Friday, January 14, 2011

Boob Wars, part MCCXXXIV

So.... it seems that the WHO's recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is now in question. A few thoughts:
  1. Perhaps we could use this opportunity to reflect on how health recommendations are sometimes (often) context-dependent. While it may be true that in countries without access to clean food and water, breastfeeding exclusively for a longer period is in order, applying the rule everywhere may not be the best solution. However, before we commence WHO-bashing (sounds like a Seuss story, no?) it's helpful to remember that a major driving force behind the recommendation was the marketing of formula to mothers in geographical areas lacking access to clean water. We can go into the reasons why there's no clean water and why using formula would seem preferable to these parents, but for now, let's just remember the chain of events leading up to the recommendation to begin with.
  2. One reason why solid food is recommended at 4 months (I started introducing select solid foods to my daughter at 4 months, but just kept my mouth shut about it at the pediatrician's office) is that babies who are exclusively breastfed may become anemic. *Ahem* What they don't tell you is that this only tends to occur in babies who were born with the conventional hospital practice of clamping and cutting the cord immediately, rather than waiting for all the iron-rich cord blood to flow into the baby's body. This is why midwives in most cultures waited to cut the cord. But why would we pay any attention to the quaint practices of uneducated indigenous women? What the fuck could they know?
  3. The foods that we tend to introduce to babies as first foods (grains with all of the most nutritious portions stripped from them, processed into powder and then mixed with formula and/or tap water containing chlorine, fluoride...) don't generally contain any of the nutrients that babies actually do need at this stage in development. Oh, except for how we fortify them with ingredients like iron, which often makes their little tummies hurt. And then we give them some kind of medicine for their tummies and call them colicky. Yeah. Of course, we could learn a lot about the foods that are easily digested by babies and contain the nutrients they really need by looking at what various "primitive" cultures actually fed babies. Things like egg yolk and yogurt. But rejecting the highly processed, attractively packaged baby foods on the market would be so... uncapitalistic.
So here we have another example of the ongoing process of fixing the problems we ourselves have created, by turning to a solution that is itself the cause of another problem which then must be fixed, and on and on. It would be truly amusing, if there wasn't so much at stake.


  1. Anonymous1/14/2011

    It all makes me so tired.

  2. dirtyhippie1/15/2011

    This, too, comes out of this conception of female bodily processes as inherently flawed and in need of intervention via some superior man-made product or procedure. So we should expect to see the cycle you describe continue, just as it does in the pharmaceutical realm where one med is prescribed to treat a symptom, and it causes another symptom, requiring another med, etc.

  3. Yet another article warning about moms harming babies...

  4. Anonymous1/18/2011

    Ah, but how else can we continue to fuel the pharmaceutical industrial complex? The cycle is necessary, guys!