Reinventing the wheel may not be the brightest idea, nevertheless, it is perpetuated by clever marketing, driven by a capitalist agenda. Sell. Sell. Sell. Sell bottles with plastic nipples, formula, sterilizing supplies, carrying cases, sell plastic surgery etc, etc… A counter intuitive idea, to say the least. Let’s revisit the scientific evidence for breastfeeding baby Homo-Sapiens, for a fair start at the innings called life, shall we? By breastfeeding, I mean exclusive breastfeeding. No other beverages or formula in addition to the mother’s milk, via the breast, not pumped and fed by a manufactured appliance. And, by mother, I mean, the birth mother, not a cow, goat or any other domesticated creature.
The 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement on breastfeeding and use of human milk documents the important reductions in health risks for infants and children, mothers, families and society, that are attributable to breastfeeding and the use of human milk for feeding. These advantages are: developmental, economic, health, nutritional, immunological, psychological, social and environmental. In other words, it’s a no brainer. Breast milk is the only source of nutrition a healthy infant requires for the first six months of life. It is produced, stored, and delivered by a pair of multitasking mammary glands. There is no need for pasteurization, heating, refrigeration and is custom made for the baby. Daily. Seamlessly. Naturally. The secretory immunoglobulins Ig(A) and Ig(G) in breast milk, provide anti-inflammatory properties that help the infant’s immature immune system.
Here is a list of reduced health risks for breast fed children :
- Protection against short-term infections like middle ear infections, gastroenteritis and diarrhea.
- Protection against serious infections like respiratory tract infections like, pneumonia, bronchitis, allergies, necrotizing enterocolitis, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and leukemia.
- Protection against chronic diseases and conditions like asthma and obesity.
Nature designs with a win-win problem-solution approach. Giving is receiving. Here’s how:
The mother has the following ‘incentives’:
- Decreased postpartum bleeding and hemorrhage risk.
- Lactation amenorrhea (no periods ! ) due to suppression of ovulation, a much needed break to recover, often considered the non- pharmacological method of family planning. And it gets better…
- Breast cancer protection by reduced estrogen exposure, anti-inflammatory response and delayed ovulation.
- Reduced risk of ovarian cancer.
- A lighter diaper bag.
So far, so good. Now for the fun stuff. Cranio-facial-cervical growth and development. A fancy way of saying head, face and neck, growth and development! Form follows function. Form and function follow the DNA code and its interaction with the ‘environment’ (a.k.a. Epigenetics ). Functional stimuli like nasal breathing, swallowing, chewing and suckling shape growth and development. Nutrition is the other key environmental factor, part of ‘nurture’. The DNA code is part of ‘nature’. Breast feeding or nutritive suckling requires a concerted effort by the jaw muscles, the tongue muscles, proper engagement of the palate and importantly, efficacious nasal breathing. This is the built in, wireless orthodontic service the baby is born with, and it is complimentary!
Bottle feeding (even, if it’s the mother’s milk, and not of a different species) is nutritive sucking, more like a easy straw-like-sucking action. Instant gratification. Short term gain, long term loss. The most harmful is the non-nutritive sucking actions like a pacifier (hopefully BPA free!) or digit sucking. Thumb sucking has been attributed to separation anxiety. Electro myographic (jaw muscle EMG) studies have revealed that, exclusively breastfed children are less likely to develop dysfunctional muscular patterns of the jaw muscles. Bottle fed babies are predisposed to develop malocclusion, i.e. a bad bite, upper and lower jaws out of sync with each other, crowded teeth, the works. Basically, many expensive trips to the local orthodontist.
Breastfeeding enhances facial proportions, balance, symmetry and hence, the facial aesthetics of the child. Bottle fed babies tend to have an under developed mid face, narrow palate and the malformed jaw relationship. These features sets the stage for Upper Airway Restriction Syndrome (UARS), or snoring, sinus congestion and sleep apnea, further lead to ADD, ADHD, poor cognitive development, poor immune response, headaches, sick days from school and prolonged bed wetting. Children who do not develop sleep apnea eventually do, as adults. It’s not uncommon to find jaw joint problems a.k.a TMJ dysfunction and neck problems in bottle fed children. The upper cervical vertebrae (especially C1 and C2) are partnered with teeth alignment and jaws in the synchrony of growth and development. This could not be a dental blog without the mention of ‘cavities’.
Here goes, breastfeeding for longer than one year and night time breastfeeding have NOT been associated with ‘Early Childhood Caries’ ( ECC ) or Nursing caries syndrome, while cases of ‘baby bottle caries’ have been reportedly worse, due to formula. Human breast milk has antibacterial properties. While, it is debatable how long nursing should be done, my personal recommendation is, exclusively up to 6 months, upto at least 2 years followed by gradual weaning, based on demand and the needs of the child and beliefs of the mother. By the age of two, most children have 20 teeth and they can talk. Mothers and mother nature know best. It’s best to let them decide when a baby is ready to be weaned off. The appropriate oral hygiene maintenance using a wash cloth or soft toothbrush are essential. WHO recommends at least 2 years of nursing.
Mothers who need to express milk due to work obligations must know, it is way better than formula or cow’s milk. Cow’s milk is for baby cows, who grow horns, hoofs and a ton of hair. We would not consider transfusing a cow’s blood if a human baby’s life depended on it, would we? Then, why is the concept of human milk banks sound so far out? We also are more open to leasing another woman’s womb to suit our wants and needs. There is a grave need to revisit our nation’s maternity leave laws, work culture and nursing culture. As a solution, shall we demote best practices to second best practices for a baby who has no voice? Or make it possible for parents to give the future of this nation the best start at life?
The solutions we choose are going to determine the fate of a nation. The mothers who are unable to nurse or are adoptive, and babies who can’t nurse due to any given medical condition or life circumstance, do have the option of bottle feeding as a last resort. These are usually exceptions. We will be doing a disservice by not including fathers and adoptive fathers who like or have to nurse. Human (breast) milk banks are available across the US and there are artificial nipples designed to model the real thing, the truth is, it’s not that simple. This will always be second best. The ‘formula’ for favorable outcomes in these cases depends on being well informed about the alternative formula milk options. Decisions will be undoubtedly difficult and personal. Needless to say, the love and sincerity is deeply nourishing, early intervention with myo-functional therapy and orthopedic correction will help counter and eliminate the developmental deficit. In all honesty, I am ‘selling’ too, albeit, an idea. The idea that nature is ‘smart’, humans ‘over smart’. That, is a problem. The solution, is simple. Keep it simple. Every body part is designed for a reason. Breasts were designed for nursing, not porn. From purpose to pleasure to perversion, humans have stretched these organs on a spectrum, with, nature’s will at one end and free will at the other. For the most part, these multipurpose organs have reached their elastic limit and recoiled to serve a decorative purpose.
Pleasure and breasts are intimately related, an evolutionary instinct. Nature rewards desirable behavior and for the same reason, breasts continue to fascinate both men and women way past infancy. Porn and breast implants are products of human free will, if you will, not nature. In my opinion, this is why plastic surgery and porn are so obsessive, there is no satisfaction factor. It’s like any other obsession, a dis-‘ease’. Should a pair of mammary glands define a woman’s sexual appeal or the lack hereof? How is an unfortunate mastectomy any different from losing a tooth or a toe to disease? Prosthesis to replace the same are an example of the human ability to ‘co-create’ with nature. We can focus on the ability to ‘implant’ a revised perspective, that image is not everything. The downward descent of these glands with time is breasts obeying the laws of gravity, it’s normal.
We can justify free will, but may I gently remind us all, we are competing with nature’s will. We will have to ask the right questions, to come up with the cautious, seamless and intuitive answers, like mother nature does. Longitudinal studies in nature span only tens of millions of years. Right? Now then, one would wonder…… why do men have nipples? Well, men have nipples for a reason too, that, will be another blog, another day.
B’logging off with smiles and a perspective, Preet This is a “live” blog, hungry for feedback, if you will . Please comment below and keep this dialogue going, by asking more questions and sharing thoughts. Thank you! References ; JADA 1449(2) http://jada.ada.org and about 90 peer reviewed papers available on request. Key Words Search on Medline, PubMED ( my favorite Pub !)And Google Scholar.