Eastman’s Breastfeeding Advice – c1963

I recently purchased a book at a Goodwill Store called “Expectant Motherhood”.  It was written by one of the authorities of the time – Nicholas Eastman, M.D. and was originally published in 1940.  The copy I have is a 4th edition – last copyright date 1963.

Of course I turned to the breastfeeding section to see how much has changed in how we teach about breastfeeding 60 years later.

According to Dr. Eastman, “nervous, worried, high-strung women usually have less milk than the happy-go-lucky type.”  No pressure there.  And a “large intake of fluids, particularly cow’s milk, unquestionably stimulates milk production.” 

Avoid alcohol as it passes into the milk, but “nicotine appears in the milk…but the amounts are so small as to be of no concern.” 

The schedule seems to have been set by the doctor (vs. the mother – – or here’s a thought – the BABY).  “Some physicians start the baby on the breast twelve hours after delivery, others twenty-four hours afterward; some begin at once with four hour schedule, others prefer a six-hour interval until the milk comes it. After lactation has once begun, it is common practice to bring the baby to the breast every four hours.  ….. With small babies, some physicians prefer three-hour feedings……  If a four hour schedule is employed, both breasts are nursed for ten minutes each, as a rule.  With the three hour interval, it is customary to use alternate breasts at each feeding, the duration of nursing being extended slightly.”

Nipples needed special care!  Who knew?  (This has been confirmed as a practice by some nurses I work with who have been in this field for decades.)  You were to wash them before feedings with sterile water or a boric acid solution. In between feedings, you’d keep a sterile cotton gauze up against the nipple, holding it in place with a light binder.  And if you wore a nursing bra, it would prevent “subsequent sagging of the breasts.”

Then I reached the section on Teaching the Baby to NurseIt definitely brought me a smile in how this teaching was presented.

“Although the baby is born with an active suckling reflex, not a few babies have difficulty in coordinating their efforts when the nipple is first put into their mouths. (Ok – that’s not changed!) This sometimes seems to be the result of over-enthusiasm, the baby going at the nipple with such excited gusto that he clumsily bobs the nipple out of his mouth and then loses his temper over the whole business and starts to wail.  Sometimes, since he gets only a few drops of colostrum during the first few days, the baby appears to become disgruntled over the meager fare at his new boardinghouse, and after a brief trial gives every evidence that he prefers sleep to such a futile and tantalizing procedure.  (quite the comedic approach)

However this may be, the mother should understand that the chief purpose of putting the baby to the breast these first two days is to educate him (and also her) in the serious business of nursing.  The baby should be held in such a manner that he need exercise no effort to contact the breast, that is, he should not be made to stretch his neck forward to reach the nipple.”

When he discusses the concept of “Breast versus Artificial Feeding” – apparently the “old problem” (debate over what to do) is not new.

“On the one hand, we are led to believe that artificial, or bottle, feeding, being based on modern, scientific calculations, is actually superior to the “old-fashioned method”.  On the other hand, we are told that the mother who fails to nurse her baby condemns it to an appalling hazard, to sundry diseases, to an ugly lower jaw and even to a faulty background in filial piety. (WHOA!)

All of the advantages of breastfeeding he lists do not sound all that different from teaching today.  It’s digested more easily than cow’s milk, it’s clean, GI disturbances less often in breastfed baby, more calories per ounce in breastmilk (which has largely been fixed after publication of this book with commercial formula), hastens involution of uterus, usually more convenient, more economical.  But a couple of his advantages of “artificial feeding” are interesting: Less tiring, mom can more easily control her weight, and avoid sagging breasts. It also “takes less out of her” and people can help her.   Sagging breasts seem to be epidemic among breastfeeding mothers!

His conclusion about whether a mom should or should not nurse her baby: “Should you nurse your baby? The answer is “Yes, if at all possible.” Must you nurse your baby? “No, if circumstances make it quite impossible.”  The woman who is able to nurse her baby should consider herself fortunate.  On the other hand, the woman who is unable to do so can rest assured that artificial feeding, if meticulously carried out, will usually yield results which are equally good.”

Cracked nipples existed decades ago, too.  There seemed to be no connection to a poor latch in this time period.  Recommendations included ointments, or a breastfeeding rest – with use of a pump.  A nipple shield may be used – but the description of a shield is foreign to me. “A nipple shield is a round, glass cup which fits tightly around the outer edge of the nipple; attached to it is a rubber nipple which the child nurses.”  Thankfully,  we have silicone nipple shields today for times when one is needed.  And we know work on fixing the latch as a solution to the problem!

Discharge time was beginning to move towards one to three days post-delivery.  But when this book was written, the time of going home varies between “the fourth and tenth day, as a rule. The average is near the fifth or sixth day.”  I believe my own mother stayed six days with me and my sister (1958, 1961).

A baby might have gotten a bath immediately after birth with warm mineral oil.  The ID of the baby was confirmed by the beaded ankle bracelet with mom’s name or a “piece of tape with mom’s name affixed to the baby’s back. ”  That sounds secure.  🙂

So breastfeeding advice given at the time I was born had some truths, and some things taught then we know now were not true.  And based on my job experience, most moms still need at least some support, education, more support, information, reassurance, support – when it comes to learning how to breastfeed their babies.


Mistakes Were Made

I am sure I spend too much time in the mommy blogging world. I’m probably drawn to that world in part due to my current job as an IBCLC and seeing new parents every day I work.
There seems to be very little support of each other online and way too much judging and criticizing. It’s much too easy to do this from behind a screen.

I am so very relieved I did this child-rearing gig before the Interwebs – where I would likely have spent hours reading about how I was doing it all so wrong. From the time the pregnancy test is positive, there are people telling you the best ways of doing it all. And judging you – openly or silently – if you decide to do it “wrong”.

I am a mostly recovered semi-crunchy mom. As a breastfeeding at-home mom in the 80’s, I had 4 “natural” deliveries with various midwives in the hospital setting. (They were quick which made it all much easier to be “unmedicated”, just so ya know.) I just did what I did, didn’t much care what others were doing since I was sort of busy as they multiplied. I never once used the word “empowered” as I was pushing out any of my large children. I used cloth diapers because they were cheaper – not because I was “green”.

I did some co-sleeping with some of them at some ages, but I also did some “CIO” (cry it out) with some of them at some ages. I was not AP (attachment parenting) but was not EZZO or any other rule based parenting style. I breastfed without a Boppy. I rarely successfully used a breast pump. (Pump In Style and Bobby invented after I was all done.) I actually “breastfed in public” 5 or 6 times in the 4.5 years I was breastfeeding these four children. Two refused bottles. (would so do that differently now!) We occasionally spanked. Not often and they grew and then we didn’t spank anymore. And in all of these areas, I’d likely do things differently knowing what I now know. And knowing my children for who they are now. But ALL of these decisions are fodder for judgment nowadays.

How did we figure it all out before the Internet told us how? We observed and learned from a few people we felt were doing it well, read a few books, and watched a video series on parenting. Then there’s the “figure it out as you go along” method. We brought to the table our own experience with our own parents – took what we felt was effective, tweaked a bit here and there, adjusted for the particular child’s “bent” and hoped we were not messing any of them up too badly. We prayed. We hoped. We tried to be good role models. We worked hard to shape the clay that was born to us.

Because that’s the thing – even though you DO learn as you go along – you STILL make mistakes. You are humbled. You apologize, you feel regret, you do it better. You can’t do this thing “right” or “perfectly”. You simply do your best.

They grow, they challenge, they test, and you are humbled time and time again at what you don’t know about parenting. You learn on that first child – and the next child/ren are different and you thought you were getting pretty good at this parenting and then realize maybe you have different things to learn with this one.

It’s best to avoid saying “my child will never do that” or even thinking it – because you don’t know if your child will eventually do that. You set limits and boundaries and give affection and love and say “no” and yes, you even don’t love every minute of every day.

So I’m sorry for parents now in this connected world. I often felt like a failure as a parent, but at least it was my own self-eval – vs. the Internet World telling me I WAS actually doing it all wrong. Hang in there, young parents. The blessings that result from all of your imperfect efforts will be awesome. (aka Keith, Adam, Kerry, Erin)

Sorry guys! Mistakes were made…. 🙂

My son-in-law was being shot down for an opinion he expressed on a parenting issue recently – which inspired this post.

**I work as a lactation consultant and I want to hug the mom who feels defensive for formula feeding and it’s also fine if your child “never had a drop of formula”. Whatever works best for you and yours!