Monday, October 22, 2018

True Facts About Breastfeeding

Mother and Child by Mary Cassatt

Upon my arrival home after a road trip, my in-box had several letters informing me of articles that were written in the last month online, and asked me to refute some of the false teachings in them. I don't like to do that, as I don't want to start any kind of a war, but I can see that things are sliding back into ignorance I just want to point out a few true facts about breastfeeding. If you did not breast feed, please do not take offense!

In the late 1960's and early 1970's, until the present time, there was a  huge rejection of the way babies were delivered and fed. People (including those of my generation) wanted to go back to the most natural way possible that provided the most health for the mothers and babies, and so the practice of Midwifery and the La Leche League was formed to give help to women who wanted to have a more gentle birth, and breast feed their infants.  

In the 1950's, pregnancy and birth was largely controlled by doctors, who were in my opinion, quite Spartan* in their approach to bringing children into the world and feeding them. In the western world, this was quite a modern way of letting babies cry and howl with hunger, because it wasn't on the schedule for them to eat, or letting babies cry themselves to sleep because they were cold or needed to have the comfort of their mother's body near their body.  This was discouraged, but many women sought a better and more peaceful, kind and loving way, through breastfeeding when the baby was hungry, and through keeping them close to the mother during infancy.
Mother and Child Mary Cassett 1880

For a few decades, the midwives and nursing coaches made good progress in helping the medical profession and the hospitals become more aware of the true facts about the natural science of infant feeding and sleeping, and many hospitals began providing birthing rooms, and rooms where the infant was kept beside the mother at all times. It was good to see that the midwives had even gone through legal channels to make midwifery legal, and that doctors were no longer pushing the painful and unnatural procedures, and were even strongly advocating more education about breast feeding. Most doctor's offices provided videos about breastfeeding for expectant mothers. An entire generation was changed by this, and many dangerous birthing procedures and infant feeding customs were replaced by the God-given (natural) ways that existed from the beginning.

Recently it is very sad to see that again, the old doctor type of delivery and feeding has made a comeback, and young women are not aware of the old paths where the good walk is. They accept everything that doctors tell them, and they do not seek any other information.  It may be that they are anxious to return to work, so they want to follow the doctor's orders to put their babies on a schedule and pump their milk instead of having breast contact with the baby.  It also may be due to some of the modern religious books that are on the market now, telling them to put the baby on a schedule and not allow the baby in the bed with the mother.  Someone sent me a book where it told how it would "harm your marriage" if the infant was in bed with the mother. The only way this would "harm" a marriage is if the husband was extremely demanding, selfish or ignorant of the intricate process of breastfeeding.  

One thing I want to say about this is that an infant is helpless and totally dependent upon the care of his mother. She must never allow anything to come between that. People who put demands on the nursing mother to get up and go to work, or even do more housework, are truly selfish.  My mother had 7 children and my father always did the cooking and housework when she had an infant. We also helped, but my father never demanded she recover quickly and get back to her work. That baby was her occupation for the time being.

So before you decide you do not like what I just wrote, please go here to read more about the scientific way the breasts and the baby function together.  In a nutshell, the baby shows these signs  called "hunger cues" when it is time to suck,  and the mother's milk begins to descend and her breasts tingle with urgency to be emptied by the baby. When someone tries to stop that natural procedure, the breasts become painfully engorged.  Of course there is "pumping" but that was not available in the past, so the mothers milk was always given fresh to the baby.  One thing that naturally happens, is when an infant cries, the breast milk begins to come forth, and you can feel it. Sometimes the father or someone else who is not educated on the matter, will taken the baby out of the room away from the mother and try to "discipline" it to stop crying!  

Some modern writers think so lowly of the mother and infant that they advocate separation from the beginning, not allowing them to breastfeed in bed. Feeding the infant is the mother's job at this time, and it is so important that she have a sense of well-being and be able to relax and have plenty of rest and food and liquids, and to be able to feed her baby when he needs it. It is unfortunate that the word "demand" is used in the phrase "feeding on demand" because infants are not being "demanding". They are in need and are responding to that urgent need. It should be called "feeding urgency."  The words "feeding on demand" somehow brings up the idea that an infant is selfish and demanding and that he needs regulation. So I'm changing the phrase to something else. If you can think of something better than the word "demand, " please leave me a comment!

You cannot put an infant on a schedule or use breastfeeding as a matter of discipline. Infants do not need discipline because all they know is what their bodies are signaling.  This modern advice from the new marriage and child rearing books is nothing but the old advice from the 1950's when doctors took over the midwive's jobs. 

Of course I don't want to demean you in any way if you did not breastfeed, but I also don't want the ignorance to continue.  It is like whenever I was a poor housekeeper:  I didn't think people who were promoting good housekeeping were condemning me or trying to put guilt on me. I wanted to know the best way.

It is not up to a husband to forbid breastfeeding. It is not his realm at all. To do so is a show of great ignorance of the way a mother's breasts function during pregnancy and after birth. He doesn't guide and guard the home: the woman does: (Ist Timothy 5:14)  He cannot "command" a different way than what God has already said in his word. Knowing this, some immature and selfish men will put a lot of pressure and strong influence on their wives to allow the neglect of infants, and the wife feels powerless to overcome his dominance. But it is right and good to care for an infant and to become aware of the suffering of infants.  It is not good to put them on a schedule or put them away from the mother to sleep, and you will find they eventually develop a schedule where they are predictably feeding at certain times.

 In the Old Testament there are indications that families slept in the same room together. There was no command to do this, but it was simply a custom. Bedding was rolled up and used for seating during the day, and rolled into the bedding for sleeping. Parents were told to teach their children "as you sit in your house and as you lie down." Of course, I am a Christian, and do not follow any Jewish law or custom, but I just wanted to point out the ancient way of sleeping was considered normal at that time. When my children were little we would lie down with them to help them go to sleep and tell them Bible stories and other things.  I'm not saying we all must sleep in the same room, but I am using that as an example that the infants were sleeping very close to the mothers.

Breastfeeding and keeping the infant  in close physical contact also helps the health of the mother, because she has grown close to the child in pregnancy and now still needs him near her. Her body is healed faster by breastfeeding.  Her breasts will develop health, and the baby's mouth, tongue, eyesight, and a lot of other things are involved! Things will gradually change as the infant grows but to circumvent this natural process with advice from child-training books and marriage books is not good for the emotional and physical well-being of either the mother or the child and is not a good example to others in the family.

Before you hate me and before I "lose votes" (a quote from Wives and Daughters), please go to this link and read it well, and then to this link,  "How Does Breastfeeding Work" and educate yourself.  Husbands should read these links too.

I was hesitant to address this because I don't want to seem to be retaliating to anyone who believes the opposite, but I just want to give young women the chance to understand the God-given way things work between infants and their mothers. The infant is not "sinful" or bad because it cries or needs its mother.  This is the way God designed it.  I hope you will read these links!  I realize, as Lady Harriot said in "Wives and Daughters" that I will "lose votes"!  The process of infant feeding is a closely aligned relationship between the crying and the milk coming in. Each one signals the other!

Here is another good link called "Six Ways Your Breast Milk Changes for Your Baby's Needs." This is certainly interesting, since no formula exactly does this.




Mrs. White said...

This is excellent. I appreciate your writing about this. It is a peaceful, natural thing to be a mother and to take care of, and nurse, an infant. You are right that this is very important and should be explained. I agree with you completely. Thank you!

messy bessy said...

Thank you for posting this. It is hard to have a conversation about this since so many women in the US are trapped in a life (often not their own first choice) of working full time while still having babies. Natural breastfeeding (as opposed to the schedule-driven kind that many moms get hoodwinked into) as you say requires mother-baby closeness. A lot of the troubles that modern women have with breastfeeding stem from not realizing this.

As a Catholic doula (a childbirth companion), I try to help clients to understand how beautiful this mother-baby relationship can be. It does entail that we let go of our expectations. Our Lord did not promise us that we would sleep uninterrupted throughout every night, nor did he promise us that we would get "a break" from motherhood or the neediness of babies.

The lovely truth of letting go of these expectations is that babies that are held, nursed on cue, and attended to with closeness day AND night overwhelmingly develop into sturdy, independent, healthy toddlers. The health benefits are enormous, but so are the psychological and emotional ones. And this also goes for the mothers, who can experience a longer delay of fertility (different for each woman, but the average lapse in those who breastfeed on demand, day and night, keeping baby close, is about 13 months), giving their bodies time to heal.

This information is widely available and I would encourage women who think differently to realize that this is not primarily a matter of BELIEF but of KNOWLEDGE. Those who choose not to nurture their babies this way are not acting immorally, but they might be acting somewhat ignorantly.

Lydia said...

I agree. It is not an opinion issue. It is not a preference issue. It isn't even a religious issue. It is a knowledge issue. If you read labels on your grocery food, you are trying to give your family the purest food for their body and brain development. If you are feeding an infant, increase your knowledge of what is going into the body of the infant and the mother, and how the sucking is important too the development of both bodies!!

Lydia said...

I would like to address that "sleep" problem too.. because people think the mother will be "sleep deprived"...I don't actually find that to be true. It is just a change in a sleeping pattern. No one will become permanently damaged by lack of sleep from feeding an infant.In fact, she cannot sleep if her infant needs to be fed, because the tingling of her milk supply into her breasts will wake her up.

Rozy Lass said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I loved nursing my babies and did it for as long as I could with each one. I know many women pump their breasts, but I think they are missing out on one of the best aspects of breastfeeding, that being that the baby regulates just what he/she needs by how long he/she nurses. If a baby is simply thirsty, the first milk is thin and watery and satisfies a thirst without extra calories. When a baby is hungry, he/she can nurse longer and get the right amount of protein and nutrients to satisfy that hunger. When going through a growth spurt, he/she can nurse even longer and get the added fat of the "hind milk". When pumped, all that mixes together and can be more than the baby wants or needs. God truly designed the breast to be the best system of feeding for a child. Studies also are showing that babies improve their "gut flora" and consequently their digestion and immunity by nursing directly on the breast, picking up the bacteria (the good kind) from the mother that improves immunity and overall health. The grand designs of the Creator just keep being discovered.

I have great compassion for mothers who have to leave their babies to go back to work. It must be heart wrenching and at times discouraging. I believe God makes up for this in HIs own way and in His own time, according to our faith and obedience.

amulbunny's random thoughts said...

I had 2 C-sections. My children were brought to me as soon as they were cleaned and I held them. I have a pelvic deformity which prevented my children from descending into the birth canal.
I breast fed both of them. The first didn't need formula, he was a great feeder. The second needed supplements, she was always too busy checking out what was going on around her, even if we were in a quiet room.
I picked up my babies when they cried, they needed me. Unlike the advice of a certain child training author, infants cannot manipulate their needs to keep their mothers close. I was with them when they needed me.
I believed in co-sleeping as well. Didn't spoil either of them.

Lydia said...

Rozy interesting about the different grades of milk according to the age and the need of the infant! And the milk quality is different for a preemie!

Kathy said...

Excellent post! Thank you so much for taking the time to write it!

SheLaughs said...

Women should be encouraged to "feed the need" instead of "feed on demand". Babies NEEDS are the same as their WANTS. My first two were breastfed for 2 years and right months, and then for three years, respectively. When my third baby arrived, we struggled with breastfeeding -- nipple shields, poor latch, inability to suck, poor weight gain, etc. We finally had to start supplementing with formula when my breasts just refused to be pumped. But I refused to quit. We worked and worked and worked at it. My house fell around me but I was determined to breastfeed my baby. Finally, we were able to get rid of the nipple shields and we have gotten to about 80% of his feeding come from me and about 20% of it coming from formula. He's 4 months old now. I am praying that Once we start solids we can wean him off the formula itself and he can be nourished solely by the foods I provide for him. My son never leaves my side and we nurse constantly. Praise God for a husband who understands and supports me in all this!

Lydia said...

Feed the need is a good name, rather than the word demand.

Lynn said...

Besides breast feeding which is absolutely the best for the baby...during the birth DO NOT LET THE DOCTOR OR NURSE CLAMP THE UMBILICAL CORD NOR CUT IT TILL ALLLLLL THE BLOOD HAS PASSED FROM THE MOTHER TO THE BABY. IT IS VITAL AND NECESSARY FOR THE BABY'S MENTAL DEVELOPMENT. IF that is clamped or cut, the child's brain development will be less than is should be. This is something I just learned about....please pass this on to all who need to know this.