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Why I created this website

by | Jan 11, 2023 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Controversies around mothers and alcohol occur with predictable regularity in the community of professional lactation consultants. I first became aware of this in 1997, when I joined the online forum, Lactnet, and read along with the discussions.

A few MDs and Lactation Specialists argued that mothers should not be warned against enjoying a relaxing drink once a day. Others argued that alcohol in any form should always be discouraged.

The hostility between the two camps surprised me–showing how naive I was about the problem of alcoholism and alcohol abuse in this country, but also how naive I was about our healthcare system and its decision-making processes.

Here, one side argued that denying parents the pleasure of a glass of wine or beer was counterproductive: not only was the risk to the baby disappearingly small, but excessive rigidity would turn some parents off from breastfeeding altogether. The other side also had good reasons. They pointed to the growing rate of depression and alcoholism among new mothers: taking a stand against alcohol while breastfeeding might save vulnerable mothers from the disaster of alcohol addiction.

I did not know it at the time, but I was witnessing a phenomenon that is endemic to our medical system: a public health discussion was posing as a medical debate. The discussion hardly mentioned on any risk regarding alcohol and breastfeeding, but rather circled around how their official opinion might influence the decisions of women.

You might call this process “health choice management” but I might think of more apt nomenclatures that are less flattering.

We recently witnessed this phenomenon engulf the world with the mandating of mRNA vaccines. The discussion soon turned from arguing actual safety and effectiveness–especially as se learned that early safety studies were poorly conducted and the results were hidden and misconstrued–but rather it devolved into promoting vaccine willingness and preventing vaccine hesitancy, at all costs. It was a public health discussion with authoritarian overtones, cloaked as a medical discussion.

The problem is that when we put policy over xxxx, even our experts gradually lose the ability to distinguish between clear, hard facts and carefully conceived, shades of “truth.”

I saw this same pattern when it came to the idea of a breastfeeding diet, or of a diet consisting of lactogenic foods and herbs to help mothers produce their fullest supply.

Instead of natural curiosity, research, and a willingness to create new protocols for mothers, I heard a discussion of public health policy: “If we say that what you eat matters, women will choose not to breastfeed.”

 

I acknowledge the value of public health discussions, but I want them to be declared and defined as such, and kept separate from the actual discussions about medicine and health.

When it comes to alcohol and breastfeeding: vulnerable mothers deserve and require specialized help to prevent the depression and loneliness that leads to alcohol addiction. Because our society is not willing or able to offer that support, we tend to create a rigid rule and hope it will have some effect. We are then willing to punish and vilify the person who does not follow the rule, even if its basis in science is next to nothing.

Telling all breastfeeding mothers to not drink that one glass of wine or beer a day has nothing to do with actual medical facts. Enforcing this rule decays trust in the medical system.

Unfortunately, taking the above statements as an analogy for the bulk of our health science and public enforcement is not a long shot. Our health system is off the rails. 

Many non-Western cultures have managed to conserve and preserve their knowledge of postpartum meals that support a mother’s transition into milk production, but we in the West have forgotten almost everything we knew–with the one exception of beer.

This makes the question of beer and breastfeeding more important than it should be. Symbolically, beer now stands in for the idea that what we eat or drink can influence milk production. If beer works, then our medical researchers have to take the idea of the lactogenic diet more seriously. If beer doesn’t work, the entire concept can be dismissed as humbug.

 

The healthcare autorities do not trust peole to make good decisions or to do things right, to follow instructions, and so they do not actually trust people, so they don’t talk straight to people, which undermines trust in authorities. Then, the authorities believe their own lies, both the ones they tell to regular people and the justifications they tell themselves, and then people are dumbed down because they accept the stupid explanations and instructions, and they accept that they cannot take charge of their own health but must always go to the doctor, which gives undue power to the doctor who is actually also under the negative influence of the institutions thelling them that peoplea re not smart enough to have informed consent.

Listening to Stuart talking https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLdw4stSgNU and the woman 10:06 minutes, about this problem. Quote her.

 

Telling all breastfeeding mothers to not drink that one glass of wine or beer a day has nothing to do with actual medical facts. Enforcing this rule decays trust in the medical system.

Unfortunately, taking the above statements as an analogy for the bulk of our health science and public enforcement is not a long shot. Our health system is off the rails. 

I would see the same kind of debate take place regarding the use of food and herbs as galactagogues: the lactogenic diet. Even though there is absolutely no harm in educating mothers about “the lactogenic diet,” and there is much benefit to be gained, the push from the medical side has been to declare it all to be nonsense, and to deny the validity of women’s practices that are centuries and millennia old.

While some medical experts recommend that mothers avoid alcohol altogether, both during pregnancy and lactation, others suggest that it should be entirely avoided during pregnancy, but an occasional glass of beer, wine or champaign can be enjoyed during lactation–but only after nursing or pumping, and then waiting 3 hours for the alcohol to be metabolized before nursing or pumping again

My personal focus was already on low milk supply and so-called “galactagogues,” the foods and herbs but also medications that improve a mother’s ability to produce a milk supply. The practice of using lactogenic foods and herbs in the early postpartum to support the onset of milk supply is hundreds if not thousands of years old. These two subjects intersected on the topic of beer as a galactagogue–a belief and a practice that apparently is also centuries old.

As long as the discussion was actually about how the ingredients in beer might work to increase milk supply, I was on board. But the opposite occurred. A very well known research team lead by Julie Mennella published a study with the word “folklore” it the title, and articles titled “Our Grandmothers were Wrong” were coursing the Internet, dealing with the topic of beer and breastfeeding. In other words, the study on beer and breastfeeding was being used to discredit the practices of earlier generations of women. This raised my ire (to use an old-fashioned turn of words).

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You’ve got hormone blockers in the environment including in our use of plastic, and instead of addressing this problem and the rapidly sinking levels of testosterone in men, we advocate for children to be able to follow their gender identification issues. It’s a distraction from the deeper thing we need to address—it’s again, a public health controversy, posing as a factual health issue, but really serving to make the discussion about the facts difficult to have. Can’t think of word for that. obfuscate maybe