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Booby Trap

Thank you, Lynn Harris, for saving me from writing the much longer post that's been percolating in my head. In an opinion piece published yesterday at NPR, "Bottle or Breast: Which Is Best," Harris takes precise aim at the latest volleys in the (mostly manufactured) Mommy Wars: Feeding the Baby edition, calling "the whole breastfeeding 'debate,' such as it is" a "tempest in a sippy cup." Harris politely refrains from naming names but it's clear she's referring to the recent spate of articles in the Atlantic Monthly, the New Yorker, and the New York Times online that have blog commenters, parenting listservs, and the playground set all a-chatter with alternately righteous indignation and "right on" chants.

One thing all the articles, Harris's included, share are provocative and misleading headlines—to wit: "The Case Against Breastfeeding," "Ban the Breastpump"—that seem deliberately crafted (by editors, not the authors, most likely) to stir up the most unrest, and generate the most blog hits. Refreshingly, however, Harris largely stays away from the personal anecdotes and agita that inform the other articles, correctly pointing to the bigger issues at stake—unsexy little things like public health campaigns, better maternity leave policies, and the obstacles faced by lower-income and working-class women. These topics don't generate incendiary headlines or lend themselves to absurdly hyperbolic Mengelian metaphors (I still can't believe you went there, Hanna Rosin), but they are the real issues, the ones that we all—breastfeeders, bottle feeders, mothers, fathers, the childfree—can work on together.

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