Leadership and Lactation

I recently wrote three separate blogs, each titled “Women and Leadership – the Missing Link.” The series argued the importance of genetic gender differences to the issue of women and leadership. I pointed out that it is women not men who bear babies, and that it is women not men who breast-feed them. I then suggested that it was possible, just possible, that this difference pertained.

Days after I posted the third of the three blogs was an article in the New York Times (link below) essentially decrying the lactation police – the political correctness that pressured women, American women particularly, to breast-feed rather than bottle feed. Turns out that American mothers are more disposed to breast-feed, and breast-feed longer, than women in many other Western countries. Fully 79 percent of American mothers initiate breast-feeding, and fully 49 percent of American mothers still breast-feed 6 months later. This is in contrast to, say, Britain, where only 34 percent of women breast-feed after the first half year.

Without getting into the argument about the virtues of breast milk over bottled milk – not to speak of breast-feeding over breast-pumping – it seems increasingly evident that they are “modest.” It seems increasingly clear, in other words, that American women are pressured to breast feed not so much because breast feeding is so much better for the baby as because breast feeding is judged good mothering, whereas bottle feeding is judged less good mothering.

None of this is to suggest that women should not breast feed – or that women who want to be leaders should especially not breast feed. But it is to point out that this particular issue is particularly a women’s issue. And it is to point out that women with ambition have a choice. To breast-feed or not to breast-feed – that is the question.



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