This is the fifth (fifth!) post in my quest to expose as many anti-breastfeeding books as my cornea can withstand. To resist sounding like broken vinyl, I’ll refrain from a lengthy intro, you should know the gist by now. Suffice to say, in this series we look at some potentially-upsetting, probably-litigious and unapologetically harsh treatments of breastfeeding found in mainstream parenting books. This fifth-installment is dedicated entirely to a book written by celebrity nanny, Jo Frost. I’ve got my lawyer-retardant panties on, so let’s begin.
Jo Frost’s Confident Baby Care
When a ‘TV nanny’ writes a parenting book, those with common sense shudder. They are fully aware that the lower bulk of the population (I’m not saying they’re ‘chavs’, well okay I am) that worship at the altar of celebrity will view its pages as gospel. In this book, Jo Frost is able to capitalise on her ‘celebrity’ status (yes I use the label loosely, but still…) to write any flavour of balls imaginable, safe in the knowledge that it will both sell and be absorbed by the masses. After all, who could argue with a person globally known as “Supernanny”? Well, I’m going to give it a shot.
Breastfeeding mothers as martyrs
In one of the book’s early chapters, titled ‘Making Confident First Choices’, Jo lectures on the importance of getting dads involved. The sentiment behind her lecture is acceptable. The execution, less-so:
“It’s important to involve them [dads] from the very beginning for two reasons. First, so that they can begin to bond with the baby and learn how to be confident dads. Second, so that you feel you are experiencing everything together as a couple, rather than mothers feeling overwhelmed and fathers feeling alienated or pushed aside. Mothers also need to recognise that wearing the martyr crown – thinking ‘Only I can do this’ – is going to lead to sleep deprivation and a loss of ability to produce breast milk” (p29).
Yes, it’s subtle, but here is where the undermining begins. Vague notions of “martyrs” (which is an entirely subjective construct anyway) coupled with the scare-mongering “loss of ability to produce breastmilk” does not a confident choice-maker create.
Yet this martyr claptrap is resurrected later in the book, when we are reminded:
“This is no time to wear the martyr crown…” (p74)
Jeeez, I gotta see this notorious crown! Wait until you hear how Jo cleans it!
“If, Mum, you think to yourself, as your back is breaking, ‘only I know the right way to feed my baby’, you’re being your own worst enemy. (Well, someone had to tell you). Eventually your partner will think, ‘You’re the only one who can do it, right? Then go ahead and do it!’ Men can get pushed out and then women complain of not having their help. When I meet a mum like that, I say, ‘Oh here we go! Spit and polish. Polish up that crown” (p74).
I’ll tell you what, if my back was breaking, ain’t nobody telling me to discuss infant nutrition; rather, I’d be saying “holy hell, my back is fucking breaking!! Call 911!!!”
But I digress, Jo’s message continues (warning: if you are one of those moms that has the audacity to feed your baby all by yourself, the following sermon may sting a little):
“Recognise where that martyr thing is coming from. Usually it’s a result of mothers needing their baby to need them, or believing that because they were the birth vessel, the mother ship, they somehow ‘own’ this child more than Dad. This is dangerous because their baby is being treated as a possession, rather than a living, breathing human being who needs the love and care of all the adults around her. I feel sorry for fathers in those circumstances. So, Mum, check yourself and make sure you accept all available help, particularly from your child’s father” (p74).
Exclusively breastfeeding? You selfish cow! Stop being possessive. P.S. Jo feels sorry for your husband, so there!!
Spare a thought for poor bottle-feeders
This pro-bottle rant leads nicely onto the sub-section, labelled in bold capitalised font “TO BREASTFEED OR NOT?” It begins:
“I definitely support breastfeeding, but…”
Oh here we go! The mating-call of the hater…
“…but not to the extent of making bottle-feeding parents feel they should be banished off the face of the earth. There are a variety of reasons why you may not be able to, including adoption, illness and certain medications. I know women who can’t breastfeed because their nipples are inverted or too short. It’s okay if you can’t or choose not to. Generations of babies have been bottle-fed and are just fine! Formula is now created to mimic breast milk very closely” (p31).
W0000t! It’s a boobie-trap smorgasbord!! How many points of misinformation did you spot, kids?! Let’s count together: 1. Adoption being a bar to breastfeeding (reality: it’s not). 2. Illness being a bar to breastfeeding (reality: it’s not). 3. Taking medication being a bar to breastfeeding (reality: it’s not). 4. Inverted nipples being a bar to breastfeeding (reality: they’re not). 5. Short nipples being a bar to breastfeeding (reality: they’re not). 6. Generations of bottle-fed babies being just fine (reality: climbing rates of allergies, obesity and gastrointestinal disorders beg to differ). 7. Formula is now created to mimic breast milk very closely (reality: as close as plucking Susan Boyle’s eyebrows makes her resemble Cheryl Cole).
Then Jo forcibly launches into an equalitist rant that would make any formula feeder well-up with pride and a quivering lip. Jo’s script is as recognisable and tedious as the often-spouted drivel you hear time and time again from the ‘I support you’ and ‘Strong Moms’ pussy crowd:
“Don’t feel badly, Mum, if for some reason you can’t breastfeed or you do it only for a few weeks. It’s not proof of your womanhood or of your love for your baby. And breastfeeding mums should be kind to other mums who are not. Support one another, rather than judge!”
Wait, she’s not finished:
“At the end of the day, whether you choose to breastfeed or not, the decision you make is fine. Parenting involves making all kinds of decisions based on your needs [emphasis hers] as well as the needs of your child. I want you to make the best choices you can, without feeling pressure from others, and then stand comfortably with your choice” (p31).
Yay! Let’s all join hands and live in an insulated Kum-ba-yah bubble. Fuck the environment. Fuck babies’ welfare. Fuck the public purse. All that matters is that mummies play nicely. There’s no room for politics in maternal issues. When mothers disagree with each other, that’s called ‘judging’ and not permitted under mommy law (when men do it, it’s called ‘debate’, but never mind about that).
As if all this cutesy bollocks wasn’t enough to turn your stomach, next Jo spews forth the standard spiel: as long as you love your kid, that’s all that matters.
“Here’s my key message – your love is enough. In fact, it’s just what your baby needs!” (p66).
Contrary to what The Beatles may have sung in the 60s, you need a lot more than love. Oxygen, food, shelter, warmth, protection… Okay, I’m being pedantic, but what can you expect when I see yet another author milking the love rhetoric in such a lazy and predictable fashion. You could love your baby as much as I love Michael Mosley; it won’t put food in their belly, ward off disease, or protect them from SIDS. Nuff said.
How NOT to protect your baby from SIDS
Speaking of the tragedy that is SIDS, Jo seems to have had a common-sense-bypass when she recommends a product well-known for its SIDS-risk:
“You can buy a baby-sleeping bolster (they look like angel wings!) – you place the baby in the middle and there’s a tiny rolled pad either side that makes her feel more secure” (p145).
Angel wings – how painfully apt for a product associated with death. This should win an award for world’s crappest safety advice.
And the award for most blatantly obvious tip would go to…
“If you do think you might want to breastfeed, even for a short while, decide before your baby is born” (p32).
And, the runner-up award for misguided-advice-disguised-as-feminism goes to….
“You might choose, as friends of mine did recently, to pump milk from the breast and bottle-feed so that both of you can share equally in the feedings (It has the added advantage of getting your baby used to a bottle earlier – they are harder to introduce later on). Dad can help and Mum can get more sleep” (p32).
Oh not that shit about mum getting more sleep if dad gives a bottle – utter bollocks. Time to change that diaper Jo, I smell the same old shit here.
Breastfeeding is for the mother’s benefit
More incoming faecal matter can be smelt in the next section when Jo slags-off breastfeeding mothers. Apparently, she knows exactly why they chose to breastfeed:
“I have seen women breastfeed constantly, not because their baby needs it but because it helps them lose weight – you burn a lot of calories when you breastfeed. This is dangerous because the baby is getting more than he needs and breastfeeding is being used for the wrong reason. Be sensible and do what’s right for your child as well as yourself” (p69).
Four points: firstly, you cannot force a child to breastfeed; secondly, Jo, how the heck do you know what a particular baby ‘needs’ (nutrition? comfort? warmth?) – only the baby knows that; thirdly, breastfed babies cannot be overfed; fourthly, there is no singular ‘right’ reason to breastfeed – that’s the beauty of it; fifthly, screw you and your patronising talk of being ‘sensible’, frequent breastfeeding is one of the most sensible things a new mother can do! Yet Jo and ‘sense’ appear to have had a divorce; take this titbit for example:
“If you’re breastfeeding. Make sure you eat and sleep well so that your baby will have all the nourishment she needs” (p71).
HAH! Try saying that to your average sleep-deprived mom, she’ll likely aim her nipple in your direction and jet you in the face. Also notice the insidious undercurrent lurking within Jo’s ‘well-meaning’ advice: essentially, if you don’t sleep and eat ‘well’, your baby won’t have all the nourishment she needs. What postpartum mom do you know that sleeps well? Be serious. Heck, what neighbour of a postpartum mom do you know that sleeps well?! We could all do with a bit of shut-eye, whether lactating or not. Sleep is a red herring here, and it stinks like a fishmongers.
In case you haven’t got the clue yet, I don’t think Jo is a breastfeeding advocate. The phrases she uses to describe breastfeeding-life wouldn’t be out of place in a 1990s sitcom:
“You’ll be walking around like some wild banshee with your breasts leaking all over the place” (p57).
As well as looking like an extra from Scream, Jo thinks if you breastfeed, you’ll have the extra inconvenience of needing to buy ‘stuff’. Contrary to fact, Jo asserts that you don’t escape from having to buy equipment just because you’re breastfeeding. In her list of ‘essential equipment for breastfeeding’ Jo includes a nursing pillow (since when was that essential?) and:
“an electric breast pump to express milk to store for when your milk supply is low” (p57)
Notice the decisive nature of the above sentence – your milk supply WILL be low, according to Jo. She’s just giving you the heads-up on the apparent inevitability of it all.
According to Jo, another piece of essential breastfeeding kit – particularly if you have twins – is the bottle, because God forbid you should directly breastfeed your twins in public:
“Breastfeed at home and give them a bottle when you’re out and about because it’s easier and you want to make your life as easy as possible” (p211).
It’s easier to bottle-feed twins? Since when? The practicalities of the matter is that you need two hands to breastfeed twins. You need four hands to bottle-feed them. Go figure!
Breastfeeding causes gas
Anyhoo, while you’re pumping yourself like livestock, Jo has another task:
“I want you to record the times he feeds in the Baby Log on page 252. Keeping a baby log is a good way to figure out whether what you’re eating is causing gas” (p96).
Say what? Gas? What I eat can give my baby the farts? According to Jo, this is true. In a section titled “Eating for two” Jo asserts that:
“What you eat will make its way into your baby’s body through your milk. Strong or acidic foods can make your milk smell funny and cause indigestion in your infant, or a refusal to nurse. Gassy foods like broccoli, beans, cabbage and so on, can produce gas in your baby too. So can diary products” (p98).
She refluxes this spew later on:
“If your baby latches on fine and then pulls off crying after a couple of minutes it could be something you ate” (p102).
If you don’t abstain from these forbidden foodstuffs, Jo warns that you will have to…
“…live with the consequences and know your baby’s living with them too” (p99).
Boobie-trap radar on red alert! The assumption that consuming gassy foods yourself will make your baby gassy is a myth that backdates Jesus. Gas is produced when bacteria in the intestine interact with the intestinal fiber. Neither gas nor fiber can pass into the bloodstream, or into your breastmilk, even when your stomach is gassy.
Speaking of prehistoric breastfeeding myths, Jo continues:
“Do keep alcohol and caffeine intake low, as in none. Your baby’s brain doesn’t need it” (p99).
The myth-train pulls up at yet another station:
“Get support push-up bras to leave you feeling all woman after breastfeeding” (p69).
Toot! Toot! We’re not even finished the “Zero to Three Months” section, when this pops up:
“Setting firm ground is about creating healthy routines. I can’t emphasise enough the importance of routines. The more you can create routines early on, the easier your life will be” (p87-88).
Routines, routines, routines. Okay, so what does a routine for a newborn involve? Well, Jo will tell you exactly what it absolutely doesn’t involve – cosleeping:
“Medical experts don’t recommend sleeping with infants as you can accidently roll over in your sleep and suffocate them. Also, your body heat can cause them to get overheated. I discourage infants regularly sleeping in your bed because you’re creating a habit that will cause you no end of grief later on” (p91).
I’m not sure Dr Sears (a medical professional) would agree. In fact, he has quoted numerous studies which show that there’s more than three times as many crib related infant fatalities compared to adult bed accidents!
Regarding co-sleeping being labelled a ‘bad-habit’, Sears cites studies showing that co-sleeping babies grow up with a higher self-esteem, less anxiety, become independent sooner, are better behaved in school, and are more comfortable with affection. They also have less psychiatric problems.
Sears has ripped a new asshole in the ‘over-heating’ myth too, pointing to studies which show that infants who sleep near to their parents actually have more stable temperatures! Anyway, back to Jo and her meddling. I find it erratic to say the least, that she would cite overheating as a reason for not co-sleeping, yet staunchly advocating swaddling in her next breath:
“I like to swaddle a baby to help him go to sleep” (p93).
Yet swaddling is one of the most common causes of overheating. In fact, one in four babies that die of SIDS has been swaddled. Also, swaddling can have a negative effect on breastfeeding – newborns who are routinely swaddled have been found to feed less frequently, suckle less effectively, and have greater weight loss than those left un-swaddled. Know what else can have a negative effect on breastfeeding? Pacifier use, particularly pacifier use with the first 6 weeks. Guess what Jo recommends?
“I like to give a newborn a dummy. If you give him something to suck on, he’ll fall asleep more easily because of the association” (p94).
Sleep, sleep, sleep. Inducing sleep at the cost of sabotaging breastfeeding seems par for the course in Jo’s world:
“The importance of getting your baby to sleep through the night is crucial” (p168).
Is optimum infant nutrition not also crucial? Evidently not, as Jo jumps on the Controlled Crying bandwagon:
“Use my controlled-crying technique” (p168).
Very naughty. Like many disingenuous self-appointed gurus before her, Jo’s nicked Richard Ferber’s sleep training technique (which I will be critiquing next week) and repackaged it as her own. A massive 61% of parenting books in America endorse controlled crying, so it’s hardly Jo’s own technique. Her instructions are near identical to Ferber’s:
“You will need a strong-resolve. When you go in to say, ‘shhhh’, just rest your hand on him without eye contact and then leave. Do not pick him up” (p168).
Fellow parents, do you really want to use this technique? Really? Even Jo herself alludes to the distress this method can inflict on babies:
“Some babies will cry and start to gag. If he throws up, take him from his cot, clean him up and place him back in. Then start the technique again” (p168).
Advantage: save on laundry.
Disadvantage: potentially kill your kid.
Like those she has plagiarised from, Jo attempts to make Controlled Crying more palatable by claiming it’s actually good for babies:
“If he is getting all he needs from you through the day, this technique of active ignoring is not neglect” (p168).
If it looks like a duck, and swims like a duck…
Sure Controlled Crying ‘works’ but ain’t nobody in their right mind going to insist it’s actually good for babies. Yes the baby does become conditioned to communicate less at night, but at best, this is because he has been trained not to do so, rather than understanding that it is night-time and therefore he must be tired and should sleep. Sears coined the phrase ‘shutdown syndrome’ to describe what probably happens in this scenario. Essentially, depressed babies shut down the expression of their needs, and they become children who don’t ever speak up to get their needs met and eventually become the highest-need adults. Yet Jo maintains that you should stand firm:
“I want you to create good sleeping habits from the beginning. That’s why this section is called Setting Firm Ground” (p91).
Look lady, as well as lacking sufficient levels of the hormone melatonin, a baby’s sleep cycle is also hugely different from ours. Babies are not designed to sleep through. Being ‘firm’ with a young baby serves no functional purpose. It just makes you an ass.
Feeding to a schedule
Along with muzzling your baby with a pacifier and neglecting – sorry, ignoring him – Jo recommends installing a feeding routine when your baby is as young as 1 month old:
“At about week four, you can begin to establish a feeding routine. It’s important to do this because otherwise your baby can overfeed, whether breast or bottle fed. Because babies suck for comfort as well as hunger, if you offer food every time they cry, they can end up eating too much and becoming more refluxy as a way of dealing with too much food” (p111).
Oh FFS. Here Jo has committed the cardinal sin of lumping together breastfed and bottle-fed babies as if they are the same breed – they’re not, far from it. A breastfed baby can regulate their intake; they do this through non-nutritive sucking. These light ‘flutter-sucks’ enable them to obtain the comfort of the breast, whilst forgoing any unnecessary nutrition. Bottle-fed babies cannot do this, they suck at the bottle – they get a mouthful of milk. This is why demand-feeding (nature’s default feeding method) works better for breastfed babies: baby cries – baby is put to the breast – if hungry, baby eats – if not hungry, baby comfort sucks or rejects. Comfort sucking is very important to babies – it’s the ultimate relaxation tool. It also helps the skull bones to return to their normal position after birth.
So, with Jo’s main justification for feeding routines exposed as a load of bollocks, should we bother to continue reading to find out what her routine entails? Okay, okay, for the lulz, let’s read on (the things I do for you people):
“Stretch feeds out a bit. Try a dummy, to see if he will suck on that for a while to keep him going. You need to keep stretching out the time to move on from on-demand feeding to feeding every three hours (four hours if bottle-fed)” (p111).
Not only will this potentially lead to engorgement followed by a reduction in breastmilk supply, it could also lead to stunted weight gain in the baby, or even weight loss. Demand feeding means that multiple-letdowns wash fat globules through your ducts and transfers them to your baby. Scheduled feeding bypasses the repetition of this mechanism.
Yet Jo has even drafted a schedule to keep you militantly on track with her feeding agenda:
She supplements this table with the following advice:
“If breastfeeding, you have to measure by time to gauge how much your baby is getting because you can’t see what he’s taking in” (p112).
Measure by time? Look folks, time isn’t your friend here. For instance, do you know someone in your life, a relative maybe, who takes a long time to eat a meal? Perhaps they savour every morsel or like to engage with others in-between mouthfuls. Well, guess what? Some babies are like this too. Similarly, some babies (like some adults) waste no time in filling their face (I’ve been known to eat a tub of Pringles in 10 minutes flat – FULL-SIZE! booooyah!) So, how long should you feed your baby for? The answer is simple – for as long as he wants! There is no set rule for the amount of time a feed should take. Do yourself a favour and don’t rely on the clock as a gauge of how much your baby is consuming. Some little heavyweights can drain a breast in 5 minutes flat, for others, it’s 40 minutes. Both are normal.
Introduce solids early
As we’re on the topic of timeframes, I wonder how Jo approaches the touchy question of when to introduce solids?
“Don’t expect your baby to sleep through the night consistently until he’s on solid foods” (p91).
Following that bombshell, she adds a caveat:
“Whether you breastfeed or not, breast milk or formula is all your baby needs for the first three months” (p96).
Three months?? Yup, this is yet another book that’s big on premature solids introduction:
“Paediatricians recommend starting solids at six months, but I believe that you may find your baby getting hungrier before this” (p146).
Dudes, if your baby is hungry before 6 months, just give more milk. The mother that decides to take (the woefully unqualified) Jo Frost’s advice over that of a paediatrician adhering to WHO guidelines should be put in the stocks and pelted with rotten fruit.
One sign that a baby is simply not ready for solids is that if you try to spoon food into their mouth, the unripe cherub will respond by instinctively pushing the food back out with his tongue (known as the ‘tongue thrust reflex’); yet Jo attributes this reflex to some fictional diluting mechanism:
“Be aware that babies of four to six months poke their tongues in and out to make saliva to water down the food before swallowing it, so don’t interpret that as a rejection” (p147).
Then, to further nudge you into introducing solids early, Jo dangles this well-thumbed carrot:
“The good news about adding solid food is that he’ll be more likely to sleep through the night” (p146).
Folks, this is Simply. Not. True.
As if advising the premature introduction of solids wasn’t bad enough, Jo then (in complete contravention with medical guidelines) directs you to stop offering regular milk feeds. Her rationale? Milk feeds (the most important part of a baby’s diet) will ruin your baby’s appetite for solids (the least important part):
“If you keep offering breast milk or formula all day, he may not get hungry enough to eat the solids he needs” (p170).
And what does Jo recommend your baby washes down their solids with?
“Serve baby juices along with food to avoid problems with constipation” (p149).
Children, and especially babies, do not need any fruit or vegetable juice to have a balanced and healthy diet, even so-called ‘baby juice’ which is just a marketing ploy. Sure, juice comes from fruit, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. The fibre in fresh fruit is largely lost in the juicing process, and what’s left is a whole lot of sugar, making juice a leading cause of tooth decay. What’s most bizarre (and hilarious in a “haha, let’s point at the nutter” sort of way), later in the book Jo actually highlights the perils of juice consumption:
“If you offer juice, even diluted, babies quickly prefer it because it’s sweet. There’s no need to encourage a sweet tooth!” (p172).
And now, with baited (juice)breath, we turn to the ‘Breastfeeding’ section of the book. What is the likelihood of this section having a lactivist approach? (Answer: about as likely as Simon Cowel pumping his moobs before a night out)
The inevitability of insufficient milk supply
“Guess what? Breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally – at least to many mums” (p97).
An uplifting start there Jo! Do go on…
“Having a milk supply that’s out of sync with the baby’s needs is a common breastfeeding problem” (p98).
Jo missed out an important word in this sentence, it should read “…is a commonly perceived breastfeeding problem”. Many women believe they are unable to produce sufficient milk, but the fast majority of them are mistaken. Heck, women in developing countries manage to exclusively breastfeed just fine, which makes Jo’s following assertion tres inaccurate:
“You most likely will produce enough, if – and it’s a big if – you take good care of yourself. You can only make enough milk if you get enough sleep, eat properly and drink plenty of water and other fluids. You’ll be surprised how intense your hunger and thirst will be!” (p98).
This is insidious stuff. Even if we suspend logic for a second and take this trash to be gospel, how is a mother ever to know for sure if, – ‘and it’s a big if’ – she is sleeping, eating or drinking “enough”? Jo’s advice serves no purpose other than to feed the already-viral fear that mothers have of their apparent lactational incapacity. Jo, of course, knows this and so offers the following directive:
“One thing that makes mothers anxious when breastfeeding is that you can’t see how much milk your baby is getting. Here’s how to tell all is well. After the first week, he should stay on the breast, breathing and sucking hard for 30 minutes” (p102-103).
Do you take exactly the same time to eat every meal of your day? Do you never have snacks or even a drink? Why expect less of your baby?! The mind boggles.
So, while you’re sleeping, eating and drinking for Britain, AND using a pressure gauge and stopwatch during feeds, don’t forget to pencil in a consultation with a Buddist, because according to Jo, if you’re ever going to successfully breastfeed, you’re going to need it:
“Stress can reduce your milk supply, so you want to create as peaceful an environment as possible” (p98).
And when you’re finished meditating, it’s time to visit a bio-chemist for a blood test to ascertain that you have the correct body chemistry:
“Make sure you’re getting enough calcium, iron, vitamin D, folic acid and other nutrients through sensible food choices. Go for healthy meals and snacks as much as possible – that means lots of fruits and veggies a day. You need an extra 550 calories to produce enough milk for one baby. Stay away from shark, tuna, mackerel, tilefish and swordfish, as studies show they are high in mercury and other pollutants that can find their way into your baby’s brain” (p99).
On your travels, don’t forget to stock up on ice:
“Use an icepack on your nipples before nursing. This will not only reduce pain but will help them stand up” (p103).
What a steaming turd. This supposed breastfeeding code of conduct – the eating, the sleeping, the drinking, the meditating, the vitamin consuming, the ice-packing, the pumping, the nursing pillow propping – all of this is Jo creating a catalogue of unnecessary hurdles and hardships. Trying to adhere to these requirements is likely to leave you emotionally and physically exhausted. But fear not, if you’re that emotionally and physically exhausted mom, Jo has advice for you:
“If you find it too emotionally or physically exhausting, remember, bottle-feeding isn’t the end of the world” (p98).
Geee, thanks for that science lesson Jo. I’ve spent all my life equating bottle-feeding with Armageddon – NOT.
When Jo talks of bottle-feeding, she is of course, referring to formula feeding, but before we get to that section of the book, there’s one single page (one!) devoted to expressing breastmilk. Needless to say, it’s littered with the same old factual-faux pas, including:
“Expressing gives dads the chance to bond with their babies” (p104). (Cause, like, they would never have ‘the chance’ to bond otherwise, right?)
“Shake well after you put it in a bottle as the fat will have risen to the top” (p104).
Jo’s lack of acumen is blinding here. You should never shake human milk!
In geek-speak, here’s why: Shaking denatures the shaped molecules of the protective proteins, leaving only the pieces – the amino acids – the parts. Lactoferrin, lysozyme, and other protective components work their protection magic when they are in their original shaped molecular structure.
In other words, aggressive shaking can break some of the beneficial compounds in the milk. As Bond would say, “I like my breast milk stirred, not shaken.”
Wean from the breast before 1 year
Then, Jo brings up the topic of weaning-from-the breast. Not wholly unreasonable you may think – that is, until you read that she recommends you wean at 9-12 months:
“Around the one year mark, or perhaps a little before, it’s a good idea to wean off the bottle or breast to a sippy cup” (p194).
In the 9-12 months chapter:
“You may have done it sooner; but at some point around now you’re probably going to wean your baby. From an emotional point of view, some women can feel very sad about the end of this intimate connection. One thing that helps is to recognise that by weaning you’re taking your bond to a different level. You can still have quiet times, those times when it’s just you and him. He’s still dependant on you; it’s just not about your breasts (if you’ve got any left, looking at those chicken fillets that you’re going to have to put in your bra!). Your baby will always be your baby, but now he’s heading toward toddlerhood. Your focus here should be on continuing to do your best as a parent to help your child reach healthy milestones” (p185).
Notice the snarky chicken-fillets jibe and the covert suggestion that weaning this early is a healthy milestone. In her next breath, she bins being subtle and launches into an ‘extended breastfeeding is bad for your marriage’ myth marathon:
“I recently helped a woman wean her 14-month-old and it was completely liberating for her and her child. She hadn’t wanted to give up breastfeeding because of lack of intimacy with her husband. Now that’s changed too” (p185).
Let’s dissect this putrid cadaver: firstly, the fact that they needed helping suggests that neither baby nor mother were ready to wean; secondly, the weaning as liberating paradox; thirdly, the Daily-Fail-esc suggestion that mothers partake in extended breastfeeding because they have unmet needs; and finally, that breastfeeding takes a dump on your sex life.
Take the first point for example, what if mom is not ready to wean? Jo herself even concedes:
“Emotionally, Mum needs to be ready to give up” (p193).
Yet then goes on to scold mothers who don’t feel ready to quit breastfeeding:
“If you’re not, question whether your reactions are healthy and in the interests of your baby. I have seen toddlers walking over to the breast and have known that they’re using the breast as a pacifier. There’s a point where instead of nurture and bonding between the baby and the mother, there’s a complacency – she has become just a milking machine. Then it’s time to cut it off as there is nothing to be gained here” (p193).
Say WAT? First Jo acknowledges that the breast can function as a comforter; then in her next sentence she contradicts this by diminishing the breast’s status to ‘just a milking machine’. Logic fail. The breast provides comfort AND milk – what’s not to like?? Far from there being ‘nothing to be gained’, it sounds like the child’s got a pretty sweet deal. This is hardly a case of mom doing it purely for her own interests.
Yet, in this book, the mythical narcissistic mother prevails. When a mother wants to jump on the Good Ship Breastfeed, and this ship charters over anything but tepid waters, Jo suspects ulterior motives and emotional issues! Take the adoptive mother for example:
“These days, there is a trend towards adoptive mothers taking hormones in order to breastfeed their babies. When it comes to injecting hormones, that’s a decision that should be made only after advice from a doctor. What are the possible side effects of taking such hormones? I would also most definitely advise any woman considering such a step to talk to someone on the emotional level as well, to explore why she wants to make that choice. Millions of babies have done just fine on formula. Are you doing this for the baby or for you?” (p227-228).
So if you’re an adoptive mother inducing lactation, Jo’s message is – you’re a nut job. You need psychiatric counselling. My message however is – bravo. How about instead of directing breastfeeding mothers for counselling, we direct their formula feeding counterparts? After all, they are the ones most likely to be consumed with guilt, shame, embarrassment and so on.
And on that note, on to the formula-feeding chapter!
Oh yay! The formula feeding chapter
Unsurprisingly, the risks of formula feeding are not given page space, nope, not a sausage. Instead, we have tit-bits such as:
“Bottle-feeding makes it easy for Dad and others top help out around the clock” (p105).
(I dunno. I think putting a load of washing on or a quick hoover might be easier).
And the usual WHO-contravention:
“There’s no need to heat formula – room temperature is fine” (p107).
“After a few days, when you’ve figured out how many bottles he uses, make them up all at once, rather than having to do it on the spot when he’s crying” (p107).
(This is great advice! – if you want a vacation to the local emergency department).
Then there is this curious fairytale:
“Bottle-fed babies move their bowels much less frequently than breastfed babies” (p108).
This may be true in the very early days, however because breast milk is much more bioavailable (aka: absorbable) than formula, there is much less waste coming out of the business end.
Ironically, on the topic of fairytales, there’s no ‘happily ever after’ with this book, just nightmares and therapy bills. It’s certainly not a book I’ll be renewing at my library any time soon.
But, let’s not be too harsh on poor ol’ Jo. She is merely a symptom of a modern society that has become painfully out of touch with the parenting styles that once made breastfeeding easy and successful. Case in point: look at the rhetorical devices that Jo uses throughout the book to frame her advice:
the false correlation between the bottle-wielding father and guaranteed paternal bonding;
the breastfeeding mother as martyr;
the disdain towards full-term breastfeeding;
the ruthless enforcement of militant routine;
the rejection of cosleeping;
– all of these are modern constructs, designed to pacify a mindset in which convenience is paramount.
Take the latter for example, an anti-cosleeping stance completely ignores the fact that mothers who sleep with their babies breastfeed for longer than those who don’t (Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, 2008; UNICEF, 2005). By relegating our infants to sleep in a room alone we are reaffirming the regressive disconnect that characterises modern living. We take this a stage even further when we leave our babies to cry.
Rest assured, I will be tackling the thorny issues of anti-cosleeping and cry-it-out next week in the next instalment:
Sleep Training Edition Anyone?