Friday, September 19, 2008

on Deciding to Breastfeed

As many people have told me they love hearing the crazy things I've learned through this pregnancy, I feel it's almost a duty to write a little something about breast milk vs. formula. Only because this time last year I had no clue, really. And being a part of the child care industry, fairly well informed about things that matter most to young children, I find myself now rather shocked at the lack of information I had. Seriously.
Let me first tell you that formula is a God-send for many women and babies, and it's a solution when breastfeeding becomes impossible for whatever reason. I think every mommy out there wants the absolute best for her babies and would do the best thing if she was able, or aware of it. I'm not out to make anyone feel guilty, and I know this can be a very touchy subject. If your baby is a formula baby, for whatever reason, I'm not talking to you. Er- I'm not aiming any of my words at you. I'll still talk to you :) haha. I know so many moms who use formula and they are GREAT mothers. Don't misread my heart, here. This is for those of my readers who have yet to make this decision, and like me, don't know any better. I'm not citing any sources either, so take what I have to say for what it is: just advice from a friend. Do your own research. This is a BIG topic and I think every mom should be as informed as she can to make the right decision. Currently, only 54% of U.S. babies are breast-fed; the rest are fed infant formulas. That tells me that there is a serious lack of information out there.
My first thought about feeding when becoming pregnant was of course to breastfeed- since I'm a bit of an under-cover hippie and just like things the natural way. Also because it's free- and formula is so expensive. A year of formula and bottles can cost somewhere around $1000 & $1500, and that's not including the extra cost of more doctor visits. It's also time consuming- working with babies, I've made a LOT of bottles. And washed a lot of bottles. And sanitized a lot of bottles. Oiy. And..... not that this really matters much.... it's stinky. Formula is way stinkier than breast milk. And not just when it goes in, either. Phew!
So then, being the information junkie that I can be, I started doing some research a while back and reading things in baby books here and there. Much of it, I'm surprised to say, was new information. I read an article early on that really threw me for a loop about the marketing and language of formula. First of all, we are a way-over-marketed-to society. Formula is part of some BIG companies, with lots of advertising dollars. No one is marketing breast milk. So take that into consideration for the lack of real information out there. Then consider the language. We've all heard that "breast milk is best" and "breastfed babies have lower risk of illness and infection" and "breastfed babies have higher IQ" and it all sounds nice and idealistic. But what happens when you turn those sentences around? "Artificially fed babies have increased risk for illness and infection," "artificially fed babies have lower IQ" etc. It sits with us differently. Not many of us feel we need perfection; second best if perfectly acceptable. But when we hear it the other way around, it's hard to think of it as "second best." Here are some more:
Artificially fed babies have an increase in hospital admissions, allergies, asthma, rashes, and ear infections, etc.
Artificially fed babies have increased occurrences of diarrhea, constipation, and other digestive problems
Artificially fed babies, as adults, have higher incidences of obesity, illness, and depression.
And the scariest one that I can't believe I'd never read before: Artificially fed babies in the US have a death rate 21% higher than breastfed babies.
That last one I read just last weekend, and it's why I decided I should write a blog on it. That's huge. 21%? Obviously, there's got to be more to it than the formula alone, considering education levels and socioeconomic status can reflect use of formula, but seriously. That's a high number.
I'm feeling really negative- let's turn this back around for a bit.
Breastfed babies are smarter! The components found in human milk are not found in any other mammals' milk and can't be artificially reproduced yet. And it's cumulative. So the longer your breastfeed, the smarter and healthier the kid.
Breast milk finishes the development of the digestive tract, which isn't adequate to handle any foreign food until 6 months. (formula, cereal, etc.)
Breast milk is so cool. God knew what He was doing, and it's amazing to me! Breast milk's composition changes with the age & nutritional needs of your child. And not just from colostrum (the first milk that's not really "milk" yet- but a high protein substance that's full of antibodies and things they need to get life started on the right track for the first few days) to "milk." 3 month breast milk is different from 6 month breast milk is different from 12 month breast milk. I don't know why, but that is so incredible to me! Just another reason to be in awe of our Creator.
Breast milk contains at least 100 ingredients that aren't found in formula. It's composition is still unknown to scientists, and therefore unable to duplicate. It's also living- that sounds kinda gross- but it's important in the way the baby gets the nutrients and fights germs. It's incredible, really.
Oh, there is so much more, but this is getting beyond long. Let me also mention quickly that it's great for mom too- women who breastfed have lower risk for breast cancer, loose weight quickly, and baby and mom produce happy hormones that they pass to each other through breastfeeding.
So again, I hope I didn't hurt anyone's feelings- I just felt that I needed to share a little about what I've found in the past nine months. Best of everything to all you mommies and perspective mommies out there!


BETHANY said...

Hmmmmm .... so much to say and so little time to say it. I totally hear your heart and your desire to do what's best for your son. I also realize you aren't judging those who have chosen formula for one reason or another.

The thing I want to say for now, and which I've said a gazillion times to a gazillion women, is that the worth of a mother is not determined by how she feeds her baby.

I know I said that about where to birth too, but that was a first. I *always* say it about breastmilk vs. formula. :)

And that's it for now. I'm off to read to the little men before naps.

Brianne said...

Bethany, I totally agree- I tried to be as clear as I could that it's just important information I think we all need to have- with no values attached (like worth.) Hope I came across that way...

Transformed said...

I am a friend of bethany and when time allows I stop by your blog--I love the pregnancy adventure, absolutely a beautiful gift from above.
Did you know that the furthest a newborn/infant can see is the distance from your breasts to your eyes. Oh, God is truly amazing.

Tara said...

That was a great post Brianne! That's a lot of info I wasn't aware of either, especially the death rate. Yikes!

Something I've heard from a lot of moms is how hard breastfeeding can be, so I wanted to share with you my SIL's experience. It was really hard for her and her baby to get into a routine. She suffered from nipple infections, problems with the baby's mouth, latching on, etc. Everyone told her to give up, even her hubby and parents. But she never gave up and finally they got it right! It took a long time but she ended up breastfeeding for 2 years I think (at least). She always says it was so worth it and she was so determined to make it work. Anyway, please don't give up too soon if it's a challenge at first. It's worth the work. I don't mean to be critical, but it does make me sad when I hear women say they tried for 3 days and it was too hard so they switched to formula. I don't think that's enough time. But you seem like the kind of person who'll really give it their best. I hope breastfeeding ends up being very easy for you and Rowan!

Kami said...

I, too, had every problem in the book breasfeeding, but I made it a year with both boys. Let me encourage you to be patient and keep your lactation specialists phone number on speed dial!! Or you could just email me - I've been through it all and know most of the remedies...and that was a great informative post, by the way.