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Scholar highlights racist history of breastfeeding amid baby formula shortage

As the nation struggles with a shortage of baby formula, a University of Wisconsin scholar hopes to remind the country the act of breastfeeding has deep roots in racism.

“[W]e need to remember the history of how enslaved people were forced to provide breastfeeding labor to feed white babies,” reads a tweet from UW Madison Media about the issue.

The remarks come from Brigitte Fielder, an associate professor at the school’s College of Letters and Science. Fielder is described as an “expert on race, gender and sexuality studies,” and teaches African American literature.

In a Twitter thread on her personal account, Fielder explains that breastfeeding was often forced upon slave women by white slave owners during the 19th century.

“If you’re wondering why people have such bad takes re: the baby formula shortage as ‘just breastfeed,’ you should know that I (a literature/American studies prof) have to lecture (briefly & basically) every semester on How Breasts Work so students can understand the reading,” Fielder said.

“So when people ask what parents did before formula was available, please know that one historical answer to that question was (literally): slavery, rape, forced reproduction, forced breastfeeding labor, & denying early nutrition and care to Black infants,” she continued.

In an attached link to further reading in a literature journal, Fielder writes that her teaching is important due to a lack of diversity at the university.

“At my predominantly-white institution in a state notorious for its history of racial segregation, I am often the first (and perhaps the only) black instructor many of my students will have had,” she wrote.

Though the original post to UW Madison Media openly displayed a link in which media representatives could interview Fielder about her position on breastfeeding, The College Fix has yet to receive a response to repeated interview requests with Fielder.

Her comments come amid a nationwide shortage of infant formula, spurred by supply chain issues and a recall on powdered formula.

MORE: Boston University professor: Property is ‘racist’

IMAGE: Twitter screenshot

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Jackson Walker is a student at the University of Wisconsin majoring in journalism reporting and English creative writing. He writes and edits for the Arts section of the Badger Herald. He is also a member of the UW Marching band, which has taken him to two NFL stadiums and the Rose Bowl.