baby feeding lore

My child just turned 18, and I am a seriously proud mom.

He’s very smart (honor roll).
He’s very talented in every artistic endeavor he’s tried (award-winning).
He’s an outstanding soccer player (those athlete genes come from his grandfathers; athletic skill skipped the parent generation).
He thinks for himself.
He has empathy.
We’ve accomplished our most important goal: we’ve raised a mensch.
I can write this safe in the knowledge that he’s unlikely to read this. 😀

I’m not writing it to embarrass him, it’s a preamble to a small rant about breastfeeding.

I’m writing about this uncharacteristic topic– let’s call it lothlaurien’s baby lore– because I believe breastfeeding and the parenting style I learned about through La Leche League, was an extraordinarily important part of the foundation we laid in raising our amazing child.

I’m writing this today because I stumbled on a blog where a parent was worrying about when to start feeding babies solid foods. And although a lot more people understand breastfeeding a lot more now eighteen years later, the fact that parents are still agonizing over the question is indication enough that the baby feeding industry is still pushing, and new parents often lack the confidence and support they need to make informed choices. The problem of course is that babies can’t speak in their own defense, and breastfeeding parents don’t have the money to fight rich conglomerate advertising campaigns. Pretty much the best we can do is to help one another and spread good information by word of mouth.

They say what goes around comes around. My family benefited greatly from breastfeeding, so this little article is my small way of giving back.

breast is best

The best advice I can offer is to listen to your baby.

Digression: Not just for feeding. When your baby cries, pick her up. The only thing you teach her by standing outside the door agonizing in your own private hell– because you’ve been told to “let her cry” so as not to “spoil” her– not responding to her cries teaches her that mommy doesn’t listen. Babies cry to tell you they need something. This is not a temper tantrum. Trust me, you’ll recognize a temper tantrum when you get one.

Babies do what they do and learn what they learn when they are ready, not when you are ready or the books say they should. My child could differentiate colours much earlier than he was supposed to according to “the books”, but he never even tried to crawl until after he walked. Parental obsessing doesn’t help, it just makes everyone miserable. A very wise mom once told me:

By the time they go to college they’ll be
walking and talking and potty trained.”

Commercial Baby Food: Switching to baby food is not necessary at 5 or 6 months. Doing so early can be harmful. Iron is available in small amounts in breast milk, but the composition of human breast milk makes all of it digestible. When babies who are not breastfed get iron supplements, they have to take in a great deal of it because only a tiny amount is absorbed.

Allowing babies to touch and taste and play with food when they show an interest is fine. That doesn’t mean they are ready to replace breast milk, it means they are curious. When my son grabbed my glasses it didn’t mean he needed glasses. Your baby knows better than you or the doctor when they are ready to switch. Breastfeeding does not just give your baby food, it gives your baby the protection of the mother’s immune system. My son went through all the childhood illnesses and then some. Yet every thing was far milder than I observed in his non-breastfed contemporaries.

Doctors are NOT baby nutrition experts

The worst doctor I ever took my baby to was a woman pediatrician who kept pushing formula samples and videos on me. The formula and baby food companies lobby them mercilessly, showering them with samples, resources and who knows what all. For a parent who was struggling this could sabotage breastfeeding.

The best doctor I took my baby to was also a breastfeeding mom and a La Leche League member. Doctors learn almost nothing about baby feeding in med school…. they learn about problems and how to prescribe medication. They are trained in what supplements bottle fed babies need to allow them to survive on “formula”. Anyone can learn reams of stuff about why breast is best from La Leche League.

Virtually all of the excellent research

has been financed by formula companies

endeavoring to prove

that formula is the equal of human breast milk.

Which can’t be done because it isn’t.

I suspect that many food allergies are the direct result of introducing babies to foods too early. Many things like dairy products, strawberries or eggs should not be introduced to a baby before they are a year old.

Although he played with and sampled our food, my child didn’t eat enough other food to cause any discernible decrease in breastfeeding for his first year. It was months longer before he could process cow’s milk. We bought a bit of bottled baby food, and our baby didn’t like it much, so we tried it. It tasted so disgusting we never made the baby eat it.

So when we fed him solid food it was what we were eating, sometimes pureed but more often just peeled and cut small enough. The one thing I don’t miss is the time-consuming process of peeling grapes.

baby poo

As a kid I changed diapers for younger siblings, and that was something I was looking forward to as a parent. There’s a funny Arrogant Worms song called “Baby Poo” that every parent can relate to. As it turns out, because breast milk is designer food for your baby it is perfectly digested. I couldn’t get over the fact that what ended up in the diapers wasn’t stinky.

Just to set your mind at ease (and so you don’t think this is just deluded parental ramblings) we went on vacation but forgot to empty the diaper pail. This pail was sitting beside the head of the bed where our non-parent house-sitter slept. He never even noticed he’d been sleeping beside a vat of fermenting cloth diapers when we returned a week later. Wow. What a testimonial!

La Leche League

Just so you know, I had no intentions of breastfeeding. I thought I might do it for the first couple of days, but having grown up in a bottle feeding world I was not comfortable with the whole idea. But an article I read suggested just attending a La Leche League meeting “just to see” led me to the most amazing support group I could have asked for.   I will be forever grateful.

happy baby nursing, as seen looking over breastfeeding mom's shoulder

The best gift for yourself or any new mother is the La Leche League “bible”, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

It is an amazing reference and the one book every new parent ought to have.


1 Response to “baby feeding lore”

  1. 1 Food4Thought August 2, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Thought you might be interested in some medical studies reported in unbound medline offering interesting info about the importance of breast feeding:

    Chronic disease and infant nutrition: is it significant to public health?


    Prolonged and exclusive breastfeeding reduces the risk of infectious diseases in infancy

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