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Friday, July 28, 2006


This is my LIVE WRITE newspaper column for next week - comments always welcome.

August 1 to 7 is World Breastfeeding Week (it will be celebrated in Canada in October also). Before you decide that this column is not for you - because you are not a mother or don’t expect to be, or because you are a man, read on. I think you’ll find something interesting, especially if you like world records.

When my wife was pregnant with our first child, I strived to be an involved father from the beginning. I obviously wasn’t going to experience pregnancy or childbirth, but I read the books, bought the baby stuff and attended birthing classes. In fact, I was so empathetic I was sick some mornings, put on weight and developed bad gums. It’s true.

When it came to breastfeeding our son, I was again able to be a supportive, if not active participant. At that time there was an episode of the Jay Leno Show where a guest demonstrated an over-the-shoulder device that could be filled with breast milk and used by a man to nurse an infant. It was good talk show material, but I wasn’t tempted to try it.

Why is there a growing international breastfeeding movement? Women have fed babies this way since humans evolved from mammals who also fed their babies this way. Just over 100 years ago, in 1903, attendees at the International Congress of Obstetrician’s in Paris, France, expressed concern that pediatricians and clinics were encouraging artificial feeding at the expense of breastfeeding. This trend continued for decades, with a decline in breastfeeding worldwide, fueled by the misconception that artificial foods were as healthy (or better) for babies. Some commercial interests continue to fuel this misconception.

If a baby could tell you why she prefers breast milk (exclusively for the first six months of her life, according the World Health Organization) - she might say something like this, “I want to have straight teeth and grow up faster, fitter and smarter. I don’t want to get the flu, colds, asthma and earaches. It’s good for my tummy, for nature and for getting my mom back into shape. And best of all, I can eat whenever I’m hungry and I get to cuddle really close to mom at the same time.” This is a smart baby, as all of these reasons are based on sound research.

A smart mom knows that she is reducing her own risk of ovarian and breast cancer, is going to save money and is feeding her baby over a thousand beneficial ingredients (formula provides about 60).

There is assistance to help mothers successfully breastfeed, to deal with special or difficult situations and to encourage fathers to be supportive. Prenatal breastfeeding classes, midwives, Pubic Health and maternity nurses and the La Leche League are widely available resources.

The breastfeeding movement isn’t only about guiding parents to this most natural baby food. It’s also about breaking down cultural taboos that link breastfeeding with our often-confused perception of the female body, making it uncomfortable for mothers to feed their babies in public.

Now to the record I mentioned at the beginning... Simultaneous breastfeeding events started out as a protest that mothers resorted to when they were admonished not to breastfeed in public. The act’s popularity rose to become a form of celebration during occasions like World Breastfeeding Week.

In May this year, in Manila, Philippines, 3,738 mothers simultaneously breast-fed their babies for at least one minute, breaking the Guinness World Record. Assuming most women only nursed one baby, that’s still almost 7,500 happy people in one location.

Another smasher, Gary! That picture is so funny!
Love the pictures!

I think things are getting better for moms who want to breastfeed. Our malls around St. Louis County now have "family restrooms" with several options for moms: a stall with a comfy chair for maximum privacy or a "living room" with a TV and cartoons. What I appreciate most about these restrooms as the actual restrooms. They're big enough to push a two-seater stroller into and they have 2 toilets, a big person one and a little one (really, it's just cute).

Great post. The only way to make real change is for people to keep reminding each other that this is okay and natural. I think it's important for men to speak up, too.
Thanks Madcap and Jublu - I considered the title BETTER THAN THE UDDER MILK but it's a little corny.
Pubic health, Gary? I have heard it makes your hair curl. ;o)

it's a strange culture we have when it comes to breasts in public. it appears that it is only the woman's nipples that are the offending part because when you see censorship or editing in mags, papers and on tv shows, it is only the nipple which is covered or pixilated. this is corroborated by women's fashion in which is apparently acceptable in extreme degrees of skimpiness just so long as the nipples are covered.

but men have nipples too (being mammals ourselves) and yet these cause no offense whatsoever.

of course, when a child is latched onto the breast, you can't see the nipple at all. so what's the problem? also, imo, it's a lot more aesthetic public sight than someone stuffing a greasy big mac into his gob while walking along the high street.

great column, gary!
A mother's milk tis nature’s best measure
Fat, sugar and proteins, for all natures’ treasures
Breast fed infants do smile in delight
Breast formula for infant’s bonne appetite

Breast milk with all those antibodies
Fights off bacteria even infectious disease
For Mothers milk both sterile and sweet
Mother’s milk is Babies instant relief

No need to mix a modern milkshake
No bottles to warm for infant awake
Babies secure, contented, well-fed
Soaks up mums energy for weight loss instead

For it’s easier for Mum to shed extra pounds
Wellbeing enhanced, tis gains all around
Breastfeeding bonds a baby to mum
Breast fed baby one bonded with mum
came here via meander's site.
i breastfeed both my sons. i got plenty a stare when i didn't to go to the restrooms or to the car and nursed them right there in public. that's been a few years though.
Pretty darn right on Ian!
Anyhow, both of my kids had been breast-fed as well.
The way to go!
Good article Gary.
Cheers, Zee.
okay I file this under the "no duh" file.

its like "50 years of research have shown fruits and veggies and exerise are good for you" - like WOW Scoob!

I am infuriated at doctor's offices and hospitals that hand out formula samples to new moms - I think it is unethical. Do you realize the cost of formula? If young mothers were encouraged to to breastfeed (and to improve their own nutrition) think of the benefit to the mother and the child - but oopps! NOT to the formula company.

This will likely be a huge surprise ... I breastfeed all three of my kids, whenever, and where ever they were hungry (except at my mom in laws - I went upstairs there to get away from her...). I even managed with my son, and a sling to nurse him while grocery shopping with a my 2year old daughter. Of course this was in Canada, I get the feeling it's more difficult here.

It comes down to marking from formula companies. grrrrrrr

I watched mothers nurse their babies through the most horrendious health conditions while I was a nurse.

okay stepping of my soap box now....

good for you Gary, thanks for posting this - much more needs to be said and done to promote mother's nursing their children.
As usual, Gary, this is a great column with much thought-provoking material. My mom didn't breastfeed me. I was born back in the 60's, and she said that at that time they thought formula was better for you. She said she regrets not having done it now.

Overall, I thought the column was interesting and balanced to both genders. I love the pic, too.

My grandparents used to tell stories about when they owned a gas station. If someone needed gas and my grandma was nursing, she just went outside with the baby in tow, pumped the gas, collected the money, and got on with life. No one thought much about it. I wonder when our culture changed.

I also enjoyed Ian's comments & think he made some good points.
I love the picture. I very openly (but discreetly) breastfed my children. I hope the taboo is broken because I have to say breast feeding in public in Dallas, Texas was among one of the more courageous things I've ever done. People were more than willing to hurl insults - especially in restaurants. (I genuinely was discreet - and would they rather I had a crying baby?). It really shouldn't be so hard for people to nurse in public. They still debate laws making it illegal to nurse in public. Restaurant owners still have the right to throw nursing mothers out - it happened down the street from us and caused a big rucus - thankfully. But they still will not allow mothers to nurse in their restaurant.

Thanks for writing this!!

(BTW - I tagged you if you are up for playing and haven't already).
Thanks for such supportive comments, especially those who told their own stories of the breast (feeding little ones or being fed by mom).

My mother breastfed me, but she also took up smoking because her doctor told her she'd have a smaller baby (a bonus she figured).

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