31 May 2008

Can a mother forget her baby at her Avent Tempo Natural Feeding Nurser?

I can never resist the headlines about breastfeeding.

Here's one from Slate about a large study which seems to have corrected for other factors enough to conclusively indicate that breastfeeding has a positive impact on IQ. But what caught my attention was at the very end of the interview, when cute Emily asked the doctor the question that always concludes these reports, effectively: how guilty are you saying women should feel if they don't breastfeed [exclusively/at length/at all]? And the doctor obediently gives the societally prescribed answer: " . . . mothers who are enjoying breastfeeding are probably gonna do in general better, uh, than mothers who are breastfeeding and hating it. I think that, that, it'll be most beneficial for the kids if the experience is a very good one. I think that, that breastfeeding is more than just nutrition." Emily smiles in satisfaction and thanks him.

I remember reading something similar in, I think, What To Expect the First Year. This isn't an exact quote, but it was along the lines of: a bottle offered in love is better than a breast offered in resentment.

I agree with Dr Spiesel that breastfeeding is more than just nutrition (and he also doesn't exactly say that if breastfeeding makes Mom sad she should quit). But nutrition is a somewhat gigantic part of it. Let's play some Mad Libs with my What To Expect reconstruction: A Twinkie offered in love is better than hummus on whole wheat offered in resentment. I guess I'd better apologize to my babies for putting them through my struggles to nurse them when they could have glugged down Good Start with a happy mom . . . or whoever . . . behind the bottle.

I have nothing but deepest sympathy for moms who finally give up after months of pain; I know very well what drives them to it. But my fangs come out whenever the profundity of that dilemma is denigrated and Baby's needs take a backseat to Mom's hard day.


The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

I am a La Leche League Leader and a lactation consultant. When I did my paper for my certification, since my degree is in psychology, I did a literature review of the IQ studies. It ended up being submitted and accepted by a professional journal. The real role of breasfeeding and IQ, as well as so many other things is truly amazing.

The fact of the matter is that the studies that DEFINED breastfeeding as exclusively breastfeeding for 6 weeks or more showed a statistically significant difference. Those that defined breastfeeding as receiving any milk whatsoever during the first week, did not.

The studies that compared preemie babies getting drip milk (milk that was collected from mothers by putting a resevoir on her breast...only even the foremilk that literally dripped from the mother's breast...not the substantive stuff) showed a +10 point difference compared to those that received high calorie preemie formula or regular formula. This was significant in many ways. The babies weren't fed at the breast. The babies didn't get the nutrients through any active action of their own (because they were not able to do so yet), and they weren't held they were fed through a nasal tube...so it wasn't the attention. To put that ten point difference into perspective, there is only a 30 point range of what is considered normal 85-115. So a 10 point loss in IQ can easily put someone into the developmentally disabled category...or qualify them for membership in Mensa.

There are so many other benefits besides intelligence. Both mothers and female babies have lower rates of breast cancer if the baby was nursed. Lower rates of uterine cancer as well (and other types of cancer). Multiple Sclerosis is virtually unheard of in cultures where breastfeeding is the norm (breastmilk contains the factors that develop the myelin sheath that breaks down in those with MS).

Premie milk is different than milk for a term neonate, and it is different at six months and it is different for a 1 year old (has MORE antibodies for all of those things going in the mouth and the increase social behaviors). In fact, it is different in them morning than in the evening, and it is different depending how the baby sucks. So which one of those human milks is the formula company trying to emulate when they model formula, which is always the same, after human milk? They keep adding things like DHA or Taurine, but they have no idea how much should be there, or if there are yet undiscovered factors that enable it to be absorbed so readily that won't be in formula. They are discovering new components in breastmilk all the time.

Also, immunilogically --A baby also can be exposed to an antigen, nurse, and the mother, not being exposed to the antigen herself, will produce the antibody to protect the baby from getting sick. Cancer cells explode when put in human milk. And as I said before, contrary to the myth that breastmilk is just basically akin to water after ____ months, it is just as nutritious in the 2nd and 3rd year, and contains MORE antibodies.

I am literally amazed at how God creates such a powerful dynamic that the mother's body and the baby work so interactedly and literally create this tremendously intimate biological feedback loop. The baby is able to get exactly what he needs at the moment that he needs it.

There are often ways to deal with pain. Sometimes a biological issue does cause pain, but 90% of the time, positioning needs to be improved. It SHOULDN'T hurt. It really shouldn't. Not for the first week, not for the first month, and not for the first several months. That is an indication that something needs corrected. Call a La Leche League Leader or a lactation consultant. Read a GOOD book (What to Expect the First Year really stinks on its breatfeeding information. Nursing Mother's Companion or Womanly Art of Breastfeeding are MUCH better. Or any of Dr. Sears' books).

God bless a mom for keeping going when it does hurt. But it is hard to nurse your baby when the very thought causes you to cringe and dread the pain. Breastfeeding is supposed to make mothering easier, not harder (once you get used to doing it, and it takes about 4-6 weeks, since mom and baby have never done that before). When I was pregnant with my first, I couldn't imagine breastfeeding. Now I couldn't imagine dealing with formula and bottles. There is nothing to clean, nothing to go bad, no expenses or stress when you are running low, nothing to keep cold.

Not to mention...there are times when there is a good feeding, when the way that my baby just looks up with complete trust, and in some intuitive way, it seems completely clear that it is the way that we are supposed to look to God and trust Him for the blessings that flow from Him. Sometimes I think that I didn't even BEGIN to understand the First Article until I breastfed my children.

In the end, it boils down to the fact that God our creator knew what He was doing when He designed mothers and babies to work the way they do together....In ways that we can only begin to imagine.

Rebekah said...

RPW, many thanks for all that. It's great to have an expert in the neighborhood!

I hope we'll run into each other so we can talk sometime (not unlikely in the LCMS, right? ;) ). No hard feelings whatsoever, but I really felt let down by WAB and Dr Sears, both of which I read very thoroughly before my first baby was born. I had an absolutely terrible breastfeeding experience with her, and those two books made me feel like I was a total idiot and failure for having problems. Worse, they didn't offer solutions since I wasn't supposed to be having problems. I truly, humbly don't understand why breastfeeding literature is so insistent that it "shouldn't" hurt, and that if it does you're not doing it right. I went to LOTS of lactation consultants and medical professionals and none of them saw anything wrong with our latch (or me), but I was still beat up beyond belief. It was months before I could nurse her without pain. It was plain awful.

I posted a while back that now, on baby 4, I've finally had the breastfeeding experience the books describe. Thank God we made it through 1, 2, and 3 (most of all 1--and I certainly knew what I was doing by 3, and still had problems that I wasn't "supposed to"). I honestly don't know how, except that I'm too darn cheap to buy formula.

Gauntlets said...

Aw, sweet! I'm glad I can be a good mom with little effort on the breastfeeding front, as I do such a terrible job on everything else! ;)

As for the pain: I hurt for at least the first three months, and often have bouts of painful weeks until Baby is weaned. This last one was the worst, which is why I weaned her earlier than the others. And I genuinely don't know what I'm doing wrong; our latch looks like it's supposed to. ???

Does the fairness of skin have anything to do with it? I read something about that once, maybe two- or three-hundred years ago.

Reb. Mary said...

RPW, this is the sort of thing that inspires me to carry on :)

Pain: Yeah, I seem to have random recurring bouts too (though for a couple days rather than weeks, and NOTHING like your experiences, Rebekah), though so far this baby has been the best. Hence the breast has been offered to this latest baby with the least resentment, ha ha. That What to Expect quote was one that always pinged rather bitterly through my head too, especially through the struggles the first time around, when I was indeed resentful about many things.

Gauntlets: Congrats on making it so long with all 3 of yours--my first two were done at 11 months; just lost interest. (Not that I tried to encourage them to continue, I must admit. I had lost interest long before they did :0)