Wednesday, December 2, 2009
John Locke on Babies
We live in an exhilarating time. It seems that more and more, our freedoms are expanding with the advance of technology and societal mobility. Every time I pick up my cell phone I marvel at the capability of this teeny box to allow to me to take pictures, listen to mp3 files, and talk to people across distances. On Thanksgiving Day it was so fun to take pictures of my relatives and send them to other family members across the miles. Yet for all our freedom we have because of technology, we still have yet to appreciate the freedom that comes from the basic biology of simple, ancient things like mother's milk.
I was listening to Democracy in America yesterday. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about how in America, we have thrown off the rule of royalty but people are still figuring out the rule of law. I think that's true even today, over a hundred years later. Even though we have lots of freedom to do amazing things with our technology we are still learning to obey natural law.
John Locke is credited with putting forth the natural law that is involved with good government. The founders studied his writings and developed a government based on natural law in order to preserve freedom for the people.
I've been thinking a lot about the natural laws involved with babies since I recently had a darling baby boy. After having seven babies, I have observed some natural laws involved with babies. Like, babies don't reach their hands to meet at the midline of their bodies until they are about three months old. Babies like to lie with their head to the side and one arm extended and the other arm bent, the classic "fencer pose." Babies also always develop their motor control from first their head and then down to their toes.
I am also a La Leche League Leader so I think about breastfeeding a lot, even when I don't have a new baby around, because people call me with breastfeeding questions every month, and I have monthly meetings for breastfeeding support. Two cool ladies, who happen to be La Leche League Leaders as well as board-certified lactation consultants, already have developed the natural laws involved with breastfeeding. See them here If John Locke were to be around today and wrote what natural laws governed the flow of mother's milk, these laws would be it. It's crucial for society to understand these natural laws related to breastfeeding. The natural laws of breastfeeding relate to women's lib. A woman can't be truly free if she is forced to feed her baby a product, inferior to what her body is capable of making, because of ignorance. If she chooses to do so, fully aware of the consequences, that's fine, but if she is forced to use artificial baby milk because of lack of information that's sad.
As Anna Johnson, writer and fashionista, wrote in her book, The Yummy Mummy Manifesto:
"Nursing at will wherever and wherever she and the baby please is just about the most ancient and the most modern stand a mother can make. And it's important for one reason alone: Mothering is felt by everyone, but it is rarely seen. Society makes very little space for mothers, so we have to claim that space ourselves. What better way than engaging in a little gentle lactivism?. . .It's an amazing freedom that every mother should be able to try, enjoy, and fiercely protect.
Something like 70% of all babies are breastfed at birth but then that number drops considerably as time goes by so that around 10% of American babies are still nursing at a year old. I could google these numbers but I'm feeling a tad lazy and it seems like last time I checked that's what they were. Breastfeeding is incredibly important, but these numbers reflect that moms don't think it's as important as it is.
What would happen if someone on the 6 o'clock news came out and said the following... "This just in--fabulous substance is available to new moms. This neon pink liquid with sparkles kills germs, lowers the risk of baby and mom getting hundreds of diseases, including ear infections and breast cancer, feeds the baby as well, and has no environmental impact. Give it to your baby 8-12 times a day, even in the middle of the night when you would rather be sleeping. You will have much fewer doctor visits if you follow the directions properly. Warning: scientific studies shows that If you don't give it to your baby exclusively for at least six months he may be less intelligent and will be sick more often. Michael Jordan was fed this substance for three years. Michael Jackson wasn't." People would be all over it, asking where to buy it and and outbidding on eBay for it.
Well, here's a news flash: Mother's milk IS that substance, but because it is free, pale white and watery, and comes from our own bodies and not a conveyor belt, people tend to discount its incredible, unbeatable, lifesaving properties. Obstacles also come up. Sometimes there's not enough information and support for a mom to turn to in order to keep this liquid gold flowing and into baby.
I wonder why this is? I guess because society in general doesn't understand the natural laws that govern the making of mother's milk. Remember what de Tocqueville said. We have thrown off the rule of royalty but we still are learning to obey the rule of natural law. One of the laws is that "more milk out means more milk made." Even though this is my seventh baby I still marvel at how often new babies want to nurse. If I weren't an experienced mom and a La Leche League Leader, I can see how easy it would be to pass off the baby and have someone else feed him. But just like you have to go grocery shopping often if you are going to have food in your cupboards on a daily, continual, basis; you have to nurse often if you are going to make enough milk.
With a new baby, it's normal to be nursing whenever the baby is awake, and sometimes when the baby is snoozing too. I have a girlfriend who calls this the "sore buns theory:" You know you are nursing enough when you have sore buns from sitting so long. Why do babies have to nurse so much? Babies have stomachs the size of marbles on day one. They grow to the size of a shooter marble by day three and then a golf ball by day seven. They also need to triple their weight in a year. If you had to triple your weight in a year and had the stomach the size of a golf ball, you would be eating constantly too. I had to continually remind myself of these facts with this current baby.
"What, he wants to nurse again?! Didn't I just nurse him 5 (or 10 or 15) minutes ago? I want to finish cooking or getting dressed! (Forget painting my nails or annotating War and Peace.)" Mother's milk digests quickly. That fact along with the infinitesimal size of the baby's stomach means you have to nurse a LOT, like more than you ever would think is a lot. But the rewards are priceless. For example, with all my seven babies, we have only had one ear infection. I credit that to nursing my babies a lot, exclusively for at least the first six months for each, and limiting dairy in our diets.
So what do to? Embrace the spring season of mothering, that of breastfeeding and mothering a new baby. Settle in with a baby latched on and a "chick lit" book in the other hand. Enjoy the yummy life of a breastfeeding mom. One chick lit book I really love that celebrates the reality of life as a nursing mom is the one I mentioned above, The Yummy Mummy Manifesto by Anna Johnson. See I also like the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, although it's not quite as fun as Yummy Mummy, and So That's What They're For. If you want a nonbreastfeeding book, try something light like a Jack Weyland Novel. If you want something more meaningful try The Anatomy of Peace.