Mother’s milk

Eve McNeil

Photo By David Robert

La Leche League International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing education, information, support and encouragement to mothers who want to breastfeed. They offer a variety of resources for nursing moms, as well as monthly support meetings. Eve McNeil, mother of four, is one of the Northern Nevada chapter’s volunteer leaders. Those interested in more information on LLLI can contact Eve at (775) 971-3632.

What does La Leche offer to mothers thinking about nursing?

La Leche has been providing breastfeeding information and support to new mothers for over 50 years now—we’re the foremost authority, keeping up on all the latest breastfeeding research and staying on the cutting edge. That’s our only mission: to promote and encourage breastfeeding. There are a few common difficulties new mothers can have, especially at first, that can sometimes discourage them from breastfeeding. We get them over the early hurdles.

What are the most obvious benefits of breastfeeding versus formula?

Breastfeeding is the most natural, healthy way to feed your child. It can’t be duplicated in artificial formulas. Breast milk is amazing. It’s full of antibodies and vitamins and the exact proportions of proteins and fats designed for the age of your child. If you’re exposed to a germ, [breast milk] has the antibody. It’s the perfect food for babies. There’s a time and a place for formula, but it should be seen more like medicine—to be taken as needed. You don’t go around promoting taking Tylenol just to take it, but sometimes it’s necessary.

Knowing this, why wouldn’t every mother breastfeed?

Our culture has not been supportive of it since the invention of formula. Obviously, money is behind it. Companies can’t make money off of breast milk. Some women are embarrassed because of the cultural stigma attached to breastfeeding. It was once seen as the resort of those who can’t afford to buy formula. A lot of these misconceptions have faded in the last 20 years, but you still have in-laws pressuring a woman or others making her feel embarrassed, as if breastfeeding was a sexual act instead of a nurturing motherly act. Most state laws are pro-breastfeeding in public, but it’s taking a little while to erase lifetimes of ignorance.

So the tide is turning?

Much more so. Women are embracing it as a natural act and not some kind of a statement that you’re earthy. It’s such a good health choice for the kid. No baby is allergic to it, but if you expose children to dairy or soy, it can exacerbate the allergy. Research shows that breastfeeding its reduces the risk of breast cancer. Interestingly enough, there’s also an IQ advantage of about 6 points for breast-fed children.

Is there any special diet nursing women should adhere to? Anything to avoid?

Eat healthy. Eat a variety of natural foods or as close to natural as you can get. There’s a common misconception with a lot of OTC [over the counter] and prescription medicines. Not everything a mother ingests crosses over into her breast milk. Lots of woman stop breastfeeding if they have to take some kind of medicine, often on doctor’s advice. It’s not always necessary though. We field a lot of calls from women with questions about this type of thing, and are able to do the research and let them know if it’s risky or not.