Fonticulus Fides

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Pardon me while I rant. And feel free to rant along with me.

I've long been a fan of Real Simple magazine and frequently purchased newsstand copies that covered my personal areas of interest. But no more.

Real Simple recently ran an article called "20 Rules to Break" which listed breastfeeding as a waste of time. They actually interviewed some ignorant male doctor who said there were no real benefits to breastfeeding. I don't know what rock this joker has been living under but here's a quick list off the top of my head:

1. Lifelong health benefits for babies, including lower instance of heart disease and weight problems, fewer allergies, etc.

2. The act of breastfeeding releases a hormone in moms that helps them relax. And what mom of a newborn doesn't need more of that?

3. The baby gets the benefit of mom's antibodies, which means baby is sick a lot less often in the early days (proven that with both my kids).

4. Women who breastfeed even one baby have a lower occurance of breast cancer.

5. Mother-baby bonding at its simplest.

6. The milk is always there, always the perfect nutrition and always at the perfect temperature.

7. Some studies indicate breastfed babies have higher IQs, but I'm not so sure about that. None of my siblings nor I were breastfed, and my brother and younger sister are both certifiable geniuses with IQs above 175. So it could be that smarter people choose to breastfeed, and their kids are inheriting their brains genetically. (Still wondering how I got short-changed in the smarts department, though!)

8. Breastfeeding costs next to nothing (nursing bra, nursing pads), but formula is expensive.

9. Baby is exposed to flavors of many different foods, which means they adapt to table food more readily when the time comes.

10. Poop from babies who are exclusively breastfed hardly stinks at all.

11. In the middle of the night, mom can feed hungry newborn simply by lifting her t-shirt or opening her nightgown, before either one of them is 100% awake, which makes for more peaceful nights. As opposed to what formula-feeding parents must go through in gathering up hungry baby, stumbling into the kitchen to find pre-made bottle, heating said bottle, calming down now really, really hungry baby enough to eat, and finally getting the now wide-awake baby back to sleep before going back to bed.

There are more benefits, too. This is just all I can think of. Read the American Acadamy of Pediatrics statement about the necessity of breastfeeding here.

Now, I should say I know from personal experience that breastfeeding isn't always easy to learn. Nobody in memory of my family had ever nursed a baby. Nobody had in my husband's family, either. Or if they did, they didn't offer any advice. My mom had been told her milk was "too thin." This was back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when doctors didn't know what "colostrum" was -- that's the early milk women produce during pregnancy. The regular milk comes 24-72 hours after birth, usually. Sometimes later. Anyway, some ignorant doctor held a sample of my mom's colostrum up to the light and pronounced it inadequate. So she fed us a dasterdly mixture of evaporated milk, Kayro corn syrup and vitamin drops. Far inferior nutritionally, but the best they had.

In the 1980s, my elder sister had her babies and tried to breastfeed the first two, but she had chronically inverted nipples. It was painful and frustrating, and the medical staff at her hospital told her she'd never overcome it, so she quit. She didn't even bother trying with her third.

When I had my son in 1999, I knew I also had inverted nipples, so I took some classes and read every book I could find. I figured I'd inherited those nipples, and since formula has only been around for less than 100 years, some female ancestors of mine had to have conquered inverted nipples or the genetic strain of nipple inversion would have died out because the babies would have starved to death.

Nursing my son proved to be difficult and frustrating. La Leche League told me my nipples ought to draw out by 2 weeks, but they didn't. It took four weeks on one side and six on the other. And I was nursing my son every 90 minutes, round the clock (hungry little guy!), so it's not like I didn't work at it. I also used a breast pump and did everything else LLL and the excellent lactation consultants at my hospital suggested.

I'm a stubborn person, so once I decided it was possible, I wasn't going to give up. And my husband -- who was dragged to a breastfeeding class against his will -- was 100% supportive and encouraging. He watched me cry a lot, and he watched our son cry a lot, and he never once said "Give up."

After 4 weeks, breastfeeding was a lot easier. After 6 weeks, it was a cinch. Now, a lot of people would say, "Six weeks is a long time," and in a way, it is. But when you look at the benefits for both me and my son, which really do last a lifetime, 6 weeks is nothing.

All this to say, breastfeeding was a lost art in this country for a long time. Partially due to the ignorance of doctors who told women like my mom that their milk was inadequate. And there are lots of women out there like my sister who could have overcome serious problems with proper help, but they didn't have it. So my opinion is, we need more education and more support for women, so they'll at least try breastfeeding. Women who have challenges like I did need even more help.

Every little bit of breastmilk you get into your baby's mouth is worth it, even if you have to supplement, even if you end up giving up.

Meanwhile, ridiculous articles like the one in Real Simple are doing a disservice to mothers who are on the fence about breastfeeding, or who are facing challenges like I did. And that idiot of a doctor they interviewed needs to go back to medical school.

Here is a website where folks can write to Real Simple or the doctor in question and voice their complaints. If you feel the same way I do, I hope you will write these people a letter. Maybe with enough people telling them they blew it, they will correct their mistake and print a retraction.



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