Posts Tagged ‘breastmilk’

Latest Clare Byam-Cook Scandal

January 29, 2010

Well, obviously everyone else has already addressed this more eloquently and amusingly than I can (see this blog post), but I feel the need to make a brief mention of the latest scandal over Clare Byam-Cook’s ahem, interesting, approach to breastfeeding.

Appearing on GMTV on a discussion about breastfeeding older children, C B-C  said “Breast milk beyond the age of 2 isn’t necessarily good because it’s very, very sweet. The fact that it’s breast milk doesn’t make it any different to a glass of Coca-Cola.” Once again demonstrating her phenomenal lack of knowledge related to both breastfeeding and child nutrition.

Since others have covered this topic so well, I would just like to run through a few quick points.

– Clare Byam-Cook’s credibility rests on her apparent qualifications as a midwife and ‘breastfeeding specialist’. According to the information on here, she ‘retired’ from practising midwifery in 1985 (a few short years after she must have started), and hasn’t practised, or presumably been licensed or done any further professional training, since. Her bio does not list, nor am I aware of, any actual training in breastfeeding support or management. Now, unfortunately, anyone can call themselves a ‘breastfeeding specialist’, and she’s certainly made a great deal of money trading as one and selling books on the subject, but it appears that she has no specialised training whatsoever, and any training she may have received as part of midwifery studies would now be at least 25 years out of date. Back in 1985, recommendations were still for routine separation of mother and baby, routine administration of artificial milk supplements, and scheduled feeding. So I guess that explains why she’s still promoting many such ridiculously outdated ideas. As ever, Clare Byam-Cook remains a shining example of why, when someone gives you proscriptive advice and claims to be an ‘expert’, you should never ever take them at face value!

Further to the specifics of this outrage, I’d like to say a few things about breastfeeding, breastmilk, and tooth decay.

– Sugar does not cause tooth decay, bacteria do. They are attracted to sugar on the teeth, and then wear away the enamel. More on that here
-Breastmilk does not contain the same sort of sugar that Coca-cola does – and lactose is not as attractive a sugar as sucrose/fructose for those sorts of bacteria
-In addition to sugar (lactose), breastmilk also has antibacterial properties that partially mitigate the effect of the sugar if you really want to, read more here
-Breastfeeding delivers the fluid differently than drinking out of a bottle or a cup. Drinking from a bottle or cup allows the liquid to pool behind the teeth, making it a prime ground for attracting bacteria to eat that tooth enamel. However, because of the way a baby latches onto the breast, breastmilk is actually delivered down the throat, bypassing the teeth entirely.
-Breastfeeding, even at night, even after toothbrushing, and even in older children is not associated with any increased risk of dental caries. In fact, ‘bottle-mouth-syndrome’ refers to artificially-fed babies plagued by caries.

For a fascinating, informative, and very graphic look at this issue, check out Brian Palmer, DDS

So, to sum up.
Breastfeeding. Does. Not. Cause. Caries.

Clare Byam-Cook is putting babies and mothers at risk with her insidious misinformation, and should be stopped. While I am titillated to see her stupid quote splashed all over the media, I am worried that this was all a ploy to get tons of press coverage… has she got a new book coming out?

Bottlefeeding Simulates Child Loss – Medical Hypotheses Article

January 29, 2010

This is the further article to a previous post. I think it’s a really interesting approach to this topic.

Bottle feeding simulates child loss
29.1.2010

Medical Hypotheses

Volume 74, Issue 1, January 2010, Pages 174-176

Bottle feeding simulates child loss: Postpartum depression and evolutionary medicine

Gordon G. Gallup Jr., a, , R. Nathan Pipitonea, Kelly J. Carronea and Kevin L. Leadholma

aDepartment of Psychology, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, NY 12222, USA

Received 2 July 2009;  accepted 5 July 2009.  Available online 8 August 2009.

Summary

At the level of a mother’s basic biology, the decision to bottle feed unwittingly mimics conditions associated with the death of an infant. Child loss is a well documented trigger for depression particularly in mothers, and growing evidence shows that bottle feeding is a risk factor for postpartum depression. The implications of this hypothesis for infant feeding practices, hospital procedures that lead to intermittent separation between mothers and infants during the immediate postpartum period, parallels between an increased desire to hold infants by mothers who bottle feed and responses to infant death among nonhuman primates, and the relationship between weaning and depression are discussed in the context of an emerging discipline known as evolutionary medicine.

Article Outline

Evolutionary medicine

Bottle feeding

Lactation

Bottle feeding simulates child loss

Conclusion

Conflict of interest statement

References

Evolutionary medicine

Growing evidence shows that knowledge of human evolutionary history and mismatches between evolved adaptations and different aspects of our contemporary existence can have important medical and epidemiological implications [1]. For instance, population differences in the susceptibility to lung disease appear to be related to early geographical differences in the reliance on fire for warmth and food preparation and resulting selection due to differences in the inhalation of smoke as a byproduct of combustion [2]. There is also growing evidence that impregnation as a consequence of exposure to unfamiliar semen (i.e., infrequent insemination by the father) increases the risk of preeclampsia and other forms of spontaneous abortion [3].

Evolutionary medicine also applies in the psychological domain. Research on paternal resemblance shows that men are far more likely than women to invest preferentially in children with whom they share common facial features [4] and [5]. A clear implication of such findings is that matching phenotypic features of children being considered for adoption with those of their adoptive fathers could be used to improve adoption outcomes.

Bottle feeding

The present paper focuses on the decision people make to unwittingly depart from one of the defining features of mammalian evolution: to bottle feed rather than breastfeed their infants. For 99.9% of human evolutionary history the decision not to breastfeed would have been tantamount to committing infanticide. The technology that lead to bottle feeding as a substitute for the breast (e.g., bottles, rubber nipples, formula) has only become available within the last 100 years. Nowadays, the decision to bottle feed can be made by design (e.g., out of a concern for the effect on the mother’s figure, embarrassment about breastfeeding in public, time constraints due to employment) or by default (e.g., physical inability to breastfeed or where the mother produces inadequate breast milk).

With the advent of bottle feeding technology, there was a decline in breastfeeding in this country and elsewhere during the past century [6], but as significant advantages of breastfeeding for both the infant and the mother have become evident [7] and [8] the pendulum has begun to swing in the opposite direction. The focus of this paper, however, is not on the advantages of breastfeeding per se, but rather on the negative psychological consequences of the decision not to breastfeed.

Lactation

Pregnancy triggers a variety of hormonal changes that prepare the mammary glands to produce milk to meet an infant’s immunological and nutritional needs. Across the course of pregnancy, the breasts change internally and externally in response to prolactin, lactogen, estrogen, progesterone, ACTH, and growth hormone [9], with lactation kept at bay by high levels of circulating progesterone and oestrogen [10]. Lactation is triggered by the rapid drop in progesterone following placental birth, but other changes including the release of prolactin and oxytocin, along with cortisol, thyroid-stimulating hormone, and additional hormones are implicated in this process [9].

Once begun, lactation is largely maintained by prolactin, although oxytocin is responsible for the milk ejection reflex (MER), and is released into the mother’s bloodstream at every feeding [9] and [11]. After lactation is established, however, prolactin does not dictate milk production volume. Suckling alone removes very little breast milk. Instead, the MER triggered by oxytocin release provides the largest proportion of breast milk consumed [11]. The MER initially requires physical stimulation (suckling) but eventually becomes conditioned, and can be activated or inhibited by various cues [10]. Once conditioned, women can experience milk ejection, and the concomitant release of the lactogenic hormones oxytocin and prolactin, from merely thinking about, smelling, or hearing their baby cry [12].

If the MER is inhibited, milk remains undrained in the breast, and autocrine mechanisms work to inhibit milk secretion [10]. With complete cessation of milk removal, secretory capacity is eventually lost, although relactation is possible through breast and nipple stimulation [13].

Since milk production is dependent on removal of milk from the breasts when complimentary foods are introduced into the infant’s diet, milk production is reduced. This starts the process of weaning, whereby infants move from a diet consisting exclusively of breast milk to one where breast milk becomes a supplement and is eventually no longer consumed. The physiological process that occurs when the breast changes from a milk-producing organ back to one that is largely quiescent is known as involution.

Bottle feeding simulates child loss

Opting not to breastfeed precludes and/or brings all of the processes involved in lactation to a halt. For most of human evolution the absence or early cessation of breastfeeding would have been occasioned by the miscarriage, loss, or death of a child. We contend, therefore, that at the level of her basic biology a mother’s decision to bottle feed unknowingly simulates child loss. The death of a child is a well documented trigger for profound parental grief and depression [14], and evidence shows that mothers tend to be more affected than fathers [15]. Suarez and Gallup [16] theorize that depression in response to the death of a child may be an adaptive mechanism that functions to (1) punish instances of inappropriate parenting or neglect, and (2) trigger social and psychological support from close friends and relatives during the particularly difficult period following the loss of an infant (see also [17]). Because bottle feeding simulates child loss at a physiological level it may also play an important role in postpartum depression.

Consistent with this analysis, there is growing evidence that bottle feeding is a significant risk factor for postpartum depression [18], [19], [20] and [21]. Some claim that breastfeeding can reduce the incidence of postpartum depression by as much as 50% [22]. Additional evidence in support of our hypothesis comes from the fact that postpartum depression is not an uncommon response to weaning [23] and [24]. Because weaning results in the cessation of milk production in much the same way that bottle feeding does, weaning/involution can also be thought of as mimicking child loss.

We recently completed a study of over 50 mothers recruited through local pediatric offices at 4–6 weeks postpartum [25]. Consistent with previous reports, we found that those who bottle fed their babies scored significantly higher on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale than those engaged in breastfeeding. The increased risk of depression among mothers who relied on bottle feeding held true even after we controlled for such things as age, education, income, and the mother’s relationship with her current partner.

As further support for the idea that bottle feeding activates mechanisms associated with child loss, we discovered that mothers who bottle fed their infants reported wanting to hold their babies significantly more. This parallels findings among nonhuman primates where in response to the death of an infant, mothers of some species have been known to tenaciously hold, cling to, and carry their infants for prolonged periods after they die [26] and [27].

As noted by Suarez and Gallup [16], the common hospital practice of isolating newborn infants together in a nursery for the first couple of days after birth, and the resulting intermittent separation of the mother from her baby during the initial postpartum period could also serve to simulate child loss and contribute to or prime subsequent postpartum depression.

Conclusion

Bottle feeding practices and hospital procedures that simulate child loss may increase the risk of postpartum depression and fall within a growing number of medical issues that could benefit from an evolutionary perspective.

Conflict of interest statement

None declared.

References

[1] W.R. Trevathan, Evolutionary medicine, Annu Rev Anthropol 36 (2007), pp. 139–154. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (4)

[2] S.M. Platek, G.G. Gallup Jr. and B.D. Fryer, The fireside hypothesis: was there differential selection to tolerate air pollution during human evolution?, Med Hypotheses 58 (2002), pp. 1–5. Abstract | PDF (90 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (6)

[3] J.A. Davis and G.G. Gallup Jr., Preeclampsia and other pregnancy complications as an adaptive response to unfamiliar semen. In: P. Shackelford and T. Platek, Editors, Female infidelity and paternal uncertainty: evolutionary perspectives on male anti-cuckoldry tactics, Cambridge University Press, New York (2006), pp. 191–204.

[4] R.L. Burch and G.G. Gallup Jr., Perceptions of paternal resemblance predict family violence, Evol Hum Behav 21 (2000), pp. 429–435. Abstract | Article | PDF (78 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (25)

[5] S.M. Platek, R.L. Burch, I.S. Panyavin, B.H. Wasserman and G.G. Gallup Jr., Reactions to children’s faces: resemblance affects males more than females, Evol Hum Behav 23 (2002), pp. 159–166. Abstract | Article | PDF (1006 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (36)

[6] J. Knodel, Breast-feeding and population growth, Science 198 (1977), pp. 1111–1115. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (8)

[7] M.J. Heinig and K.G. Dewey, Health advantages of breast feeding in infants: a critical review, Nutr Res Rev 9 (1996), pp. 89–110. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (79)

[8] E.S. Mezzacappa, R.M. Kelsey and E.S. Katkin, Breast feeding, bottle feeding, and maternal autonomic responses to stress, J Psychosom Res 58 (2005), pp. 351–365. Abstract | Article | PDF (373 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (9)

[9] J. Riordan, Breastfeeding and human lactation (3rd ed.), Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Sudbury, MA (2005).

[10] S.A. Spencer, The physiology of lactation, Pediatr Child Health 17 (2007), pp. 244–248.

[11] J.C. Kent, How breastfeeding works, J Midwifery Women Health 56 (2007), pp. 564–570. Abstract | Article | PDF (303 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (5)

[12] N.M. Hurst, Recognizing and treating delayed or failed lactogenesis II, J Midwifery Women Health 56 (2007), pp. 588–594. Abstract | Article | PDF (199 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (4)

[13] R.E. Brown, Relactation: an overview, Pediatrics 60 (1) (1977), pp. 116–120. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (6)

[14] J. Bowlby, The making and breaking of affectional bonds, Tavistock Publications, London (1979).

[15] J.C. Vance, J.M. Najman, M.J. Thearle, G. Embelton, W.J. Foster and F.M. Boyle, Psychological changes in parents eight months after the loss of an infant from stillbirth, neonatal death, or sudden infant death syndrome – a longitudinal study, Pediatrics 96 (1995), pp. 933–938. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (34)

[16] S.D. Suarez and G.G. Gallup Jr., Depression as a response to reproductive failure, J Soc Biol Struct 8 (1985), pp. 279–287. Abstract | Article | PDF (703 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (5)

[17] E.H. Hagen, The functions of postpartum depression, Evol Hum Behav 20 (1999), pp. 325–359. Abstract | Article | PDF (170 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (40)

[18] C. Dennis and K. McQueen, The relationship between infant-feeding outcomes and postpartum depression: a quantitative systematic review, Pediatrics 123 (2009), pp. 736–751.

[19] P. Hannah, D. Adams, A. Lee, V. Glover and M. Sandler, Links between early post-partum mood and post-natal depression, Brit J Psychiat 160 (1992), pp. 777–780. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (127)

[20] D.C. Hatton, J. Harrison-Hohner, S. Coste, V. Dorato, L.B. Curet and D.A. McCarron, Symptoms of postpartum depression and breastfeeding, J Hum Lact 21 (2005), pp. 444–454.

[21] K.A. Yonkers, S.M. Ramin, A.J. Rush, C.A. Navarrete, T. Carmody and D. March et al., Onset and persistence of postpartum depression in an inner-city maternal health clinic system, Am J Psychiat 158 (2001), pp. 1856–1863. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (86)

[22] Sherman C. Breast-feeding may halve the risk of postpartum depression. OB/GYN News July 15; 2002.

[23] V. Sharma and C.S. Corpse, Case study revisiting the association between breastfeeding and postpartum depression, J Hum Lact 24 (2008), pp. 77–79. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (3)

[24] V.L. Susman and J.L. Katz, Weaning and depression: another postpartum complication, Am J Psychiat 145 (1988), pp. 498–501. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (22)

[25] Pipitone RN, Leadholm K, Carrone KJ, Gallup Jr GG. Postpartum depression: bottle feeding simulates child loss. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Evolutionary Psychology Society. Oswego, New York; 2009.

[26] J. Kaplan, Responses of mother squirrel monkeys to dead infants, Primates 14 (1973), pp. 89–91. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (3)

[27] Y. Warren and E.A. Williamson, Transport of dead infant mountain gorillas by mothers and unrelated females, Zoo Biol 23 (2004), pp. 375–378. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (1)

Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 518 442 4852.

Medical Hypotheses

Volume 74, Issue 1, January 2010, Pages 174-176

The Importance of Breastfeeding – From the Baby to Society

January 29, 2010

The Importance of Breastfeeding

The newborn and young baby

Breastfeeding is vitally important for the young baby. It is how babies were designed, through millennia of evolution, to be fed, and as such is perfectly tailored to their needs. It provides perfect nutrition, presenting all the necessary components, and delivering them in the most bio-available way. It provides antibodies, protection from disease that helps to support the baby’s immature immune system. Other physical benefits are clear, though the mechanisms are not yet fully understood, for example the much lower rate of SIDS among breastfed, as opposed to artificially-fed, children. The influence of breastmilk on a child’s health is long-term – children breastfed even for just the first few months have much lower rates of diabetes, obesity, and some forms of cancer, even years later and on into adulthood.

Psychologically and emotionally, breastfeeding can be the basis for a strong, secure bond between mother and baby. This bonding provides the infant with a sense of security, reassurance, and comfort. Although secure bonding is not absolutely dependent upon breastfeeding, the act of breastfeeding does release certain hormones in both mother and baby (specifically, oxytocin), which are often referred to as the ‘love hormone’ and can help induce feelings of calm, peace, and affection. Many studies have researched the link between a secure mother-child bond, and the child’s emotional development later in life. It seems that such a secure bond is the foundation on which all relationships are based, so breastfeeding can be extrapolated to be an important part of learning social skills.

Other social factors may be a bit less clear from the infant’s point of view, but one interesting interpretation is provided by Dr. Brian Palmer, in his presentation ‘The Importance of Breastfeeding as it Relates to Total Health’[i]. The graphic demonstrations of how artificial teats can deform oral and facial characteristics are shocking, and have clear implications for health, but also, I think, have a social aspect. In a society that puts so much emphasis on physical appearance, sucking on a breast will produce more natural facial characteristics, whereas sucking on artificial teats often leads to maloclusions, gapped teeth, and unsightly overbites.

Environmentally, artificially fed infants are at a greater risk of being exposed to environmental contaminants. These can come in the constituents of the artificial milk, the packaging of same, the water used to make up feeds, or leaching from plastic bottles and teats. Exclusive breastfeeding protects from all of these.

Economic factors for the baby relate closely to health issues, particularly at the lower end of the socio-economic scale. Being born into poverty – in any nation, no matter how developed – puts you at a much greater risk for all sorts of health problems. Put simply, if you’re poor you’re more likely to be unhealthy. But breastfeeding can effectively undo a lot of this injustice, with its immense positive impact on early years health. Basically, breastfeeding lifts a poor baby out of poverty in the first, vital months, giving it a flying start that will have a positive health impact for years, overcoming many of the negatives due to socio-economic status in an unjust society.[ii]

The Mother

Mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of some forms of cancer than mothers who do not, and the risk is reduced proportionally in relation to the total length of lactation throughout a mother’s life. Breastfeeding mothers also have better bone density and a lower risk of osteoporosis later in life, and may lose weight more quickly in the post-partum period. Breastfeeding exclusively for at least six months also means a woman is unlikely to ovulate and menstruate in that time, and unlikely to conceive. Reducing the number of menstrual cycles can reduce the risk of anemia, and increased child spacing is an important factor in women’s health (because many, closely-spaced children exact a huge toll on a woman’s body).

Psychological and emotional issues around infant feeding from the mother’s point of view are numerous, complex, and highly contentious. Few would contest the assertion that breastfeeding is emotionally nurturing for the baby, but many have argued that it is emotionally draining, and sometimes even damaging for the mother, with many others claiming the opposite – that it facilitates bonding and love, and eases the emotional transition into motherhood. Personally, I certainly experienced the latter, but I believe that many women in our society have grappled with the former. However I think that when breastfeeding feels emotionally draining, it often isn’t really the nursing that’s the problem, but rather our social expectations and pressures. Then there is the issue of empowerment – many women describe breastfeeding as the most empowering experience of their lives; knowing that they are able to nurture and grow a baby with their own body is a huge psychological boost. But when difficulties are encountered (often, again, as a result of social conditions, lack of support, etc) a mother can find herself feeling defeated. This only serves to reinforce the need for support for the breastfeeding dyad at every level of society.

More has been written about the social difficulties associated with breastfeeding, than about the social importance of it from a mother’s point of view. But as one of the major factors influencing whether a woman will breastfeed is whether she herself was breastfed, and how many women she has seen breastfeeding – aunts, cousins, friends – it could be argued that each mother who breastfeeds is herself socially important, as she helps to normalise it and pass on that positive influence to her children and everyone around her.

The major environmental concern with breastfeeding from a mother’s point of view is broadly similar to that of society as a whole – breastfeeding means less waste and less pollution than artificial feeding, which means a better environment for her children’s future.

Some economic concerns are obvious: breastfeeding is free. Others are less so: many mothers feel that breastfeeding negatively impacts their ability to participate in the wage economy, either because they do not have enough paid maternity leave, cannot take the breastfeeding breaks to which they are entitled upon their return, or cannot leave their children with other carers, or take them into the workplace. These issues need to be addressed at a societal level – more needs to be done to ensure that breastfeeding in no way limits a woman’s economic options. There is also the issue of class and socio-economic status – in Western society, poorer women are much less likely to breastfeed than richer women. As discussed in the baby section above, breastfeeding helps to cancel out socio-economic inequalities in terms of the child’s health, but this also applies to the mother to a certain extent.

The Father

The father also benefits by his child being breastfed. On the one hand, there is the fact that his child will be healthier, and therefore a stronger inheritor of his genetic material. On the more immediate side of things, a healthy, calm baby means that the father will probably get a decent amount of sleep, and not have to take many days off work to help care for an ill child.

People sometimes object to breastfeeding on the grounds that it excludes the father as he cannot participate in feeding, but this is short-sighted. In fact, fathers of breastfed children can bond very closely with their babies, because they may make a special effort to find a way to bond outside of feeding. There are many things a father can do to support the mother and care for the breastfed infant.

Socially, fathers as well as mothers can welcome the minimal disruption presented by breastfeeding. Many family social activities can continue as normal, with a nursling in tow, so fathers can still enjoy outings and socialising.

Environmentally, again, breastfeeding produces much less waste and pollution which obviously benefits the father along with everyone else. It also means fewer bins needing to be emptied!

Economically, we again have the fact that breastfeeding is free, and also that a breastfed baby is likelier to have fewer illnesses than an artificially-fed baby, so there is less disruption to normal family life and work patterns.

The rest of the family (siblings)

Children in the family benefit by their siblings being breastfed. Physically, if the baby is breastfed, and therefore healthier, then it is less likely to pass on illnesses to other children in the house. Also, a healthy, satisfied baby will leave the parents with more time to devote to other children.

Parents are sometimes worried that older siblings might be jealous of a breastfed baby, but the reality is usually quite different. Especially (though not exclusively) if the older child was breastfed into toddlerhood, he or she is likely to see breastfeeding as a good way for the mother to comfort and care for the sibling, and often suggest it when the baby cries. Seeing siblings being breastfed lays the fundamental understanding of the normal way to care for a baby, as opposed to being indoctrinated by society’s vast array of images of bottlefeeding.

Socially, children who grow up around breastfed siblings may have keenly developed senses of empathy and compassion, as they see the close relationship of the breastfeeding dyad. And these children are also receiving important education about childrearing which will have a profound impact on the choices they make and the sorts of parents or supporters they will become.

The breastfed toddler and pre-school child

All the amazing physical benefits of breastmilk do not, contrary to some information, magically evaporate at the age of 6 or 12 months. Everything that was amazing and good about it for a young baby, is still amazing and good for an older one. Although obviously older children will not be relying on breastmilk for all their nutritional needs, it can still provide a nutritional boost – especially when they are ill or teething and eating less than normal. Many studies show the continued benefits to the immune system of nursing beyond one year[iii]. Nursing beyond babyhood also helps create ideal facial and dental structures, particularly wide upper dental arches which can lead to reduced need for orthodontic treatment, among other benefits.

Arguably the most important aspect of breastfeeding for the toddler is the psychological and emotional support and comfort it offers. For many children and mothers, nursing remains the ‘magic bullet’ that can sooth away tiredness, hurt, emotional upset, and illness. Continued breastfeeding maintains a physical closeness that can help strengthen the emotional bond, and can help mothers to be intuitively responsive to their growing child’s emotional needs. Toddlerhood is such a turbulent time, as children are just beginning to learn about their emotions and how to deal with them, and the security and continuity of a continued breastfeeding relationship can help provide stability and balance. Leaving the timing of weaning up the to child also places trust in him; trust that he knows best what his needs are and how to fill them. Allowing him the power to manage this life-changing time at his own pace can help him build self-esteem, rather than feeling rushed.[iv]

Socially, benefits include the fact that breastfed children may be better at regulating their emotions (as described above), and in any case have a good way to calm down in most situations. These children will also, like those above who are siblings of nurslings, be socially important themselves, as they can have a positive impact on our breastfeeding culture, both as children and as they grow up.

Economically, breastfed toddlers still save their parents money in the form of fewer illnesses and less disruption to family life and work.

Society as a whole

Humans are social animals, meaning we have evolved to live in groups in which we depend upon one another to meet our basic physical and emotional needs. Breastfeeding developed alongside our social evolution, as an integral part of the setup. By helping to ensure the good health of both babies and mothers, breastfeeding helps society – when its members are healthy, a society is stronger. In our society this translates specifically into fewer costs for the healthcare system, and therefore for taxpayers and employers.

Breastfed children may also have stronger, more secure bonds with their mothers, which help establish their behaviour patterns and social skills. Happy, secure children grow up to be happy, secure members of society. They are also more likely to breastfeed their own children, or help support their partners to breastfeed, meaning that future generations reap the rewards.

As mentioned above, the environmental impact of not breastfeeding is huge. If more babies were breastfed, we would hugely reduce pollution and waste. Artificial feeding creates pollution by supporting the industrial dairy industry (livestock is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than are vehicles), requiring vast networks of factory production and long-distance transportation (both heavy consumers of fossil fuel, and polluters of water resources), and in the packaging (mostly plastic, with some metal, all requiring huge amounts of fossil fuel, and nearly all of which will be dumped into landfill to leach into the water supply). Given that breastfeeding is the ultimate in ethically, locally produced food, it seems madness to disregard it in favour of something so unsustainable and out of touch with the needs of both society and the individual. Breastfed children have a head start in understanding where their food comes from and how it is produced.


[i] http://www.brianpalmerdds.com/pdf/section_B.pdf

[ii] http://www.theecologist.org/trial_investigations/268337/breastmilk_vs_formula_food.html

[iii] The Breastfeeding Answer Book, pp 202

[iv] Ibid, pp 203

Not breastfeeding is like mourning the death of a child

January 29, 2010

bottlefeeding mimics mourning

“According to a new theory being proposed by University of Albany evolutionary psychologistGordon Gallup and his colleagues, the decision to bottle-feed is tantamount, in the mother’s psyche, to mourning the loss of the child. At least, that’s how a woman’s body seems to respond to the absence of a suckling infant at its breasts in the wake of a successful childbirth. In a soon-to-be-published article in Medical Hypotheses, the authors argue that bottle-feeding simulates the unsettling ancestral condition of an infant’s death”

This presents fascinating new angle in the quest to have breastfeeding acknowledged, fully and sincerely, as the biological norm against which to judge anything else. However as many of you will know, all too often it is still bottle-feeding of artificial milk that is taken as the norm against which breastfeeding is judged. You will know too of the constant worries about making formula-feeding mothers feel guilty (here is an excellent discussion of that topic). Rather than piling on the guilt or arguing that artificial milk is worse for babies than breastmilk, this article takes an entirely new look at the situation and comes up with a new interpretation. It certainly won’t be easy to hear for some people, but I think it’s well worth reading.