a couple of notes on nursing…

1. breast is (not) always best

(i wrote this for gmm a couple of weeks ago and i am reposting it here.  with some slight edits for clarity and continuity.)

i really dont like the saying ‘breast is best’.  i understand the impetus behind this statement to combat the anti-breastfeeding mood that is prevalent.  but, it can also be innacurate and alienating.

i breast fed aza and i used formula.  that is what was best for us.  for her.  even if i had been able to arrange my life so that i could do 100 percent breastfeeding that would not have been best for her.  and i have met plenty of parents where breast was not best.

it isnt best when breastfeeding causes you so much physical or psychological discomfort that you are pumping adrenaline and fear through your body and the milk to your child.  when breastfeeding is not a conduit to bonding but to re-traumatization.

and if you arent the mama or the baby, your opinion on how they create and sustain their relationship is just that, your opinion.

and formula companies can do evil things.  nestle for example. evil.  but so can well-meaning midwives who make absolute statements about what is best for a mother’s body or a baby’s body, no matter what.

what i dont understand is how do people who claim that they believe that the mother can make the best decisions for her child, then go and make unequivocal statements like: breast is best.

yes, i believe that parents should be accurately informed of what is in formula and the potential for harm.  but, can we please stop pretending that breastfeeding does not have the potential for harm as well?   i have seen parents and children harmed by breastfeeding, when it has caused damage to the relationships.  and i think that the only people who can know what is best for that mama/baby dyad is the mama and the baby.

i would have a mother who is lowering her stress levels (and stress hormones) by bottle feeding formula to her baby, than a woman struggling to fit into some ideal of what a ‘good mother does’ by breastfeeding and being too exhausted to enjoy her baby.  and yes, this does happen a lot. ive seen it. ive lived it.

it comes down to humility. to walking the talk.  if we believe that mothers ought to be able to decide when she gets and remains pregnant.  how she gives birth. then to be morally consistent, she ought to be the one to decide how she is going to nourish her child.  we have to trust women, trust mothers, trust parents.  the human race has survived because mothers have learned generation after generation to trust themselves, to be aware of their children, to do what they see as best at that moment.  and if we are going to continue to survive as a species, trusting mothers is paramount in the process.

yes, there are abusive mothers.  unfortunately.  but dismissing the experience of millions of mothers who choose to formula feed their babies is not going to stop mothers from being abusive.  actually statements like: breast is best, in which we dismiss the experiences of m/others in order to create a one-size-fits-all model for nourishing a baby is simply another way to control mothers through shame and helps to create the conditions for the perpetuation of an abusive society.

i remember my midwife screeching: formula is poison!  (the over privileged lady though could not tell me *what* in formula made it poison.  what the effects of the poison were.  etc. i had to do that research on my own.  her job, i guess were to make ill-informed statements to scare women into enacting her vision of idealized motherhood…ahem…)

i breastfed aza.  i breast fed her in bars, on park benches, in the car, on planes, in restaurants, in bed, in front of television, at late night parties.  i loved nursing her.  one of my sweetest memories is the first day of her life, she took to the breast immediately, and looked up at me mid way through and smiled. with dimples! for the first couple of days her dimples were her and my secret. i only saw them when she was nursing.  i get teary just thinking about how sweet that was.

when aza was nursing, and she got a bit sick, the first thing i would do is start breastfeeding more.  not only did she get well quickly, but i barely got sick from low immune system when i was nursing.

i believe a person ought to be able to breastfeed where she wants when she wants.  societal restrictions on nourishing/nursing a baby are disgusting and immoral.  and breastmilk is amazing.  it cures pink eye, bug bites, acne, eczema, immune deficiency, and more.  i even read that it could be used as replacement for contact lens cleanser.  srsly, breast milk is a wonder.

but for all the benefits that breast milk  may bring, the breast is not always best.  sometimes it is.  we have an obligation to make sure that accurate information is available for parents, and to protect their autonomy in deciding what is best.

i dont think that all of the scientific research in the world can determine what is best, optimal, natural, etc for a human being.  it can at times act as a guide, a suggestion, information.  but ultimately what is best for a person must be decided by themselves.

i am focused on dismantling, stopping this abusive society, where scientific studies replace a person’s intuition.  where we think that the answers are ‘out there’ and we dont learn the discipline of being aware of ourselves and our world and dont discover that the questions and the answers are ‘right here/right now’.  in which we dismiss the individuality of persons and the uniqueness of people’s situations, for the standardized answers found in sound bites and slogans.

cause our survival as a species is not guaranteed.  we are poisoning the air, land, water that we need to survive.  we are committing a slow genocide of ourselves.

so, the poison in formula, is really not my primary concern and you know what?  sometimes poison is the best cure.

that is one of the most ancient laws of medicine in human society.  and if we deny that truth, then we really are one step closer to our own extinction.

2. biological nursing:  i love this website.  when i was nursing, my midwife would come by every couple of weeks, and inevitably ‘correct’ my nursing position.  so aza and i would oblige her, aza would barely get any milk during our exhibition feeding session, and then when the midwife would leave, i would breathe a sigh of relief, lay down and feed aza in the way that was most comfortable.

biological nursing — excerpts

Mothers and babies are versatile feeders.  There is not one way to breastfeed

The breastfeeding position the baby uses often mimics the baby was in the womb

There is no right or wrong breastfeeding position.  The right position is the one that works

Babies do not always feed for hunger; “non nutritive sucking’ is hugely beneficial to increase your milk and satisfy your baby’s needs

For starters, BN is laid-back breastfeeding, mothers neither sit up right nor do they lie on their sides or flat on their back.  Instead, they are in comfortable semi-reclined positions where every part of their body is supported especially their shoulders and neck.  Then they lie their babies on top of their bodies so that babies head is somewhere near the breast. In other words mothers make the breast available.  Babies lie prone or on their tummies but their bodies are not flat but tilted up.

there are videos and pics at the site.  even some with non-white moms!