Review of Lactivism: How Feminists and Fundamentalists, Hippies and Yuppies, and Physicians and Politicians Made Breastfeeding Big Business and Bad Policy

I’m expanding my usual content to include book reviews of fertility, sexuality, birth control related materials. This is the first review in a series. The content will also be shared to my Instagram account.

Lactivism has been on my reading list for a while. As a fertility awareness educator, I run into a lot of breastfeeding glorification in online spaces. This book looks at breastfeeding from social and political perspectives. Jung outlines the ways that breastfeeding can be a privilege and how it should not be viewed as a moral imperative.

One of the most standout examples of breastfeeding related discrimination in the book is with WIC, a voucher system that lower income people who have a baby or are pregnant can use to purchase basics like milk, eggs, bread, and veggies. I was a cashier for close to 7 years, and WIC was always a really hard process due to the extreme restrictions on what can be covered by the vouchers. I often wondered the why behind WIC and who has access to what. Jung discusses how women who apply to WIC are pressured to breastfeeding exclusively if they want more food and benefits. What this pressure ignores is that mothers in the United States are not given maternity leave and may not be able to breastfeed exclusively for the suggested 6 to 12 months. In addition, all mothers may not be able to produce enough milk for their child or want to breastfeed exclusively if they have other duties (like providing for their family monetarily).

Jung also covers the pumping industry and workplace discrimination around pumping. I had no idea that the average pumping time to empty one breast is 30 minutes! She goes into detail about average pumping prices and time. This section is a must read if you are planning to pump at work.

On the flipside, Jung reviews the history of formula. This industry too is ridden with issues. One of the most shocking parts of the text discusses the promotion of breastfeeding over formula by organizations like La Leche League for mothers with HIV. Jung cites studies showing approximately 22% of babies in some cases have contracted HIV by 6 months of breastfeeding.

I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to learn about breastfeeding and formula from a more cultural angle. At 272 pages, it is a fairly quick read with all the eye-opening, suprising details about how organizations from WIC to La Leche League have promoted breastfeeding even when detrimental to mothers.