Monday, May 14, 2012

The Case for Breastfeeding or Not



Those of you who know me and/or my blogs know that I believe you should feed your baby. I say that babies have thrived on breast milk for millenia and formula for at least since the end of World War II.  Babies had fed from breasts other than their mother's ( as in wet nurses ) and from plain old cow's milk or goat's milk or sugar water, if necessary. The pendulum swings back and forth depending on fashion and personal preference and sometimes a huge guilt factor. In order to be really successful at something like breast feeding, you have to be tenacious and sometimes courageous and often instructed. Even if you think you really need or want to breast feed, sometimes you can't. Women who have had breast reduction usually can't breast feed. And sometimes you have a sick baby in the NICU and two kids at home and it just isn't for you this time. This is an intensely personal decision. But you have no choice, one way or another, you must feed your baby.

Now breast feeding mother's are posing for covers on national magazines. Is there no other news? Isn't Greece on the verge of financial collapse? Isn't Syria an inch from all out civil war? Aren't there children starving and being abused and suffering with incurable diseases? Do you care how long someone decides to breast feed their baby? Do you need to hear the argument for why you should breast feed for three or seven or ten years? Or why not?

Human milk is a great thing for human babies. And according to a very informative article in the latest Discovery magazine, the componets of human milk may be important for preventing disease and enhancing performance. If we can isolate how milk does what it does for premature babies, we may be able to bring those principles and mechanisms of action to formulate milk- derived drugs that could benefit infants, children and especially adults who are ill or aged and need the microbiomes that human milk provides to starve out bad germs.

Amazing stuff. Human milk. But spare us the propaganda and the sales pitch. Spare us the judgements and random opinions, please. I repeat these sentiments every year or so, using different prose and spurred on by some media hype. I do believe that the campaigns to educate and promote breast feeding are a very good thing. But I also believe that choosing to use formula to nourish an infant is acceptable too. There are many factors at play in this very personal decision. But, I am sure that you must feed your baby.