Here's what you need to know about exclusively breast fed babies: they can levitate.
That’s what I learned last night during a three-hour breast-feeding class.
They also have x-ray vision, are immune to disease, are more likely to win Nobel Prizes, recycle, live meaningful lives, understand James Joyce, love fully, donate to NPR pledge drives, stop to help distressed motorists, appreciate Rachmaninoff, have high credit scores and get appointed to important government posts. Oh, and breastfed babies live forever. The science on that isn’t totally in yet, but better safe than sorry.
Moreover, if you breast feed, the baby weight will melt off of you. You will evade reproductive cancers. The release of feel-good hormone oxytocin when your baby is “at your breast” will saturate your system with “delicious” feelings of attachment and contentment such as you have never experienced before. Mothers who miss out on this mommy morphine are likely to leave their babies in the middle of the road to be pecked at by turkey vultures.
Okay, that’s not totally true. Some mothers who skip this crucial biological bonding experience will simply leave their child at a fire station with $5, a bottle of formula and half a pack of Benson & Hedges Menthol Ultra Lights in a box.
A room full of us pregnant women, shifting around in uncomfortable plastic chairs and gnawing on free cookies with our husbands, were also given a stern warning: Never ever let the baby out of your sight at the hospital once it is born.
Some sleepy, overworked, well-meaning but ultimately evil nurse is going to hear it cry and give it … well, what might as well be a cocktail of lead paint, asbestos juice and Southern Comfort: FORMULA. That’s right, your precious baby’s ability to be exclusively fed at your breast, the way god and Mother Nature intended, will be forever compromised if you don’t step up with some major vagina power and tell the nurses they are NOT taking your baby out of your sight for one single second at the hospital. Once that baby gets away from you and into the hospital nursery, it’s a free for all and you can kiss your dreams of attending your child’s inauguration goodbye. Once it gets a taste of that plastic nipple and guzzles away at that easy access plastic bottle filled with borderline lethal formula, forget that child loving you, crafting you handmade cards or even sitting in your lap. If you didn’t see the movie “Nell,” you are about to live it with your jacked up, detached, sickly child.
We also learned some of the subtle differences between bottle and breast fed babies.
For one thing, babies who are bottle fed stink. They smell foul. As for breastfed tykes, their shit literally doesn’t stink, though it may be an alarming shade of black for a few days before it goes Mustard yellow.
That’s what I learned in my breast-feeding class.
On the other hand, outside of the minty green and pastel pink confines of the breast-feeding store, tucked away in an urban strip mall in East Los Angeles, in the real mom world, some of my girlfriends just didn’t take to breastfeeding. Their kids seem fine. From my unscientific sampling of moms I know who chose to bottle feed, I see no asthma, no allergies and no bonding problems with the babies. The moms lost the baby weight. I’m not sure if the kids are a ticking time bomb or if the moms are just enjoying a few years until the uterine cancer kicks in, but it seems unlikely.
So, how do you get a straight answer when everyone seems to have a horse in the breast-feeding race? Both sides seem to have massive agendas and neither appears all that interested in actual data, which makes it hard for us pregnant girls to truly understand our options. Women who chose not to breast feed need to believe they did the right thing; breast feeding advocates are unswervingly formula-intolerant.
Last night, our statuesque, red-haired, 50-something lactation consultant and teacher, impressed me with her massive knowledge of boobies and extreme comfort in discussing latching and leaking. However, when she told us about her own kids and mentioned how healthy the now-grown offspring are, she also added that one of them has a little bit of asthma, only when he runs. Wait a second, you mean this panacea doesn’t work for someone who was breastfed for two years?
“The doctors told us it would have been way, way worse if I hadn’t breast fed,” she explained.
Now that is some backward, bias data analysis if I’ve ever heard it. Look, the kid has respiratory problems and his mom is a lactation lady who did nothing but breastfeed him the “right” way for two years straight. That means one of her three children has asthma. How can these facts fit into the hypothesis that breast milk staves off breathing problems? Get our your logic shoehorn and let’s see what we can do.
I understand there was a time when women were essentially forced to bottle feed and shamed out of caring for their babies in a way that seems both natural and righteous.
There was a time when the hospital just told you what to do, yanked your baby away from you after birth and generally dismissed what we now understand to be the importance of skin-to-skin contact, etc. From where I sit, however, it seems the pendulum may have swung too far in the other direction, so that women for whom breastfeeding just doesn’t make sense or feel right are vilified as selfish, lazy, impatient baby haters. Somewhere between Little Ricky and Ricky Lake there is a more easy-going place.
Look, I’m going to give it a try, but if it doesn’t work out, or if perhaps I’m not the two-years of breast feeding kind of girl, I hope the milk of human kindness is also available in formula.