Saturday, August 01, 2009

Feeding the Babe ~ The Case Against Breastfeeding?

When I first read Hanna Rosin's article "The Case Against Breastfeeding" in the April 2009 issue of the Atlantic, I walked away thinking she was just making excuses to justify her decision to not give her baby the best possible nourishment she could. In less charitable moments of reflection on the article, I thought she was weak. Weak. Weak. Weak.

Now I have a new appreciation for why Rosin was compelled to write about the difficulty, and lack of necessity (in her opinion), for breastfeeding.

In a nutshell, her argument against the 'breast is best' mentality focused on 1) there's a lack of real evidence that children fair better with breastmilk than formula, and 2) women who breastfeed (which can take 8 hours a day) don't apparently value their time.

That last one was the real head-scratcher for me, that is, until I found myself nursing on demand and spending the equivalent of a full-time job doing it (without pay, too boot). I can't say that I agree with her or support her decision. I couldn't care less if she nurses her child or not, but I do care that she sets a bad example for other women who can breastfeed their baby but choose not to. Her article gives all of us newly nursing moms an ally in the decision not to breastfeed.

But, I don't want an ally in the decision to give up and switch to formula because 'it's easier,' or 'pain-free,' or 'just as good in the long run as breastmilk,' or would free up time I wish I had more of.

No, instead, I want to tough it out. I want to find ways to type one-handed effectively and to type left-handed and to actually accomplish stuff while nursing. I know I can do it; I've always appreciated a good challenge and an excuse to multi-task.

However, I recently found myself rethinking that position after numerous daily bouts of trying like mad to get my baby to latch on, suckle for real and swallow (!) and escape .. somewhat.. the insane torture without too painfully sore nipples and boobs. Seriously, labor was a cakewalk compared to this. Really.

I am hanging in there though. I am determined to make it work. There's no way, and I don't care what the research Rosin found suggests is best, I will not give my baby anything other than what evolution has crafted over millions of years to be the ideal food for the early years. That is, if I have a choice.

So, to make my job more enjoyable, and to make sure I have other outlets besides Facebooking at 3am, I snagged some new books to read:

  • Parenting for Primates ~ written by a primatologist turned clinical psychologist who spent the first part of her career hand-rearing cotton-top tamarins — monkeys that co-parent their babies, usually twins.
  • Our Babies, Ourselves ~ written by one of my favorite primatologists, Meredith Small, whose other books and articles I've used in class. She talks about co-sleeping, breastfeeding, infant crying and other topics from a cross-cultural perspective. Much of what she has to say I am sure will come as no surprise to me, but it will still be fun to read. It will also probably reinvigorate my desire to 'go native' with babycare — once I get my strength back, and my abs.
  • Riddled With Life - written by Marlene Zuk, a biologist whose research and sense of humor I fell in love with during one of her talks at a conference I went to. Her work is a prescription for 'Darwinian medicine' and reminds us all that a too clean house is unhealthy. One of her memorable points? A trace amount of dog crap in the bed is ideal. That's good news for this house, let me tell you. Gross, but good for the immune system.


Sycamore Moon Studios said...

Stick with it, if you can. The first baby is always a guessing game, even when you logically know what to do and why. It took me almost a month to get past the ouch factor and feel confident that things were "correct" re: nutrition, etc.

The pain part will abate. And when you have your next one, if you do, it will seem like a walk in the park.

SilverMonk said...

Just want to let you know that baby born from c-sections need more time to learn breast feed.

It is because the drugs used during c-sections affect their muscle coordination......

( It's a personal experience and I also know someone did a research paper on that.)

Girl Felt Food said...

Nursing was definitely not what I had expected with my first (or even my second) child! With #1 it took 8 weeks to master it but when we both finally "got it", I can say it is one of my greatest accompishments. I hope you stick with it. Call your lactaction consultant from the hospital or La Leche if you can find a group near you or watch videos on youtube about proper latch, there are so many resources online!!!
Best wishes!!!!!!

Ms Avery said...

Thanks for the book mentions -- they all sound really interesting! Shall have to check them out.