Hello! I feel like it’s been a decade since I’ve written. If you’re wondering what I’ve been up to this past month, I’ve mostly been studying until 2 am almost every night, writing content for Occupy Menstruation, writing papers, working part time at the mall, reading about midwifery, and in the cadaver lab studying the brain for A&P. We haven’t really stopped! Reading week was an absolute thrill, where I got to see a birth and have a half day of clinic, but I will write about that experience more later…
Tonight I wanted to share a paper that I wrote for one of our classes called “Midwifery The Profession.” The class is about, you guessed it, what being a midwife is all about! The politics, how we came to be, where we’re going, and working with women. Did you know that that is what midwifery literally means? With Woman…
Anyway, our paper was very casual… We had to take a “midwifery topic” and write a fake newspaper article about it. I chose breastfeeding. Please keep in mind that the characters in this paper are completely made up. The advertisement (and the facts) that I’m writing about however, are 100% real. I invite you to think critically about what this advertisement means to you and means to people who are breastfeeding, and what it means to women when we police what they eat… I also invite you to consider why a paediatric society is releasing this kind of advertisement when it has little to zero evidence to back it up… I hope you enjoy!
You Are What You Eat, But Is Your Baby?
Diet During Breastfeeding
A recent advertising campaign initiated by the Brazil Paediatric Society of Rio Grande has spurred a very heated debate surrounding the diet of breastfeeding moms. The images of the ad campaign as seen above depict children drinking colas and eating cheeseburgers straight from the mother’s breast, insinuating that what you eat as a mother not only affects you, but your baby too. This ad campaign shames the dietary choices of mothers and blames them for the ultimate health outcomes of their child, from behavioural issues to obesity – with very little evidence to back it up.
It is true that breast milk is the best food source for babies, if mom can and is willing to provide it; it contains all the nutrients that baby needs, including carbohydrates, protein, fats, and even antibodies to protect baby from illness in the environment. (1)
“Breast milk is not immune to everything that mom ingests, but for the most part it’s only drugs and alcohol that are a big concern,” explains Julie Greene, midwife at The Hamilton Midwives. “In terms of drugs, such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, there is a concern for baby ingesting those products through her mom’s milk. But eating a cheeseburger? That’s ridiculous.” (2)
Studies all over the world have shown that nutritional deficiencies in women, especially in developing nations, affect the quantity of breast milk produced, but don’t really affect the quality. (3) It is speculated that nutritional deficiencies do not affect the quality of breast milk due to evolutionary metabolism: the body will make sure that regardless of mom eats, baby gets the best. (2, 15)
So are there any foods you should avoid if you’re breastfeeding? The answer is no. (2) “You need calories in order to produce enough milk for your child, so eat what you enjoy and reduce your alcohol and caffeine intake. Your body will do the rest of the work,” says Greene. It is so important to educate women during pregnancy and the postpartum period with the latest evidence, and these ads just don’t have the research to back them up. But even still, their content is damaging. It’s something that we really focus on at our practice, we never want moms to feel badly for the choices that they make.”
It is clear that our society will police women in many aspects of their life, but most especially while pregnant or nursing. Suddenly the female body becomes a public space, marked available for scrutiny and judgment. Midwifery care aims to give their clients the strength to meet naysayers with evidence to support their choices and to dispel myths surrounding breastfeeding through education and empowerment. “It’s time we start supporting women in all decisions regarding their bodies instead of shaming them for every choice they make,” says Greene. If you’d like to get more facts about breastfeeding contact your local midwifery office for community resources near you.
1. Breastmilk Information – Infant Nutrition Council Infant Nutrition Council [Internet]. [cited 2015 Oct 20]. Available from: http://www.infantnutritioncouncil.com/resources/breastmilk-information/
2. KellyMom.com : How does a mother’s diet affect her milk? [Internet]. [cited 2015 Oct 20]. Available from: http://kellymom.com/nutrition/mothers-diet/mom-diet/
3. Jelliffe DB, Jelliffe EFP. The volume and composition of human milk in poorly nourished communities. A review. Am J Clin Nutr. 1978;31:492–515.
4. WHO | 10 facts on breastfeeding. World Health Organization; [cited 2015 Oct 20]; Available from: http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/breastfeeding/en/