The Breast Feeding Quandry

by : Danna Schneider

Today's modern woman is not the same as the woman of the fifties, forties and prior. Today's woman, thanks to the feminist movement and a broadening ideal of what a woman's role is in society, has brought women into the workforce in a big way.

Not only that, many women now hold high power positions, and women are a staple at any company, regardless what type of work it is.

This is a stark contrast to women before the feminist movement, before suffrage, and before we were liberated from the restraints of the philosophy that women were the caretakers, the child bearers and the housewives.

Well, while this phenomenon is obviously a great thing, it also has placed additional pressures on women. Why? Because women have mutliple responsibilities not only on the job now, but also at home.

One of the evolving ideas is that all women breast feed their children. This is far from what is actually happening today, as women not only are not always able to do this becuase of a job or other obligations, but also because women have more choices that closely mimic the idea of breast feeding.

There are better formulas, and better bottles, and the idea of bottle feeding is much more readily accepted as "the norm". However, there are still staunch proponents of breast feeding who insist that breast feeding results in many additional benefits for your infant. Too many to ignore easily, so they say.

The belief and subsequent scientific backing is that breast feeding an infant, even if it is only for a short period of time, results in a stronger immune system and immune response in the baby. And there is a very solid, logical reason for this strengthened immune response that makes sense.

Because the mother's antibodies are present in her breast milk, the infant instantly gains the advantage of having these preformed antibodies. In essence, breast feeding is thought to give a baby's immune system a "jump start" and get them ahead of the game from the beginning.

They hence (theoretically) have a more keen ability to fend off illness and disease from the start. Seems like a pretty compelling reason to breast feed, at least for a little while if possible, right? However, the answer is never that cut and dry for new moms.

Many new mothers are physically unable to produce milk, and there are some conditions that make it extremely painful for mothers to breast feed, or that make it impossible to breast feed the infant if the infant has allergies, since anything the mother eats will be transferred through her milk to her baby. Of course there are numerous other factors that enter in, but they are too numerous to mention here!

The strengthened immune system and improved immune response is, of course, a huge argument for breast feeding, but there may be another major argument for breast feeding as well. There have been studies that strongly suggest breast feeding a baby can improve its IQ (Intelligence Quotient).

While the exact reason for this unknown, it is thought that it allows for a more ideal development of the brain, since breast milk contains several nutrients that are not typically "whole" in formulas, and it is in fact, considered a "whole food" or "whole nutrient" in itself.

There also may be a psychological link to a superior IQ development, as infants that breast feed are thought to perhaps form a tighter bond with their mothers, and develop a higher sense of security, which could transfer to a higher IQ.