Thursday, August 03, 2006

Breast Fed Babies....Less Anxiety Later

Whenever I read breastfeeding research like this, I always wonder if the results indicate better, almost magical nutrition makes the difference, whether the social bonding early and often with a mom snuggling them close makes a difference or whether the type of person who decides to nurse makes the difference, or all the above?

  1. There is no doubting the nutritional superiority of breastfeeding. It changes to meet a baby's needs. It has thousands of constituents that scientists don't understand and can't even dream about reproducing. It was clearly made for human babies. I mean, duh! We don't feed puppies Kangaroo milk. The question though is how much of a difference long-term does the nutrition make? Is it the nutrients, the stem cells, the what? That makes breastfeeding so great?
  2. There is no doubting the benefits to mother-child bond from breastfeeding. Oxytocin stimulates prolactin and relaxin. The mom is washed in biochemical love juice (as anyone who has cleaned up a blow-out knows, those feelings can be welcome at the end of a thankless day). The mom must slow down multiple times a day to be focused on her baby. You can prop a bottle at six weeks, and many moms do. You can't prop a boob. This forces loving contact over and over and over throughout the day. And anyone who has nursed a child longer notices that the emotional benefits to the child are phenomenal as the baby gets older. A sixteen month old toddler careening around the house helter-skelter calms down in a very sweet way when nursed. It's like drinking a glass of wine--it takes the edge off. Does this social benefit last? Does this intense, people-are-positive and reliable feedback loop create socially adept children and adults?
  3. Mothers who breastfeed, especially longer than a few months, are making a commitment to their child. This commitment is in the form of time. Nursing a newborn can take six hours a day or longer. Nursing an 18 month old can take an hour or more. Nursing changes a mom's diet. No booze. Trying to eat better. Trying to drink enough water. Nursing changes a mom's social calendar. Breastfed babies often don't take to being left for long stretches without food. They're picky that way. So breastfeeding means a different style of motherhood. Does this make a long-term difference in the child's psycho-social development? I don't see how it can't, but I'm not sure how easy it is to quantify.
Anyway, more evidence that breastfeeding is good for you. Some things, you have to work hard to find evidence that it is so beneficial to individuals and society (pot smoking, for example). Other things, like breast feeding just seem like the natural and best thing to do. Maybe 'cuz we're meant to do it.

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