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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Even breastfeeding is being marketed ...

... as being "green."

With World Breastfeeding Week coming up, there's good reason to promote breastfeeding.  Like everything else these days, there are those that will turn just about anything into an environmental issue.  :-P  I happen to be very much in favour of extended breastfeeding.  I bf'd both my girls for about 3 years each.  This was an accomplishment with my elder daughter.  Hers was a hospital birth with two shots of demerol, an epidural and forceps.  The only reason I agreed to the drugs was because the hospital staff lied to me, saying they would not have any effect on her.  She was drugged out for several days and, when they finally wore off, no longer instinctively knew how to nurse.  After a disasterous first week that was ended only with the help of a La Leche League leader (the dr's didn't even know what to look for), we finally figured it out.  By then, I was so badly injured on one side, I couldn't use it until it healed.  When it did, my daughter would no longer even try to nurse on that side, so for the next three years, I had one breast several sizes than the other. *L*  This actually worked out well.  I never had to remind myself to switch sides.  With my second daughter, born at home without any drugs at all, nursing was never any problem, though I did find myself tempted by the convenience of nursing one sided again, anyways. *L*

With my first pregnancy, my husband and I went to prenatal classes.  At one point, the nurse teaching the class asked who planned to bf their babies.  All the pregnant moms raised their hands, with a lot of "of course, it's best for baby" type comments.  After everyone in the class had their babies, there was a get together with all our babies. All the babies were 3-6 weeks old.  What I found interesting was that, of all the people there, I was the only one who had actual problems with nursing - and I was the only one still nursing!  All the other moms had tried to bf, but quickly gave up.  One even went to far as to thicken her baby's formula with cereal.  Considering who adamant everyone had been about bf'ing before, I couldn't believe how quickly they all gave up, even though none of them actually had problems bf'ing.

Bottle feeding will never go away, and I don't think it should.  There will always be babies who, for one reason or another, cannot nurse.  Today's formulas, as inferior as they are in many ways, are a significant improvement on the early baby foods used when bf'ing wasn't an option.  In a perfect world, bf'ing would be the norm with bottle feeding available, without guilt, for those rare occaisions where bf'ing isn't possible.

I won't go into any of that now, though.  Instead, I wanted to respond to the current re-marketing of bf'ing as being the "green" thing to do.  Apparently, the greens are just discovering this now.  Go figure.

In the Sun Media, today, I found lists of 10 reasons to breastfeed, and environmental reason to bf.  Here's my take on both...

10 Great Reasons to Breastfeed

1. It's free.

I'm glad this one is first, actually.  We were pretty broke with both our kids, and not having to worry about money for formula really took away a lot of stress (that and those feel-good hormones that get released while bf'ing... ;-D).  I can't believe how expensive infant formula is!  How can anyone afford it???

2. Health Canada, The Canadian Paediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend it.

Personally, I wouldn't consider this a plus.  Medical organizations go through their fads just like any other and, quite frankly, I don't consider them necessarily reliable.

3. Breastfeeding is associated with higher IQs. 

 Junk science alert.  "Associated with" is meaningless.  It just means there's a correlation.  Correleation does not equal causation, but it does make for a good selling point for all those new "smart baby" infant formulas out there. :-P

4. It is nature's most perfect food, custom designed for human babies.

 This is absulutely correct.  All mammals product milk specific to their species, which is why cow's milk has to be modified so much before it can be safely used for human babies.  As it is, goat's milk is closer to human milk than cow's, but cow's milk is more plentiful and cheaper.  Early commercial infant formulas used the milk byproducts left behind in the making of other dairy products.  The manufacturers used to throw it away until they found a market for it in baby formula.  This actually meant less waste, but it didn't make it any easier for human infant digestive systems to handle.

5. Breastfeeding means more sleep for baby (and mom and dad!)

 I certainly found it so.  Especailly after I figured out how to nurse lying down (being as large as I was, the recommended way didn't work).  Since I was sleeping with my daughter anyway, this immediately added another 2 hours of sleep to my nights.  My daughter would start fussing, I'd roll into postion, she's latch on, and we'd both drift back to sleep.  Not that she had to fully awake in the first place.  What bliss!

6. Breastfed babies get fewer cavities and have healthier dental and jaw development.

 I don't know.  It didn't stop my elder daughter from having jaws that are shorter than they should be, resulting in malpostioned teeth.  I think genetics plays a stronger roll, though nursing certainly helps.

7. Sweeter smelling diapers. 

 True enough, but they still stink. *L*

8. Breastfeeding makes for happier, healthier babies.

 There's truth to this statement, but it seems to imply that bottlefed babies are neither happy, nor healthy, which isn't true. 

9. Breastfeeding is great for moms, too. It helps to shrink the uterus, prevent postpartum hemorrhaging and increases weight loss. 

 Helping shrink the uterus is one of the side benefits of the hormones released while nursing.  Regarding the weight loss, that's misleading.  Breastfeeding does seem to use up some of the mother's fat reserves, particularly from the "saddlebags" on the thighs - at least it seems to.  That does not actually mean there will be weight loss, since weight is more complex than simple adiposity.

10. It's what breasts were designed for! 

True enough.  Too bad our culture sexualizes them so much.

Environmental Benefits of Breastfeeding

- No garbage. 

Unless breast pads are used.  There are disposable ones as well as washable types.  They do a decent job of preventing stains from leaking.

- Saves energy. No factories are required to manufacture it.

I'm not sure "saves energy" is the right term to use here.  There's a lot more involved when using factories as an example.  Quite a lot of resources go into manufactuing infant formula, including research and development.

- Saves electricity. Breastmilk doesn't need to be refrigerated or heated.

 Isn't electricity energy?  :-/  The point is quite accurate, though.  This is particularly important in those areas of the world that do not have reliable refrigeration or safe water supplies.  This is where the Politics of Breastfeeding comes into play.  Some serious ethical issues involved.  Even in first world nations, with clean water and refridgeration reliably available, I think there's a tendancy for people to forget that keeping a bottle in the diaper bag for hours while going about the day is potentially dangerous.

- Saves gas. Fewer trips to the supermarket, drug store, doctor's office and hospital. 

 I'm not so sure about this one.  With the supermarket and drug store, it would save gas only if parents are making trips just to buy formual seperate from all their other shopping.  While I can see people making an dash to the store if they run out unexpectedly, but generally people will buy formula at the same time they're doing their grocery shopping, etc.  The dr's office and hospital again makes it seem like bottle fed babies are all so much sicker than bf babies.  I don't think the difference is enough to make that much of a difference in overall gas useage.

- Breastfeeding means fewer cow-induced greenhouse gas emissions.

 Nope.  Sorry, but bf'ing isn't going to change the number of cows there are in the world.  Even if infant formual became uncommon, used only when medically needed, that won't change.  We don't have whole herds of dairy cows producing milk only for infant formula.  (And we'll just ignore the cow farts and burps causing global warming myth for now.) 

- No stuff to buy - formula, bottles, nipples and other paraphernalia.

 Not if the mother pumps and stores milk for future feedings, as many women who work out of home do successfully.  There aren't too many jobs out there were Mom can bring her baby to work to bf as needed.  Otherwise, yes, not having to get all that stuff is a definate bonus.

- Reduces the need for disposable sanitary products. 

 Yes and no on an individual basis. Some lucky women have delayed menses for the entire time they're nursing.  Me?  I didn't last 6 months. :-P

- Effective birth control when none else is available.

Again, this is an individual thing, but nursing and frequent physical contact between mother and infact, especially skin to skin contact, does delay fertility.  Baby wearing and co-sleeping increases this effect.

Hmmm... the new version of blogger seems to have gotten rid of the spell check function.  Well, I've got other family members wanting the computer, so if there are any typos, I apologize now. ;-)

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