Saturday, May 02, 2009

Breast-feeding Isn't Free

In a recent issue of Atlantic Monthly Hanna Rosin writes: "The debate about breast-feeding takes place without any reference to its actual context in women's lives. Breast-feeding exclusively is not like taking a prenatal vitamin. It is a serious time commitment that pretty much guarantees that you will not work in any meaningful way. Let's say a baby feeds seven times a day and then a couple more times at night. That's nine times for about a half hour each, which adds up to more than half of a working day, every day, for at least six months. This is why, when people say that breast-feeding is "free," I want to hit them with a two-by-four. It's only free if a woman's time is worth nothing."

While Rosin's overall point is rather ambiguous and ambivalent, and setting aside the misunderstanding of "meaningful work," her points about the time commitment are really great. And while she may imagine an idyllic situation as one where mothers are "free" in the workplace, I just appreciate the way she has valued a woman's time and energy even in the task of feeding an infant. With Mothers' Day approaching it's worth pointing out how "expensive" a mother is and how valuable she is to the "company."

Rosin closes admitting that breast-feeding "contains all of my awe about motherhood, and also my ambivalence. Right now, even part-time, it's a strain. But I also know that this is probably my last chance to feel warm baby skin up against mine, and one day I will miss it."

No comments: