Thursday, August 21, 2014

Breastfeeding , formula feeding and the data-less tamasha.

So this has been a simmering rant for the past few months, and I really wanted to wait to blog it out when I am in a more composed frame of mind, and not simmering and apoplectic.

Lets start with something else though to put things in perspective.

Exercising is good for you. There is one ton for data, your own experience, and plain common sense to back that. But perhaps you don't exercise, or perhaps close family members don't. Sure you feel a bit bad about it. But do you spend every ounce of your energy worrying about it, complaining about it, nagging about it?

Eating 'good food' is good for you. Ditto about backing data, common sense and probably your personal experience to support that. But how often and how much do you follow common sense here?

There are various other things like that, which measurably and unmistakably improve our lives and  the lives of our children. However we usually don't spend all our time and energy worrying and nagging about it.

So what makes breastfeeding such a different case? Breastmilk is a gazillion times better than formula ( and we will come to the data on that in a minute). Even assuming that it has the same easily measurable and quantifiable data to back that, ( and it doesn't, yet), even if thats so, surely it deserves to be treated at the same level as your own exercise and healthy eating?

But no, its like the moment the topic is breastfeeding, we throw our common sense to the winds, mothers get trapped in guilt trips, and the whole world feels like it has full freedom to tell you that you must breastfeed. Its one thing to ask about it,  but quite another to give advice on various mythical reasons why it must be done. When you meet a person with no stamina and visibly out of shape , do you directly start expounding the case for exercise and good food to him/her? And that is a more straightforward case of cause and effect than breastfeeding will ever be. What happens to your urge to give them good advice for their own good then?

I have been told various things, ranging from the likely to the ludicrous. If the baby sucks a nipple and not a breast, his jaws will not develop and he won't learn to swallow well. The bottles will cause infections. The mother-child bond will not develop. He will fall ill more often. You will die of breast cancer. I tried to find the data behind them. Its iffy at best.

I personally feel breastmilk is probably better, mostly based on my bias for things natural vs things artificial. Also what literature I could find on the internet, often pointed to the great things breastmilk has: antibodies, balanced amino acids, perfect ratio of protein and fat, adequate hydration, and droplets of elixir / amrit to make the baby a superman/hanuman.. Ok, maybe not those last.. ! But there is actually very little literature to prove how much this actually affects the baby in a quantifiable and measurable way. The best that most sites can do, is say that breastfed babies fall ill less often. If you google for breastmilk vs formula, you will find lots of respectable sites rooting for breastmilk. When you open them, you will find a dazzling array of the advantages of this elixir. Just one thing, if you are in an open frame of mind. Read them carefully, and then make a list of words like usually, may, probably. BM may do this wonderfully, BM probably does that wonderful thing. The less respectable and more sensationalist sites probably dispense with those carefully inserted may/probably.

In that case, lets go searching for some studies. Studies which will stand up to dispel doubts in a sceptic. Studies with adequate sample sizes, accounting for correlation vs causation, ensuring a double blind, and most importantly, measuring the effect of the milk and not just the constituents of milk. Now that is a really difficult one, because the data is minimal, and its really hard to eliminate other correlations. Here's a skeptical one which goes contrary to established wisdom.

Personally, I don't breastfeed directly. It was the most painful thing in my life, ( even counting labour, induced labour after a missed miscarriage, post c-sec pain with very few painkillers). I found a compromise solution in pumping and giving. I am lucky that nn could afford an expensive machine, and I have the time, space and facilities at home to do this. If I didn't, I would largely and perhaps even exclusively, formula feed.

Parenting is a lot more than just feeding. A whole lot more. And the differences between the effects of formula and breastmilk are minuscule and not well understood, compared to various other things you can do for your child.

Advice to self : laugh at the advice givers, rather than getting all laal-peela. If you give breastmilk, they will turn their energies to how you are not eating right and hence not producing the right milk. And if you are eating right, they will then tell you that the food today is full of chemicals and pesticides. One way or the other its all your fault that the baby cries. These people are basically looking for someone to blame, and in a new mom, they usually find the perfect guilt-filled person. If you check further, you will also usually find that they are either child-less or parents with normal flawed children. After all, no one raises perfect children, and then we all feel that we failed as parents. Perhaps setting more stringent standards for someone else, will give us an outlet for our own guilt. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

The unreal elections - C.S. Krishna & Karthik Laxman

Not bad for a few laughs.

A humorous look at the elections, making fun of the key players, Rahul, Sonia, Modi etc.

This was an impulse buy, while trying to set up my kindle account with amazon. I didn't follow the unreal times on twitter, so wasn't aware of their biases in the political spectrum. But although I don't share their leanings, I still found the book rather funny.

Worth a read, specially when you are stuck doing stuff you don't enjoy! 

The Happiness Project - Gretchen Reuben

Another one I read 6 months back, seems so so long ago! Lying in the drafts since then.. 

Didn't like it overall.

The author looks at her reasonably happy middle class life and decides to consciously focus on improving her happiness. She goes about it as a one year project, and focusses on a different aspect each month. She also chalks out project aids like charts etc to keep things measurable and on track. She also makes it quite clear that the focus areas she picked are very personal to her and aren't a prescription for everyone else, however the 12 month format, and the tools are often prescriptive. Many people have tried their own happiness projects following her template and the book is a best seller.

In some ways I had started my own happiness project many years ago, at least starting with a conscious focussing on happiness. At that time, this blog was one of my project aids. I didn't follow it with quite the rigor of a professional project though, and over the years, the focus rose and ebbed. I guess its a good idea to consciously focus on happiness, after all isn't that what we are all chasing.  The reason I found this book somewhat underwhelming, is that it starts with what seemed to me to be rather band aid solutions. Of course, a band aid is better than nothing, but perhaps I expected more!

Shogun - James Clavell

Time to clear out the gazillion posts lying in the drafts folder. Here's one I had started few months back. 

Really enjoyed this one. It had been a while since I'd read a well written, fast paced piece of historical fiction, and this ticked all the boxes.

Set in the 15th century, it follows an english captain who lands up in japan, and gets caught up in the intrigues and power struggles of the time. The imperialist powers, portugese, dutch, english and spanish, jostle for control, ostensibly bringing their catholic vs protestant wars to this land. In reality of course the squabble is less about the sects of christianity, and more for monopolistic trade and plans of domination, proselytization and colonization. Added to that backdrop, are the intrigues within Japan and it makes for a great page turner.

Must try other books by the same author, and thanks g for this one!