Breast. No Bottle.

To nurse, or not to nurse: that is not a question!

Agents of Medicalization of Breastfeeding

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themedicalizationWho makes nursing of a child by her mother into a medical event of milk feeding? Who are the agents of medicalization? Much literature on medicalization of birth dwell on doctors taking control over birth. Most of the literature on formula feeding scapegoats doctors as well as the sole reasons women switched from breastfeeding to formula feeding. When nursing as a daily activity, nursing as something women do turns into a medical event that must be supervised by a qualified certified and/or licensed healthcare professional right in front of your eyes, it is easy to see that there are other actors on the stage of medicalization.

In case of breastfeeding medicalization came from within the ranks of women themselves. Women actively advocated and worked towards submitting themselves under medical surveillance. The launch of a specialized medical profession of a lactation consultant was possible with a grant from La Leche League International, an organization that openly declared its allegiance to women, but behind the scenes sold out women’s interests to the larger industrial complex of medicine. Healthcare workers, primarily nurses, who received help in La Leche League for the lack of such help in the medical arena at the time, falsely claimed that LLLI was not equipped to deal with more complex issues of breastfeeding at the time when medicine could not handle the simplest breastfeeding concerns. This falsehood led to the logical need to make breastfeeding more medical to get to medical help in complicated cases (like nipple tissue adhesion).

The efforts of yet another group of aspiring new breed of a healthcare experts is not sufficient to medicalize breastfeeding. You need the general public, larger group of women to uptake the idea. In context of lat 20th-early 21 century when most areas of women’s lives were already medicalized (periods, fertility, birth, eating, mood, mothering, etc), it was not hard to roll out the idea that breastfeeding is a medical concern and women should submit themselves to medical supervision as well. Few questioned the practice. Members  of the willing public are as guilty of medicalizing their own lives as the capitalists and professionals who push for it.

Let us not overlook the larger social context of women’s actions. Women as members of society are open to all the pressures and social control that society imposes on them.  Women as creatures of a lower pecking order than licensed professionals may think that by associating with those in power, those with credentials and access to medical power, they will advance their own interests. Since medicine is the most powerful religion of the day, it is not surprising that women who lacked wider liberal education to realize the effect of medicalization on women as evidenced by other areas of women’s lives never questioned their intent to “better” women’s lives by medicalizing breastfeeding. It seemed like a good idea. It is most likely they did not realize that the quest to kill the monster that hurts breastfeeding will turn them into monsters themselves.


Written by Medical Nemesis

June 28, 2017 at 09:20

Posted in Other

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To nurse, or not to nurse: that is not a question!

Breast. No Bottle.

To nurse, or not to nurse: that is not a question!

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