I finally finished my paper. I am about to submit it online. Here is the final product. It is LONG since it is the result from the entire semester.
Bringing Back What’s Normal
Many years ago, feeding babies formula became what just about everyone did. Mothers were told that their milk wasn’t good enough and that the formula was better. This made artificial feeding the normal thing to do. Since then, the health of the people in this country has declined. If more babies were fed the biologically normal way, we could see a decrease of these serious health issues.
Breastfeeding is not supported as much as people think it is in this country. Many people say that breastfeeding is what is best, then give advice that is detrimental to the breastfeeding relationship. The people who are supposed to be supportive need to be better educated on this issue. A few minutes on an online forum changed my outlook forever.
On a cold and gloomy mid-March afternoon, I was sitting in my empty house at the computer. The only light in the dark room was the glow of the computer screen. I was browsing the internet when a green and white advertisement for a website for moms called CafeMom caught my attention. I decided to join in anticipation of connecting with other women similar to me. I found a plethora of groups to join. I immediately started participating in the discussions. Many of these discussions involved infant feeding. In my experience, the only way to feed a baby was to breastfeed.
Within a few minutes, I became overwhelmed and confused because so many women were talking about feeding their babies formula and the many reasons why they couldn’t breastfeed. Some people thought that their baby wanting to constantly nurse from a growth spurt meant that they weren’t making enough milk. Some people thought that if they couldn’t pump a whole bottle in a few minutes, they didn’t have enough milk to feed their babies. Others were told by doctors that their babies weren’t gaining enough weight, so their milk wasn’t good enough. Doctors were spreading false information telling moms that they had to switch to formula because they had to take antibiotics or pain medications or because they had mastitis or the flu.
After a few minutes of reading about all of these formula fed babies, a feeling of heated anger consumed me. I didn’t know that there were so many people in our world that did not trust the natural design of feeding a baby. I noticed that there was one woman that responded to a majority of the posts. Her screen name was gdiamante. She seemed to know a lot and quickly corrected wrong information as she saw it. I started reading everything that she posted so I could learn and help others as well.
After that day, I realized that there was a lot that I didn’t know about breastfeeding and resolved to learn as much as possible. It became my goal to help other moms ward off all of the horrible misinformation that has been running rampant in our society for many decades.
Formula feeding has become the normal way to feed babies in this country. The standard of infant feeding has changed from the natural to the artificial. The norm needs to change back to breastfeeding for the health of our country’s children. Normalizing breastfeeding means showing others that it is the natural way to feed a baby, and formula is inferior.
Showing others means letting others see breastfeeding mothers and babies. When Stephanie Johnson was nursing her son, Micah, she went to her sister’s Cinco de Mayo celebration. Her sister had invited a friend, Jennifer, with a baby about Micah’s age but was formula feeding. Micah needed to eat, so Stephanie sat on the couch in the living room to nurse him. Jennifer looked at Stephanie, then at Stephanie’s fourteen year old brother, Brandon, and back to Stephanie. Then she asked Brandon, “Aren't you embarrassed that she's doing that right in front of you?” He looked at her like she had just grown an extra head. He said, "Why? It's natural. At one point or another I've seen all of my sisters nurse” (Johnson). Since Brandon had seen his sister nurse her baby, breastfeeding was normal to him and he will be more likely to support his future wife to breastfeed their babies. If more people see breastfeeding as normal, they will be more likely to breastfeed or encourage others.
Natural means what is biologically supposed to happen. When I was pregnant with my oldest son, Andrew, my breasts changed. They were preparing for the function of nursing my baby. When Andrew was born, my breasts were producing colostrum, which is super-concentrated and packed with everything that a newborn baby needs. A few days later, my breasts became engorged with milk. We are mammals and make milk for our babies, so nursing is the way babies should be fed. If we weren’t supposed to breastfeed, we wouldn’t have breasts and produce milk.
Formula is inferior; it has risks related to its use and is nowhere close to breast milk. Infection fighting cells, called antibodies, are abundant in breast milk and are not in formulas. The lack of these antibodies puts children at risk for ear infections, diarrhea, and respiratory infections. Children who are not breastfed are also more at risk for sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, and obesity than their breastfed counterparts(US Dept. of Health and Human Services 1). My dad was not breastfed. He had severe asthma and environmental allergies. When he was a child, he was bedridden for more than a week at a time with his asthma. Asthma and allergies are something that can be passed to children genetically. I also have asthma and allergies, but mine are nowhere near as bad as what my dad dealt with. My mom nursed me. I am very grateful that my mom decided to nurse her babies. I just imagine how much worse I could have had it if I didn’t get her wonderful milk that was tailor made just for me.
The things that are normal in our society change over time. When it comes to infant feeding, most people are more comfortable with artificial milk made from from a cow rather than what is natural and changes to meet the ever changing needs of each baby. Helping to make breastfeeding seen differently will help society’s views on what is normal.
Moms in the United States breastfeed for varying lengths of time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a minimum of one year (AAP) and the World Health Organization recommends a minimum of two years (WHO). Many moms have the desire to nurse to these minimums, but all too often, medical professionals sabotage the breastfeeding relationships with incorrect information that leads to early weaning. There are moms that nurse for twelve months or less, those that wean between one and two years, and others that allow their children to continue past two years and beyond.
My friend, Tabitha Redding, started out nursing all four of her boys. The shortest duration was with her second, Donny, which was for five weeks. Her oldest, Aubrey, was twenty months old when Donny was born. She was urged by WIC to give formula when at work and nurse when home instead of pump, so thats what she did from three to five weeks. At five weeks, Aubrey got Rotavirus and was hospitalized. Her mother in law brought Donny to her at the hospital to nurse once a day so that he would get some breast milk. Her pediatrician found out and went crazy. He called CPS and both of them informed her that Rotavirus would pass in her milk and kill her baby. She was told if she continued to breastfeed, CPS would go before a judge and have the child removed from her home, placed in foster care and she would only be allowed supervised visitation as nursing would be detrimental to his health. She stopped nursing that day because she was terrified she would lose both of her kids. She found out around his first birthday this was all a lie. Rotavirus does not pass in breast milk. She changed pediatricians the day she found out the truth (Redding). This is an example of a doctor not knowing the correct information that the virus would not be passed through the mother’s breast milk. He also showed complete disregard for the AAP’s recommendations of breastfeeding for at least a year.
Stacy Gray breastfed her son, Samuel, for fifteen months, even though she wanted to nurse longer. She was having a miserable time with her wisdom teeth and ended up at an oral surgeon who was going to fix her right up. But after she told him she was breastfeeding, he told her that she would need to wean. His statement was backed up by the receptionist who reminded her of the needed to wean as she handed Stacy her prescription for Vicodin. Stacy had never taken pain meds any stronger than ibuprofen and surely this highly trained oral surgeon knew his facts, so she didn't question him. She wasn't even put under general anesthesia. He just gave her novocaine and some nitrous oxide. After all was said and done, she got so jittery from the Vicodin that she wasn't able to continue it. She was left feeling like she had weaned for nothing. It was probably 3 more years before she found out that novocaine, nitrous oxide and Vicodin were all completely compatible with breastfeeding and that she also certainly hadn't magically dried up and could have tried nursing again after she stopped taking the Vicodin. She never questioned the medical authorities who went to medical school and surely had more information than she could find on her own. No one ever suggested that she should research or could question a doctor (Gray). This was another mom that intended to breastfeed at least to the recommended minimum, but was given incorrect information that lead to stopping sooner than planned.
When I had my oldest, Andrew, I knew that it was normal to breastfeed up to two years from witnessing my sisters nurse their babies for one to two years. I didn’t know much else besides the supply and demand factor of milk supply. I weaned him from nursing just before his second birthday. I started learning more by researching online. I was participating in an online breastfeeding support group and wanted to have the correct information so I could help others. I learned so much that I realized that Andrew’s compulsion to put things in his mouth and suck and chew on them might stem from not nursing full term. I also realized that the fact that he was so attached to his pacifier until I took it away on his fourth birthday meant that he still needed the comfort of sucking that should have come at the breast. As I was coming to these realizations, I was pregnant with his baby brother, Johnathan. I was determined to let my next baby wean on his own. I figured that it would be until about two and a half or three years. As I learned more and more, I realized that continuing even longer was biologically normal. Children’s immune systems aren’t completely mature until about six years and until then, they should get immunities from the antibodies in their mother’s milk. Children also lose the ability to latch and suckle correctly when their adult teeth start to erupt since they change the mouth and jaw (Dettwyler). Based on this information that I found, I am letting Johnathan continue to nurse as often as he needs and wants until he is completely done himself. At this time, he is four years and four months old and nurses about a few times a week to a few times a month.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 74.6% of new mothers attempt to breastfeed their babies. By six months, 44.3% are breastfeeding at all and only 14.8 of those moms are exclusively nursing as is recommended. Only 23.8% of breastfeeding moms make it to the AAP’s one year minimum recommendation (CDC). The recommendations and the actual numbers tell us that there is a breakdown somewhere that is preventing moms from reaching the minimums. Something needs to be done to help bring these numbers up. If more moms breastfeed for at least one to two years, babies could be sick less and there could be less cancer.
A mother’s breast has glands that detect what the baby needs from his saliva and other secretions. These glands help the milk make antibodies to protect the baby from any illness they have been exposed to. After exposure to these new pathogens, her body can make targeted antibodies available to her baby within the next several hours (Chirico, et al.;NIH). He may not get sick, but if he does, it most likely will not be as bad as it would be if he doesn’t get the antibodies from his mom’s milk.
More breastfeeding can result in less cancer because breastfed babies and children are at lower risk of getting cancer. In a study by researchers at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center, it was found that the longer that babies were breastfed, the more they were protected (Shu, et al.) In a study done in Los Angeles County, it was determined that women who breastfed for at least sixteen months experienced a reduced risk of breast cancer compared to women who never breastfed