It seems that people genuinely don’t know, so here is a brief history of the anti-feminist backlash.
After the feminist advances of the 1970s, a protracted backlash set in. I highly recommend Susan Faludi’s classic Backlash that traces the origins of the phenomenon. It’s a brilliant, brilliant book.
One of the aspects of the backlash is the so-called attachment parenting. The tenets of attachment parenting (also known as natural parenting) were created by ultra-conservative religious organizations that were always very open about their belief that women should have no interests outside of child-bearing and child-rearing. Anything that simplifies the pregnancy, the birth, and childcare and makes them less painful (epidurals are one example) were declared to be evil.
The movement’s proponents aggressively insist that you are a horrible mother and are doing great harm to your children if you don’t choose unmedicated birth (ideally done at home), if you don’t breastfeed on demand until at least the age of 3, don’t wear the child on your body at all times (meaning no solitude for mom even for 10 mins a day), etc.
It’s really clear that a woman who follows all of these precepts is not doing anything else. Her body belongs to the baby not only during pregnancy but for quite a while after birth. People who never breastfed might not realize that breast-feeding means you don’t eat what you want, you don’t drink what you want, and your freedom of movement and activity is severely limited. (You are not supposed to use a pump, by the way. Remember, no stepping away from the child!)
Obviously, feminists have been disturbed by this assault on women’s bodily autonomy in service of “ideal” motherhood. The feminist approach has always consisted in the idea that women should be left alone to figure out what to do with their bodies. Want to give birth? Great. Don’t want to use your body for the purpose of procreation? Equally great. Want to breastfeed? Fantastic. Don’t want to breastfeed? Equally fantastic.
There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that breast-feeding has any benefits at all in developed countries. No evidence. Zilch. There is ample evidence, however, that the bullying of women at a very vulnerable time after giving birth is causing harm. The agents of the backlash have been extremely aggressive. Their tricks obviously don’t work on jaded feminist scholars who give birth at 40, like myself. But most women are less jaded and less old when they give birth. The shaming and the berating works on them.
I highly recommend the blogger I linked in the penultimate post who has been studying the backlash for years.