La Leche League : At the Crossroads of Medicine, Feminism, and Religion

by Jule DeJager Ward. Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press,
2000, 272 pages.

Since the 1970s, breastfeeding has inspired battles among moms, doctors,
and parenting experts. Ward’s study is the first to examine La Leche
League, the chief organization advocating breastfeeding, as a religious
movement arising within–and outside–traditional feminism. The League’s
founders were all Catholic, and imbued with 1950s theology about the
Catholic family (specifically, that breastfeeding was a female embodiment
of Aquinas’s natural law theory, and that the Virgin Mary represented an
icon of motherhood). Although the League drew on scientific information
about infant nutrition, it “held a religious rather than secular view of
the family”–sharing the Catholic church’s belief that children were
central to married life. Ward, a former League leader, balances her
sympathy for many League teachings with trenchant and dispassionate
observations about the theological underpinnings of the movement. A
provocative read for anyone interested in the “breastfeeding wars” would
find it.

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