Tuesday, August 31, 2010


It seems like the longer I exclusively pump breast milk for Sam, the more I wish  I could nurse.  At first, when we couldn't nurse and I figured out pumping, I was so relieved to have a solution that I didn't mourn nursing too much, holding out hope Sam and I could eventually try again.  When he was three months old, I did try again, but had so much pain with nursing that I stopped.  When he was six months old, I tried a third time, but my breast was as foreign to him as if I'd just offered him milk in a shoe; that ship had sailed.

There are a lot of moments when I've felt sad about it.  For example, when Sam was just a few weeks old, I went to a breastfeeding support group, and felt like a complete outsider, sitting in that room with all those nursing moms, and me with my baby and his ridiculous bottle.  Other times, I feel sad when I am tied to the pump and someone else is feeding, caring for, playing with my baby.  I also worry about lost nutrients, bottle contamination, and other negative effects of putting a bunch of plastic between my son and his milk. 

But more broadly, I feel increasingly sad about the lost opportunity for bonding and connection as Sam grows more communicative.  While I am sure we made up for it in other ways, there is just no substitute for the nursing experience.  The good news is, I feel it is my loss and not so much my son's.  I know now that the failure to nurse resulted from a bad latch combined with a few other negative factors like edema, and if I had found the right help, it's possible it could have worked.  Maybe, next time?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Formula as an intervention

Lately I've been hearing the phrase "risks of not breastfeeding" a lot. This is different than talking about "pros and cons of breastfeeding," as it is often presented.  It was presented this way in the book I used during pregnancy, From the Hips by Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris, which cited "more margaritas" as a "pro" to formula feeding; I think it was meant to be irreverent or humorous, but given what I know now  about the significant health differences between the average formula-fed baby and the average breastfed baby, I question its validity. (Though, this book did a good job overall on the whole in its breastfeeding section.)

What if infant formula were considered an intervention by the medical community? Then, the risks of using it could be listed, much like a medicine. The choice still belongs to the mother, but the argument is framed such that breastfeeding is the norm and formula is the intervention. For example, the natural way to keep our cholesterol low is eating a healthy diet high in fiber and low in saturated fat. But for some people, that isn't enough, and for others, sticking to a diet isn't feasible. In either case, there is medicine to help, for which the patient can understand the risks.

Of course, the "patient" in the case of breastfeeding is not one's self but one's infant. Does this change our responsibilities?  It it irresponsible not to attempt to breastfeed?  I'm not sure, but even if it is, it doesn't seem right to place this kind of accountability with individual moms when our society fails to support it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I just finished reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.  It's a report on meat production in the US and a philosophical and ethical viewpoint on eating meat.  The author turns to vegetarianism because it's the only way for him to avoid supporting factory farming, by which the vast majority of our meat is produced cheaply by externalizing huge ethical, humanitarian, and environmental costs.  While I have not created any new "rules" for myself, it has caused me to think more carefully about the food I eat.

We are extremely fortunate to be able to source and afford meats, dairy, and seasonal vegetables directly from local farms whose practices are acceptable--organic when possible and, with animal products, the animals are always pasture-raised, fed a natural diet, and cared for by actual human farmers and their families. Sweetwater Farm, Robinson Farm, Diemand Farm, Carter and Stevens Farm, and Adams Farm supply us with fantastic food here in central Massachusetts; Localharvest.org is also a great resource.)

On my food choices: where did it come from?  What did it cost the animal, the environment, the workers to make?  What will it cost my health (and thereby my child's health) to eat it?  Asking these questions could be a step in reducing my impact and being healthy, and also teaching my child about food.