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1. Human birth is difficult. More difficult than animal births.

Animals rely more on brawn than brain, being led by instinct more than thinking. Being so, their brains, and therefore their heads, are proportionately smaller in comparison to their body size. Their heads fit loosely through the birth canal. Animal babies are generally born with less difficulty, less time, less travail. Humans, however, rely more on brain than brawn, more by using our head and thinking than being instinctual and impulsive, so our heads are proportionately larger in comparison to our bodies. If human babies were gestated to the physiological and neurological maturity of animals at birth, our heads would be too big to fit through our pelvises!

Animals rely more on brawn than brain, being led by instinct more than thinking. Being so, their brains, and therefore their heads, are proportionately smaller in comparison to their body size. Their heads fit loosely through the birth canal. Animal babies are generally born with less difficulty, less time, less travail. Humans, however, rely more on brain than brawn, more by using our head and thinking than being instinctual and impulsive, so our heads are proportionately larger in comparison to our bodies. If human babies were gestated to the physiological and neurological maturity of animals at birth, our heads would be too big to fit through our pelvises!

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As you can see in the diagram, humans have the tightest fit, our head size even extending over the pelvic brim, as compared to animals. In fact, our babies’ head circumference is 103% of our pelvic opening! We are gestated to the fullest possible maturity while yet still being able to fit through the birth canal. The fit is tight, and so our labors are more difficult than the animals.

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“Even evolutionists themselves are scratching their heads over this, the “human obstetric dilemma,” how evolution let them down, why our pelvises would become constricted while our head size increased?”

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2. As a result, human babies are born much more immature, physiologically and neurologically, than animal babies.

Animals are able to be gestated to a greater level of physiological and neurological maturity since their heads will still fit through their mother’s pelvis – and then some! It’s a good thing too: they are then born able to struggle to their feet to nurse, or at least find the teat pretty much on their own, struggling perhaps through a few layers of siblings! Breastfeeding occurs by the babies self-attaching without positioning by the mother. In fact, she is generally just laying down or standing, making herself available but not leading the feeding. Human babies require more intensive and prolonged mothering, nurturing and nursing than animal babies.

3. The major head growth of human babies occurs after birth.

When a human baby is born, his brain is at 25 % capacity. We have learned that the first three years has the most rapid brain growth. By three years of age, the human brain grows to 81% capacity.

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4. Breastfeeding builds the human brain.

The particular fatty acids found only in human milk are brain-building fatty acids. It has been shown that the fat content of human milk increases over time. We know that brain and nerve tissue are primarily made of fat. Human milk, and the nurturing experience of the mother-child relationship, build the human brain.

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It is also interesting to note, that in countries unimpeded by a primary emphasis on women in the workforce, with the concomitant reduction in the role of women as mothers and nurturers, in these “traditional” societies where weaning is allowed to occur naturally, children wean at about 3 years or so. Unlike the United States, where the economic value of women is emphasized, not their nurturing value. It is understood that the primary source of nutrition for children after age one is not from breastfeeding, but the important fats and other essential components of breastmilk come to the child at relatively smaller, and less frequent intervals, and have their important part in the development of the child. Not just nutritional components, but immunological and pain relieving components as well. It is interesting to note that the older child typically nurses before and after sleep periods, and in cases of pain and illness. Unbeknownst to the child, he is receiving at those times components that promote calming – helping him to sleep, components that promote healing and disease-fighting factors – at a time he is sick or warding off disease, components that relieve pain – at a time when he is hurting. And not to mention that he is engaging in relationship with the mother – obtaining security, conversation, stress-reduction, and socialization.

Note the characteristic of the weaning curve in the United States – where the attitude is “I’ll try breastfeeding”, not that it is normal. Most women wean in the first 6 months of their babies’ life (from “Breastfeeding for the Medical Profession,” by Lawrence & Lawrence).

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Note also the influence of the misunderstood AAP recommendation – “exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months” – not just breastfeed for 6 months! And “breastfeeding should continue for at least one year or as long as mutually desired.” Note the “at least” is usually not noted, nor the desire of the baby or mother to continue. Having become a subset of the medical community as seen by the AAP recommendation, it is considered as a dose of medicine – “take it exclusively for 6 months then finish your “dose” at a year.” (AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS POLICY STATEMENT: Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk 2005) “…exclusive breastfeeding is sufficient to support optimal growth and development for approximately the first 6 months of life and provides continuing protection against diarrhea and respiratory tract infection. Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child.”

No, breastfeeding is not a medicine; it is nurturing a child. It is not merely an act of infant feeding; it is an act of mothering. It is not about getting milliliters or ounces of milk into a stomach – the child is completely unaware of the components and “benefits” of human milk – it is about mothering and relationship. We have been a society of reductionism and sheer physicality – as if being a person was simply physical growth, and infant feeding was simply filling a stomach. We know that we as adults do not treat our meals like that – simply filling our stomachs. We know meals are also about relationship and interaction, communicating and closeness. It’s no different as children.

~Marie-Celine Farver RN, BSN, IBCLC, RLC © 2012

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