La Leche League
As a mother of three breastfed children and a member of the Weston A. Price Foundation, the article Successful Breastfeeding (Fall 2001) initially intrigued me. But the more I read, the more I vacillated between anger and shock.
I firmly believe that breastfeeding is still the number one choice for new mothers. I agree that improving nutrition should be a primary concern for pregnant women and nursing mothers (and may I point out that La Leche League has always promoted this). Your guidelines are very helpful; however, the article doesn’t seem to focus on improving nutrition enough. Rather, it seems to make a strong case for breastfeeding substitutes and alternatives. But there is no way breast milk substitutes can imitate breast milk. What about immune factors, antibodies and live cells that help protect the baby from diseases, not to mention the enzymes and hormones that support baby’s physiological development? Are you saying that American mothers’ diets are so poor that they should not breastfeed? A mother should be empowered to change her eating habits, not given reasons to feel guilty about her nutrition, and thereby choose not to breastfeed.
It is also important to point out to your readers that the breastfeeding relationship is more than just about nutrition. There are equally important emotional aspects of breastfeeding to the baby and mother that are overlooked.
Also, I would strongly argue that insufficient milk supply is rare. Most often it is the management of breastfeeding that affects a mother’s milk supply, not a physiological problem.
Your comments on La Leche League seem vindictive. Why slander an organization that has been so instrumental in helping mothers and babies and promoting good nutrition? Perhaps this organization does need to take a stronger position, but your comments go too far. This article makes it difficult for me to believe what the Weston A. Price Foundation publishes to be true.
Editor’s Response: Since we frequently receive calls from desperate mothers whose babies are not gaining weight, in spite of almost constant breastfeeding, we do not believe the problem of insufficient milk is rare. But even if it is, these mothers deserve to have access to information that allows them to give their babies healthy alternatives. Recognizing that there are unique components to human milk, we advocate giving a homemade formula using the Lact-Aid device, so that the baby also receives as much as possible of his or her mother’s milk. For comments on the validity of La Leche League’s nutrition advice, see our review of their book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. For another point of view on La Leche League, please read on.
I feel most grateful for the observations on breastfeeding and nutrition in Wise Traditions, Fall 2001. Having participated at leadership levels in La Leche organization, I have often felt frustrated with my observations on the typical diets of nursing mothers. I have many times witnessed nursing mothers on very low-nutrient diets. Usually they had fussy babies and I knew intuitively that the problem was dietary. However, for fear women would stop breast-feeding, I often did not know how to express my observations that the child (as well as the mother) was not getting enough nourishment. This was observable through simple signs–pale babies lacking glowing rosy cheeks, exhausted mothers, frequent colds, runny noses and ear infections, and all of these considered normal.
In fact I was one of those “normal” mothers. During the time I was nursing my last child, I was sick a lot and my son was thin. Yet I thought I was eating well. When my son was three and the nursing had finished, I became very ill. I was sick for over two years and needed over $15,000 worth of dental work. My immune system crashed and burned and I almost did not make it, all because of my “good” nutritional diet–lowfat, high carbs.
Now I understand full well that the problem was nutritional. Had I known about how traditional cultures provided pregnant and nursing mothers with nutrient-dense, high-fat “sacred foods,” my health and that of my child’s and all the other mothers like me would not have been sacrificed.
My work as a mother now entails connecting with many different community organizations that interact with mothers and children–La Leche being one of many–sharing my story about how I healed myself with “sacred foods.” I now speak out about my observations on how the diets of cultures a century ago contrasted with diets of today. I share how frustrated and sad I feel about the state of health of our families now–and yet I also feel excited and hopeful given my rapid turnaround and that of the mothers and children who have interacted with me and begun eating “sacred foods.”
I have spoken with doulas and midwives around the country and shared my story and the knowledge I have gained through the Foundation. Many of them are in turn very excited about your work. They have had similar observations of babies not flourishing on mothers’ milk–and mothers whose bodies become very depleted, especially after the nursing relationship is completed. They are seeing increasing problems with tooth decay, chronic fatigue and frequent illness, all now accepted as “normal.”. We all agree that what is required is not to become polarized over whether “breastfeeding is best” but instead to focus on the nutritional needs of mothers and children. The question to ask is, are those needs being met and if not how do we strategize to meet them? It is only then, through a diet of “sacred foods” for mothers, that babies and moms can truly thrive, and only then that we can say that “breastfeeding is best.”
I am a huge supporter of La Leche League. I believe strongly in the organization’s values and principles. And yet for La Leche to be authentic and trustworthy as an organization, and to avoid falling into dogma, La Leche needs to be open and willing to ask the crucial question: are the health needs of mothers and children being met? We are in a major chronic health crisis in this country. Twenty million American children have allergies, ear infections, asthma, dermatitis, eczema. Ninety percent of children get ear infections. And not all of these children are bottle-fed. Thus the answer is no–mothers’ and children’s health needs are not being met despite breastfeeding.
I believe that the work of the Weston Price Foundation provides a generous, fresh and exciting potential for getting the health of our breastfeeding mothers and their babies back on track. As I do my work as a mother in my community, I have seen the health of so many mothers and children turn around on a dime, just by implementing “sacred foods.”
It is an exciting time to be alive, especially when you feel fabulous . Today I look and feel like a million bucks, brimming with vitality and hardy as an ox. Thank you, Weston A. Price Foundation, for the courageous work you have done, and for the many lives you are affecting–most importantly, our children’s!
Ph.D. in Motherhood
The Heartland of America
Food Based on Fear
Here in the backyard of the University of Michigan Medical complex and its hydra-dead of high-powered medical research, it is especially difficult to counter the fear-based approach many residents adapt toward their health and food choices. Ironically, this approach seems most pronounced among otherwise well-educated, affluent people who also have alarmingly high incidences of disease one might associate with poverty and neglect. Of course the main “health” precept that everyone can recite in his sleep is to avoid animal fat and, the implied ultimate goal, all animal products, period. I really worry about young people and children who are consuming nonfat dairy, ersatz foods manufactured from what I like to call “a tasteful blend of soy and petroleum products,” and a plethora of pasta concoctions, to name just a few of the “sanctioned” food choices. All this is because “everyone knows” that a high-animal-fat diet is implicated in developing cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and so on. But don’t people wonder why there is nevertheless so much cancer among us, why so many adults, all with more than sufficient incomes to nourish themselves, suffer from what I’d call Third World children’s conditions like conjunctivitis and impetigo, as well as other chronic aches, pains and recurrent infections? Are people’s children never calm these days because they’re so precocious, as their parents imply, or because their nervous systems are undernourished? Conventional medical wisdom is still going strong, beating fear into all age groups about consuming fats. There seems to be no concern about the nutrient deficiencies that are bound to occur because of this.
Another aspect of this has to do with economics. People in America seem unwilling to spend a significant portion of their time or income on good food, or to understand how to recognize what good food is. A lot of this can be blamed on our allowing the demise of local small farms where even city dwellers could buy fresh produce of all kinds and have a sense of where and how it was raised, and to understand when foods are in season and at their best, and even take price in what produce was a regional specialty. When you talk about your “daily bread,” you touch a subject that many Americans think has already been worked out: food should be cheap and plentiful. But it’s just like the emperor’s clothes: the supermarket pretends to sell you nutritious food and you pretend you are buying and eating nutritious food. But where is this nutritious food?
High-quality, nutrient-dense food will and should cost more than empty foods. I noticed that Dr. Price also mentioned this fact in his discussions on the topic. Bargain-hunting shouldn’t really be one’s aim when nourishing the family. It’s no secret that we live in the ultimate consumer society and spend huge sums on all sorts of nonessentials, but I know people who drive cars costing more than any house I could ever afford who actually raise their eyebrows at what good butter costs! Having this sort of attitude about food in your own culture of course plays well with the golden rice trick of easing people’s guilt about Third World children starving for lack of good animal sources of vitamin A by having them eat rice that was bred with a daffodil.
Ann Arbor, MI
A New Trend
Because of my husband developing diabetes last year, I’ve received a pretty intense and deep education on the subject of low-carb diets. A low-carb diet was the primary thing that brought his extremely high blood sugar down to something resembling normal (along with a wonderful herbal tincture which finally got it all the way there) and managed to keep him off of those diabetic drugs. He definitely still has to watch his carbs carefully.
All this has made me aware of the new industry of low-carb products. Earlier this year I got him some low-carb tortillas (he was desperate for a burrito!) which didn’t seem too bad, except that now I realize that none of the flours used had been properly soaked or sprouted, and that soy flour was one of the ingredients.
But today I found some really bad things–they are called Zero Carb Baking Mixes (by Carbolite) which are nothing more than soy protein isolates, some flavorings and sucralose (Splenda), which is the new artificial sweetener supposedly better than aspartame. Other companies now have low-carb pastas, crackers and even bread machine mixes with destarched wheat flour, oat fiber, flavors, wheat protein isolate, etc., along with the ever-present soy isolates and a mysterious ingredient called Datem.
Yuk! What a bad thing to do to sick people. I realize I should not be surprised to find that “industry” has stepped in to “fill a need,” but these things don’t even make a pretense at being nutritious. How sad that people seeking to get healthy by reducing carbs are now being “redirected” toward these nasty nonfood products. I see yet another “trend” getting up a head of steam.
I find your website wonderful. I am tired of hearing people tell me that I will grow fat and get sick if I eat butter and drink whole milk. At this point in my life, I eat only organic butter and use organic half-and-half for my coffee (when I drink it). The only reason I avoid beef and milk is that it is difficult to find quality versions of these products where I live. So, I avoid them.
YoungAgain Nutrients really bashes your website and says that eating large quantities of meat and drinking milk will give us cancer. As far as I can see, cancer is on the rise, even though most people don’t eat lots of beef and milk. I understand, and I emailed his site, that you only advise drinking raw or fermented milk products, not the milk that is sold on the market today. He claims that you just plain advise drinking lots of whole milk and leaves out the details. He insists that a diet high in saturated fat is deadly.
I think your website has so much common sense. It would seem to me that the more work one has to do to process a food item the less healthy it would be.
Keep up the good work, and keep your eye out for those nay-sayers. Most of them say you have nothing to back up your research but I don’t see any research on their websites, and most of them are selling “supplements.”
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Regarding the article on high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in Wise Traditions, Fall 2001, additional findings indicated the health dangers of this sweetener by the mid 1980s.
A study conducted by Dr. Sheldon Reiser and his colleagues at the USDA laboratories in Beltsville, Maryland, investigated the effect of fructose consumption on the copper status of 24 men consuming a diet marginally low in copper. The men were maintained on a diet alternately containing 25 percent fructose, and 20 percent starch. The diets were designed to represent typical American diets. The study had to be terminated when four of the 24 men developed cardiac problems, ranging from severe tachycardia to mild heart attacks within the first weeks of the study due to the fructose (Am J Clin Nutr 1985 42:242-251).
The first evidence that fructose interfered with dietary copper absorption was demonstrated with rats and other laboratory animals. Severe copper deficiency in animals and people include increased blood cholesterol levels, increased blood pressure, change in bone structure, damaged heart and arterial muscles and neurological disorders. As Linda Joyce Forristal pointed out in her article, many Americans are low in copper.
Several copper-dependent enzymes that help maintain cardiovascular system integrity include lysyl oxidase, superoxidase dismutase and lipoprotein lipase. Copper deficiency can compromise functioning of these enzymes.
In severe copper deficiency, the heart muscle can be weakened to the point where copper-deficient animals die from spontaneous heart rupture. A Mayo Clinic study observed heart rupture in a number of acute ischemic heart attack victims. When examined, all were found to be low in copper.
Dr. Leslie Klevay, a noted copper researcher, while at USDA’s Northern Regional Research Laboratory at Fargo, North Dakota, drew close parallels between animal and human data. Klevay documented 28 anatomical and 15 chemical and physiological similarities between copper deficient animals and humans with ischemic heart disease. Klevay had observed heart rupture in a number of acute ischemic heart attacks. The heart muscles of these individuals were found to be low in copper content. Klevay concluded, “Evidence to date suggests that copper deficiency is the leading cause of ischemic heart disease.”
HFCS consumption increased nearly tenfold in the period of its introduction (1975-1985). Since then, its use continued to grow, until it surpassed sucrose as the major sweetener used by food and beverage processors.
Food scientists and technologists have become concerned about this increased usage. The link between copper deficiency and ischemic heart disease has been demonstrated both in human studies and in laboratory animal studies. HFCS plays an important role.
Beatrice Trum Hunter
Author of The Sugar Trap and How to Avoid It