Earlier this year we shared some eye-opening advice from Stony Brook Midwives during our Health and Wellness Series. The advice suggested that we begin to plan and prepare for breastfeeding before we even become pregnant. This guidance is not unconventional or “crunchy”, but it is above and beyond the recommendations that many women of child-bearing age receive when they speak with their care providers about their family planning.
This is not the first (nor will it be the last) piece of advisement breastfeeding women receive that makes us scratch our heads. Dr. Amy Tuteur, an OG/GYN, has authored numerous books and articles on the topic of women’s health, and she recently shared her opinions regarding supplementing breastmilk with other nutrition in a baby less than twelve months old.
Wait, what’s that now? We know that new research emerges on the breastfeeding topic quite often, but imagine providing your infant with water or honey along with breastmilk. This seems to go against what we’ve all been taught. I learned the rule of breastmilk only until 12 months.
According to Tuteur, prelacteal feeding – which involves supplementing early nursing with a variety of materials such as honey or water – is recommended by lactation activists (aka lactivists) because it closely recreates what our primitive ancestors did for their children in many different cultures.
For example, Tuteur shares that this practice occurred in Egypt with sugar-water or teas while in India the sugar-water was used but honey and ghee were also utilized instead of colostrum.
India wasn’t the only location where colostrum was avoided. Some cultures (as many as 50 of them) believed that the colostrum was not only not beneficial, but could bring harm to the newborn and therefore supplements would be required to keep the infant alive until the lactating woman’s milk became “less yellow” .
Unlike the United States, where a relatively easy alternative to breastmilk is readily available in the form of infant formula, many third-world countries could see their infant mortality rates increased if a woman is not able to successfully establish a breastfeeding relationship with her child in the first few weeks of her baby’s life. For some of the moms who turn to formula and then are not able to breastfeed – would turning to prelacteal feeding options be a viable solution that could help the mom later establish a breastmilk supply without endangering her baby to dehydration or hypoglycemic injury?
We may not agree with her suggestion, but Dr. Tuteur is raising questions about what old wives’ tales we are following. Are we choosing to actively disregard what mothers have been doing for centuries to protect their babies before their milk came in? Are we putting too much pressure on ourselves to breastfeed exclusively?
What do you think? Would you consider prelacteal feeding if your milk hasn’t come in or you were worried for your baby? Share your thoughts – we love hearing from our moms!