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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Gettin' Your Baby Fix On, Similac-Style

Similac: Good to the la$t drop
A recent blog post by Amy West at Just West of Crunchy has brought to light Similac's attempts to further market their product - Abbott Laboratories has launched Night Nurse Nation, whose FaceBook fan page is specifically geared towards night-shift nurses.

The moderators of the fan page posted this thread recently: findings suggest babies who die of SIDS have "significantly lower levels of Seratonin." No mention of breastfeeding and how that can greatly reduce the risk. I suppose it would be a conflict of interest for them to drop that bomb - why, then, would anyone want to buy their product?

Shockingly, breastfeeding as a way to reduce risk doesn't appear anywhere in the article, either. (Isn't it ironic that they'd pick this article? It appears that a few people who left comments aren't buying it, either: I don't know if they're nurses, birth/breastfeeding advocates or what, but one woman said, "The greatest risk for SIDS occurs when babies are NOT breastfed. Period." Wait...listen for it: can you hear the pin drop?)

Another commenter felt, as I did, that the findings were inconclusive: what about Pitocin? Mothers who use antidepressants such as Zoloft? Another reader remarked, "Abbott Nutrition has no business getting in bed with Night Nurse Nation."

In Amy's blog post, she included a photo of RestFull, a product made by Enfamil designed for "bedtime feeding." From the descriptions I've heard, it's designed to keep babies' tummies full longer. Supposedly it's "thick" - honestly, it sounds like sludge.  I couldn't think of anything scarier or more ridiculous: not only is it like "gassing up" your car before a long trip, but it's almost saying, "That stupid ol' breastmilk - your baby's going to starve on that stuff!"

Recent studies have shown that formula-fed babies do wake up just as often as their breast-fed counterparts. So, even though breastmilk is easier to digest than formula, it doesn't mean that formula feeding will lead to fewer sleepless nights. (So, does that mean Enfamil will have to retract their claim - or perhaps pull their product - because of false advertising?)

As a graduate of the Bad Sleepers Club, I can tell you from my experience that it doesn't have anything to do with it. My oldest - my first, most perfect child LOL - was exclusively breastfed and slept through the night at four months. I was in heaven, ecstatic to tell my grandparents over the phone that their grandson was already sleeping through the night! Yippee!

Fast forward to his Princess Cranky Pants sister - or even to his baby brother - and neither of them slept through the night consistently until at least 18 months. All were exclusively breastfed for the first six months before the introduction of solids. And with Little Tater Tot, we're still perfecting it at nearly two years old (I say that in my best ass-dragging, I've been awake all night voice.) So don't tell me that formula will make my kids sleep. Every child is different.

Aside from all that, my post really isn't meant to reiterate Amy's, or even to go into the whole formula marketing debate. She does mention one thing that piqued my interest - about seemingly well-intentioned nursery nurses who want the mother to "rest" so they can feed their babies. Maybe they buy into the whole "formula will make your baby sleep longer" theory, or perhaps they ignorantly think breastfeeding is a waste of time. It's not unheard of for nurses to openly knock it and discourage mothers from even trying, perhaps because their own experiences with breastfeeding might have been less-than-perfect.

I have a different theory: that there is some kind of "baby fix" thing going on.

There is something special about feeding a baby. I often wonder if some people are jealous of breastfeeding moms because of the special mother-baby bond that is created. Perhaps they couldn't nurse, didn't want to, or gave up too easily and feel defensive about their decision, yet have regret at the same time; I don't know. Especially if the baby is bottle-fed, it seems like there is never a shortage of grandmas, aunts and others clamoring to feed your baby. Some even react with hostility towards breastfeeding moms because they feel they can't participate in that aspect of the baby's care.

I once heard the story of a mom who's mother and grandmother were so insistent on feeding the baby a bottle that they did so behind her back, even though the infant was breastfed. Therefore when it was time for the baby to nurse, she refused the breast.

A friend of mine who is in her 70's told me that when her sons were babies, her husband adamantly told her he didn't want her breastfeeding. His reasoning was that he wanted to take part in feeding the children, especially at night. He was a psychologist - I'm still wondering if there were deep-seated territorial issues the man had over certain aspects of parenting or something. I kind of looked at her and thought, Have you ever heard of a breast pump?

Some nurses feed your baby without asking. They did this with my youngest because his 'sugars were too low' - "We just do it, we don't ask," I was told by the nurse (as if she was expecting a fight). I was ticked, though, because if something was abnormal or wrong with my baby, I would expect her to tell me about it. And hey, breastmilk is nature's perfect food - how about putting him to the breast and seeing what happens with his supposedly bad "sugars?"

With my second, I staggered into the nurses' station in the middle of the night to get my daughter for a feeding. I don't even know why I did it; something in my internal clock (I could always tell right before my milk was about to let down) told me to go get her. I'm sure I looked a wreck, but the nurse asked me, "Wouldn't you rather me give her a bottle so you can get some rest?" I kind of looked at her like, "Why the hell would I do that? She's breastfed." At one point they wanted to take the baby back to the nursery so I could sleep, and I said, "Why? She's going to be waking me up all night long while I'm home - I might as well get used to it."

While I certainly never got any rest while in the hospital, I also fail to see how skipping a nursing session is going to help a new (or any) mom who is learning how to nurse, and can just result in painful, engorged breasts.

Amy West is cautious about how aggressive formula marketing and some nurses' persistence about bottle feeding in the hospital will encourage parents to use it solely in order to get more sleep, perhaps further undermining the new breastfeeding relationship. That still doesn't explain why my nurse would approach me about formula feeding after I've already successfully breastfed a child for a year and a half, other than she maybe just wants her baby fix. It seems that with some people, they get very territorial and protective of their 'right' to feed your child, as if it gives them some kind of control or a role in The Most Special Job Ever that normally is reserved for the mother. Aside from the obvious nutrition your baby receives at each feeding, there is the comfort aspect - the ability to provide emotional nourishment as well is a very intimate relationship that some people get very defensive about wanting to take part in.

While the formula marketing push certainly doesn't help, I think it's also rooted in psychology - I would venture to guess that some nurses (hopefully all!) get attached to their 'babies' and want to interact with them on some level, too. I just wish they'd find a more productive way to do it than sticking a bottle in their mouths. Rather than push formula, they should encourage parents, telling them that sleepless nights won't last forever, but to enjoy those nighttime feedings, however tedious they are - because you can never get that time back, and someday will probably miss it.

More reading:
MomBlog Network: SIDS and Enfamil "RestFull Formula: Yes, the Connection Exists"
The Case for the Virgin Gut - by Ann Calandro, RNC, IBCLC


Anonymous said...

I agree with you: every child is different. I co-slept and breastfed all my children. My first kept waking up until she was 3 y.o. She would wake up in the middle of the night in her room and just chant "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy". I would walk over there and she was laying in bed with a smile on her face. She just wanted to see me at 3am in the morning. :) For a first time Mom, it was the most annoying and wearisome thing in the world.

I survived that. With my second baby, he was sleeping through the night at 4 mo. old. I had to wake him up at 6am to nurse. He would suck on his hand, suck the sheets but refused to wake up and cry.

When my 3rd came along, I did it like a pro. I breastfed and co-slept with her until she asked to be moved to her siblings room at around 18 months old. She wanted to be with her brother and sister, be a big girl.

Now, with the 4th, I didn't start solids until she was 8 mo. old. Her main food source is still breastmilk, she is 11 mo. old. We co-sleep and she eats throughout the night, many times over. I just turn to her, hook her up and go back to sleep.

None of my children have ever tasted formula. The ones that I delivered at the hospital, I kept them in my room with me. When they were in the nursery for testing or whatever the excuse to take them away from me, I was there with them, or I had my Mom or my husband with the baby. I usually just stay one night at the hospital...there is no rest at a hospital room - nurses keep coming in all night long.

As for the Baby fix... we just let family members hold the baby all they want. So instead of giving baby a bottle, I let them cuddle baby and take a nap while the baby naps on their chest. I let them walk around with baby or sit and rock baby all day long if they want. But feeding time is Mommy time!! Everybody is happy!!!...including baby. :)

The Deranged Housewife said...

"I just turn to her, hook her up and go back to sleep."

I love it. :P

RaisingCropsAndBabies said...

There is something so special about breastfeeding. I know because I am NOT physically able to produce more than 2 Tbsp. of milk a feeding (even with the help of 4 lactation consultants, every herb/vitamin/tea/dose of Regalin under the sun, pumping in conjunction w/ bf and using that tubular device that runs along your nipple and they think they're nursing when they are getting formula from a pack that connects to it). My baby was starving and becoming lethargic. When my midwife told me to run to the store and get formula, that was harder to accept (at the time) than my son's birth injury!
I think a lot of women (who don't nurse,yet can produce milk thus choose not to breastfeed) are overly-defensive because it goes against their innate feeling of what's best and they instead settle on what's "most convenient" and they know it.
I still struggle with jealousy when I see little babies snuggled up to their mama's breast. While I still nursed and gave my babies what they could get before I bottlefed for that feeding, they never nursed past the 4 mos. mark when they realized "why are we doing this?" haha.
Even though I can't nurse successfully, I still try to be the only one who gives my babies their bottles. SO we still have that bonding time. I never let them hold their own bottle either.

A lot of the nurses with my second and third boys, about pushed each other over to give my boys their bottles. As well as my family, but I really tried to tactfully say that it needed to be a "mommy/baby" thing.

Sigh... I find it so annoying that women get mad when they hear "breast is best". It is, plain and simple. It hurts somedays to know that my babies get crappy powder that smells like fish food. BUT I'm not going to try to decieve myself and think that what they are getting even comes close to breastmilk. That it is "similar", blah, blah, blah.

We like to make ourselves and make others feel good and, sadly, that can crowd out facts and nature and science.

The Deranged Housewife said...

Did you ever get your thyroid or pituitary checked? Sometimes I wonder if there are underlying conditions that are going on - coupled, sometimes, with our own physicians' complete lack of knowledge when it comes to breastfeeding.

All the best to you! Thanks for the wonderful comment.

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps they couldn't nurse, didn't want to, or gave up too easily and feel defensive about their decision, yet have regret at the same time..." That described my mom perfectly. And when she came out to "help" with the baby, she was either hovering over me while i nursed my daughter (creepy) or beating me to the punch with formula! (always so i could "get some sleep") bizzare.