This is Post 2 in a series of posts about the World Breastfeeding Week 2014 theme Breastfeeding: Scoring the Winning Goal for Life. Goal #2 is

Achieve Universal Primary Education

BS_baby_readingWe often think of breastfeeding as a way of providing “optimal nutrition” for our babies, without thinking too much about what a big topic this can be. (And by the way – if we know that breastmilk is the normal food for babies, probably we should say that other things are “suboptimal nutrition”.)

Some Wrong Thinking

When I first started working with breastfeeding moms, we thought it was pretty normal for babies to lose up to 10% of their birthweight in the hospital. And a breastfed baby who was just getting back to birthweight at three weeks of age? Hey, no problem.

Problem. That was in a day when babies and moms were separated at birth, and babies went to the nursery at night. You were lucky if you got a nurse who breastfed her own baby, because she might have some ideas to help you with latching and positioning. We thought your milk might come in on Day 4 -5 with a first baby.

These days? Expect your baby to lose some weight ( 3-7% in the hospital, if it’s more get some more help with breastfeeding), hit bottom weight around Day 5 and back up to birth weight by Day 10. 

It’s amazing how well babies grow on breastmilk, and how adaptable the milk and the babies are. By Day 10, most moms are making about 25 ounces of milk in 24 hours. Guess what? That’s about the same amount you will make – and your baby will eat – when s/he is four months old.

Breastfed babies gain like crazy for the first 2-3 months, less rapidly from 3-12 months (WHO’s growth charts for babies to see what this looks like on a graph are easily found here. ) The reason they don’t need lots more volume of milk is that as their guts mature, they are able to use more and more of the goodness in the milk (read less poop!).

What does all this have to do with primary education around the world?

In many places around the world, one of the major worries about little kids is something called stunting. Sometimes from even before they were born, babies who’ve been basically semi-starved just do not grow well. UNICEF says,

Stunting is estimated by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to affect 800 million people world wide.

195 million children under 5 years of ages are stunted. 85% of the worlds stunted children live in 20 countries.

Stunting is not reversible after a certain age. To have an impact on stunting levels, nutrition interventions need to be targeted to women during pregnancy and to children from birth to 18 months of age.

And as we said in our last post – what we do here in the United States makes a difference. Because women around the world want their kids to have the kind of futures our kids have – and too often they think that we are giving formula to get our nice big, smart babies.

Here in the United States, it’s worth it to breastfeed even if we aren’t in danger of stunting our babies. A couple of fairly new studies point (once again) to how good it is to exclusively breastfeed.

Check out this info from last year: There’s 20-30% growth in white matter in babies who are exclusively breastfed for first three months – no formula. This research was done with a “Quiet MRI” and the study was done at Brown University.

And as much as the critics hate it and diss it, the experts continue to show that babies who are breastfed have higher IQ’s than formula fed babies, no matter what kind of families they come from.

I’ve had moms say to me, “I don’t need to breastfeed. I’m going to get formula from WIC.” But WIC was and is meant as a supplementary food program. If you decide to formula feed your child, you get enough formula to feed a ten pound baby. As your baby feeds and grows, they will need more formula – and you will need to buy it. What does that mean? It means that you’ll be buying formula with money you could’ve used for so many other things – and your baby will get less-than-optimal nutrition.

Talk to a friend, talk to family. Wander around town and watch some moms interacting with their babies. You may even see some lovely breastfeeding going on out there – because after all Nursing is Normal in Brattleboro (see the video here )!

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