When breast isn’t best

Two of my children were predominantly breast feed the first year and two were not so I’m very open to arguments in all sides here, but one thing is very clear is that far too many breast feeding advocates are wayway overzealous.  Due to a letter in Dear Prudence today, I came across this great column from a journalist who cannot breastfeed due to a cancer-related double mastectomy.  First Dear Prudence:

Dear Prudie,
My husband and I had a baby girl five months ago. Before she was born, we had a long conversation about breast-feeding versus formula and decided that breast-feeding was best and that I would try to do it for a year. The problem is that I’m completely miserable. I work full-time and it’s really stressful to fit pumping into my schedule. My breasts are constantly sore and I am always exhausted. Our daughter is beautiful and healthy and I want to do the right thing, but I don’t know how much longer I can bear this. My husband doesn’t want me to stop. Every time I mention formula, he gives me all the reasons why breast-feeding is best. He suggests I talk to our doctor or La Leche League. I don’t want to pump her full of chemicals or have her immune system suffer either, but I’m desperate. What can I do? I feel so guilty about all of it.

—Running Dry

Dear Running,
Mom, return the pump, toss the lactation bra, and get an economy-size container of formula. At great personal cost, you have breast-fed your daughter, she has gotten plenty of benefit, and now she would benefit even more from a happy, rested mother. Read Hanna Rosin’s article, “The Case Against Breast-Feeding,” which shows that the popular literature on breast-feeding overstates the scientific certainty of its superiority. In any case, you are doing no harm to your child by weaning her. To show how unhinged breast-feeding pressure has become, also read this story byWashington Post reporter Emily Wax-Thibodeaux about what happened after she recently gave birth. Several years ago, Wax-Thibodeaux was treated for breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy and reconstruction. Of course, she couldn’t breast-feed, but even explaining her lack of mammary glands to the lactivists at the hospital couldn’t stop them from harassing her about trying! Breast-feeding is making you miserable, and that’s all your husband needs to know. He has no skin in this game, so don’t let him bully you. You both want what’s best for your daughter, and that means switching to formula.

Amen.  And here’s some excerpts from the aforementioned column (well worth a read in its entirety):

The mothers in my “Baby & Me Yoga Fit,” class looked down from their tree poses, surprised as I poured some instant formula into a bottle.

Feeding our babies whenever they were in need was one of the most nurturing parts of the class. But with my evil formula, I was disrupting the fellow yogis in a way I never could have predicted.

“You know,” one mother said as I fed my little Lincoln, then 3 months old, “breast-feeding is optimal.”

I encountered this “breast is best” reaction at cafes, parks, even in some friends’ houses. One male friend even noticed that my husband was giving Lincoln a bottle in a Facebook posting and commented, “So you’re not breast-feeding? It’s better you know?”

The truth is, I’m a breast cancer survivor, and after a double mastectomy with reconstruction, which probably saved my life, I simply wasn’t able to breast-feed…

“You never gave up,” my husband said, laughing as he watched Lincoln gulp down his first two-ounce serving of formula, which my husband fed to him.

As the two of them cuddled afterward, I was in a mood that I can describe only as postpartum elation.

That is, until those I jokingly call the “breast-feeding nazis” came marching in to my room.

“You really should breast-feed,” the hospital’s lactation consultants, a.k.a. “lactivists,” said.

When I simply said, “I’m going to do formula,” they didn’t want to leave it at that.

So holding my day-old newborn on what was one of the most blissful days of my life, I had to tell the aggressive band of well-intentioned strangers my whole cancer saga…

“I can’t. I had breast cancer,” I said, looking down at Lincoln and stating proudly: “But I’m just so happy to be alive and be a mother after cancer.”

Silence.

“Just try,” they advised. “Let’s hope you get some milk.”

“It may come out anyway, or through your armpits,” another advised later when I was doing the usual post-labor, slow-recovery walk through the hospital halls…

Around that time, a long-term study came out that compared pairs of siblings — one breast-fed, the other formula-fed. It debunked the “breast is better” mantra that I kept hearing: “Breast-feeding might be no more beneficial than bottle-feeding for 10 of 11 long-term health and well-being outcomes in children age 4 to 14,” the study found; those outcomes included body mass index, obesity, hyperactivity, reading comprehension, math ability and memory-based intelligence.

If you can breast feed, great, more power to you.  But to have our culture essentially trying to bully women into it is ridiculous.  Especially when much of the prior research on breast feeding was based on the fact that breast feeding mothers were higher SES.  The sibling study is pretty compelling.  Women need to do what’s best for them and what’s best for their baby.  And in many cases that is formula feeding.  And that’s okay.

Less women are in office because women don’t want to run for office

Here’s a nice little video summarizing some of the most recent research on political campaigns especially a pretty cool little experiment showing that women are significantly less interested than men in engaging in a competitive campaign environment while be no less likely to volunteer overall.

And here’s a nice summary in the Upshot:

Research from two political scientists at the University of Pittsburgh suggests that women may be more “election averse” than men. Among men and women with similar qualifications, ambitions and political environments, the study said, “the fact that representatives are chosen by electoral means is enough to dissuade women from putting themselves forward as candidates.”

The study, by Kristin Kanthak and Jonathan Woon, both associate professors of political science, does not assert that this aversion is the sole cause for the gender gap among elected officials, nor that it represents an innate characteristic of women. But they place the election aversion theory among the variety of factors that have been cataloged by other research.

Drawing on earlier research on competition and women, Ms. Kanthak wondered whether aversion to competition extended to the political arena. “What if there is something about women that makes them not want to run for office that doesn’t have anything to do with external factors?” Ms. Kanthak said in an interview. “What if we could completely level the playing field — would women be as likely to run as men?”

The answer, according to the experiment they designed, is no. In the experiment, members of a group volunteered to do math problems (with the possibility of a reward) on behalf of their group. In some cases, the person doing the problems was selected at random from among the volunteers; in other cases, the group elected one of its volunteers to do the problems.

Men and women volunteered at the same rate when problem-doers were chosen at random, but not when they were chosen by election. (The replication data for the experiment is here.) Ms. Kanthak compared the aversion to becoming a candidate to that of asking for a raise: “If women aren’t willing to ask for raises, we shouldn’t be surprised that they’re not willing to ask for votes.”

Previous research on female candidates has identified several factors that cause women not to enter the political arena. A report released by researchers at American University in March 2013 concluded that the gender gap among elected officials was unlikely to be closed in the near future because young women have fewer political ambitions than young men.

External social factors, including traditional gender roles, exposure to political news and participation in organized sports, were among the experiences influencing young women not to pursue political careers, based on a survey of more than 2,100 college students. That survey found another factor: that “young women are less likely than young men to think they will be qualified to run for office.”

I’ve got a good friend running for state Senate and damn it is hard.  I cannot imagine anybody wanting to do this.  But given what we expect of women in our society it is no wonder than fewer of them than men want to undertake this.  It is certainly, interesting though, that to some degree it may well be a disinclination toward any  competitive electoral environment, even divorced from politics.

Mid-week quick hits

The quick hits queue is piling up fast and furious this week, so I’m going to do an extra-special bonus early version.

1) How billionaires are becoming political parties unto themselves.

2) Back when I went through my phase of reading classic Sci-Fi I hit A Canticle for Leibowitz.  One of those books you appreciate on an intellectual level far more than on an emotional one.  I really enjoyed this essay about it, though.

3) How a heroic Nigerian doctor was essential in preventing an outbreak in her country.  And she died for her trouble.

4) Really terrific Post story about the front-lines of trying to stop the spread of Ebola in Liberia.

5) Don’t know that I agree with all of this, but interesting piece on Reza Aslan, and the Bill Maher Islam flap.

6) Could non-citizens decide the November election?  Unlikely.

7) Age is a mindset.  And the physical deterioration of your body.  But also a mindset.

8) The link between terrorism and mental illness.

9) Advocating for feudalism among Iowa Republicans.

10) Yes, Walmart.com really did have a “fat girls costumes” section for Halloween.

11) Note to PS professors, when doing field experiments try not to mislead voters and/or break state law.  Though it is a shame this will hurt the ability to do election field experiments which really tell us so much.

12) How Iceland’s history of feminism may lead to a ban on violent and degrading pornography.

13) I’ve started trying to re-learn the Chopin Prelude I recently linked.  It’s hard, but do-able, I think.  That said, I wanted to show Evan what was probably the most difficult piece I ever learned.  I do not think I will be re-learning Chopin’s “Military” Polonaise, Opus 40 anytime soon.

Quick hits (part II)

1) I told myself if I found time yesterday, this would get it’s own post.  It didn’t.  So make sure you read it.  Great Garret Epps post on John Roberts and race.

2) Really enjoyed this New Yorker article on the director of the Susan B. Anthony list (a pro-life PAC).

3) Not surprisingly, “ancient grains” are for suckers.  I’m sure the people who buy this are plenty scared of GMO’s.

4) Paul Farmer says that with first-world health care 90% of Ebola victims should actually survive.  We’re doing pretty well in the US so far.

5) I must admit to always being a little more fascinated by Mormon sacred undergarments than I should be.  Now the church is coming clean on the topic.

6) A nice PS study that shows how the Tea Party has moved the Republican party to the right.

7) Emily Bazelon on the complications of yes means yes on college campuses.

8) Vox summarizes a Pew study demonstrating that there are basically no swing voters in this year’s election.

9) FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub came to my class a couple weeks ago.  That was pretty cool.  Here’s a nice piece about her and her visit to NC.

10) NYT with one of the better pieces I’ve read on the UNC athletics scandal.  I went to Duke and teach at NCSU, but UNC is a flagship for our whole state and this is so unfortunate for the whole state.  And as an academic, I hate to see academic integrity so undermined.

11) When is a debate not a debate?  How about when one candidate never  agrees to it but one organization basically pretends otherwise.

12) Peter Beinart putting Voter ID into the long American tradition of trying to keep poor people from voting.

13) Two nice takes on Iowa Senatorial candidate Jodi Ernst and welfare.  The idea that private charity can make up for government is not just wishful thinking, but simply preposterous and ahistorical.

14) You can never have too much fun with Kansas‘ supply side experiment gone awry.  Seriously, it’s not like anybody who’s not a complete drunk-the-kool-aid ideologue didn’t see this coming.

15) Republicans would really just prefer college students don’t vote at all.  There’s been all sorts of news about the on-campus voting at Appalachian State, but meanwhile nobody has talked at all about the large inconvenience for NCSU losing it’s polling location.

16) While helping Evan practice piano, I haven’t been able to get this tune out of my head for a couple of days.  Took me forever to figure it out because I was thinking it was Beethoven. Than I realized it must be some Chopin.  This is one of many Chopin pieces I loved to play back in the day.

Quick hits (part I)

1) How does a law professor get arrested for standing in a Wal-Mart?  When he’s a young black man and part of a Ferguson protest.

2) Marc Thiessen– the right’s leading torture apologist– thinks it’s only  a matter of time before ISIS starts using Ebola as a weapon.  Of course, this is simply Thiessen’s fantasy.

3) This Planet Money episode on how women started getting way less into computers in the 1980’s (when me and all my male friends loved them) was really, really interesting.

4) I’m an extrovert.  Do I look that way?

5) Who knew that Philosophy departments were bastions of sexism?!

6) On reading actual books.

7) One of the better pieces on Renee Zellweger’s plastic surgery.  All sorts of things are wrong with our ideas about famous females and their appearance, but all that said, if plastic surgery chances your appearance to the point that people don’t even recognize you, well, that’s worthy of some commentary in it’s own right.

8) Want teenagers to wait longer to have sex?  (I do).  Then let Planned Parenthood teach them Sex Ed.

9) A couple of my FB friends are totally pushing this ridiculous new competitor to FB that monetizes your posts in a pyramid scheme.  Seriously!  How many people are looking to make money off FB?  There’s far more psychic value in posting photos like this and getting dozens of likes.

10) Interestingly, breast self exams have no value added beyond that which comes from simply paying attention to any changes in your breasts.

11) I’m fascinated by the business of fast food.  Good article on why Chipotle is thriving and McDonald’s is not.

12) Lawmakers who support Voter ID and not so interested in responding to their minority constituents.  Surprise, surprise.

13) I’ve only read one Percy Jackson book and was way disappointed.  Not that that’s the point of this essay on Rick Riordan books and YA fiction.

14) On Ginsburg’s dissent on Texas Voter ID and the Texas Election Law blog via Hasen.

15) I want some Breaking Bad action figures!

16) More on the Republican attack on science funding.

Young women shouldn’t vote!

In case you missed this, today in Fox News:

Fox News is discouraging young people from voting again, but this time the target is more specific: young women.

“The Five” co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle said Tuesday that young women should excuse themselves from voting in the upcoming midterm elections because they don’t share the same “life experience” as older women and should just go back to playing around on Tinder and Match.com.

“It’s the same reason why young women on juries are not a good idea,” Guilfoyle said. “They don’t get it!”

Earlier in the conversation, co-host Greg Gutfeld made the point that “with age comes wisdom” and the “older you get, the more conservative you get.”

Not that we would expect solid logical reasoning from a Fox News host, but this “the older you get, the more conservative you get,” trope just needs to be retired.  There’s just not empirical evidence for it.  Older voters are more conservative than younger voters, but they didn’t actually become more conservative.  It’s not like today’s millenials in 50 years are going to decide they don’t like gay marriage after all.  As for the young women not voting, that’s just too stupid to even waste time on except to mention that this is what passes for discourse on Fox.

Quick hits (part II)

Sorry these are a little late today.  Spent more time than anticipated watching the terrific Notre Dame vs. Florida State game last night.

1) Really interesting Vanity Fair article that give an account on this Ebola outbreak– unlike all the others- became an epidemic.

2) On a somewhat related note, a FB friend shared this story from last year of how an extremely dangerous bacteria was nearly impossible for the NIH to eradicate from it’s research hospital.  With plenty of scary stuff about the future of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

3) Heck, let’s stick with a theme.  Here’s a Yahoo! story about a robot that uses ultraviolet light to disinfect rooms (the CDC used a robot that filled rooms with hydrogen peroxide gas).

4) Alright, let’s just keep going here.  James Surowiecki putting everything in perspective and reminding us we should be way more scared of the annual flu.

5) A Tennessee woman involved in manufacturing meth got 6 years added to her sentence for being pregnant at the time.  Hmmm, that just doesn’t seem right in a variety of ways.

6) We could use better data on charter schools.

7) True tales from the making of Princess Bride.  Much to my dismay, my 8-year old son refused to like it because of the title.  My almost 4 daughter liked it even though it was over her head.

8) Teenagers should so not be interrogated without a parent or a lawyer.  It is a legal travesty that this happens all the time.  I’ve told David never to talk to the police without a parent.  Never.

9) Garrett Epps on the “undue burden” standard from Casey and how courts are increasingly ignoring it.

10) Republican Congressmen are intent on cutting NSF funding based solely on the title of research.

11) How modern pork production is bad for pigs and not so good for workers, either.

12) NYT Magazine feature on how billionaires are becoming their own political parties.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 556 other followers

%d bloggers like this: