This is an editorial from last week's Tiger Lily newsletter reprinted for the blog:
The current world views towards breastfeeding are complex and oftentimes frustrating. If you've been paying attention to the news lately, you'll know that recommendations were recently issued in the UK to begin breastfed babies on solids early. The recommendations stated that breastfed babies often become deficient in nutrients such as iron if not supplemented early.
The sad truth is, these same things have been said and refuted for decades. Yet mothers continue to be told that breastfed babies lack iron, Vitamin D, etc. They continue to be told that breastfed babies who are gaining slowly should be given formula or, for older babies and toddlers, weaned completely since breastfeeding “interferes with solids.”
Of course, sometimes I think that the problems many mothers face with breastfeeding are not helped by breastfeeding advocates themselves. Before you throw accusing looks my way 🙂 – hear me out. In our zeal to help mothers breastfeed we assure them that anyone can do it – it doesn't matter what you eat, how big your breasts are, if you came from a breastfeeding culture, or even if you have purple hair! Mothers make nourishing milk for their babies in many circumstances.
But the way to counter studies that undermine breastfeeding is to acknowledge studies that have shown valid results – that mothers can greatly influence the Vitamin D status of their milk by increasing their own Vitamin D intake. That the iron in breastmilk is highly absorbable, and that foods rich in natural, absorbable iron are acceptable to start babies on at six months (such as beef or lamb, and egg yolk).
It is important to empower mothers – yes, their bodies will make milk for their babies (and toddlers). And YES, we as mothers have the power to make our milk even richer and more nourishing for our babies. YES, we can choose to feed our children foods that they will thrive on – foods proven throughout many cultures and not invented by baby food companies. And YES, we can nourish our children with both breastmilk and solid foods – at the same time.
Getting defensive about the real difference mothers can make in their milk and in their child's health because it may accidentaly offend a breastfeeding mother who chooses not to change her diet is a mistake. “Tip-toeing” around issues in the name of being politically correct and “supportive” about breastfeeding does nothing to empower mothers. In fact, it hurts the many mothers who read mistaken advice such as we've seen in the last week and… believe it.
It is time to fully inform mothers of the awesome power they hold – and how remarkably their breastmilk and babies respond to their love, care, and effort to give the best.