Monday, 15 December 2014

How to Get Pregnant Whilst Breastfeeding

Mother Nature is a hypocritical sod. Check this out: The raison d'etre of your existence is reproduction. So why then, does good ol’ Mother Nature muzzle our fertility while we’re lactating? And is there anything we can do to get pregnant without pulling the plug on breastfeeding? In this post I will answer both questions in turn. What gives me the confidence to speak about this issue? Firstly, I've been there (conceived under 6 month postpartum whilst exclusively breastfeeding), secondly, I've conducted a shed-load of academic research into breastfeeding fertility.

A word of warning before we begin: As a result of reading this, you may find yourself up the duff, toot sweet. Want closely-spaced siblings? Dream of tandem-feeding? Read on!


Aunt Flo takes a vacation

While breastfeeding a lot of mothers notice that ‘shark week’ no longer occurs every month. Yet, as with many physiological happenings that appear idiotic, Mother Nature has a plan. You see, every time you bring your baby to your breast, you are sending your body an important message: “I have my hands full here, this baby needs me!” Because breastfeeding is such an intensive energy-draining practice, your body halts the baby production line so that you can focus your energies on the little cherub you’ve just popped out. Aunt Flo (your menstrual cycle) goes AWOL.

Whilst this is frustrating for the broody mom wishing to get knocked up, it is legit in evolutionary terms, it makes sense. Our bodies evolved in circumstances where moms were carrying their babies 24/7 (we lived in herds and never settled in one spot for too long), where foraging for food and catching prey required significant physical exertion, where babies would suckle every 15 minutes, and where we relied on our own body heat to keep us warm. We modern moms like to whinge that we’ve got it tough, that we’re soooooo busy with multitasking overload, but we don’t know SHIT compared to our prehistoric sisters. 

Mother Nature knew that if babies were ever going to survive longer than their shrivelled cord stump, Mom couldn’t be getting pregnant anytime soon. If she did, she would be too knackered to do all that maternal stuff. And so, by the wonders of natural selection, we inherited an epidemiological quirk: our fertility pauses during lactation, a phenomena known as, yup: ‘lactational amerrhoea’ (took me several days to learn to pronounce that shit, and I still say it like ‘men’s diarrhoea’).


Interesting, but can I successfully breastfeed *and* get pregnant?

Yes, you can!


Okay, how? 

Practically every lay article ever written on breastfeeding fertility has offered the following solutions to the ‘get pregnant whilst breastfeeding’ conundrum: 1. Give your baby a pacifier. 2. Space feedings. 3. Stop night-nursing. 4. Introduce solid foods. 5. Failing all that, wean baby from the breast.

Each of these suggestions is a simplistic anti-breastfeeding knee-jerk scraping of the barrel. They all involve reducing breastfeeds in an attempt to kick-start ovulation. Recall that breastfeeding sends your body the message: “I’ve got my hands full looking after this baby”. The above solutions aim to send the contrary message: “My baby doesn’t need me that much”, or even: “my baby is dead”.

Each solution has varying degrees of success - good for your fertility, not so good for your baby. Folks who offer the above solutions have clearly not read all of the fertility research. We can’t blame them. Most of the research into breastfeeding and fertility focuses on developing countries because fertility is a huge issue to those folks. In countries where survival means strenuous daily physical activity and poor nutrition, postpartum fertility can mean the difference between life (mom doesn’t get pregnant and so can sustain her infant), or death (mom gets pregnant and infant #1 perishes).

However, if you dig around the vaults of epidemiological fertility research (and here’s where being a PhD student has slapped me on the back and bought me a pint), you can discover the dichotomy between lactational amerrhoea in developing countries and lactational amerrhoea in prosperous Western countries.

In essence:

The key to getting pregnant is sending your body a new message: “I’ve got my hands full…BUT it’s still safe to get pregnant right now”. How can you do this? Forget Fertility Friend, your new BFF may just be your local grocery store...


Introducing the ‘Relative Metabolic Load Hypothesis’

Despite its fancy label, this theory is straight forward. Ever since scientists learnt how to precisely measure reproductive hormone levels in saliva and urine, a new body of evidence opened up: the relationship between maternal nutrition and fecundity; or in other words: what you eat while breastfeeding affects your fertility status. Woah, goosebumps! Exciting, no?

This hypothesis suggests that ‘shocking’ your body through nutrition can kick-start fertility. In one study (Lunn et al 1984), a substantial increase in food consumption during lactation had negligible effects on milk production and milk quality but – and here’s the magic – it hastened the return of menstrual cycling, and shortened the interval to next conception!  Yup, turns out the female reproductive system is highly sensitive to metabolic energy availability. It’s the same kind of process as seen in anorexia, only in breastfeeding, the mechanism is way more sensitive (Rosetta and Taylor 2009).

What you eat during lactation has an important effect on fertility – an effect independent of nursing frequency (Frisch, 1978John et al., 1987). Consider this curious fact: Moms that nurse with high frequency get pregnant just as fast as moms who nurse much less frequently... providing they meet the threshold of ‘well-nourished’ (Worthman et al 1993; Valeggia and Ellison 2004; Ellison 2001; Lipson and Ellison 1996). Let’s just soak that up for a moment: Stuffing your face while breastfeeding can increase your fertility. I’ll say it again: Eating more food can increase your chances of conception. 


OMG! So how does it work? 

The studies show that resumption of menstrual cycling is closely coordinated with changing insulin levels, and whaddya know: insulin is a pretty badass stimulator of ovarian estrogen production (Willis et al 2001). Insulin reflects changes in metabolic energy balance (Valeggia and Ellison 2009), it’s a signal to your body that food is available.

So, if you want to increase your chances of getting pregnant while breastfeeding do what scientists refer to as ‘creating favourable energetic conditions’. A sudden burst of energy-dense food consumption can trigger the following cascade: Firstly, mom experiences a brief period of insulin resistance above her average levels, and then, usually a few weeks later, her ovarian cycling resumes. Within this time period, she may notice that her body begins to produce fertile quality cervical fluid (gunky eggwhite vaginal discharge) as her hormone levels pass over that all-important estrogen-threshold. To illustrate, take a gander at the diagram below (taken from the wonderful Weschler 2003). It shows your hormone levels as your body repeatedly attempts to ovulate, and then succeeds:


In other words: Sudden gorging can increase your chances of getting pregnant because it raises your insulin levels higher than your body is used to. Elevated insulin then stimulates ovarian steroid production, causing estrogen levels to rise. (Science, I could hump your leg right now!) Rising estrogen stimulates your fat cells to bring the insulin levels back into the normal range. This whole process serves to jump-start ovarian function as maternal energy availability rises above the demands of milk production. It’s all about reassuring your body that it’s safe to breed. No need to reduce breastfeeds.

This amazing process – your body’s intuition – is a pattern that we humans share with both chimpanzees and orang-utans (Ellison 2001; Emery Thompson 2005). Energy dense foods are cues we can use to satisfy our body’s drive to synchronise reproductive success with energy availability. But before you get all health-police on my butt, I’m not suggesting you should start auditioning for ‘Fat: The Fight Of My Life’ or anything like that. Rather, I'm suggesting that increasing your energy intake is a temporary strategy with the purpose of reassuring your body that food reserves are plentiful. You can always opt for those energy dense foods that come in healthier guises (nuts and honey are stellar examples), but dayuuuum, just look at that cake!


In a nutshell…

You CAN (quite literally) have your cake and eat it. It is possible to nurse all hours under the sun and still conceive. The duration of lactational amenorrhea is inter-related with the relative metabolic load of lactation: fertility will stall if the body experiences lactation as a heavy burden. So, whilst infant feeding behaviour determines absolute metabolic load, maternal nutrition impacts upon relative load. Tonight, we feast!

Good luck, and enjoy the BFP!


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Monday, 1 December 2014

The Formula Feeder Doth Protest Too Much

If you’re been alive for the fast five or so years, you may have noticed something peculiar: the emergence of a new zeitgeist of contempt for breastfeeding. Even a cursory look at the lifestyle section of many online newspapers reveals a contemporary back-catalogue now groaning under the weight of the collective bitching of a vocal minority of failed breastfeeders.

In this post I question the motives of these failed breastfeeders, let’s call them ‘formula apologists’ – the folk who make it their raison d'etre to criticise breastfeeding - that is, to criticise its promotion and its significance. You see, nobody comes immaculately to the infant feeding debate. Its discussion can never be abstract. As I discussed in the chapter of my book aptly titled ‘Defensiveness’, the agenda of these people is not as transparent as they would hope. Ask yourself this question: by virtue of being failures, do these people really qualify as noted dispensers of feeding advice? Do they have the well-being of all mothers in mind, or just mothers that ad credence to their personal experience? In most instances, these ‘formula apologists’ are engaging in a massive case of ex post facto justification. To explain, I’m going to run you thorough some of their most prolific whinges:


WHINGE #1: SCIENCE IS POLITICALLY INCORRECT

Formula apologists lament about something they call the "scientisation of parenthood” and the "de-authorisation of the mother" (Lee 2011; Furedi 2008). These made-up rhetorical devices are a vain attempt to politicise a sound and rational advancement: scientific authority has come to trump parental convenience in our moral consciousness (boo hoo, guilt, torment, condemnation, etc). They sob that "the freedom of the mother to shape her mothering practices has been compromised" (!!!!) (ob cit).

I discussed this in my book (sorry to keep plugging the book but it’s relevant folks), and I quote:

“Facts regarding the risks of formula feeding are locked into a Pandora’s Box and treated as hate speech. Woe betide mothers call each other out on their choices – that would cause hurt feelings, they argue. Indeed, formula-apologists are heavily reliant on the rhetoric of emotion, demanding that we be mindful of mothers’s subjective 'feelings', because logic and objective morality muddy the agenda they are seeking to advance. Essentially, they aim to replace a moral view of infant feeding with an emotional view” – Breast Intentions.

To use their words, formula apologists cry that: "contemporary culture requires that the parent – the mother especially – pay serious attention to scientific and expert guidance about ‘parenting’ in order to reduce risks to child health and welfare" (Lee 2011). OMG science, how very DARE you! ..Now readers, is it just me or, isn't science guiding parenting a freekin GOOD thing?? Better to be guided by science than by knee-jerk emotion. Or are the formula apologists suggesting that science is only a good thing if it enhances parental convenience?


These folk pout that It's A Woman's CHOICE How She Bloody Well Feeds Her Child Thank You Very Much, except, like, it isn't really, cause we think women only have "constrained choice". What's constraining this choice, they argue? SCIENCE! It's those science bastards again. Science "presents the evidence about formula feeding as predominatively negative" (Knaak 2005; see also Knaak 2006). But formula isn't negative they argue - at least not for Mom. Many mothers cherish formula as a utensil of liberation! Cited benefits of formula feeding include - and I quote: "convenient", "easy", "providing freedom from the baby", "providing a means of getting back to normal" and this bizarre twist of fuck: formula enables us to "re-establish our identity as non-mothers" (Earle 2002; Lee 2007). Dudes, I hate to say it, but if you want an identity as 'non-mothers', that ship sailed with your last uterine contraction. Soz.


WHINGE #2: BREASTFEEDING IS SEXIST

Yup, you read that title correctly. Your boobs are conspiring against you, those misogynistic globes of torment! Not only do formula apologists downplay scientific evidence, they also whittle breastfeeding into a tool of oppression. Misapplying feminist rhetoric, formula apologists attempt to reconceptualise breastfeeding as a social practice, and a sexist one at that! (Blum 1999; Hausman 2003; Law 2000). They frame breastfeeding as part of political 'gender relations' (Jansson 2009). This reductionist diversion strategy defaces breastfeeding, turning it from a biology to ideology. 

The irony is that whilst many formula apologists claim to be feminists, they are simultaneously playing right into the hands of patriarchal capitalism - a system that defines the male body and mind as the norm and female functioning (hello, lactation!) as a deviation. What’s more, the formula apologists’ response to a normal bodily function is even moreso anti-feminist because it is needlessly reactive and awkwardly paternal:

“The blame-free breastfeeding culture they seek to create, infantalises women, framing them not as active agents capable of controlling their destiny and achieving their goals, but of passive wallflowers at the mercy of forces they are powerless to defy.” (Breast Intentions).

Formula-apologists, on your way, back to feminist school!



WHINGE #3: MORAL ACCOUNTABILITY HURTS OUR FEELINGS

Here’s where the agenda of formula apologists becomes so transparent, if it were a condom it would be illegal. Despite celebrating their ‘choice’ in forcing their infants to consume fourth-best nutrition, formula apologists still demand that they are good mothers. Yup. So, on one hand they want to broadcast this stellar identity as "good mothers", yet recall on the other hand they also want to "re-establish their identity as non-mothers". Taking the proverbial cake, some?


Formula apologists are angry at the notion of being held morally accountable for their decision to formula feed. They're pissed at the notion - there mere thought - that their babies could be regarded as victims of their actions. Check out this lament from Ellie Lee, one of the most outspoken formula apologists: "The health of children in particular has been identified as a potent site for development of risk consciousness in this regard, because of their presumed innocence and vulnerability" (Lee 2007). Notice the sly addition of the word 'presumed'. Kids are ‘presumed’ innocent. 

Yet despite Ellie’s cries of guilt and maternal victimization, in one of her own studies, only 20% of formula feeders stated that they cared about the effects of formula on their babies' health (Lee 2007). (Only 20%! Jeeeze that "good mother" accolade needs some work). And herein lies the big beef harboured by formula apologists, in their own words: "'Health' has attained increasingly moralised connotations, as it is more and more considered to be a state that can, and should, be chosen by responsible individuals" (Lee 2007; Burrows et al 1995; Nettleton 2004; Murphy 2004). Choosing to be healthy, we are told, is a bad thing. Go figure!

The hole is dug further:

"Contemporary culture is thus one that requires parents to agree – even if they do so ambiguously – that they will always put the child first" (Lee 2011). This again, we are told, is a bad thing. (The cheek of it!! Putting kids first!)

If this weren’t pathetic enough, formula apologists then boo hoo over the fact that they aren't being patted on the back and positively rewarded for their mediocrity. One mother who shared her story on a formula-apologist site sniffled that: "Nobody says 'Good for you for feeding your babies!'" ..Well, formula guys, if it makes you feel better, no one ever says to me: "Good for you!" whenever I put clothes on my kids. Perhaps I had better phone the Samaritans.



WHINGE #4: FORMULA FEEDERS ARE THE PERSECUTED MAJORITY

We’ve just looked at how formula apologists believe that individuals (read: mothers) do not have personal responsibility for the choices that they make. So, this begs the question: who does? Their answer to this conundrum is to blame the woolly notion of ‘society’. Society is to blame for the choices mothers make. In arguing this, they appeal to leftwing liberal ideology to shelter them from acknowledging the consequences of their choices. Let's look at this classy charade:

Essentially, formula apologists are fighting for a self-serving utopia in which people - mothers in particular - are free to act without moral consequence. One way they attempt to do this is by over-reliance on collectivist rhetoric and the denial of individual self-determinism. Collectivism (i.e. lamenting that 'society' is to blame for individual women's breastfeeding failures) eliminates their need for moral responsibility.

And then the irony becomes deafening: Despite demanding that others heed their emotional sentimentalities, the pro-formula lobby are not what you could call tolerant. Indeed, they are viciously intolerant of any divergence from their ill-perceived right as mothers to not have their liberty impinged upon by their bothersome infants’ needs:

“A major way formula apologists attempt to strengthen the faux-link between breastfeeding success and luck is to raise concern about the morality of judging. If success is simply down to good fortune in the form of societal privilege and working breasts, then in theory, breastfeeding mothers should not judge those who are not lucky enough to enjoy these attributes, they argue.” – Breast Intentions.

In the eyes of every formula apologist, poor bfing rates stem from a hazy collectivist scapegoat they call 'society'. Whilst, to a degree, I concede that society is responsible towards us, aren't we in turn responsible towards society? Heck, aren't we society?

Another layer to the irony inherent within formula apologism: the main self-appointed advocates for the apologist lobby are middle class educated women who actually do very little to help those disadvantaged women they claim to defend. Despite parroting their rhetoric without really helping anyone, the quasi-political activism they engage in is dedicated to convincing themselves that they are somehow beneficent to those below them. It's Slactivism at it's most pungent. Warm fuzzies aplenty but very little political change.



Conclusion?

It's time we all: woman the hell up, big girl panties and all.

There are two strands to the breastfeeding vs formula feeding debate and you should want to be on the side of the academics. Their discourse is characterised by scientific method over emotion. The other side of the debate is not. It belongs to the bitter bloggers, the columnists and quasi-professional media whores. They see infant feeding as a key battleground in a culture war. Of these two narratives – the academic and the angry – which one reaches the ears of those who need, most immediately, to form a judgement about infant feeding? The mother agonising over whether to continue breastfeeding is ill-served by the voices of bitter failures. For her agony rests in truly wanting to breastfeed, but simultaneously being told by a failed majority that breastfeeding ‘doesn’t matter that much’. Every mother who returns home with a baby in a carry-crib and a body pumped full of hormones deserves much more than cards, flowers, and a laundry-list of sob stories. The ‘breastfeeding doesn’t matter’ formula apologists would do well to heed the desires and dreams of the new mothers coming behind them, rather than undermining them to fuel a personal self-pacifying agenda.


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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Optimum Family Size - The Facts


How many children should I have? It’s the question that plagues many of us breeders. Some never fully resolve the budding uncertainty of the “What If…” conundrum. What if I have just one more? What if I stop at the traditional two? What if I don’t give my child any siblings at all? This article will help to alleviate those concerns using leading sociological, economical and even physiological research.


1 CHILD:


The pros:


  • The percentage of women having only one child has nearly doubled over a generation (Kelley 2007). In fact, only children are America’s fastest growing family demographic (Hass 1999) so your kid will not be as unusual as they would have been a generation ago. Much of the stigma has been consigned to history (Blair 2013).
    Only-children tend to have more successes in life.
  • Only-children tend to have a higher proportion of successes in life and that they tend to have higher I.Q.'s than any other family setup (Goleman 1985).
  • Parents outnumber children.
  • Your existing house/flat is likely to be big enough to accommodate all the necessary parenting paraphernalia.
  • Ditto the car.
  • Childlessness aside, this is the most environmentally-friendly family setup.
  • A single child family permits the most rapid reconnection with a pre-natal lifestyle; at work, at home and socially, if that’s important to you (Brazier 2013).
  • Your child will never be forced to share parental care and attention.
  • As a result of seldom-interrupted adult interaction, only-children often become articulated, surprisingly-mature little characters.
  • Only-children tend to do well in school, both because they’re able to express themselves clearly and well and because they’re used to and skilled at interacting with adults (Blair 2013).
  • Only-children are able to amuse themselves happily and to spend significant amounts of time alone.
  • You will be able to afford to give your child more educational opportunities. In fact, only children are likely to get three years more education than a child from a family of six (Goleman 1985).
    Only-children tend to do well in school.
  • No sibling rivalry.
  • Your child is likely to be taller than their siblinged peers (Lawson and Mace 2008).
  • Only-children tend to have a logical and organised mindset (Blair 2013). Because they grow up primarily around adults, only-children are more used to expecting a logical transaction when they interact with people. They never have to put up with siblings who threw tantrums, nor are they regularly forced to abandon logic to argue jealously with them.
  • No inheritance squabbles when you die.

The cons:

  • Only-child families are often the recipients of stigma (Yoder 1999).
  • Your kid is more likely to be a fatty. In fact, being an only child is seen as one of the ‘most significant’ causes of obesity in children (Wang et al 2007; Padez et al 2005; Pearce et al 2009; Winkinson 1977).
    Only children are more likely to be obese.
  • Some studies suggest that only-children can feel pressured, overprotected or, worst of all, come to doubt their own capabilities or their parents’ sincerity (Blair 2013).
  • Only-children can feel as though they are living their lives for their parents rather than for themselves (Blair 2013).
  • One-child families have a higher than normal incidence of ‘emotional incest’. With no other child to dilute the intensity of the parent-child bond, everything about the only-child is watched closely, including his health, physical development, school performance, talents, weaknesses, and achievements. All the parents’ worries, wishes and dreams are channelled into one offspring (Adams 2011). 
  • Some commentators suggest that your experience of the ‘terrible-twos’ will be harder. The theory is that siblings generally have a lower tolerance of rebarbative behaviour in a child than that child’s parents. A child, arguably, can get away with less if a sibling is on the scene. The essence of this argument could be said to extend well beyond the terrible twos (Brazier 2013).
  • Be forewarned, this bullet point is going to sting: Only-children tend to be more disruptive, get into more fights, make friends slower and keep them for shorter. They find it more difficult to ‘get along with people who are different’. They are less empathetic and poor at comforting and helping other children. They are less upbeat than their siblinged counterparts. They are also worse at ‘respecting the property rights of others’ and poor at soaking-up pressure. In a word, they are less ‘emotionally-intelligent’ (Downey and Condron 2004).
  • Although parents of an only-child usually make enormous efforts to provide their child with plenty of opportunities to socialise with their peers, these interactions will be fairly circumscribed. They’re likely to have been planned, time-limited, and supervised by adults. This means their child misses out on learning the skills needed to establish ‘territory’ without an adult there to sort things out for them, to stand up for themselves diplomatically and find ways to share limited toys or space (Blair 2013). However this deficit appears to be overcome by adolescence (Zeher and Downey 2013).
    Only children lose the support of siblings.
  • If your child is bullied at school, they are without a main source of support. A British study from the Economic and Social Research Council has found siblings to be an important and invisible source of support for children who are bullied in everyday life, including school (Hadfield et al 2006).
  • Being practical and sensible and wanting to do everything as expertly as possible predisposes only-children to unhealthy perfectionism. It is natural for every child to compare themselves to those around them. Given that there’s usually a preponderance of admiring and encouraging adults in the only-child’s life – throughout childhood – it means they set their standards in relation to them (Blair 2013).
  • Only-children find it difficult to tolerate disorder. When things in their life fall into disarray, there is usually an adult on hand to sort it out, more or less straight away. That means the only-child will grow up with little, if any, experience of coping with disorder and confusion, particularly lasting disorder and confusion. When an only-child finds themselves in a disordered situation later as an adult they can feel anxious and afraid. They fear the loss of control and predictability they’ve been accustomed to (Blair 2013).
  • There is some evidence to suggest that children benefit from the experience of having an opposite-sex sibling. This is known as ‘gender complementarity’. Whilst having more than one child doesn’t guarantee a gender split, having just one child completely rules it out (Brazier 2013).
    Only children are less likely to marry.
  • Adults who grew up as an only child were least likely to marry.  Those who do marry are the most at risk for divorce than adults who grow up with at least one sibling (Bobbitt-Zeher et al 2013).
  • You’re more likely to get divorced than other parents. Rates of divorce among only-child mothers are twice that of women who have two to four children (Falbo 1978 – recent research is needed to ascertain whether this is the case contemporarily; the climb in modern divorce rates would suggest so).
  • If you get divorced, your child is less likely to cope as well as their siblinged peers. Studies have shown that only-children demonstrate the most serious adjustment problems during their parents’ divorce (Forehand et al 1991).
  • When you grow senile and need eldercare, this places a huge burden upon your only child. It seriously stunts their geographic mobility and labor market outcomes (Rainer and Siedler 2005).
  • There’s no other way to put this one: If the worst happens and your child dies, you will be left childless. One report from Denmark, for instance, showed that when a child dies, parents are significantly more likely to die themselves from unnatural causes; accidents and suicide. A 2005 study showed that parents who lose a child are at greater risk of ‘extreme emotional loneliness and severe depressive symptoms’, including suicide (Stroebe et al 2005; Li et al 2005). Divorce rates among bereaved parents are up to eight times the norm (Lehman et al 1987). Couples are less likely to split if they have older children living at the time of death (Rogers et al 2008). Remember furthermore, there are also other types of ‘loss’. An only child who responds to the opportunities of globalisation by moving abroad, will leave parents with no proximate sibling (Brazier 2013).


2 CHILDREN:



The pros:


  • This is the most popular family size (Frejka et al 2008). Consequently, most ‘family ticket’ deals for restaurants, flights, themeparks et al, are designed specifically for this ‘two adults, two children’ family setup.
  • This is the magic number for your happiness, according to a recent study (Myrskylä and Margolis 2014). The research tracked British and German parents through the journey of parenthood and found that after 2 kids, the feel-good novelty wears off and the stress levels rise.
  • With this size you have a perfect ‘one-to-one’ ratio. Dr Alan Singer, in his book Creating Your Perfect Family Size, has observed that “in families with two children, one parent tends to gravitate toward one child more than the other, and it’s not predictably one sex or another, but varies from family to family” (Singer 2011).
    Sibling pairs report more positive feelings towards each other.
  • The elder child tends to take the ‘caretaker’ role whilst the younger child takes the ‘baby’ role, and the traits of each complement one another. The organised and caring first born wants someone to keep in order and to nurture, and the fun-loving but rather less organised and more dependent last born is likely to respond well  to this (Blair 2013).
  • This is going to sound morbid, but if one of your children were to die, you’d still have a spare one left. In a large-scale American study, a third of mothers and a quarter of fathers said that “Not to be left childless in the case of death of only child” was their chief motivation in countenancing the conception of a second child (Brazier 2013).
  • When fights break out, there’s no such thing as “Two (or more) Against One.”
  • Your children are likely to be taller than their peers with multiple siblings (Lawson and Mace 2008).
  • This family size is thought to be protective against child psychiatric problems (Taanila et al 1992).
  • This is a great family size for when your kids grow up. Studies show that adult sibling pairs report more positive feelings towards each other than other sibling alternatives; this is particularly so if you have two girls (Spitze and Trent 2006)


The cons:

  • If the two children are twins, conflict is likely. This is because they are both effectively ‘first borns’ and so both want to be in charge, particularly if they are both highly competitive (Blair 2013).
    The younger child is predisposed to insecurity.
  • Firstborns enjoy a higher proportion of successes in later life and that they tended to have higher I.Q.'s than later-born children (Goleman 1985). This means that the younger child is predisposed to insecurity. The effect is more intense when siblings are spaced close together (see here).
  • First-borns also receive about 20 more minutes of quality father-time and 25 more minutes of quality mother- time each day at each age than the second-born child does at the same age. Ouch! (Price 2007).
  • The youngest child is more likely to engage in 'risky adolescent behaviour' such as substance abuse and sexual experimentation (Argys et al 2007).


3 CHILDREN:



The pros:

  • Most parents say that it is when child #3 arrives that team work really thrives. Like or or not, it becomes apparent pretty quickly that the two of you will be obliged to work together if you are to keep everything afloat (Cockrell et al).
    The middle child is likely to be highly creative and innovative.
  • The middle child is likely to be highly creative and innovative. There’s an interesting reason for this: from the moment they were born, they had to share their parents with an older sibling, and before too long, with a new baby as well. They lack the advantage of maturity so that means their older sibling can do most things better than they can, and they are no longer the needy and adorable baby. This means that the middle child has to be quite innovative to find ways that will attract and hold their parents’ attention. They carry this creativity through life (Blair 2013).
  • For very much the same reasons, the middle child is likely to grow up socially smart – that is, knowing how to draw enough attention to themselves to get what they need, but without annoying others by stealing the spotlight from them.
  • This is apparently the best family setup for household wealth, according to a US study (Scholz and Seshadri 2007).

The cons:

  • You are now in outnumbered territory.
  • Having three children seems to be the tipping point in which parents devote less time to caring for their offspring relative to those with one or two children. However once the youngest child reaches school entry age, this ceases (Craig and Bittman 2005).
  • Grandparents are more likely to limit babysitting to one child at a time (due to the aforementioned outnumberedness).
  • Bus rides, train journeys, theme parks and any other scenario that requires sitting in pairs will mean separating one child from the rest.
  • You are likely to need a bigger car.
  • In restaurants you are likely to have to wait for a bigger table.
    Your middle child is fighting a constant battle to be heard.
  • Your middle born is more likely to have poorer self-esteem than his siblings, and to believe his parents are more punitive and less loving toward him than to his siblings. He feels as though he is fighting “a constant battle to be heard” (Brazier 2013). These feelings are strongest when the spacing between siblings is about two or three years (Goleman 1985).
  • There’s now so much kids’ stuff all over the floor, you think it breeds at night. 
  • This seems to be the threshold when other people are less forgiving: “Nowadays, people seem to be aghast if a couple wants more than two children” chimed Pamela Paul, in her Washington Post article, aptly titled ‘Three Kids? You Showoffs!’ (Paul 2008).
  • The middle child often gets unwittingly pushed into a diplomat’s role. Sandwiched between two siblings who both want things done very much their own way and for their own reasons, the middle child is likely to be the one who proposes a reasonable compromise. Quite often, this compromise would be at his or her own expense, because if someone has to give that little bit more, they will habitually be the one to do so (Blair 2013).
  • This seems to be the tipping point where childcare options are concerned. In most families, the amount of work created by three children, and the expense entailed for childcare times three, virtually compels one parent to be at home while the other works (Singer 2011).


4+ CHILDREN:


The pros:


  • You can get a tremendous sense of satisfaction from the mini-empire you’re building.
  • Less chance of ‘gender disappointment’ – more kids boosts the chances that you will have a mix of genders.
    Your kids tend to stand up for what they believe is right.
  • Children from large families learn to think fast, to read other people’s desires and intended actions (and to take advantage of that knowledge) and stand up for what they believe to be right or what they feel they deserve – without the help of adults (Blair 2013).
  • In large families someone’s always knocking over someone else’s carefully arranged set of blocks or deleting their favourite game on the computer, so individuals in these families have plenty of opportunities to figure out what to do when things go into disarray. 
  • The more siblings a child has, the more socially skilled they will be, and the better they’ll be at getting their way, if they need to, when they’re with other people (Blair 2013).
  • From hide-and-seek to tag, games are easier to sustain with more participants, particularly when the ages vary. In fact, ‘play works best in terms of nurturance when those playing are at different stages in childhood’ (Gray 2011).
  • The youngest child in a large family is likely to have stellar mental health (Lawson and Mace 2010).
    Your kids tend to engage in more physical activity.
  • Large families tend to engage in more physical activity than smaller families, and watch less TV (Crawford 2006).
  • Children from large families are sociable and more likely to prefer the company of their peers to being alone (Blair 2013).
  • Your children are learning important social skills, such as delayed gratification, because you are not hanging on their every word (Brazier 2013).
  • Large families have the lowest risk of experiencing ‘emotional incest’ (see cons of 1 child). In large families, expectations are parcelled out: child 1 can be the achiever, child 2 can be the athlete, child 3 the artist, and so on (Adams 2011).
  • When your children grow up and marry, they will be less likely to divorce. In fact, one large-scale study found that the likelihood of divorce is reduced by 2% for each additional sibling that a person has grown up with, wowsa! (Bobbitt-Zeher et al 2013).  But wait, there’s a magic number! This increased divorce protection levels off after seven sibs.  At this point the gains of big family for training for adulthood seems to have been reached, according to the study.
  • If YOU end up divorcing, one large-scale longitudinal study suggests that the negative effects on your children will be mitigated by having multiple sibs (Sun and Li 2009).
  • On an even more serious note, some studies have found that large families are less likely to harbour child abuse, in part because siblings act as a kind of surveillance team (Ohlander and Chew 2008).
  • Your children are less likely to commit suicide (Denney et al 2009).
  • If you’re prehistorically-inclined (read: traditional) more kids means more chance of having a boy and that means more chance of ‘passing on the family name’. Whatevs.


The cons:

  • There’s a lot more noise, more chaos, and more work to do. You need more food in the fridge, more diapers changed, more bottles washed, not to mention more brain cells to keep up with the kids, naps, and other stuff.
    A lot more noise, chaos, and work.
  • This family setup is a killer for your career (Troske and Voicu 2007). In large families, the idea that one parent will be the stay-at-home carer is pretty much a given (Singer 2011).
  • People be hatin’. Large families are often the recipients of stigma. They “are presumed to be either really rich, having children as status symbols, or really poor, living off the dole and completely devoid of culture” (Zernike 2009). Ouch!
  • You’ll be frowned upon by environmentally-conscious folk and heck, just about everyone (Yoder 1999).
  • You will need to trade your car in for a mini-bus.
  • The expense! 
  • One kid brings home the flu and passes it on to another sibling, who then passes it on to another sibling and - you get the idea, permanent illness!
    Viruses get passed from sibling to sibling to sibling to..
  • A high number of siblings dilutes parents’ ability to mould the personality of their children. The 24/7 uber surveillance enjoyed by helicopter-types is nigh impossible with a large brood. 
  • Unless you’re a multi-millionaire or have saints for extended family, one parent will probably need to give up work permanently in order to care for the brood.
  • Women who gave birth to four or more children, are more likely to show signs of cardiovascular disease (Herst 2014).
  • There’s now so much kids’ stuff all over the floor, you can’t see the floor.
  • Parents are grossly outnumbered by a wild bunch of little people.
  • By necessity, you and your partner will need to take time away from being a couple to care for the kids. ‘Your time’ gets folded into ‘family time’ and you can begin to lose the sense of being a couple.
  • Mom is at a significant increased risk of cervical cancer: more kids – more risk (NHS 2013).
  • Suddenly, everything turns into a production line: getting everyone dressed, juggling nap times, feeding, playtime routines, etc. 
  • You’ll have to schedule everything from meals to bathroom time (Singer 2011).
    You have to schedule everything.
  • More children means less time spent with each of them, which makes it less likely that each child will have their needs met promptly. The effect of this is that children of larger families – and in particular, the middle borns – will be less likely than others to ask that their own needs and desires are addressed  (Blair 2013).
  • Less time spent with your children individually means your Guilt Circuit goes into overdrive. 
  • You will need a people carrier or similarly large vehicle.
  • Your kids are more likely to be shorter than their peers (Lawson and Mace 2008).
  • Being in public will occasion more than a few side-eyes. Tolerance of the noise and anarchy which come with a large brood will be tested in anywhere but the most child-friendly of places.
  • Eating out can be extremely difficult as not many restaurants will have a big enough table.
  • After a long, hard day with a large family, there are two choices in front of you: sex and sleep.. Do I even need to finish this sentence?
  • More siblings – more allergies. The theory is that the more children a woman has, the fewer antibodies she passes to her unborn babies via the placenta so decreasing the chances of later babies developing an allergy later in life (Karmaus et al 2004; Jarvis et al 1997). Although some studies have questioned this.
  • It’s a cruel irony that as the workload and chaos increase, and your need for help escalates, the resources dry up. The once overbearing grandparent presence in your life comes to a screeching halt and potential babysitters are frightened away, Granny and Grampy for instance (Coall et al 2009).
    Potential babysitters are frightened away.
  • There is likely to be a lot of squabbling and differences of opinion as each child tries desperately to distinguish themselves from their brothers and sisters (Blair 2013).
  • For the same reason, the younger children in particular are more likely to be little hooligans, sorry, it’s true. Because their older siblings have already become competent in most, if not all, of the conventional (and safe) ways, that leaves the youngsters with no choice but to break new ground in order to get noticed. The youngest of a large brood tend to be rebellious, and more likely than others to challenge authority (and take risks). It is children’s nature to push against and test the limits that have been set for them, and this, coupled with the fact that parents tend to relax the boundaries with each successive child, means that the youngest children push against the widest limits – and therefore seek out the riskiest options (Blair 2013). It doesn’t get better when they age. In a study of close to 5,000 adult alcoholics and nonalcoholics it was found that there were disproportionate numbers of last-borns from large families among the alcoholics (Goleman 1985).
  • The negatives just keep rolling in for the youngest of large families. These last borns are vulnerable to low self-esteem and to feelings of inferiority. Everyone around them is bigger, stronger and more competent than them. They may even see themselves as ‘behind’ from the start. It’s natural for children to measure themselves against their competitors (namely, their older siblings). Essentially,  what gives their older siblings their advantage – their age and experience – is something the youngsters can’t control in any way, and this makes them feel helpless (Blair 2013; Lawson 2013).
  • When you finally shuffle off this mortal earth, your kids’ inheritance will be split many ways, and thus likely to be tiny and inconsequential - unless you’re Donald Trump in which case ignore this bullet point, and the one about uni fees.
  • Aside from the inheritance scenario, your kids are just generally more likely to be poor when they grow up. Sorry about that (Keister 2003Keister 2004).
    Your kids are more likely to be poor when they grow up.
  • Your children are less likely to go to university (Workman 2011). The theory, put forward by Robert Zajonc, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, holds that the greater the number of children in a family and the shorter the time between their births, the lower will be the intelligence of the children, particularly those born later (Downey 1995; Goleman 1985). One hypothesis given for this is "resource dilution", the more kids you have, the further your resources need to stretch – and that includes academic resources (Booth and Kee 2009; Downey et al 2001; Cáceres-Delpiano 2006). And besides, can you afford to pay for all the uni fees? (Keister 2003).
  • Recall that single-children are more likely to experience divorced parents than those with siblings (see above). Well unfortunately, the adhesive quality of offspring wanes as the family grows in size (Lillard and Waite 1993). Too many children can put extra stress on parents (Heitler 2013). Parental arguments are bad for everyone in a family.  The more the parents fight with each other, the more likely it is that the siblings will imitate their parents.

And there you have it. I hope that by understanding the implications of each family size, you can make an informed choice on the size of your brood. To assist you in your journey, I will be updating this post frequently as new research arises. So why not bookmark or pin it for future reference?

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Breast Intentions – The Cover Explained

Ta-da! I can finally unveil the cover of my new book. After much too-and-fro with the publisher’s design team, we have finally reached a compromise, and here it is:



Now, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this dark and sinister cover would be better suited to a thriller novel rather than a breastfeeding guide – and that’s the point! Breast Intentions is NOT your average breastfeeding manual. The book takes you through the twisted world of mother-upon-mother manipulation, shining a spotlight upon the murkiest inner conflicts inherent within the maternal psyche. 

The cover features a mother clutching her baby. What’s that expression in her eyes.. Concern? Resentment? Guilt? Malice? Well, that’s for you to decide. The mother clearly loves her baby as she holds him close to her bosom, yet there’s tension between the dyad, as well as tension within the mother herself. The cover taps into the postpartum taboo - that motherhood (particularly early motherhood) is not all gurgling babies and exchange of blissful stares. Rather, early motherhood is wrought with tension - with guilt, envy, defensiveness and sabotage.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Anti-Breastfeeding Books - Part Six

Here’s something to rattle your cages: Another trio of anti-breastfeeding books disguised as ‘helpful parenting guides’..


Denise Tiran


At first, I was worried that "Positive Pregnancy" would actually be positive in some fashion. You know, helping women have the safest, healthiest, most fulfilling pregnancy and postpartum experience. Yet the only thing positive about this book, is that it has an end.

Positive Pregnancy would have feminists gnawing at their fists. Got pregnancy backache? Piles? Heartburn? Sciatica? Well, this author thinks you should stop feeling sorry for yourself and spare a thought for the poor menfolk:

"Some men can feel jealous of the baby growing inside you, or neglected if you do not feel well enough to satisfy their needs. It is extremely important to take steps to overcome this – try to find a compromise, talk about the situation and, if necessary, seek professional help. In most cases, if you are in a long term stable relationship, the problem will pass as your pregnancy progresses. However, if you are not aware of any problems, this can be a warning sign for you to obtain appropriate help. Statistics show that a first pregnancy is the time most likely for a man to have an adulterous affair" (p32). 

Ladies, it all hinges on you if your husband has an affair. Neglect him and he will stray – it’s a statistical likelihood, innit. 

Goodness to Betsy! It’s like we’ve been sucked into Stepford and the women’s movement never happened. If you actually make it into labor with your marriage intact, the book’s retrograde attitude continues:

“While you are at home in early labour, he can join you in whatever distraction activities you choose, or he may prefer to wash the car or mow the lawn until you need him” (p110). 

Car washing, lawn mowing. How about shooting a few pheasants? Slaying a bison? This book is as big on gender equality as it is on breastfeeding:

“If you and your partner have decided that breastfeeding does not appeal to you, or if you are returning to work soon after the birth, it can be more convenient and easier to establish formula feeding than breastfeeding. If you have any medical conditions which could be made worse by the exertion of breastfeeding, such as a heart problem, you may be advised to formula feed” (p193).

It’s the same old crumbling white turd: breastfeeding is dispensed with in favour of parental convenience. The risks of not breastfeeding go unmentioned. It appears that facilitating informed choice is not the aim of this book. Rather, mythical hurdles to breastfeeding – employment and medical conditions – are erected. Another common myth is quick to join the party:

“Unlike pregnancy, breastfeeding is the time when you really should be eating for two! Eat plenty of protein foods, vitamins and minerals, fruit and vegetables, to prevent illness and infections, and drink at least two to three litres of fluid daily” [emphasis hers] (p195).

The Author.
(Clear the stocks!)
There is absolutely NO – zero – nil - nadda – evidence that a nursing mother needs to eat or drink more than she usually would. As long as she eats when hungry and drinks when thirsty, she’s good to go.

First this book tells breastfeeding mothers to ‘eat for two’, then it warns of the following:

“Regular exercise will help you tone up and lose weight but you may not return to your ‘normal’ weight for some time, especially if you are breastfeeding” (p200).

GO FOURTH AND FIGURE. If you’re eating for two when you don’t need to, of course you aren’t going to be shedding the pounds!

Next comes the obligatory lists of the pros and cons of breast and bottle. For the latter, convenience and “being less embarrassed in public” are listed (p13). I shit you not, the book even lists two pros of bottle-feeding for the baby. Yup, this book has boldly gone there. It’s attempted to frame bottle feeding as better for baby. Wanna know what they are? Barrels were well and truly scraped to come up with these:

1. “May establish routine quicker than with breastfeeding”.
2. “Less risk of vitamin K deficiency than with breastfeeding (theoretical)” (p195).

‘Theoretical’...what the..?! If it’s theoretical, then why include it? Oh yes, because you’re scraping barrels looking for positive aspects of bottle feeding for babies. Fact – for the normal baby, there aren’t any.

NEXT!


Hollie Smith


Next up, we have ‘First Time Mum’, which seems to have fallen from a formula feeder convention and can't get up. This book should be appealing simply because it isn't 'Positive Pregnancy',, but alas, no such luck. Whilst ‘Positive Pregnancy’ was at least written by someone with qualifications (a midwife), this specimen of trash was written by a lady called Hollie Smith, a pervasive breastfeeding-basher with zero qualifications in the arena. Despite this training deficit, Hollie has a handful of books under her belt, most of which relegate breastfeeding to an act to be done for no longer than six months (see here), whilst at the same time elevating bottle-feeding to be just as good ‘if done with love’ (see here).

So excuse me if I’m not brimming with optimism when I open Hollie’s latest offering 'First Time Mum', particularly as the first mention of breastfeeding is:

“I don’t mean to be negative about breastfeeding...” (p27).

Total buzzkill.

She continues:

“Twice, I gritted my teeth through the pain of cracked nipples and went on to breastfeed for four months (at which point, admittedly, my commitment foundered – but that’s another story)” (p27).

We’re not talking about an unbiased approach here, and it shows:

p29

So, with the optimism of a parent about to change the diaper of diarrhoea-suffering child, I turn to the Feeding chapter. This leaky turd of a chapter arouses a horrified expression as I am confronted with the large bold-fonted title: “IS HE GETTING ENOUGH MILK FROM ME?”

“You might be worrying about providing enough milk for your baby if you’re breastfeeding. After all, if he’s getting what he needs, how come he seems to constantly want more?” (p70).

How come indeed; He's feeding a lot? Could it be that he’s regulating supply..

“It’s tedious and tiring having to be so committed when the supply-and-demand system is being cranked up” (p70).

Suck it up buttercup. Parenthood isn’t 24/7 Hallmark.

Back cover boo hoo

No wonder Hollie believes breastfeeding is too much hard work, she thinks that in order to get a correct latch you need to go through a two page, 10 step mirror-signal-manoeuvre routine (p28-29).

On the other hand, to give this book its fair-dos, skin to skin is mentioned, along with Fenugreek capsules to aid supply. Yet conversely, the mega supply-boosting practice of baby-mooning is shunned as being in poor taste:

“Oh God, the thought of getting into bed with my baby and staying there for days horrifies me. I would have gone stir crazy” (41).

The inconsistency continues.. Whilst rooming-in is out, pacifiers are most definitely in:

“If your baby isn’t settled, or if he likes to comfort suck and you’d prefer he used something other than a piece of you to do so, you may find that offering him a dummy provides a helpful solution” (p65).

But ‘what about nipple confusion??’ the lactivist in you recoils. Apparently, this threat doesn’t even register on the book’s radar:

“If you want to give your baby a dummy, do. The only main drawback is that at some point you’ll have to take it away” (p66).

Indeed, nipple confusion is completely overlooked. Case in point:

“Some mums find that nipple-shields can really save the day” (p78).

Oh, and while we're talking about artificial nipples, according to Hollie, you'll deffo need to purchase all this gear:

p12

The truth is, if you have this shit 'on standby' as she recommends, and you're giving yourself a one-way ticket to Quitsville. Listen here folks: keep all this paraphernalia out of your home if you seriously want to breastfeed. You wouldn't stockpile cake if you wanted to lose weight. Keeping all potentially-sabotaging items outta hands-reach will give your willpower extra mojo.

On the topic of alien devices, the book's small-ish section on pumping breastmilk recommends:

“It’s a really, really good idea – even if you’re exclusively breastfeeding and very happy with the arrangement – to offer your baby a bottle at quite an early stage if you know you’ll need him to take one in the future, perhaps when you return to work, or maybe when you’ve had enough of breastfeeding and decide to use formula instead” (p81).

A mother should use a bottle even when she plans on feeding exclusively from the source? All together now: ‘Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That!!’

The fact that the author only managed to breastfeed for 4 months becomes painfully apparent by her botched understanding of lactation; 2nd Case In Point:

“You may find a happy compromise in mixed feeding. Although be aware that once you swap a regular breastfeed with a bottle of formula, it won’t take long for your body’s supply and demand system to adapt accordingly. After a while, there’ll be no going back” (p86).

Whilst I appreciate the warning that formula introduction can lower breastmilk supply (correcto!), the assertion that ‘there’ll be no going back’ is utter tosh. Part of the awesomeness of boobs is that they are dynamic: less suckling – less milk, more suckling – more milk! Those girls swing both ways.

If adoptive women can lactate, biological moms can sure as hell recover their full supply after taking a few bottles of formula. Make no mistake, this is a vitally important fact – one that could help a majority of mothers salvage their breastfeeding relationships - yet this fact is commonly neglected or even denied in literature such as this, why?? Because relactation involves arseing about. It involves effort. It interferes with parental convenience. So, let's pretend it doesn't exist to make ourselves feel better.

Whilst we’re discussing convenience, no feeding chapter would be complete without a dip into the wallpaper-paste world of formula. Sadly, as to be expected, the risks of formula are omitted from the book – even the risks of incorrect hygiene:

“It’s easy to get in a bit of a pickle over sterilising rules and regulations, and of course, no-one wants a baby with a poorly tummy. If you’re worried that you’re not being scrupulous enough, you may be reassured to hear that some parents don’t sterilise at all, considering a wash in very hot soapy water or a run through the dishwasher to be sufficient” (p89)

p89

Next, and true to form, this book adopts the same-old oxymoron, all too familiar in parenting books, whereby the author broaches the topic of ‘guilt’ and then asserts that formula feeding mothers shouldn’t feel guilty (go figure!)..

“Please don’t feel guilty about it if you’ve decided to formula feed your baby, or if you end up formula feeding because breastfeeding didn’t work out for you. Sadly, it’s a common reaction. But formula is a perfectly good alternative to breastmilk” (p34).

And just in case you’re hard of hearing, have memory issues or dead, the message is regurgitated later in the book:

“Please don’t feel bad about it (or let anyone else make you feel bad) if a breastfeeding problem turns out to be insurmountable and you end up reaching for the formula instead. It’s a brave woman who battles through potentially toe-curling issues like mastitis or thrush. And if you’re really struggling, remind yourself that what’s best for your baby, may not be the best thing for you. What your baby needs most of all is a happy, pain-free, and non-stressed out mum” (p78).

Translation: ‘Don’t feel guilty or bad if you formula feed. Happy mum – happy baby! Yadda yadda’.

So basically, being non-judgemental is about being vaguely judgemental to people who have a view you don’t like (those who ‘make you feel bad’), then patting yourself on the back for not being as fully judgemental as you could be. Hurrah!

Yet, of course, by linking formula feeding with guilt and bad feelings, the author is solidifying just that – guilt by association. She is implying that formula feeding moms should feel guilt. If guilt was truly irrelevant to formula feeding, it would not keep cropping up in the same sentences.

One of the many boo hoos in this book.
p34

And while we’re looking at oxymoronish comments...

“It’s generally agreed that you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby, however often they seem to want to[sic] much” (p31).

Breastfed babies seem to want too much? Where the shit did they learn that? Dang that survival instinct!

Alas, the babies-as-hassle rhetoric is recycled:

“Babies often enjoy chomping on a boob for the comfort factor, long after they’ve actually taken their fill. That combined with the frequency of early feeds means that initially, breastfeeding mums can find themselves amazed (and often, very fed up) by the sheer proportion of their life spent releasing their breasts from their bra. They feel little more than a human milking machine” (p32).

Dude, breastfeeding is but 0.5% of a woman’s life, hardly something to get melodramatic over. Is donating 0.5% of your time over your whole life span really something to get your thong trapped over? When you consider the lifelong health implications for both your child and yourself, it’s a no-brainer. 

'Maternal Selfishness 101'
p36

Next, we’re treated to some specific advice: As you’re a milking machine, remember to stay well-fed, but not with cabbage, cauliflower, or any other farty stuff:

“Colic-causers: Some foods are said to be likely causes for colicky symptoms – strongly flavoured vegetables like cabbage and cauliflower, onions, caffeine, what, citrus fruits, dairy products, and anything very spicy are the usual suspects” (p73).

...so what exactly does that leave on the menu? Oh yeah.. Dust. Wonderful. Bon appetite nursing momma!

So far we’ve seen this book regurgitate the ‘mom’s diet causes colic’ rhetoric, the ‘guilt’ rhetoric and the ‘milking machine’ rhetoric. Resurrecting clapped out rhetorical devices is scaremongering propaganda at worst, lazy writing at best. Indeed, rhetoric becomes the core of the ugliness in this book (which is, really, wall-to-wall ugliness). There’s the:

  • ‘Boobs-are-like-bottles’ rhetoric:

“Make sure each breast is completely drained” (p31).

(Note: you can never ‘completely drain’ a breast because mammary glands are constantly synthesizing. The mom who believes that breasts can be ‘empty’ is the mom vulnerable to ‘empty boob syndrome’ – a treacherous state of mind).


  • The ‘Breastfeeding-in-public-eeeeewwww’ rhetoric:

“One drawback of breastfeeding is that you’ll almost certainly have to get your whammers out in front of people you wouldn’t normally: your father-in-law, for instance, and random members of the public” (p76).


  • The ‘Lactating-breasts-eeeeewwww’ rhetoric:

“Sometimes it’s blokes who go off sex after birth. It’s possible he’s a bit turned off by your wobbly belly or leaky breasts: harsh, but potentially true” (p222).


  • The ‘Nursing-moms-need-supplements’ rhetoric:

“Continue taking an ante-natal supplement, if you took one in pregnancy, or buy one specifically for breastfeeding mums, and ask your pharmacist about suitable daily multivitamin drops for your baby” (p75).

The only benefit to come from following this advice is to the supplement manufacturers – who rake in £385 million annually in the UK alone. There’s even evidence that supplements could do more harm than good. So, save your cash people, and simply eat well.

Another well-trotted quagmire commonly seen in parenting books is the push towards early solids introduction, and this book is, alas, no exception:

“The most recent research available suggests that weaning from four months is no more likely to be harmful than if you wait until six months. One 2011 study even flagged up the possibility that some exclusively breastfed babies really do need to get cracking on iron-rich solids a bit before six months, if they’re not to be at risk of problems like iron-deficiency anaemia. (This is unlikely to be an issue for babies who are on formula as it has more iron in it)” (p95).

Research this. Research that. Yes, it’s all well and good using the R word, but where is this research?? The book does not mention it by name, institution or otherwise. There’s no trace of which research is being referred to. It could have been carried out by Dr Who Polytechnic rather than the actual WHO. In fact, that would explain why WHO and the health department of each major government have overlooked this ‘recent research’, standing firm with their 6 month guideline.

As for the iron issue, the fact of the matter is that there is enough iron in breast milk to last an infant until at least 6 months. Just the right amount. Perfect. In fact, recent research (I’m talking 2013 here people) suggests that the iron in formula may actually be making babies ill. This is because many of the bacteria involved in infantile illnesses require iron for growth and replication (for more info, see my article here).

Next, we switch chapters from Feeding to Sleep. I’m suspecting that placing these two chapters side-by-side in the book wasn’t a mistake, as any dedicated breastfeeding-saboteur knows, every parent’s achilles heel is their sleep deprivation. The usual tripwire in such circumstances is to suggest tanking up baby with solids:

The back cover image.
“You might consider – if you’ve been breastfeeding until now – giving formula as his last feed, instead, or maybe if he’s past the four-month point you’ll be tempted to whip up some baby rice and offer that at teatime in the hope of tanking him up” (p125).

Many self-fashioned ‘baby experts’ seem to think that babies should function like adults, suggesting that we tank them up during the day. Such an assumption may be true for us adults, with our large stomachs, but for a small baby with a tiny tummy, it just isn’t realistic or fair.

“Whether it’s a feed, or just your attention that he demands every time to get back to the land of Nod, he doesn’t actually need [her emphasis] it. And if you want to, you can teach him as much, by ceasing to offer what he’s looking for until he gets to the point where he realises he might just as well roll over and go back to sleep again instead” (p126). 

Dude, we're not talking about a husband with a boner here. We're talking about a baby's hunger. This is a sad misunderstanding of babies' needs. The makeup of human breastmilk, with its relatively low fat content compared to other mammals and the speed at which it is digested, means that babies are not designed to spend lengthy periods without suckling. Human babies are meant to be close to our bodies. To use an unfortunately popular term, they are meant to be ‘clingy’, it is in our genetic makeup. Human babies are designed to require constant attention and contact with other human beings because they are unable to look after themselves. Unlike other mammals, they cannot keep themselves warm, move about, or feed themselves until relatively late in life. In other words..


“Bear in mind one really good reason not to invite your baby into your bed: you won’t easily get him out again” (p113).

Ho ho. It’s that old Chrimbo cracker joke again: the co-sleeping teen!

“..So if you do set up a heavy bed-sharing habit, be prepared to initiate a concerted turfing-out campaign, perhaps with the aid of a sleep training technique” (p113).

Oh nadds, I was wondering when sleep training would slink its way into the narrative. Still, what can we expect from a controlled crying fan (p128) and Gina Groupie?

“Gina Ford has a great many fans among mums who swear she helped them to have a contented baby, so it you think it could be the way forward for you, pick up a copy of her book, or check out her website, and give it a go” (p33).

I’ll pass. Shame this mother didn’t:

p33

Denise Robertson


Okay, Denise Roberton, you win. Somehow you've written something more vile, more petulant, and possibly dumber than anything even Gina Ford has ever written. Congratulations.

The title of this book says it all: “Relax, it’s ONLY a baby!” Translation: 'Gawd, don’t sweat it. It’s not like it’s something important'..

I think this book may be a sign of the coming Rapture, or maybe just confirmation that formula company propaganda stretches further than the psyches of unsuspecting moms. In her first chapter, the author, Denise Robertson (a TV granny in her 80s, sans any qualifications), straps medical science to a rocket and fires it into south Lebanon:

“Don’t worry that inability to breastfeed will hinder bonding. It’s the closeness and the holding of the infant during the feeding process that strengthens the link between mother and baby –nd [sic] father and baby, too for the father who bottle-feeds his baby is also forging valuable links. It’s important to share the early days with your partner or willing grandparents” (p24).

Nevermind that breastfeeding actually restructures a mother’s brain; Nevermind that artificial feeding pulls the plug on the evolutionary waltz between moms’ and babies’ bodies; Never-fookin-mind that handing baby to every Tom, Dick and Harry can cultivate attachment issues, this book just wants Granny to have her some hands-on baba action. Obviously, as a granny herself, that’s the author’s prerogative. In the past, such horrible women with their blue-washed hair would have faded into obscurity, cursed to recycle the same tired, childish arguments at their local country club or knitting classes. These days, they get their own slots on morning TV shows. This country is going down the shitter, I tell you.

As we exit chapter 1, it’s worth noting that this book has, thus far, featured ten bottle feeding illustrations and zero breastfeeding illustrations, a suspiciously coddy whiff that gets even more fishy as the book progresses.

We turn to Chapter 2 and see that it is entitled, simply: “Crying” and is a measly four pages long, two of which I have scanned for your viewing pleasure: 

p36 & 37

Yup, that’s right, the book alerts mothers to the apparent fact that their baby may be crying because their breastmilk is - and I quote - “unsatisfactory”, with no explanation for what the heck that means or from what glitch in the matrix the author sprung from. Heck, the text is even accompanied by a little asterisk prompting moms to seek medical help for their malfunctioning mammaries.

..which brings us, not-coincidently, onto the next chapter: “Feeding”. You hear that creaking sound? Sorry. That's just my teeth grinding in anticipation.

p39.

In this chapter we’re given the predictable spiel: breast is best but it’s no biggy if you can’t or don’t want to; you’d have probably gotten sore nips anyway; bottle feeding has loads of ‘benefits’; etcetera, etcetera. If, after reading this standard propaganda, you still insist on breastfeeding you’re instructed to block-feed (p43) – a sure recipe for drying up the Milk Bar.

The feeding chapter is only 6 pages long, and quite frankly, that’s a blessing. Especially when you consider that (subliminal messaging intended or not) the bottle image count is now up to 20 now and just one (ONE!) breastfeeding pic (the little sucker measuring precisely 1.3cm - they couldn’t even give us an inch!) We’re only up to page forty five FFS! That’s one boob illustration for every 20 bottles. Sad times, people. Sad times.

Here's just a smattering of what I'm talking about:

p42

p20


p27

p28 and 29

p30

p40

p45

To save you some reading (and me some writing) let’s just say the book is sans any value. It’s utter trash. Oxfam wouldn’t want it for their stores; heck – even my guineas would disown me if I tried to line their cage with it. The thing advocates controlled crying (p58), routines for 4 week olds (p69), and weaning if your baby so much as glances at an edible food source (p92). The author recommends introducing solids at 4 months (p93) and prescribes mush over BLW (p94).

On the topic of extended breastfeeding, the author’s opinion is: How very dare you! (This is actually a pic of the author, no bull, she be judging):


Don’t you know “breastfeeding gets more difficult to stop as your son gets older and can assert his will” (p94).

Well that’s us told.


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Wanna see the entire fleet of anti-breastfeeding books I've exposed so far? Really, you wanna put yourself through that shit? Okay, you're in luck.. click away:


Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five Sleep Training Edition
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