The Thinking 

A Mother Who Declined Government Formula

August 19, 2011


CONTINUING THE discussion of subsidized infant formula and the culture of breastfeeding (see previous entries here, here, and here), Kimberly writes:

When I was a brand new housewife with my first baby boy, two old men in a coffee shop asked me if I planned on going back to work sooner or later. My response was sincere and unplanned. “No, I would rather work for love than for money any day!” I said, with a big grin. The old men smiled big, amused, and what looked like almost grateful smiles. 

Breastfeeding is work, yes, and being surrounded by ignorance on the matter is difficult, but it’s no excuse not to do it. It makes it all the more honorable, being given the opportunity to help pave the way for the next generation to make the obvious right choice. 

I’m sure I sound arrogant to all those mothers that consider defense of baby’s rights to be “preachy garbage”. Well, it’s not that I think I’m superior to anyone, not at all. I have high expectations, and they are only intensified by the humble view I have of myself. I am uneducated, poor, involved in a difficult marriage, young (was 19 when I got married and had turned 21 two weeks before I had my first baby), prone to anxiety, and I not only breastfeed my babies, I do it the traditional way. I use it for natural child spacing, also known as Ecological Breastfeeding, and it DOES work. I’ve got three sons all spaced two years apart. I don’t use pacifiers and I don’t give them anything other than breast milk until at least six months of age. I continue breastfeeding as long as I can with two years being my goal. I take naps with my kids every day while allowing my baby to “pacify” as long as he needs to. It’s gotten easier with every baby because I give it my best effort every time and learn quickly that way. There have been struggles and discomforts, problems and solutions. It’s like any other job, except the only living people that see the glory are my babies, and I don’t get paid money; I get paid love, and lots of it! 

I was on WIC with my first baby, and unfortunately their so-called “nutrition” made breastfeeding very difficult. I was already determined to breastfeed because I had read about Ecological Breastfeeding and was convinced that God would make it possible, as He so generously did. So the free formula was no temptation to me whatsoever. But because we were very poor, I recieved the checks for free milk, cheese, bread, peanut butter, cereal, tuna and beans. Little did I know at the time, dairy and wheat are things that I do not digest well, and eating too much of them caused me to overproduce milk. My baby was ALWAYS gassy, spitting up, and exhausted. I often leaked all over my bed, my baby and myself, and it was winter at the time so we would wake up freezing and shivering. I had mastitis badly after the first week, and until I figured out how to prevent it entirely, I ran into the early signs of mastitis several times that year. I found out through breastfeeding that my body did not digest these foods well, and cutting them out as much as possible not only made for calm, happy babies, but also made me feel a lot stronger, more energetic and more alert. I have heard that they recently added some fruits and vegetables to the WIC packages, and I am not ungrateful for the help I recieved, but I sure wish they had at least directed me to some information about what to eat and what not to when breastfeeding! Dairy and wheat are common culprits, and I won’t indulge in them even when I’m done breastfeeding now that I’ve experienced the difference it’s made in my well-being.

                                                      — Comments —

Andrea writes:

Like Kimberly, I practiced ecological breastfeeding with my son and plan to practice it with my next child who is due in two weeks. I am so grateful for the knowledge of this approach to parenting that has been so divinely given to us as mothers. My son nursed for 2 1/2 years and I experienced amenorrhea the entire time. The World Health Organization and UNICEF are now recommending that mothers nurse to at least two years of age. A great book to refer to if you are interested in ecological breastfeeding is The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding: The Frequency Factor by Sheila Kippley. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It is not easy. It is a big sacrifice, but a sacrifice only for a few years and a great way to offer penance for others in the meantime. Like Kimberly, I humbly say this.

The health benefits for your baby our countless. I am a Certified Body Ecologist and I have plenty of research on hand that proves the oh so many benefits for mother and child.

The baby’s immune system does not fully develop for two months after birth. If the baby is close to mommy and enjoying the nutritious milk (designed by our Creator perfectly formulated for this specific baby) full of lactic acid (and if mother is healthy) healthy microflora, then this is laying the foundation for the child’s immune system and health for a lifetime. Every time a child touches its mother it is introduced to new microflora. Good microflora is what resides in our gut and is our immune system. It is intelligent and communicates and is essential for our survival.

It has been known by those in the health industry for some time the immunological benefits of a mother’s first milk, the colostrums. But many don’t know why. The colostrums activates the baby’s gut and also prompts thymus development. The thymus gland is a crucial part of the immune system especially early in life. Colostrum is filled with Secretory Immunoglobulin A (SigA). SigA is made during the first few days of like and helps protect an infant against infection, specifically pathogens that may be affecting the mother. A mother’s milk also contains special sugars called oligosaccharides. Oligosaccharides feed good bacteria in the baby’s intestinal tract and are necessary for their growth. This type of prebiotic can actually inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria. The oligosaccharides found in human milk also work with the Toll-like Receptors, which are a part of the innate immune system. Toll-like Receptors, beneficial microbiota, and oligosaccharides all work together to protect the baby’s gut from an inflammatory response. You can find this same information and more in Archives of Disease in Childhood journal. Surely the government knows this research, why aren’t they making it available to the women living in poverty who need the information the most?? 

I think that Western medicine discourages mothers from nursing mainly because of feministic values. I found a lack of any real evidence as to why it was good from the government. We are a society of instant gratification and if the job is difficult or produces discomfort we want to take the easy way out. Mother’s aren’t schooled in nutrition, the kind of nutrition that can sustain their milk supply and make it easy to nurse. I was on Medicaid myself and the literature I was given was mostly not helpful. I knew this because I had had special training, but I couldn’t help thinking what about all of those poor women out there who have had none they would never know the nitty gritty of why it is so beneficial for you and your baby. Or how to get the resources that would give you the diet one should consume while nursing.

Laura writes:

Very interesting.

Breastfeeding won’t protect children from all illness or make them geniuses, but it clearly does make a difference.

Poor women would benefit from more information, but ultimately I think the financial savings would be persuasive for many if there were no subsidized formula.

Mrs. H. writes:

Kudos to Kimberly for all her hard work and dedication toward nursing her babies! I would like to comment on her ecological breastfeeding experience. She says

I’ve got three sons all spaced two years apart. I don’t use pacifiers and I don’t give them anything other than breast milk until at least six months of age.

On average ecological breastfeeding DOES work as a “spacer.” But not all the time. Friends of mine who breastfeed ecologically have kids 12 months apart or 4 years apart, depending on how their body responds (or doesn’t) to the hormones suppressing ovulation, their babies’ temperament and interest in solids, etc. My babies tend to not be interested in solid food until 8 or 9 months, but my cycle usually returns at 6 months. Their sleeping patterns don’t really change, and I nurse on demand, including through the night. My obstetrician says it’s just my body, and my mom confirms hers was the same way. The good news is we have 4 babies in 5 years!!

Ecological breastfeeding is wonderful because it is a generous way to meet your baby’s needs. The spacing is an incidental “byproduct,” and the “space” biology decides to place between your children may not be as socially acceptable as Kimberly’s. When I became pregnant with my second-born when my eldest was 6 months old, I received a lot of criticism and advice from well-meaning mothers who thought I was not nursing on demand. I have also met mothers who were very angry and frustrated when ecological breastfeeding was not a fool-proof birth control method. (I do not accuse Kimberly of thinking these things, just informing readers that ecological breastfeeding does not “work” the way some people claim all the time, just most of the time.)

Kimberly writes:

Mrs. H. is right. I knew of one other woman who experienced the same short amenorrhea, even while practicing strictly the rules of EB. It upsets me horribly to think of how hard it must have been for Mrs. H. to hear critism like this, as if she loved her children less because she’s open to having more. I really don’t think anyone would actually believe such obvious nonsense. It’s selfishness and a deep, burried knowledge of regret that makes people act that way. People who do not have that regret look at mothers with several children in awe and wonder, especially young ones. 

I had all three of my boys with me at the mall tonight. I was given the phrase I’m ALWAYS given in public these days, at least two times an outing! “Well, you sure have your hands full!” I say, “Yes, yes I do, in a good way,” in a more or less patient tone depending on the tone they used with me. I think that as soon as I start showing with my next pregnancy, these comments will turn into either wide-eyed looks or plain, old, dirty looks. Our society just does not like kids at this point in time, and anyone who dares to like them enough to have “a handful” either amazes people or shames them. 

According to the book by Sheila Kippley that Andrea sighted, “About 70% of EBF mothers experience their first menstruation between 9 and 20 months postpartum. The average return of menstruation for EBF mothers in the North American culture is between 14 and 15 months. For those couples who desire 18 to 30 months between the births of their children, ecological breastfeeding will usually be sufficient.” 

If more mothers were doing this natural child spacing method, then women like Mrs. H. would not stand out like they do now. 

As for nutrition being a factor, I’d say it depends on who you are trying to convince. I spoke with a woman at the mall tonight who was never on WIC, but gave her first baby formula from 8 weeks on due to jaundice (which is ridiculous because breastfeeding is what cures jaundice the fastest) and her second was supplemented early on, but breastfed up to 6 months. Somehow, without being offensive, I managed to squeeze in the point that was made in the Psychology Today article you sighted about formula being the equivalent of bread and water. Her face turned a shade of gray for a moment. She didn’t seem to have a clue that it was really that bad. I felt sorry for her. She seemed like a good mother, a housewife even! 

I also told her that 53% of the formula given to American babies was supplied by WIC. She was stunned. 

I think both points need to be driven home. America’s nutrition has gotten SO bad! You point it out all the time with pizza, Laura! :-) We have rushed ourselves to the finish line when it comes to destroying our health because we kicked the housewives out of the kitchen. If more people cared about nutrition, more people would be angered by the government’s foolish, feminist hand in giving so many American babies “bread and water” as their first foods in the first months.


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