Category Archives: Breastfeeding

Feeding with Love and Respect

This post is the second in a series examining the principles of Attachment Parenting. The goal is to explore what the principle is, why it’s important, and what it looks like in different families and different homes. That last bit is where you come in! I can share how these things play out in my home, but I would truly appreciate hearing wisdom from your journey as well. 

The second principle of Attachment Parenting: Feed With Love and Respect is nicely summed up on the Natural Parents Network resource page“Practice exclusive and full-term breastfeeding if possible, and feed with love and respect regardless of whether it is at the breast or with a bottle; parents continue to nurture when introducing solids, and strive to offer healthy, wholesome foods when babies are ready.”

Exclusive and full-term breastfeeding

This is another principle that’s not just for ‘attached parents.’ Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant’s life is a medical recommendation, not just a philosophical one. The American Academy of Pediatrics is on board, as is the World Health Organization, which maintains that mothers should, “Practice exclusive breastfeeding from birth to 6 months of age, and introduce complementary foods at 6 months of age (180 days) while continuing to breastfeed.”  I go into a bit more detail on these recommendations here.

Full-term means different things to different people, but the AAP recommends continuing to breastfeed until at least one year and the WHO recommends at least two years. Many experts consider the natural age of weaning to be at least 2.5 years old or older. A popular choice among attachment parenting families is child led weaning (not to be confused with baby led weaning), where mothers continue to nurse until the child makes the decision to stop. This does not work for every family, of course, and that’s okay. 

The important bit to note is that it says if possible. While almost all women can breastfeed, there are bona fide cases of insufficient glandular tissue and women who try everything to produce enough milk for their babies, but their bodies refuse to cooperate. Of course there are adoptive parents as well, and they are not disqualified from the ability to call themselves Attachment Parents either (but good on them if they can try relactation!) In these more challenging scenarios, the next best thing, of course, would be donor milk. Each family has to deal with the challenges inherent in their own parenting situation in the way that best meets their family’s needs.

…With love and respect
For many attachment parents, this translates to nursing ‘on demand’. Rather than scheduling feedings, caregivers nurse or feed the child whenever they display signs of hunger. What else feeding “with love and respect” means will vary from family to family.

Continue to nurture when introducing solids
Many consider the introduction of solids to be the beginning of weaning, since the intake of solid foods will slowly increase until they completely replace breast milk as a source of nutrition. Continuing to nurture a child during this time may simply mean remembering the importance of breast milk in the baby’s diet and allowing the same regular access to it, rather than making abrupt changes that could be upsetting to the child. Again, there is no right way to do this, and “continuing to nurture” may look very different from one family to the next. Some families may choose lap feeding instead of placing their infant in a high chair, or may make it a priority to sit and focus only on being with their child during mealtimes. There are no rules, just a desire to provide the best and gentlest possible journey into the world of solid food.

Strive to offer healthy, wholesome foods when babies are ready
The idea that parents should provide healthy, wholesome foods wherever possible does not really need qualifying. One important thing to note here, however, is the words, “when babies are ready.” Not every child will be interested in, or developmentally ready for solids at six months, which means that it may be in the best interests of some children to wait even longer. 

Then there is the wholesome and healthy bit, about which there is much disagreement. What one parent considers wholesome and healthy may be viewed as a very poor choice by another. It’s up to each of us to analyze the information available and make a decision from there. On opposite ends of the spectrum are strict veganism and the traditional foods diet. Both are common among AP families, and both are considered to be the most healthy option by many of the people who follow them. Other families fall somewhere in between, or on a completely different spectrum altogether. The important thing is simply to do our best to provide a nutritious diet for our children.

In our family
Annabelle was breastfed exclusively for the first seven months and has slowly increased her intake of solid foods ever since. We started with fruits and vegetables, soon added beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. The last thing we introduced was whole grains at about nine months. We chose to practice baby led weaning as a way of giving Annabelle the maximum amount of control over her early experiences with solid foods. 

I have always nursed “on demand,” and provide other foods based on Annabelle’s cues. Until recently, I made sure to nurse first, and then offer solids. This allowed breast milk to keep it’s place as the most important part of Annabelle’s diet. At thirteen months, I still nurse whenever I believe she needs it, or when she asks. 
We eat our meals together, with breakfast, lunch, and snacks taking place at Annabelle’s table and dinner in the dining room with Annabelle in her high chair. As for what constitutes healthy, wholesome food in our household, I follow a vegan diet and so does Annabelle, for now. The daddy’s diet includes both meat and dairy products, and I will not restrict these things if Annabelle wishes to eat them when she gets older. I am pretty adamant, however, about avoiding cow’s milk at all costs. Annabelle had absolutely no sugar prior to her first birthday, and we still avoid giving her sugary foods. I do often use blackstrap molasses to sweeten her breakfast cereal as it’s also a great source of iron. I buy organic wherever possible, though there is embarrassingly little in the way of fresh, organic produce on Guam. We avoid the “dirty dozen” fruits and veggies altogether, except when I manage to find them organic. Then I hoard them – sorry fellow crunchy Guammies! We avoid things like canned and processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial colors in favor of whole foods, made from scratch. We’re not perfect by any means, and we do break our own rules from time to time, but we do our best.

What does feeding with love and respect look like in your family? What practices related to feeding have worked for you, and what has not worked? Please share your experiences! If you have a post of your own on this topic, or even a favorite resource written by someone else, I would love for you to share the link!

Sunday Surf: Donor Milk, Montessori, and Zen

Well, it’s Sunday again, so I’ll do a little recap of some of my favorite reads from the week. First, I’ll share a link that is neither new, nor new to me, and it’s not really the sort of link I usually share on a Sunday, but it’s for your own good – I promise. Tonight, for dinner, I made one of my and the daddy’s favorites: Brazilian Chicken/Tofu (chicken for him, tofu for me). I have made this I don’t even know how many times now and it never gets old. It is so, so good. Do yourself a favor and whip some up this week. The recipe is from, and you can find it here.
On to the links of substance:

  • I loved this milk sharing story from That Mama Gretchen! She had to return to work after her maternity leave, and it wasn’t easy, but pumping for her daughter while at work has also allowed her to provide donor milk to a local milk bank as well as to a mama in her community that she met through Eats on Feets.
  • Speaking of milk, Lauren at Hobo Mama shared an update on her experience with nursing through pregnancy, now that she is well into her third trimester. Since we plan to try for another baby in under a year, there’s a good chance I’ll end up nursing through pregnancy myself, so I really appreciate hearing about Lauren’s experience, and knowing that it can be a challenge, but it’s also totally possible.
  • On trying for babies, I loved this post at Offbeat Mama about “birth playlists that don’t revolve around Enya.” As much as I enjoy Enya in the right place and time, I really appreciated this list of songs and will certainly be keeping it in mind for the future.
  • There have been some great posts about homemade materials over at Aayla do! Montessori, but I was especially impressed by the sandpaper numerals she made this week. Since I have occasional dreams of starting a Montessori coop in our next home, I’m always excited to see that beautiful, quality materials can be created at home.
  • Speaking of Montessori, Cathy at A Montessori Home shared some beautiful photos and information on how she set up her home with her now one year old in mind. I just discovered Cathy’s blog this week, and was thrilled. She, too, is Montessori trained for 3-6, but is new to the world of Montessori infant and toddler environments. She started blogging when her Fin hit four months, while I started blogging when Annabelle hit three, so I had a nice time browsing the archives of her lovely blog, as our journeys are somewhat similar. I must say her environment puts mine to shame, however! 
  • I was lucky enough to receive a real, live print book in the mail this week, too! I won a copy of a gorgeous children’s book titled Mother Earth and Her Children thanks to the lovely MJ who had a giveaway over on her blog Wander Wonder Discover. MJ always inspires with the simple beauty of her words, as well as her gorgeous photos, like the ones she shared this week in her post “Splashes of Color.” Thanks, MJ!
  • Speaking of fun things and lovely bloggers, I thought Abbey at Farmer’s Daughter had a great idea with her Guess the Blogger game. If you have ever wondered what I looked like as a baby, you can head on over and check it out!
Did you discover anything new and inspiring this week? Have something to say about one of the links I shared? I would be thrilled to hear from you!

What are the Best First Foods, Really?

Three friends share a lime
There are so many schools of thought on the introduction of solid foods, but I’m finding that there is a great deal of information out there that is perhaps only loosely, if at all, based on good science. I wanted to share a bit on what I have learned, and the resources I have found so far. I am, of course, neither a dietitian nor a health professional of any kind, so I present this to be a starting point for research and for discussion with other parents. I would be very interested in any resources others recommend on the subject.
One More Time: Wait Six Months to Introduce Solids At All
I say it all the time. Blah, blah, blah, right? Still, I think it is important to note that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding until around six months of age and notes its importance throughout the first year and beyond (link).
Pediatricians and parents should be aware that exclusive breastfeeding is sufficient to support optimal growth and development for approximately the first 6 months of life{ddagger} and provides continuing protection against diarrhea and respiratory tract infection.30,34,128,178184 Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child.185 Complementary foods rich in iron should be introduced gradually beginning around 6 months of age.
Then, the World Health Organization (WHO) gives their guideline (link). See this link for guidelines for the feeding of non-breastfed infants.:
“Practice exclusive breastfeeding from birth to 6 months of age, and introduce complementary foods at 6 months of age (180 days) while continuing to breastfeed.”
These two sources, taken together with others, led me to the conclusion that there is no basis for the introduction of solid foods prior to six months of age. As I discussed before, I waited to introduce complementary foods until Annabelle was about six and a half months old.
After Six Months: Where to Start

While the above seems to adequately answer the question of when to introduce solid, or complementary foods, the question of what to introduce when is one I am still asking as we go. The traditional practice has been to introduce rice cereal first, but that appears to be terrible advice for a number of reasons, many of which are discussed in this article in Pediatric News. It also appears to be a common cause of severe Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome, as discussed in this study. Despite all this, it is still recommended by many misguided professionals and parents, and the below statement from the WHO’s Guiding Principles seems to be a reasonable explanation as to why.
A review of feeding guidelines promoted by various national and international organizations has shown that there are inconsistencies in the specific recommendations for feeding infants and young children (Dewey, in press). Some of the feeding guidelines are based more on tradition and speculation than on scientific evidence, or are far more prescriptive than is necessary regarding issues such as the order of foods introduced and the amounts of specific foods to be given. To avoid confusion, a set of unified, scientifically based guidelines is needed, which can be adapted to local feeding practices and conditions.” (emphasis added)
In looking around, I have found sources recommending egg yolk as the perfect first food, followed by liver, as well as others that say vegetables and fruits are a perfect way to start. Of course rice cereal still seems to dominate, unfortunately. The advice seems to vary depending on who you talk to. More important than looking for specific foods to offer, then, is considering what infants need and then determining what locally available foods that are enjoyed by the family will help them to get it. The WHO identifies several “problem nutrients,” based on those that infants tend to be deficient in most often. Below, I have listed these nutrients along with some of the most common sources of them in our home. This has really been helpful for me in planning meals for our family with optimal nutrition for Annabelle in mind. Keep in mind that ours is a mostly vegetarian household, so our sources of these foods will differ from those of other families. The WHO has another helpful resource for anyone trying to do the same for their family, called Complementary Feeding: Family Foods for Breastfed Children. I appreciate the fact that it is not prescriptive in terms of listing off specific foods that babies need, but it goes over categories and types of foods, with consideration given to the diets and staple foods of many different populations. Obviously the advice within should be checked with other sources before you radically change anything you are doing with your own family.
“Problem” Nutrients
Annabelle tries some fermented oats with
pumpkin, and hemp seed.
  • Iron: The RDA for infants 7-12 months is 11mg, from 1-3 years it’s 7mg, and for 4-8 year olds it is 10mg. Good sources of iron in vegetarian and vegan households include foods such as: quinoa, blackstrap molasses, tomato paste, white beans, peaches, lentils, and hemp seeds. While leafy greens are a well-known source of iron, the iron many contain is not particularly bioavailable. Iron absorption is enhanced by Vitamin C, but hindered by calcium. Using cast iron to cook can also increase the iron content of foods, particularly more acidic foods.
  • Calcium: The adequate intake(AI) from 7-12 months is 270mg/day, the RDA from 1-3 years is 500mg/day, and from 4-8 years the RDA is 800mg/day. Good sources of calcium that we eat include: broccoli, leafy greens (note that the calcium in some, including spinach, is not well absorbed swiss chard and bok choy are two of the best choices) dried figs, and various beans and seeds. Calcium is one vitamin that has been hotly debated in recent years, and many experts argue that exercise and Vitamin D intake are far more important to the building of strong bones than is calcium. See this letter from Harvard Health for more information. There’s also a great article on PCRM’s website that pertains to children specifically, but readers should note PCRM’s probable bias against dairy products when reading, as they receive a great deal of their funding from PETA.
  • Zinc: 7-12 month olds and 1-3 year olds meet the RDA with 3mg/day and 4-8 month olds with 5mg. Zinc is found in many grains, legumes, and nuts. One great source that has been a favorite in our house lately is shelled hemp seed.
  • Vitamin A: For infants aged 7-12 months 500μg/day is considered to be adequate intake, while the RDA from ages 1-3 is given as 300μg and for ages 4-8 the RDA is 400μg. Vitamin A rich foods in our diet include mango, carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potato.
  • Riboflavin (B2):  The RDA’s are .4mg/day from 7-12 months, .5mg/day from 1-3 years, and .6mg/day from 4-8 years. Sources eaten in our house include almonds, mushrooms, and quinoa. Riboflavin is also found in many fortified foods for vegetarians and vegans such as nut milks and nutritional yeast.
  • Vitamin B6: Between 7 and 12 months, .3mg/day is considered adequate intake and the RDAs for 1-3 and 4-8 years are .5 and .6mg/day respectively. Our favorite sources include chickpeas, bananas, brown rice, and sweet potatoes.
  • Vitamin B12: For ages 7-12 months, the AI is .5μg/day. For 1-3 year olds, the RDA is .9μg/day while it is 1.2μg/day for 4-8 year olds. B12 is a difficult vitamin for vegans to find in regular food sources, so a supplement is almost always recommended. Nutritional yeast is an excellent source.
(Adequate Intakes and Recommended Daily Intakes taken from the USDA’s Daily Recommended Intake Tables:

The main point seems to be that regardless of what specific foods you choose to feed your infant, you can provide perfectly adequate nutrition with careful planning and consideration of their dietary needs. No child has to eat any one food to be healthy – it is possible to meet the growing infant or toddler’s needs with foods that are available locally and enjoyed by your family.

What first foods did, or will you offer? Would you do the same with future children? What advice or information did you rely on in choosing your children’s diet? I would love to hear from you! 

**I put a great deal of time, research, and thought into this article, so I would love to see others benefit from it. If you have friends who you think may benefit from it, please feel free to email it, share it on facebook, blog it yourself – use it as you see fit!**

Sunday Quote: On Human Milk

In honor of the global launch this week of Eats on Feets, a quote from co-founder Emma Kwasnica: 

“Breast milk is not some scarce commodity. It is a free-flowing resource.”

More on Eats on Feets and human milk as a free-flowing resource here.

Donor Milk and Cross Nursing

The cultural norm for infant feeding seems to be pretty simple: some women nurse or may express breast milk for their babies, while others feed their babies formula from a bottle. I have yet to meet, in person, a mom who did anything else. It seems that when there are breastfeeding problems, or a mother cannot or does not wish to nurse, the natural solution is infant formula. I’m sure that formula companies are quite pleased that their products are the immediate go-to for the vast majority of moms when breastfeeding is difficult, or is not an option for one reason or another, but this is an unfortunate scenario for infants.

The following excerpt is taken from the World Health Organizations’s Global Strategy for Infant Feeding

“The vast majority of mothers can and should breastfeed, just as the vast majority of infants can and should be breastfed. Only under exceptional circumstances can a mother’s milk be considered unsuitable for her infant. For those few health situations where infants cannot, or should not, be breastfed, the choice of the best alternative – expressed breast milk from an infant’s own mother, breast milk from a healthy wet-nurse or a human-milk bank, or a breast-milk substitute fed with a cup, which is a safer method than a feeding bottle and teat – depends on individual circumstances…Infants who are not breastfed, for whatever reason, should receive special attention from the health and social welfare system since they constitute a risk group.”

In other words, most every mother can breastfeed and doing so provides the greatest benefit to her offspring. In the rare circumstances when she cannot, the best alternatives, in order are:
  • Expressed milk from the mother
  • Milk from another healthy mother, at the breast, or expressed and fed using another method such as an SNS, syringe, cup, or bottle
  • Infant formula
In terms of what is healthiest for our children, infant formula should be the LAST resort, and as stated above, actually puts children who consume it at risk. It’s no surprise, however, that women tend to go straight for it when breastfeeding is not possible, or is not quite enough. The idea of using donor milk is almost unheard of, and is sometimes even treated as something completely wacky and counter-culture. Cross nursing (a woman nursing a child other than her own) is even worse – I mean who does that, right!? It’s a sad state of affairs when society fails to empower women to make the best possible choices for their children’s health. Once again, though, I’m sure Nestle and other formula companies are quite content with the way things are!
Fortunately, there are milk banks in a growing number of locations, but these generally serve NICU babies first and if they do have milk available for healthy babies, a prescription is required and at roughly three dollars an ounce or more, it can be cost-prohibitive. This milk is also pasteurized, which is good, of course, in that it helps to destroy any potential pathogens, but it also has a negative effect on some of the beneficial substances in human milk. So, while it is certainly superior to infant formula, human milk from a milk bank is not always easy to obtain and loses some of its nutritional and immunological value in the pasteurization process.
When one looks at the evidence, it becomes clear that cross-nursing, or donor milk directly from a healthy mother is actually quite a sensible choice, and the apparent taboo surrounding it is an unfortunate hurdle for mothers who have trouble breastfeeding themselves. Women who realize this are speaking up, however. Milk Share, formed in 2004, is an informational resource and connection point for families in need of human milk and others who are willing and able to provide it – free of charge. Eats on Feets, a new, global milk sharing network, is another connection point whereby families in need can find mothers willing to donate milk. They have chapters springing up all over the world – we have even started one here on Guam! Whether it is talked about or not – there are mothers virtually everywhere in the world who are more than willing to provide milk for babies other than their own – out of the kindness of their hearts.
What about you – have you ever nursed a child other than your own, or donated milk? Have you ever benefited from donor milk from another mother? If you suddenly found yourself in need, would you be open to using donor milk or to allowing another healthy mother to nurse your baby? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Also, please don’t be shy — feel free to hit one of the buttons below to share this post and help raise  awareness about this important, and too seldom discussed topic.