Anti-Science

A peek into my medicine cabinet

And by “medicine cabinet”, I mean my shirt… because my boobs have magical healing powers! It’s true it’s true! (and by “true” I mean “false”.)

It is important to note that not every woman has magical medicine melons. So please don’t touch the bazooms of random women on the street in a perverted attempt to cure what ails you. In fact, in order to have healing hooters, you must be lactating.

Before you groan and tell me that cancer-curing (among other things) bovine colostrum is old news, let me tell you that I am not talking about cows or colostrum, I am talking about the juice from human jugs!

Do you ever get tired of calling your doctor and going to the pharmacy for pesky pink eye infections? Call no more! Just find some naturopathic knockers and stick a nipple in your eye! C’mon, what’s cooler – trying not to blink during your 12th attempt to get some antibiotic drops into your eye or trying not to blink during your 12th attempt to get an eyeful of sweet succulent sweater fruit? (No one reads Playboy for the articles or Visine ads.)

Now most ear infections clear up without antibiotics, but that’s not important. If you want to clear up an ear infection without antibiotics, just use ta-ta milk! The evidence is clear! Most of the time, if you use your Milky Murphies instead of calling the doctor, you won’t have to give your money to big pharma. (note: for ease and accuracy in administrating drops from your bebops, try decreasing the room temperature by 5°F.)

If you happen to burn yourself and you like muffins, you could be in for a real treat! Burns treated with magic bloobberry paste (that’s my word for blueberries mashed together with boob milk) heal in one hour!!! Any leftovers can be mixed with Bisquick to make aforementioned muffins.

Still breastfeeding your teenager? After feedings just squirt some milk on his face to treat acne!

Don’t bother with antibiotic ointment, you can just squirt your mesmerizers onto your gaping wounds to keep them uninfected.

Sore throats be gone with a nice big gulp of the stuff! (“Really honey, this isn’t what it looks like. You see I thought I was coming down with strep and my secretary is lactating. I swear!”)

And there’s still the ever popular nips-up-the-nose maneuver to cure sniffles!

There’s nothing that can’t be cured with a good squeeze of the ol’ maracas. But I know what you’re thinking – now that your family is totally cured of all infectious diseases, what are you to do with all this leftover mammaramba milk? Make soap!!!! Yes, soap. I guess it’s better than using the regular stuff when you wash your kid’s mouth out.

On a serious note, I understand that there are many very good reasons to breastfeed, there is absolutely no question about that. As I mentioned, I am currently breastfeeding my 5½ month old son and will continue to do so for a while. Unfortunately, there is some bad advice going around about the health benefits associated with it aside from the rather amusing ones I found. Terrifyingly, at one point I was told that breastfed babies do not die from SIDS, and mothers who breastfeed do not need to worry about putting their babies back-to-sleep, the #1 preventative measure for SIDS. I was relieved when I was unable to find any websites making this claim. Breastfeeding reduces the risk but does not cure SIDS, period. While it’s irresponsible (albeit hilarious) to tell women to use their boobs to clear up infections that will probably clear themselves up anyway, it is criminal to tell them that their milk immunizes their babies against death If anyone runs across such a claim, let me know.

Please lactate responsibly.

Elyse

Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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50 Comments

  1. Whilst I may have some issues with the veracity of such research, I'm willing to bet that the field research was a lot of fun. Erm. All in the cause of Science, of course. Not as though anyone was perving, or anything. Yup. Science!

  2. What's interesting though, re: SIDS, is that a gentleman named James McKenna has done some really interesting research on the links between SIDS, breastfeeding, and co-sleeping, with some results that are actually very counter to orthodox beliefs on infant sleep. So I agree that it's inaccurate (and dangerous) to simply say that breastfeeding prevents SIDS period, but there are things about a more "natural" (yes, I hate that word too) arrangement of co-sleeping for breastfeeding mother/infant pairs that greatly reduces the risk. I did find it interesting once when I saw a reader letter somewhere in response to an article stating that the risks of co-sleeping have been exaggerated, that went something like "if 50% of babies who die of SIDS do so while co-sleeping, why take the risk?" Well, if 50% of babies who die of SIDS do so sleeping alone in their cribs, why take the risk?

    I think a lot of SIDS statistics have been conflated by combining true SIDS figures with suffocation figures, when the two are different. I think there's a lot of "correlation-is-not-causation" type stuff going on.

    So I'm digressing a bit, but I have a tendency to do that. My points are just that a) the SIDS thing gets oversimplified (on both sides) which is sad and tragic and b) James McKenna's research is really fascinating (and there's a lot about it in Meredith Small's excellent book "Our Babies Ourselves")

  3. Let's be fair, "natural" isn't a "bad" thing… it isn't a "good" thing either.

    McKenna's research is pretty interesting. I didn't read it all over yet, but I will be taking a good look at it for sure!

    One thing he does mention is that women who are breastfeeding and bedsharing almost always put their babies on their backs. It's no small task to breastfeed a baby who is sleeping belly-down!

    My point was not that breastfeeding plays no part in reducing SIDS, there is evidence that it does, but that there still are breastfed babies who do die from SIDS. The back-to-sleep campaign has reduced SIDS deaths by 50%, and it is completely irresponsible to tell women that they don't need to bother putting baby on his back just because he is breastfed. (http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/general/sleep/si…) I have yet to find anything that states "X causes SIDS" or "Y cures SIDS". It's still a mystery. All we know now is that, with proper precautions, we can reduce the number dramatically.

    You are right, though, it is impossible to tell the difference between SIDS and suffocation in an autopsy.

  4. While I (being a decidedly hetero male) definitely appreciate a nice rack (in the entire range of available sizes, really), ones that actually squirt don't do much for me.

    Yeah, I'm a firm believer (pun intended) in the health benefits of breastfeeding. My two kids clearly enjoyed it. And I can attest to the fact that a squirt in the eye will do no harm. But all those other claims are hilarious. They conjure images of cattle sheds full of buxom babes hooked up to mechanical milkers.

    Wait. A business opportunity. Maybe in Nevada.

  5. One thing he does mention is that women who are breastfeeding and bedsharing almost always put their babies on their backs. It’s no small task to breastfeed a baby who is sleeping belly-down!

    Yeah, and if you're me (pre-pregnancy I was in the "mosquito bite" range of bra sizes) you have a tough time figuring out how to do it when they're on their backs or sides too!

    My point was not that breastfeeding plays no part in reducing SIDS, there is evidence that it does, but that there still are breastfed babies who do die from SIDS. The back-to-sleep campaign has reduced SIDS deaths by 50%, and it is completely irresponsible to tell women that they don’t need to bother putting baby on his back just because he is breastfed.

    Yes, and I wasn't trying to argue with that. One thing I struggled with as a new parent was that I felt like everyone was trying to terrify me (about breast feeding, not breast feeding, sleeping arrangements, vaccinating or not vaccinating); I finally relaxed and got comfortable with letting my baby sleep on her side, because she would *not* sleep on her back unless she was on top of/touching me. There are definite risk pools for SIDS too, if I understand the research correctly.

    All you can do is try and gather all the *good* info your sleep-deprived brain will hold, and make the decisions that work for you and your family. In my case it did not involve squirting breast milk at anyone. I think I tried once (don't even remember what for now) and found my aim horribly wanting.

    I hope you have skin of steel; you're going to take a lot of flak taking on motherhood! I think people have such a tendency to see any questioning or decisions that differ from theirs as either a threat or a questioning of their fitness as a parent, and we all love our kids and really do believe we're doing the best we can for them. I really try hard to keep learning and not get my hackles up needlessly; I always try to remember the Maya Angelou quote that goes something like "I always did the best I knew how, and when I learned better I did better."

  6. The notion that breastfeeding and safely sleeping on the front are somehow linked is… I was going to be conservative and say "unlikley", but I can't keep the word "ludicrous" popping in my head.

    My wife breastfeeds, and our 6 month old daughter sleeps on her back (or propped on her side) in the cot next to us. I never even considered thinking about one effecting the other.

    Also: this post easily contains the highest fact-to-euphemism ratio ever recorded. Bravo!

  7. Regarding "natural" and the question on whether it's better or not, my take is always that if there's no obvious difference between the natural way and the artificial way (e.g. brestfeeding vs. formula), I would suggest to side with the natural way, because that's the one that's been proven by millions of years of evolution to be the least harmful.

    Until scientifically proven otherwise, and until a better alternative is offered, stick with that.

    That said, I DO think there's a difference between "natural" and "traditional". Just because the victorians were really uptight and frowned upon seeing naked boobs and breastfeeding and thus decided to make the process as short a period as possible (and because people have been doing it that way for a few centuries now), doesn't imply it's any good. Likewise, putting the baby in a spearate crib is just something that's being done out of tradition and convenience it seems. I'm not sure what the motives for it are, but I would suspect the "natural" way would be for a newborn to stay close to its mother the first few months of its life.

    So what it comes down to is that there's a lot of people with ideas about child rearing out there, but all of them are pretty much based on emotion and personal opinion and preference. When in doubt, look to what happens in nature and take that to be the least likley to result in bad shit happening.

    after all, we're all the result of a couple of million years of nature taking its course …

  8. w_nightshade wrote:

    The notion that breastfeeding and safely sleeping on the front are somehow linked is… I was going to be conservative and say “unlikley”, but I can’t keep the word “ludicrous” popping in my head.

    Well, I think since both of those things are related to the troath/neck area (swallowing and breathing while sleeping), they might be connected. But you're right, whether you're drinking from the natural container or from a plastic one wouldn't make much difference on the mechanical operation of swallowing milk, so it seems unlikely indeed.

  9. exarch,

    I think you've nailed it (i.e. "natural" vs "traditional") thanks! And I wanted to add that the other thing related to the sleeping/breastfeeding issue is that there is a difference in the sleep cycles of breastfed vs bottle fed babies. Breastmilk is digested much more quickly, leading to more frequent waking, and sleep cycles that are not as deep. There's a theory that this is connected to the lower incidence of SIDS. Also, the mother being roused frequently (especially when sleeping next to her infant) prevents deep sleep cycles on her part, meaning she's more aware of what's going on with her infant (and, in my case, leading to near-psychotic levels of sleep deprivation :) )

  10. exarch – that is precisely what I am saying ;D

    flygrrl – I was unaware of those links between breast feeding and sleep (though they coincide with my experience), and I appreciate the info.

    God, I love this blog.

  11. Okay, it seems reasonable that "natural" mother's milk would digest better than "artificial" formula, or bovine mother's milk, since it's specifically intended to feed infant human beings.

    As for bottles vs. breastfeeding, I doubt that actually makes a difference if both contain the exact same thing. The main difference I can think of, is that once in a while, daddy can take care of the feeding, allowing mommy to get a bit more sleep and be less psychotic. I assume that can only benefit the baby's health, if indirectly.

  12. exarch wrote: As for bottles vs. breastfeeding, I doubt that actually makes a difference if both contain the exact same thing. The main difference I can think of, is that once in a while, daddy can take care of the feeding, allowing mommy to get a bit more sleep and be less psychotic.

    Momma can pump. And breastfeeding is good for mom's health too. Especially in the first few weeks. I'm making that assertion unsourced, because I'm too preoccupied at the moment to take the trouble to hunt down the info. This debate sort of bores me anyway. Talk about "beat to death."

    The point's already been made repeatedly and effectively that you'll get tons of advice on these subjects from all sorts of people with all sorts of agendas (e.g. scary La Leche types). Each set of parents has to decide their priorities, do their best to proactively get good info, and then take responsibility.

    I assume that can only benefit the baby’s health, if indirectly.

    Plus, it gives dad some intimate bonding time.

    As for letting the kidlet sleep in mom and dad's bed, well don't get me started! :-) We practiced the _On Becoming Babywise_ strategy with stellar results (just ignore all the religious bullcrap).

  13. Hey! I'm a scary La Leche type. Well, most of us are NOT scary, the media just like to paint us that way.

    Breast feeding has health benefits for mom way past the first weeks (greatly reducing risk of female cancers is one benefit).

    And breastpumps suck (no pun intended). They're a sine qua non if you're a working mom, but otherwise forget it. We tried. Baby HATED the bottle, I HATED the pump, and we all stressed out and got no sleep. Believe me, even if Dad is going to give the bottle, Mom still wakes up when baby does in the middle of the night. Don't worry about feeling like a spare prick, w_nightshade, you'll have PLENTY of opportunity to help later. Now that my daughter is weaned I joke that my husband does ten times more parenting than I do. That's the biggest thing to remember… that with kids, everything is temporary. It's a huge awful sleep-deprived burden in the beginning, but that is such a blink of an eye in your life with your child. It's worth a little sleep deprivation to know you're getting things off to a good start.

  14. flygrrl – don't get me wrong, I Dad it up every day. My son is 4, and he has his feet planted firmly in Dad country (a far cry from the days when he would not let me brush his teeth or put him to bed). I only feel that way at the specific moment when I know there is literally nothing I can do to help. I recognise it as fleeting, and a symptom of being a 21st century Western Male. We are taught to fix things, and when we can't we feel less…manly. It's stupid, but there you go.

  15. We are taught to fix things, and when we can’t we feel less…manly. It’s stupid, but there you go. :)

    Yeah, we get that at our house too. Nothing like reproducing to make you rethink your anti-essentialist feminist notions of total equality of the sexes. After all, us chicks have SUPERBOOBS. Penises kind of pale in comparison, eh? ;)

  16. "Elyse said,

    January 29, 2008 at 9:58 am

    w_nightshade said,

    'Also: this post easily contains the highest fact-to-euphemism ratio ever recorded. Bravo!'

    thank you! it was no small task!"

    NOW you're just bragging. :rolleyes:

  17. I have actually seen a t-shirt that says "I make milk, what's your superpower?" The lactivists have a large number of witty t-shirts. (Another favorite being the goth/punk onesie that says "Mothersucker")

  18. Hey! I’m a scary La Leche type. Well, most of us are NOT scary, the media just like to paint us that way.

    Yeah, sorry. In my experience, the few La Leche folks I've met (or known of through my children's mom) have been fine. When our first was born, the roving doula-type on the maternity unit was a La Leche member. She helped a lot, and she wasn't pushy or dogmatic at all.

    And breastpumps suck (no pun intended). They’re a sine qua non if you’re a working mom, but otherwise forget it. We tried. Baby HATED the bottle, I HATED the pump, and we all stressed out and got no sleep.

    Yeah, truth be told, it was usually more trouble than it was worth (stay-at-home mumma), so it didn't get used regularly. But it was useful for certain occasions.

    That’s the biggest thing to remember… that with kids, everything is temporary.

    Truer words were never spoken. That should be put on a bumper sticker and slapped onto every new baby's forehead with fine print reading, "Do not remove until 5 years of age, under penalty of law."

  19. My experience with La Leche Leage has been that the leaders and the organization are VERY helpful, non-pushy, and supportive. Sometimes members have their own agendas and can be more radical, but it is not part of the group's focus or mission at all. And I think the groups really vary from place to place. Some areas you get your more social-liberal-progressive hippie-types as a core, other places it's the more religious-moms-belong-at-home types, and a lot of places there are evening meetings that cater more to working moms. I've actually met two really awesome breastfeeding lawyers at our group here.

    Truer words were never spoken. That should be put on a bumper sticker and slapped onto every new baby’s forehead with fine print reading, “Do not remove until 5 years of age, under penalty of law.”

    LOL! No kidding. I have to remind myself of this nearly every day. So often when I say it to others, it is as much about repeating the mantra to myself…

  20. w_nightshade said,

    Also: this post easily contains the highest fact-to-euphemism ratio ever recorded. Bravo!

    thank you! it was no small task!

    exarch said,

    When in doubt, look to what happens in nature and take that to be the least likley to result in bad shit happening.

    To be fair, in nature your baby is much more likely to get squirted in the eye than to get antibiotic eyedrops.

    And Natural vs Traditional medicine… traditional wins hands down.

    I prefer to keep the term “natural” neutral.

    and nightshade, another theory on the SIDS/feeding connection is that breastfeeding prevents infections that make babies more prone to SIDS (preventing infections by being an anti-body rich food, not by being a cure-all salve, just for clarification.)

  21. Elyse, I see that you are keeping abreast of your thesaurus!

    Regarding the title, however: "A peek into my medicine cabinet." I am surprised you didn't call it your "medicine chest."

    Oh, and if your boobs are so broadly medicinal, aren't you worried that you might be singled out for a drug bust?

    ;^D

    ~Wordplayer

  22. Wow! What an educational post!

    It's so hard to keep abreast of the latest euphemisims. Fortunately, these are now implanted deeply in my brain.

    It's these kind of entries that lift and separate the Skepchick blog from all the rest.

  23. Hey guys, I'd just like to add a tiny bit in about the cosleeping SIDS issue.

    I have just read the McKenna article to get myself on the same page as the rest of you. My understanding (I am a doctor training in paediatrics and also have a diploma in paediatrics ) is that sleeping in the same bed as an isolated factor has been shown to have a small effect increasing the risk of SIDS. It is a dose related effect i.e the longer the time spent in the parents bed the greater the risk.

    McKenna's argument is that with no other risk factors for SIDS, such as maternal smoking, drug use, soft squishy bed or a big duvet covering baby, there may be benefits for baby particulary in breast feeding, temperature control and maternal awareness and vigilance for baby. There seems to be little evidence to suggest that in this situation bed sharing is dangerous. When McKenna says cosleeping saves lives this is more in reference to the benefit of sleeping in the same room as opposed to having baby out of the room where it is harder to maintain vigilance.

    But, and this is really important. If the parents smoke and particularly if the mother smokes then cosleeping has a much greater effect on SIDS risk. Maternal drug use is particularly risky in terms of risk of accidental smothering (not strictly speaking SIDS)

    Advising the public through campaigns is of course a pretty blunt instrument and few posters allow parents to assess their 'specific risk'. In New Zealand where I work, we have I think, the highest rate of SIDS in the developed world. We have a cosleeping culture particularly among the Maori (indigenous) population and we have quite a smoking culture, even moreso amongst Maori. So advice to avoid cosleeping along with Back 2 Sleep is a good move in New Zealand.

    On an individual basis, it could be reasonable to advise bedsharing to be an ok thing to do. But probably only in breastfed infants with smokefree parents, and no other risk factors.

    Just for completeness (I realise some of you seem to know a great deal on this topic) I'll list the main protective and risk increasing factors.

    Protective:

    1. Sleeping on the back

    2. Breast feeding

    3. Pacifier (halves the risk, but it is a small risk to begin with and there are some issues with pacifier use they increase ear infections and dental malocclusion and upset midwives who worry they interfere with breastfeeding)

    4. Sleeping in the same room as parents

    Risk Factors

    1. Parental smoking, especially Mum, especially if she smokes during pregnancy. The smoke probably has an in utero effect that effects baby after birth

    2. Prone sleeping position

    3. Less so the side sleeping position because it carries the risk of rolling onto the tummy

    4. Overinsulating baby, and with this increased risk if you live in colder regions and in the colder months

    5. Cosleeping, especially if mum smokes

    In reference to the original Blog post, Ifind the list of things to do with breast milk pretty funny. But it also concerns me a bit. It's mostly midwives who give this advice, which on the whole is probably mostly harmless even if breast milk doesn't cure all these self limiting things faster than the body will do for itself. But, but, but, often (usually in New Zealand) the midwife is the primary carer for the baby until 6 weeks of age. She has some very important health promotion information to get across to young mums. Even when she gives good advice about SIDS prevention and immunisations and when to seek help (which is not universal, anti-immunisation attitudes seem common in midwives from my own experience), how will an overwhelmed young mum remember all the really important bits of advice when they are diluted in 'breast milk cures all' drivel? And if he parent feels a pang of skepticism about the 'breast mild cureall' might that lead them to doubt the important things she also has to teach them? I worry it might.

    First post on skepchick – boys are allowed here right?.

    Hi everyone I'm Ben.

  24. This is also a common observance among homeopaths: most of them are nurses. Proof that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. They're not bright/motivated enough to spend a decade in college to become doctors, but they think of themselves as "healers" and feel like whatever they believe to be the truth about medicine is therefore important enough to proselitize to patients.

    I realize not all nurses and care-givers are like that, but there's a whole bunch of 'em out there who seem to think they're better than doctors, and those are the kind who tend to roll into alt-med, because then they can be a somebody too.

    That's just my impression anyway.

    I suppose midwives are very prone to this kind of getting ahead of themselves.

  25. Oh yes, yes, yes, Ben! Boys are indeed allowed! If you poke around a bit you'll see that we've even have a boy blogging here! Welcome!

    The co-sleeping issue is wrought with contradictions. Every time I've thought I was convinced one way or the other, I soon find information to change my mind.

    To be honest, I haven't had much time yet to sit and read all of McKenna's articles, but I think you've summed it up nicely.

    One thing that does concern me about McKenna is that he allies himself with Mothering Magazine and even links directly to a bat-shit crazy article about a spiritual bath with the power to clean your child's electro-magnetic field as a way to stop nightmares.

    Not to say that being published extensively in Mothering means that he is necessarily wrong, but it is a magazine that warns parents against vaccinations, encourages the use of astrology to get to know your child, and has a resource directory for alternative medicine organizations, including the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association but nothing about how to find a real doctor. That sends up a few red flags for me.

    And I agree with you, Ben, using mother's milk home remedies is likely harmless in and of itself, but the underlying message is dangerous.

  26. exarch said,

    They’re not bright/motivated enough to spend a decade in college to become doctors, but they think of themselves as “healers” and feel like whatever they believe to be the truth about medicine is therefore important enough to proselitize to patients

    I don't know that its fair to say that they are not bright or motivated. There are plenty of very smart people out there who get involved with alternative medicine because they've lost faith in the medical system or because they get lost in the hype.

    Being smart and understanding how to spot a logical fallacy are two different things… and understanding how to spot a logical fallacy and being able to spot one are different as well. Getting sucked into the anecdotes of alternative therapies, when you see traditional medicine failing all around you (as a nurse, for instance), is probably pretty easy.

  27. Hi Ben!

    I agree, I think you've summed things up really well. In the US, though, I think sometimes we have the problem of pediatricians trying to give breastfeeding (or parenting) advice when it is based largely on cultural assumptions or lack of information (especially in the case of breastfeeding). That is starting to change, but depending on where you live, you can end up being completely discouraged from breastfeeding by bad (or often, outdated) medical advice.

    The smoking issue you bring up is REALLY important and I hadn't thought to mention it because we don't smoke, at this point we don't have friends who smoke, and it's an issue that I just forget about since it's not part of my life.

    I'm not a doctor but I wish there were more like you who can take a balanced view… so often one sees a doctor here and is given ultimatums, unasked-for parenting advice, or other information based as much on either some public health standard set for the lowest common denominator (rather than you and your child individually as people!) or cultural myth rather than medical fact. But then again non-skeptical people are not as likely to DO their own research, question their doctor, and truly be a partner in their own (and their child's) healthcare.

    I agree with Elyse on Mothering magazine for the most part, however there is some good info in there mixed with the bad (a lot of my friends read it… don't get me started) and I think it's a case where they latched onto McKenna because his research confirmed their long-held stance on co-sleeping. Dr. Sears is another proponent of cosleeping who give some very good safety advice on the topic too. I didn't know anything about the spiritual bath thing… ack.

  28. Oh, and before anyone jumps on me about Bill Sears, I think here's another one where his followers can be extreme but his basic stance is pretty reasonable. I try to take all the "Parenting Experts" with a grain of salt… use what I can, discard the rest. My biggest beef with Sears is that his opinion on women working outside the home is pretty clear (and is an opinion I don't share).

  29. Flygrrl said:

    "In the US, though, I think sometimes we have the problem of pediatricians trying to give breastfeeding (or parenting) advice when it is based largely on cultural assumptions or lack of information (especially in the case of breastfeeding). That is starting to change, but depending on where you live, you can end up being completely discouraged from breastfeeding by bad (or often, outdated) medical advice."

    Wow, that really surprises me. The evidence is pretty clear that in almost all cases infants are better off breastfed than bottlefed. Without going into specifics, it isn't surprising. Human milk has been evolutionarily tweaked to be the best food for little baby humans. Cows milk (which formula is made from) is tweaked to be best for little baby cows. We have quite different needs to cows, especially in terms of building blocks for our great big brains. Receiving Mum's antibodies to protect you against human diseases is also a lot better than receiving them from Josie the cow. And breast milk's cheaper than formula. Personally I have never met a paediatrician that dissuaded breastfeeding.

    As a society we need to return to the position that Breast feeding is normal and that bottle feeding is not. That's not to say noone should ever bottlefeed, there are plenty of situations where that is a reasonable choice (if informed), and we should not make those who bottlefeed feel terrible or inadequate. But it should not be seen as normal and certainly not as preferable. I think those subtle cultural vibes that permeate the community have a big influence on the decisions mums make.

    Anyway enough about that, my night shift is going slowly…

  30. Well, if you look at the statistics on breastfeeding in the US, they're pretty abysmal, and extended breastfeeding is seen as unusual or in some cases even pathological.

    As a society we need to return to the position that Breast feeding is normal and that bottle feeding is not. That’s not to say noone should ever bottlefeed, there are plenty of situations where that is a reasonable choice (if informed), and we should not make those who bottlefeed feel terrible or inadequate. But it should not be seen as normal and certainly not as preferable. I think those subtle cultural vibes that permeate the community have a big influence on the decisions mums make.

    I completely agree with you here. I think what happens often (and this is the case with childbirth too) is that in our litigious US culture, medical action is rewarded, and seen as putting doctors/hospitals at less risk of being sued for malpractice, so when in doubt interventions are recommended. What then happens is that formula is pushed for the least blip in a baby's development, rather than breastfeeding support being given. We have a whole generation who didn't breastfeed, and so have not passed the knowledge along to their children, and coupled with a cultural prudery that equates breasts only with sex, it's been in some people's eyes a public health disaster. Baby dolls are sold with bottles, we see bottle feeding on tv, and it is just considered the norm.

    End of rant. For me, it was not only the only choice in my mind, but it was one of the positive things that helped me get through postpartum depression.

    Oh, and on a related-to-the-original-post note, I'm wondering why, if breastmilk is this Ueber-antibiotic, how women manage to get breast infections. I had mastitis twice and my Medicine Chest of Woo didn't save me, antibiotics did. 'Cause isn't mastitis generally caused by staph, and isn't that one of the usual culprits of pink eye?

  31. Some peek – no pictures!

    Seriously, this is just…weird, and a little creepy. I need to try to get the paper (didn't click the link) and see if I can understand it enough to read it. I do have to say that, thanks, but no thanks – the thought of getting squirted in the eye, even for a cure, is not my cup of tea.

    Although, a Church of Mammary (Mamman? maybe) might get a lot of converts….

  32. Actually, I just read the abstract, and maybe I am wrong, but I suspect that they did not use mothers milk straight. I suspect that some kind of preparation was made, and these purveyors don't have access to read the paper and find this out (or don't care enough – they know what works, after all).

    At least the one comment on the site does recommend seeing a doctor, even if it is after using (presumably OTC) medicine and breastmilk.

    I wonder if a mother who is sick could infect/damage a child's eyes from infections passed through the milk?

  33. flygrrl, I hope your postpartum depression was not too severe. Given its prevalence among the women I know (including my wife), I continue to be shocked by how little public discussion there is of the topic. I know from watching it firsthand how hard it can be to recognize, especially when new mothers are already dealing with the "normal" effects of sleep deprivation. Sadly, I think it's all wrapped up in the general stigma attached to mental health issues.

    I wonder if there would be a corresponding drop in the PPD rate if the rate of breastfeeding were to increase.

  34. SteveT,

    Well, I think that while it's been shown that breastfeeding decreases the likelyhood of PPD (increased endorphins, some other hormone balance stuff I'm a bit fuzzy on), I honestly think it has a lot to do with the fact that we have very little postpartum support in our culture. i.e. traditionally, the whole "it takes a village" thing applied and you had a lot of extended family helping out. So many of us now live hundreds of miles away from extended family and suddenly end up very alone with child-rearing. In my case, the fact that we moved to a completely new place when my daughter was only 2 months old contributed. I also have a history of little-"d" depression and anxiety, though nothing that's ever warranted clinical intervention or meds. My PPD was fairly mild (though still *extremely* unpleasant) and as it worsened I finally recognized the signs and sought help. I used to be VERY anti- anti-depressant, but the whole experience really changed my mind on the issue (I opted for meds for 6 months).

    Talk about getting off-topic here… anyway, I think more people are speaking out about PPD (Brooke Shields, Heather Armstrong, etc. but there is definitely this idea that having a baby is this purely joyful event, despite the whole dark side. I have been very open in talking about my experiences, and have been shocked at how many other mothers I've met who have been through similar things. Once you start talking about it, people really do tend to open up which at the very least makes you feel less alone.

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