Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Many mothers I talk with about baby feeding mention the guilt they felt when they could not, did not, or had to stop breastfeeding. (One or two of my regular readers will say they did not feel guilty, but sadly, they are in the minority.)  It makes sense: most moms understand breast milk is the healthiest choice, so we set our hearts on it, and if it doesn't work, we feel like we've failed our babies.

We are told that "breast is best," but we aren't all able to do what's "best," for reasons I've already talked about--first, the problems that can occur with breastfeeding, and second, the lack of help to solve them.  To me, this is like to telling someone to build a house without providing blueprints, skilled help, or materials. 

Maybe the message "breast is best" is in itself flawed, as this article points out.  It suggests that "breast is normal" might be better.  But for this to be true, breastfeeding would have to become the new norm--and the only way that can happen is through the information and support that will set new moms up for success.  (This article also points out that, interestingly, formula-fed babies, rather than breastfed babies, are the control groups in most studies.)

Meanwhile, we should remind ourselves that none of this is easy, and that a mother's love isn't diminished by what she feeds her baby.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Donating breast milk: update

Moments ago, Fedex arrived at my house and picked up two 20-lb boxes of milk (around 400 oz.), headed for the Mothers' Milk Bank at Austin, TX.  It took almost two months from the inquiry into donating to actually delivering the milk, but it's all been worth it!  What an amazing feeling!  Big thanks to all the staff at Mothers' Milk for making it possible.

The biggest challenge was sourcing the dry ice for shipping.  The closest outlet is about an hour from home.  Shipping was a lot of work too, getting everything packed, forms filled out, Fedex arranged, etc.  It would be wonderful if there were more banks so pumping moms could drop off locally, not to mention the benefit to the community of having milk available to babies in need.  How can we make this happen?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Study: Breast-feeding would save lives, money

Last week, the journal Pediatrics published a study that concluded that "the lives of nearly 900 babies would be saved each year...if 90 percent of U.S. women breast-fed their babies for the first six months of life..."  It attributes these potential lifesaving benefits to the prevention of diseases that breastfeeding offers, like ear infections, diabetes, asthma, and others.

But how can we get to 90% (WITHOUT making new mothers feel guilty or pressured)?  It probably starts with support and positive influence in the birthplace.  Many hospitals still offer newborns bottles even when mothers intend to breastfeed, and some do not offer the level of support and education on breastfeeding needed to set new moms up for success.  Then, many other changes would be required at home, such as a higher rate of support from dads and other family members, as well as acceptance in the workplace and of breastfeeding in public.  Essentially, a 90% breastfeeding rate would require a huge shift in cultural norms.  (And, by the way, wouldn't it just be nice if women's bodies were respected as much for their life-supporting abilities as their sexual attractiveness?)  Maybe the best we can do is to keep talking about it.