February 16, 2009

"People are very cagey about saying anything that might give breastfeeding a bad name."

Maybe "breast is best" is wrong.

(Adorable breastfeeding picture at the link.)


Jason (the commenter) said...

I also heard that some breast fed babies were showing signs of vitamin D deficiency.

Sun exposure helps humans make vitamin D. But some women are cutting their sun exposure so much, for fear of getting skin cancer, that they are becoming deficient in the vitamin. Babies that drink the milk and don't get enough sunlight, can end up developing rickets. I have no idea what could be happening to the women.

Here is a good case for taking vitamins! At least cod liver oil.

AST said...

We're mammals, aren't we? So how much bigger losers could we be than to be unable to feed our infants in the most natural way there is?

Maybe it really is time for humans to go extinct.

blake said...

If there's a problem with getting enough milk the usual way, you express to a bottle and supplement.

As far as I know there's no substitute for the antibodies infants get from their mothers.

Revenant said...

I know a woman who had this exact problem with her firstborn. He wouldn't take enough breast milk to keep a healthy weight, and for months she refused to feed him "artificial" food to make up for it. Her arguments were (1) that breast milk is healthier and (2) that breastfeeding is natural.

My view? It isn't healthier than starvation, and it is "natural" for most babies to die in childhood. The notion that natural = good is one of the most pernicious and harmful myths of modern times.

Chip Ahoy said...

How very curious. I just now finished a chapter on this subject in a section on real milk, butter, and cheese in Nina Plank's book Real Food What to Eat and Why. What surprised me was the length of time it's recommended, three years, even up to six.

Plank quotes Fiona Giles from Fresh Milk: the Secret Life of Breasts who collected memories of nursing from young children. "It was comforting and relaxing, "said an eight-year-old boy. "I looked forward to it." A twelve-year-old girl was more blunt: "The word addictive comes to mind." An older sibling who had been weaned acted out her own farewell as she watched the new baby nurse. She would cover her mother's breasts and say, "Bye bye, delicious milk."

Synova said...

In the Air Force hospital the nurses weighed the diapers to be certain that the baby was getting enough fluids... granted, they also kept us for three days (like hospitals used to do). And well baby checks are every couple of days and then longer and always include weighing the baby (the article says that in the UK there is not a lot of baby weighing.) It would be easy enough to inform a mother about how to watch for enough urine and those sorts of things.

It's true that you can't tell how much a baby nurses from a breast, but you can weigh the diapers. It's not rocket science.

My third baby was born five weeks early at a civilian hospital in San Jose and wouldn't latch on properly because the *ss-wipes gave her a bottle of freaking sugar water before I'd even tried to nurse "to be sure she could swallow" and then sent us home the next day. For at least a month it took 15 minutes of coaxing to get her to latch on properly. (Not only do I produce enough milk... when I "let down" I *spray*. And on my third child I certainly knew what I was doing.)

My fourth baby had no problems nursing because it was a different hospital and they weren't retarded.

Do some women have trouble nursing? Yes, they do. And they shouldn't feel guilty about not being able to nurse, if it doesn't work for them. But much of the advice I have heard guarantees failure, which is annoying.

But if a baby won't suck enough, there's not much you can do because that's what tells your body to produce more milk. There were times that I had no more than half an hour after nursing before having to nurse again, with slightly longer breaks for naps. Something like that should only last a few days, your breasts increase another cup size, and then you're good again. If you feed your baby from a bottle, you just told your boobs that no more is needed... and they won't produce more.

I always want to know, when people say they don't produce enough milk, if someone told them to time feedings... if they've done something to send the wrong signals to their body.

If not, fine, I'm not a breastfeeding nazi... my kids got formula eventually, too. It just bugs me when someone who wants to breastfeed can't because they got bad advice.

Certainly a person can keep trying long after they should have quit... weigh the babies and weigh the diapers. And if junior is hungry every half hour then feed him every half hour.

blake said...

I've known women to do the nursing-till-eight thing.

It's odd.

Synova said...

Jason: My baby sister had trouble with her baby not getting enough sun and starting to get rickets or whatever. Her doctor told her that new mothers were getting so obsessed with sun-screens, sun-hats and keeping babies covered up that the babies don't get any vitamin D from the sun.

As far as I know, she bottle feeds.

Her doctor told her to let the kid get some sunlight.

Donna B. said...

No two cases are the same. My daughter was quite successful in breastfeeding her baby until the third day, when the baby was just too sleepy to eat.

Why NO ONE mentioned that the pain meds my daughter was getting after an emergency caesarian section were also in the breast milk is beyond me.

As an 'experienced' grandma, I told my daughter that the baby was dehydrating because it's just not normal to have two dry diapers in a row... when they should be wet.

Off to the pediatrician we went and the poor child had lost almost a pound in a few days... That is tremendous when the baby weighed 7'8" at birth!

They started feeding her formula in the doctor's office, and told my daughter to pump until she was off pain meds. Of course, daughter decided she could go off pain meds that day... Um... no. She was miserable.

A week later, daughter is off pain meds, but dear grandchild won't suckle. Three months of pumping and feeding by bottle hopefully gave her as good a beginning as possible.

Some mothers simply do not produce nutritional milk, some produce little or none. This is sad for the few mothers it happens to, especially now that it is almost a requirement that one breastfeed or be labeled a bad momma.

In the days before infant formula was readily available, wet nurses were there because there was a need for them.

AST... you can, um... leave for the nether regions ASAP.

Synova said...

If nothing else, at least a wet nurse didn't get a baby all confused about how to suck.

chickenlittle said...

My wife breast-fed both ours to healthy weight. I don't recall how long each were on the boob, but we never bottle fed.

I can't believe nobody's mentioned a big advantage of breast feeding: NOT SMELLY DIAPERS! As a full participant in that aspect (diapering) I was grateful for the natural course of things. The day those babies hit the jars was the first day of stinky-but-cute.

Donna B. said...

chickenlittle - your comment reminds me of my dear son-in-law when speaking of a formula called "Good Start". He said... yeah, but they forgot to mention the "Bad Ending".

As a career soldier, he did not appreciate my observation that the bad ending was the exact color of Army green.

Since then, the Army has changed their colors somewhat, but 'army green' is still a complimentary color.

chickenlittle said...

@Donna: Yes, I recall the ending color--snotty green as it were--but still, I wonder if breast-fed poo and formula-fed poo smells remain the same.

Donna B. said...

Synova -- that's interesting what you say about schedules... because my daughter was told to feed her baby every three hours.

My step-daughter who was unsuccessful at breastfeeding her first two babies, decided with her third to ignore all advice and just do what she felt her baby wanted... and it was feeding every 30 minutes for a while.

Mothers today are bombarded with advice, but very little useful information. All the advice is geared toward breastfeeding and toward those to whom breastfeeding comes easily.

For all you men out there, you should know that large-breasted women have more trouble breastfeeding than small breasted women do... so be careful how you judge!

chickenlittle said...

...so be careful how you judge!

Oh, I would never conflate form with function!

AllenS said...

At 62 years of age, I still like the concept.

Eric said...

The baby will simply have to understand.

rhhardin said...

adorable picture

It doesn't look adorable to me, but then guys are the gender that eases away from the infant in the Kmart checkout line rather than creeping closer and smiling.

al said...

Our son wanted nothing to do with my wife's breast so we ended up formula feeding. She was so frustrated that she didn't even try when our daughter was born. Formula, OTOH, made sure I was involved in the nightly feedings...

It doesn't look adorable to me

It's a great picture - but then I'm one of those guys who smiles and waves at little kids when I see them in shopping carts. If the kid is acting up and I'm with my son (now 23) I point out to the parents that they will eventually be someone you'll want to take to the store with you. Smiles all around.

traditionalguy said...

Thank you God that I am not a woman. Babies take a lot of work to do right.

rhhardin said...

Now a picture of a Doberman pup sleeping nestled under his mom's chin, that's adorable.

But that's because to have great gentleness you have to have great strength.

Something the media have not been able to come to terms with.

The pup itself is essentially a crazy person.

It is not by accident that evolution makes babies weak.

rhhardin said...

Thurber and White, Is Sex Necessary?

``The boy of six wants to play outside the house all the time. He doesn't even want to come into the house for his meals. On the other hand, little girls like to be in the house as much as they can. When dusk falls, the little boys are restless under the urge to be several blocks away, playing Go, Sheepy, Go, but the little girls want to be home putting their dolls to bed. Usually at least one of the dolls is ill and needs constant attention...''

Freeman Hunt said...

I can't believe nobody's mentioned a big advantage of breast feeding: NOT SMELLY DIAPERS!


Also, fewer or no ear infections!

(My son is two and just weaned.) I'm not sure how things would be able to get so out of hand with dehydration in the United States. You go to the doctor something like three days after the child is born and then a week and a half after that, and they always check the weight. If there's a problem, they'll tell you to add formula. Also, they harp on the signs of dehydration over and over and over. Seems easy enough.

Donna B., I can't believe they told your daughter to schedule for every three hours! That is so wrong. Someone should be in trouble for giving out that advice. I don't know anyone who breastfed for a year or more who did that in the beginning.

Ann Althouse said...

"when I "let down" I *spray*."

I think a lot of women are surprised to discover from personal experience that milk doesn't flow out through a single duct, it sprays. It's fun, while taking a bath to see if you can spray it all the way to hit the opposite wall. It's not fun when you want to wear a t-shirt in the summer, and the spray pattern is squirting through for all the world to see. But wear black and it's less noticeable, or at least no one will tell you they see.

Trooper York said...

If Luckyoldson were awake he would say "Let the suckfest continue."

Joan said...

Well, I've had plenty of opportunities to tell my difficult breastfeeding stories here before so I won't repeat them at any length -- my oldest was given a bottle in the hospital and fought with me over nursing for about a week, my daughter (second child) had a "non-nutritive suck" so I had to pump. (Third time was the charm, LOL.)

Suffice it to say that Freeman Hunt is right, dehydration isn't as big a problem here in the US because of the frequency of post-natal checkups and the repetitive training on dehydration. There is a lot of bad advice out there, too -- nursing and timed feedings are entirely incompatible.

This quote from the article leapt out at me: Severe hypernatraemic dehydration is a rare but potentially fatal condition.

Well is it rare, or becoming more common? How rare is it if one baby per hospital per week is being treated for it? That doesn't sound all that rare to me. Reporting like this makes me detest newspapers.

Maybe breast isn't best.

(rolls eyes) There are always exceptions.

paul a'barge said...

good lord, do you mean to say that these women don't know that their babies are still hungry after draining the girls?

Get 'em a freakin' bottle of formula to augment, for crying out loud.

paul a'barge said...

Freeman Hunt:
(My son is two and just weaned.)

wow, has it been 2 years already?

All of a sudden, I feel very, very old.

Freeman Hunt said...

I think a lot of women are surprised to discover from personal experience that milk doesn't flow out through a single duct, it sprays.

Also that you can make it do that in the beginning merely by momentarily thinking of the baby eating. Like being some kind of milk jedi.

wow, has it been 2 years already?

Does not seem possible to me either.

blake said...

Heh. If a woman uses a breast pump, you can make her start lactating by imitating the sound of the breast pump.

I mean, I've heard.

I would never.

Joe said...

My oldest wanted nothing to do with breastfeeding; she wouldn't even try (and her stubbornness has existed to this day.) She is now breastfeeding her new daughter quite successfully (my daughter would say too successfully--she produces an insane amount of milk, which is grist for an excessive amount of teasing.)

The next two tried but preferred the bottle. Our fourth and last tried but wasn't getting enough nourishment, so we supplemented with some formula (though it wasn't a lot after the first two weeks.)

All my kids had a low incidence of ear infection. The oldest has very narrow ear canals and had the strangest tonsils until they were taken out.

Don't know where the no smelly diaper thing came from. That wasn't true in my experience.

traditionalguy said...

I congratulate the commentariat for going all day without making any Breast jokes. I am impressed. A mother breast feeding her baby is inherently worthy of our respect. All other breast stories are fair game, however.

chickenlittle said...

Don't know where the no smelly diaper thing came from. That wasn't true in my experience.

Oh come on! You must have noticed a difference in the foul and nasty department.

Also, were you paying attention the very first time your child tasted sucrose (table sugar)? Ah-mazing

JAL said...

Late to the show.

breast-fed poo and formula-fed poo smells different! Remarkably different.

Sometime my kids (all 4 breastfed, weaned from 14 months to 3 years) wouldn't have a BM for several diapers -- they could digest so much of the breast milk. #3 was very premature (12 weeks) , was in hopsital for 10 weeks. Never had a problem nuring. But I had already been through it with two others, and experience and confidence helps.

First kid nursed very long, and VERY frequently (every 2 hours at least). Never followed a "schedule" with any of them. Per the discussion on a later Althouse post between fls, Pogo et al. Occasionally one doesn't listen to a doctor -- if they are talking about something they do not know about ;-)

A bit of a kerfuffle going on in Asheville, NC about breastfeeding mothers picketing a Denny's because a manager asked a breastfreeding mother (1 year old) to please cover her breast while feeding in the restaurant. NC has a law which specifically allows breastfeeding in public even if it means exposing breast and nipple and states this is not indecent exposure.