Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Triumphant Tuesday - Breastfeeding with Osteoporosis

Pregnancy takes its toll on most mothers – piles, heartburn, water retention, backache – all are par for the course. What you don't expect however, is for pregnancy to deteriorate your bones leaving you so chronically immobile that when your baby arrives, you can’t even carry him. That’s what happened to this mother. Diagnosed with Transient Osteoporosis of the Hip (TOH) during pregnancy, she clung to hopes of breastfeeding despite her health - quite literally - crumbling away. Read on to discover how she coped with the pain, the frustration, and the logistics of nursing a baby through debilitating disease.

“Up until 29 weeks my pregnancy progressed without problem, I had mild morning sickness but felt full of energy along the way – even running a marathon at 10 weeks!

The pain begins

My hips started to hurt so I stopped running and began walking instead for a week or so, until even this became too painful. Hip pain is common during pregnancy but the type of pain I felt, right in the hip socket, didn't match the SPD symptoms I could find online. Nonetheless many well meaning friends were quick to tell me it was normal and how they or a friend felt just the same in pregnancy. Now I'm no wimp and like to think I have a high pain threshold so I wasn't convinced by these tales (though I am aware how painful and debilitating severe SPD can be). By 33 weeks pregnant, upon the advice of my physio, I visited an orthopaedic consultant.

X-ray reveals trouble

By this point I was hobbling on crutches, unable to take a step for myself and in a great deal of pain. Very confused and scared, I was relieved when the consultant took me seriously and sent me straight to X-ray (a single low dose X-ray with a lead apron protecting the bump meant there was minimal risk to the baby). The results showed a decrease in bone density at the femoral head so within days I underwent an MRI - swiftly providing the diagnosis of a very rare disease called Transient Osteoporosis of the Hip (TOH), caused by pregnancy.

Spot the baby!

Initially, I felt relieved to have a diagnosis. I had known something serious was wrong but had no idea what. The fact that it was fully reversible was music to my ears. Yet, after the initial elation I became pretty depressed at the realisation it would take months and not weeks to get better. Every day stretched on like a week before Reuben was born.

"Crutches were my saviour and my nemesis."
I had two questions, could I give birth naturally (the disease increases the risk of hip fracture during birth) and could I breastfeed and still recover? The first question was answered with a spontaneous early and swift labour at 36 weeks! 5 hours from start to finish, I naturally gave birth with the aid of hypnobirthing (a wonderful tool to relax and let nature take its course). Reuben was born healthy and alert, and the midwives quickly helped us to have our first successful breastfeed. We were discharged the same day with the advice to feed at least every three hours as he was slightly small (6lb 7oz).

Feeding a newborn whilst immobile

Ha ha every three hours! Reuben had other ideas and fed at least every two hours, often every one. We had well meaning advice from family members (at a week old) to try and space feeds out so he would go longer at night but I'd had long enough time stuck on the sofa googling to know otherwise and fed him whenever he showed the slightest sign of needing it.

For the first four weeks I was unable to hold my baby while standing. I couldn't dress him, change his nappy, pick him up at night or put him back down. I couldn't even make a cup of coffee and carry it through to another room. Every time I tried to take a step it felt like my hip bone would give way in its socket and there was a searing pain.

Initially I adjusted my gait in order to protect the joint, but as the disease progressed this was impossible and I physically could not take a step without taking my body weight through the crutches. After a while I couldn’t lift up my leg to get into bed - Id have to bend over and pick it up. The scariest point was the middle of the night, I’d need the loo a couple of times a night. It was difficult to find my crutches without taking a step (they inevitably fell down off the wall they were balanced against at this point). Id then have to slowly make my way past the stairs (no banisters as we were in the middle of house renovations!) in severe pain and very unsteady to get to the loo. I felt I was going to topple over every time and break in two. If I sat still there was no pain, so I wasn’t in pain all of the time. The problem was at night it hurt to lay down, and it hurt if I tried to do anything for Reuben which involved picking him up - even if only to move him from his basket (right next to me) to being with me on the sofa. Crutches were my saviour and my nemesis.

Breastfeeding protected my confidence

I felt entirely useless except for one thing. Breastfeeding. I could do it and could do it well. This is despite every time Reuben woke in the night I could not get back to sleep for the pain, so I was a super sleep deprived zombie! After four weeks my husband returned to work and I stayed in the lounge all day, a prisoner with my baby, barely able to pick him up and put him down still. Sadly during this time my second hip became diseased and whilst one recovered, the other became bad.

By nine weeks I could take a few painful steps without crutches, and gradually improved over the next couple of months. I increased the miles I could walk (carrying Reuben in a sling) until we regularly covered four miles each day and I had built my legs muscles back up. After five months I got the go ahead to begin running again and the day before Reuben's first birthday raced a half marathon. The postman has seen me most mornings ranging from walking on crutches with Reuben in a sling, to walking using the pram as a support, to walking with Reuben in a sling no crutches, to running past with Reuben in a running buggy. He must think I’m bonkers!

Baby thriving

Reuben continued to feed ALOT and put on weight at a crazy rate. He has never had a drop of formula and by 6 months had jumped from the 5th percentile to the 91st on my milk alone. He looked quite fat but I felt sure he was just storing it up ready to grow! At his 12 month check he was on the 98th percentile in weight but also balanced in his height - I was right to trust my baby and, baby led weaned, has taken just what he's needed to grow to his full potential so far.

During our breastfeeding journey I have learnt so much about its benefits and am very enthusiastic to spread this message, it was also quite possibly my saviour in the dark early weeks. Transient osteoporosis is very rare and there is next to no information about it in terms of lactation online - but our experience shows it's entirely possible to both recover and breastfeed, whilst being therapeutic and rewarding.”

Email me with your story to appear on Triumphant Tuesday!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Anti Breastfeeding Books - Part Five

This is the fifth (fifth!) post in my quest to expose as many anti-breastfeeding books as my cornea can withstand. To resist sounding like broken vinyl, I’ll refrain from a lengthy intro, you should know the gist by now. Suffice to say, in this series we look at some potentially-upsetting, probably-litigious and unapologetically harsh treatments of breastfeeding found in mainstream parenting books. This fifth-installment is dedicated entirely to a book written by celebrity nanny, Jo Frost. I’ve got my lawyer-retardant panties on, so let’s begin.

Jo Frost’s Confident Baby Care
Jo Frost

When a ‘TV nanny’ writes a parenting book, those with common sense shudder. They are fully aware that the lower bulk of the population (I’m not saying they’re ‘chavs’, well okay I am) that worship at the altar of celebrity will view its pages as gospel. In this book, Jo Frost is able to capitalise on her ‘celebrity’ status (yes I use the label loosely, but still...) to write any flavour of balls imaginable, safe in the knowledge that it will both sell and be absorbed by the masses. After all, who could argue with a person globally known as “Supernanny”? Well, I’m going to give it a shot.

Breastfeeding mothers as martyrs

In one of the book’s early chapters, titled ‘Making Confident First Choices’, Jo lectures on the importance of getting dads involved. The sentiment behind her lecture is acceptable. The execution, less-so:

It’s important to involve them [dads] from the very beginning for two reasons. First, so that they can begin to bond with the baby and learn how to be confident dads. Second, so that you feel you are experiencing everything together as a couple, rather than mothers feeling overwhelmed and fathers feeling alienated or pushed aside. Mothers also need to recognise that wearing the martyr crown – thinking ‘Only I can do this’ – is going to lead to sleep deprivation and a loss of ability to produce breast milk” (p29).

Yes, it’s subtle, but here is where the undermining begins. Vague notions of “martyrs” (which is an entirely subjective construct anyway) coupled with the scare-mongering “loss of ability to produce breastmilk” does not a confident choice-maker create.

Yet this martyr claptrap is resurrected later in the book, when we are reminded:

This is no time to wear the martyr crown...” (p74)

Jeeez, I gotta see this notorious crown! Wait until you hear how Jo cleans it!

If, Mum, you think to yourself, as your back is breaking, ‘only I know the right way to feed my baby’, you’re being your own worst enemy. (Well, someone had to tell you). Eventually your partner will think, ‘You’re the only one who can do it, right? Then go ahead and do it!’ Men can get pushed out and then women complain of not having their help. When I meet a mum like that, I say, ‘Oh here we go! Spit and polish. Polish up that crown” (p74).

I’ll tell you what, if my back was breaking, ain’t nobody telling me to discuss infant nutrition; rather, I’d be saying “holy hell, my back is fucking breaking!! Call 911!!!”

But I digress, Jo’s message continues (warning: if you are one of those moms that has the audacity to feed your baby all by yourself, the following sermon may sting a little):

Recognise where that martyr thing is coming from. Usually it’s a result of mothers needing their baby to need them, or believing that because they were the birth vessel, the mother ship, they somehow ‘own’ this child more than Dad. This is dangerous because their baby is being treated as a possession, rather than a living, breathing human being who needs the love and care of all the adults around her. I feel sorry for fathers in those circumstances. So, Mum, check yourself and make sure you accept all available help, particularly from your child’s father” (p74).

Exclusively breastfeeding? You selfish cow! Stop being possessive. P.S. Jo feels sorry for your husband, so there!!

Spare a thought for poor bottle-feeders

This pro-bottle rant leads nicely onto the sub-section, labelled in bold capitalised font “TO BREASTFEED OR NOT?” It begins:

I definitely support breastfeeding, but...

Oh here we go! The mating-call of the hater...

...but not to the extent of making bottle-feeding parents feel they should be banished off the face of the earth. There are a variety of reasons why you may not be able to, including adoption, illness and certain medications. I know women who can’t breastfeed because their nipples are inverted or too short. It’s okay if you can’t or choose not to. Generations of babies have been bottle-fed and are just fine! Formula is now created to mimic breast milk very closely” (p31).

W0000t! It’s a boobie-trap smorgasbord!! How many points of misinformation did you spot, kids?! Let’s count together: 1. Adoption being a bar to breastfeeding (reality: it’s not). 2. Illness being a bar to breastfeeding (reality: it’s not). 3. Taking medication being a bar to breastfeeding (reality: it’s not). 4. Inverted nipples being a bar to breastfeeding (reality: they’re not). 5. Short nipples being a bar to breastfeeding (reality: they’re not). 6. Generations of bottle-fed babies being just fine (reality: climbing rates of allergies, obesity and gastrointestinal disorders beg to differ). 7. Formula is now created to mimic breast milk very closely (reality: as close as plucking Susan Boyle’s eyebrows makes her resemble Cheryl Cole).

Then Jo forcibly launches into an equalitist rant that would make any formula feeder well-up with pride and a quivering lip. Jo’s script is as recognisable and tedious as the often-spouted drivel you hear time and time again from the ‘I support you’ and ‘Strong Moms’ pussy crowd:

Illustration from p107.
Don’t feel badly, Mum, if for some reason you can’t breastfeed or you do it only for a few weeks. It’s not proof of your womanhood or of your love for your baby. And breastfeeding mums should be kind to other mums who are not. Support one another, rather than judge!

Wait, she’s not finished:

At the end of the day, whether you choose to breastfeed or not, the decision you make is fine. Parenting involves making all kinds of decisions based on your needs [emphasis hers] as well as the needs of your child. I want you to make the best choices you can, without feeling pressure from others, and then stand comfortably with your choice” (p31).

Yay! Let’s all join hands and live in an insulated Kum-ba-yah bubble. Fuck the environment. Fuck babies’ welfare. Fuck the public purse. All that matters is that mummies play nicely. There’s no room for politics in maternal issues. When mothers disagree with each other, that’s called ‘judging’ and not permitted under mommy law (when men do it, it’s called ‘debate’, but never mind about that).

As if all this cutesy bollocks wasn’t enough to turn your stomach, next Jo spews forth the standard spiel: as long as you love your kid, that’s all that matters.

Here’s my key message – your love is enough. In fact, it’s just what your baby needs!” (p66).


Contrary to what The Beatles may have sung in the 60s, you need a lot more than love. Oxygen, food, shelter, warmth, protection... Okay, I’m being pedantic, but what can you expect when I see yet another author milking the love rhetoric in such a lazy and predictable fashion. You could love your baby as much as I love Michael Mosley; it won’t put food in their belly, ward off disease, or protect them from SIDS. Nuff said.

How NOT to protect your baby from SIDS

Speaking of the tragedy that is SIDS, Jo seems to have had a common-sense-bypass when she recommends a product well-known for its SIDS-risk:

You can buy a baby-sleeping bolster (they look like angel wings!) – you place the baby in the middle and there’s a tiny rolled pad either side that makes her feel more secure” (p145).

Angel wings - how painfully apt for a product associated with death. This should win an award for world’s crappest safety advice.

Cutesy illustration from p89.

And the award for most blatantly obvious tip would go to...

If you do think you might want to breastfeed, even for a short while, decide before your baby is born” (p32).

And, the runner-up award for misguided-advice-disguised-as-feminism goes to....

You might choose, as friends of mine did recently, to pump milk from the breast and bottle-feed so that both of you can share equally in the feedings (It has the added advantage of getting your baby used to a bottle earlier – they are harder to introduce later on). Dad can help and Mum can get more sleep” (p32).

Oh not that shit about mum getting more sleep if dad gives a bottle – utter bollocks. Time to change that diaper Jo, I smell the same old shit here.

Breastfeeding is for the mother's benefit

More incoming faecal matter can be smelt in the next section when Jo slags-off breastfeeding mothers. Apparently, she knows exactly why they chose to breastfeed:

I have seen women breastfeed constantly, not because their baby needs it but because it helps them lose weight – you burn a lot of calories when you breastfeed. This is dangerous because the baby is getting more than he needs and breastfeeding is being used for the wrong reason. Be sensible and do what’s right for your child as well as yourself” (p69).

Four points: firstly, you cannot force a child to breastfeed; secondly, Jo, how the heck do you know what a particular baby ‘needs’ (nutrition? comfort? warmth?) – only the baby knows that; thirdly, breastfed babies cannot be overfed; fourthly, there is no singular ‘right’ reason to breastfeed – that’s the beauty of it; fifthly, screw you and your patronising talk of being ‘sensible’, frequent breastfeeding is one of the most sensible things a new mother can do! Yet Jo and ‘sense’ appear to have had a divorce; take this titbit for example:

If you’re breastfeeding. Make sure you eat and sleep well so that your baby will have all the nourishment she needs” (p71).

HAH! Try saying that to your average sleep-deprived mom, she’ll likely aim her nipple in your direction and jet you in the face. Also notice the insidious undercurrent lurking within Jo’s ‘well-meaning’ advice: essentially, if you don’t sleep and eat 'well', your baby won’t have all the nourishment she needs. What postpartum mom do you know that sleeps well? Be serious. Heck, what neighbour of a postpartum mom do you know that sleeps well?! We could all do with a bit of shut-eye, whether lactating or not. Sleep is a red herring here, and it stinks like a fishmongers.

Bottle says it all.

In case you haven’t got the clue yet, I don’t think Jo is a breastfeeding advocate. The phrases she uses to describe breastfeeding-life wouldn’t be out of place in a 1990s sitcom:

You’ll be walking around like some wild banshee with your breasts leaking all over the place” (p57).

Breastfeeding 'essentials'

As well as looking like an extra from Scream, Jo thinks if you breastfeed, you’ll have the extra inconvenience of needing to buy ‘stuff’. Contrary to fact, Jo asserts that you don’t escape from having to buy equipment just because you’re breastfeeding. In her list of ‘essential equipment for breastfeeding’ Jo includes a nursing pillow (since when was that essential?) and:

an electric breast pump to express milk to store for when your milk supply is low” (p57)

Notice the decisive nature of the above sentence - your milk supply WILL be low, according to Jo. She’s just giving you the heads-up on the apparent inevitability of it all.

According to Jo, another piece of essential breastfeeding kit - particularly if you have twins – is the bottle, because God forbid you should directly breastfeed your twins in public:

Breastfeed at home and give them a bottle when you’re out and about because it’s easier and you want to make your life as easy as possible” (p211).

It’s easier to bottle-feed twins? Since when? The practicalities of the matter is that you need two hands to breastfeed twins. You need four hands to bottle-feed them. Go figure!

Breastfeeding causes gas

Anyhoo, while you’re pumping yourself like livestock, Jo has another task:

I want you to record the times he feeds in the Baby Log on page 252. Keeping a baby log is a good way to figure out whether what you’re eating is causing gas” (p96).

Say what? Gas? What I eat can give my baby the farts? According to Jo, this is true. In a section titled “Eating for two” Jo asserts that:

What you eat will make its way into your baby’s body through your milk. Strong or acidic foods can make your milk smell funny and cause indigestion in your infant, or a refusal to nurse. Gassy foods like broccoli, beans, cabbage and so on, can produce gas in your baby too. So can diary products” (p98).

She refluxes this spew later on:

If your baby latches on fine and then pulls off crying after a couple of minutes it could be something you ate” (p102).

If you don’t abstain from these forbidden foodstuffs, Jo warns that you will have to...

...live with the consequences and know your baby’s living with them too” (p99).

Boobie-trap radar on red alert! The assumption that consuming gassy foods yourself will make your baby gassy is a myth that backdates Jesus. Gas is produced when bacteria in the intestine interact with the intestinal fiber. Neither gas nor fiber can pass into the bloodstream, or into your breastmilk, even when your stomach is gassy.

Speaking of prehistoric breastfeeding myths, Jo continues:

Do keep alcohol and caffeine intake low, as in none. Your baby’s brain doesn’t need it” (p99).

The myth-train pulls up at yet another station:

Get support push-up bras to leave you feeling all woman after breastfeeding” (p69).


Toot! Toot! We’re not even finished the “Zero to Three Months” section, when this pops up:

Setting firm ground is about creating healthy routines. I can’t emphasise enough the importance of routines. The more you can create routines early on, the easier your life will be” (p87-88).

Routines, routines, routines. Okay, so what does a routine for a newborn involve? Well, Jo will tell you exactly what it absolutely doesn’t involve – cosleeping:

Medical experts don’t recommend sleeping with infants as you can accidently roll over in your sleep and suffocate them. Also, your body heat can cause them to get overheated. I discourage infants regularly sleeping in your bed because you’re creating a habit that will cause you no end of grief later on” (p91).

I’m not sure Dr Sears (a medical professional) would agree. In fact, he has quoted numerous studies which show that there’s more than three times as many crib related infant fatalities compared to adult bed accidents!

Regarding co-sleeping being labelled a ‘bad-habit’, Sears cites studies showing that co-sleeping babies grow up with a higher self-esteem, less anxiety, become independent sooner, are better behaved in school, and are more comfortable with affection. They also have less psychiatric problems.

Sears has ripped a new asshole in the ‘over-heating’ myth too, pointing to studies which show that infants who sleep near to their parents actually have more stable temperatures! Anyway, back to Jo and her meddling. I find it erratic to say the least, that she would cite overheating as a reason for not co-sleeping, yet staunchly advocating swaddling in her next breath:

I like to swaddle a baby to help him go to sleep” (p93).

From p92.

Yet swaddling is one of the most common causes of overheating. In fact, one in four babies that die of SIDS has been swaddled. Also, swaddling can have a negative effect on breastfeeding - newborns who are routinely swaddled have been found to feed less frequently, suckle less effectively, and have greater weight loss than those left un-swaddled. Know what else can have a negative effect on breastfeeding? Pacifier use, particularly pacifier use with the first 6 weeks. Guess what Jo recommends?

I like to give a newborn a dummy. If you give him something to suck on, he’ll fall asleep more easily because of the association” (p94).

Sleep, sleep, sleep. Inducing sleep at the cost of sabotaging breastfeeding seems par for the course in Jo’s world:

The importance of getting your baby to sleep through the night is crucial” (p168).

Is optimum infant nutrition not also crucial? Evidently not, as Jo jumps on the Controlled Crying bandwagon:

Use my controlled-crying technique” (p168).

Very naughty. Like many disingenuous self-appointed gurus before her, Jo’s nicked Richard Ferber’s sleep training technique (which I will be critiquing next week) and repackaged it as her own. A massive 61% of parenting books in America endorse controlled crying, so it’s hardly Jo’s own technique. Her instructions are near identical to Ferber’s:

You will need a strong-resolve. When you go in to say, ‘shhhh’, just rest your hand on him without eye contact and then leave. Do not pick him up” (p168).

Fellow parents, do you really want to use this technique? Really? Even Jo herself alludes to the distress this method can inflict on babies:

Some babies will cry and start to gag. If he throws up, take him from his cot, clean him up and place him back in. Then start the technique again” (p168).

From p90.
Advantage: save on laundry.
Disadvantage: potentially kill your kid.

Like those she has plagiarised from, Jo attempts to make Controlled Crying more palatable by claiming it’s actually good for babies:

If he is getting all he needs from you through the day, this technique of active ignoring is not neglect” (p168).

If it looks like a duck, and swims like a duck...

Sure Controlled Crying ‘works’ but ain’t nobody in their right mind going to insist it’s actually good for babies. Yes the baby does become conditioned to communicate less at night, but at best, this is because he has been trained not to do so, rather than understanding that it is night-time and therefore he must be tired and should sleep. Sears coined the phrase ‘shutdown syndrome’ to describe what probably happens in this scenario. Essentially, depressed babies shut down the expression of their needs, and they become children who don’t ever speak up to get their needs met and eventually become the highest-need adults. Yet Jo maintains that you should stand firm:

I want you to create good sleeping habits from the beginning. That’s why this section is called Setting Firm Ground” (p91).

Look lady, as well as lacking sufficient levels of the hormone melatonin, a baby’s sleep cycle is also hugely different from ours. Babies are not designed to sleep through. Being ‘firm’ with a young baby serves no functional purpose. It just makes you an ass.

Feeding to a schedule

Along with muzzling your baby with a pacifier and neglecting - sorry, ignoring him - Jo recommends installing a feeding routine when your baby is as young as 1 month old:

At about week four, you can begin to establish a feeding routine. It’s important to do this because otherwise your baby can overfeed, whether breast or bottle fed. Because babies suck for comfort as well as hunger, if you offer food every time they cry, they can end up eating too much and becoming more refluxy as a way of dealing with too much food” (p111).

Oh FFS. Here Jo has committed the cardinal sin of lumping together breastfed and bottle-fed babies as if they are the same breed – they’re not, far from it. A breastfed baby can regulate their intake; they do this through non-nutritive sucking. These light ‘flutter-sucks’ enable them to obtain the comfort of the breast, whilst forgoing any unnecessary nutrition. Bottle-fed babies cannot do this, they suck at the bottle – they get a mouthful of milk. This is why demand-feeding (nature’s default feeding method) works better for breastfed babies: baby cries – baby is put to the breast – if hungry, baby eats – if not hungry, baby comfort sucks or rejects. Comfort sucking is very important to babies – it’s the ultimate relaxation tool. It also helps the skull bones to return to their normal position after birth.

So, with Jo’s main justification for feeding routines exposed as a load of bollocks, should we bother to continue reading to find out what her routine entails? Okay, okay, for the lulz, let’s read on (the things I do for you people):

Stretch feeds out a bit. Try a dummy, to see if he will suck on that for a while to keep him going. You need to keep stretching out the time to move on from on-demand feeding to feeding every three hours (four hours if bottle-fed)” (p111).

Not only will this potentially lead to engorgement followed by a reduction in breastmilk supply, it could also lead to stunted weight gain in the baby, or even weight loss. Demand feeding means that multiple-letdowns wash fat globules through your ducts and transfers them to your baby. Scheduled feeding bypasses the repetition of this mechanism.

Yet Jo has even drafted a schedule to keep you militantly on track with her feeding agenda:

OCD-style table from p112.

She supplements this table with the following advice:

If breastfeeding, you have to measure by time to gauge how much your baby is getting because you can’t see what he’s taking in” (p112).

Measure by time? Look folks, time isn’t your friend here. For instance, do you know someone in your life, a relative maybe, who takes a long time to eat a meal? Perhaps they savour every morsel or like to engage with others in-between mouthfuls. Well, guess what? Some babies are like this too. Similarly, some babies (like some adults) waste no time in filling their face (I’ve been known to eat a tub of Pringles in 10 minutes flat – FULL-SIZE! booooyah!) So, how long should you feed your baby for? The answer is simple – for as long as he wants! There is no set rule for the amount of time a feed should take. Do yourself a favour and don’t rely on the clock as a gauge of how much your baby is consuming. Some little heavyweights can drain a breast in 5 minutes flat, for others, it’s 40 minutes. Both are normal.

Introduce solids early

As we’re on the topic of timeframes, I wonder how Jo approaches the touchy question of when to introduce solids?

Don’t expect your baby to sleep through the night consistently until he’s on solid foods” (p91).

Following that bombshell, she adds a caveat:

Whether you breastfeed or not, breast milk or formula is all your baby needs for the first three months” (p96).

Three months?? Yup, this is yet another book that’s big on premature solids introduction:

Paediatricians recommend starting solids at six months, but I believe that you may find your baby getting hungrier before this” (p146).

Dudes, if your baby is hungry before 6 months, just give more milk. The mother that decides to take (the woefully unqualified) Jo Frost’s advice over that of a paediatrician adhering to WHO guidelines should be put in the stocks and pelted with rotten fruit.

Spoonin' the mush, from p157.
One sign that a baby is simply not ready for solids is that if you try to spoon food into their mouth, the unripe cherub will respond by instinctively pushing the food back out with his tongue (known as the ‘tongue thrust reflex’); yet Jo attributes this reflex to some fictional diluting mechanism:

Be aware that babies of four to six months poke their tongues in and out to make saliva to water down the food before swallowing it, so don’t interpret that as a rejection” (p147).

Then, to further nudge you into introducing solids early, Jo dangles this well-thumbed carrot:

The good news about adding solid food is that he’ll be more likely to sleep through the night” (p146).

Folks, this is Simply. Not. True.

As if advising the premature introduction of solids wasn’t bad enough, Jo then (in complete contravention with medical guidelines) directs you to stop offering regular milk feeds. Her rationale? Milk feeds (the most important part of a baby’s diet) will ruin your baby’s appetite for solids (the least important part):

If you keep offering breast milk or formula all day, he may not get hungry enough to eat the solids he needs” (p170).

And what does Jo recommend your baby washes down their solids with?

Serve baby juices along with food to avoid problems with constipation” (p149).

Children, and especially babies, do not need any fruit or vegetable juice to have a balanced and healthy diet, even so-called ‘baby juice’ which is just a marketing ploy. Sure, juice comes from fruit, but that doesn't mean it's healthy. The fibre in fresh fruit is largely lost in the juicing process, and what's left is a whole lot of sugar, making juice a leading cause of tooth decay. What’s most bizarre (and hilarious in a “haha, let’s point at the nutter” sort of way), later in the book Jo actually highlights the perils of juice consumption:

If you offer juice, even diluted, babies quickly prefer it because it’s sweet. There’s no need to encourage a sweet tooth!” (p172).

And now, with baited (juice)breath, we turn to the ‘Breastfeeding’ section of the book. What is the likelihood of this section having a lactivist approach? (Answer: about as likely as Simon Cowel pumping his moobs before a night out)

The inevitability of insufficient milk supply

Guess what? Breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally – at least to many mums” (p97).

An uplifting start there Jo! Do go on...

Having a milk supply that’s out of sync with the baby’s needs is a common breastfeeding problem” (p98).

Jo missed out an important word in this sentence, it should read “...is a commonly perceived breastfeeding problem”. Many women believe they are unable to produce sufficient milk, but the fast majority of them are mistaken. Heck, women in developing countries manage to exclusively breastfeed just fine, which makes Jo’s following assertion tres inaccurate:

You most likely will produce enough, if – and it’s a big if – you take good care of yourself. You can only make enough milk if you get enough sleep, eat properly and drink plenty of water and other fluids. You’ll be surprised how intense your hunger and thirst will be!” (p98).

This is insidious stuff. Even if we suspend logic for a second and take this trash to be gospel, how is a mother ever to know for sure if, - 'and it’s a big if' - she is sleeping, eating or drinking “enough”? Jo’s advice serves no purpose other than to feed the already-viral fear that mothers have of their apparent lactational incapacity. Jo, of course, knows this and so offers the following directive:

One thing that makes mothers anxious when breastfeeding is that you can’t see how much milk your baby is getting. Here’s how to tell all is well. After the first week, he should stay on the breast, breathing and sucking hard for 30 minutes” (p102-103).

Do you take exactly the same time to eat every meal of your day? Do you never have snacks or even a drink? Why expect less of your baby?! The mind boggles.

From p169.

So, while you’re sleeping, eating and drinking for Britain, AND using a pressure gauge and stopwatch during feeds, don’t forget to pencil in a consultation with a Buddist, because according to Jo, if you’re ever going to successfully breastfeed, you’re going to need it:

Stress can reduce your milk supply, so you want to create as peaceful an environment as possible” (p98).

And when you’re finished meditating, it’s time to visit a bio-chemist for a blood test to ascertain that you have the correct body chemistry:

Make sure you’re getting enough calcium, iron, vitamin D, folic acid and other nutrients through sensible food choices. Go for healthy meals and snacks as much as possible – that means lots of fruits and veggies a day. You need an extra 550 calories to produce enough milk for one baby. Stay away from shark, tuna, mackerel, tilefish and swordfish, as studies show they are high in mercury and other pollutants that can find their way into your baby’s brain” (p99).

On your travels, don’t forget to stock up on ice:

Use an icepack on your nipples before nursing. This will not only reduce pain but will help them stand up” (p103).

What a steaming turd. This supposed breastfeeding code of conduct – the eating, the sleeping, the drinking, the meditating, the vitamin consuming, the ice-packing, the pumping, the nursing pillow propping – all of this is Jo creating a catalogue of unnecessary hurdles and hardships. Trying to adhere to these requirements is likely to leave you emotionally and physically exhausted. But fear not, if you’re that emotionally and physically exhausted mom, Jo has advice for you:

If you find it too emotionally or physically exhausting, remember, bottle-feeding isn’t the end of the world” (p98).

Geee, thanks for that science lesson Jo. I’ve spent all my life equating bottle-feeding with Armageddon – NOT.

When Jo talks of bottle-feeding, she is of course, referring to formula feeding, but before we get to that section of the book, there’s one single page (one!) devoted to expressing breastmilk. Needless to say, it’s littered with the same old factual-faux pas, including:

Expressing gives dads the chance to bond with their babies” (p104). (Cause, like, they would never have ‘the chance’ to bond otherwise, right?)


Shake well after you put it in a bottle as the fat will have risen to the top” (p104).

Jo’s lack of acumen is blinding here. You should never shake human milk!

In geek-speak, here’s why: Shaking denatures the shaped molecules of the protective proteins, leaving only the pieces - the amino acids - the parts. Lactoferrin, lysozyme, and other protective components work their protection magic when they are in their original shaped molecular structure.

In other words, aggressive shaking can break some of the beneficial compounds in the milk. As Bond would say, "I like my breast milk stirred, not shaken."

Wean from the breast before 1 year

Then, Jo brings up the topic of weaning-from-the breast. Not wholly unreasonable you may think – that is, until you read that she recommends you wean at 9-12 months:

Around the one year mark, or perhaps a little before, it’s a good idea to wean off the bottle or breast to a sippy cup” (p194).

In the 9-12 months chapter:

You may have done it sooner; but at some point around now you’re probably going to wean your baby. From an emotional point of view, some women can feel very sad about the end of this intimate connection. One thing that helps is to recognise that by weaning you’re taking your bond to a different level. You can still have quiet times, those times when it’s just you and him. He’s still dependant on you; it’s just not about your breasts (if you’ve got any left, looking at those chicken fillets that you’re going to have to put in your bra!). Your baby will always be your baby, but now he’s heading toward toddlerhood. Your focus here should be on continuing to do your best as a parent to help your child reach healthy milestones” (p185).

Notice the snarky chicken-fillets jibe and the covert suggestion that weaning this early is a healthy milestone. In her next breath, she bins being subtle and launches into an ‘extended breastfeeding is bad for your marriage’ myth marathon:

I recently helped a woman wean her 14-month-old and it was completely liberating for her and her child. She hadn’t wanted to give up breastfeeding because of lack of intimacy with her husband. Now that’s changed too” (p185).

Let’s dissect this putrid cadaver: firstly, the fact that they needed helping suggests that neither baby nor mother were ready to wean; secondly, the weaning as liberating paradox; thirdly, the Daily-Fail-esc suggestion that mothers partake in extended breastfeeding because they have unmet needs; and finally, that breastfeeding takes a dump on your sex life.

Take the first point for example, what if mom is not ready to wean? Jo herself even concedes:

Emotionally, Mum needs to be ready to give up” (p193).

Yet then goes on to scold mothers who don’t feel ready to quit breastfeeding:

If you’re not, question whether your reactions are healthy and in the interests of your baby. I have seen toddlers walking over to the breast and have known that they’re using the breast as a pacifier. There’s a point where instead of nurture and bonding between the baby and the mother, there’s a complacency – she has become just a milking machine. Then it’s time to cut it off as there is nothing to be gained here” (p193).

Say WAT? First Jo acknowledges that the breast can function as a comforter; then in her next sentence she contradicts this by diminishing the breast’s status to ‘just a milking machine’. Logic fail. The breast provides comfort AND milk – what’s not to like?? Far from there being ‘nothing to be gained’, it sounds like the child’s got a pretty sweet deal. This is hardly a case of mom doing it purely for her own interests.

Yet, in this book, the mythical narcissistic mother prevails. When a mother wants to jump on the Good Ship Breastfeed, and this ship charters over anything but tepid waters, Jo suspects ulterior motives and emotional issues! Take the adoptive mother for example:

Patronising toddler-speak: Jo knows her fans.
These days, there is a trend towards adoptive mothers taking hormones in order to breastfeed their babies. When it comes to injecting hormones, that’s a decision that should be made only after advice from a doctor. What are the possible side effects of taking such hormones? I would also most definitely advise any woman considering such a step to talk to someone on the emotional level as well, to explore why she wants to make that choice. Millions of babies have done just fine on formula. Are you doing this for the baby or for you?” (p227-228).

So if you’re an adoptive mother inducing lactation, Jo’s message is – you’re a nut job. You need psychiatric counselling. My message however is – bravo. How about instead of directing breastfeeding mothers for counselling, we direct their formula feeding counterparts? After all, they are the ones most likely to be consumed with guilt, shame, embarrassment and so on.

And on that note, on to the formula-feeding chapter!

Oh yay! The formula feeding chapter

In case you only have 1 brain cell,
here's what you need to do (p105).
Unsurprisingly, the risks of formula feeding are not given page space, nope, not a sausage. Instead, we have tit-bits such as:

Bottle-feeding makes it easy for Dad and others top help out around the clock” (p105).

(I dunno. I think putting a load of washing on or a quick hoover might be easier).

And the usual WHO-contravention:

There’s no need to heat formula – room temperature is fine” (p107).

After a few days, when you’ve figured out how many bottles he uses, make them up all at once, rather than having to do it on the spot when he’s crying” (p107).

(This is great advice! – if you want a vacation to the local emergency department).

Then there is this curious fairytale:

Bottle-fed babies move their bowels much less frequently than breastfed babies” (p108).

This may be true in the very early days, however because breast milk is much more bioavailable (aka: absorbable) than formula, there is much less waste coming out of the business end.

Ironically, on the topic of fairytales, there’s no ‘happily ever after’ with this book, just nightmares and therapy bills. It’s certainly not a book I’ll be renewing at my library any time soon.

But, let’s not be too harsh on poor ol’ Jo. She is merely a symptom of a modern society that has become painfully out of touch with the parenting styles that once made breastfeeding easy and successful. Case in point: look at the rhetorical devices that Jo uses throughout the book to frame her advice:

the false correlation between the bottle-wielding father and guaranteed paternal bonding;

the breastfeeding mother as martyr;

the disdain towards full-term breastfeeding;

the ruthless enforcement of militant routine;

the rejection of cosleeping;

- all of these are modern constructs, designed to pacify a mindset in which convenience is paramount.

Take the latter for example, an anti-cosleeping stance completely ignores the fact that mothers who sleep with their babies breastfeed for longer than those who don’t (Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, 2008; UNICEF, 2005). By relegating our infants to sleep in a room alone we are reaffirming the regressive disconnect that characterises modern living. We take this a stage even further when we leave our babies to cry.

Rest assured, I will be tackling the thorny issues of anti-cosleeping and cry-it-out next week in the next instalment:

Sleep Training Edition Anyone?

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Triumphant Tuesday - Breastfeeding A Baby With Reflux

Myth: switching from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding will solve reflux. Fact: if you have a baby with reflux, it is still possible to breastfeed, indeed, it is even more important that you breastfeed! A baby with reflux is prone to gastrointestinal problems and because breast milk is designed for human babies and so easily digested, it is the perfect food for a reflux baby. In fact, due to babies’ inability to control the flow of milk from artificial nipples, there is an increased risk that reflux will be worsened with bottle feeding.

You are about to read the story of a mother whose baby displayed reflux symptoms from the very start of life. Here, she shares the struggles of public breastfeeding, ambivalent medical professionals, and the helplessness of watching one's baby in chronic pain. She also reveals easy tricks she formulated to ease her baby’s discomfort.

“Neve was a 'sicky' baby from the beginning. She also cried a lot for no obvious reason.  At just a few days old she would regularly vomit after feeds. It would look like brown mucus. Sometimes she would vomit what appeared to be an entire feed.

Trouble breathing

At 10 days old Neve had a snuffly nose which refused to budge no matter what we did. This carried on until a few weeks later, her breathing sounded so laboured that we phoned the NHS helpline. The nurse we spoke to, upon hearing Neve’s breathing over the phone, called an ambulance. We were rushed to the local hospital paediatrics unit. By this point Neve was 5 weeks old and was being sick after every feed, groaning in pain, whimpering and not sleeping well.

After answering the same questions over and over again, the paediatrics finally diagnosed reflux. Apparently, the snuffle was a major symptom. I was relieved to finally have a diagnosis, but disappointed with the treatment. As Neve was gaining weight, the paediatric consultants really didn't see the problem like we did. Instead, they simply sent us on our way with a prescription for gaviscon. We weren’t given any advice on how to administer it. I premixed it and then administered it with a bottle or syringe at the end of each feed. As you can imagine, feeding on demand and trying to give a full (and usually sleeping) baby gaviscon was a complete nightmare. Plus the fact she was still being sick after nearly every feed so hardly keeping any medication down in any event.


The amount of sick I was cleaning up was ridiculous. Sometimes it would be small and often, sometimes it would be a full feed. I always had a muslin or bib with me and would dread feeding in public. I also feared other people holding her in case she was sick on them. Our family were very concerned but didn't know how to help.

It all felt pointless and very upsetting. I can remember sitting crying as I tried to feed her one evening and she kept coming off the breast and screaming. I felt like I was poisoning her with my milk. I had to stay very strong and determined to persevere with breastfeeding. I could have very easily given up many times but I knew in my heart that I was doing the best for my daughter by breastfeeding and formula would have more than likely made her more ill.

I found keeping her upright as much as possible helped a little. By keeping Neve in an upright position both during and after breastfeeding, gravity could help prevent the milk from coming back up.

New medication

At 12 weeks we had a review with the paediatrician and made it clear that gaviscon was not working. Consequently, they prescribed ranitidine. We came out with huge smiles on our faces thinking this was the answer to our prayers. It was not. Neve continued being sick after every feed and groaning and straining.

At this point I had cut dairy out of my diet which seemed to ease her symptoms somewhat and made me feel like I was doing something. It also helped to have Neve sleep on our chest for naps and to give her plenty of night feeds (these seemed to stay down the best). As Neve was gaining weight well, we block fed (nursing on only one breast for a couple of feeds, then switching). As the lactating breast never truly empties, this enabled Neve to will be rewarded with a slower flow of milk which soothed her burning throat without overfilling her stomach. We co-sleeped to facilitate these regular feeds.

Light at the end of the tunnel

At around 16 weeks we decided to stop all meds as she was still being sick so for me they weren't worth it. I have to say I'm so glad I did.

With time her sickness has improved dramatically. I can 100% say I'm so glad I stuck with breastfeeding through all this. I know I would have always been wondering 'what if?' had I given up. It's been an invaluable source of comfort and nutrition for my baby as well as being so easy and free!

If you have a baby with reflux don't feel you have to give up breastfeeding, formula won't make it any easier - if anything, it'll be worse. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Get your own blank Bingo Card here.

Email me with your story to appear on Triumphant Tuesday!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Anti-Breastfeeding Books - Part Four

If you thought I’d stop at a trilogy – you were sadly mistaken, my friend. Alas, the bookstores and libraries of the world are shamelessly marinating in books that, by no stretch of the imagination, can be deemed to spit on the name of breastfeeding. It’s my mission to expose them one-by-one, even if it means writing these posts into old age.

A few disclaimers before we begin: This post will be depressing at times. It will stretch the boundaries of belief. It will contain swearing. It will showcase jaw-dropping evidence of ass-hattery. It will make you fear for humanity and want to live with wolves. On that note, let’s begin!

You’re the Daddy: The ultimate guide to being a new dad for blokes.
Stephen Giles

This book is written for dads, by a dad. Women are not the target here. Yet dads have an important role to play in facilitating breastfeeding, which makes this book even more insidious with its anti-breastfeeding mansplaining marathon. Before I leap into the bog of despair, I concede, to his credit, the author Stephen Giles, does mention that breast is best, albeit in a half-assed manner:

Breastfeeding is the best method of feeding by far. Your partner has this fact rammed down her throat at every opportunity by the hospital, midwives and health visitors and the pressure can be huge” (p60).

This outburst sets the tone for the book’s resistant approach to breastfeeding. The book follows Stephen on his journey through early fatherhood, month by month. And boy, does the misinformation start early. On postpartum day one, Stephen warns us that women will suffer from:

seriously engorged and painful breasts filled with milk” (p6).

On day one? Really? The average mother’s milk does not come in until 3-5 days postpartum. Imagine the panic a well-weaning dad could evoke when he tells his partner that her breasts should be engorged less than 24 hours after birth.


'The first week' chapter is heralded with a bottle icon. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, here Stephen tells us that Oliver (the baby) “isn’t taking well to breastfeeding” (p56). There’s no elaboration given, leaving the reader to presume that babies simply reject breastfeeding for no good reason. Stephen adds to the mystery by berating his newborn:

I can see why so many women give up breastfeeding early on. The genuine belief that it is the best form of feeding for a baby is clear to anyone who reads the facts. But no one takes time to explain the real frustration felt by both parents when their child can’t master the essential skill necessary for their own survival” (p58).

I think you hit the nail on the head yourself there Stephen. If babies simply ‘malfunctioned’ at the breast, we would be extinct as a species by now. Yet Stephen believes the answer is to reach for the bottle, something our ancestors never did:

I’m pretty mixed up as to how we are expected to increase his body weight but not resort to bottle feeding. It’s like a sick joke” (p58).

No Stephen, I’ll tell you what’s a ‘sick joke’, your next pitiful, defeatist lament:

You have a balancing act on your hands – while you want to keep your baby healthy, now is the time to be the ‘master of your house’ and insist the baby goes on formula milk” (p60).

BOOM there it is. As master of the house it is the father's job to insist on bottle-feeding! After dropping this bollock, Stephen loses no time in dropping the other:

Feeding the baby yourself is a great experience, and is about as close as you can get to your baby” (p61).

The lovely Stephen.
Following this recital of the paternal bonding myth, he then moves onto the topic of postpartum recovery, reassuring his male readers that:

with a sensible diet and a bit of gentle exercise your partner should be able to get her pre-pregnancy figure back sooner rather than later” (p69).

I don’t know what’s worse - that enhancing the mother’s physique is at the forefront of his concerns (a week after delivery!) or that he fails to mention breastfeeding’s pivotal role in the process.

Rather than being the gift that keeps on giving, this book is the tight-ass that keeps withholding – the facts. Whilst throwing in some token nods to the ‘breast is best’ rhetoric, it fails to list any of breastfeeding’s actual advantages. For instance, the book devotes an entire section to “Guarding against cot death” (p53) but fails to mention that formula feeding increases the risk and therefore breastfeeding is a notable safeguard.

Instead, Stephen gleefully adds to his menu of myths. This time, the dish of the day is breastfeeding’s incompatibility with sex:

Breastfeeding women aren’t likely to be too fussed about having their nipples chewed by an enthusiastic lover. Nipples might be especially sensitive and ones that have a baby clamped to them for best part of the day can be sore and cracked” (p89).

After this delightful narrative, it should come as no surprise that after exiting the ‘first month’ chapter Stephen informs us that his baby is....drum role.....

...on the bottle now – the cup feeding was messy and inefficient and I don’t think Elle’s [his wife] nerves could stand feeding him directly from the breast. This way around we know how much he is drinking” (p91).

Oh, that old nutshell – the need to gauge how much baby is drinking. In reality, this information is not as useful as the novice may assume. What goes in, often comes out prematurely, in the form of reflux and posseting (common in bottle-fed babies). Rather, a baby’s diapers will tell you what’s been happening over the last few hours, and his behaviour, weight and general appearance will tell you what’s been happening over the last few days. No need to go all Science Club on it. But regimented routine is where it’s at for Stephen and his missus:

He feeds every four hours, like clockwork” (p91).

I wish Stephen ran like clockwork, then I could remove the key. But alas, he keeps trotting out more and more bovine fecal matter. In a section titled ‘A solid start’, he looks at the correct time to introduce solids. This, he believes, is whenever baby exhibits signals that sound suspiciously like normal growth spurts:

If the baby starts to show interest in what you’re eating and doesn’t seem full after a normal milk feed, then it’s probably time to start introducing solid foods” (p137).

Aptly, the cover design also reflects
my expression when I read this book.
The mansplaining then shifts up a gear in the “Three months” chapter where Stephen resumes his hobby of harping on about women’s post-pregnancy physique:

You may be shocked by how slowly your partner’s pre-pregnancy figure is returning...help her regain her slender shape by encouraging her in two key ways...” (p97).

I’m stifling a headdesk here. Go on then Stephen, what are the two ways men can get their women into shape, educate us.

Number 1: Food. The food your partner eats is still being converted into essential nutrients for the baby, through her breast milk. So she will need to eat well for the next few months. However, eating a lot of empty calories won’t help her or the baby” (p98).

Woe betide the man who tells his postpartum, lactating wife that she shouldn’t be eating cake.

She needs to cut out fatty foods and eat plenty of starchy vegetables as well as salad, fruit, eggs and fish. If you want her to look her best, you could offer to cook more and gradually introduce high-energy, low calorie food into your diet” (p97).

Right, so Daddy should cook for Mommy only under the pretence of getting her to ‘look her best’, whatever the fuck that means. Dare I ask Stephen, are there any other figure-enhancing low-fat chicken nuggets of wisdom you wish to impart?

Number 2: Exercise: The best way to eliminate the post-baby bulge is to keep going on the pelvic floor exercises and some additional abdominal exercises should help” (p97).

Oh I’m sure with an attitude like yours Stephen, your wife will do some floor exercises – kicking you to it, then making you sleep on it.

He then goes on to talk of encouraging one’s partner to “go for some medium-length walks while pushing the baby” and “swimming” (p98).

As we speak, Andrea Dworkin is preparing a special seat in hell for Stephen.

But alas, I’m going on a feminist tangent. Let’s return to breastfeeding. If you’re still feeding the baby straight from nature’s tap by 6 months (bravo), Stephen suggests that you now consider weaning the baby off breast milk. Yup, at six months. WTAF!

She’s [his wife] begun the slow and difficult process of removing herself from him. We’re working out ways to wean him gradually off breast milk – Elle’s never going to be able to work in her ultra-male office environment and still express milk every day” (p129).

Stephen doesn’t bother to mention the legislation that exists specifically to enable poor Elle to do so. And with this, Stephen’s tentative journey with breastfeeding draws to an abrupt close. I’m sure when his son reaches adulthood, he will appreciate picking up this book and reading that everything is his fault.

Children’s Medical Guide
Dr Jane Collins

If you ever wanted another example of an ill-informed physician, have I got a book for you! This encyclopaedia of boobie-traps is disguised as an encyclopaedia of child health. The usual drivel resides between its pages, including:

If you breastfeed, fathers may feel they miss out on an opportunity to be close to their child” (p17).

Yeah, cry-me-a-river material here.

As is customary with encyclopaedic black and white thinking, this book begins by listing the advantages and disadvantages of each feeding method. Thus it assumes that mothers are automatrons and one can separate their experience into neatly designated boxes of ‘good’ and ‘bad. For instance, a supposed advantage of bottle feeding is that “feeding in public is easy” (p16) which presupposes that breastfeeding in public is hard. News flash: it’s not. Indeed, the pros of breastfeeding in public outweigh the cons. As another example, the book asserts that a disadvantage of breastfeeding is “only the mother can feed” (p16). This, of course, totally ignores the existence of breast pumps.

The semantics in this book reflect the same regressive ironies present in most mainstream ‘infant-care’ literature. The book asserts that a disadvantage of bottlefeeding is that it has “none of the health advantages of breastfeeding” (p16). If this text were factual, it would read: “Bottlefeeding carries health risks that are absent when you breastfeed”. But that would probably lead to hurt feelings, right?

Speaking of hurt feelings, the book then predictably and oh-so-tiresomely engages in a politically-correct back-rub for formula feeding mothers:

It is important that a woman who decides to bottlefeed her baby does not feel she has failed as a mother...Formula milk is specially formulated to replicate maternal milk as closely as possible” (p17).

This is clearly faux-reassuring hyperbole. The implicit message is: “Hey, breastfeeding is inconvenient, and heck, why bother, because formula is very close”. Sure it’s close, about as close as I am to having a polygamous threesome with Colin Firth and Jude Law in a bath of Lindor chocolates.

Just in case you haven’t been turned off breastfeeding by the trash spouted thus far, the author has another bash in the next chapter which she dedicates to the topic. Indeed, the breastfeeding chapter is a smorgasbord of myths, featuring such rot as:

You should eat an extra 500 calories a day if you are to produce enough milk” (p19)


You should drink an extra litre of water a day in order to help milk production” (p19).

People, listen up, just eat and drink whenever you’re hungry or thirsty, like nursing mothers have done for millennia. A mother’s breasts take what baby needs from her body stores. In countries throughout the world, during famines and wars, women have nourished their babies perfectly. One of the pleasures of breastfeeding is that you don’t have to weigh and measure everything – and that includes your dietary intake. Advice that imposes burdens on the breastfeeding mother serves no purpose other than making the act of breastfeeding unnecessarily complex.

Don't let this lovely photo from page 19 fool you.
Speaking of unnecessary complexity, get a load of this:

Try to rest as much as possible to allow your body to recover between feeds. An afternoon nap is good” (p19).

This advice is given under the bold heading “Your milk supply”. However surely such advice is applicable to all new mothers? Having a newborn is exhausting. Being tired is not the exclusive domain of the breastfeeding mother. In fact, with all the bottle washing, sterilizing and kettle boiling, it stands to reason that formula feeding mothers need more rest than their breastfeeding counterparts.

Other boobie traps in this breastfeeding chapter include:

It is best to empty one breast per feed” (p19)

Restricting a baby to one breast per feed is known as ‘block feeding’ and can reduce supply, don’t do it folks. Whether your baby feeds from one breast or both at each feed is up to him and how hungry or thirsty he is. A breastfeed can be as short as a few sucks or as long as three-quarters of an hour. Only your baby knows what he needs at that particular feed.

Next boobie-trap:

Be prepared for problems” (p19)

News flash: bottle-feeding has problems too, so why restrict this advice to the breastfeeding chapter?

Then, on the boobie-trap conveyor belt:

You can express by hand, but it rarely proves to be a very satisfactory method” (p20)

To this I diligently ask, ‘source?’ (or “SAUSE?!” if I’m feeling extra-sarcastic). Fact: hand expression has been shown to trigger the hormonal responsible for letdown more effectively, actually extracting more milk, improving the composition of milk extracted, with the added bonus that your hands are free and portable – literally, at your finger-tips. Yet this book omits those points and suggests the exact opposite!

It also denies the existence of tongue-tie. In all its 335 pages, tongue-tie isn’t given a look-in. This is very worrisome given that this is a medical guide, and given that 1 in 10 babies suffer from tongue tie. But think about it: arguably the largest impact of tongue-tie is upon successful breastfeeding, so its absence from this book is simply in line with its anti-breastfeeding paradigm.

A father being "given the opportunity
to be close to his child" (p23).
Indeed, this book is uniform in its application of convenience-based (aka selfish) principles of babycare. The author is obviously a fan of detactchment parenting, as evidenced by this cliché:

If you always accommodate your baby, he may become inflexible and used to having his own way in everything” (p26) – this advice is given in the ‘newborn’ section of the book. God help us.

And again, in this cliché:

If you decide to have your baby in bed with you beyond the first few weeks, you should be prepared to share your bed with her for several years... It can put stress on your relationship, not to mention your sex life” (p28).

The author clearly hasn’t sampled the delights of sans-bed intercourse. Is there anything better than having sex on the tumble-drier whilst it’s on full spin? I don’t think so!

And on that note, we’ll turn to the next book:

How Safe Is Your Baby...?
Annie Vickerstaff

Even the title of this book is needlessly alarmist. Hark at it, with its three periods followed by a question mark. Who does it think it is?

Essentially this book is a whistle-stop tour of a curiously narrow self-selection of ‘studies’ showing the dangers behind everything from flying whilst pregnant, toxoplasmosis, sniffing glue, eating cheese, and yes, even breastfeeding. Guess which one thing it doesn’t associate with risk? Go on, have a guess. It begins with F. No not that, you dirty mare, I’m talking about formula feeding.

To give you an idea of the anal depth this book is prepared to go when looking at safety, here's an example from the first section on the topic of pregnancy. The text tells us that listeria can trigger miscarriage, and then asserts that:

Via manure, listeria can affect vegetables, particularly root crops like potatoes and carrots. However it’s no good vowing to eat out of tins or packets, because they can contain it too” (p7).

Fact: listeria effects only 1-3 cases per million of the population per year. Scaring pregnant women away from consuming vegetables is not big and it’s not clever. At any rate, let’s not dwell on the topic of veggie-avoidance and instead take a gander at infant feeding. The breastfeeding chapter is 10 pages long and begins with a scaremongering lecture on alcohol consumption:

Alcohol is not recommended. It does get into breast milk, and this can slow down your baby’s progress in motor skills. Crawling and walking can be delayed. It may also make your baby restless and fractious, and as it can alter the smell of your milk, it could put the baby off feeding” (p129-130).

Back on planet earth, the reality is that breastfeeding mothers can still enjoy a tipple. Is the book referring to a bottle of alcohol or a thimble-full? Who knows! That vital info is omitted. Instead, the text swiftly moves onto caffeine:

Lay off the caffeine, tea, chocolate and cola drinks” (p130).

Lay off chocolate?!! Back off! Chocolate is every breastfeeding mother’s birth-right! Coca-beans are a valuable antioxidant (or so I tell myself). To suggest that breastfeeding mothers lay off chocolate is analogous with masochism. It’s akin to ordering us to chain ourselves in a dungeon, wait for Mr Grey and be done with life!!

But the book isn’t finished with breastfeeding's supposed  life-restrictions. Next on the list of bad stuff to avoid is, ironically, most foods:

Everything you consume will pass into your milk, and there are some foods that your baby just won’t like (“Mother! Not foie gras with pop tarts, please). Common triggers for colic include broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and onion and dairy products” (p130).

See what the book is doing here? It is taking a time-honoured perk of breastfeeding (that baby receives a range of tastes via breast milk, priming the taste buds of your little future foodie) – and turning it on its head, implying that this evolved-for-a-reason mechanism is somehow pathologic! Similar bogus limitations are imposed with regard to allergies:

Does what you eat affect whether or not your baby has allergies? The short answer is yes. If it has a reaction to something you’ve eaten it may get a skin rash or hives, start wheezing, and produce green or slimy poo. A study looked at whether peanut allergens could be detected in breast milk. 23 lactating women were given 50g of dry roasted peanuts to eat, after which their milk was sampled at hourly intervals. Peanut protein, including 2 major allergens, was detected in 11 of the 23 subjects’ milk. In 10 of the 11 it showed up within 2 hours of ingestion” (p142-143).

Sure, you could base your decision of whether to enjoy a Snickers on a study of 23 women – OR – you could listen to the UK National Health Service, who reassuringly assert that if you want to eat peanuts whilst breastfeeding, go right ahead, it’s a-okay.

More alarmist info abound, re: smoking while breastfeeding:

The same provisos for smoking while pregnant apply to breastfeeding. Nicotine does get into breast milk, and it can decrease milk supply and cause nausea and vomiting in your baby” (p131).

The text then gives a sermon on the abomination of smoking around children, which is an admirable stance, however why restrict it to the breastfeeding chapter? Surely some formula feeding mothers smoke too? Also, the claim that smoking while breastfeeding is on par with smoking while pregnant is hyperbolic nonsense. Yes, some nicotine enters breast milk but nowhere near the amount that crosses the placenta. What is particularly insidious is that the book conveniently forgets to mention that for smokers, it is still better to breastfeed than formula feed. Even the NHS explicitly directs that mothers should not stop breastfeeding if they smoke.

Just when you think it can’t get any more skewed towards shitting on breastfeeding, out plops this steaming turd:

Breastfed children are more prone to atopy (allergies) such as dust mites, cats, and grass pollen, and also more prevalent to asthma” (p134).

Oh, and with regard to asthma:

In a 2002 study breastfeeding not only didn’t have any protective effects, it may even increase the risk” (p134).

So the author hand-picks one single study to deter mothers from breastfeeding, yet as Unicef have assured, breastfeeding works to prevent asthma with the majority of the evidence showing a protective association.

If you still have the balls (on your chest, obvs) to breastfeed after reading this, you may be wondering how long to do it for. The sensible answer is, of course, for as long as you and your baby are comfortable, but this book takes a piss on that parade:

In many cultures children are breastfed for a couple of years, but this is often seen as impractical in the west... with the prevailing opinion being somewhere along the lines of ‘still breastfeeding at 18 months – how weird’” (p141).

And chuck in this needlessly-irrelevant throw-away remark:

Bitty at 23 is a tad extreme” (p141)

... and I’m sensing this book isn’t a fan of full-term breastfeeding.

Then, as a finale to the breastfeeding chapter, a recap is provided:

Keep your diet free of known triggers like nuts, dairy products and eggs. And fish. Plus alcohol, caffeine, soya, broccoli, cabbage, onions (in case of colic) and no fags. Still, look on the bright side: you’ll be getting so little sleep that you won’t notice” (p136).

After this glowing appraisal of breastfeeding, we turn to the ‘bottle feeding’ chapter – all one single page of it. Yup, the chapter consists of one page. Just three itty bitty paragraphs:

I shit you not, this is the bottle-feeding chapter in its entirety. Notice advantages are listed, yet no disadvantages. Not a single one. Bias agenda much? That’s precisely what this book is, in an (allergy-inducing) nutshell. Which is hardly surprising when you consider that it’s published by the same folk who brought us: You’re the Daddy (above). In fact, it even advertises said publication at the end:

Like sticks with like.

Jump to: PART FIVE (If you dare).

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