Archives for November 2011

Ecological Breastfeeding: Part 2

Hey all, thanks for your patience. ¬†I owe you lots of posts this week ūüėõ
Today I opted to get out Part II of my Ecological Breastfeeding series. ¬†Although, for those who are waiting for pictures for the weekend here’s a little something to tide you over…
Ecological Breastfeeding II
In my first post on ecological breastfeeding, I did a brief overview of the seven standards that must be followed in order for this natural style of nourishing your child to “work”. ¬†First, let me define what I mean by work. ¬†Any and all amount of breastfeeding that a mother is able to provide for her child is good, healthy and beneficial for both mother and baby.
However, I do believe that these standards are an accurate representation of God’s good and natural plan for the nourishment of children. ¬†This being the case there are real and tangible benefits to following this plan, and in order to have these benefits to the fullest, these principles should be followed.
The benefits of ecological breastfeeding are many.  One benefit that I mentioned in my previous post is the extended period without a menstrual cycle, which not only naturally spaces children in a family but also provides many health benefits for the mother.  The average length before the return of the cycle, for women who follow ecological breastfeeding, is 14-15 months postpartum.
Another benefit to this natural method of nursing is the extent to which the child nurses.  It is very well medically documented that the more a child nurses, the healthier that child is, and the more a mother nurses her child the healthier she is.  Without following each of these standards of breastfeeding, children will wean much earlier, probably shortly after their first birthday and almost always before their second.  Conversely, children who are breastfeed with these standards in mind, nurse more frequently and are never given a substitute for the love of a mother.
I have talked with mothers who have wanted their children to nurse longer, whether for the health benefits or because of the continued bonding opportunities, but they could not keep their children interested in nursing through their second year of life.  This is because there has been either some substitute for the mother introduced (binkies, bottles, etc.) or a restriction placed on nursing.
In order for these benefits to be fully realized and a child to nurse for the full extent of God’s intended timing, all of these standards must be followed. ¬†Today I was going to go through the first three standards, but I got a little chatty, so we’ll just do the first standard today and go from there. ¬†Here is a little more on the whys and hows and what the first standard has looked like in our family…

Standard One: Breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of life; don’t use other liquids or solids, not even water.

This is possibly the most important standard to follow, simply for the health of your child.  Before six months of age children are unable to properly digest solid food.  Giving a baby food before their body has the appropriate ability to digest it can actually cause their bodies to develop an allergy to that food for the rest of their life.  Furthermore early introduction to solids can be linked to other difficulties such as asthma, lactose-intolerance and other health difficulties.
Many doctors will encourage parents to give their children baby cereal rather than breastmilk or formula to help their children sleep longer through the night. ¬†Cereal does help children to go longer intervals without eating, but it isn’t because it is more nourishing or filling, actually quite the opposite. ¬†Babies stomachs cannot properly digest grain, in fact grains should be one of the last foods introduced as they are one of the most difficult to digest. ¬†Because their body doesn’t know what to do with it, the cereal literally sits in their stomach like a rock, rather than being absorbed and utilized in the body. ¬†It may be more convenient, but it certainly is not best for baby!
After six months of life, you can begin slowly introducing solids as your baby becomes interested.  What I realized quickly with our dear daughter is that most babies are not ready until much later.  She was a little interested, but not really.  I was a little more aggressive in pushing solids at exactly six months, thinking that that was what was best, but next time around I will be more relaxed.
Some doctors assert that there is a window between which children learn to eat, and if they don’t learn to eat during this window they will not be able to learn later on. ¬†This is not true! ¬†Children are born knowing how to eat and they will develop this desire when their bodies are ready to process the food. ¬†Each child grows differently. ¬†Think of the great differences that exist between when babies learn to crawl, walk or talk. ¬†Some are early, others are later; it is the same with eating solid food. ¬†A few babies bodies are ready at six months, most are not ready until much later.
After I realized this, we relaxed for several months on pushing the solids; she was perfectly happy nursing, and so was I.  Around about a year old she became interested again in tasting what we were tasting, but it really was only tasting.  At nineteen months she still has not eaten a full meal of solid food.  She gets her nutrition from nursing Рwhich is the best nutrition she could receive!  Breastmilk is the healthiest food for a baby whether they be four months or fourteen months.  I am so at peace knowing that she is eating the healthiest diet she possibly could.
Some days she eats more than others, especially if it’s a meal she likes! ¬†But she hasn’t really begun eating for nutritional value yet, and that’s perfectly ok. ¬†¬†If you have heard the phrase “Solids before one are just for fun.” ¬†Remember that and don’t push them! ¬†Your child will eat solids when he is ready. ¬†As for me, my motto is more like “Solids before two are just for fun.” ¬†The first two years of life, the best and only nutrition a child needs is breastmilk.
Another blessing we have had from not pushing solids too early is that when she isn’t feeling well, I don’t have to worry about her getting enough nutrition. ¬†She didn’t eat anything for two days when she was sick over the summer, but she nursed a lot.
As far as other liquids go, we still heavily limit what liquids she gets.  Usually when she is thirsty she will just nurse in order to quench her thirst.  God has created our bodies so perfectly to give our children exactly what they need.  The initial milk that lets down when a child is nursing is the thinner milk, which is less nutrient dense, but works very well for quenching thirst.  So when our babies are thirsty they can get a quick bit of milk and go back to playing.  If they are in need of a nutrient-dense meal they can nurse a few minutes (or a lot of minutes for a newborn!) longer to get the thicker hind-milk.
Over the last year or so we have allowed her to have as much water as she wants, which hasn’t been much. ¬†She mostly likes to drink it because we are drinking. ¬†Although, the last month or so she has actually be using water to quench thirst along with the breastmilk. ¬†Other than water, we don’t give her any other liquids. ¬†Juice is simply not healthy, even 100% juice causes the blood sugar to shoot up and can cause long-term problems.
We simply don’t want her to be hooked on sugary drinks. ¬†It starts with juice as a toddler and ends with soda… so we stay away from that for now. ¬†We also avoid milk because the milk that is available to us at this time is¬†pasteurized¬†to the point of having little to no nutrition. ¬†Besides, she gets human milk so she doesn’t need cow’s milk! ¬†Later on we will introduce this, but at this time water and breastmilk are all she really needs.
In short… nurse exclusively for at least six months. ¬†After that feel free to follow your child’s lead. ¬†If he is interested in tasting solids because it’s what you’re doing, go ahead and let him try. ¬†But don’t push the desire if it’s really not there. ¬†Force-feeding baby food is counter-productive and unhealthy. ¬†If he doesn’t want to eat, it probably means he’s not ready to eat!

Ecological Breastfeeding: Part 1

In a recent post I discussed the many benefits of extended breastfeeding.  Both mother and child benefit physically and emotionally from a natural breastfeeding relationship, and babies also receive developmental benefits from the nutritional value of the milk.  Unfortunately, in our society, this natural way of mothering has been all but lost.

With so many distractions and roadblocks put in the way of motherhood, and so many alternatives to the comfort and safety of a mother’s breast being endlessly advertised… it’s no wonder we have forgotten the beauty and the blessings that come with mothering our young children the way that God created and intended us to.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I knew that I wanted to give her the best start possible, and I also knew that would include breastfeeding. ¬†It wasn’t until I read Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing that I realized I hadn’t thought of how I wanted to breastfeed.

My approach to parenting has always been that God has given us all the tools necessary in His creation to raise children who are healthy physically, emotionally and spiritually. ¬†I don’t buy into the idea that you need the latest gadgets, toys, orthodontic binkies or whatever the latest craze is… ¬†It’s not that these things are inherently wrong in and of themselves, I just didn’t think that they are necessary.

I knew that God didn’t create babies for cribs or strollers or bottles. ¬†God created babies for mothers and fathers. ¬†So I have always been skeptical with cultural parenting practices; I critique cultural parenting techniques from every angle before I will accept them, because I know that God did not create man for 21st century America. ¬†Many of our innovations have gotten away from God’s intended purpose for families, so I make sure that whatever cultural practices I do adopt in my vocation as mother, they encourage God’s order rather than undermine it.

This is why I have chosen ecological breastfeeding. ¬†I truly believe that the principles of ecological breastfeeding are the natural, intended way God created us to nurture our children. ¬†I also believe that when we follow God’s intended order for our lives that it is healthier for us in every way; there are natural and spiritual consequences when we choose our ways rather than God’s ways – even when it comes to breastfeeding.

To be clear, I am not condemning anyone who does not follow this particular pattern of nursing. ¬† ¬†I am saying that having the worldview where children are burdensome and so I will only have a few, and the sooner I can get them to not need me for extended periods of time the better… is a wrong perspective. ¬†God has such a better way. ¬†With that being said… let’s get to the good part. ¬†These are the seven standards of ecological breastfeeding:

  1. Breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of life; don’t use other liquids or solids, not even water.
  2. Pacify or comfort your baby at your breasts.
  3. Don’t use bottles and don’t use pacifiers.
  4. Sleep with your baby for night feedings.
  5. Sleep with your baby for a daily-nap feeding.
  6. Nurse frequently day and night, and avoid schedules.
  7. Avoid any practice that restricts nursing or separates you from your baby.
These seven principles should be followed for the entirety of your nursing relationship with your child, until he is ready to wean himself.  This is not something that you instigate, but a natural consequence of maturing that will happen when he is ready.  The only principle that you do not continue indefinitely is the first.  Obviously, after six months of age, food can be introduced when the child begins to show interest.
I want to finish up today’s post with some of the benefits our family has had from following this path. ¬†I have been using ecological breastfeeding with Evangline from the time she was born.
  • Evie has only been sick twice in the short 19 months of her life; both times she fully recovered in just a couple short days without any need for medication.
  • She has never had an ear infection or other any of the other common illnesses babies tend to be susceptible to. ¬†She is incredibly healthy in every way.
  • Evangeline is an extremely happy and secure baby. ¬†She knows that we will always be there when she needs us.
  • I gained 45 pounds during the course of my pregnancy. ¬†Without any kind of dieting, exercising or trying at all, I lost 41 of those pounds within the first 7 or 8 months postpartum.
  • For many women this natural form of breastfeeding helps to naturally space out children. ¬†Although our family was not concerned with the spacing of our children, this definitely has been a side-effect of ecological breastfeeding. ¬†I did not have my first cycle until 15 months postpartum. (I have to say it was nice to go two years without having to deal with that!)
  • Not only is this extended period without a menstrual cycle beneficial in spacing children, but it is also very healthy and is one of the main ways that ecological breastfeeding can help prevent breast cancer.
These are just a few of the short-term benefits we have seen in our own family.  In Part II of this series I am going to go through each specific standard of ecological breastfeeding and explain some of the whys behind them and how implementing each one has looked in our own household.  If there are any questions let me know and I will include them at the end of the series.
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