La Leche League: At the Crossroads of Medicine, Feminism, and Religion

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UNC Press Books, 2000 - Health & Fitness - 227 pages
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In 1956, when La Leche League was founded, if a new mother chose to breastfeed rather than bottlefeed her child, she could by no means expect universal support for her decision. Though physicians of the era admitted that breastfeeding was the best method
 

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Most people who are vaguely familiar with La Leche League think it's simply a group in favor of breastfeeding, and are unaware of its religious origins and political agenda (La leche of the Madona - not your mommies milk!). This gushing propaganda piece is useful as it is somewhat revealing as to the rightist religious/political agenda behind the pseudo-feminist campaign to browbeat women into breastfeeding by asserting unscientific claims as to the miraculous powers of breast milk (higher IQ, lower diabetes, asthma, less obesity, and other such snake-oil claims.) The cited studies, if carefully examined, fail to prove any causation between breastmilk and such wild claims (any more than it can be demonstrated that people who floss will have fewer heart attacks. True but not caused by flossing.) In fact the alleged benefits of those who are breastfed are simply the manifestations of the class society in which we live, where prolonged breast feeding is absolutely restricted to middle-class women (and thus can not be "corrected for"), whose offspring enjoy all the sundry benefits such as money for better diets, tutors, private schools, gym memberships, etc.) that let them have better health, "grades," etc. ad nauseum).
Under the twisted reverse feminism of the LLL, women are encouraged to be proud to be reduced to their function as a uterus and milk glands to mother the next crop of God's children.
This particular cudgel, forged by the Catholic Church (an entity unique in history as an agency of anti-women brutality), has been happily taken up by various government agencies against working class women. Poverty-enforcement programs such as WIC now refuse to compensate women for purchases of infant formula, and incessant breast-feeding campaigns seek to demoralize and devalue working women who are unable or unwilling to breastfeed, as selfish and abusive of their children. I recently observed a New Mexico LLL bumper sticker on the door of the lactation room at the Labor and Delivery Center for UCSF Hospital, which stated, "Affordable Health Care begins with Breastfeeding!" (!!) So, the problems of the health care nightmare in the United States can be laid at the feet of mothers using formula.
 

Contents

La Leche League Religious Metaphors in a Secular Ethos
1
What Is La Leche League ?
7
Mothers Medicine and Misinformation
29
An Alternative Approach Maternal Knowing
47
Feminism and the Motherhood Wars
67
Challenging the Public Domain from within the Private Sphere
87
The Evolution of a Catholic Theology of the Family
111
The La Leche League Family Natural Loving and Just
131
Asking the Hard Questions
151
Coping Strategies for a Changing Environment
173
Notes
191
Bibliography
205
Index
219
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About the author (2000)

le DeJager Ward teaches religious studies at DePaul University.

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