|My baby Khari in 2004|
In light of Bill O'Reilly's recent words of stupidity (really, when ISN'T he spouting inflammatory dumbness?) about breastfeeding and how it will cost the government a fortune once breastfeeding pumps are covered by government subsidy, I thought it would make sense to revisit my blogging advocacy regarding breastfeeding. I actually started blogging in 2005 on iparenting.com about being a breastfeeding mom and have had essays featured on ClubMom.com and other sites early on sharing my own breastfeeding story. I nursed my daughter until she was three years-old and I believe wholeheartedly that nursing her from birth has positively impacted her immune system.
On the Womenshealth.gov website, you will find the common facts that we all hear about the benefits of breastfeeding your baby. Among them are:
- Breast milk is the most complete form of nutrition for infants. A mother's milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein that is needed for a baby's growth and development. Most babies find it easier to digest breast milk than they do formula.
As a result, breastfed infants grow
exactly the way they should. They tend to gain less unnecessary weight
and to be leaner. This may result in being less overweight later in
Premature babies do better when breastfed compared to premature babies who are fed formula.
- Breastfed babies score slightly higher on IQ tests, especially babies who were born pre-maturely.
Lips Sealed About Breastfeeding
Maybe it's because breasts have become such a sexualized subject, it's hard to talk about them in connection to babies. Maybe we've chosen collective amnesia given our slave history as nurse maids. Whatever it is, within our community we DON'T talk on a regular basis about the significance of breastfeeding and the long-term ramifications that occur when other means of feeding our babies are given precedence over nursing from the breast. Consumed with the here and now and thinking that the issue of breastfeeding is only significant when a child is a baby, more and more information is pointing to the fact that behavior issues and ailments in adolescence and adulthood stem from the "first foods" fed to a person when they were a newborn.
For many children in the African-American community, that first food is less-likely to be breastmilk, yet, the statistics are improving a bit. According to the CDC:
- Breastfeeding rates increased significantly among non-Hispanic black women from 36% in 1993-1994 to 65% in 2005-2006.
- Breastfeeding rates in 1999-2006 were significantly higher among those with higher income (74%) compared with those who had lower income (57%).
- Breastfeeding rates among mothers 30 years and older were significantly higher than those of younger mothers.
According to the statistic above, if a little over half of African-American women who gave birth in US hospitals in 2001 were breastfeeding, than almost half were feeding their babies formulas. With new studies showing that black children in larger numbers, when compared to children of other ethnicities, develop some type of intolerance to cow's milk, the formula of choice is often a soy alternative that can be brought as easily as its milk counterpart. I fed my daughter Khari soy formula in tandem with breastfeeding when she began daycare and when my expressed milk was not abundant enough to sustain her through the day. How safe is the soy alternative?
Soy Milk Even More Deadly?
Two studies by University of Illinois food science and human nutrition professor Sharon Donovan show that the soy isoflavone genistein, in amounts present in commercial soy infant formulas, may inhibit intestinal cell growth in babies. In the first study, published in the Journal of Nutrition in June 2004, Donovan treated intestinal cells in culture with genistein in the amount present in soy infant formula and found that the cells "basically stopped proliferating." The intestine-- which aids the body in disposing of toxins and waste in the system-- is adversely affected when babies are fed soy formula.
These and other experts believe that such high concentrations could pose a threat to the immature metabolic systems of babies up to 6 months of age.
The size of the market for soy-based infant formula is held very closely, yet an independent expert estimates the market for all infant formula to be about $3 billion, with soy-based formula accounting for about $750 million of that, having doubled in the last 10 years.
These altered behavioral patterns during late childhood and early adolescence, according to Crinella, may be diagnosed as hyperactivity with attentional deficit - or perhaps as "manganese-toxicity syndrome."
Everett Hodges, founder of the Violence Research Foundation, thinks Crinella's case is overwhelming. "Criminals ages 16 and 17 years old today, some of them born to poor mothers between 1983 and 1984, could have received from the government soy formula with enough manganese to disrupt growing brains, and this may be why adolescents have difficulty restraining aggressive impulses now."
With African-American youth-- namely boys-- being at the top of the list when diagnosed with ADHD, learning disabilities and a whole host of other "special needs" that often lead to them being kicked out of school or pigeon-holed into special education classes, this news is alarming.
Dr. Stanley van den Noort, a member of the foundation's board, is former dean of the UC-Irvine College of Medicine. He says, "I think the data presented at the conference are convincing that manganese is a neurotoxin. Newborn infants exposed to high levels of manganese may be predisposed to neurological problems. We should exercise strong caution in the use of soy-based formula around the world."
Naomi Baumslag, clinical professor of pediatrics at Georgetown University Medical College and president of the Woman's Public Health Network, says, "Only 50 percent of newborns today suckle at the mother's breast even once. After six months, the number has fallen to only one mother in five. Often mothers for the sake of convenience plunk soy bottles into the infant's mouth. Why do so many mothers in the United States imagine they have given birth to a baby soybean instead of a human child?"
Baumslag goes further: " There is a great deal of scientific evidence that soy formula can be damaging to newborns, quite aside from the manganese."
She says a tablespoon of soy formula can be dangerous both for what it does not have and for what it has.
That spoonful may be deficient in linoleic and oleic essential fatty acids, DHA-brain-growth factor, epidermal growth factor, lactoferrin, casomorphin and immune factors such as IgA, neutrophils, macrophages, T-cells, B-cells and interferon - all provided by the mother in breast milk to defend her baby.
And this information regarding soy just adds to the information already out there on milk-based formulas. For over twenty years, a war has been waged between advocates for breastfeeding and those in the formula industry who peddle their product as being the best things for babies, a close second to breastmilk. In 1981, aides to the World Health Organization resigned when the formula industry began to spread their campaign promoting formula to third world countries that revere the practice of breastfeeding out of tradition, economic necessity and common sense (see article at: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&amp;res=9500E0D91438F932A15756C0A967948260)
You Are What You Eat
Often accused of being a conspiracy theorist, I pass this information on intentionally and with forthright honesty. I do believe that it is a conspiracy but not necessarily one that is aimed solely at our community. I believe that how we feed our children has become as commercialized as everything else we do-- from how we attend school to what types of homes we buy. In order to stay atop of the information machine without being passively led to believe that your choice is indeed your best choice possible, you must consider all of the evidence before you. Look at the big picture of how black children are currently faring physically, mentally and behavior-wise and consider how we can turn things around with how we first begin to feed our children, growing them on the breast.
Check out the following resources to read up more on the topic:
- A Well-Kept Secret- Breastfeeding's Benefits to Mothers (Copyright © LLLI)
- This publication contains information on the benefits of
breastfeeding for the baby and the mother. It includes information on
physiologic effects and long-term benefits.
- Benefits of Breastfeeding ( Copyright © Linkages Project) - This fact sheet briefly describes the different health benefits that breastfeeding has on mothers and babies.
- Benefits of Breastfeeding (Copyright © United States Breastfeeding Committee)
- This booklet explains the health and emotional benefits that
breastfeeding has on mothers and children. It also gives information on
the environmental and economic benefits of breastfeeding.
- Breast Milk
- This publication contains information on breast milk. It explains why
it is better than cow milk, how breast milk is produced, how to
establish, maintain or increase your milk supply, and how to store it.
- Breast-feeding and Bottle-feeding (Copyright Â© Kids Health)
- This publication contains information on the benefits of
breastfeeding, the pros and cons of bottle-feeding, instructions on how
to breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby, as well as answers to common
- Can Breastfeeding Prevent Illnesses? (Copyright © LLLI) - This publication contains information on how breastfeeding can prevent some illnesses in your baby.
- Close to the Heart: Breastfeeding Our Children, Honoring Our Values
- This publication contains information on why breastfeeding is
important, benefits of breastfeeding, and how breastfeeding is a value
held by Native American women.
- Economic Benefits of Breastfeeding (Copyright © United States Breastfeeding Committee)
- This publication explains the medical and economic costs of not
breastfeeding, and it has information on the non-medical costs of
- Feeding Baby with Breast Milk or Formula
- This brochure helps parents decide on the way to feed their baby.
Breastfeeding is the best, but if it's not possible, there are helpful
tips for using formula.
- Feeding Your Newborn (Copyright © Kids Health)
- This publication contains information on breastfeeding or
bottle-feeding your baby, the advantages of breastfeeding, limitations
of both, and possible challenges.
- Got Mom... (Copyright © ACNM)
- GotMom.org was created by the American College of Nurse-Midwives to
provide breastfeeding information and resources for mothers and
families. It contains information on why breast milk is best, dispels
common misunderstandings about breastfeeding, and it provides a list of
resources that can help women and families with breastfeeding,
information for employers, and links to the latest research findings.
- Mama's Baby: Happy, Healthy and Breastfed (Copyright © Black Women's Health Imperative)
- This site encourages women to learn about the benefits of
breastfeeding. It also addresses the barriers to breastfeeding that
women often face and gives tips for overcoming these barriers and having
a successful breastfeeding relationship.
- The Comprehensive Benefits of Breastfeeding (Copyright © ACNM) - This publication lists the beneficial effects that breastfeeding has on mothers, babies, and society.
- What are the Benefits of Breastfeeding my Toddler? (Copyright © 2006 La Leche League International)
- This publication describes how breastfeeding your toddler can help
their ability to mature and their understanding of discipline as well as
provide protection from illness and allergies.
- African-American Breastfeeding Alliance
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- American College of Nurse-Midwives
- Breastfeeding Basics
- Bright Future Lactation Resource Centre
- International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA)
- Kids Health
- La Leche League International
- Linkages Project
- Maternal and Child Health Bureau, HRSA, HHS
- National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health, MCHB, HRSA, HHS
- National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition
- National Women's Health Information Center, OWH, HHS
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, (WIC) USDA
- United Nations Children's Fund
- World Alliance For Breastfeeding Action