16 February 2009

Breastfeeding

It's been in the news lately. Selma Hayek was cross-nursing in Africa. That is, she nursed someone else's baby. And the reactions have ranged from "EW!" to "Good for her!" I'm on the latter side, no surprise.

Breastmilk is best for babies. Period. That baby was sick, and not getting the nutrients she needed. Hayek did the natural thing and gave her some good nutrition. Hell, I'd have done the same in a heartbeat. Mr.FCS says I'd make one hell of a wet nurse if we had them here in Canada. (I am a health food junkie, and I make enough milk to feed entire continents of children. It's insane. It should be considered a superpower!)

Saskboy, in a post about the 13 year old father and 15 year old mother of a new baby, notes that the baby is being fed a bottle of formula, and couldn't they save a bit of cash by breastfeeding?

Hell yes, they could! And that's exactly why people *don't* breastfeed. Money. As in corporations making making money off them, convincing them they can't or shouldn't breastfeed. Setting them up to fail. It utterly infuriates me. I've been boycotting Nestlé for as long as I've known about their bullshit (which is nicely laid out by commenter gumbogirl in that Saskboy post). Also, check out INFACT's information on Nestle (those bastards!)

It absolutely enrages me that companies are allowed to give out free samples of formula at hospitals. They know that people are going to be a lot more tempted to try that formula at 3 in the morning when they're exhausted and the baby won't latch, and Daddy's more awake because he didn't just go through 30 hours of labour hell. And that's where it starts. Oh, one bottle won't hurt... Yeah. It will.

First of all, it's shit food. It's crap put together to resemble food. It is McFood. Yeah, you can eat it, and it'll fill you up, but it sure as hell isn't the best choice. Not even close. The WHO and Unicef state that 1.5 million babies die every year because they are fed formula. 1.5 MILLION babies! And where are their advocates? Where's the pro-life faction now? Clearly not giving a shit, because once that baby's born, they no longer give the first damn about him or her. Assholes. Now, I'll grant you, this is more of a developing world problem than say England, where the baby of the original story was. In many parts of the world, where poverty is all too common (i.e. more than here, where it's rampant enough), formula companies distribute free samples to new Moms. You know, just enough that their milk dries up, and they have to keep using it. And of course, they don't have the money, so they water it down. Or they don't have access to clean enough water, and lo and behold, the kid gets sick and dies.

But it's still stupid as all hell to use formula if you do have clean water and enough money to formula feed. I mean, it's like having a garden full of fresh foods in your backyard, and going out and buying the kids Subway every night instead! Why why why would you go feed the kids McFood? It increases the risks of all sorts of problems.

From: http://www.breastfeedingtaskforla.org/ABMRisks.htm

Breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of many diseases in infants and mothers from developed countries.

Infants

Infections
Ear infections
50% reduced risk

GI infections
64% reduced risk
Pneumonia
72% reduced risk of hospitalization
Obesity
Reduces the risk of obesity by 4% for each month of breastfeeding

Allergies
Dermatitis – 42% reduced risk
Asthma – 40% reduced risk
Diabetes – 39% reduced risk
Childhood Leukemia – 19% reduced risk
SIDS – 36% reduced risk

Preterm Infants
Necrotizing Entero Colitis – absolute 5% reduced risk
Reduced risk range – 4% to 82%
Because of the high case fatality rate, this 5% difference is a meaningful clinical outcome

Mothers
Cancer
Breast – 28% reduced risk
Ovarian – 21% reduced risk
Diabetes – 12 % reduced risk

Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Developed Countries
http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/tp/brfouttp.htm


And even this pisses me off. Why isn't breastfeeding considered the base case, with the formula feeding labeled as "increased risk"? Breastfeeding is the natural method of feeding, but it's the one that is "othered". Why don't they say, "Feeding your infant formula *increases* the risk of SIDS by 36%"? Seriously. I completely fail to grok how someone can see that and say, "Oh well, a 36% extra chance of sudden death? No problem" But phrase it as "SIDS is rather uncommon anyway, but this lowers the rate" and one mightn't be so willing to jump on it. And that's at a breastfeeding advocacy site! WTF?

And then of course, there's the sexualization problem. Women are treated poorly for nursing in public (EW! Do that in the bathroom! I don't wanna see that! - Reply: You go to the bathroom then.) We're often asked to cover up, which is ridiculous. I mean, do you know how hard it is to nurse a kid under a blanket? It gets HOT and stuffy under there. Plus, once they hit about 3 months, most of 'em will just pull it off. It's simple. You have a problem with it? Don't look. No one is forcing you. Last time I was on an airplane, the lady next to me was nursing. Some asshole complained, and they asked her to cover up, for the comfort of the other passengers. Being a bit of a cow, I said, LOUDLY, "And how many of the passengers are more comfortable with a quietly nursing baby than an upset, crying baby?" Ha! A bunch of people said, "Yeah! Let 'em nurse!" and that sort of thing. Hahaha. Lady was just about in tears with embarassment, but she thanked me.

Oh, and finally, though I don't get it at all, I support women's right to feed their kids formula. Just like I don't want McDonald's outlawed, I don't want formula outlawed either. What I want is for every hospital to have a lactation consultant see every new mom. For the health-nurse visitor to have good information on breastfeeding, and the ability to help. For support, and lots of it. For milk banks, so one can buy breastmilk. For support for wet-nursing (I need the money! ;)). For formula to be a last resort. Not the norm. Not given in hospitals (except again, as a last resort).

As women, we're told time and again that we're not good enough. But for making milk for our babies, we are. We don't need to be sold crap in a can. We don't need to be told we can't do it. We need to support one another. We need to say FUCK YOU to Nestle and the rest of the formula companies.

2 comments:

Rob said...

Breastfeeding (when done very often and regularly ie every 4 hours at least) also has a contraceptive effect, which is good for maternal health because it allows spacing of children.

Luna said...

Very true. At least in most cases. I know of a few women who were counting on that and got a little surprise.

Myself, I don't get fertile again for about 2 years. YAY! :)

(And aren't you just proud of me for saying that in a way that didn't make you scream TMI! TMI!)