Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Interesting Reads

I found this and completely agree:

The same doctor also wrote the following, but my husband edited for clarity and grammar.

The normal newborn and why breast milk is not just food

Ah, yes...

I have often told people that I have a twisted view of parenting.
Well, here it is, in all its glory.

What is a normal term human infant supposed to do?

First of all, a human baby is supposed to be born vaginally.  Yes, I
know that doesn't always happen, but we're just going to talk ideal,
normal circumstance for now.  We are supposed to be born vaginally
because we need good bacteria.  Human babies are sterile, without
bacteria, at birth.  It's no accident that we are born near the anus,
an area that has lots of bacteria, most of which are good and
necessary for normal gut health and development of the immune system.
And the bacteria that are there are mom's bacteria, bacteria that she
can provide antibodies against if the bacteria there aren't nice.

Then the baby is born and is supposed to go to mom.  Right to her
chest.  The chest, right in between the breasts is the natural habitat
of the newborn baby.  Our cardiac output, which is how much blood we
circulate in a given minute, is distributed to places that are
important.  Lots goes to the kidneys every minute, about 10% or so,
and 20% goes to your brain.  In a new mom, 23% goes to her chest -
more than to her brain.  The body thinks that place is important, and
rightfully so.

The chest area gives heat.  The baby has been using mom's body for
temperature regulation for nine months.  Why would they stop now, and
what other option do they have?  With all that blood flow, it's going
to be warm.  The baby can use mom to get warm.  When I was in my
residency, we would put a cold baby "under the warmer" which meant a
heater thingy next to mom.  Now, if a baby is "under the warmer," the
kid feels as if it is under the mom.  I wouldn't like that.  I like
the kids on top of mom, snuggled.

Now we have a brand new baby on the warmer.  That child is not hungry.
Bringing a hungry baby into the world is a bad plan.  And really, if
they were hungry, can you please explain to me why my kids sucked the
life force out of me in those last few weeks of pregnancy?  They
better have been getting food, or that would have been annoying and
painful for nothing.

Every species has instinctual behaviors that allow the little ones to
grow up to be big ones and keep the species going.  Our kids are born
into the world needing protection.  Protection from disease and from
predators.  Yes, predators.  Our kids don't know they've been born
into a loving family in the 21st century - for all they know it's the
2nd century and they are in a cave surrounded by tigers.  Our
instinctive behaviors as baby humans need to help us stay protected.
Babies get both disease protection and tiger protection from being on
mom's chest.  Presumably, we gave the baby some good bacteria when
they arrived through the birth canal.  That's the first step in
disease protection.  The next step is getting colostrum.

A newborn baby on mom's chest will pick their head up, lick their
hands, maybe nuzzle mom, and start to slide towards the breast.  The
kids have a preference for contrasts between light and dark, and for
circles over other shapes.  Think about that.  There's a dark circle
not too far away.

Mom's sweat smells like amniotic fluid, and that smell is on the
child's hands (because there's been no bath yet) and the baby uses
that taste on their hands to follow mom's smell.  The secretions
coming from the glands on the aureole (that dark circle) smell
familiar and help the baby get to the breast to get the colostrum
which is going to feed the good bacteria and keep the baby protected
from infection.  The kids can attach by themselves.  Watch for
yourself if you need further proof.  And if you just need colostrum to
feed bacteria and not yourself, well, there doesn't have to be much.
And there isn't much because the newborn isn't hungry and does not
need immediate sustenance.

We're talking normal babies.  Breastfeeding is normal.  It's what
babies are hardwired to do.  2009 or 209, the kids would all do the
same thing:  try to find the breast.  Breastfeeding isn't a magic
.  It's not "best".  It's normal.  Just normal.  Designed for
the needs of a vulnerable human infant.  And nothing else designed to
replace it is normal.

Colostrum also activates things in the baby's gut that then go on to
make the thymus grow.  The thymus is part of the immune system.
Growing your thymus is important.  Breast milk equals a big thymus and
therefore, a good immune system.  Colostrum also has a bunch of
something called Secretory Immunoglobulin A (SIgA).  SIgA is made in
the first few days of life and is infection protection given
specifically to the infant from mom.  Cells in mom's gut watch what is
coming through and if there's an infectious agent, a special cell in
mom's gut called a plasma cell heads to the breast and helps the
breast make SIgA in the milk to protect the baby.  If mom and baby are
together and breast feeding, then the baby is protected from what the
two of them may be exposed to.  Again, babies should be with mom.

And the tigers.  What about them?  Define "tiger" however you want.
But if you are a baby with no skills in self-protection, beyond
wanting to stay with your mother at all times - having a grasp reflex,
and a startle reflex that helps you grab onto your mom, especially if
she's hairy, makes sense.  Babies know the difference between a
bassinet and a human chest.   When infants are separated from their
mothers, they have a "despair-withdrawal" response.  The despair part
comes when they alone, separated.  The kids are vocally expressing
their desire not to be tiger food.  When they are picked up, they stop
crying.  They are protected, warm and safe.  If that despair cry is
not answered, they withdraw.  They get cold, have massive amounts of
stress hormones released, drop their heart rate and get quiet.  That's
not a good baby.  That's one who is beyond despair.  Normal babies
want to be held, all the time.

And when do tigers hunt?  At night.  It makes no sense at all for our
kids to sleep at night, or alone.  They may be eaten.  Imagine the ape
who sets a newborn baby in a nest, and then retires to another tree
for a good nights sleep.  There's nothing really all that great about
kids sleeping through the night.  They should wake up and find their
body guard.  There are not as many threats in the daytime.  They sleep
better during the day.  (Think about our response to our tigers -
sleep problems are a result of stress, depression and anxiety).

I go on and on about sleep on this site, so maybe I'll gloss over it
here.  But everybody sleeps with their kids - whether they choose to
or not and whether they admit to it or not.  It's silly of us as
health care providers to say "don't sleep with your baby" because we
all do it.  Sometimes accidentally.  Sometimes intentionally.  The
kids are snugly, it feels right and you are tired.  So, normal babies
breastfeed, stay at the breast, want to be held and sleep better when
they are with their parents.  Seems normal to me.  But there is a
difference between a normal mother and one that isn't.  Safe sleep
means that we are sober, not smoking, not on a couch or a recliner,
but in bed, breastfeeding.  Being normal.  If the circumstances are
not normal, then sleeping with the baby is not safe.

That chest to chest contact is also brain development.  Our kids have
as many brain cells as they will ever have at 28 weeks of gestation.
It's a jungle of waiting to be connected cells.  We have like 8
nipples, a tail and webbed hands in the womb.  If all goes well, we
don't have those at birth.  What we do as humans is create too much
and then get rid of what we aren't using.  So, as you are snuggling,
your child is hooking up happy brain cells and hopefully getting rid
of the "eek" brain cells.  Breastfeeding, skin-to-skin, is brain
wiring.  Not just food.

Why go on and on about this?  Because more mothers are choosing to
breastfeed, and I want to encourage that.  But most women don't
believe that the body that created this beautiful baby is capable of
feeding that same child and we are supplementing more and more with
infant formulas designed to be food.  Why don't we trust our bodies
postpartum?  I don't know.  But I hear over and over that the formula
is used because "I am just not satisfying him."  Of course you are.
Babies don't need to "eat" all the time - they need to be with you all
the time - that's the ultimate satisfaction.

A baby at the breast is getting their immune system developed,
activating their thymus, staying warm, feeling safe from predators,
having normal sleep patterns and wiring their brain, and (oh by the
way) getting some food in the process.  They are not "hungry" - they
are obeying instinct.  The instinct that allows us to survive and make
more of us.


april said...

Thank you Heather. I got together with an old friend yesterday. We both have two kids. When hers appear sleepy she goes and lays them down, they fuss for a few minutes and then they fall asleep. Lola went up in the Babyhawk and was bounced/swayed to sleep since weren't home. We were at this friend's parents' home and her stepmom shared many views with me of where I had failed my children by not putting them down to sleep alone from a very young age and also how I was breastfeeding for quite a ridiculous length of time. Even though I am pretty confident in my parenting I found myself wondering on the ride home if I had blown it with sleep issues. Anyway, thanks for the link to the article, good timing for me. Oh and Lola was up in the night with a fever and it was so nice to snuggle up next to her and let her nurse back to sleep every time she needed it.

Heather said...

I too second guess myself from time to time. Finnegan is not the greatest sleeper and there are days when he drives me mad. I was just talking to Mathew about sleep and how I don't know how to do it any other way. I can't put down a brand new baby and let it fall asleep outside my arms. It's a concept that is completely foreign to me. I suppose that if this is the wrong way to do it and we have failed our children, at least they have always had their needs met and haven't had to fall asleep alone.

GreenRanchingMom said...

Such a WONDERFUL article!!! It has been great to grow as a mom, and now look back at all the different things I did with my first, that I would not do with my third!

Andrea said...

I am a mother who put her babies to sleep "outside of her arms" because that is what felt right for our family. That being said I constantly second guessed myself that I should be holding them and enduring the criticism from my mother for holding them. Also, my oldest has taken to sleeping with us more nights than not because that is where she feels safe and I am certainly not ever going to make her feel she is not welcome in my bed. It turns out I like having her there because I feel like she is safer. When my son decides he wants to sleep with us then we will make room. I will likely not have a chance to "do over" with another child of my own, but if I did, there would definitely be some changes.