Friday, February 27, 2009

Milk, Money, and Madness

The Culture and Politics of Breastfeeding, 1995
Naomi Baumslag, M.D., M.P.H., and Dia L. Michels This book is just packed full of gems. More than just about culture and politics, it discusses the mechanics of the lactating breast and the history of breastfeeding; I found the wetnursing section to be fascinating. When I read the preface, I thought to myself, "I want to just copy/paste that to my blog!" When I read the introduction, I thought, "Forget that preface, this is what I want to copy/paste to my blog!" Then every page after that I thought the same. At one point I thought to myself, "They should make this book available to every mom and future mom out there!" And then I remembered where I got this book: the library. I'm going to highlight some of the statistics and quotes that I found particularly amazing:

"If every newborn in the United States were breastfed for just twelve weeks, the health care savings from avoiding nonchronic disease in the first year of life would be $2-4 billion annually." (from the Introduction, page xxiv, their italics, not mine)

"If the infant fails to gain sufficient weight, by the standard charts compiled and distributed by the infant formula companies, it is too often assumed that the mother's milk is inadequate and instructions are given to add formula as a supplement. This thinking is too limited in scope....The solution is not to blame breastmilk and begin blindly supplementing the infant's diet but rather to search for and address the cause of insufficient weight gain. And inadequate maternal diet, incorrect positioning, and scheduled feeding are some of the factors that need to be considered" (page 28).
I loved this because so often women are told their bodies aren't good enough. It is unlikely that a woman's breasts would make insufficient milk whether in quality or quantity. What a mother really needs is not to be told that she's not good enough but instead a struggling mother/baby pair needs quality support.

"A severely malnourished mother will produce less milk, but enough to sustain healthy growth for a newborn for six months....Most strikingly, even in conditions of severe starvation, where the amount of milk may be decreased, the quality remains remarkably constant. This is how infants are able to survive famines and wars." (page 84)

One of my favorite paragraphs was when they discussed the Kennedy hearings:
"The most dramatic testimony of the day was that of Dr. Natividad Clavano, Chief of Pediatrics a Baguio General Hospital in the Philippines, who described how the hospital had successfully addressed the infant formula problem by refusing to allow the milk nurses access to new mothers, removing formula promotion posters, ending the distribution of formula samples, instituting immedeate breastfeeding after birth, and twety-four-hor-a-day rooming in. In just over four years, in a population of 10,000 infants, the breastfeeding rate jumped from 26% to 87%. Furthermore, Dr. Clavano stated, 'we were able to reduce our infant dealths by over 47% and diseases by 58%. Diarrhea was reduced by 79%'" (page 160). Wow. Wow Wow.
There is so much gold in this book. Check it out. I'll return it to the library so you Provo-ites can have immediate access to it. :) Ok. One more favorite to conclude with:

"Our attitudes toward breastfeeding are indicators of our attitudes toward children. Should children be touched often and encouraged to enjoy the most intimate contact with their mothers, or kept at a distance in an effort to teach them sulf-sufficiency? Should children be comforted when crying, or be left to exhaust themselves to sleep? Should children be put on a structured schedule, or be allowed to fee and sleep when hungry and tired?" (page 37, bolded emphasis mine).


  1. Wow. I need to read this. Or maybe we should start up book club again?

  2. You're right, Alisa. We SHOULD have book club again. Thanks for reminding me!

  3. I would participate. :)


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