Government breast-feeding plan blasted by Palin, Bachmann: what do doctors say?

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
michelle obama, michele bachman, sarah palin, 4x3
Federal efforts to promote breast-feeding, including those by Michele Obama, have come under fire from Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann.
Getty Images/Mark Wilson; Mario Tama; Mark Wilson

(CBS) Breasts are suddenly a controversial topic in Washington, and political moms seem to be milking the debate for all it's worth.

As part of her campaign to reduce childhood obesity, Michelle Obama has become a strong advocate for breast-feeding, particularly among African-American women. Given the broad agreement among doctors that breast milk beats formula for infants, you might think nothing would be less controversial.

You'd be wrong.

"No wonder Michelle Obama is telling everybody, 'You better breast-feed your baby,'" Sarah Palin said in a recent speech, the New York Times reported. "Yeah, you'd better, because the price of milk is so high right now."

And when the IRS decided recently to make breast pumps eligible for tax breaks, Rep. Michele Bachmann, the prominent conservative from Minnesota, lashed out on a recent radio program. "To think that government has to go out and buy my breast pump - you want to talk about nanny state, I think we just got a new definition," she said, according to the Times.

Some pediatricians are aghast.

"The politicizing of infant feeding is preposterous," Dr. Ruth Lawrence, professor of pediatrics and obstetrics & gynecology at the University of Rochester, tells CBS News. A long-time advocate of breast-feeding, she said there was ample proof that breast milk is the best choice for infants, adding that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast milk exclusively for the first six months of life.

"Infants don't need anything else," she says. "Human milk is the perfect food."

Is anyone in the conservative movement listening?