To Breastfeed or Not To Breastfeed?

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, we wanted to share a previous post from a guest blogger, Allison:


Guest Blog: Breastfeeding versus Bottle-feeding
By Allison Brooks

Photo Credit: nettsu via Compfight cc

Moms may differ in their opinions and or choice to breastfeed or bottle-feed. I personally think it should be the woman’s right to choose. Breastfeeding and bottle-feeding both have pros and cons. We hear the many pros of breastfeeding such as less illness, possible greater intelligence of the child and so on. Many organizations including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly known as the American Dietetic Association) promote breast-feeding here in the USA and abroad. However, I question whether this is always appropriate especially if the mother is deficient in micronutrients, deficient in essentially fatty acids, malnourished, stressed, had multiple births in a short period of time or perhaps is not the right choice for the mother. I was breast fed for 3 months and choose to bottle feed my children.

Below, guest blogger Allison Brooks shares her point of view at an international level. Allison studies biomedicalization in Bolivia. Here she presents an example of biomedicalization on breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding in third world countries. Allison shared with me that she too was bottle-fed.  Feel free to comment and share your opinions as well. All are welcome.

Biomedicalization of BreastFeeding: What is healthy here, might not be healthy for all

Biomedicalization is a term used to describe the way in which natural life processes, human conditions and problems are defined and treated as medical conditions. Aging, childbirth and breastfeeding are good examples of normal life processes which have come under the authority of doctors. Biomedicalization may bring benefits, but there are also costs. Philosopher Ivan Illich was one of the first to use the term “medicalization,” which he argued actually caused an increase in social and medical problems as a result of medical intervention. One example is the drive by manufacturers of baby formulas to supplant breastfeeding with formula.

When a mother dies in childbirth or cannot breastfeed for some reason, infant formula may be the only choice. However, in the underdeveloped nations of the world, breastfeeding serves a number of critical purposes. Breastfeeding protects babies from infection, provides them with near-perfect nutrition and acts as a natural birth control for the breastfeeding mother. Breastfed babies are less likely to develop diarrhea, bacterial meningitis, ear infections and respiratory infections than infants who are fed formula. Breastfeeding also triggers beneficial hormone secretion in the mother, and the milk changes in amount and constituents to meet the needs of the individual infant.

The Nestle baby formula promotion of the 1970s urged mothers in less-developed countries to forgo breastfeeding in favor of formula, stressing convenience and nutrition. Nestle used strategies such as sending a new mother home with free samples; once the samples ran out, the child was habituated to formula and the mother’s milk had dried up, so the family had to buy formula.

Problems with this sort of infant nutrition quickly became apparent. Formula must be mixed with water and water in poor countries is often contaminated. Mothers could not read the instructions on water sterilization, or did not have the means to boil the water. Formula-fed babies were much more likely to die of diarrhea or pneumonia as a result of infections. Poor mothers would often mix inadequate amounts of formula for each feeding to make the expensive formula last longer, resulting in malnourished babies.

Nestlé’s marketing activities were considered so unethical that a boycott was launched by a group called the Infant Formula Action Coalition. In 1981 the World health assembly adopted Resolution WHA34.22, which bans the promotions of breast milk substitutes. Although Nestle agreed to accept the code, in 1988, formula companies were accused of repeating the unethical tactics and the boycott, which was still in force as of 2011, was launched. Other companies such as BordenSimilac and Wyeth have come under similar criticism for marketing methods that imply formula and breast milk are nutritionally equal. Most physicians and international organizations such as WHO and UNICEF recommend now breast milk exclusively for the first six months of life.

But the effects of biomedicalization do go way beyond the idea of breastfeeding. Pharmaceutical companies push new rules on societies regardless of their cultures, everyday. This is easy to see in America, because we are the only country that allows pharmaceutical companies to run ads and develop an image for people to follow. Without regards to the culture, the environment and so on, sometimes these “better” medications/therapies can actually be harmful for the people. With new drugs entering the system to promote beauty or health, or a better life-expectancy for cancer, traditional practices are be dropped by the wayside, and people and cultures are being negatively affected.


About Guest Blogger Allison Brooks:

Allison says “I was bottle-fed too, that’s why I say what is healthy to you might not be healthy to others (cultural relativism). Thats why I don’t push my beliefs onto people, I state what I know and allow you to do what you please, with no judgment.”

Allie went to the University of Mississippi. She earned her degree in biomedical anthropology and  is now studying in the field to finish an ethnography on the effects of biomedicalization on Bolivian cultures, but as it relates on other societies as well. She loves to guest blog on her time off to past time and spread the word. When she is not at her computer, Allie enjoys riding her  horse, Lilly and playing with her ducks, Alvin and Shirley.

Top Ten Tips for Pre-Feeding Warm Ups

By MDIO’s Feeding Expert and Speech Therapist, Robin Goldberg,  MA, CCC-SLP, TSSLD

Tips to support your baby as he transitions to solid foods:

1. Make sure your child has adequate head, neck, and trunk control before transitioning to solids. He should be able to hold his head upright and steady for feeding, and should be able to sit up independently for 3-5 seconds. Providing supportive whole-body positioning, with the head and trunk upright and feet firmly grounded on a stable surface, allows for the stability needed to isolate and coordinate the smaller muscles of the mouth for feeding.

2. Use a soft, rubber spoon when feeding. Begin with a very small amount of food (1 tsp) on the tip of the spoon. Wait for your child to open his mouth independently. If he doesn’t do this, you can gently touch the spoon to his cheek to initiate a rooting reflex and help prepare him for feeding. Bring the spoon straight to the front of your baby’s mouth, stopping just inside the lips, with the spoon tip just approaching the tip of the tongue. When your child closes his lips around the spoon, draw the spoon straight out. Avoid scraping food up and off the spoon onto the roof of your child’s mouth. The goal is to teach your child to use his upper lip to clean food off of the spoon and his tongue to transport food to the back of his mouth for swallowing.

3. Your child should be able to move food from the front of his tongue to the back of his mouth for adequate swallowing. If he is pushing food forward and out of his mouth, his oral motor system may not be ready for solids. That is okay! Just wait a few weeks and try again. He will let you know when he is ready!

4. Only introduce one new food at a time. When your baby is first transitioning to solids, stick with one food per feeding (e.g., infant cereal OR pureed vegetables). It is important to give your child’s oral motor and oral sensory systems time to explore new flavors, textures, temperatures, and consistencies.

5. Begin feeding sessions when your child is alert. It is helpful to start with breast or bottle feeding so he is not too hungry. Learning to accept and manipulate solid foods (removing food from a spoon, transporting food from the front to back of the mouth, and tolerating new tastes and textures) takes time and effort (both for you and baby!). The goal is to keep this experience fun and positive. Allow him to explore the food on his lips, chin, cheek, and hands. When he begins to fuss or seems tired, stop feeding. The goal is to establish positive experiences with eating from an early age!

Tips to support your child with sensory processing challenges:

*Note: Every child with sensory processing challenges is unique. Children may be hypersensitive (overly reactive to sensory stimulation), hyposensitive (under-reactive), or demonstrate mixed sensitivities to different colors, textures, temperatures, smells, and sounds. If you are concerned about your child’s feeding skills, please consult a speech language pathologist or occupational therapist for an evaluation.

1. Many children with sensory processing challenges benefit from a pre-feeding sensory warm up. Exercises to help prepare your child’s sensory system for the intake of food can include massage or vibration around or inside the mouth. Always begin with massage or vibration (either with your fingers, a wash cloth, oral motor toy, or sensory bean bag) on the hands and arms, then from the outer cheeks towards and around the mouth. This input helps to alert or “wake up” the oral musculature (cheeks, jaw, lips) and sensory system for feeding.

2. Children with sensory processing disorders may demonstrate food aversion or present as “picky eaters.” Remember that food can be explored and experienced using all 5 senses, long before your child may be ready to actually chew and swallow something new. Consider incorporating multi-sensory experiences to increase your child’s tolerance and comfort around new foods. Activities can include visually observing and describing foods (e.g., sorting red vs. green foods onto different plates), touching foods (e.g., cutting, mixing, poking holes, food stamping, “finger painting” with pudding or peanut butter), or conducting smell tests.

3. Be aware that changing too many foods too quickly can be quite triggering for a child with sensory challenges. Take note of what foods he or she currently eats and look for patterns in color, texture, consistency, and temperature. Let your child’s natural food preferences and patterns inform your decisions about what foods to introduce next!

4. Creating a sensory-friendly feeding environment can make mealtime much more successful. If your child struggles to organize and process sensory information, he may become overwhelmed by auditory, visual, and olfactory information that you may easily be able to tune out. Strong cooking odors from the kitchen, a visually crowded table (many different serving dishes or containers), or even brightly colored or patterned dishes can be distracting for some children.

5. Be mindful of the length of mealtime. If your child has sensory processing challenges, sitting for long periods of time may be particularly difficult. Depending on your child’s age and developmental level, he may only be able to sit for 10-15 minutes per feeding session. If this is the case for your child, don’t be discouraged. As his oral sensory system develops and new foods are introduced gradually, you can expect meal times to lengthen.

About the Author:

Robin Goldberg, MA, CCC-SLP, TSSLD is a speech language pathologist specializing in the assessment and treatment of developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, speech and language delays, and feeding challenges (food aversion and selective eaters). She currently serves as Co-Chair of the Speech and Language Department at The Parkside School, an independent elementary school for children with language-based learning challenges. Additionally, Robin treats children privately through her practice Leaps and Sounds NYC. Robin uses a fun and highly interactive child-centered approach to therapy, incorporating both structured and play-based techniques that support the whole child and ensure that new skills are carried over from therapy into the child’s daily life at home, school, playdates, and extracurricular activities. She has specific training to support her work with oral motor deficits and articulation disorders, sensory and behavioral feeding disorders, and autism spectrum disorders, including: PROMPT, Nancy Kaufman’s Speech to Language Protocol, The DIR-Floortime Method, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), The Social Thinking Curriculum by Michelle Garcia Winner, Food Chaining, and Lori Overland’s Motor-Sensory Approach to Feeding.