Sunday, June 6, 2010

Is breastfeeding harmful to your marriage?

It was like the shot heard 'round the lactivist community: an article by Rabbi Shmuley posted on Beliefnet suggested that breastfeeding can drive a wedge between husband and wife. The article drew incredible attention as replies were blogged, Tweets exploded, and women were outraged.

Breastfeeding advocates often get the opportunity to argue about their craft: it is easy to start a wildfire by talking about extended nursing or nursing in public (and if there is any doubt on that point, pay attention to the discussions that ensue whenever the news reports a woman being escorted from a store for nursing her baby). Rarely, though, do we get to talk about whether breastfeeding is a good idea. We all know that breast is best, right?

Rabbi Shmuley's article suggests otherwise. He claims that breastfeeding can weaken a marriage by causing the new mother to become too involved with her child, to the detriment of husband and her marriage.

This, my friends, is what we call a logical fallacy.

Rabbi Shmuley's underlying message is actually good: boiled down to its simplest premise, what he's really saying is that people who do not pay attention to their marriages have marriages that are unhealthy. His path to reach that conclusion is what is flawed: breastfeeding, in and of itself, is not the problem. If a marriage is suffering because the mother is breastfeeding, it is the dynamics of the underlying marriage relationship that are problematic, not the act of breastfeeding.

I don't think any married person would disagree that a good marriage takes work. When one person isn't willing to dedicate their time and efforts to the marriage, be it because of a career, an illness, or an extramarital affair, the marriage deteriorates. Likewise, when a mother is dedicated to breastfeeding to such an extent that she ignores or mistreats her husband, the marriage certainly deteriorate. But the act of breastfeeding is not the problem. Surely, the Rabbi doesn't believe his own message, does he?

So why is Rabbi Shmuley picking on breastfeeding? Having read some of the Rabbi's other articles, I think the man is as dumb as a fox: it is no secret that we lactivists are a talkative bunch. We post, we Tweet, and we speak our minds. Start talking bad about our blessed superpower, and we'll take notice. Throw in a few zingers, like "her obsession had turned one of her most attractive body parts into a feeding station, an attractive cafeteria rather than a scintillating piece of flesh," and we'll burn up our keyboards typing our replies. What better way for a mediocre yawn of a message - "be good to your marriage" - to get some teeth in the overpowering white noise of the blogosphere?

We're on to you, Rabbi. As for the article, there's nothing to see there. Move along, ladies.

1 comment:

Lauren said...

I completely agree. What a good idea to lay some more emotions (guilt) on a new mother! She now has to worry about her husband not getting enough of her "scintillating flesh?" Why not write an article about how a husband should support what is best for their child and come up with creative ideas so he can have his time with the baby and the couple can have their own alone time. I agree, new moms need to take a break and have some adult time with their partner but to say that formula feeding will help your marriage is just ridiculous.