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The La Leche League Shames Father For (Gasp!) Feeding His Kids

I was an accidental breastfeeding zealot. I nursed my first baby for 18 months solely because she’d never take what breastfeeding advocates call “foreign nipples” (bottles and pacifiers), which might’ve caused a very serious case of “nipple confusion” (when babies can’t easily switch from breast to bottle).  But when I had my second child, he was immediately whisked away to intensive care after he developed profound breathing problems. Not only could I not breastfeed him, I couldn’t even hold him. Realizing I wasn’t able to comfort my new son — who was crying when he wasn’t panting for air — I broke down and asked for what is perfectly acceptable in the South, but considered gauche in the upstate New York “baby friendly” hospital in which I gave birth: a pacifier. The nurse refused this basic comfort, explaining the baby could be confused by foreign nipples.

Frustrated by her draconian adherence to these “baby-friendly” rules, my husband slammed his fist down. “In our family, we don’t believe in nipple confusion. We practice nipple diversity!”

A cry for diversity sounds strange coming from a conservative lawyer and his right-wing wife, but that’s what nannyism reduced us to. One size does not fit all, and not all babies — or parents — are the same. But don’t tell this to activists in New Zealand.

Breastfeeding activists in New Zealand raised so much of a stink over an ad featuring a dad bottle-feeding his baby that the New Zealand government actually decided to edit the image above out of the ad. While the government’s decision could be viewed as a victory for La Leche League, which protested the ad, some observers have concluded that the decision is a sad day for dads. If a father is going to be involved in the feeding of his new baby, it’s only going to happen through a bottle.

To make this incident even stranger, this ad had nothing to do with breastfeeding. Instead, it was an anti-smoking campaign featuring a rugby player named Piri Weepu, who doesn’t smoke because of his children. 

Piri, here’s a message from the La Leche League: Stop helping your wife feed your kids.

Breastfeeding advocacy frequently feels a little unbalanced, doesn’t it? It also frequently feels too much like scolding. 

I ended up nursing two of my three kids — my last one was adopted as a toddler, so I didn’t have that special bonding time with her. Consequently, I understand the joys of breastfeeding and the sorrows of being unable to breastfeed. Should the government add to the disappointment of mothers who can’t? And should activists who furiously advocate for a mother’s right to breastfeed in public (from Wal-Mart to the church pew) throw a fit over a magazine image of a loving father feeding his own child? Should activists who recently protested Facebook’s policy of prohibiting photos of breastfeeding mommas then turn around and demand censorship of photos of dads feeding their children?

Click through to see the image that the New Zealand government deemed too offensive to show. But be warned. It depicts a loving father and there’s not a naked breast in sight.


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