I recently received a comment to my post on "Bone mineralization." The anonymous commentator states:
"Your reasoning is flawed, breast milk is the best nutrition for babies. However there needs to be comparable substitutes for mothers who are not producing enough milk, who have engourged breasts and those who are HIV positive. Thank God you are able to breast feed."
The only comparable substitute would be a mother's own pumped milk and in cases of low supply donor, human milk. Artificial milks have serious health consequences for all infants. Those health consequences may be obvious immediately or not so obvious-- impacting the individual when they are older (allergies, diabetes, heart disease, cancers). I do recognize that current availability of donor milk is limited . It is dependent upon where one lives, who one knows, insurance coverage, cost, etc. But mothers should know that there are health ramifications in using artificial milks.
Is low milk supply a problem that cannot be fixed? Very few women cannot fully breastfeed their infants. The medicialization of birth and breastfeeding often creates the problem of low milk supply. Low supply is often a ramification of separation of mother and baby. Separation can either be because of hospital procedures (prematurity or hospital routines). Or separation may be intiated by the mother or her family believing that separation is normal. There are various factors that can create low milk supply but almost all those factors are correctable with positive interventions.
Engorgement is another issue that can be corrected and this problem is more often than not a problem created by mother/infant separation. Engorgement is one of the more easily fixed issues in breastfeeding management. On the other hand if sore nipples are the cause of the engorgement then the problem is more complex but still fixable.
Hiv-positive mothers are actively discouraged by the CDC and the US medical community from breastfeeding. But the question is whether this is correct policy or policy driven by enormous monetary interests. Millions and billions are being spent by the US governement on universal testing and drugs. Hiv antibody testing creates a number of false-positive tests. There are a number of reasons one gets a false-positive reading from these tests. One of the reasons is pregnancy. Some US states require that all pregnant woment get a hiv antibody test. Do women understand that false-positives happen during testing? One is suppose to be retested after a positive test with a different hiv test. But all hiv tests have a certain amount of false-positives and pregnancy does create false-positives. There has been no studies which offer proof that hiv is transmitted through breastmilk. Studies have been difficult to do because components in human milk inactivate the hiv virus. There are patents on those components to inactivate hiv. Several of those patents are owned by infant formula companies. Thus, hiv-positive mothers will feed their babies formulas with genetically engineered human milk components to inactivate hiv. How ironic is that? We have studies that show that human milk components inactivate hiv but hiv-positive women are told not to breastfeed. In African we now know that this policy of hiv-positive women not breastfeeding has increased the mortality rates of their infants from diarrhea. Poorer nations have higher rates of infant mortality and breastfeeding has proven its ability to increase infant survival. Even in the US we have pockets of poverty where infant mortality is too high and closer to some poorer nations. In my county in Florida the white infant mortality rate is about 5% while the black infant mortality rate is about 14%. Far more infants in my state die from pneumonia, gastroenteritis, SIDS than hiv/aids in any given year. In looking at our statistics one year, there was one infant death of hiv/aids but 23 deaths from pneumonia, 17 infant deaths from intestinal infectious disease, 14 from septicemia, 139 deaths from SIDS. Human milk has protective factors for all these illnesses. A majority of the deaths were black infants. Most African American women bottlefed their infants.
The anonymous commentator wrote, "Thank God you are able to breastfed." I think this statement reflects a belief that breastfeeding is a difficult undertaking and that only by a miracle one breastfeeds. Our society, our medical communities make breastfeeding a difficult undertaking. It shouldn't be. It is the lack of understanding of what women and babies need that creates a billion dollar industry. Mothers need the right information, and the support of their communities and families. Mothers need the close contact of their babies, just as babies have a need for their mothers. Separation of mothers and babies creates the necessity of artificial feeding. Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain