Welcome to the latest issue of The Qi of Self-Sovereignty. The newsletter exploring what it means to be free in an increasingly not-so-free world.
Whether you're looking to locate your authentic self or investigate sovereignty, you're in the right place! Each week, with just a few minutes of reading, I aim to expand your awareness through a quote and a piece of content that made me go hmm...
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"Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn't know you had, and dealing with fears you didn't know existed." - Linda Wooten
Fill in the blank...
Through the simple act of __________, we learn to:
- Manage our food intake.
- Regulate our heartbeat and breathing pattern via something known as entrainment.
- Gain access to vital antibodies to defend against infection and illness.
- Produce hormones which are crucial in neural development and emotional regulation.
Can you guess the missing word?
Insightful content which made me go, hmm...
A few weeks back, I was fortunate to jump on a new podcast called the "Conscious Parenting Series." Although I was hesitant, given that I am not a parent, I decided to take on the challenge as I have a passion for the human mind, especially around early development.
Although I have spent some time digging into the benefits of breastfeeding, this documentary opened my eyes. I don't think I truly understood baby formula's disastrous side effects and, more importantly, how much value breastmilk has to offer.
Let's dive in...
I want to start by saying the benefits of breastfeeding and the associated intimate mother-child bond it brings are not only far-reaching but often misunderstood.
Our ancestors, in addition to the many indigenous populations around the world today, breastfed exclusively for around one year and then continued alongside food for at least two years. This not only provides infants with much-needed nutrition but also helps build a strong bond between the mother and child as they enter this new, unfamiliar, and challenging world.
In one study, "public health data indicated that if 90% of infants were breastfed exclusively for six months, the United States would save $13 billion annually through reduced healthcare costs."
In another study, this time on connection, they found that removing rat pups from their mother in the first few hours of life significantly impaired their ability to manage their stress response as an adult.
If this is true, it makes you wonder why it is that in the US:
- 91% of hospitals distribute formula samples to new parents.
- After six months, only 15% of mothers exclusively breastfeed.
- And one-third of women give birth by c-section, and of those, 87% are separated from their child in those vital first few hours.
Unfortunately, we are up against two significant headwinds.
In the western world, due to the social pressures of modern society, a breakdown in our currencies and lobbyings impact on health guidelines, we are seeing rising rates of mothers looking to, or in some cases, pushed to use formula over breastfeeding.
Misaligned Monetary System
Because of monetary intervention, the money we use day-in-day-out loses purchasing power over time. $100 today only purchases the equivalent of what $3.34 would have bought in 1913. That's a 96% reduction in purchasing power.
This makes it harder than ever for parents to get ahead, let alone put a roof over their family.
And... that's assuming the mother is in a supportive and somewhat financially stable relationship.
When this same mother is the family's primary or only wage earner, they must now decide between longer maternity with more time to breastfeed or heading back to work to maintain their standard of living (housing, food, and other necessities).
This decision is even more convoluted if you're American, as you live in one of only six countries globally that lacks national statutory paid maternity.
This brings us to our second headwind...
Feeding infants is big business.
In 2020, the US baby formula sector was worth a whopping $3.88 billion and was projected to grow to $6.78 billion by 2030.
When arms of the government and non-profits like the Dairy Council take money from formula manufacturers and adjust health guidance accordingly, breastfeeding's public image is impaired, making it hard to compete against formula.
Given the industry's size, large corporations have deep pockets from which to pull. In 2018, Abbott Laboratories, one of the larger formula companies, spent $790,000 on lobbying the US Trade Representative, among others, on "proposals regarding infant nutrition marketing."
In other words, Abbott gave money to federal departments to promote formula over breastfeeding.
As a result, the interests of these big corporations and their lobbying strength have, over time, bought the government, slowly undermining science and parenting best practices.
Although unrelated to baby formula, this chart singlehandedly highlights the power of lobbying/financial contribution.
This is what Tufts University, advisors to the Whitehouse and architects of the "White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition & Health, which yielded $8 billion in private and public investments in the food space," deem healthy.
A misaligned monetary system and lobbying, combined with the fact that breastfeeding in public until recently was illegal in certain US states, puts immense pressure on mothers to either quickly transition away from breastfeeding or give up on breastfeeding altogether and begin feeding via formula.
This is not conducive to building a healthy society from which humanity can flourish.
Should we be feeding our children formula?
In an attempt to maximize shelf life, most formulas are dry and sterile powders, often containing large quantities of inflammatory seed oils to assist the baby in gaining weight. As a result, they do not have the necessary nutrients for a baby's development.
However, and more importantly, baby formula has also been linked to an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
On the flip side, breast milk is made up of live healthy bacteria, probiotics, prebiotics and nutrients perfectly balanced to meet the unique needs of a newborn.
A perfect example of breastmilk's uniqueness is when the baby becomes sick. In such a scenario, the baby's saliva will change. Through breastfeeding, this change signals the mother to create antibodies the child then ingests through the milk, assisting them in fending off illness.
Alternatively, if a child is premature, the mother's body picks up on this and produces unique breast milk to maximize the baby's chance of survival.
Although the decision on whether to breastfeed should be entirely up to the mother, before closing out this week's newsletter, I wanted to dive into one last question.
What effects does baby formula have on the vital parent-child attachment?
As Daniel Siegel highlights in his book, The Developing Mind:
"For the infant and young child, attachment relationships are the major environmental factors that shape the development of the brain during its period of maximal growth…Attachment establishes an interpersonal relationship that helps the immature brain use the mature functions of the parent's brain to organize its own processes."
My mother told me a while back, "Immediately following your birth, I realized that society had lost something vital: respect for traditional mothering. All along the walls of the maternity unit were posters advertising commercial baby formula, and promotional packs were given out with free samples and discounts for future purchases."
She then said, "While you were in an incubator, the nurses gave you a bottle against my specific wishes. This meant I needed to wean you off a bottle to take my breast when we got home, putting undue stress on the mother-baby bond. I had naturally assumed I would be encouraged to breastfeed, providing the essential nutrients and fostering that important mother-baby bond."
One could argue that this transition could be seen as an early factor impacting this crucial connection. A child may not explicitly remember whether they were breastfed or on formula. Still, if formula impeded this essential mother-baby bond, and if this was indeed a traumatic event, signs of these experiences may appear in their implicit beliefs. As Gabor puts it in "Scattered Minds":
"The implicit memory circuits carry the neurological traces of infancy and of childhood experiences. Encoded in them is the emotional content of those experiences, but not necessarily the details of the events themselves that gave rise to the emotions….No conscious awareness is necessary for the encoding of implicit memory, or for its being triggered."
Lastly, studies have shown that a baby's biophysical response changes during separation. Babies separated from their mothers in the first two hours after birth behave differently. Breastfeeding is vital not only to health but authenticity. Without the essential connection of breastfeeding, we impair our emotional ability to self-regulate.
As should be evident, these early experiences are vital in our development. Suppose something such as formula does impact a mother's connection to their child, as the child is no longer benefiting from the intimacy of breastfeeding. In that case, this can potentially impair the child's development moving forward.
So... to end, if you have, are expecting or planning to have a little one, hopefully, this newsletter has given you cause for concern regarding formula.
Let's make the next generation a healthy one!
Thanks for taking the time to read this issue of The Qi of Self-Sovereignty. I hope you found it insightful.
I always welcome feedback and thoughts. So, do not hesitate to respond to the newsletter email, comment on the article or reach out via Twitter.
The future is bright!