At least 3 people a day write and ask me what my views are on breast feeding. It seems to be a major issue causing a great deal of confusion and uncertainty. What surprises me is how for the last 6000 years babies have been born, were nursed, and grew up to be emotionally and physically healthy without anyone telling their mama's how and when to nurse them. But since so many have asked, I thought I would give you my 2 cents worth as well. I covered the same subject on Mail Box Tape #3.
Nursing is instinctual, in the baby and the mother. It is so natural that I never dreamed it could be made into an issue. Let me tell you, cows are different one from the other. That's right COWS. Don’t get upset with me for introducing animals into a high and noble subject like human breast feeding. It is the loss of such knowledge that has caused this controversy in the first place. Beef cows can let their calves nurse all and any time they want, because they don't have much milk. Whereas Jersey calves would die if they nursed any time they wanted, because Jersey cows have too much milk, and so the calves only get the sugar milk. People are very much like cows in respect to nursing. Some are beef stock and some are Jersey. When a cow first delivers, she produces colostrum just as a human does. The newborn baby or calf needs all the colostrum it can get. It is a natural antibiotic for the baby, as well as serving other vital purposes. A cow and a mother only produce colostrum for 5 or 10 days, and then her real milk comes in. When the mother's milk comes in she usually has far more than her baby can use. Thus the baby nurses only part of the breast and never really drains the breast dry. That is a problem. Any mother who has had a baby with colic and diarrhea can attest to this. Just like that Jersey calf, the baby is getting too much “first milk”—not colostrum, that ceased after about 10 days. At each nursing, when a mother's milk first lets down, it is “sugar milk.” It is light blue and clear. As you milk the cow, or the baby nurses the mother, and the breasts begin to empty, the milk gets thicker and creamier. The very last milk left in the breast is cream, full of fat and very filling to the baby. When a baby gets a belly full of creamy milk he will not be hungry for several hours. If the baby gets the thin, clear, light blue, sugar milk he will be hungry in 2 hours and have a tummy ache with diarrhea to follow.
Herein lies wisdom. Use common sense. All down through the ages people raised animals, thus had enough common sense to know how to adjust their nursing problems based on the common knowledge learned from raising animals.
Do you have a colicky baby? Maybe he is getting too much sugar milk and not enough cream. Do you have a baby that is too fat? Maybe you need to increase your milk supply (try lots of water, Blessed Thistle and Brewers yeast) so the baby will not get so much cream. Does your baby wake every 2 hours and need to nurse? Maybe you need to manually expel some of your sugar milk so your baby will not get a “temporary full” but keep nursing to get some thick creamy milk as well. Should you let your baby cry-and-cry at night to train him not to nurse every 2 hours? Think. If the baby nursed 2 hours before and did not get anything but sugar milk, and he is starving, are you making your baby healthy by training him to endure hunger?
The new system of scheduling is designed to help the average mama that doesn't know anything about nursing to get the baby to be so hungry that he drains her dry, which allows the child to get sugar milk and the rich creamy milk as well. This “scheduling” has its good points and its bad points, as does indiscriminant “nursing on demand.”
There is the other side of the controversy— “nursing on demand.” This is more consistent with nature, because the baby knows when it is hungry. It is the way women all down through the ages have nursed. And it has worked for 6000 years. But we are a people who have lost our natural instincts of nursing and child training due to leaving the work God gave Adam. Working in a garden and dealing with animals teaches people a lot of common sense things that are missing in this technological culture. Therefore a young mother who has a new baby and is uncertain, knowing nothing of the natural workings of the body, will grab the baby up every time he fusses, thinking he is hungry. Thus the baby is constantly getting little snacks of sugar milk and has colic most of his first 6 months. It would seem in this new age we live in people have lost contact with the plain facts of life. It is the lack of common sense that causes people to need a plan to live by such as the nursing schedule. I am sure the schedule has been of help to many young mothers by causing them to unknowingly meet the baby’s need for the deeper cream received when the baby is really hungry and drains the breast. Without the schedule these same mothers would be tired, worried, and stressed, while their babies would be having colic or would be constipated because they were put on formula because they “couldn't digest mother's milk.” Yet, I have seen new mothers who followed the schedule to the minute and have skinny babies that scream. I wonder at their lack of natural instinct in following someone's ideas so closely.
The next BIG controversy that seems to have hit the normal “Back to Basics Homeschooling Family” is the issue concerning the family bed. This is also an issue where good common sense should rule the day. All my children were born in cool weather. Every night the temperature in the house would drop from cool to cold as the wood burning stove ran its course. My newborns wore tiny cotton hats to help hold their body heat, and they slept close to me in our king size bed. I never got up at night to nurse. I never even knew when the baby nursed. By the time the baby was walking and playing with the other children they were moved to their sibling’s bed (usually 3 to a bed). They would toddle in every morning to nurse before I got out of bed, or an older sibling would bring them and crawl in to join the crowd. It was a sweet time of cuddling with mama and daddy. If they found our door locked, they knew to wait their turn.
Even if I had lived in a house where the temperature never wavered from a comfortable 70 degrees, still I would have kept my baby in bed with me. It was never a consideration to put them in another room. After my kids were grown and I heard of the controversy over this issue, I went to the older ladies of our community, who each have 8 or 10 children, and asked them their opinion on the matter of nursing and having the baby sleep with you. Most gave me blank looks like they could not figure out what was wrong with me to ask such a silly question.
They all kept their babies in the bed (or within touching distance) until they are around walking age. They all nursed as often as the baby needed to nurse, but made sure the baby was not just taking snacks but emptying the breast so he would not be hungry for several hours. Most all the mothers have had a baby every 2 to 3 years, but seldom any closer. Heavy nursing has been the traditional means of birth control all down through the ages, allowing time between the pregnancies for the mother's body to get back in good shape to carry another healthy child. Most of the scheduled nursing ladies I have heard from say they began their monthly cycle soon after the baby was born, often getting pregnant by the time their newborn is 6 or 8 months old, thus, due to fatigue, were forced to stop nursing the first infant. Medical scientists have discovered that babies nursed for up to 2 years have a larger brain than babies fed formula. Women of Biblical times nursed their children until they were 5 years old. Remember the story of Samuel. Just for the record, I quit at 2-years-old.
So here you have a few facts and my 2 cents worth of common sense. Use it to make a decision that best suits you, your baby, and the life style your husband has chosen for your family.
Learn all you can from all points of view and then throw it all out and do what works best for you. Relax. Don’t chose sides and fight it out. It is not Bible doctrine. In departing from someone’s system you need not feel guilt or pride. The cows, goats, horses, and even rabbits have been doing it right all along and, if they could they would laugh that we “intelligent humans” ever bothered to discuss it.