Introducing Liberty in Feeding Babies: No Stigma Attached
After eighteen years of failed in vitro fertilization trials1 and ineffective fertility drugs, my aunt had built up a wall against the taunts of a society that measures individual success based on one’s ability to reproduce. When my aunt did give birth to a healthy baby boy, she was forced to battle a new wave of criticism. She had difficulty producing an adequate amount of breast milk and soon after her delivery, she came down with the flu. Worried that she might get the baby sick, my aunt decided not to breast feed until she was better. Unfortunately, taking a break meant she lost her ability to breast feed completely. During this period, she was troubled by all of the elderly women in our extended family who demanded to know why she would not breastfeed, criticized her for her inability to produce milk, and failed to understand her reasoning.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life and preferably up to twelve months or however long both the mother and baby are willing. Breast milk provides babies with protection against multiple diseases, healthier growth and digestion, and closer relationships; however, in some cases, breastfeeding is not an option for young mothers. Under such circumstances, women should be educated on infant formulas and alternative methods of feeding so they can make informed decisions for their babies.
Breast milk matches a baby’s needs and growth patterns better than any formula substitute. A mother tends to produce just enough milk to fill her baby’s stomach, so she does not need to worry about underfeeding or overfeeding. Furthermore, the milk’s content changes as the baby grows to provide sufficient amounts of fat, sugar, water, and protein. A mother’s milk suits a baby’s digestive system better as well. Babies digest and metabolize breast milk with 100% efficiency while cow milk is only digested with 50% efficiency because formula derived from cow’s milk has large proteins that are not easily broken down (Babies, Breastfeeding, and Bonding, 8). Since cow’s milk is not digested as easily as breast milk, the baby is required to work extra hard to excrete the undigested amounts of cow milk. Although a baby’s body eventually adjusts to these demands, the initial pressures can cause the infant physical and psychological stress.
Breast milk serves as the best protective shield for a young infant because it provides immunity against diseases. Colostrum, the thick, yellow milk produced by a mother in the early days after giving birth, is rich in iron, zinc and protective antibodies. The antibodies present in breast milk protect children against gastrointestinal, respiratory, and staph infections. Breast milk also lowers a child’s risk of type 1 diabetes, leukemia, atopic dermatitis, allergies, and sudden infant death syndrome. Powdered formula actually increases a child’s risk of ear...