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Maureen Minchin:

” The one thing you can’t do is let yourself get into the guilt trip about If I had known I should have done this, I should have done that.  It wasn’t my fault. “

Episode 45    Maureen is a mother of 3, who because of her personal experiences with feeding her baby,  has dedicated her life to educating the public about human milk and infant feeding and food allergies. Her work is radically different from most breastfeeding handbooks because it takes seriously the issues of infant formula feeding, exposing many realities about which even many health professionals remain ignorant. Milk Matters is her latest work, a massive tome with three different books under the one cover, which pulls together science, history and clinical practice.

Her Story.

Maureen had a child and this changed the course of her lifes work.  She had no idea how difficult breastfeeding could be in the 1970’s and suffered with excruciating pain for 3 months and the only reason she continued is because her mother who was poor in the 1940s when she was born,  had similar problems, but persevered because she was poor.  Her mother kept telling her that it was so terrible, but when you get past all the pain there is nothing like it and you just have to persevere.  My  middle-class friends parents would say to them why would you continue doing this when you are in so much pain?  We have formula now and so why would you keep doing this and be in pain?  I brought you up on formula and you were fine and of course, they stopped breastfeeding.

Maureen credits her mother with the fact that she persevered with breastfeeding.  She did realize that there is no experience in life like it and that it actually teaches you how to be a mother because  you can only succeed to breastfeed as a mother if you breastfeed responsively.   You learn very quickly as a mother that the only way to have a happy life with a baby is to be responsive to them.  And this does not mean to do everything on their terms but it means to responsive to them quickly and promptly and try and see things  from their point  of view and work out ways so you can go on together which is what I had to do. with the breastfeeding problems I had.

Because the second part of what made life a nightmare as a first-time mother is the fact that my son was given little bottles of cows milk formula in the hospital.  I took home a happy baby and managed to get breastfeeding going  despite primary and secondary hemorrhages. & two weeks after I got home, he started screaming and the did not stop screaming or having difficulty with sleep until he was 4 1/2  years old and the day that I took cows milk out of his diet is the day that he and his father and I went into his bedroom to see if he had died in his sleep because that was the first time in 4 1/2 years that we had not heard him moaning and thrashing around in bed.

So this side tracked me… When I realized that the problems with my nipples ended the day after I  read a book by a UK Dr., who talked about positioning and attachment I corrected the way I was holding  the baby and I was pain-free in 4 1/2 hours.  I can’t tell you how angry I was.   And I thought  women have to know about these things. I knew where the medical libraries were and I started reading and I have not stopped.  When my son was 16 years old, he continued to have medical problems because of his allergy to cows milk, even though he stopped having cows milk at 4 1/2 years.  After a particularly dramatic health problem he said to me  – Mum, I wish you knew what you needed to know,  to be a competent mother before you had me,  instead of after me.   To which I replied,  while my heart was breaking on one level and another level I knew that he did not mean it.  Well darling, just think about this.  If you were to die tomorrow your life would have already been worthwhile because just  think about all the people who have been helped because you have  had such a horrible experience.

Maureen says that she knows it wasn’t her fault.  She does feel regret that she got off to such a bad start.  At almost 40 years old, he still does have long term chronic inflammatory disease as a consequence with long term problems with allergy . It turns out that people grow out of early problems only to suffer later with autoimmune disease by middle age.   I do regret it bitterly, but on the other hand I wasn’t the one that was suppose to know what to do.  At that time, there were no experts and unfortunately, many mothers I talk to now 40 years later are having exactly the same problems that I had which makes me so angry that I will never give up. I am not bothered by the mothers who do not want to breastfeed.  Most women who are formula feeding did not make that choice. They were forced into it by a lack of help at the critical time.  My mother acknowledged my pain and my distress, but she also said that it does get better and told me to persevere.

Maureen says that her mother’s pain did not go on long for her because she was noticing what the baby wants.  She followed what her baby wanted  but that didn’t mean that she didn’t get mastitis.  She went to a Dr. with an abscess and sat there in his surgery while he plunged a scalpel into her breast and expressed it with no anesthesia.  My mother could talk about pain and difficulty and still say that it is worth doing and that is what I say to women.

Yes,  it may be difficult to get started,  It should not be painful, however, no physical  activity we do is without problems for some people.  We don’t expect all kidneys or hearts to work perfectly. There is no reason to expect all breasts to work perfectly. In fact, nature is pretty economical.  We generally  don’t get to the  state of producing a healthy baby and then not be able  to feed the baby.  Usually, what  happens is that  if you are not going to be able to feed the baby, you don’t get that baby to term. I believe that it is a fundamentally survival mechanism that is  robust, resilient and reliable and if only we get the right help we  would be able to help every women breastfeed short of those who have already had bilateral mastectomies.

Maureen’s interview also covers the following topics:

1.  Reasons to keep your baby with you skin to skin during the first days after birth.  This minimized the demands the baby will make on the mother.
2.  Reasons why you should request donor milk if your baby is not breastfeeding or breastfeeding well.
3.  Best sales tactic by formula companies was to give out free formula.
4.  Babies who are going to be allergic have already had immune changes while they were growing in their mothers.
5.  The differences between the formulas – there is not that much differences, the most significant between 1940 and now happened in the 1970s when they reduced sodium content and changed some of the protein formulations.
6  Homemade formulas are not a good thing to create without over or underfeeding your baby. She strongly recommends against this.
7.  Formulas have always been used in conjunction with other things.  Babies were given vitamin drops, orange juice, rice cereal.
8.  We now have babies drinking just infant formula and not being introduced other foods.
9.  What can mothers do during their pregnancy to reduce their babies allergies.

There is much more and I encourage you to listen to the full interview here.

Milk Matters: Infant feeding & immune disorder
Breastfeeding Matters: What We Need to Know About Infant Feeding

Contact information:
[email protected]

Episode 46         Part 2:

We continue on with this amazing interview with Maureen Minchin who is giving us a lot of information that you really won’t find in too  many other places.  She is really helping us understanding about infant formula and its relationship with long term health.  She is doing a great job of educating us without being overly concerned about upsetting anyone.  Maureen is very angry at what she was not told as a young mother and feeding her baby & she is on a mission, even if it upsets the apple cart, to educate parents about infant feeding.   She says that if educators had to worry about making parents feel guilty about many of the subjects, we would be missing out on very important information and that would be negligent.
Take a listen.

Every parent wants to do the best for their children.  Some really want to provide all their babies milk, but find themselves needing to supplement when their supply is low. She shares some thoughts on what parents can do in this situation.

Maureen states that the current formulas from the best manufactures are still the most relatively safe alternatives to breastmilk, if you are unable to produce enough for your baby. She states that parents can still do their best by making sure they are given human milk for at least the first few days because they need so little that you can probably meet their needs.  You can insist that hospitals provides donor milk instead of formula.    She tells us that in Scandinavia, they consider it unethical to give preterm infants artificial formula or anything else other than human milk.

Many countries have had donor milk available for a longer time than other countries have.  Mothers are sharing and donating milk to other moms who don’t have enough milk for their babies.  Maureen is a strong supporter of moms offering any amount of human milk to their babies and supplementing the rest of their daily diet with formula.

Maureen really gets into the bigger issue about the society in which many of us live in. This society does not support the important job of being a mother and enabling mothers the time and opportunity to breastfeed their babies. She talks about the difficulties mothers have of keeping up with a good supply, pumping when they are at work and continuing to breastfeed their babies.

Maureen also talks about:

1.  What parents can do if they would like to avoid formula.
2.  How a lack of parental leave affects mothers and babies and breastfeeding.
3.  Working and pumping can be done, however, it is very difficult to keep this up.
4.  We are not permitting our children to be the best they can be by not getting human milk.
5.  How she talks to parents who are giving their baby formula because they feel they have no choice, without making them feel guilty.
6.  Her feeling is that if we don’t tell the truth, then we are supporting the  society that makes breastfeeding possible.
7.  Maureen gave me some good tips on how to talk to moms who are thinking about giving up on breastfeeding or pumping, largely because they cannot make a full supply of their own milk.
8.  There is sometimes a good reason to offer food if your baby is just so unhappy they are crying all the time.  Once they are 3 months, this is something to consider.
9.  The lack of accurate reporting of infant formula recalls.
10.  WHO – lists culturally appropriate food for babies.
11.  Maureen gives us more details about her book which you can get on Amazon.


Formula for Disaster

Complementary Feeding

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