Driftless wrote: ↑
If you are going to breastfeed you can't wait a few days and then try, you have to start immediately. I think the issue is when do you acknowledge that it isn't working and switch to formula. Don't the formula makers give free samples to new mothers? If you start with that then you are stuck with that. I think that's another reason the breastfeeding advocates are in early and push hard to get breastfeeding started. Again, the issue is when do you admit defeat. Using your own beast milk is cheaper than formula, so if you are poor it is better to breastfeed if you can.
My girlfriend's former mother-in-law and sister-in-law never breastfed their children. They thought it was odd and a bit sexual. The sister-in-law even asked her if she was getting off on it. So there are multiple reasons to breastfeed or not.
Yes, you have to start immediately for well-understood hormonal reasons seated in the pituitary gland, and those who want to breastfeed are encouraged to do it. The problems arise with:
1. Those new mothers who do not wish to breastfeed. They are practically reported to CPS at birth. You HAVE to breast feed in today's hospitals, and will be shamed into it even if you don't want to start, and shamed into continuing even if your baby is starving, jaundiced and having the seizures of advanced kernicterus neonatorum (the Wikipedia page on that condition has been cleansed of any mention of dehydration or calorie insufficiency).
2. Yes, manufacturers of formula used to make free samples available - why wouldn't they, as profit-driven businesses? Most hospitals forbid free samples now, and the few that keep a stock of formula keep it under lock and key. The belief is that without the easy out of formula, all mothers will succeed and climb into the broad, sunlit uplands of breast-feeding glory. The fact remains that babies have always died of lactation failure. Just because we choose to remove choice from new mothers does not change the death rate from such lactation failure.
3. Sexual? Tell them not to be weird. How did our ancestors do it? It worked for most, and still does. The problem is it doesn't always work, and those babies can die. We used to allow formula feeds, but now even those babies must die in the cause of 'breast is best'.
I've seen babies born in an advanced western first world country that haven't regained their birthweight by three months of age
- and if you know nothing of babies, the standard is to regain birthweight by one week of age
. Fretful, irritable, crying 24/7 (or worse still, listless and silent as they no longer have the energy to cry and death is scarily imminent). The public health nurse and 'lactation consultant', along with the loons on the local Facebook page are all telling the mother to keep up the breast feeding. I suggest supplementing with formula, and for the first time in her life, the baby sleeps and is satisfied, starts to regain her weight and grow. And her IQ is going to be 20 points less than it could have been. Which would appear to me to be child abuse of the most serious kind.
Maternal, perinatal and infant mortality were the best ever seen in the world in some western countries recently. Some of those deaths cannot be prevented, no matter how hard we try, how skilled we are, or however much we spend. But now we see rising death rates for mothers and babies as a result of fashionable but uneducated idiots encouraging home delivery after multiple cæsarian sections, and babies are to starve to death because someone thinks that Big Formula is evil. Just as with vaccines, we quickly forget just how good we have it. Having forgotten, we take several romantic steps backwards and kill some mothers and a lot of babies. It's sad.
And why is breast feeding so revered? There are a few hard facts: the colostrum contains maternal antibodies and a baby consuming it will gain passive/temporary immunity to a few infections as a result of consuming it (certain). Mothers gain some small degree of protection against breast cancer (certain but very small), ovarian cancer (not certain), post-partum depression (highly questionable), and maybe they lose some of their pregnancy weight (not certain and kind of selfish if your baby becomes a waitress rather than an engineer). A certain fact that is touted more often than all others: Your baby will be smarter (certain, but small). A meta-analysis
of 17 studies showed a 3.4 point gain from breast feeding, but worryingly showed that studies that controlled for maternal IQ only had a 2.6 point gain. The reason that is worrying is this - trigger warning: I am about to say things known and completely accepted in intelligence research communities, however offensive they may be to blank-slaters - one's IQ is
genetically determined. When you are a zygote, you have potential in this respect as in others. Nothing that we know of can increase the theoretical maximum you can achieve, either in intelligence, or strength, or endurance, or whatever else you can think of. Lots of things can prevent you achieving your potential maximum. Some things can delay it, somethings can help it along. What we think of as perfect child-rearing (lots of love, proper nutrition, intellectual stimulation with Mozart, reading and books) will show up clearly as advantageous to pre-school kids when tested for IQ. And then biological reality comes along, and all those expensive and hard-won advantages shrink. The advantages allowed it to develop sooner, but not to blossom wider. By the time you are 30 years of age, your IQ will be roughly what the mean of your parents would suggest (allowing for some regression), no matter how they had brought you up. Yes, they could have made you an imbecile with poor nutrition, head injuries and social isolation, but if they did an average job, you will have the predicted IQ.
The other thing you need to know is about study design is this - how shall we say a child has a higher or lower IQ than 'expected'? From what I have just said, a study that would mean something ought to match subjects and controls (I'm assuming you understand 'match', 'subject' and 'control' here) for paternal IQ, maternal IQ, and, almost impossible, early childhood environment. If we could match thousands of subject breast-fed children with thousands of control formula-fed children, so that they all had both parents of the same IQ, same birth order, no pre-natal complications, no intra-partum difficulties, no neonatal illnesses, no serious infancy issues, and exactly the same amount of parental care and involvement, AND ignored all pre-school IQ tests and waited until we could see the final results at age 30, we might begin to get an idea of whether breast milk or formula made a difference. All we have are many studies that have not controlled for maternal IQ, none that have controlled for paternal IQ, and none that have controlled for any of the other variables of enormous importance (especially waiting for the final outcome of IQ as an adult) I have described above. If you bothered to read all that, I commiserate with your sense of depression. No one has done anything like it, nor is it likely anyone will - start today with the best of intentions, and publish in thirty-plus years, which doesn't sound attractive for career advancement, especially when objective intelligence research is considered disreputable. Combine all that with a sense of the imperfect accuracy of an IQ test, and you start to see 2 points as simply noise. I was not breast fed, nor much loved by my peculiar personality-disordered mother. If I lost two of my IQ points, I bet I'd still do the Times Cryptic in less than 10 minutes as I currently do each day. Two points mean very little at best, nothing otherwise. IQ tests are valid and meaningful, but are not an exact science.
So is there any justification in taking away valid choices from new mothers in the name of health and IQ benefits? I can't see any evidence worth believing, and I'd be delighted to find some. Currently, it seems to be done to make some people feel good, and better than the rest of us. Those that have enjoyed successful breast feeding (or home birth, or whatever else) seem to need to crow about it by enforcing the same risky choices on everyone else. And if we do it on (their) faith and some babies are damaged, and some babies die as a result? I believe that is legally defined as 'assault' and 'murder' respectively. As always, an extreme case proves the point. Let us imagine a new mother was saved from dying of breast cancer 50 years after her baby was born. In order to save herself, her baby had to die. What would our law say about someone who killed a baby for some personal gain, even one so small that it was not felt until 50 years later? And what if the baby died during an attempt to gain it a couple of completely theoretical IQ points? This is all shit. Utter shit. How dare anyone harm and kill babies to make themselves feel virtuous?
As depressing as all that human nature is, it is nice to get cross about something that doesn't involve a coronavirus. Let us all hope that the new science being fed to us about that virus is far more rational, reasonable and dispassionately accurate than the old, long-studied, and well-funded, yet politicized, science about breast feeding. Yeah, well.
Sorry, FT, for becoming a new provider of a wall of text!