A new article in the journal Pediatrics is advising health professionals to stop using the term "natural" when describing breastfeeding because of its association with the natural parenting movement.
In "Unintended Consequences of Invoking the 'Natural' in Breastfeeding Promotion," Penn Medicine Medical Ethics and Health Policy researchers Jessica Martucci and Anne Barnhill argue that calling breastfeeding "natural" inadvertently links it with potentially "problematic" natural parenting practices like home birth, homeschooling and the rejection of GMO foods and vaccination efforts.
By saying something is "natural," the researchers argue, gives the impression that it is also intrinsically better and healthier.
Of course breastfeeding is natural. It is a biological imperative. Open up the Oxford Dictionary and you'll see that natural means "existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind." That is exactly what breastfeeding is.
The fact that some parents who practice "natural parenting" tend to be suspicious of vaccines and happen to breastfeed is pure coincidence. Yes, the trend for parents to boycott vaccines has some alarming repercussions. But that has nothing to do with breastfeeding, and it's not worth undermining what remains, factually speaking, the most healthy nourishment for baby.
It's not about putting a positive spin on something. It's about stating a biological fact.
Not everything "natural" is the be all end all, though. In fact, there's still a degree of controversy surrounding topics like organic foods, homeopathic medicine and especially, vaccines. Yet when it comes to breastfeeding, to call it anything other than "natural" is simply inaccurate.
Breastfeeding is what nature intended. Natural parenting, on the other hand, is a movement and a lifestyle choice. To link the two is confusing to parents.
Frankly I can't believe an esteemed journal would put forth an argument over semantics so petty and potentially damaging at a time when the benefits of breastfeeding are well documented.