27 Jun 2018

Why a bottle of formula appeals.

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This morning’s cartoon from my favorite strip, For Better or For Worse, gave me an insight.



For most of my whole working life, I have worked to encourage exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months, and sustained breastfeeding for as long as possible.  However, while many women dream of breastfeeding for a long time, there is too much in the way for them to succeed.

The US is the only major country in the world with no paid maternity leave. 23% of women are back to work by 2 weeks after giving birth. Forget breastfeeding. When does a mother get to learn how to mother her baby when she is back to work so early? How can breastfeeding get to be easy and fun when bottle-feeding has become  essential to a working mother? https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/nearly-1-in-4-new-mothers-return-to-work-less-than-2-weeks-after-giving-birth_us_55d308aae4b0ab468d9e3e37

Another barrier for today’s mothers is that they are frightened into keeping their babies away from them at night. Bed-sharing, the natural evolutionary activity,  has become a worry. The American Academy of Pediatrics demonstrates faulty logic in a recent policy statement: 1) Breastfeeding reduces the rates of SIDS; 2) Mothers who bed-share breastfeed for longer; 3) Bed-sharing is dangerous and increases the risk of SIDS. What?? Don’t do this thing that work, do this thing that makes night-time parenting more difficult and increases the susceptibility to use formula (that increases the risk of SIDS). This makes my head ache.

If babies couldn’t sleep with their mothers, the human race would not have survived. Breastfeeding hormones make the mother sleepy; components in her milk make her baby sleepy. If that isn’t a message from our biology that mothers and babies are meant to sleep together, I don’t know what is!

It is UNSAFE bed-sharing that is dangerous; going to bed drunk or stoned, tobacco use (the jury is out about marijuana), sleeping on a sofa or in a recliner, being obese, overheating, sleeping with anyone not the parent, too-soft mattresses.   http://breastfeedingtoday-llli.org/the-safe-sleep-seven/     But the AAP refuses to identify differences in bed-sharing so all of it is banned.

Bed-sharing increases connection, especially if the mother is back to work. Contact and closeness are an essential part of parenting; a mother can do this easily at night while sleeping. Consider that if a mother is away from her baby for 10 or 12 hours during the day (travel time plus work) and then can’t sleep with her baby at night (another 6 to 8 hours), she has at most 6 hours to spend with her baby. Others are with her baby more than is she.

The majority of mothers are alone for much of the time with their newborn; if she has a mother or significant other to be with her, it is often for only a week or two because that person has to return to work.  Life with a newborn is tough, no matter how the baby is fed. Humans need social contact and support; isolating a new mother with her new baby is a recipe for disaster. This is a time where a bottle of formula can be attractive. As today’s mothers, like their mothers and grandmothers before them, grew up in a bottle-feeding world, turning to something familiar in a time of stress is logical.

Pediatricians today are giving more accurate advice about breastfeeding, and at the same time, are less likely to believe that breastfeeding will work.  Their attitudes and commitment have deteriorated. http://www.bestforbabes.org/booby-traps-series-pediatrician-training-and-attitudes-can-stand-in-the-way-of-breastfeeding/  When her doctor has the belief that a bottle of formula is somehow better, sustaining a commitment to breastfeeding is more difficult.

It is amazing and wonderful that breastfeeding rates in the US are going up, despite these very real barriers!

What do you think?



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