Volume 1: Issue 1

Sage Parenting

By Alluson and TnGsMom

If someone told you there was a pill you could give your baby that contained antibodies to all specific viruses and bacteria he or she would be exposed to throughout infancy, would you want to know more about it? What if they told you this pill would significantly reduce your child's risk of childhood ear infections and even childhood cancer? That it could improve your child's vision- even make your child smarter? Not only that, they might add, but giving your child this pill would also reduce your own risk of breast cancer. And the cost for this pill? Absolutely free.

From "Natural Family Living" by Peggy O'Mara

Eating is so essential for the survival of a newborn babe that you’d think that the most natural method of feeding would be hard wired into the mother. However, while breastfeeding is a biological and instinctual activity, it does not come naturally to us all. For many of us it takes time, patience and lots of practice before Mama and Baby are any good at it! Although some babies take to it like a duck to water, lots of Moms encounter difficulty. The best thing for you if you are having problems? An experienced Mom who has been there and done that!! I had some wonderful women help me during those early days when things weren't going that well. They were such a blessing and it is women like those that carry on the wonderful art of breastfeeding. My mother did help me too but so many women have mothers that didn't breastfeed. That is okay, find someone who has and learn from them if you are having problems. Only a very small percentage of women truly cannot breastfeed (0.5% or something). Virtually all troubles can be worked out if you have the right support and information.
Like, did you know that if you are really sore from engorgement (when your milk comes in a few days after the birth and your breasts are reaaally full with milk) you can place cabbage leaves on your breasts and it will really ease the discomfort. I tried it and it really worked! One friend of mine also loved tandem nursing in those early days with a newborn as the older nursling can help out anytime you are uncomfortable with engorged breasts.
Organizations such as La Leche League can help women feel confident in there choice to breastfeed according to nature’s design. LLL was founded in 1956 just when the breastfeeding rates in America were plummeting. It reaches out to women from all walks of life, all around the world, with information and peer support programs to help women through the ups and downs of breastfeeding.
The American Society of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for one year, preferably two or more. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at least two years. But In our society today most babies are only breastfed in their first year. I am really hoping that will change with time. I enjoyed breastfeeding my children as toddlers and I am really not bothered if others don't agree with that. I would rather do what I know is right for my child than please strangers. The benefits of breastfeeding do not stop suddenly at six months or a year. As long as you breastfeed your children they are getting the goodness that no other food can offer.
The age of weaning is highly influenced by culture. In some areas as long as a woman is nursing, she will not be involved in sexual relations, and would therefore wean so that she may resume. Some cultures stop nursing at the onset of another pregnancy, even though milk production continues and it is perfectly safe to continue nursing (contrary to many myths about miscarriage) And here in the west, weaning is often a result of the push to raise independent, unattached children. The sight of a toddler nursing is often frowned upon and sometimes even labeled (wrongly) as abusive.
If you were to remove all the societal and cultural influences, and merely look at the biologically appropriate time to wean, you could compare humans to other species, especially primates. And when looking at the six major factors of weaning age among species (first permanent molars, the length of gestation, quadrupling of birth weight, reaching a third of adult weight, half the age of sexual maturity or maturation of immune system) , the natural human weaning age would lie anywhere between 2.5 and 7 years of age.
Surprisingly, this actually fits with what is practiced in most cultures. It is only in the West that children are weaned before the age of one. Archeological evidence also supports the fact that early humans weaned after several years of breastfeeding.
Across cultures there is great variability to the style of infant feeding. Demand feeding is where you feed that baby when it wants. It is following this supply and demand that can create a long and successful breastfeeding relationship. Also the Mama would sleep with her bub which of course makes the most sense when it comes to night feedings.
Some people choose to nurse at longer intervals but that doesn’t actually fit with our design! It matches more with other species that leave their young for long periods of time For instance deer and wolves whose milk is high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrates. The offspring is nursed only a few times a day, receiving huge amounts of milk each time. The milk’s high protein and fat content makes it slow to digest, keeping the young full for longer. This does not work for humans! Humans are more aligned with continuous contact species. Continuous contact species either have young that are advanced at birth and can follow their mother at birth, or, the young is carried on the mother’s body (marsupials and most primates).
Continuous contact species have milk that is low in protein and fat, and high in carbohydrates. So they have to nurse more frequently for shorter bouts of time. The composition of human milk makes it clear that human babies are meant to nurse several times throughout the day. This also shows why cow’s milk is so very wrong to give human babies. Cows are designed to increase their weight by hundreds of pounds in their first year. And they have four stomachs to digest that high protein milk!
I personally refuse to believe that human beings were meant to have such an intimate relationship with the cow. It's funny, we will drink the milk that was meant for a baby calf but no adult would ever think about drinking human breast milk. (Okay there are a few Dadas that are the exception to that!) But not many people would drink someone else's breast milk. Yet we will drink Molly the cow's udder-milk?
But it isn’t always biology that dictates what will actually happen within a society. Infant feeding styles can also be influenced by the role of women within a culture. In the western world women wean very early or sometimes don’t breastfeed at all as they are pressured to be many things to many people. Often, not enough appreciation is shown for their role as mothers, and as a result, this role is sometimes neglected for other roles, which are given more respect in our day in age. Sometimes mothers are forced back to work earlier so stop breastfeeding. If women do strive to breastfeed and work at the same time, they often have to follow quite regimented schedules to accommodate their work. They will express milk so that the child can be fed breast milk by a bottle at home by the other parent or a caregiver. While this is much better then not breastfeeding at all, it is not conductive to a long term breastfeeding relationship, because it lacks the demand and supply that keeps milk production high, and it also ignores the other benefits that come from breastfeeding aside from just the nutritional value of the milk.
And remember-- breastfeeding serves more than just a nutritional purpose. Let’s name a few shall we? Breast milk adjusts the intestinal flora of babies; nursing regulates the baby’s heartbeat and respiration rate, as well as lowers his or her blood pressure. Children who are breastfed suffer less often from allergies (for breastfeeding to effectively protect against allergies, it should be exclusive for the first 6 months and should continue afterwards). Children who nurse have a higher IQ. While the actual breast milk has properties excellent for mental development, the act of breastfeeding itself, as a mode of mother-infant interaction, also favours cognitive development.
A nursing child receives antibodies from its mother’s milk. Breastfed children have lower risk of disease. There are fewer cases of gastrointestinal illness, upper respiratory illness, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, heart disease and even certain types of cancer among children who are breastfed. The benefits continue into toddler hood. Toddlers who are breastfed between the ages of 16-30 months have fewer incidences of illness and illness with shorter duration.
Children are not the only ones to reap rewards from the breastfeeding relationship! Mamas too! Such things as lactational amenorrhea, postpartum weight loss, less postpartum anxiety and depression. Women who do not breastfeed have a four times greater likelihood of developing osteoporosis. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer. If a woman were both breastfed as a child and breastfed her own child later in life, her risk of breast cancer would be reduced by half.
Some major corporations have taken their products to underdeveloped countries and have managed to convince women there that formula is nutritionally superior to breast milk. This sad reflection of our times that something that comes from an industrialized, wealthy country, must be better, is obviously false. Nature has perfectly designed the best form of nutrition for children. Man made “equivalents” do not match up. It is said that the best thing for a human baby is its mother’s breast milk. The second best thing is its mother’s expressed milk. Third is another woman’s breast milk. And FOURTH is formula! Pushing formula in non-industrial societies has caused higher infant mortality from disease and infection. Unicef states that 1.5 million babies die each year from not being breastfed. This is a serious consequence to a cultural choice! The World Heath Organization claims “a modest increase in breastfeeding rates could prevent up to 10% of all deaths of children under five. Breastfeeding plays an essential and sometimes underestimated role in the treatment and prevention of illness”.
Up until the 19th century, In Western cultures, 95% of babies were breastfed and children were not weaned until between the ages of two and four on average. Today, only half the babies in the United States are breastfed, and even then, babies are typically weaned at around 4 months of age. Why the huge difference? Industrialization! The first artificial formula was created by a German chemist in 1867. It did not sell well, but soon, large corporations such as Nestle and Borden came up with products, and, with active advertising, and connection with the medical community, the idea of formula began to sell. Sterilization techniques for feeding vessels and pasteurization of cow’s milk also made the option of formula safer then before. Even the name “formula” made people think it was a safe alternative as the name sounds like such a mathematically perfected product. So, sadly, by the 1940’s only 20-30% of babies were breastfed. The return to breastfeeding occurred in the 1980’s with the women’s movement.
Another thing that discouraged breastfeeding besides formula was total ignorance to the breastfeeding design. Women were told such ludicrous things as preparing your nipples by scrubbing them with steal wool while you are pregnant. Or only breastfeed for 20 minutes and only every x amount of hours. The thought of those poor hungry babies makes me want to cry!!
The medicalization of birth also affected the breastfeeding relationship. Often hospitals separated mother and baby following the birth. “Breastfeeding is initiated by instinct, pushed by the biology of milk production, and reinforced by the actions of the baby” (Small, 1999) When babies are taken from their mothers after birth and fed glucose and water solution, the crucial moments for bonding after birth have been forever lost. The baby’s sucking reflex is strongest in the minutes immediately after birth, and to breastfeed at this time will increase the success of a breastfeeding relationship. The cultural practice of feeding on a schedule with long time intervals between feedings can actually affect the make up of the milk received by the infant. When a baby nurses less frequently, the result is milk with less fat content because the hind milk has been waiting there in the breast for an extended period of time. The baby’s nursing can become more aggressive because they are waiting so long between feedings, and when are fed, are not receiving enough fat to feel full. The result is nipple soreness from fierce nursing, which the mother assumes, will be exacerbated with more frequent nursing. However, if the nursing sessions were more frequent, the milk would have a higher fat content and the baby would not be as ravenous. So women feel they have failed when all they really need to do is follow nature.
Breastfeeding should not hurt. I have never had as much as one cracked nipple and that is because I learned from the beginning how to do it right. There is a technique to breastfeeding your child but it is so easy and wonderful once you learn. Anyone who tries it and doesn't like it is probably doing it wrong. Find out how to help yourself and keep trying! Give it a good six weeks and you are guaranteed to love it. No mess, no sterilizing, no getting up and you always have food handy! It is an excellent idea to attend some La Leche League (or nursing support group) meetings while pregnant with your first baby.
A few words about breastfeeding in public… I breastfed my kids wherever they liked. I have breastfed in church sitting on the pew or standing, walking through the grocery store, in elevators, in waiting rooms, in restaurants, walking down the street, at parks, in the woods, in airplanes, in cars, in theatres--you name it! If only more young girls would see breastfeeding happening around them than they would be more apt to choose to breastfeed their children. Not to mention that new Moms who are self-conscious of breastfeeding as it is new to them would be so helped by seeing all the Mamas out there nursing their kiddos too! I can breastfeed so discreetly most people would really have to stare to tell what I am doing. Ahhhh…..such a prefect system. See---God really didn't make a mistake when he put milk into our breasts!

When One Child is Breastfed
He is given the best start possible, with a food that is nutritionally complete and specifically designed for human dietary needs.

He is given dose after dose of a disease fighting living fluid that can:
Decrease risk of respiratory disease, ear infections, gastroenteritis, SIDS, allergies, childhood cancers, diabetes, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's Disease and many others.
Improve his response to vaccines he receives later.
Fill in the gap until his immune system matures and he is given brain food that will increase his cognitive scores throughout his childhood.

When one child is breastfed, he gives his mother:
Decreased risk of breast cancer, osteoporosis, ovarian cancer, and anemia.
Daily doses of the "mothering hormone" prolactin, that calms her and improves her mothering skills.
Extra time that she might otherwise be mixing formula, sterilizing bottles, cleaning bottles, and heading to the store when the supply runs low.
A sense of empowerment that comes from providing such an unmatched beginning for her child.

When one child is breastfed, he gives his father:
The opportunity to learn that parenting is not just about feeding so he finds new ways to interact with his child.
A sense of pride for his family.

When one child is breastfed, he gives his family:
A higher spendable income.
With the savings on the purchase of formula alone, his family can buy a major appliance every six months.
A savings on medical bills that can average $200 on the first year alone.
Fewer lost hours from work involved in caring for a sick child.

When one child is breastfed, he gives a community:
A more productive workforce with less absenteeism caused by the need to care for sick children.
A boost to the local economy when the money that would have gone into formula and doctors bills is put into local goods and services.
More tax dollars to spend on something other than providing assistance for needy families to feed their children.
The potential for a more intelligent adult who will one day be voting and/or running the community.
Lower health care costs for both mother and baby throughout their lives which results in savings for health insurance companies.
A role model (along with his mother) to encourage other mothers to breastfeed their babies.

When one child is breastfed, he gives the world:
Less pollution caused by the manufacture and transport of formula.
Less waste to dispose of in the form of tin, paper and plastic needed in the manufacture of formulas.
A lower population growth rate, as breastfeeding prevents more births than all other forms of contraception put together.

From "Compleat Mother" Spring 2000