Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Atlantic Article- Breastfeeding

Maybe I need something I am angry about to post! Well I found one. I subscribe to a magazine called The Atlantic and this months issue has an article written by a breastfeeding mother of three detailing what she believes to be the over-inflated benefits of breastfeeding and why bottle-feeding is basically as good and much more convenient for the mother. If you have read my blog at all you will know that of course I disagree!

In the article she states that upon reviewing the research she found that the evidence touting the benefits of breastfeeding is thin and has been overinflated. As a mother, simply based on what I see around me I believe this is false. I can look at a baby and tell if they are being breast or bottle fed. Their skin looks different, their fat looks different, they smell different. But- the author, Hanna Rosen claims that the evidence is thin and has been inflated by various groups.

Even if this is the case (and lets assume for a moment that it is) this is easily explainable by a few things. First, it is difficult at best to get a good sample group of breastfed infants. Children nurse for various lengths of time, mothers supplement, some start solids earlier, family history and other environmental factors can certainly play a role in allergies, diabetes, and disease that is believed to be prevented by breastfeeding. So when doing a study, it is hard to find a group that have all the same factors. Are studies including a child breastfed for 3 days with one who is nursed for 3 years and considering both in the breastfeeding group? It is hard to get a perfect sample group, if not impossible.

Second, where is the funding for massive amounts of pro-breastfeeding research? Almost nobody stands to profit if the breastfeeding relationship is encouraged. In fact, many people stand to lose money, from the formula companies themselves, to baby food companies, to pharmaceutical companies that profit from childhood illnesses that could be prevented through breastfeeding. Even medical doctors will see less of their patients if the benefits of breastfeeding are real. As you probably know, pharmaceutical companies can actually speed approval of their drugs by making large donations to the FDA. (I am not making this up!). If a study is done on said drug and the findings are negative, it will simply not be published. This is not conspiracy theory, this is fact and it is not even illegal, it is just done. Given all of this information can we really believe that even if there are few good studies about the benefits of breastfeeding, that this is actually an accurate portrayal of the truth? I do not believe we can.

When I talked to my mother about this article she said she didn't need a research study to tell her that breastfeeding was better! IT'S OBVIOUS! She went on to say that we wouldn't have been designed to nurse if it was not superior. How could an impostor created in a lab from low grade vitamins, corn syrup, cow milk or soy milk powder and who knows what else, be superior to the perfection that our body creates miraculously at the birth of a child?

It simply blows me away that we are still or have ever heard the argument that anything else could possibly come anywhere close to being as good.

Why does this idea continue and prevail? I know I start to sound more like a ranting woman when I say this but I believe the answer lies deep within our cultural biases against women. The fact that a currently breastfeeding mother could buy into this herself is proof of the pervasiveness of misogyny in our culture. Women are constantly told that there is nothing they can do that a man can not do just as well. I am all for equality, but I do believe that men and women and different and have distinct and perfect roles.

 For a woman the beauty and power of her is that she can bring forth and nourish life. There is nothing that compares to this in scope and feeling. Birth and breastfeeding are female power made real and raw. If you do not believe that there is a deep seated hatred of women's peculiar and elusive powers then take a second look at what is going on concerning these things in this country. The c-section rate is at one third! One THIRD of women and doctors do not believe that their VAGINA'S WORK. Many obstetric surgeons believe, I kid you not, that it is simply a design flaw and that surgery is a better option.

When it comes to feeding our babies, there are huge problems. Many women do not receive the support they need, do not value it, or simply are fighting an uphill battle and fail to breastfeed. In countries where breastfeeding is supported the breastfeeding rates are around 98%. To say that some women can not breastfeed is true, we just think that far fewer women are capable than really are. Formula feeding again shows our belief that something made in a lab by a bunch of men is just as good or better than something that a mother makes on her own.

Why do we buy these lies? Is it because we believe them ourselves? Do we really have confidence in our bodies and our innate abilities? Do we even believe that it matters? Or do we only value the work that we do that can be measured by monetary means? That is how men measure their value, but it does not have to be how we measure ours. We can believe that we matter based on anther scale. We can believe that our work is real even if nobody else does. We can be stronger and more confident than we have been and we can share this power with other women.

I encourage you to read the below article and write a letter to the editor- !
Below is the link to the article in the Atlantic titled "The Case Against Breastfeeding" and the next post has a video link of an interview with the author.
http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200904/case-against-breastfeeding

5 comments:

Our Little World said...

I'd love to see a post on unassisted birth!

The Cannon Family said...

I agree wholeheartedly with your mother's comment... our bodies are designed this way for a reason, and the Creator has given mothers the ideal food to nourish their infants.

I'm grateful that my mother breastfed my siblings and me, even though we were born in the era when the majority of American women did not breastfeed. Because of her quiet example, I've always known that I would breastfeed my children, and that gave me the strength to persevere when my daughter and I had problems latching on properly after she was born. Luckily, my newborn son is more of a "natural" (and I have a lot more education and experience in proper latch on!). Breastmilk is a blessing!

Katina Martinez said...

Hi,
I wanted to leave a small comment about the breasting feeding - before I had my daughter I would have been all over this - I would have ranted right along with you and there was part of me that couldn't believe why anyone would give there baby anything but the very best.
And let me make clear I still believe that breast feeding is the best, for the mother and for the baby.
When I had my daughter I major problems with breastfeeding. MAJOR. And I had no one to help me, in fact 98 % of people in my life (church people mostly) told me to just forget breastfeeding and give her a bottle.
I wanted more than anything to breastfeed - and after 6 1/2 weeks or her losing weight, gaining weight, losing, gaining - I finally said enough is enough is enough - I'm going to do what I feel is best.
I nursed and I gave a bottle and my daughter finally started to gain weight.
My problem was I do not produce enough milk - roll your eyes if you will - I know that alot of women say this (I have a friend who said this) and sometimes its not true, they just don't put the work in to adjust.
However I did put the work in and I know for sure it was a physical problem.
I would always nurse and then give her a bottle and whenever I did I felt people look me like I was the worse mother in the world, and the guilt I felt was overwhealming.
I'm not 4 month pregnant with our second baby and after looking back over all the issue we had we have decided to do both again and for go all the stress that was with us last time.
Now there wee circumstance in my first birth and there after that might have been a factor and we are prepared to correct those things and try to only breastfeed, but I will never watch another one of my children losing weight because "I want something."
I just would ask that people not look down on women because they are giving their baby a bottle. Its THEIR baby - it might not be whats best for the baby through our eyes, but none of us know what is going on with these mothers in their homes. And there is enough stress and up and downs when you have a baby that I believe weather or not a women decideds to breastfeed or bottle feed - its not the end of the world.
Maybe its sad to those of us who have have breastfeed our babies and understand all the good that comes from it.
But really its not worth making a mother feel like she is not doing the best she can with what she has.
Tina

Rasal Khan said...

my baby

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