There are many myths about motherhood, raising kids, and especially more so, breastfeeding. Well, here we talk about some theories and opinions about breastfeeding by the University of Notre Dame’s Dr. Darcia Narvaez. She is the 2015 winner of the APA’s William James Award for research in the psychology of religion, morals and values. Her work talks about developmental moral psychology and particularly why breastfeeding shouldn’t be an option and why mothers may not be breastfeeding long enough.
Before we begin, please remember that we are merely explaining Dr. Darcia Narvaez’s work and are by no means picking any sides. At the end of the day, it’s the mother’s choice (and doctors) to breastfeed or not. You can agree with Narvaez, or you can disagree, we are just here to tell you what she thinks!
Who is Dr. Darcia Narvaez?
Dr. Darcia Narvaez is a moral developmental psychologist at the University of Notre Dame. Those who study moral developmental psychology do so to understand what goes into raising children who end up taking good decisions throughout their lives and kids who don’t give into negative temptations due to peer pressure while growing up.
Dr. Narvaez wrote an article on her Psychology Today blog – Moral Landscapes – that addresses two subjects that are important to her. 1) Why breastfeeding shouldn’t be optional at all and 2) How long parents should nurse their kids to give them the “full psychological, relational and, moral benefits nursing can offer.”
Today, breastfeeding is optional for mothers, although some mothers can’t breastfeed for various reasons. Many parents think of formula milk as a healthy alternative to breastfeeding. Hey, it still feeds the baby, right?
But, according to Narvaez formula has plenty of risks, apart from the fact that it’s the only logical link to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Dr. Darcia Narvaez claims that breastfeeding shouldn’t be an option because it’s essential for a baby to have an optimal growth, and who doesn’t want that, right?
Doctors or scientists who have carried out experiments state that breast milk doesn’t make a difference to a baby’s development. However, Dr. Darcia Narvaez thinks of it as ignorant because the best way to gather information in this context is through observation. For example, she talks about the evolutionary processes and how the natural world has already “done the experimenting” over centuries because in a way nature does provide us with enough information to make a judgement.
Narvaez uses the examples of mammals that emerged over 30 million years ago with “extensive breastfeeding.”For instance, apes breastfeed for an average of four years! Humans apparently need the most amount of intensive parenting in order reach maturity, which adds up to around three decades if compared to apes. Unbelievable, isn’t it?
Anthropologists that have studied “small-band hunter-gatherer communities” around the world have noted the norms of childhood. Breastfeeding takes place for 2-8 years, with an average “weaning age” of 4 years. This means that experiments aren’t good enough to show that breastfeeding isn’t needed. At the end of the day, Narvaez states that “ breastfeeding is helped our ancestors survive, thrive and reproduce.”
Many people misunderstand breastfeeding because breastfeeding is not just about feeding your baby. It does more than just feeling because breast milk provides all the immunoglobulin that one needs for a proper immune system development, which if you didn’t know takes around five whole years to develop! Also, did you know that one mother’s breast milk has ingredients that are tailored to that particular child during the process of breastfeeding? As you must know, every baby is different and develops at her pace.
What Narvaez necessarily means to say is that God gives moms breast milk for a reason, and we shouldn’t deny babies of that “inheritance.”