Skip To Content

When Breast Is Not Best: ‘Breastfeeding’ Scandal Rocks Canadian Media

The expression ‘breastfeeding controversy’ evokes the eternal debate over whether it’s better to breast- or bottle-feed infants. Or maybe the question of where, if anywhere, the act of breastfeeding shouldn’t be endeavored. (Or, quite possibly, Talmudic breastfeeding conundrums.)

Or that’s what it did evoke, until recently: As followers of Canadian media are already copiously aware, there’s a disturbing, dare I say bonkers story making the rounds, about… Take it away, Sean Craig of the National Post:

The Globe and Mail has removed a piece from its website in which a longtime columnist claims she once attempted to breastfeed the infant child of Conservative leadership candidate Michael Chong without his or his wife’s consent, and while she was not lactating.

Understandably, the Canadian internet has been, shall we say, processing this bonkers information.

Leah McLaren’s column in question, which lives on, as Craig notes, in archive form, is strange business. McLaren — now a mother in her 40s — recalls life as a childless woman in her 20s. Her biological clock, as she recounts it, inspired her to pick up someone else’s baby (she didn’t, at the time, know whose) and unbutton her top, with every intention of offering herself up as the baby’s pacifier. If dad hadn’t walked in, unnerved, and taken his child, she’d have gone ahead with her plan.

The story poses all kinds of ethical issues, so many it’s hard to know where to begin. There’s of course the question of consent – the baby’s, which couldn’t have been given, being a baby and all, and that of the baby’s parents, who obviously neither had nor would give consent to a fellow party attendee to offer a nipple up to their baby for use as a pacifier. Had McLaren been lactating, there would also have been a whole slew of potential medical concerns. As violations go, this is really up there. The story presents itself as a lighthearted, earth-mother-type plea to be less uptight about nipples and breast milk, but winds up effectively laughing off behavior that crosses just about every line.

Then there’s the paper’s initial choice to run the piece, then to quietly take it down. These things happen, I suppose, but the problems here go well beyond what’s referred to in journalistic circles as a bad take.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy edits the Sisterhood, and can be reached at [email protected]. She is the author of “The Perils Of ‘Privilege’”, from St. Martin’s Press. Follow her on Twitter, @tweetertation

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.