I would like everyone to meet Brandis, a good friend of mine!
1. Tell us about your personal breastfeeding experience with your children:
I breastfed My oldest, Izzy, until she was about 6.5 months old. It was not my intention to wean her, but something about 6 months of sleep deprivation affects my sense of reason, and I didn’t know then what I know now. It started out as one bottle in the evening “to get her to sleep longer” (one of the myths that trick parents into using formula…) and in just two weeks she stopped wanting to nurse. She immediately started having health problems (runny nose, eczema, and diaper rash) and ended up being sensitive to dairy, but by her first birthday was able to drink small amounts of milk with no issues.
Then my second, Oliver, was born and I breastfed him until he was almost 8 months old, although he started having occasional bottles of formula when I went on a trip to Vegas when he was 5 months old. He had food reactions from birth, first to the food I ate (I had to cut out dairy the first few months) and then to the formula, although since he was only getting occasional bottles we didn’t make the connection at first. His reactions were far more sever than Izzy’s- he had a croupy cough and bad runny nose for a month before we figured it out and switched to soy (again, I didn’t know then what I know now). For the rest of his first year his symptoms went away, but not long after his first birthday and being weaned off of formula both kids developed a terribly croupy cough. I tend to wait out coughs that aren’t accompanied by any other symptoms, and despite the severity of this particular cough, neither kid had fevers or any other (obvious) symptoms. But a nurse friend of mine took one listen to their coughs and basically told me that if I didn’t take my kids to the doctor ASAP she was going to do it for me. So I did, and they were both immediately put on a nebulizer. Both kids were diagnosed with upper respiratory tract infections and bi-lateral ear infections, and since this was not Oliver’s first resperatory infection the word “asthma” was mentioned quite a few times. (I’m getting back to breastfeeding here, I promise…)
Fast forward nine months- after basically a solid nine months of ear infections and upper respiratory infections we finally discovered my children suffered from food allergies. As soon as I eliminated the offending foods the symptoms disappeared and they were fine. But I wasn’t satisfied with that- what caused these allergies? Are they going to have them forever? So I did some research, and in a nutshell I came up with some theories as to what happened, and how I could have prevented it (don’t worry, I don’t beat myself up about this much, but I would love others to learn from my mistake). I could go on about this topic alone for years, but in relation to breastfeeding, were I to go back and do it again, I would breastfeed exclusively (ie no other foods AT ALL- especially no cereal) as long as possible, I would introduce egg yolks as the very first solid food, and I wouldn’t introduce any grains at all until after one year. And no soy. At all. If you’re interested in learning more, pick up Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon or do a Google search on the virgin gut. Just one bottle of formula CAN hurt.
2. What is your view of breastfeeding in public, and why?
Personally I don’t see why it’s an issue with anyone. It’s a totally natural thing to do, and expecting mothers to make their babies wait, to pump (which we all know is a PITA) just for outings, or to go somewhere else just because the act makes a few insecure closed minded people uncomfortable. I personally used a cover when I breastfed in public, but most of the other mothers I know don’t/didn’t, and you almost never knew they were doing it unless you were staring at their breasts… and that in itself is a problem. The thing that bothers me the most is that no one goes up to the girl whose skirt is so short you can see pubic hair and tells her to cover up, but they say that to nursing mothers. The problem is that society has over-sexualized not only breasts but the actual act of breast feeding and now too many people consider both breastfeeding in public and breastfeeding an older child to be a sexual act, when in fact is the farthest from it.
3. What is your view of sustained breastfeeding, and why?
My feelings on sustained breastfeeding are actually pretty complicated. On one hand I think it’s great, and any mother who does it should be commended. The benefits to the child have been pretty definitively proven (as opposed to allowing a child over the age of one to have a bottle, which I unequivocally disapprove of regardless of the circumstances). I don’t think it’s “wrong” or “weird” or whatever other closed minded people say about it without knowing what in the heck they’re talking about.
However, in my own situation and based on the values of my family, I would not practice extended breastfeeding myself past probably 14 months. Much as Jamie bases her belief in the value of extended breastfeeding on her knowledge of anthropology, I base my personal belief that it wouldn’t be the best choice for our family (much as I did with co-sleeping) on Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. The first stage is bonding (trust vs. mistrust), which lasts from birth until 12-18 months. The second stage, autonomy vs. shame and doubt, starts between a year and 18 months, and is the time when the toddler begins to develop a sense of independence. This is not to say that a breastfed child isn’t going to have a sense of self, and many families intentionally follow practices that teach interdependence instead of individual independence, which is great. But in our family, we value independence. Let me restate that- I value independence. I fully understand that my children rely upon me from birth to meet the physical and emotional needs, but I also need to meet MY physical and emotional needs. Co-sleeping and extended breastfeeding aren’t things that I feel would lead to these needs being met.
On a slightly related tangent, sometimes I wonder (because us moms overthink these things) if I confused my kids, because I didn’t EBF or co-sleep (at least not past 4 months), but I otherwise practiced baby centered child rearing practices like no cry it out, baby wearing, gentle discipline, etc. Who knows?
4. What is your view of adoptive breastfeeding, and why? (you may skip this if you feel you do not have adequate knowledge of the topic)
I don’t know that I have adequate knowledge of this topic, but I think that it’s an amazing thing for a mother to do for an adopted child. The adoption process can be very difficult for both the child and the parents as it doesn’t follow the natural process of otherwise having a child- the change is much more sudden for all involved, and bonding can be difficult (which in some extreme cases can lead to Reactive Attachment Dissorder, which is some scary stuff…). Breastfeeding is an amazingly bonding experience and can do in a short time what otherwise might take months or even years for the parents and child to establish. I don’t think any mother should be pressured into trying it, of course, because it can be hard to spontaneously lactate, but I think that the stigma concerning breastfeeding “someone else’s child” (which A- I don’t think is that big of a deal, and B- it isn’t someone else’s child, is it?) needs to be dealt with so that more adoptive parents, particularly adoptive parents of newborns, will consider breastfeeding as an option. It’s also important to remember that there are other means to speed up bonding that can be used either in conjunction with or instead of breastfeeding, like infant massage (which isn’t just for infants).
5.Is there anything you find unique about your breastfeeding story with your children?
Well, I shared my story above… and the food allergy story is actually becoming a less and less unique one. I think that many babies who suffer from MSPI (milk so protein intolerance) and colic and children of all ages that are plagued with chronic ear infections, asthma, and repeated upper respiratory infections have undiagnosed food allergies. That’s why I feel it is so important to get the word out- your child does not have to suffer! And one of the most important things you can do to prevent these problems in the future is breastfeed at least to a year and delay the introduction of solid foods, ESPECIALLY grains.
6. Is there anything you wish you did differently?
I’ve already answered this in number one, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to maintain the virgin gut as long as possible. Grains SHOULD NOT be a baby’s first solid food, as a baby’s digestive tract is not mature enough to properly digest them and they cause all sorts of problems in the gut.
7. Is there anything you would like to add?
I think I’ve said quite a bit already:) I would like to repeat my recommendation to check out Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Some people think I’m crazy for the way I eat and the way I think children should be fed… whatever. I have healthy kids and I personally feel better than I have ever felt. And I really REALLY wish I would have discovered this book before I had kids. So if I can help just one other mom discover this book “in time” I will consider my time well spent.
Want to know more about Brandi? Check out her great blog: http://crunchythriftycool.blogspot.com/