Acta Paediatrica 110 (1):22-24 (2020)

Fiona Woollard
University of Southampton
Infant feeding decisions are highly emotionally charged. I argue elsewhere that many problems surrounding infant feeding decisions result from a moralized context created by mistakes in our assumptions about maternal duties including the mistaken assumption that mothers have a defeasible moral duty to breastfeed. Mothers have a reason, but not a moral duty to breastfeed. Even those who are convinced by my argument in the case of full-term babies, might find it harder to accept in the case of premature babies. It might seem that mothers do have a defeasible moral duty to breastfeed or, as is more likely to be appropriate in such cases, to express breastmilk. Here, I explain why preterm neonates present a tricky case for the right not to breastfeed. I show why, nonetheless, moral pressure for mothers to express breastmilk in the neonatal unit is neither permissible nor pragmatically advisable. I argue that instead we should address structural barriers to providing breastmilk and support donor milk initiatives.
Keywords breastfeeding  ethics  premature babies
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