Saturday, 25 February 2012

Can the Zodiac Help You Get Pregnant?

(Guest post by writer Maria Barker exclusively for The Alpha Parent)

You may enjoy flicking to the horoscopes page of your magazine, trying to get a sneak preview into what this month will bring you, but could the stars go so far as to help you to conceive? According to advocates of a new fertility technique called astro-fertility, yes they can! Astro-fertility works on the premise that there are only two or three times a year a woman can become pregnant and successfully give birth. Those particular times are different for each woman, as they are based on her and her partner’s time and place of birth and the alignment of planets at those moments. It is only when the position of those planets is replicated that a woman can conceive.

Ancient Links? 

Sound a bit far fetched? Well the supposed link between fertility and astrology has long been established. The ancient Greeks believed Venus and Jupiter were responsible for how many children a person would have, and when they would have them, and ancient astrologers believed a woman could only conceive when the moon was in a certain alignment to the planets on the day she was born.

Several modern astrologers have built on these ancient theories and developed them into methods they claim will help a woman conceive. Psychiatrist and astrologer Dr Eugan Jones believes he has discovered a link between the position of the sun to the moon, and a woman’s fertility, and can therefore pinpoint a woman’s fertile points. He claims a woman can achieve conception only at certain phases of the moon, and these phases must match exactly the phase of the moon at the time when the woman was born. According to Jones, a woman is most fertile when the moon is the exact distance from the sun as it was at the woman’s birth. Some fertility astrologers claim it is even possible to use astrology to choose the sex of your baby, and accurately predict his/hers time and date of birth!

Any Truth?

It sounds wacky, but American IVF clinic Shady Grove fertility have hired fertility astrologer Nicola Smut to see if she can help their clients conceive.

Robert Winston, professor and television presenter.
So does it actually work? Don’t check your horoscopes just yet. To find out you’d need either an in-depth knowledge of the alignment patterns of the sun and moon, or be willing to pay an astrologer-fertility expert to do it for you. Advocates of the method rave about it, and many women swear that this technique helped them conceive after years of trying, and in many cases, several failed courses of ivf treatment. Not everyone agrees though. Professor of Fertility Robert Winston has slated astro-fertilty as ‘utter rubbish’. ‘There is not the slightest ¬evidence that star signs make the slightest difference to fertility,’ says Professor Winston. ‘It’s shocking to me that anyone would make that claim based on anecdotal events. What worries me is that infertility is the cause of desperate ¬sadness and couples will grasp any kind of straw such as this.’

So opinion is divided on the effectiveness of this fertility method. None of the mums I spoke to had tried this method to conceive, (most having not even heard of it!), so the conventional approach is clearly the most tried and trusted still. If you’re interested in astrology and you’ve exhausted other methods without success, you might enjoy seeing if this method works for you, but remember that the effectiveness are disputed, and astro-fertillity shouldn’t be used as an alternative for consulting a doctor for fertility problems. If you’ve tried astro-fertility let us know if it worked for you!

Friday, 24 February 2012

The Most Bizarre Baby Shower Gifts

We all know the primary goal of a baby shower is to accumulate as much free stuff as possible, and to eat copious amounts of cake. So I have scoured the dark corners of the internet for genuine commercial products that no self-respecting breeder can do without.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that these little cone numbers are dessert holders or party hats for dwarfs. In fact they are a protective ‘cup’ marketed to rectify the age-old drama of baby boy’s projectile pee. Also aptly known as 'tinkle toppers', they are designed to be placed over your boy’s little fireman to absorb his spray during nappy changes. 100% cotton, they’re washable and reusable and come in packs of ten. One drawback however is that a particularly violent spray has been known to send these fellas flying.

Staying with the piss theme, this product is designed to protect children from bacterial infections and to help reinforce good potty training habits. It acts as a little porta-potty for when you’re out and about. The instructions read: “Parent places the top of My Pee Pee Bottle very close to the vagina or penis, as close as possible without touching the child and ask the child to release.” Maybe I’m missing something but this really doesn’t seem more hygienic than a toilet. The website speaks of scary rotavirus bacterium inhabiting toilet seats and peados lurking in public restrooms. However do we really need a brand new colour-coded product and website for what is essentially a bottle to piss in?

This is a set of fake hands that lays against your newborn to trick her into thinking that it's you. Darn, if only this was around before I chopped my hands off for my baby's pillow. I've got to hand it to them. They know how to palm off a crap idea. It's almost too creepy for words. And wrong. So very wrong. “Babies are used to the warm comfort and protection of their mother's womb and the Zaky can help imitate that” chirps the manufacturer.... erm yeah, imitate the womb by using a pair of disembodied limbs? On the other hand (so to speak), it’s a good way to ensure your child becomes a serial killer that keeps hands as trophies. It’s also blatantly a prop from a Monty Python sketch and a SIDS risk.

The Baby Keeper

The Baby Keeper is a contraption that hangs your baby on the back of a public bathroom door so you are "free to go." The picture says it all. Convenient? Perhaps. Sanitary? No way. Trusting a single hook will hold my baby safely over the hard bathroom floor? Not a chance in hell. 


Potty Mitts

"Potty Mitts are a new approach to protecting your child from germs in public bathrooms because kids touch everything...Each mitt is decorated with playful bears so kids love to wear them!" These are basically paper oven gloves with faux care bears all over them. This OCD-inducing product protects your child’s hands from all the nasties lurking in public bogs. I prefer to teach my child good hygiene by WASHING THEIR HANDS, but perhaps I’m just oldskool.

Nosefrida is a BPA-Free nasal aspirator that is designed to remove mucus from your baby’s airways without damaging delicate mucous membranes. The baby's mother (or some other unfortunate soul) places the rubber hose up the baby’s nose and then sucks on the other end (keeping track of which end is used for what). The resulting vacuum removes the snots, crusties, gunk and germs from the baby’s precious nasal cavity. I know what you’re thinking and fear not, there’s a filter (aka snot blocker) that keeps the snot and germs away from you. 

From the makers of NoseFrida (the company that appears to specialise in the insertion of tubes into babies’ orifices), the Windi is a single-use catheter that is inserted in the rectum to relieve gas and reduce colic. Though it looks eerily like a tampon, it apparently does work. One Amazon reviewer wrote: “The Windi works pretty much like a thermometer and relief is quick, the air flies out, ... be prepared for other "stuff" to come out as well!”

These tiny “Heelarious” baby heels (that’s the company name) are sized to fit infants up to 6 months old and are available in leopard and zebra prints, hot pink, baby pink and black. They are packaged in a purse shaped bag with a huge rhinestone clasp and retail for about £30. The marketing slogan is “her first high heels”. This product has caused spats over at UK newspapers: The Telegraph  and The Daily Fail, as well as pissing off feminists at The F-Word blog. There’s something just a little bit off about the idea of a baby in stilettos. Perhaps it’s because the purpose of high heels is: “to give the optical illusion of a longer, slimmer leg, a smaller foot, and a greater overall height. They are also designed to alter the wearer's posture and gait, flexing the calf muscles, and making the bust and buttocks more prominent” (Wikipedia). In defence of the product, the seller has commented that: “'If you think about it - some mums think it's pretty to get their baby's ears pierced and that can be painful”. Who am I to argue with that?


Phallic Baby Announcement Cards

Everyone knows that newborn boys have huge genitals due to hormones surges. Now proud parents can capitalise on this using specially designed announcement cards. Just insert finger and open. It’s a boy!

Placenta Teddy Bear

Honour the life-sustaining organ by turning it into a teddy bear. The Placenta Teddy Bear by Alex Green was one of the toy designs showcased at the ‘Doing it for the Kids’ exhibition, which aims to display the latest innovative and sustainable toy concepts. How can you get your hands on one of these bad boys? Well ‘simply’ give birth, cut your placenta in half, rub it with sea salt to cure it. When it dries out, treat it with tannin and egg yoke, an emulsifying mixture that makes it soft and pliable. Then, shape it into a teddy bear! Dragon’s Den would be proud.

This thing has "years of therapy" written all over it. No more needs to be said. It’s a baby vest with nipple tassels in sizes 0-6 months up to 3-4 years.


Baby Butt Fan

It would appear that treating nappy rash with plain old air and a touch of Sudocrem is outdated. Good job we now have the Baby Butt Fan. The instructions are simple: “Use at every diaper change! Eliminate wetness – the number one cause of diaper rash. Foamed sponge fan blades are absolutely safe for touch…Anti-microbial fragrance(such as lavender) protects your baby from skin ailments and it also sooths your baby from any agony. Contains soothing essences of lavender, sweet smells to bring sweet dreams. It is very good for a peaceful transition from little dynamo to sleeping angel.” Much of the trauma I've suffered in my life was caused by a lack of a Baby Butt Fan.

Having children is great and all, but it makes you fat. However fear not, gadget company Pure Austrian Design has created a buggy that converts into a scooter. “The transformation to a scooter occurs through a simple pull of the lower body, thus extending the buggy,” the company wrote. “The scooter opens up new possibilities to the common use of a baby carriage, meant for people with affinity to fast moving means of transportation with the child.” If you ask me it’s an accident waiting to happen.


Birthing cake

No shower is complete without cake, and no cake is complete without anatomical details, obviously. Check out the finishing touches. The mother has the face of a blow-up doll, is stark naked (is that a new trend in delivery rooms?), and is anatomically correct where you wouldn't expect her to be. However maybe it’s just me but there's something about marrying a vaginal birth and dessert that isn’t that appetizing. 

Also available in c-section version:



Because breastfeeding tears your nipples off, you'll need replacements. Also useful if you have to nurse sextuplets or if Dad wants to have a go. “Do not get them wet or your extra nipples could rust. They are not to be used for love making and you should always consult your doctor before using extra nipples.”

At last, EVERYBODY can have "one in the oven" with the Fetus Cookie Cutter. Baking time...9 months? “When they're done, your kitchen will be filled with the enchanting aroma of fresh baked fetuses”. Be sure to coat your cookies with pink icing. Maybe red licorice for an umbilical cord? Sugar crumbles for vernix? Okay I’m getting carried away now.



If you liked the cookie cutters then maybe the Gummy Fetus is right up your…uterus? Fancy chewing up a fetus? That's probably why this product is doomed to fail. The Gummy Fetus is available at Stupid.com, and comes with a serious warning: “Enjoy our candy in safety and stay far far away from hospitals, real feti, and people with no sense of humor.” It's true, life begins at confection.


Sigourney Weaver eat your heart out. The Peekaru is a kangaroo-like pouch for parents to carry baby around in. Looking at this, I just know I’d get my baby in there and he’d immediately take a crap and I’d have to undo it all and change him and by that time there’s no way I’d go for a walk so I’d just get fat sitting around on the couch and my husband would be all like “why do you waste money on this kind of thing?’ then I’d cry and eat more from the stress and get fatter.


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Saturday, 18 February 2012

Possibly the Most Anti-Breastfeeding Advertisement


Ad title: Torn Nipple.
Advertiser: Armila
Agency: MILK (Vilnius)
Country: Lithuania

This print ad, created for a maternity magazine, aims to convince breastfeeding mothers that without using Garmastan lotion, breastfeeding can be very painful.

The double page spread portrays a breastfeeding mother and her baby. The two pages are glued together. Once you tear them off of each other, the baby's mouth tears off the nipple, thus demonstrating how painful breastfeeding can be, unless you can use Garmastan lotion.



The title, in block capitals, reads: “BREASTFEEDING HURTS”. The small-print on the ad reads: “See, your baby is hungry 12 times a day, and that much of breastfeeding makes your nipples very sensitive. They become sore and may even crack. But it will not be a torture if you use Garmastan before and after the feeding”.

Now for my analysis of the ad:

From an aesthetical perspective, the cold, almost alien art direction and baby’s psycho eyes (think mini-Mike Tyson) seem out of place in a maternity magazine. Also, the baby appears disproportionately large, and one has to wonder about the woman’s super-strength which enables her to lift such a huge baby with one hand. These factors are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to inaccuracy. More importantly the ad fails to mention the fact that correcting latch relieves any pain related to breastfeeding in most cases. Also studies have shown that in certain circumstances applying ointments such as Garmastan not only offers no improvement, but might actually make things worse (Mohammadzadeh. A et al). In cases of undiagnosed thrush, a common scenario, nipple cream can exacerbate the condition by sealing in moisture and nurturing the bad bacteria. The absence of these facts in the ad is of course intentional, as such information would deter sales.

Above I refer to 'Torn Nipple' as "possibly the most anti-breastfeeding advertisement" and this is no mean feat alongside the array of formula company propaganda. However, unlike formula, which is breastfeeding's natural competitor, 'Torn Nipple' advertises a product designed to facilitate breastfeeding. This makes the marketing strategy even more insidious.

Sadly yet perhaps unsurprisingly, this ad won prizes in the coveted Golden Hammer (Latvia) and Golden Drum international advertising festivals. At the very least, I’m sure this ad would be enough to convince first time mothers - who don’t know what to expect from breastfeeding - to buy the product. It is also likely of course, to instil into them an unnecessary and irrational fear of breastfeeding.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Infant Feeding: Are We Stuck in the Past?


Charles Darwin (and your mum) would suggest that, as a human, you are a clever, resourceful, creative creature. Indeed, there is much truth in this. Over the centuries we humans have used our growing awareness of actions and their consequences to double our life expectancy, discover electricity, flight, artificial intelligence, nano-technology, and even space flight. However when it comes to feeding our infants, there linger striking parallels between the way we do it now, and the way we did it centuries ago. What follows is an eclectic collection of examples illustrating how, in negative ways, we are perpetually stuck in our ways, failing to learn from previous mistakes.

Quitting breastfeeding

The past:

In the past, failure to breastfed usually necessitated the services of a wet nurse. Breastfeeding failure was sometimes a result of tight corseting, however self-interest was quoted as the main reason for sending babies to wet nurses. Here is a portrait commissioned by Henry VI of France (1573-99) of his mistress Gabrielle d’Estrees with her wet nurse.


The present:

Self-interest is still quoted as the prime reason for not breastfeeding. From the UK Department of Health Infant Feeding survey (which involves around 8000 mothers and is conducted every 5 years): "The most common reason for choosing to breastfeed was that breastfeeding was best for the baby’s health, followed by convenience. The most common reason for choosing to bottle-feed was that it allowed others to feed the baby, followed by a dislike of the “idea” of breastfeeding."


Sex and breastfeeding 

The past:

Self-interest for giving up breastfeeding was sometimes on behalf of the father who wanted to resume sexual relations with his wife as soon as possible. A common misconception was that “carnal copulation troubleth the blood, and so by consequence the milk” (i.e. somehow shagging would corrupt a mother’s milk).

The present:

Today, misconceptions that breastfeeding interferes with sexual relations abound in popular ‘parenting bibles’. Some quotes for you to cringe at:

“The main advantage to giving up breastfeeding is that once milk production ceases the dad’s access to said breasts will no longer be denied” (Fatherhood: The Truth).

“The decision to breastfeed should be somewhat mutual. I have several friends who say that their partners were turned off by the sight of them feeding the baby. Before the baby is born, you should allow your partner to share his feelings about your suckling someone other than him. Consider whether you feel comfortable with the notion of turning your lovely sex toys into udders for the next few months and whether your partner feels at least a little comfortable with that idea too” (The Best Friends' Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood).

“In its aftermath, breastfeeding makes your tits look like bananas in a Waitrose bag, and while you’re doing it, it interferes with sex” (Bring It On Baby).


Breastfeeding substitutes: 

The past:

For the mother that quit breastfeeding, if no wet nurse was available, the safest feeding option for newborns was believed to be suckling an animal. Here’s some assess feeding babies:


And a nanny goat in action:


Babies feeding directly from cows:


The present:

For the mother that quits breastfeeding, her baby is still given the milk of another species - infant formula, aka reconstituted cow’s milk.


Undermining breastfeeding

The past:

For those that attempted to nurse their babies, many mothers would quit as a result of being ubiquitously undermined. Often they were discouraged due to the fear that their milk must be inadequate. An even more insidious doubt entered mothers' heads when it was suggested that their milk might appear plentiful, but have no nutritional value.

Take a gander at this advertisement from Nestle. Published in 1911, it's typical of the attitude that at 6 months breast milk is inferior and should be replaced by commercial formula:


The present:

“There is no nutritional value in breastmilk after 6 months” is a popular mantra of misinformed health professionals. Many mothers needlessly switch from breast to 'follow-on' formula at this point. However the World Health Organisation has declared follow-on formula as 'unnecessary'.


Inverted nipples

The past:

Aside from fears that their milk was inadequate, mothers of the past also had to contend with the worry that their breasts were ill-designed. For women who were deemed to be “deficient of nipple” an advised solution was to wrap a woollen thread two or three times around the base of the nipple and pull moderately tightly to encourage the nipple to "sufficient prominence" (A Treatise on the Diseases of Married Females by John C. Peters 1854). - It was written by a bloke you say, no shit!

Another popular cure for inverted nipples was to scoop out two large nutmegs, then put them in brandy for a week, and afterwards dry them. The breasts were then to be rubbed every morning with glycerine, and the nipples washed over with brandy, and, when dry, the nutmegs were to be placed one on each nipple. This apparently, “drew them out and hardened them” (Warren. E. How I managed My Children From Infancy to Marriage. 1865). - Another bloke.

The present: 

Nowadays a mother concerned about her nipples is often advised to use a device probably invented for use in Game of Thrones: nipple shields. They are artificial nipples worn over the mother’s nipple during breastfeeding. Modern nipple shields are made of soft, thin, flexible silicone and have holes at the end of the nipple section to allow the breast milk to pass through. However when using nipple shields the baby may not be able to compress the mother’s areola properly, which can lead to long-term milk production problems and increased nipple soreness and damage.


Doctors alliance with formula

The past:

From their conception, formula companies realised that an alliance with an influential body like medical professionals would be profitable. Initially doctors objected to formula because its commercialisation removed infant feeding from the doctor’s domain, which resulted in a loss of income to the doctor. To tackle this, in the early eighteenth century, formula companies sought to seduce doctors by launching advertising campaigns in medical journals. The companies agreed that formula packaging would instruct the mother to consult her doctor before using the product, thus bringing control of infant feeding under the direction of the medical profession. Here (left) is an ad for Nestle’s infant food in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 1896.

The present:

Modern-day midwives, health visitors, GPs and other health professionals are persistently subject to very clever and insidious marketing from formula companies via advertising, gifts, conferences and ‘training days’. In November 2008 formula company Aptamil paid the British Journal of Midwifery to include a calendar branded on every page with the Aptamil name and claims about the infant formula. Advertising in medical magazines and periodicals is a common formula company tactic which has endured to this day (read more about the targeting of health workers here).


Dangers of formula 

The past:

As a consequence of the increase in artificial feeding, infant mortality made a sharp rise. Aside from the risk of death, formula fed babies were prone to respiratory illnesses and bacterial infections.

The present:

A study entitled 'Breast Feeding And the Risk of Post Neonatal Death in the United States' has found that formula fed infants have a 56% higher death rate than breast fed infants (Pediatrics. 2004 May;113(5):e435-9). Furthermore, formula fed babies continue to be more prone to respiratory illnesses and bacterial infections alongside a host of other chronic ailments.


Formula company misconduct:

The past:

Further dangers were exposed in 1939 when NestlĂ© was exporting condensed milk to Singapore and Malaysia as ‘ideal for delicate infants’, though it was banned in the UK for causing rickets and blindness. In a speech Dr Cecily Williams said, ‘Misguided propaganda on infant feeding should be punished as the most miserable form of sedition; these deaths should be regarded as murder.’

The present:

International regulations forbid providing samples of infant formula to new mothers, but in the Philippines, NestlĂ© has recently been exposed for hiring graduate nurses as ‘health educators’ to visit mothers at home and try to convince them to use their products.


Anti-breastfeeding propaganda 

The past:

Despite the dangers of formula, outspoken anti-breastfeeding advocates maintained: “Let no mother condemn herself to be a common or ordinary ‘cow’ unless she has a real desire to nurse. I myself know of no greater misery than nursing a child” (Jane Ellen Panton, The Way They Should Go. 1896).

The present:

Parenting guides containing anti-breastfeeding propaganda litter library and bookshop shelves across the globe (I expose a few examples here). Even popular parenting magazines, along with their formula advertisements, have an openly anti-breastfeeding agenda. Recently the editor of Mother and Baby Magazine described breastfeeding as “creepy” (see the article in The Guardian).


Breastfeeding management

The past:

For those mothers that continued to nurse, strict self-care was advised, including a cold, salt-water shower or bath every morning. They were advised against “excessive novel-reading” and to “avoid all over-heating from running, dancing, excessive fatigue, etc; likewise the indulgence of violent passions and emotions”. It was believed that the child might have convulsions if fed after such excesses (Child. L. The Mother’s Book. 1831). Childcare ‘experts’ of the time, including Dr Eric Pritchard insisted that “Lactation is far more likely to go wrong in a woman than in the teetotal, vegetarian, nerveless cow” (Pritchard. E. Infant Education. 1907). He maintained that in order to breastfeed successfully women had to make themselves as much like cows as possible. They were to drop all social commitments, rest a lot and follow a bland diet.

The present:

Misinformed health professionals and formula company ‘carelines’ advise that women carefully monitor their diet (Aptamil prescribe a diet for breastfeeding mums here; as do SMA here), wash their hands before every breastfeed (as per SMA's instructions), abstain from alcohol consumption, and even avoid strenuous exercise for fear that it will turn breastmilk ‘sour’.


Feeding routines 

The past:

Another unnecessary burden to the breastfeeding mother was the advent of the regimented routine. Baby had to be fed by the clock, not by natural intuition. Not when he thought he needed food, but when his mother thought he needed food because her doctor told her so. “From the first moment the infant is applied to the breast, it must be nursed upon a certain plan” (Bull. T. Maternal Management of Children in Health and Disease. 1877). After a mere week of demand feeding it was insisted that: “It is essentially necessary to nurse the infant at regular intervals of three and four hours”. The prescribed routine included “eight hours unbroken sleep at night” (see illustration below). In 1896, a book called The Care and Feeding of Infants it was maintained that too much handling, cuddling etc would weakened the child.


The present:

Today the regimented routine has made a comeback in the form of Fishwife Gina Ford’s orderly timetable for ‘contented’ babies. Ford's instructions for breastfeeding a four-week-old are draconian: up by 7am, feed to be finished by 7.45am, nap in his room at 8.45am, woken an hour later, 25 minutes at the breast (fed always in the nursery) at 10am, play on his mat at 10.30am, in bed by 11.45am, awake again by 2pm, feed now but must be over by 3.15pm, walk at 4pm, next feed to be over by 5pm, bath at 5.45pm, feeding by 6.15pm (during which parents should not make eye contact with their child in order not to excite it before bedtime), and "fully swaddled and in the dark, with the door shut, no later than 7pm".


Thickening feeds 

The past:

To encourage babies to adhere to strict feeding routines, some mothers used flour or cereal mixed with broth or water to thicken up babies’ feeds. It was hoped that the difficulty of digesting such a stodgy concoction would make babies sleep longer between feeds.

The present:

Nowadays ‘Goodnight Milks’ are thickened with cereals to make them harder to digest. Aside from the risk that they will be used to replace a night time breastfeed, another worry is that the products could encourage parents to put their baby to bed immediately after bottle-feeding which would rot a baby's developing teeth. There is also a risk that busy mothers may consider the product suitable for 'settling' their baby during the day and use them more often, or even use them for infants under six months.


Public modesty


The past:

Another facet of so-called 'breastfeeding management' was the preservation of mothers' modesty in order to protect public sensibilities. To conceal breastfeeding from public view the sadistic-looking “anti-embarrassment device” was marketed in 1910. This was a massive harness which cupped the breasts and provided rubber-tube extensions for the nipple, ending with a rubber teat by which the baby could be fed in public places “avoiding the necessary of exposing the person”. If you weren’t using artificial milk, you could at least appear to be doing so.

The present:

Nowadays we have ‘fetching’ nursing covers to conceal the fact that we are breastfeeding. They come with even more fetching brand names, such as ‘Udder Covers’ and ‘Hooter Hiders’. To save me the trouble, a fellow parenting blog has listed the ways in which such nursing covers do breastfeeding a disservice (see here).


Measuring intake 

The past:

Along with adhering to strict routine, mothers were also expected to appease society's growing obsession with order and certainty. By the 1850s baby food manufacturing was considered to be vastly improved, and because artificial feeding enabled parents and their doctors to gage a baby's intake, parenting guides recommended formula without hesitation. The esteem doctors afforded to artificial feeds, combined with exaggeration of the difficulties of breastfeeding contributed to mothers rejecting the uncertainties of suckling in favour of the perceived security of the bottle. Formula was calculated to the last calorie, was measurable and was very much a scientific process. Breastfeeding was not viewed as sterile nor was it the least bit scientific. It was not seen as measurable.

The present:

The preoccupation with certainty and measurable intake continues to the present day. Mothers feel more secure bottle feeding because it enables them to see the baby’s intake in ounces. Health professionals reinforce this insecurity by their preoccupation with weight charts, advising measurable formula top-ups, test weighing, and using breastpumps to measure supply. All of which undermine the breastfeeding relationship.


Bottle design

The past:

It became apparent that although bottles were fantastic at measuring a infant's intake, some babies rejected their cold, hard, subhuman form. Consequently bottle designs were re-modified. The most popular new design was a slightly concave glass bottle intended to resemble a breast “to practice a useful deception on the child, inducing the child to think that it derives nourishment directly from its mother”. On the nipple site was a soft teat of deerskin, stuffed with a sponge to control milk flow. In order to perfect the deception, a flesh-coloured elasticated pad was available to fit over the bottle.

The present:


The Mimijumi ‘Very Hungry’ baby bottle
Tomee Tipee ‘Closer to Nature’, Medela Calma, and Mimijumi bottles claim to resemble the human breast. However their teats don’t flex in the mouth the way a human breast does. These, and other bottles designed to mimic human breasts, are simply domes with longer tube-like nipples attached. When a baby breastfeeds, it takes the areola into its mouth, not just the nipple. If used within the breastfeeding relationship, bottles can lead to a young baby preferring the faster flow of milk. Also the different technique used for sucking a bottle teat can cause babies to have difficulty latching-on and sucking at the breast, which will in turn interfere with the mother’s milk supply.  Eventually baby may refuse the breast altogether.


Bottle propping 

The past:

Along with bottles that resembled human breasts, self-feeding bottles were also popular. Babies were often left lying on the floor to suck milk or whey through a long tube attached to a glass bottle whenever they were hungry (see right illustration). Another type of self-feeding bottle had short legs at the base to stand up on the baby’s chest at a suitable incline. Another hung around the neck on a ribbon. One patient in 1897 recorded that “in the rising of infants sustained by the bottle it becomes a source of great inconvenience and labour to provide food at varying intervals, especially at night, when rest and recuperation are necessary”. It described a bottle with a groove around the middle, so that it could be suspended by a pulley from the ceiling over the baby’s cot, nipple-end up, to prevent drips. All the baby had to do was yank it down and drink to its heart’s content.

The present:

Many babies today lie in a crib or car seat sucking at a propped bottle. The array of commercial products designed to facilitate bottle propping is overwhelming. A popular design (marketed under the names 'Podee' and 'Pacifeeder') features a teat connected to tubing which is attached to a bottle (see right). The teat acts as a dummy, which a baby can be relied upon to keep in its mouth ad nauseam. No time needs to be wasted cuddling the baby at feed times.


Soothing guilt

Helen Flanders Dunbar
The past:

Childcare writers bent over backwards to reassure mothers who "couldn’t" breastfeed, and in doing so, they effectively demoralized those who could. A popular childcare guide (Your Child’s Mind and Body, by Flanders Dunbar, 1949) maintained that: “Most young mothers wonder whether or not they should nurse their babies. You do not have to nurse your child. Scientific evidence indicates that children who have never been nursed as just as healthy, sometimes more healthy, both physically and emotionally, as children who nursed. If you want to nurse your child, by all means do so, but allow your doctor to suggest from the very beginning additions to his breast diet such as orange juice, extra formula, or cereal. If you are reluctant to nurse your child, if it makes you tense or uncomfortable, or if you are too busy and are just doing it because you have an idea that it is your duty, do not attempt it”.

Vicki Iovine
The present:

Appeasing mothers who don’t breastfeed continues to be the folly of many childcare authors. Marcus Berkmann (Fatherhood: The Truth, 2005) claims with faux confidence that “bottle feeding is never going to do anyone any harm”; While Vicki Iovine (The Best Friends Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood, 1999) concurs: “As our own mothers will quickly point out, our entire generation is a testament to the fact that formula-fed babies can survive and even prosper”. In her childcare guide aimed at new parents (Babies for Beginners: Keeping Your Baby Happy and Healthy, 2009) Roni Jay reassured that “You can’t tell looking at a child or even an adult whether they were breast or bottle fed. It doesn’t show in their looks, their personality, or their health, so how can it possibly be that important. Answer: it can’t”. No stone is left uncovered in an attempt to lick the wounds of the non-breastfeeding mother; from diminishing the health benefits of breastfeeding: “The NHS is over promoting the advantages of breastfeeding” (Eleanor Birne, When Will I sleep Through the Night? An A-Z of Babyhood, 2011), to championing the imagined culinary delights of formula: “Formula looks nicer; it would surprise me in no way if it didn’t also taste nicer” (Bring it on Baby: How to have a Dudelike Pregnancy. ZoeWilliams 2010).

So what can we lean from this peek at history? We have seen how recycling old ideas in a quest for profit and parental convenience has sabotaged the indigenous art of breastfeeding. Under the guise of 'progress', solutions were created for problems that never existed. Misinformation about the mechanics of lactation, strict rules regarding mothers' diet and self-care, combined with an obsession over babies' weight have added an unnecessary and damaging level of complexity to infant feeding.