Monday, August 6, 2012

Rational Baby Registry - Part 1 - Feeding

Baby registry "must have" lists were not written by rational people who are experts at raising independent minded adults. They are written by expert salesmen. Most child raising experts who weigh in are no better. Their expertise, most of the time, is in raising exactly what we have been raising--children, children who never grow up. Children used to dream of being grown ups. Now it's the gown ups who dream of being children. Worse, we are told that children are better than adults and adults should aspire to being childlike. This type of child rearing is exactly why we have a patronizing paternalistic government.

Here is what Baby's-R-Us calls the "must haves" of feeding items:


Philosophical issue: We know that our species evolved nursing its young. We know that women in primitive societies nursed their babies for 2 to 5 years. We know that mother's milk is "natures most perfect food." We know that from his mother's milk, a baby will receive antibodies that will protect him from getting sick. We know that both mother and baby receive large doses of hormones during breastfeeding, the importance of which we cannot quite be sure as science does not have a full grasp on the role of hormones in influencing our life, health and evolution. One thing we do know is that hormones are extremely powerful and unreleased hormones in our bodies contribute to cancer.

On the flip side: We know that most French babies are not breast fed and the French are surviving--though they do suffer from many of the same Western diseases that we do, including an increase in infertility. [Many people use this as a formula defense so I mention it here, however, philosophically, I disagree with holding an unhealthy population up as an example of why x decision would be rational.] We know that there have been cases of formula causing sickness and death in babies across the world but that this is a rare enough occurrence that many parents still feel comfortable using formula. We know that we don't know all there is to know about vitamins and there could be many vitamins in breast milk that are yet unrecognized and provided for in formula. We know that doctor's never learn about breastfeeding in medical school and formula companies give them gifts and "educational" dinners/parties/vacations where they are taught that it is possible for a woman to not make enough milk for her baby, that a baby can be allergic to his mother's milk and that a baby will be iron deficient if he only drinks his mother's milk for too long. Few people question the validity of these claims even though our species could not have survived if they were true.

The decision is: Do you think man with his hundred year old and very incomplete science of nutrition knows better than four billion years of evolution? Whom do you trust more: your body or formula companies? Since it is highly probable that there is more going on in the hormone exchange than we know about, if you value your baby's health, is it worth the risk?


Practical issue 1: Breastfeeding is far easier than pumping. There is nothing to heat up--the milk is always warm. There are no dates to check--the milk is always fresh. There is nothing to clean or sterilize, nothing to store and no bottles or parts to remember. As a new mom overwhelmed with the sheer amount of Things To Do, the pumping, storing, cleaning regime is a huge time drain.

Practical issue 2: Your breasts fill up with milk (similar to your bladder) and you want to empty them. It's a nice idea that you will pump and dad will feed the baby and you will sleep but... that may not happen. If you go for too long without emptying your breasts, you might be so uncomfortable that you can't sleep.

My story: I registered for and received a great Medela pump. I had planned for Dad to do the 11pm "dream feed" but when it was time to feed the baby, my breasts were always way too full and hard for me to sleep and keeping everything clean was such a hassle that we gave up on this after a week or two.

I pumped milk and left it with the babysitter so my husband and I could go to a movie and dinner. By the time the movie was over my breasts were so full and uncomfortable there was no way I would make it through dinner so we went home. The baby, having eaten the milk I previously pumped, wasn't hungry so I had to pump again. In addition, because I had pumped extra milk out the day before, my breasts, responding to the new level of demand, were making more milk than my baby could eat.

I decided that pumping made things overcomplicated. Why not just bring the baby and sitter to the movies, nurse the baby in the car and go into the movie while the sitter takes the baby for a nice long walk. We could go home after or I could nurse the baby in the car in between the movie and dinner. Nothing to plan, remember or clean up and no over supply or under supply issues.

Another time I tried to use the pump was for long car rides during the holidays. I pumped ahead of time so that there would be bottle ready in the car when the baby got hungry. I quickly learned that pumping, cleaning bottles, storing milk, defrosting milk, packing ice, putting it in the car, keeping the baby trained on how to use a bottle--it was all way less easy and fun than just leaving fifteen minutes early, pulling the car over and feeding the baby.

Money Saving Issue: Many people are not aware that if they do need to pump every now and then, they can do it the old fashioned way--with their hand. It's often easier (and definitely quieter) than setting up the pump and plugging it in and cleaning all the parts.

*If you are the working parent in your partnership, a pump will be indispensable.


This is a personal preference item. Some women have leaky breasts and others don't. You may want to wait and find out if you are a leaker before you invest in breast pads.

What I did: I received thick and fluffy organic cotton reusable nursing pads, bamboobies and boxes of both the Medela and Lasinoh disposables. The fluffy cotton ones left fibers sticking to my breasts that ended up in my baby's mouth so they did not work out. I liked the bamboobies but I would have had to own a ton of them or wash them all the time to make them more user friendly. The Medela and Lasinoh disposables were annoying as each pad had to be unwrapped before use. In the end, I was more likely to use paper towels or stray socks lying around.


Possibly toxic! Breast creams are made of lots of fancy things and always advertise that they are safe for your baby. I don't trust any of it except the 100% pure lanolin. Lanolin is purified sheep "fat" (it's actually more like a wax) that humans have been using for medicinal purposes since the 1800's and for other uses since 1600 BC. Note that some lanolin creams, like the one made by Medela, are not 100% pure lanolin and therefore I do not recommend them.

Many breast creams advertise being "lanolin free" so women think lanolin is bad but it's actually the opposite. Unless you are allergic to wool, then lanolin would not be advisable. For great about Lanolin check out and

A note on my personal experience: I did not find breast creams to be necessary except when I was experimenting with pumping. When I took fenugreek (an herb that increases breast milk supply) my nipples got insanely sore a few days later and no cream could make them feel better. I did this experiment with the fenugreek three more times to make sure I was correct that it was the herb that was making my nipples hurt so much and it was. Of course, it doesn't mean you will react that way.


Possibly toxic! The research on plastic gets scarier every year so the obvious choice is to use glass storage containers for your breast milk. You will still have to use a plastic pump and pump all the milk through plastic to get to the glass so there still could be some leaching.

My story: If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't bother. But since I thought I would want to be "free" from my baby and didn't know my breasts wouldn't really cooperate, I bought the Evenflo glass bottles to store my milk in as they are compatible with the Medela pump. 


This is a personal preference item except for--

Philosophical issue: There is a type of elastic nursing cover called a "boob tube" that women use for squirmy babies who try to peak out from beneath the looser types of nursing cover. This excuses the mother from teaching the baby this boundary and takes the choice of whether to respect that boundary away from the child.


This is a personal preference item.

Practical issue: Don't buy them until two weeks after your baby is born as your breasts might still change size.

On a personal note: I have three Bravado nursing tank tops that I love and use far more often than any of my nursing bras.


This is a personal preference item.

My story: I was given a Boppy and it did not work for me. Boppy's were not actually invented to be nursing pillows. I ended up buying a Breast Friend which I loved but rarely used as by the time I bought it, I had discovered the ease of lying down to nurse.


This is a personal preference item.

My story: Newborn bibs were not necessary for me. My baby never spat up except after parties where I indulged in fake foods and by the time he was interested in eating food, he was around 6 months old. These bibs are helpful and I do use them but most of the time, it is easier to undress him for meals. Then I just have to wash him instead of him and his clothes.


This is a personal preference item.

What I did: I didn't buy them and never needed them. If there ever was a need, a nearby dishcloth worked just fine. Anders spit up maybe 3 times total when he was a baby--whenever I went to a party and ate junk food. The rest of the time there was no spit up to worry about.


Possibly toxic! You can store the milk or formula in a glass jar but it will still flow through a plastic nipple.

Practical issue: These are all things a nursing mother doesn't need to buy, store, clean and keep track of if she is staying home with her baby.


Toxic! With all the unavoidable toxins your baby will be exposed to, I don't understand buying a chunk of plastic for your baby to suck on.

Philosophical issue 1: Baby experts go on and on about how newborn babies need to suck. What I want to know is why was this trait passed on? It must have been useful. According to Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers, historically babies sucked on their mother's breasts for long periods of time even when they weren't nursing i.e. the mother was the pacifier. Perhaps the babies who spent extra time suckling stimulated more milk to be produced in their mother's breasts and got more food or perhaps the babies extra suckling caused hormones to be released and their mothers were more attached to them.

Philosophical issue 2: Using a pacifier with a newborn when he needs to suck is one thing, shoving something into his mouth in an effort to "shut him up" is bad parenting. How would you like it if you were telling your husband how sad you were and he stuck something in your mouth? Far more respectful to respect your baby's emotions.

Practical issue 1: Though pacifiers can be useful during the first few weeks when mom's nipples are sore, they are often used way beyond that, for years even. They become a comforting (toxic) habit rather than a useful tool.

What I did: I let my baby use me as his pacifier when I was available and when I wasn't he sucked on his organic cotton blankets or one of the pacifiers we were given. He outgrew his sucking-need around ten weeks. We never felt fully comfortable with the pacifiers though so we ended up getting rid of them after a short while, I want to say two weeks but it could have been a month.


Possibly toxic! Look into pure wood teethers instead of plastic ones or teething biscuits--I have never even found whole grain teething biscuits with passable ingredients.

What I did: I registered for (and received) maple teethers. My son chews on them at times--and everything else he can get his hands on. When his first teeth came out he mostly chewed on blankets.

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