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Now that I’ve had a day to simmer down a bit about this Rabbi Shmuley business

I feel like I should come back and respond.  You see, he responded.  So now I feel like responding.

The Rabbi’s camp apparently received many angry emails on Sunday, so he posted a message on his website acknowledging that he’d received said emails.  He also reposted his original response to his original article, which was written a few months after the article from was posted.

Go read it here.  But it’s long.

Here’s what I think rubs me the wrong way about this guy.

He uses completely loaded language regarding the negatives of breastfeeding and still expects his audience to believe that he believes breastfeeding is best.

Let me give y’all a little writing lesson, okay?  You too, Rabbi Shmuley.

Loaded language is language that is MEANT to spark an emotional reaction in readers.

And words like that were CERTAINLY used in his original article from the summer of 2006.  They were used again in the response he wrote in an attempt to let his audience know that he supported breastfeeding, because, after all, his wife breastfed their children, so sure he supports it.

The thing about this that is just sitting so wrong with me is that, in general, after perusing many of the Rabbi’s articles, I tend to agree with him on many of the points he makes about parenting and the values we should strive to instill in our children.  I agree with him when he counsels parents to speak to their children’s hearts in punishing or disciplining them instead of being quick to strike physically.  I agree with him when he says that the Gosselin children do NOT need to be on television right now.  He and I agree on many points.

But this?  This response to his article about breastfeeding ruining marriages that is meant to prove that he supports breastfeeding?  This I can’t agree with.

For starters, he says that it’s okay to supplement with a bottle in order to go out on a date with your husband.  Okay, cool. I can agree with that.  But what about babies who refuse bottles?

Raise your hand if you’ve got one of those babies.  Because right off the top of my head, I can think of four babies I know of who won’t take a bottle.  And I’m not talking about formula. I’m talking about expressed breastmilk.  These are babies who won’t take it unless it’s coming straight from the tap.

What’s a mother in that situation supposed to do? 

Rabbi Shmuley fails to address this common situation.  And if he did, I feel quite confident that he’d use loaded language and this would somehow be the woman’s fault, even if that wasn’t his intention.

In his follow-up, Rabbi Shmuley says that he never said that breastfeeding was the equivalent of committing adultery.  No, not in so many words.  But the implication was that the feelings one spouse might feel upon discovering that the other spouse has committed adultery are the same feelings a husband might feel when he is no longer able to be intimate with his wife as frequently or as regularly as he would like due to her breastfeeding their child.  It’s not hard to see how people would infer that he meant that breastfeeding is like having an affair.

He, again in this response, says that breastfeeding is made an obsession for some.  An OBSESSION.  Talk about your loaded language.  Obsession, that word, the connotation implies something unhealthy.  Something bad.  Breastfeeding, and being determined to do so, is not an obsession, nor should it ever be seen as such.  Because in order to be successful at breastfeeding, especially the first time around, a great deal of determination is required.

He goes on to use an example of a family who relies on the woman’s income in order to provide for that family’s basic needs and how she’ll feel guilty for having to return to work and not being able to breastfeed.

Let me introduce you to my friends the Medela Pump in Style Advanced and the LAW.  It is illegal for a company to deny a nursing mother time and space (and it cannot be a restroom) to express milk during the workday.  A mother does not have to quit her job in order to continue providing her child with breastmilk (and this assumes, of course, that the baby will take a bottle).

When I went back to work, I made quite certain that those who needed to knew that I’d be spending the first half of each of my two free periods pumping, and that occasionally, I’d do so before work, too.  And each evening, MY HUSBAND and I made Joshua’s bottles of freshly expressed breastmilk.  Joshua went on a nursing strike right about the time that I went back to work.  But I was emotionally (and financially!) attached to giving him breastmilk.  So I did what I had to do.  With my husband’s support.

The argument Rabbi Shmuley makes that a woman will be too rushed to pump in the morning before she leaves because she’ll also be getting her other children ready and making lunches assumes that the woman is doing everything in the house.  Where is her husband?  Why can’t he get the other children ready?  Why can’t he make the sandwiches?  Why can’t they do it together the night before? 

Then he goes on to say the following, which irks me.

Then there are all the women who simply cannot breastfeed do to medical considerations. Many moms simply don’t have enough milk. And every time they read one of these article about how cruel it is not to breastfeed, they feel like inadequate mothers.”

And every time a mother who is doing what she believes is best by breastfeeding her child reads your articles they make her feel like an inadequate wife.

Women give each other enough guilt and grief over the myth of perfection.  And we already get enough pressure from men to be supermodel beautiful.  We don’t need guilt about our mothering and wiving coming from men, too.

Rabbi Shmuley makes a point of saying that the breastfeeding “issue” of the young couple he counseled on Shalom in the Home, (the couple he referenced in his first article) was left out of their show.  While I realize I’m speculating, I’d say that it was left out because either he or TLC KNEW the ramifications and backlash that would come from airing such anti-attachment parenting advice on national television.

Later in this article he writes that parents shouldn’t feel guilty about going out as a couple without children and leaving the child/ren with a babysitter.  He even says the parents should go away once or twice a year as a couple and leave the child/ren with family or friends.

Are you sharing the seeds to that money tree growing in your back yard and would you like to mail me some of them?

And what about couples who don’t have access to family who can or are willing to watch their children overnight or for an extended weekend?  What about couples who live across the country from their families?  I’d venture to say that many of my friends who are parents wouldn’t feel comfortable placing the responsibility of caring for their toddler with a friend.  Even a close family friend. That is a huge responsibility.  ENORMOUS.

I will also maintain that there should be some de-eroticization of breasts in American culture in particular.  There’s far too much “allure” surrounding breasts which is part of the reason that women in America (in particular) have so much difficulty gaining respect when they tell people they are breastfeeding.  Breasts were MEANT to feed human children.  That is part of what makes us mammals.  (And I could get ALL SORTS of Freudian on you and say that part of the reason men are attracted to breasts has to do with latent Oedipal Complexes, but since Freud has been denounced by many as a…well…he doesn’t get much credit when perhaps he should.  Not all of his theories were cuckoo.)  The fact that breasts, for some, are an erogenous zone is secondary, or perhaps tertiary, to their primary purpose.

I can agree with the Rabbi when he says that the greatest gift parents can give their children is to let their children see them love each other.  Children need to see that their mothers and fathers love each other.  I can get behind that.  But he’s veering just a bit too close to Dr. Ezzo and On Becoming Toddlerwise for my liking. 

In the long term, yes, marriages in which the children come before the spouses will suffer irreparable harm.  However, in a child’s first and perhaps even second and third years, it is my belief that it is the duty of BOTH parents to put the needs of the child before their own needs, and sometimes that includes the needs of their spouses.  The infancy and toddlerhood of children is a short, short time in the long, long marriage many couples hope to have. And I’d much rather have my son see us together and happy in 30 years than neglect fostering in him a sense of security while he’s so small.

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Friday 11th of June 2010

You know my hand is high up in the air...that's my no-bottle-taking kiddo! Two years worth of tap!Glad you posted this...didn't know he'd posted a response. I'm glad you can respond in a logical way, because all my thoughts on him are so furious and jumbled that they make no sense.


Thursday 10th of June 2010

Wow - I just came across your blog recently and I really appreciated this response to Rabbi Shmuley's response! I wrote about it too, but you hit on some very important points that I wasn't able to articulate myself! Thanks so much!


Wednesday 9th of June 2010

Hey! I found you among the comments at and I'm adding you to my Blogroll! Keep up the great writing. :)


Wednesday 9th of June 2010

I enjoyed the intellectual aspect of this entire post! Good for you, Miranda.

And, the Grapes of Wrath reference brought me back to my Freshman year of High School in an Honors English class when we discussed the ending to the book. My response was "he (the starving man) was satisifed" and the whole room got silent and the teacher looked like I knocked the wind out of her. I will never forget the discussion that ensued.


Tuesday 8th of June 2010

See, I'm smiling as I read this, because we DID understand each other! WOOHOO!

And yes, I agree that we have to try harder to make time for our husbands, to reconnect, despite the fact that our governor thinks it's okay to have us teach more children for less money. What's that? Did someone say election year!?!?!

And Solomon? I'm not sure there was much that DID turn him off, to be honest, at least not as far as women were concerned.

Love you too!

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