Here’s another issue with respect to child rearing that I’ve had some serious head-butting incidents about: food. Now I’m a big fan of Ina May Gaskin – I even linked her website to mine just to give people another opportunity to find her. She’s an icon in the field. And if I’m remembering correctly, she states that breast milk is all a baby needs until the age of 2. (The concept of infant is very plastic. Most medical studies refer to any child under the age of 5 as an infant. So if you’re looking for infant mortality rates – check the fine print definitions if you want to know how many babies die at or within a short period of time after birth.)
The health authority local to me Insists on getting babies to eat food by the age of 6 months and preferably earlier. Insists. What? Which is it – they need only breast milk or the need food? Well it turns out that the advice you get is entirely dependent upon where you live. My sister was in Spain for a spell and they encouraged moms to feed their babies of less than 3 months mashed fruit. I found this totally odd after having read a variety of natural health books and reports on early nutrition. They seemed completely confident that all a babe needs is the breast milk. So what’s right?
Now being a rather stubborn woman, just ask my husband, I wanted to only nurse my first baby. I wasn’t sure how long I would do it but I was confident that it would be enough. So what’s the litmus test? As with most of life’s big choices (just like Blink states) go with your gut. If it seems right for your situation, it probably is. For me it was the health and growth of my kiddo. (Not a 100% proof-positive method because it could have fluked out for the 1 child in my test group but hey it was my little one that I was making decisions for after all.) My ‘little’ one was, to be polite, solid. No one ever believed me when I said her age. She was in the 90th percentile in just about everything from about 3 months of age; length, weight and head circumference. She was so strong that she slept like, well, a baby – 7 hours a night from the time she was 1 week old. (When the midwife came for the home visit – she was so shocked – she actually asked us why we looked so rested – because we’ve slept. Easy.) To this day, my ‘little’ one is always assumed to be far older – twice as old or more, than she really is.
Can I really attribute this robust size to breastfeeding? I can’t say that with certainty. I did try to feed her ‘real’ food. I must have spent time every day for 2 months trying to get her to eat from a spoon. I asked everyone if they had a tough time getting food into their kids and finally got the very logical answer that it takes time and practice to change how the tongue works for each process. Breastfeeding requires the tongue to be out and moved in an undulating fashion and the liquid food is delivered to the back of the mouth. (Hence the tongue-tied don’t nurse – they cannot get an adequate stream of milk in. Likely leading to poor growth and I’d imagine rather pain-filled experiences for their moms.) Getting solid foods in requires the tongue to stay in the mouth and actively move the food to the back of the mouth. This is not the most natural of processes. It’s a learned process.
During all of these trials with my little one, I was still nursing and so she was still eating. And still growing – gangbusters. I did do a couple other things. I didn’t allow anyone near her if they were sick. I figured no one’s want to see her superceded her need to be healthy. I didn’t put my own errands above her needs for rest and regular food. I fed her on demand – pretty lax version of a schedule. But this lack of rigid structure, kept me relaxed and enabled her to dictate when she was hungry and how much she wanted to eat.
Because of all of this she was actually sick (and not too badly at that – even though she dropped to the 50th weight percentile) only once in her first year of life. (I had taken her to an indoor playcentre with my mom. Subsequently, my mom and I – and not-too-eventually, my husband, father and friend all got Norwalk. A nasty intestinal infection. My daughter got a really mild version of it – and even with a mild version lost a ton of weight – relative to her size.) Since then, I can only remember one other time when she was sick and it was recent. She’s an ox. I love it.
I guess the sum-up of all of this has been, for my situation, Breast is Best. It was enough. It kept her healthy and thriving. It kept me close to her physically and emotionally. And despite the pressure of my family to stop and have her eat more ‘regular food’ more often, for us nursing was a fabulous choice. One I’ve made again with my new littler baby.
If you need help with nursing or convincing those around you that you’re making proper choices for your baby – check out the available resources to support you (like La Leche) and your case. I’m sure there are more blogs out there about the wonders of breastfeeding. Probably ones that aren’t so long-winded too 😉