her More »

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