Thursday, May 03, 2007

It Takes More Than a Tit

Yesterday, a periodical arrived via U.S. mail and within the pages of this periodical was a short story on how if you breastfeed your baby, she/he will grow up to attain a social class higher than yours.

Now, let me just say that I am a big fan of breastfeeding. My thoughts are that it is the way that nature/Mother Earth/Goddess/God (take your pick) designed it. And it is way cheaper than formula, always ready, always warm.

I can out cheer all the pro-boob cheerleaders. But I am also in a position where I have to put my personal beliefs aside and support what the woman with the baby wants. I have to tiptoe through the minefield of mother guilt and try to gently ascertain what the true feelings are.

Some women want to breastfeed, but are just unsure because they've not seen it "in action" before.

Some women do not want to breastfeed, but feel they will be branded as "bad mothers" if they do not.

Some women just don't want to. Period.

Which brings me to my point. It takes more than a tit. As I read the story yesterday, I found it to be troubling because the subjects of this study had been born pre-WW2 and were interviewed sixty years later. That generation pretty much all finished high school at a higher rate than their parents and pretty much all did better financially than their parents. I would have liked to have seen some comparative data on their generational cohorts who were bottle fed.

I digress. My point is that you read all these studies about the wonder drug that is breast milk that will protect your child from everything, allergies to stupidity to obesity to shyness to ear infections. But what most studies fail to take into consideration is that most exclusively breastfeeding moms in America are still mid-to-upper middle class and beyond. Those infants are being raised in a more intellectually stimulating environment, whose parents can afford books and enrichment toys and experiences. They have better access to health care. They have access, once weaned, to more nutritious food.

Now, that said, I will state that some studies have been done in other countries, most specifically Scandinavian countries in which all mothers, regardless of income, almost exclusively breastfeed. And they have found the increased IQ. I look at those with a slightly raised eyebrow as those countries have a more homogeneous population, less class separation, better access to health care and better educational systems. So is it really JUST the breast milk?

So feed your baby however you want to. Love it, nurture it, teach it. You'll both be fine.


Thor sez: But I was exclusively breastfed and look how great I turned out!

4 comments:

joan said...

Thor settles it then :)) Tit for Cat.

Margo said...

Very balanced view, Janet Lee. :-)

Thor's cute and bright! What a kitty you have!

Vera H. said...

Well said. We do have to be careful about cause and effect.

Marcheline said...

I've never wanted to have children myself, and it's really difficult for me to imagine that anyone but each individual mother should have a voice regarding how to feed their baby. Unless that mother requests advice from a doctor or family friend...

I detest "health" magazines that do nothing but scare elderly people with all the possible diseases they could come down with, and I equally detest the efforts of public opinion to "herd" people into compliance.

Salutations to you on your equanimity and non-judgementality (is that a word?) (it is now!).

- M