…Contemplating the Core Elements of a Modern Breastfeeding Lifestyle
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Beware The Scorn of the Dutiful “Breastfeeding Malcontents”

‘Breastfeeding Malcontents’ are everywhere these days.  Those of us who advocate for breastfeeding need to come to terms with this reality.   The scorn of the dutiful women who have breastfed but ended up feeling disempowered or unhappy with their experiences must be addressed.

These mothers are typically well-educated, well-heeled women who have literally bought into breastfeeding; they have attended classes, purchased books, pumps, gadgets and other products designed to facilitate a positive breastfeeding experience.  Many of these mothers may have even paid lactation experts to help them, but still ended up being dissatisfied with the pressures and constraints associated with breastfeeding in the 21’st Century.

The core idea of La Leche League, mother-to-mother support, which fueled the renaissance of breastfeeding over the last half century, is beginning to backfire. There is a new wave of mothers whose angst is channeled into active discouragement of their friends and peers and an ever increasing need to disprove the value of breastfeeding.

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Helen Rumbelow, the author of “Exposing the Myths of Breastfeeding” is one of these women with a need to ventilate.  She claims that she wrote this exposé because she wanted,  “…to get to the bottom of the medical evidence”.

Her thesis centers on this quote from Joan Wolf, an American academic writing a book on breastfeeding in the West, “The evidence to date suggests it probably doesn’t make much difference if you breastfeed.”

There is no doubt that this comment has stuck in Ms. Rumbelow’s craw as she shares this personal note, “For someone who prolonged my breastfeeding more out of duty than desire, this made me feel slightly nauseous.”  Apparently she is not alone.  She adds, “Many women — the ones who feel that they jeopardised their jobs, marriages, or sanity for the boob — have a right to feel angry about that”

Ms. Rumbelow does not directly tell us about her own experience with breastfeeding.  I am left wondering if these comments might give us a clue:

“…under the weight of this advice from the Department of Health, doctors, midwives, and breastfeeding activists, millions of Western women bow their heads and unclip their Elle Macpherson Maternelle bras.” or  “Dark thought at 3am, when one’s nipples feel like shards of glass. ..”

She can’t seem to make her mind up.  She criticizes the public health authorities for “heavy-handed encouragement of breastfeeding and then facetiously asks us,  “the medical establishment can’t be wrong, can it?”

Lest we forget, breastfeeding is the biologic norm.  Whether or not “Breast is Best” has not been a concern of women until the past 50+ years.  The existence of relatively safe, commercial artificial baby milks to be used in lieu of breastfeeding does not negate the fact that human milk is species specific and designed by nature for human babies.  голова болит секс

Apparently the Chinese Melamine debacle of 2008 was not relevant enough science to be included in the discussion.  The “confounding” effect of which Ms. Rumbelow and her “experts” speak could just as easily be applied to an analysis of formula-feeding with regard to its safety and value in human nutrition.

Medical science is only as good as those funding it and doing the research.  It is interesting to note Dr. Kramer was a speaker at a Nestles conference on infant nutrition held in Beijing, China in 2004.

If doctors were truly that influential in inspiring modern women to breastfeed, why then are the global rates of breastfeeding so abysmal?  Being risk adverse, many doctors do little more than pay lip service to the idea of breastfeeding.  Operating in a managed health care system that stresses conformity, they are often more comfortable managing the intake of formula.

Breastfeeding promotion efforts could learn much from this lesson taken from retail marketing, “…a brand’s worst nightmare is of being hijacked by disgruntled customers with plenty of attitude, heaps of time, and a high-speed Internet connection.

The rancor expressed in Ms. Rumbelow’s article should be a red flag for all of us who support breastfeeding families.  The issue of concern is not about good, bad or indifferent science being applied to breastfeeding vs. formula-feeding.   It is about the experience of breastfeeding in our modern world.

How would you describe your breastfeeding experience?

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July 25, 2009   9 Comments

Breastfeeding Role Models: What Messages Are We Sending

Today is my sister’s birthday.  I vividly remember my mother breastfeeding Daire all those years ago.  She reassured me, as I sat quietly on the bed beside her, that “this is how you feed babies”.  The next three in line would be boys.  By the time our youngest brother arrived, we all understood that breastfeeding was a normal part of taking care of a baby.  For us girls, it was an expectation that when we grew up, that we would follow in mom’s footsteps and breastfeed our own babies. 

Fondly remembering those moments as a child, I wonder what will be the memories of some of the new generation of breastfeeding babies.  Will they remember idyllic feedings at their mother’s breasts? Or will they remember watching and listening to the gentle swishing sound of her pumping out her milk to feed them with a bottle?  Will they see their mother breastfeeding their siblings or see her hooked up to a strange machine? 

What is being modeled these days is not breastfeeding, but some sort of techno version of same.   Mothers often complain, but continue to dutifully pump because they are being told that it will increase their milk supply.  They get up in the middle of the night and are out of synch with their babies; they get up to pump to keep up with the ever increasing amounts of their milk they feel a need to put into bottles.  Their breastfeeding is being driven by measurements of how much they can express and how much their baby takes in a bottle.

Health care professionals regularly urge mothers to supplement with non-human milk, be it from other mammals or soybeans.  The lactation “experts” push back and recommend pumping as necessary in all cases.  Mothers are caught in the middle of this advice and will lose trust in their milk supply when they are focusing more on measured amounts of milk, human or otherwise, given in bottles.  Breastfeeding for them can feel confusing and overwhelming and  early weaning will be a real possibility.

This does not mean that there isn’t a time and place for pumping, such as work outside the home.  What is worrisome is that pumping is being touted as being almost equal to actual breastfeeding.   We all must relate to technology on a regular basis in modern life be it phones, PDA’s, computers, etc..   Although many of us are rather attached to same, we should not be having a relationship with our machines.  Our various gadgets , including pumps, are merely adjuncts to our experience of daily life. 

It is a sad commentary about breastfeeding these days that, for so many women, the attention and fanfare centers around the regimen of pumping.   This is most unfortunate because the magical alchemy is not merely in the liquid gold that is expressed, but in the relationship that exists between the mother and her unique baby as it breastfeeds. 

Mothers, and those in the Lactation community, need to remember that we teach by example. 

I long for the day when we can believe again in the bounty of our female bodies… They are designed to carry our babies for 9 months inside and continue to nourish and protect them long after birth through breastfeeding. 

October 22, 2008   2 Comments

Breastfeeding Survivor: A Mother’s Day Reflection

Survivor is a popular television program here in the States that has run for 16 seasons.  It’s motto is outwit, outplay, outlast and be the ultimate survivor.  The season finale is today, Mother’s Day.  It has been quite fascinating to watch as the final four women used a great deal of cunning and collaborated to eliminate all of their stronger male challengers. 

Watching Survivor made me wonder…

What if the contestants were all nursing moms, babies and their partners?  What would they do without pumps, bottles, nipple shields, supplemental nursing systems and weighing scales?  Would they survive?  How would they know what their baby’s percentile was out there in the wilderness?  Would bottles of formula drop out of the trees along with the coconuts? 

You might recall a news item from a few years back about an African mother  caught in a flood who sought refuge, labored and delivered her baby in a tree.  Although not ideal, birth and breastfeeding began there before she was rescued by the South African military.

Breastfeeding may be natural, but it is definitely a learned behavior.  Peer pressure, combined with token support, leaves many mothers vulnerable to advice and interventions which can destroy their confidence.  Doubts about their milk supply and a sense of being overwhelmed by the work load may cause them to waiver in their desire to continue breastfeeding.

Modern mothers need to outwit, outplay and and outlast the pseudo-science which has been embraced by the medical and lactation establishment and the ubiquitous and clever marketing of formula by the drug companies.  

You should not have to “survive” breastfeeding.  When in doubt, reflect upon what you would do were you on a desert island?  Get back to the basics.

On this Mother’s Day celebrate the power and mystery of your female body which enables you to nurture your baby in the womb and beyond through Conscious Breastfeeding.   

 

 

May 11, 2008   No Comments