Tuesday, December 13, 2011

When it comes to boobs or money: take the money

I have been pretty fortunate to have never had trouble in the boob department; my boobs and I have pretty much always got along.  Now that I have a child, our amicable relationship continues, despite my occasional jealously that LO obviously likes them better than me.  Seriously, the child will look at me with daggers in her eyes, as though she resents my never giving her and my boobs any alone time.  "You're always trying to come between us!"
Insecurities aside, I am really lucky not to have encountered a lot of the problems women face when trying to breastfeed.  For a lot of my friends, and for so many women, breastfeeding is horrendous, if not just impossible.  Every book, movie, Oprah episode and health professional pounds pregnant ladies with the idea that breastfeeding is the crucial element in nuriting your child, leaving a lot of women despondent when they find out that breastfeeding is not exactly as it is portrayed in the La Leche Manual.  Tons of women who face difficulties either biologically or logistically end up feeling like bad moms.
Turns out, it may all be for naught.
Within the past year  scientist have found that all the benefits of breastfeeding may not be so much a result of breast milk, as it is a corollary to all the benefits of being upper middle class.  Women who are breastfeeding generally are upper class chicks who can afford breast pumps and such, or who can afford to stay home with their child.  These same moms also can afford good prenatal care, and can more easily provide good nutrition for their children once they are born.  So scientist now suggest that the ability to provide quality care for children throughout their childhood may be more important than mere breast milk during infancy; good to know for my friends who have such trouble breastfeeding.
On the other hand, an Australian study found that children who breastfeed past six months of age have better mental health than their bottle-fed counter parts.   Now, granted, I didn't actually read the study, but the but this seems fishy to me. We already know that moms who breastfeed are middle upper class moms.  The Reuters article that covered the study even noted that "The mothers who breastfed for less than six months were younger, less educated, poorer, and more stressed, and were also more likely to be smokers, than the moms who breastfed for longer. They were also more likely to suffer from postpartum depression, and their babies were more likely to have growth problems."  It seems pretty obvious to me that what the children are benefiting from is not the extended breastfeeding, but the greater access to a happier, healthier mom.
Is it just me, or could the scientist perhaps trying to conjure up an easy solution to a greater social problem?  Maybe instead of doctors and social services all pushing breastfeeding down moms' throats, making thousands of moms feel guilty and inadequate, perhaps we as a community should be taking that energy and pressing politicians for better support for families of all income levels.

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