2. Importance Of Breast Feeding
“Breast milk as the baby draws it directly from the maternal fountain without the interference of a middle man, is drawn from the living cells that produce it for the specific purpose of nourishing the baby. It is taken directly into the baby’s stomach at the temperature at which it leaves the breast, without oxidation or contamination. Its ingredients and physical characteristics are especially adapted not only to the needs of the digestive organs of the human infant but also to the nutritive requirements of the infant. It is even designed to educate the digestive organs of the infant.”
— Dr. Herbert M. Shelton, “The Story of Infant Nursing,” Hygienic Review
The only perfect food for an infant is its own mother’s breast milk. Of course, under certain circumstances, it is not possible for the mother to breast-feed (this will be covered later in this lesson). However, most women can breast-feed their young and should if they want to have the healthiest baby possible.
“Nature has made provision for the infant to be nursed. She has equipped women with milk-producing glands and the normal woman is possessed of instincts that lead her to nurse her baby. At the same time, the baby itself is equipped with instincts that cause it to seek for the maternal breast and to extract its food from this source.”
— Dr. Herbert M. Shelton, “Baby’s First Years,” Hygienic Review
There are many advantages to breast-feeding your young which I will go into in the next section of this lesson. There are also some myths surrounding the advantages of breast-feeding. One of these is the idea of immunity. Most books or articles on the subject of breast-feeding state that breast milk produces an immunity in the suckling infant to certain diseases. From previous lessons touching on the subject of immunity you are probably aware that we can be made immune to nothing. If we indulge in the causes of disease, we suffer disease. The same holds true for infants. Breast-feeding builds stronger, healthier babies that—providing the mother is in good health and the infant isn’t being fed any unwholesome foods in addition to breast milk and exposed to unwholesome environmental influences—will be free of disease.
Another claim by the aforementioned books and articles is that breast-feeding prevents breast cancer. Again, if the causes of cancer aren’t indulged, cancer will not occur.
Perhaps the fact that most women who breast-feed their babies are much more health conscious than, those who bottle-feed is an explanation for the lower fate of breast cancer among these women.
In spite of these myths, however, there are many advantages to be had by breast-feeding your young.
2.1 Advantages of Breast-Feeding
Several years ago, a study was conducted by Dr. Randolph Paine of the University of Iowa’s department of family practice. He tested 40 breast-fed babies and 66 bottle-fed babies for a period of six months from birth. He found that breast-fed babies visited a physician an average of 1.6 times due to illness. The bottle-fed babies visited 2.8 times during this period. This is nearly twice as often.
Other studies have shown that breast-fed babies have six times the chance of living through their first year as bottle-fed babies. Ninety percent of all infantile deaths occur in bottle-fed babies.
Breast-fed babies are vigorous and healthy and are less likely to develop diseases—especially, the so-called contagious diseases, breast-fed babies will be less likely to have bowel troubles and gastrointestinal impairments.
Breast milk is always ready—it requires no fixing and is always there. It does not contain dirt or contamination and doesn’t need preparation or measuring. It is always fresh and cannot deteriorate.
Breast-feeding is cheaper than, bottle-feeding (it costs you nothing) and gives you more time to be with baby because you spend less time preparing, sterilizing, warming, cooking, and cleaning up after bottles.
Breast milk is formula perfect for baby’s digestive system. It is readily assimilated and easy to digest, allowing baby more energy for better growth of brain and body.
A baby has an inexhaustible need to be loved. Breastfeeding shows him he is loved. It gives him a secure feeling of being snuggled closely to you when nursing. Breastfeeding provides closeness and warmth—a close contact that bonds a mother with her child.
Baby’s sucking after birth helps the uterus of the mother to contract to its normal size quickly. This prevents excessive bleeding after delivery.
Babies that are breast-fed are less likely to be constipated or have skin disorders and respiratory ailments. They will not have any of the so-called “allergies” common among bottle-fed babies. They’re also free of gastroenteritis, blood poisoning, and will have fewer dental problems later in life.
If a woman is breast-feeding solely, that is, not feeding her baby anything but breast milk, her ovulation will be postponed for as much as two years. This means that if she does indulge in sex while lactating, she will not get pregnant as soon. Thus, natural child spacing and no artificial means of birth control is necessary.
Another advantage of breast-feeding babies is that their stools will not smell foul. They smell sweet and are loose and yellowish in color rather than hard, dark-colored, and foul smelling as in bottle-fed babies. This is because breast milk is easily digested and it doesn’t putrefy in the baby’s body.
In spite of the many advantages of breast-feeding, it does not guarantee good mothering. There is much more to good mothering aside from providing the best food.
Also there is much to know about breast-feeding such as when to feed, how often to feed, under what conditions to feed, how much to feed, etc. This will be covered later in this lesson.
Bottle-feeding became popular with the belief that it was cleaner, somehow better than breast milk. It was also considered advantageous for the woman on the go—she didn’t have to be with baby all the time in order for him to be fed. Someone else could give him the bottle as well as she. It allowed her to go to work.
However, as far as I can see, there are no advantages to bottle-feeding. Even if a woman has to work there are ways to breast-feed her baby. She can hand express her milk before work in the morning or the night before and freeze it. It will be there for the caretaker to put out at room temperature ahead of lime and be ready for baby when baby is hungry.
There are many, many disadvantages to bottle-feeding though. One is it can lead to obesity. The artificial carbohydrates in formula milks are habit forming and increase consumption of artificial sweets later in life. Artificial formulas contain much salt which can lead to dehydration in infants and toxicity. There are high levels of lead in formula milk that has been stored in tin cans.
Bottle-feeding is a very unnatural approach to handling an infant’s nutritional needs. It comes complete with schedules, bottles (which can easily become contaminated), complicated preparation, a waste of precious energy, a waste of time, etc. A mother has to be concerned with which formula to use, how to prepare it, how much to use, how often to feed, whether or not to hold the baby, etc. And at best, all the manufacturers can claim is that their formula is “most like mother’s milk.”
Bottle-fed babies are more likely to develop disease. So-called “allergic” reactions to the milk such as eczema are common. Many nutritional ailments are caused by bottle milks as mother’s milk cannot be duplicated. No one even knows all the components of breast milk, and, therefore, formula milks are likely to be deficient in one or more necessary element. One formula milk was found deficient in vitamin B-6 after it was discovered that this vitamin is contained in breast milk.
Bottle milks are difficult for baby to digest. Therefore, much energy is spent in breaking these down to a usable form and less energy is directed toward baby’s growth and development.
Bottle-fed babies who are fed cow’s milk often have intestinal and gastric disturbances. This is because cow’s milk is not suitable for the baby’s digestive system. Cow’s milk contains more fat, more calcium and much less tryptophan (an amino acid) and lecithin than mother’s milk. Tryptophan and lecithin are used in building brains and nerves. Calcium is employed in building bones. This is why cow’s milk has the components it has—a cow’s bone structure grows rapidly, and its brains and nervous system are not highly or delicately organized. On the other hand, a baby is relatively small of bone and have a large, highly-organized brain with a perfection of senses and bodily control. Babies fed on cow’s milk primarily have softer brains and are less likely to be as intelligent as breast-led babies. The excess of fat and cream in cow’s milk also produces digestive disturbances in baby.
Cow’s milk contributes to hardening of the arteries and high blood pressure later in life. It also can cause low-blood calcium in the newborn, an overload in the infant’s kidneys from having to expel the excess proteins, diarrhea, respiratory infections, etc. Tonsillar and adenoid troubles are also common with babies fed cow’s milk.
However, under certain, abnormal conditions, it becomes necessary for a mother to include cow’s or other animals’ milk in the diet of her baby. These will be included later.
Another problem with bottle milk is that it does not change with the hormonal and nutritional needs of the growing baby. The makers of baby formulas cannot duplicate the changes in composition or volume that takes place continuously in mother’s milk as her baby grows.
Yes, mother’s milk cannot be imitated in the laboratory. Nature had it perfect to begin with, and there is no perfect or near perfect substitute.
2.3 Common Worries and Apprehensions About Breast-feeding
Some women feel that because their breasts are small they will be unable to nurse their babies. They feel that somehow larger breasts are able to produce more milk. This is, most definitely, not true.
Other women feel that nursing will spoil the shape of their breasts. This is also not so if the woman is taking good care of herself—eating right and exercising. Even if this were so—which is more important, the shape of your breasts or your baby’s health?
A belief that an inability to nurse exists because your mother or grandmother were unable to is also unfounded. No diseases or disfunctions are hereditary. Your equipment is entirely independent of your mother’s.
A fear that your milk won’t be rich enough is also unfounded. Studies conducted have shown that even the milk of unhealthy, emaciated mothers is better than artificial formulas.
What if I can’t produce enough milk? If this happens, just nurse your baby more. The more often a baby nurses, the more milk is produced. Also, eat plenty of juicy fruits to produce good milk.
There’s no way your baby can be “allergic” or sensitive to your milk. If you’ve eaten spicy foods, processed foods, etc., it will go through the milk and the baby will most certainly react negatively. This is why it is important for mother to eat right and avoid toxic substances. (See Don’ts While Breast-feeding.)
You may wonder if your baby is getting enough milk. If your baby is growing, energetic, sleeping well, and displaying other signs of health, don’t worry. Nurse about ten minutes on each breast during each feeding if the baby wants to nurse that long and baby should be receiving enough milk. Also, overfeeding is much more of a problem than underfeeding.
If you have older children that have been breast-fed and especially if they still remember it, you have to be very careful in your handling of the situation. Older children need to be told ahead of time (before birth) that they are going to have a new sibling and that he or she will breastfeed just as they did. Older children tend to be jealous when they see you snuggling a baby to your breast. Show them as much love as you can to allay this.
Some special problems exist for the woman who has had a premature baby or a caesarean section. A premature baby may be in an incubator for as much as several months being fed on special hospital formulas. If you wish to breast-feed when you get your baby back, you still can. You need to hand express your milk while the baby is in an incubator to ensure your milk supply will keep flowing. When you do receive your baby, he will need even more closeness and nourishment than a term baby.
He may nurse very feebly at first and require much coaxing and patience on your part to get him nursing.
A woman who has a caesarean section has received an anesthetic and is not in as good shape as if she had delivered vaginally. She should wait until all the anesthetic is out of her system to breast-feed as this will get into the milk supply. It will take more patience and persistence to get the milk out as the natural cues of a vaginal birth are not present. She will have plenty of good rich milk, however, if she eats right and relaxes.
Another apprehension of mothers is that they should stop breast-feeding if their babies get sick. The chances of breast-fed babies getting sick are not that great, however, to cause worry. If they do get sick, they will probably not have the appetite they had when well. Just hand express the milk meanwhile to keep the supply flowing.
If you get sick, you can still nurse your baby. Your baby is already used to you and your biological makeup. He or she will not get sick by nursing from you.
If you feel you are too nervous to nurse, take some courses in relaxation or meditation techniques prior to birth. This will help you to relax when nursing for it is true that if you are tense, your milk supply can be held back.
If you have inverted nipples, you have a special problem—not one that is impossible though. I have seen mothers with this problem breast-feed normally. Pull the nipples out regularly before the birth to get them used to this. They need to be out in order for baby to latch on. Also leaving them exposed to air and sunlight fifteen to thirty minutes several times a day helps to bring them out.
Many women may feel sensitive to cultural attitudes toward breast-feeding—families discouraging you to breastfeed as they feel it’s “too animal” or sensual. Some may find it disturbing and feel it’s an interference in the marital relationship. In this case, try to explain to your husband beforehand why it is important to breast-feed the baby and perhaps coax him into reading books on the subject. It is important not to have people around you who are opposed to your breast-feeding while you are doing so. The baby may pick up on these feelings. Try not to let other peoples’ attitudes make you tense while nursing or dissuade you from doing so. Be strong!
- 1. History Of Infant Feeding
- 2. Importance Of Breast Feeding
- 3. The Mechanics Of Breastfeeding
- 4. Methods Of Breast-Feeding
- 5. Feeding Solid Foods
- 6. Feeding Under Abnormal Conditions
- 7. Questions & Answers
- Article #1: Simplicity of Infant Feeding By William L. Esser
- Article #2: Indigestion in Babies By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
- Article #3: The Long Nursing Period By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton