Monday, May 22, 2006

Why Breastfeeding Matters

For years I looked forward to breastfeeding another baby. More than any other thing, like the baby’s health or having a C-section, I worried that I’d be unable to nurse. For no good reason, of course, I nursed her older sister for 9 months without any problems, but that’s how much it mattered to me.

I know that there a women who don’t or can’t breastfeed their babies. People adopt. A small group of women literally can’t produce enough milk to nourish their newborns. An even larger number want to but don’t know how or don’t get good advice. Modern life makes it hard to breastfeed successfully. Bottles are synonymous with babies-look in any Hallmark store. Women only get 6 weeks of disability after a healthy birth. That’s just the amount of time it takes for breastfeeding to come “naturally”. Next month I’m going to talk more about the “how” of breastfeeding, but today I’m going to discuss why I think it matters.

I’ve talked to many women online about this subject and God forbid if you say anything about a women’s right to choose-choose formula, that is. They’re right, of course. It is their choice to give formula, but I think it’s a bad choice or, at the very least, a less-than-ideal choice. Here’s why:

Breastfeeding is an extension of the womb. Before birth, babies are nourished and protected in the uterus. The antibodies that baby received through mom’s blood now get passed through the breast milk, helping to prevent infection while the baby’s immune system develops. Breast milk is so fine tuned for each baby that the mom of a premature baby will produce milk especially for a preemie’s needs, with extra calories, protein and vitamins.

Breast milk is the original “live food”. It is rich in living white blood cells that help destroy infectious agents. In a recent study, breast milk put on cancer cells killed the cancer cells. Last month’s Mothering magazine had an article about putting breast milk on eyes to fight eye infections. Breast milk contains fatty acids that are essential for brain development, the myelination of neurons that continues until a child is seven. This cannot be duplicated in a can. Breast milk contains over 100 different ingredients that aren’t in formula and the ones that are added to formula are better absorbed from mother’s milk-like iron.

Breastfeeding is personal. Your baby gets to know you better through breastfeeding. Before birth, your baby already recognizes your voice. Studies have shown that newborns prefer the smell of their own mom’s milk over milk from other women. What you eat will affect the smell and taste of your milk, helping baby develop a taste for the foods he or she will later eat. We live in a world where people have become dependant on processed food that is often indistinguishable from one brand to the next. High levels of fat, sugar and salt in foods have created an obese nation with diseases that were once rare: diabetes, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure, not to mention cancer, are epidemic. Breastfed babies are less likely to develop any of these diseases. Give your baby the gift of a lifetime-good nutrition from the very start.

Breastfeeding is political. Some of you may be old enough to remember the Nestle boycott of the 1970’s (I am, too). Basically, Nestle used shameful marketing practices and gave away enough free formula to women in third-world countries, telling them it was better than breast milk. Their milk dried up. Often, they would use more water to “stretch” the formula or they didn’t have proper sanitation to sterilize bottles. Babies starved. This boycott was restarted in 1988. (For more information, go to Moms everywhere have become “Lactivists”, protesting companies that have interfered with a woman’s right to breastfeed. When Barbara Walters and her cohorts on “The View” last year said that breastfeeding was “gross and disgusting”, hundreds of breastfeeding women turned up at ABC studios to protest. Love your body and your baby: breastfeed.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Writer's Block

It must be the weather. I've got 2 articles on the back burner-one about breastfeeding and one for Father's Day. I can't seem to finish either of them and I've got to get at least one to Marilynn. And I'm writing for 2 other blogs. And I'm trying to write up something for work. Plus taking care of baby and the rest of the family, unpacking, running and "thinking" about putting in some hours at the coop. My husband looked at me the other day and said, "Just BE with your baby. You don't always have to do three things at once." Good advice.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Wearing my baby

I’m Wearing My Baby (with apologies to Madonna)

Papa don’t preach, we’re not losing sleep.
Papa don’t preach, cause we co-sleep.
And during the day, Iiiiiiiiiii’m wearing my baby.
I’m gonna wear my baby, oooh ooooh.

Don’t laugh. My baby happens to think I’m quite clever. She also thinks I’m a great singer, although her experience is rather limited in that area. This month I’m talking about babywearing. Mothers (and dads, granddads, grandmoms and all kinds of relatives) all around the world carry their young infants and toddlers while they do their daily activities. The Inuit carry their babies in an amautik. In Mexico, it’s called a rebozo. Manta, perraja, podegi, sarongs, kikoy, tonga and mei tai are all traditional carriers. So is the native American cradle board. In every region of the world babies are carried and held close until they are big enough to explore the world on their own.

So why do we put our children in strollers? Maybe, like breastfeeding and co-sleeping, it came to be seen as something common or lower class. Even primitive. But carrying your baby has many, many benefits. Studies have shown that babies that are carried for at least 2 hours a day cry less and have less colic. It is a convenient way to breastfeed discretely. Some babies even prefer nursing while in motion. Sitting up and seeing the world, as opposed to be tucked away in a carrier, is great for baby’s development, both social and cognitive. Being held close, warm and secure is also good for bonding.

Remember, your baby just spent the last nine months in a cozy, little cave. She or he never knew cold, were never startled by sudden movements and could hear mom’s heartbeat every second. Suddenly, they’re out in the big, wide world. To my way of thinking, if it took nine months for baby to come out, it takes nine months for baby to get used to the world (at least). The first few months, especially, baby is essentially still gestating. The brain is still developing and will be for the first 2 years. A newborn has to learn night from day, cold from hot, that mommy is a separate being. It’s a lot for baby to take in. When my daughters would get overwhelmed and fussy, nothing made them calm like being curled up their baby sling and walked around. At first, they’d go in the fetal position, all tucked away, and later they’d sit up and have a look at the world. I’d go to stores and people wouldn’t even realize I had a baby in there.

My favorite thing about my sling is that it has brought all sorts of people into my life. Everywhere I go, people ask me about it. The cashier at the local Asian market smiled and told me how her baby likes to be carried because it keeps her warm. A young, pregnant, Russian woman and her husband came up to me in a restaurant to see where I bought it. Many people in her country use them, she told me, but she had never seen any here. With my little one poking her head out, I get smiles from people of every background and suddenly the world seems like a smaller, friendlier place.

**A wonderful book I found is called: A Ride on Mother's Back: A Day of Baby Carrying around the World by Emery Bernhard. It shows people around the world carrying their babies as they go about their daily activities. I don’t want to endorse any particular style or brand. is a wonderful site with many different types of slings, pouches and gear for carrying your kid. It also has great links and articles about babywearing. This site and (type in “babywearing” in the search area) were used as sources for this article and go into great detail about the studies mentioned above.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The articles

So, after some consideration, I've decided to keep this page and the more personal Pooter page. This site is going to include the articles I've written for the George Street Co-op's newsletter as well as other stuff about Attachment Parenting. Here's the first one:

Why Attachment Parenting?

Fifteen years ago I was pregnant with my first daughter. I knew right away there were some things I wanted to do that were considered different. Breastfeeding was one; I heard my sister and mom talk about breastfeeding and there was never a doubt I’d do it too. I wanted to use cloth diapers. That raised a few eyebrows. I made my own baby food, again with the help of my sister. I found a great “new” product, called a baby sling and “wore” my baby instead of using a stroller. Curled up in the fetal position, sound asleep, my daughter went with me everywhere, tucked at my side while few people even realized I had a baby with me. When they did, the response was overwhelmingly positive and yet, I never did see any other moms or dads wearing their babies.

This past year when I got pregnant again I wanted to do all those things and more. In the ensuing years my awareness of environmental and health issues had grown. As I started to search online about various subjects: vaccine safety, organic foods, home birth, co-sleeping, I found out that there was a name for this type of parenting-Attachment Parenting. Also called Natural Parenting or Instinctive Parenting, Wikipedia has a definition I can’t improve upon, so I’ve included it:

“Attachment parenting describes a parenting approach rooted in attachment theory. The infant has a tendency to seek closeness to another person and feel secure when that person is present. In comparison, Sigmund Freud proposed that attachment was a consequence of the need to satisfy various drives. In attachment theory, children attach to their parents because they are social beings, not just because they need other people to satisfy drives. Attachment is part of normal child development.”

The phrase Attachment Parenting was coined by Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician. He felt that if children were raised with strong, emotional bonds to their parents, they would development into secure, empathetic adults. Although meant to be a loose style of parenting, Dr. Sears’ website includes the 7 Baby B’s:
  1. Birth bonding
  2. Breastfeeding
  3. Baby wearing
  4. Bedding close to baby
  5. Belief in the language value of your baby’s cry
  6. Beware of baby trainers
  7. Balance

Many AP parents also make other alternative health choices, such as naturopathy, anti-circumcision, anti-vaccination, homeschooling, cooperative movements and organic foods. There’s no dogma, though, no rules to follow. Just the desire to develop a close, loving relationship with your kids.

Critics say that Attachment Parenting is too hard for many parents to do, that it’s too time consuming and impractical. Indeed, many parents in the United States go back to work six weeks after the birth of their child, often because they need the double income and/or health benefits. My friend from the Czech Republic says that her country of origin, mothers are guaranteed three years off. Even our neighbor to the North, Canada, gives parents three months off with almost full pay and another nine at reduced pay. Don’t even get me started on Universal Health Care. Here in the USA, a mom gets six weeks of disability after a vaginal birth and eight weeks after a caesarian. Guaranteed by federal and New Jersey law, a woman can get up to another 12 weeks, without pay, of family leave. The guarantee means they won’t fire you and you keep you health benefits for that time period. The law, however, heavily favors the employer and not the parents. Without a second paycheck, many working class families can’t even take advantage of this benefit. Some parents find ways to work out of the home, cut back expenses radically and make use of a large support network. Currently, my husband and I each work part time. It’s a struggle to make ends meet, but we feel it’s worth it. Our baby is always with a parent and in her own home.

Other critics say that it leads to spoiling a child. I could write for a week on that, but suffice it to say studies have been done showing that babies whose needs are consistently met cry less over time. You can’t spoil a baby! From my own experience, I can see the difference in my own baby. When we first brought her home from the hospital, her cries went from zero to piercing in seconds. Now that she knows someone is going to respond to her, she gives little, “warning” yells. She doesn’t start screaming unless one of can’t get to her for more than a few minutes. She is learning to trust, which is the real job of babyhood.