How Feminists and Fundamentalists, Hippies and Yuppies, and Physicians and Politicians Made Breastfeeding Big Business and Bad Policy


By Courtney Jung

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Social scientist and mother Courtney Jung explores the ever-expanding world of breastfeeding advocacy, shining a new light on the diverse communities who compose it, the dubious science behind it, and the pernicious public policies to which it has given rise

Is breast really best? Breastfeeding is widely assumed to be the healthiest choice, yet growing evidence suggests that its benefits have been greatly exaggerated. New moms are pressured by doctors, health officials, and friends to avoid the bottle at all costs-often at the expense of their jobs, their pocketbooks, and their well-being.

In Lactivism, political scientist Courtney Jung offers the most deeply researched and far-reaching critique of breastfeeding advocacy to date. Drawing on her own experience as a devoted mother who breastfed her two children and her expertise as a social scientist, Jung investigates the benefits of breastfeeding and asks why so many people across the political spectrum are passionately invested in promoting it, even as its health benefits have been persuasively challenged. What emerges is an eye-opening story about class and race in America, the big business of breastfeeding, and the fraught politics of contemporary motherhood.


  • Publishers Weekly
    “Jung makes some thoughtful points against seeing the practice [of breastfeeding] as the most or only acceptable option for mothers.... [H]er intersectional perspective, which looks at how feminist concerns mesh with those related to race and class, may encourage advocates to approach new moms with more sensitivity, and to view the ubiquity of breast pumps with a slightly more dubious eye.”

    Shelf Awareness
    “[Jung's] research is extensive.... Lactivism illustrates how a woman's choice has become a matter of public health and a socially enforced necessity. A critical look at policies that have cemented poor science and damaged women's rights in the United States.”

    Kirkus Reviews
    “Jung offers readers an inside look at the modern world of breast-feeding, which has undergone transformative changes since its revival in the United States in the 1970s.... Using solid evidence to back her statements, the author analyzes how the simple act of breast-feeding has shifted into a mechanical process through the use of breast pumps, with a salable commodity: the breast milk.... A levelheaded, well-researched analysis of the many ‘trappings of contemporary breastfeeding culture.'”
  • "Jung's book is a bold challenge to the prevailing parenting orthodoxy."—National Post
  • "The truths [Jung] uncovers may make your jaw drop.... But perhaps most interesting is Jung's astute observation that what is being so ardently promoted isn't actual breast-feeding--whereby a baby is fed from the breast--but human milk as a product, creating pressure for working mothers of all income levels to pump in less than ideal conditions, when what might benefit them and their babies most is paid maternity leave (or simply using formula).... [Jung's] keen analyses and wry humor keep the reader engaged."—Lori Gottlieb, New York Times Book Review
  • "[Jung] makes a provocative case that [breast-feeding's] benefits have been drastically oversold.... [She] is particularly sharp in describing how 21st-century policy makers have turned breast-feeding into a consensus issue."—Wall Street Journal
  • "[A] groundbreaking new book.... Jung's subject in Lactivism isn't nursing itself, but a strain of advocacy that prizes feeding babies breast milk above all else, no matter the cost to their mothers or, in some cases, the babies themselves.... [An] important book."—Michelle Goldberg, Slate XX
  • "Highly readable.... [Jung] makes a strong argument: If women are supposed to have a 'choice' about their reproductive activities, why can't they choose how to nourish the offspring that might emerge?"—Weekly Standard
  • "[Jung's] research is extensive.... Lactivism illustrates how a woman's choice has become a matter of public health and a socially enforced necessity. A critical look at policies that have cemented poor science and damaged women's rights in the United States."—Shelf Awareness
  • "Jung lays out an intriguing analysis of how different groups have interpreted the 'breast is best' slogan to reflect their own agendas."—Washington Post

On Sale
Nov 24, 2015
Page Count
272 pages
Basic Books

Courtney Jung

About the Author

Courtney Jung is a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Learn more about this author