The Vanity of Breast-Feeding

By Paul

fashionablemother1796.jpg
“At the same time, a fashion for breast-feeding took hold among high-society women, a group who had never before concerned themselves with babies who now insisted on suckling their infants in order to fit in with progressive notions regarding motherhood. Women who hardly knew where the nursery was in their own house began compulsively exposing their breasts, often between courses of luncheons and dinners. Once again, the cartoonists stepped in to call for moderation.”

-Alain de Botton, Status Anxiety, pp. 164-166

In some cultures, the artists’ role is still very controversial. Fashions and fads need to be seen within the broad context of time and phase of the society.

* The picture above, A fashionable mother breastfeeding her baby, Coloured etching by James Gillray, English, 1796; James Gillray is best known for biting political satires, but in this piece he pokes fun at a fashionable society woman, fully dressed for an evening out. This 'fashionable mamma' is wearing a dress with slits across the breast so that she can feed her baby before she dashes off to the carriage waiting outside. This mamma is fashionable because, instead of following the earlier 18th-century practice of farming babies out to professional 'wet-nurses', she is following Jean-Jacques Rousseau's fashionable theories of a "return to nature" and is breast-feeding the baby herself.

Related;
The Cartoonist’s Responsibility

David Warsh, in a review of Vanity of the Philosopher; The "Vanity of the Philosopher": From Equality to Hierarchy in Post-Classical Economics by Sandra Peart and David M. Levy

“Their title comes from a passage in The Wealth of Nations in which Adam Smith asserts that the difference between the most dissimilar characters -- between, for example, a philosopher and a common street porter -- arises less from nature than from "habit, custom and education." For their first six or eight years, any two youths are likely to remain pretty much alike, Smith writes. But as they begin to go to work, they grow more and more different in their skills, "till at last the vanity of the philosopher is willing to acknowledge scarce any resemblance."…

In keeping with the spirit of the age of democratic revolutions, the classical economists presumed a high degree of equality among human beings. From Adam Smith to John Stuart Mill, the classicals rejected race and genetic endowment as factors that might determine the differences among nations, took for granted a certain human homogeneity with respect to the taste for commerce, and focused on the role of institutions instead. The classical system of "analytical homogeneity," according to Peart and Levy, was one in which everyone counted equally and was presumed equally capable of making decisions about their own welfare.

No sooner had the nineteenth century begun, however, than systems of "analytical hierarchy," emphasizing human heterogeneity, re-entered the debate in new and "scientific" forms. These inevitably argued that some groups were privileged over others, usually along lines of race or capability. Such doctrines dated back to Plato, the authors say; it was he who famously asked, Why it was we breed cattle but not people? The tacit presupposition of this question -- that there must be philosophical experts who in their wisdom differ fundamentally from human "cattle: -- would take many forms during the coming decades, the authors write. In the mid-nineteenth century, it flared up first as a debate over slavery”

Comments


David Tufte wrote:

Interesting.

Way back when breast feeding was about vanity.

Today in America, breast feeding amounts to an act of quasi-religious faith for some - along the lines of Sowell's Vision of the Annointed. If you breast feed you are good. If you don't you are (at best) faulty, and (at worst) bad.

It is just an anecdote, but my personal experience is that there is not enough science about whether breast feeding is providing adequate calories - particularly in the case of women who are ill. The number of lousy looking breast-fed babies is not zero, and we don't seem to be able to admit that this is a possibility.

-- August 8, 2006 5:01 PM


paul wrote:

UN is celebrating the breastfeeding week this month;
"World Breastfeeding Week 2006, which starts today, marks the 25th anniversary of the World Health Organization's (WHO) International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (full text), which aims to protect and promote breastfeeding by prohibiting the advertising and aggressive marketing of breastmilk substitutes, feeding bottles and other artificial supplies. To date, more than 60 governments have enacted all or many of the provisions of the Code as law."
http://unhq-appspub-01.un.org/lib/dhlrefweblog.nsf
In a developing country a child who's breastfed is 3 times more likely to survive infancy than a child who's not, says UNICEF.
http://www.unicef.org/nutrition/indonesia_35137.html

-- August 8, 2006 11:25 PM


paul wrote:

UN is celebrating the breastfeeding week this month;
"World Breastfeeding Week 2006, which starts today, marks the 25th anniversary of the World Health Organization's (WHO) International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (full text), which aims to protect and promote breastfeeding by prohibiting the advertising and aggressive marketing of breastmilk substitutes, feeding bottles and other artificial supplies. To date, more than 60 governments have enacted all or many of the provisions of the Code as law."
http://unhq-appspub-01.un.org/lib/dhlrefweblog.nsf
In a developing country a child who's breastfed is 3 times more likely to survive infancy than a child who's not, says UNICEF.
http://www.unicef.org/nutrition/indonesia_35137.html

-- August 8, 2006 11:25 PM


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