Exogestation

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Registered: 03-26-2003
Exogestation
34
Tue, 11-04-2003 - 11:10am
i've been reading this really fascinating anthropology book about enthnopediatrics (our babies, ourselves by meredith small) that hits on all sorts of infant topics (crying, sleep, bonding, feeding), etc. some of it is really eye-opening. for example, babies in the west cry more (longer) than babies in the east during the first 8 weeks of life. they each tend to cry the same number of times a day, but western babies "keep it up longer." the studies cited attribute this to the way westerners interact with their children vs easterners. its also hits on the us and canada having very high rates of sids vs hongkong and other parts of asia, etc. basically, our cultures and societies are different, but the biology of our babies is the same. different, may not always be better (since the biology is the same). the book challenges a lot of ideas that i've taken for granted.

i thought one idea introduced might have some fodder here. recently, i was slammed for using the argument that we should bf because "we are mammals." i've learned i really should've said "because we are mammals and bi-peds." human babies are born "more vulnerable" than most other mammals and at an earlier stage of brain development. the reason set forth is because we can walk. if human babies brains reached a similar maturity/size (to other mammals), we would not be able to give birth through the pelvic design that allows us to walk. we would need a bigger pelvis and therefore our mobility would not be the same. that said, the period until the fontenal (sp?) closes, the brain reaches some critical stages of development and in which some nurse can be termed "exogestation." in the book exogestation is evidenced by the lapse in fertility experienced by nursing mothers. in some traditional societies (where they've nursed the same way for thousands of years), babies are on average 4 years apart - in others, they are 2 years apart. nursing provides "natural family spacing" in these societies. the idea is that the baby still needs to be gestated outside the mother's body through nourishment still provided by the mother. this allows the mother to invest heavily and for long periods of time in one off-spring at a time.

anyway, most of us don't live in hunter-gatherer societies, but the fact remains that culture and society have changed while our biology has remained the same. does that make breast-feeding a birthright? i'm not sure there's a debate question here (or if i've explained the idea of exogestation well enough), but i thought it was a interesting "theory," for lack of a better word.

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Avatar for yogamom4
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Registered: 04-01-2003
Tue, 11-04-2003 - 2:16pm
that sounds like an interesting book,, one that i would like to read

vicky

Vicky ~32~

SAHM  To

Kelsey The Brainiac

Avatar for wendy1221
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Registered: 03-26-2003
Tue, 11-04-2003 - 9:30pm
I've actually used that argument before (that we're born too early so that our heads fit out, therefore we need to nurse longer than most mammals, anmd our milk is probably very different. I've read about it in anthropology books as well.), but nobody ever replied to me. LOL! I think it's very interesting. And makes sense.

Wendy

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Registered: 03-26-2003
Wed, 11-05-2003 - 8:43am
well, not too many people are replying to me either;)

i wonder why?

honestly, its probably one of the best "why bf" arguments i've ever read. talk about impact on brain development -- it makes sense when you think about it. baby cows have enough brain development to walk pretty much after birth, and humans can't even lift their heads...

couple this with the 100's of ingredients in bm whose roles we know nothing about and there you have it.

this book is full of all sorts of cool things...pygmies who hand their babies off to several adults. the baby is always held, but by as many as 20 people over time. all about how their community runs broader than immediate family. etc...

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-25-2003
Wed, 11-05-2003 - 9:34am
I think the lack of response is really due to the fact that there's really not much to debate, not that it's not an interesting post...JMO.

I find it fascinating as well. While I was getting my nutrition degree I had to take a class called "Cultural Aspects of Food". It was the single most interesting course that I took outside of the actual nutritional science courses. It started off right from prehistoric man to today. It didn't touch a lot on breastfeeding at the time, but I am wondering if the course has evolved since then (I took it early 1991). It's not a nutrition science course, it's actually under the Hotel and Food Administration courses at the university. It was a required course because as dietitians we need to understand all cultures that may be coming to us for dietetic counselling. It was so interesting to learn the why's and wherefores of what we do surrounding food, especially the scientific reasons. I would be interested to know if they do touch on breastfeeding more now.

There is no doubt in my mind that we are *supposed* to nurse our babies. We are mammals and bi-peds just like you have said and I have never really disagreed with that reason to bf. It's what our bodies are made to do. But when you have to switch for the reasons I did it's hard to sit on this side of the fence and hear how I was denying him of a birthright. Switching for us has given him an even larger birthright IMO, the right to grow up into an overall healthy adult (emotionally, mentally and physically). At the time I was really fearful of what I would do to him. If I didn't switch he *may* have been better off physically (although only slightly IMO), but I think his emotional and mental health would have suffered immensely in a house where mommy was insane kwim? I just couldn't handle the pressure I felt and switching to a nutritionally complete alternative took that pressure off and I was able to work on my psyche so I could be a better mom. Does that make sense? I am now taking the steps to be able to nurse successfully, like maintaining my medication regiment, setting up a network of support and making sure I know where I can turn when things aren't going as smoothly as I am hoping.

Anyway, probably not the response you were looking for, LOL! I would love to read this book though...can you give us the author and the title?

Thanks!

Judi


Avatar for wendy1221
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Registered: 03-26-2003
Wed, 11-05-2003 - 9:43am
Wow, maybe I should look into getting that book. I took an intro anthropology course in college and that's where I read most of the anthro stuff I post about. The main book didn't have a lot of info, but the prof had several "interesting reading, but not required" books and I got them all. For some reason, MOST of them had stuff like breastfeeding, childcare (like co-sleeping) and other nutrition info in them. And the prof had no kids herself? Interesting stuff...

Wendy

Avatar for kfira71
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Registered: 03-26-2003
Wed, 11-05-2003 - 10:20am

Your post makes a great deal of sense to me, and I completely agree with the need for a happy, healthy, *sane* mother outweighing the slight nutritional benefits of BFing.


As for the OP, I do find the theory interesting. But human beings, unlike any other mammals or bi-peds on earth, have the ability to create and invent and bring about incredible change in our lives. I understand the whole "it's our biology" thing, but I also think much of what the human race has accomplished in the fields of science and medicine has helped us transcend our own biology (I'm thinking here of extending our life expectancy, curing disease, etc.). Not trying to say that formula is better from a nutritional/biological standpoint here, but I do think the fact that we have developed a nutritionally complete substitute for breastmilk (which no other mammal could ever do) should be taken into account when discussing this "theory."

~Kim

"Becoming a parent means agreeing to allow your heart to go walking around outside of your body."

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Registered: 03-26-2003
Wed, 11-05-2003 - 4:23pm
the title was buried in the op - its "our babies, ourselves" by meredith small
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Registered: 09-24-2003
Wed, 11-05-2003 - 5:05pm
<
i wonder why? honestly, its probably one of the best "why bf" arguments i've ever read.>>

I'm not disagreeing with theories you've touched on, I just don't see how it's the best "why BF" argument ever. Formula, while obviously a substitute for BM, is by all means adequate in completing the 'gestation outside the womb'. If it wasn't and BM was *crucial* for proper development, wouldn't there be big, obvious differences in BF and FF kids and adults?


iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Wed, 11-05-2003 - 5:08pm
"But when you have to switch for the reasons I did it's hard to sit on this side of the fence and hear how I was denying him of a birthright. Switching for us has given him an even larger birthright IMO, the right to grow up into an overall healthy adult (emotionally, mentally and physically). At the time I was really fearful of what I would do to him. If I didn't switch he *may* have been better off physically (although only slightly IMO), but I think his emotional and mental health would have suffered immensely in a house where mommy was insane kwim?"

with all due respect, your circumstances (and other similar ones) fall into a very small percentage of ff-er's. to me, this is evidenced by startlingly larger success rates in other developed countries. that said, i understand what you're saying, and hope things go smoother this go 'round. i understand from your posts that bf success is very important to you and i sincerely hope it can be achieved.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-24-2003
Wed, 11-05-2003 - 5:24pm
Yes I totally agree.

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