News & Politics

Study Says Breastfeeding Should Not Be Called 'Natural'

Those aligned with the “party of science” have been, ironically, finding sillier and sillier ways to pretend that biology isn’t science.

For example, nature — not intellect — created breastfeeding, so by definition breastfeeding is natural. However, a major medical journal has just published a study arguing that calling nature “natural” is “unethical,” because truth is problematic or something:

It’s “ethically inappropriate” for government and medical organizations to describe breastfeeding as “natural” because the term enforces rigid notions about gender roles, claims a new study in Pediatrics.

“Coupling nature with motherhood… can inadvertently support biologically deterministic arguments about the roles of men and women in the family (for example, that women should be the primary caretaker,” the study says.

The study notes that in recent years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, and several state departments of health have all promoted breastfeeding over bottle-feeding, using the term “natural.”

“Referencing the ‘natural’ in breastfeeding promotion… may inadvertently endorse a set of values about family life and gender roles, which would be ethically inappropriate,” the study says.

Unless such public-service announcements “make transparent the ‘values and beliefs that underlie them,’” they should quit describing breastfeeding as “natural.”

But the study’s authors, Jessica Martucci and Anne Barnhill, clearly have in mind an alternative set of “values and beliefs,” about which which they are not transparent.

Let’s address the idea that calling breastfeeding natural will “support biologically deterministic arguments about the roles of men and women in the family.” Because I am not aware of any scientific evidence that humans, via intelligence alone, invented breastfeeding in the same way we invented, say, baseball. Whether this implies that biology insists that women be the primary caregivers is a different discussion from whether or not breastfeeding is “of nature.”

Breastfeeding is natural, period. Citing facts as true is hardly unethical.

Martucci and Barnhill may think they’ve released something great into the wild, but all they’ve done is waste everyone’s time with nonsense, and there’s nothing ethical about that.