Sunday, May 30, 2010

Unintentional Hurts #2: The Boob Nazis

Yes, I am referring to the La Leche League. I heard a friend and fellow mother call them this and it made me laugh out loud. I want to say up front that their overall mission of helping women that want to breast feed is very respectable. It is an art that has been mostly passed down from women to women over the centuries, and many have trouble making it work without this kind of support. BUT, they definitely suffer from the mob mentality of feeling pretty militant that it is the only way to feed your baby. They are also eager to tell you that your child will be less intelligent, suffer from allergies and other medical issues, will have a higher propensity to be obese, that you will be more susceptible to breast cancer, and all sorts of other things based on scaring the bejesus out of new mothers so that they will do it. I, once upon a time, took all that information in and was primed and ready to join the La Leche League troops.

Then we had a child that unbeknownst to us, was born with a metabolic genetic disorder. On day four of his life, he passed away. In hindsight, knowing the extent of his illness and what his limitations were, what he ate had a lot to do with his death. The facts are undeniable. Children with this illness have a 90% chance of survival if it is known that they have it. Less than 10% get sick and die in the neonatal period. Of those babies, 99% come from mothers who breastfeed exclusively. In our country where the boob nazis prevail, we lose a significant number of babies to metabolic genetic disorders. In Europe, where the La Leche League has little to no presence, it is common practice during the first few days of life when mom’s milk is not yet fully in to supplement with formula. As a result, they lose a lot fewer babies than we do in the United States to metabolic disorders.

I know it is easy for the members of this group to blow this kind of thing off. It is easy to do when it is not your child. Do the few that die in the United States justify the many that live? How do you explain this to a grieving mother? All I can tell you is that I would rather have a child with allergies than a child that is dead. Their advice that they gave me was just plain negligent and I am pretty angry about that. What gets me going is when I hear moms say “breastfeeding saves lives” when it didn’t save my child. Breastfeeding had the opposite effect in my household.

So what do I suggest given my experience? The fact is that mom’s milk takes 3-5 days to fully come in. Some babies are poor eaters on top of that. I know of plenty of babies that do not have problems with nipple confusion when their parents supplement with formula until they get the hang of breastfeeding. (Nipple Confusion is when you switch from bottle to breastfeeding, and the baby gets confused and has problems eating. They use different muscles when they eat from a bottle, than when they eat from mom.) In my mind, it isn’t worth risking. The important thing is that your child eats, and however that happens is irrelevant. There are worse things you can do with your baby than give he or she a bottle.

I wish I had never been taught this stuff and had been given the opportunity to let my instincts prevail rather than follow the faulty advice I was given. I never had a problem with bottle feeding before I started pursuing natural childbirth and all that comes with it. But, I was a new parent, and one that acknowledged that I didn’t know anything about raising a baby, and sought as much instruction as I could to learn what I needed to do to be able to do this. I pay for it every day now and will for the rest of my life.


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