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In Defense of Breast Feeding

May 16, 2012

I’m sure that most of you saw the Time Magazine cover depicting a mother nursing her 3 year old son.

As a mom who breast fed for 20+ months and as a registered dietitian, I wish that the cover had not been such a cause for controversy.  Living in the U.S., we’ve somehow lost our way when it comes to what is “natural” and what is “perverse”. It saddens me that women are not comfortable to feed their children in peace and as nature intended…but instead are forced to hide out in dressing rooms, public bathrooms, or other such places when they need to nurse.

Countless times as I was feeding my daughter, I listened patiently to other mothers who told me “they just couldn’t do it”. They were intimidated by public opinion or skeeved out by the idea of nursing. We do that as a society.

Oh sure, formula works fine. You can survive on it, grow on it, and even thrive on it. Still, it isn’t the way that we were designed as a species and it does not provide the same immunological benefits that come from nursing your child.

Fact. My daughter is two weeks away from turning two. I can literally count the times she has had a fever unrelated to teething or been ill on one hand. We have gone to the pediatrician once for a respiratory infection in the past two years. Once. She is not allergic to any food and she eats a varied and balanced diet because she was introduced to all of the flavors in my own diet.

I do not condemn any woman who chooses formula or is unable to breast feed their child. There are options out there for everyone. I formula fed our adopted son and know that holding him and gazing into his eyes while giving him a bottle helped us to bond as I nourished him in the only way that I could. He was sick more often as a little guy–but he also had different circumstances by the way he came into our family at 11 months.

At 38, I am not easily intimidated when I know that what I am doing is right. It was easier for me to stand my ground when being leered at for feeding my child than it might have been when I was younger. I have a degree in nutrition and know the research and science that confirms I am doing the right thing. That made it easier to field questions and comments that were inappropriate to me. Even physicians threatened me that my child needed to wean for her “health” at one year.

If you have questions–go to the American Academy of Pediatrics website. Look at the World Health Organization websites. Americans are losing out on the vast benefits of breast feeding.

If you are intimidated–buy a good nursing cover and use it. Seek out support and find a role model to keep you going. My mother in law was a brilliant role model for me, as was my good friend D the labor and delivery nurse. Every time I thought I would give up…they kept me going. Breast feeding is free, it’s available whenever you need it and is an easy choice.

She is worth it.

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