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The Breast is Best

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Shortly before the birth of my first child

Shortly before the birth of my first child. I made a political decision that had an effect on my son's health.

I had read an article that explained how the sale and free distribution of artificial baby milk undermined breast feeding in developing countries. The formula companies promoted their product as the best way of feeding babies and, as a consequence, many babies and young children became ill or died. I knew I could not support any company that put profit before life. I remember quite clearly thinking that if I couldn't breast feed, I would simply make my own formula like my mother had. Fortunately, I never had to test my decision because I was able to breast feed.

When my first child was five months old I was lucky to find a wonderful support group for breast feeding women. This group provided the perfect atmosphere for me as I learned to listen to my mothering instincts and my baby. Along with other women I met there, I learned by watching experienced breast feeding mothers, asking questions and sharing a lot of laughter and tears.

The Best Breast Support

We discovered together that the best way to avoid sore nipples was by ensuring that our babies were properly latched on and positioned at our breast. Growth spurts were simply dealt with by nursing more to increase our milk supply and meet our babies' needs. We found that no matter what problem arose thrush, mastitis, biting or a sick baby we could successfully breast feed as long as we shared our experience and supported one another.

My doctor told me to wean my toddler and feed him only flat ginger ale and jello water because of a stomach flu! But I knew that if my child could take anything by mouth it needed to be breast milk because it was perfectly suited to his sensitive system and easily digested. When my second son did not gain weight at the "normal" rate as a toddler, the specialist told me it was because he was filling up on breast milk that had little nutrition in it and he should be weaned to force him to eat more solid food. Again, my support network was there to encourage me to continue nursing and give suggestions for nutritional whole foods for toddlers. I can look back on this and laugh because this son is still extremely slim but is now over six feet tall and eats like a horse!

As my self-confidence grew with my children through weanings and the birth of my daughter, it became apparent to me that breast feeding is much more than a method of feeding a baby it's health insurance! Breas milk changes many times over the period of a day, so the components perfectly match not only the nutritional needs of the human baby, but her age and immunological requirements. Breast feeding plays a vital role in avoiding major health problems for children such as allergies, celiac and crohn's disease, colitis, diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis, breast and ovarian cancer in women.

Natural Knowledge

In addition, breast feeding is the optimal method of remaining bonded to our children as they grow. Success in this nurturing relationship allows us to grow as women and to trust ourselves in making these decisions. These are things no artificial feeding method can ever possibly do.

Very few women are actually unable to breast feed for medical reasons. Breast feeding is a knowledge game the more a woman knows about how it works and the more positive support she has, the more likely it is that breast feeding will succeed. A strong personal support group such as La Leche League Canada can play a vital part in helping women and families understand the value of breast feeding in our own lives, the lives of our children and in society in general.

Imagine a society where such support groups are unnecessary because everyone knows that women are able to give their children the optimum beginning in life, both physically and emotionally, by breast feeding. I believe that, slowly and surely, this is happening as people become more aware of how certain practices have put our longterm health at risk.

For my part, I look back on three successful breast feeding relationships and will be eternally grateful that I did not end up brewing my children's milk on top of my stove!

Natural Formula Revisited

In response to concerns that my article on homemade baby formula (November, 1999) undermines efforts to promote breast feeding, let me say that T fully support the practice of breast feeding for all babies. However, my own experience with my four children convinced me that mothers need an alternative to commercial baby formula. With my formula using whole, raw milk, my children thrived. They had no complaints usually associated with bottle feeding, such as allergies.

I spoke to many doctors about my inability to nurse. They confirmed that about five to 10 per cent of mothers simply do not have adequate milk supply, especially as the child grows older and his appetite increases.

This may be due to endocrine problems, thyroid insufficiency, breast surgery or psychological factors. And what about adopted children?

It is also untrue that human milk is adequate to nourish a baby in all circumstances. Vegan mothers can have low levels of B12 in their milk. We also know that consumption of transfatty acids in hydrogenated vegetable oils lowers the fat content of mother's milk. This is one reason that some breast fed babies cry a lot and do not do well.

Egg yolks from pasture-fed chickens arc a good source of long chain fatty acids for babies. As most of us are deficient in these vital fats, egg yolk feeding is an excellent insurance and was advocated by pediatricians until Dr Spock began to preach vaccinations rather than protection through diet. The egg white may cause allergic reactions and should not be given until the gut is fully formed, after one year of age.

To achieve healthy children through breast feeding, we must enact a ban on the advertisement of infant formula and formula giveaway programs in hospitals. We also need to provide accurate dietary counseling to pregnant and nursing mothers. But those who cannot breast feed, for whatever reason, need the reassuring fall-back of a healthy substitute homemade formula based on whole foods.

Source: Sally Fallon

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