Childrearing

Of All The Things Paul Tudor Jones Got Wrong, Romanticizing Breastfeeding Wasn’t One Of Them

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shutterstock_85069219I never thought I would be defending the recent comments of a certain billionaire made at U-Va’s McIntire School of Commerce, but here I am — Paul Tudor Jones got breastfeeding right. In a recent Huffington Post Business piece, Jones is being called out for his “giddy characterization of breastfeeding as ‘the most beautiful experience which a man will never share'” exposing his “lazy, retrograde thinking.” Of everything he got wrong, that wasn’t one of them.

That breastfeeding is a beautiful experience is an oversimplified generalization, I grant you that. Lazy and retrograde? Probably not. Having a pleasant bonding experience while nursing your child doesn’t set the women’s movement back. I nursed my daughter for 15 months while working full-time by shifting her schedule and, admittedly, losing a decent amount of sleep. But even with all that logistical complaining, breastfeeding was an unparalleled bonding experience for me and my daughter (my first born, not so much). I still gush about it and think of our quiet alone moments fondly a year later. The author wants to reduce that to nothing but a meal.

It is no more of a “beautiful experience” than putting food on the family table — which men do just as well as women. Profound “beauty” can be found in the way nature works to provide the right sustenance for newborns — the efficiency and economics of which may appeal to Paul Tudor Jones — but the delivery system is no reason to get all dewy-eyed. In fact, many modern mothers complain about the process as much as they revel in it.

I don’t know what the author feeds her children, but in my house I’m usually slapping some peanut butter on a slice of bread (toast if I’m feeling fancy) and letting my kid eat it while we head to the playground. This is not the same as the experience of nursing. Nor is breastfeeding just about providing “the right sustenance for newborns” as evidenced by those who choose to nurse well past the 12 months recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics or the two years mentioned in the World Health Organization’s guidelines.

The problem of course with romanticizing nursing comes clear in the practical considerations. Leaky breasts, becoming a human pacifier, the demanding schedule, the duty that can’t be shared — breastfeeding is not always easy. Just because it is perfectly natural for a woman’s body to produce milk that sustains life, doesn’t mean it’s easy to transition into the this new role as food provider — especially not the first time around.

The author makes a valid point in the end, which is that breastfeeding, whether a woman enjoys the experience or not, does not take away from her ability to do her job.

The fact is: breastfeeding is a bodily function important to the wellbeing of newborns, but not essential to bonding or any other social good. Some women enjoy breastfeeding. Some women also enjoy ski holidays and George Clooney flicks. None of which is germane to their ability to keep an eye on the S&P500, housing starts, the Eurozone trade balance, and Bundesbank moves, in order to make momentous decisions about their firm’s Dollar/Euro position.

However I think she loses credibility by minimizing an experience that some mothers find special beyond compare to simple nutritional needs. In fact, as awkward as it was – with Jones hand-gesturing the sweet nostalgia of nursing – it’s probably the only thing he got right during that now infamous panel.

(photo: SvetlanaFedoseyeva/Shutterstock)