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Should we talk about the ‘benefits’ of breastfeeding? The significance of the default in representations of infant feeding

Should we talk about the ‘benefits’ of breastfeeding? The significance of the default in representations of infant feeding
Should we talk about the ‘benefits’ of breastfeeding? The significance of the default in representations of infant feeding
Breastfeeding advocates have criticized the phrase “breast is best” as mistakenly representing breastfeeding as a departure from the norm rather than the default for infant feeding. Breastfeeding mothers have an interest in representing breastfeeding as the default, for example to counteract criticism of breastfeeding outside the home. This connects to an increasing trend to frame feeding babies formula as harmful which can be seen in research papers, public policy and information presented to parents and prospective parents. (1) whether we frame infant feeding decisions in terms of harming or benefit, protection or risk matters because these distinctions are generally morally significant and thus (2) holding that those who decide to use formula “harm”, “risk harm” to their babies or describing formula feeding as “dangerous” is likely to contribute to guilt associated with formula feeding and thus to undermine the wellbeing of vulnerable women. It may undermine attempts to improve breastfeeding rates by leading women to reject information about health outcomes surrounding infant feeding decisions. However, (3) these distinctions do not apply easily to infant feeding decisions, in part because of difficulties in determining whether we should treat breastfeeding as the normative baseline for infant feeding. I show that neither the descriptive ‘facts of the matter’ nor moral or pragmatic considerations provide an easy answer before discussing how to respond to these considerations.
Keywords: Breastfeeding, Harm, Benefit, Risk-Based Language
1473-4257
Woollard, Fiona
c3caccc2-68c9-47c8-b2d3-9735d09f1679
Woollard, Fiona
c3caccc2-68c9-47c8-b2d3-9735d09f1679

Woollard, Fiona (2018) Should we talk about the ‘benefits’ of breastfeeding? The significance of the default in representations of infant feeding. Journal of Medical Ethics. (doi:10.1136/medethics-2018-104789).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Breastfeeding advocates have criticized the phrase “breast is best” as mistakenly representing breastfeeding as a departure from the norm rather than the default for infant feeding. Breastfeeding mothers have an interest in representing breastfeeding as the default, for example to counteract criticism of breastfeeding outside the home. This connects to an increasing trend to frame feeding babies formula as harmful which can be seen in research papers, public policy and information presented to parents and prospective parents. (1) whether we frame infant feeding decisions in terms of harming or benefit, protection or risk matters because these distinctions are generally morally significant and thus (2) holding that those who decide to use formula “harm”, “risk harm” to their babies or describing formula feeding as “dangerous” is likely to contribute to guilt associated with formula feeding and thus to undermine the wellbeing of vulnerable women. It may undermine attempts to improve breastfeeding rates by leading women to reject information about health outcomes surrounding infant feeding decisions. However, (3) these distinctions do not apply easily to infant feeding decisions, in part because of difficulties in determining whether we should treat breastfeeding as the normative baseline for infant feeding. I show that neither the descriptive ‘facts of the matter’ nor moral or pragmatic considerations provide an easy answer before discussing how to respond to these considerations.
Keywords: Breastfeeding, Harm, Benefit, Risk-Based Language

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Accepted/In Press date: 30 July 2018
e-pub ahead of print date: 22 August 2018

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 423051
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/423051
ISSN: 1473-4257
PURE UUID: ff0aed39-11ae-406f-89ff-8cbf6add7534

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Date deposited: 13 Aug 2018 16:30
Last modified: 06 Oct 2020 19:57

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