Mothers and Priorities: Breastfeeding Negligence
The fast-paced modern world is filled with abundant luxuries, opportunities, and a better living standard than the lives of our grandparents. Despite the comfort of the urbanized society, the contemporary generation is under immense pressure to meet the financial necessities in order to maintain the status of elite and privileged citizens who can access the resources affluently. The result of complying with this modern life is a reduction rate in a healthy relationship with family and the environment. The idea of relaxation and entertainment is narrowed into the space of social media, while comfort and sophistication have become synonymous with individuality and selfish self-care ideals. The combination of these two—hectic modern lifestyle and the influence of social media—has degraded an individual sense of attachment and responsibility towards others as the world is increasingly becoming self-centred. Among many consequences, one of the important issues is people’s negligence of ‘caring’ for their friends and family. While ‘Caring’ is a loaded term incorporating different types of caregiving, such as informal and formal caregiving, emotional or physical caring, support group caregiving, etc. Unfortunately, the modern lifestyle is unsupportive of a particular form of caring, which I call ‘motherhood caring.’ One of the vital aspects of mothers is breastfeeding infants; in recent times, there has been a decreasing number of women who practice breastfeeding. The paper will argue that the reason women don’t breastfeed is because of a lack time of time management, lack of information and the strong influence of media. In attempting to analyze the negligence of motherhood in today’s culture, this article will look at the role of contemporary social media and modern lifestyle, which subverts the significance of traditional women’s roles by focusing on the negligence of breastfeeding.
Since Mary Wollstonecraft’s ideas of feminism, the notions of ‘Who is a woman?’ and ‘What is a woman?’ have undergone radical transformation. The ideal notion of women being restrained to the kitchen and household chores, staying behind the curtains while men do all the work, is the story of the past. While various theories and ideas have helped liberate women from their oppressed and marginalized situation by giving them space to voice their opinions, ideas, and thoughts, the most democratic space of expression in today’s world is social media. Women happily endorse it as a place to tell their stories and experiences so that other women are well-informed and gain knowledge. “In regard to social interaction and social networking, some scholars argue that behaviour can be shaped by an individual’s social network” (Alianmoghaddam et al.148). However, such influences are not always good but come with wrong information that could harm women’s lifestyles. As we live in the post-truth era, which is characterized by “misinformation” (Lewandowsky et al. 354), the notions of the role of women spread on social media are also infected with wrong notions of denying motherhood, as it is “disempowering if not oppressive” (O’Reilly 17). It is reported that teenagers are predominantly influenced by and use social media for their feminist propaganda, where the plethora of information does not allow them to scrutinize the correct information from the misinformation. As a result of this most people associate the breastfeeding practice as a patriarchal institution trying to reduce women to their motherhood.
Apart from the influence of the misinformation from social media, another reason for negligence in breastfeeding is the hectic lifestyle of the modern work culture. While the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of ancient times had a proper labour division, the corporate work ethic of the recent period does not allow people to have personal time that would help the people to spend time with their family and friends. This is evident from Esterik and Greiner’s observation that “maternal employment is a major reason for the decline of breastfeeding worldwide” (191). The economy and inflation rate of today’s time are forcing women to work despite the motherly responsibilities they possess. Since they cannot manage time properly, as the workload from the office occupies them mostly, it is not possible for women to tend to their babies all the time. Resulting from this, modern people are resorting to “artificial formula . . . [that] contains many but not all the nutrients of human milk” (Lawrence 522). Women are forced to resort to such measures because, as Martins et al. note, “although employment may increase a woman’s sense of self-esteem and confidence, the accumulation of internal and external responsibilities at home also creates negative impacts” (70). Thus, the overwhelming evidence from multiple research projects shows that women are not able to practice breastfeeding as part of motherhood because of their inability to procure time for their newborns, as the hectic lifestyle of modern people is overburdened and restrictive.
Addressing these two issues of social media influence and the workload as interference with breastfeeding, I argue that, unlike a few discourses that say breastfeeding is irrelevant and could be oppressive, it is an act directly related to women’s identity and also helps the children stay healthy (Earle 135). This is proven by the medical research conducted by Lawrence, who considers breastfeeding as a therapy for “the postpartum woman” (520). Along with this, breastfeeding helps many biological issues that are women-specific: “premenopausal breast cancer, . . . bone mineral density, . . . diminished risks of breast cancer and ovarian cancer, the reduced lifetime menstrual blood loss, and the reduced risk of osteoporosis” (Lawrence 521-2). As one can see, the misinformation from social media is not entirely true because not all the influencers are aware of the biological and medical nuances of breastfeeding practice. As a result of this, the common people who lack any means of medical education tend to perceive that the social media ‘influencers’ are people with adequate knowledge; what we miss is that most of the real-life credentials of the social media personalities are unknown to the consumers and hence it gets difficult to verify whether the information is correct or not.
In order to address this issue, it is significant to encourage women to think critically to improve media literacy. Also, in case of governmental inaction, social media platforms must also take responsibility for monitoring content, and any wrong information must be censored from reaching consumers. Furthermore, producing a caring and inclusive online experience is vital in which information regarding women’s health practices will have high credibility. Thus, by promoting dialogue and understanding social media, we can use it as a powerful tool for empowerment and a progressive society where women’s rights and practices, such as breastfeeding, will be properly considered. Thus, it must be noted that popular culture might have given a lot of progressive ideals and liberated women from a conservative mindset, but still, social media is a volatile space that can prey on vulnerable people, especially women and other historically marginalized people.
As a corollary to the above passage, the recent notion that social media has empowered women by giving them necessary information regarding women’s health must be reconsidered and censured because lifestyle and self-care influenced by the internet turn out to be harmful most of the time, and women are “exposed to the risk of coming across inaccurate information and of propagating it” (Arena et al.101). Further, the dependence on unverified internet sources for information pertaining to women’s health will perpetuate harmful consequences resulting from the misinformation. Thus, it is vital for women to always consult, crosscheck and verify reliable and evidence-based sources like healthcare experts and reputable professionals for the surety of correct habits pertaining to healthcare so that they can make informed decisions when it comes to sensitive and pivotal issues like breastfeeding. Unfortunately, working women do not have the luxury of ‘time’ to stop, think and proceed with their practices as they live in a world where they have to quickly switch roles from being a mother to an employee in an office. They are caught in this vicious loop, where liminal times like commuting are used only to consume internet content, as the bus, car, or train journeys are not a time when one can actually research to verify the information’s credibility or consult a professional. What one can see in this situation is the interconnection between the hectic lifestyle caused by workload and the vulnerability towards social media due to lack of time and fatigue of mental prowess.
As this paper tried to argue, the entanglement of these two has impacted everyone’s life in different ways. But, as the focus of this article is to understand how these factors impact breastfeeding patterns in women, I would come to an understanding that despite modern-day problems like lack of time due to work life and fake news on the internet, it is crucial to understand the significance of breastfeeding both for the women’s identity and the health of children and try to undertake the practice of breastfeeding. In reality, according to the research done by Binns et al., the IQ of breastfed infants increases considerably, so long-term breastfeeding could prevent obesity and diabetes (9-11). This research also indicates that mothers also benefit from breastfeeding as it makes them immune against breast cancer. However, such information is not circulated on social media because the content creators are not academics or research-based people. Hence, it is important to be aware of this scenario and understand that one should get away from the influence of social media, especially when recommendations regarding medical and health practices of women, such as breastfeeding, are suggested.
Further, as a way to move forward, our lifestyle must focus on two aspects: escaping the influence of social media and balancing work and life. While individual effort is needed to attain this, society and government must also educate women on health issues and medical frauds that occur over the internet. Medical laws must also insist on breastfeeding and reduced work hours during and after maternity. Such systemic changes will help one to gain awareness about breastfeeding, motherhood and other women’s healthcare issues that will fortify them from being influenced by fake ideas, propaganda and marketing. The one ultimate pattern in exploiting women and their motherhood practices like breastfeeding is capitalism. That is, on one hand, influencers make money by selling the wrong ideas. On the other hand, industries, by forcing women to adopt a corporate lifestyle and dissuading them from breastfeeding, get a chance to sell products that are replacements for breastfeeding. Hence, without the interference of the government and the creation of ethical policies to monitor social media and exploitive employment, women are forced to disavow breastfeeding due to a lack of awareness and the hecticness of the modern lifestyle. Having surfaced this idea to the academic community, this paper concludes that one should reorient one’s lifestyle to allow one to understand and implement basic activities such as breastfeeding since it is associated with one’s health and identity. Such reorientation is not only an individual’s responsibility but also governmental laws and policies, which must support this change so that expression of womanhood and practices associated with them, such as breastfeeding, can be properly incorporated into an individual’s life.
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