Don’t lose your bottle in the face of militant lactivism

spiked editor Mick Hume's Notebook in The Times (London).

Mick Hume

Mick Hume

Topics Politics
  • With the election out of the way, it is time to address the real concerns of many British men and women: breasts and babies.

Everybody from the World Health Organisation to the NHS now says that babies should be exclusively breast-fed for at least six months. I have long suspected that the enthusiasm for exclusive breast-feeding comes partly from men seeking an ethical excuse to leave it all to mother. While some of us were up giving our children a 4am bottle of formula milk, those fathers who embrace breast-only correctness were tucked up in bed doing ‘what’s best for baby’.

Now it is reported that a woman flew back 3,000 miles across the Atlantic in order to breast-feed her year-old daughter, because her partner apparently could not manage to give the toddler a bottle of expressed mother’s milk. She says ‘it is very important for a baby to be breastfed until they are two years old’, and is upset that neither the airline nor her insurer will compensate her for shipping her breasts back and forth. It was an emergency, she insists, self-righteously complaining: ‘What nobody seems to realise is that I had no choice.’

Breastfeeding has become the stuff of a moral crusade rather than a medical matter. Everybody knows that there are health advantages. But that does not mean bottle-feeding is bad for baby. Mixed feeding is often the ideal solution for couples who want to organise their lives. Yet formula milk is now treated as if it were neat gin by zealous campaigners and health professionals who guilt-trip new mothers to make the ‘informed choice’ to breast-feed. A friend of mine’s new baby ended up seriously dehydrated in hospital, after the midwife warned her not to touch that bottle.

spiked recently organised a debate entitled ‘Breast and Bottle-feeding: is better always best?’. The breast-feeding lobby refused to take part, because it was sponsored by Inform, a group supported by formula-milk companies. We are familiar with this ‘no platform’ attitude towards anything with a whiff of Big Tobacco. But how did feeding baby powdered milk turn into the moral equivalent of giving her a cigarette?

So far as I know, babies in Britain do not become dangerously hooked on the bottle. It does seem, however, that some adults are becoming seriously attached to breast-feeding. Like that Atlantic-hopping mother, they believe that children should be breast-fed until they are 2, 3, 4 – even 7. In the United States these women are dubbed ‘militant lactivists’, fighting for a woman’s right to stay home and breast-feed her walking, talking infants.

Strange, but I always thought the bottle was a symbol of women’s emancipation, giving them more choices about how to live as more than mothers. I am only a man, of course, but what is so liberating about reducing women to a pair of breasts? Leave that to Jordan and the glamour models.

  • Wayne Rooney has been dropped by the English Schools’ Football Association for not being a suitable role model.

To judge by what has happened to David Beckham, Rooney should count himself lucky. The Becks Maniacs in the media set him up as our central cultural role model. Two certifiably sane university academics even claimed that Beckham had managed to ‘single-handedly change male behaviour globally – and for the better’ through his non-laddish family man image. Once stuck on such a pedestal, Beckham’s fall was inevitably crashing. As revelations that his marriage was less than perfect (nooo!) emerged last year, one newspaper ran a tearful elegy entitled ‘The Fall of the Last Good Man’. Now the Beckhams are reduced to trying to save their image by staging ‘secret romantic trips’ under the eyes of the celebrity media. Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make role models.

  • The Time Lords return.

As I write on Thursday afternoon, here is what I think will happen in the future (ie, Friday). A short while back I ‘bought’ a Labour majority in a spread bet. If the majority goes above 76 seats, I win more money for every extra seat; for every seat the majority falls short of 76, my losses mount. You should know by now whether I am set for the alehouse, the doghouse or the poorhouse. But you didn’t really need to be the Doctor from Doctor Who to know who would be in No 10.

Mick Hume is editor of spiked
This article is republished from The Times (London)

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


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