But what if philosophy could help? Perhaps surprisingly, I am convinced that sorting out some philosophical mistakes in our thinking about maternal behaviour can help with all this negative emotion. Drawing a distinction between 'moral reasons' and 'defeasible duties' can allow us to support and celebrate breastfeeding without condemning those who do not breastfeed to guilt and judgment.
I think part of it is that we are confusing two ethical ideas: reasons and defeasible duties. Defeasible duties are things that you MUST do unless there is some overriding reason not to. They are associated with requirements to justify and with negative emotions like guilt and blame. If I fail to live up to a defeasible duty, then I can be called upon to explain why: if I can't produce a darned good justification or excuse, then I'm in line for guilt and blame. I think we often treat mothers as if they have a duty to breastfeed: we get to ask them to defend their decision not to breastfeed and if they can't produce a good enough defence ("my nipples fell off!"), then we lay on the blame and guilt. But, in general, opportunities to benefit give rise to reasons not duties. It's great to run a marathon for Cancer Research, but no one gets to demand that I justify my failure to do so or to make me feel guilty if I don't. Even if we think that mothers have a special duty to benefit their children, this can't mean they have a defeasible duty to do every thing that might benefit their children. That would be intolerably demanding! So recognising the benefits should mean that we see reasons rather than defeasible duties to breastfeed.
Given this, you might wonder whether we should be celebrating breastfeeding mothers. Shouldn't we be celebrating all the mothers: the formula feeding mothers? the stay at home mothers? the working mothers? the Waterbabies mothers and the Sing&Sign mothers? Yes we should celebrate all those groups. But breastfeeding can be really hard, and there is still a lot of work to be done both in policy to ensure that all breastfeeding mothers get the support they need and when it comes to public attitudes to breastfeeding. So it worth dedicating a moment (or a week) to celebrate individual journeys and to lobby for change. But we still face the challenge of fixing those mistakes in the way we think about motherhood, so that we don't assume that if breastfeeding benefits babies then mothers have a duty to breastfeed. It's that move that makes breastfeeders be seen as show-offs and formula feeders as failures. And that isn't helpful for anyone!
*It is actually an oversimplification to say that men don't have the right kind of breasts, because of course transmen may be able to chestfeed and there have have been cases of male lactation.