If Breastfeeders Are Stupid, So Is Michelle Obama


breastfeeding in publicAfter hearing the news that most people think breastfeeders are stupid, I counted to ten to calm myself and then thought of all the incredible smart women I know who breastfeed. I will count myself among them. I breastfeed and I have a college degree, majored in math and science and English. I'm a published author and am also self-taught and educated in quite a few important parenting niches thanks to the incredible support system of other moms I know. It's also very important that I stress it's not just fancy degrees that make people smart.

When I asked a group of my breastfeeding friends, many who are stay-at-home moms, to share their super smart accomplishments for this very article to prove that breastfeeders are intelligent, competent women, I got a few answers that essentially said they have no skills, that they are just moms. I had to count to ten to calm myself again.

Just. Moms?! The feminist in me, or shall I say the feminist in me who believes that breeders too are feminists, got angry. Because any mom (and any person who is smart) knows that being a mom takes skill, takes smarts, takes educating oneself, and I was talking to some of the smartest moms I knew. Moms who taught me many, many things I needed to know about parenting that didn't come with the "manual" I received when my twins were born. Breastfeeders are smart. And I know stay-at-home moms who are some of the smartest, most educated (by books and self-taught) women I know. 

The thing is people don't respect women who breastfeed. We are looked down upon, thought to be incompetent -- the study says so, the eye rolls I get when nursing in public say so. And yet breastfeeding is the smartest thing a mom can do for her child. That's giving that child the best start in life. Breastfeeding moms -- both who work and stay at home -- feel this. We sense it. It gets ingrained in our heads that we aren't respected.

It's not just breastfeeding that gets a bad rep. Think about the very word "mom," and aside from the beautiful word it is, it also is viewed as a negative word. Mom jeans -- unattractive. Mom hairdo -- ugly. She's a mom! certainly has a different feeling than if someone was to proclaim She's a doctor! right? Moms get the shaft when it comes to respect and yet without mothers life wouldn't exist or continue to exist. Our very bodies are what gives life.

The researchers of that "breastfeeders are incompetent" study also concluded:

A woman may not breastfeed because of worry over how she will be evaluated by other people. Data from the current project suggest this worry may be warranted, to the extent that breastfeeding is a devalued social category.

This just makes me sad. And mad. No woman should care what anyone thinks when she chooses to breastfeed. Outside opinions should never sway your decision to make the best choice for your child. To any woman wanting to breastfeed but worries about how she is "evaluated by other people," I say please get thee to a La Leche League meeting. Join an online support group. Talk to like-minded women. Write to ME!

And just to be sure, I don't need to point out all the competence and smarts of breastfeeding women, do I? I will anyway. I know breastfeeding women with degrees in math, psychology, and special education. I know a breastfeeder who was a single mom who created her own thriving business. One is a Certified Lactation Educator-Counselor, another is CEO of her household with three kids, another studied law. All smart and insanely competent women.

First Lady Michelle Obama breastfed her daughters. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand breastfed her children.

Are you going to tell me those women are stupid, incompetent?

We have to value all moms. We have to value all women.

Oh and if you don't like Michelle Obama or feel she's "stupid" and you're more of a Sarah Palin fan, remember, Alaska's most famous person breastfed her kids, too.

Do you think breastfeeding moms are viewed as incompetent? How can we change public perception of breastfeeders in order to avoid making new moms feel uncomfortable about nursing their child?


Image via Joe Shalbotnik/Flickr

breastfeeding, natural parenting, motherhood


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amile... amileegirl

I think it is a true saying that "women are their own worst enemies".   The harshest criticism and judgments come from other women.   Women came up with "mom jeans"  men came up with "MILF".  Crude yes, but really telling.

Katt709 Katt709

Love this! I'm a BFing mom and I'm a lawyer (albiet in-active as I'm a SAHM now). I think that qualifies me as "smart". I have 2 degrees that prove it!

MTNes... MTNester1

A Degree is not the only measure of intelligence, as Michelle pointed out.  Society does value that and rightfully so.  However (and you knew a however was coming), there are many kinds of intelligence, some of which are not quantifiable on a test..  Having that 6th sense of what your child needs day-to-day is valuable.  Those little ones are our future (as Michelle also mentioned).  The better we can make them & the best opportunities we can present for them, the better our future will be as a whole...as mankind.  (stepping off the soap box)

spenc... spencersmum

I get why people are upset, but the study mostly (the way I read it) focuses on perception. Both women who breastfeed and women who were say, concerned with their bras were *perceived* to be less competent. No one is saying breastfeeding moms are stupid. That's just reactionary. Really, Judging by the bra part of the "experiment", it's our breasts that make us seem incompetent. But the study also pointed out that a breastfeeding woman was seen as "friendlier". Funny, I breastfed and bottle fed, and I've always been perceived as a stupid bitch. haha. But you know what? I don't give a toss what anyone thinks, or how I am *perceived*.

For the record, I am a SAHM, have no degrees besides a high school diploma (which I almost didn't get because I kept flunking PE and cutting class), but I'm still smart enough to read studies like this and say, "Whatever." It's just another way to get us fighting about stupid crap.

Nancy Wilhelm

I say, who cares?! Why is it anyone's business outside baby and momma what goes on? So what if you breast feed vs. formula? Breastfeeding is of course natural. Women have been doing it for eons. But some women cannot, biology can really screw a woman over. You do what is right for you and say "smurf you" to anyone who passes judgment. I'm not going to comment on a woman who is breastfeeding in public, it's not my business. But I would also assume she wouldn't pass judgment on me for enjoying my full fat, chai latte

Heather Swagga

Maybe the people who think moms who breastfeed (and by breastfeeding are giving their babies the best possible start at life) are stupid are really the stupid ones here. Breastfeeding is natural, healthy, and helps families save money on formulas. 

Chris... ChristineLynne

I was a lawyer for about 5 years before I had my first daughter, and I've been a SAHM for 8 years.  Whenever I have to fill out forms that ask for my occupation, I put "Mom."  "Mom" is just as challenging and valuable as my husband's "Support Architect," and I'll be damned it I'm going to put "none" or leave it blank.  Also, when people ask if I work, I say, "Yes."  I'm not employed, but hell yes, I work!

CoolR... CoolRelax

Well, I value myself and the hard work of those around me.  Sometimes I think that we all just want too much in terms of validation from outside of ourselves.  I live in a world where I may be downgraded for my gender, the color of my skin, my age whatever.  But how I feel about myself never changes.  Given my viewpoint I don't really care what others think of breastfeeding moms or formula moms.  Because I'm both.  I don't know what we can do to make new moms feel more comfortable but continue to nip or tell the new mom - "Your a mom now.  Learn how to stand your ground, hell."

That could just be me though - my mom says that I thought my "ass weighed a ton" since I was a little kid, lol. 

Peajewel Peajewel

My friend and I were just talking about our kids at lunch today and some how we started to discuss breast feeding.  We actually offended people and they asked us to stop talking about it!  By some people that were just discussing their children and poo diapers.  I was shocked that they were so uncomfortable with the fact that she and I breastfed our children. 

toria... toriandgrace

I am 24 and I have a Bachelors degree and a Masters. I also finished my BA a year early with a 3.96 and my MA with a 3.92. I don't need a random survey of people I will never know to confirm or deny my intelligence. As a 19 year old single mother, I was smart enough to realize that breastfeeding was best for my baby and I will be breastfeeding my baby boy when he is born this May. I honestly couldn't care less what people I don't know think about nursing, and I surround myself with friends who would never think less of me for choosing to breastfeed.

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