Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Random Thoughts-Breast Feeding

This sculpture located in Nami Island, Korea is of a smiling and happy nursing mother. This sculpture represents the full balancing act of maternity.  Shared from Mamas Lactantes (Mom's Milk) Facebook page.

Breast feeding is such a hot topic lately and has really raised some heated discussions in the media.

Everyone remembers this cover and the hoopla it caused.  The LA Times has this to say about the photo, "A Time magazine cover with L.A. mom Jamie Lynne Grumet breast-feeding her strapping, almost 4-year-old son promises to be the head-snapping checkout-stand stopper of the season, based on the fevered reaction provoked by the magazine's pre-Mother's Daylanding." The Washington Post stayed away from the controversy entirely by focusing on the art history of the shot and what makes a good cover.  While Fox News takes the more extreme view (surprised) that Grumet is a narcissist, who psychologically abuses her son and disguises ugliness as something beautiful.
Here are some photos of famous paintings of breastfeeding women that were behind the scenes at the above photo shoot.

But really, what is all the controversy about?  The fact that there is a woman nursing her 3 year old on the cover of a national magazine, that the child is 3 years old, or that she is bearing her breast?  I won't even attempt to touch on the topics of sexuality, our country's obsession with nudity or my opinion that nursing should not be considered sexual or nudity.  Breastfeeding is a very personal decision.  I for one think that it is a no brainer, I mean, have you seen the cost of a can of baby formula? No, seriously, when I heard the health benefits my babies would receive by my breastfeeding them, they far outweighed any discomfort, inconvenience, or effects on the shape of my body I have ever encountered by not using the more conventional method of feeding my infants.

Breastfeeding in public is another controversial topic.  I feel that as long as I am covered, I should have the prerogative to feed my child wherever I like and that nursing should not be viewed any differently than bottle feeding.  Would you banish a bottle feeding mother to a public restroom? 

Lastly, how long should you breast feed is also a very personal decision yet has caused many heated discussions. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that "Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child....Increased duration of breastfeeding confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and the mother....There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychological or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer."  While The World Health Organization  recommends, "Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to six months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond."  It continues to say in it's 10 Facts on Breastfeeding that "Beyond the immediate benefits for children, breastfeeding contributes to a lifetime of good health. Adults who were breastfed as babies often have lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol, as well as lower rates of overweight, obesity and type-2 diabetes. There is evidence that people who were breastfed perform better in intelligence tests."  

This article by, sites many studies about nutritional content of breast milk beyond 12 months.  My personal favorite is a study done by Dewey 2001, In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides:
  • 29% of energy requirements
  • 43% of protein requirements
  • 36% of calcium requirements
  • 75% of vitamin A requirements
  • 76% of folate requirements
  • 94% of vitamin B12 requirements
  • 60% of vitamin C requirements
Wow!  Again, a no brainer!  So remember, if you see a mama nursing in public, don't judge, support her personal decisions and keep walking.  She is doing the best thing for her and her baby.

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