Yet another rule

That mothers must adhere to, for fear of risking their children’s health. As recently as, oh, probably last week, the wisdom was that breastfeeding must be on demand rather than on a schedule– or else the milk will never be properly established. And babies must be allowed to feed on one breast until it’s emptied– otherwise they will miss out on the most nourishing milk. Now it seems the opposite is true— babies need schedules and no more than 10 minutes per breast. When I went to breastfeeding classes a couple years ago, we were taught about how people used to believe just that, and taught that this was the reason for so many breastfeeding failures in the recent, unenlightened past. Looks like the pendulum’s getting set to swing again… Just as it did with age of first solid food (Must be 4 months! Must be 6 months! Grave danger if rule not followed!). And with drinking (Must give pregnant women intravenous alcohol! Must not even have a bite of rum-flavoured ice cream!). And with fish for pregnant women (Must eat lots! Must avoid at all costs!). And peanuts (see fish rules). And co-sleeping (Terrible– potential physical and psychological disaster! Mandatory for psychological and physical health!). And pregnancy weight gain (Must be strictly minimised! Must be embraced!).

Maybe, just maybe a bit of epistemic humility is called for– an acknowledgement of uncertainty and variation, and a respect for women making their own decisions in light of ALL available information, rather than just whatever is favoured by the dogma of the time. And perhaps genuine, open discussion of all this. (My NHS midwife wasn’t even permitted to discuss the possibility that anything other than demand feeding might be worth consideration, though she found ways to implicate that.) Thanks, Mr Jender, for the link.