Back on October 14, 2011, I inadvertently set off a firestorm of debate related to the question of breastfeeding while pregnant. I had read this question on the Natural Parent’s Network on Facebook: “Brooke asks: “Does anyone have any advice/insight on weaning? My 2 year old still nurses a couple times a day but I’m 7 weeks pregnant and my doctor just put the fear of God in me about the risk of miscarriage. Help! I really don’t think either of us could do cold turkey, but I need to speed up the process.”
I shared the question with the Nourishing Our Children Facebook community: “The comments on the attached post are of interest. I wonder if the traditional cultures that Price observed faced this concern with their spacing practices – about 3 years between children. I wonder if they breast fed much beyond 2 years?” — and had a 52 fairly passionate responses. Some expressed that they breastfeed through numerous pregnancies, and even tandem breastfed more than one child at once and assured us all that everyone involved was healthy and happy. Others raised concerns: “I do not think its very healthy for a pregnant woman to nurse. It would be a huge task to make sure you would be consuming enough nutrients for both mom, baby, and for healthy milk.”
What side of the question do you land on?
As a result of this debate, I followed up with this post:
“Yesterday, in a discussion I initiated here on Facebook on the topic of breastfeeding while pregnant, Tiffany of The Coconut Mama expressed this concern: “I (personally) would worry about not giving my nursing child and unborn child enough nutrients, leaving them undernourished.” I found the concern to be quite valid and consulted with Sally Fallon Morell, the President of the Weston A. Price Foundation, who wrote in response “Yes, I would have the same concerns. Moms need to finish nursing before they give birth, even before they get pregnant. That means spacing your children. Sally” She followed up and wrote, “It really isn’t fair to the unborn or new child for mom to be putting so much of her nutrition into breast milk. Sally”
I looked at the research of Dr. Weston A. Price in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration to see what he discovered on the topic. There is quite a lot of content so this will be the first of several posts. He writes:
“It is significant that while these important factors are just coming to light in our modernized civilization, the evidence clearly indicates that several so-called primitive races have been conscious of the need for safeguarding motherhood from reproductive overloads which would reduce the capacity for efficient reproduction. For example, G. T. Baden |3| in his book “Among the Ibos of Nigeria” states:
“It is not only a matter of disgrace but an actual abomination, for an Ibo woman to bear children at shorter intervals than about three years. . . . The idea of a fixed minimum period between births is based on several sound principles. The belief prevails strongly that it is necessary for this interval to elapse in order to ensure the mother being able to recuperate her strength completely, and thus be in a thoroughly fit condition to bear another child. Should a second child be born within the prescribed period the theory is held that it must inevitably be weak and sickly, and its chances jeopardized.”
Similarly, the Indians of Peru, Ecuador and Columbia have been familiar with the necessity of preventing pregnancy overloads of the mother. Whiffen |4| in his book “North-West Amazons” states:
“The numbers (of pregnant women) are remarkable in view of the fact that husbands abstain from any intercourse with their wives, not only during pregnancy but also throughout the period of lactation–far more prolonged with them than with Europeans. The result is that two and a half years between each child is the minimum difference of age, and in the majority of cases it is even greater.”
It may also be important to note that the Amazon Indians have been conscious of the fact that these matters are related to the nutrition of both parents. Whiffen states that:
“These Indians share the belief of many peoples of the lower cultures that the food eaten by the parents–to some degree of both parents–will have a definite influence upon the birth, appearance, or character of the child.”
This problem of the consciousness among primitives of the need for spacing children has been emphasized by George Brown |5| in his studies among Melanesians and Polynesians in which he reports relative to the natives on one of the Solomon Islands as follows:
“After the birth of a child the husband was not supposed to cohabit with his wife until the child could walk. If a child was weak or sickly, the people would say, speaking of the parents, “Ah, well, they have only themselves to blame.”
1. MURPHY, D. P. Reproductive efficiency and malformed children. Surg. Gynec. and Obst., 62:585, 1936.
2. MURPHY, D. P. The duplication of congenital malformations in brothers and sisters and among other relatives. Surg. Gynec. and Obst., 63:443, 1936.
3. BADEN, G. T. Among the Ibos of Nigeria. Phila., Lippincott, 1921.
4. WIFFEN, T. North-West Amazons. N. Y., Duffield, 1915.
5. BROWN, G. Melanesians and Polynesians. London, Macmillan, 1910.
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