I am not an expert on the latter subject. I have however recently fathered a boy, and would like to share the experience with readers and allow them to draw their own conclusions as to whether our society and health service actually do support mothers who choose this natural method of feeding one's infant.
It is obvious to me that breast feeding is promoted. It was indeed the recommendation of the midwife pre birth, and all literature supplied was of the same opinion. Therefore, at the time of the birth, the slippery and bloody mucas covered infant was thrust at my partners breast where he indulged without encouragment at his first nuzzle of the nipple.
Now aged 7 weeks, it apppears to your writer that he has remained there or thereabouts, for most of his awakened life. Sometimes, his appetite seems insatiable and this became a constant worry to his mother, the ubiquitous fear of running dry. At certain stages of his life, namely two and six weeks, the little monster developed an almost frantic madness for the breast. He would tug furiously on the nipple when not sucking from it;once he regained consciousness from an almost drunken display of milk consumption. This could last up to eight hours in ther evening, the only respite for the mother being a burp removal excercise on the boy by yours truly.
It is at these points where a critical error in the childs development can, to my mind, be made. The mother, in the depths of despair at the furious advances, will tell friends, family and others of the problem - the solution often being "just top him up with a bottle". The bottle being infant formula milk.
Now this advice will be given in the best of intentions. The problem is though, that once the first bottle has been given, the infant then requires less milk from the mother - so she produces less. The reason for all the aforementioned nipple toying is again natural. It signals to the mother to produce more milk, so she does. This is not like a light switch change, more like a set of scales. As the baby gets enough milk, he then stops the tugging and a natural equilibrium is again reached between the supply of mother and demand of baby. He has jusrt gone through a growth spurt.
Here's the rub. The baby is getting bigger and so needs more to eat. If the mother has taken the topping up advice and is giving a part breast/part formula diet then this has at least two drawbacks. It adversly affects some of the natural benefits that breast feeding provides, and additionally sets a precedent for the mother. The use of the bottle to top up. It simple to see where this road ends, an entirely formula fed infant.
Now, the World Health Organisation advise that mothers should soley breastfeed for six months. Our Government and NHS appear to back this advice. Yet mothers don not get full pay for six months so this is economically impossible for the majority in today's world. Infant formula milk is available in our supermarkets and states on the tin in large letters - suitable for topping up. Why is this allowed on shelves if it is not the best interests of a child development, which would seem to be the case given recent and historical findings into the matter. Given that 2% of mothers cannot naturally breastfeed, would it not be more beneficial for our children's (collective) future, that these products are removed from shelves and classed as prescription only. These 2% of children could then be given closer medical attention, surely they are more at risk of disease than a breast fed infant. We might even find that demands on our overworked doctors reduce significantly in the long run. Surely, it would be prudent to do this until the product can be proved safe, rather than the other way round.
It seems that perhaps we have been fed a long term myth regarding the safety and effects of formula milk. These could be long term. What is clear though, is that the same companies who produce the chemical milk also produce the chemical remedies to cure the future infant illnesses. Could it be that they in fact cause the majority of them through their products. Could it be that depriving an infant of the bonding aspect of breastfeeding has a subsequent adverse effect on their future mental health as an adult thus perhaps sending a proportion into a requirement for further prescription drugs ? Could their be a similar additive in Nestle's infant products as in in their adult produts, thus creating an unknown desire. Why are pharmaceutical representatives allowed to court our medical advisors ?
Who knows really ? What is clear though is that a sick society breeds sick humans. It is not about time we had a realistic and logical look at what is and is not in the best interests of our children, rather then subscribing to ingrained myths which somehow allow us, collectively, to believe that we already are.
Back with the news tomorrow.
Roping them in; young.