Today you woke up with your first stuffy, drippy nose and fever. Though we were unsure of the cause, we were amazed that you have gone 8 months and 5 days without any signs of sickness, especially since you have spent nearly two months in a developing country with sub-standard sanitation. You have been touched by many little hands, held by people with varying degrees of body odor, patted every surface on chicken buses, and put almost everything you can find in your mouth. You are also teething which adds a few immuno-punches. And it is only now that you show signs of a taxed immune system. Our amazement comes not from ignorance as to the reason but because of the power of nature’s best immune booster – good ole breast milk. Your mother has committed to providing you with the ultimate gift of health. Through all of the trials, you were exclusively breastfed for the first six months of your life, and this nectar of the gods continues to be your primary source of nutrition. Four hundred years before Jesus, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said, “let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food” and it is no coincidence that part of the origin of nursing means to nourish. But there is more to breastfeeding than superior nutrients.
Our good friend Pauline Ronzio (who was also the first to subscribe to our blog) is a huge advocate of breastfeeding and she explained that we should avoid saying, “it is time for Asher’s feeding” because there is so much more happening than the mere transfer of calories. Now we say, “Asher is nursing.” Nursing also means to take care of or to bring up. Stress and anxiety can be other contributors of a suppressed immune system and both are minimized when nursing. Asher, you always look so peaceful when you are nursing and you experience a balanced level of contentment throughout the day in part because your mom has committed to nursing on demand. When your pediatrician recommended early on that we space your “feeding” four hours apart by letting you cry it out, we never returned. Instead we opted for the wisdom of nursing experts; cultures without clocks, all of whom nurse upon the child’s request. While traveling, everyone has commented on two things: first, your cuteness (que lindo) which is a result of your father, and second, your calm demeanor (mui tranquilo) which I think is a result of your mother’s commitment to nursing.
Seeing as how your immune system needed a little help, we went to the market and bought some fruits high in vitamin C. Our hostel has a little juice press and you enjoyed a healthy serving of freshly squeezed orange juice. We also chewed up some strawberries for you which went down easy. While at the market, we saw several women working, shopping, mingling, and walking, all while their little one was latched on. In Latin American culture, there is no word for attachment parenting and there is also no “debate” about breastfeeding in public. The fact that breastfeeding shaming is a reality in the West shows just how far we have “progressed” as a society. How can there really be a debate with the most natural and necessary process on the ancient mammalian branch of life? In fact, the mechanics of backpacking with a baby would be significantly more difficult if you were bottle fed and the fact that it is not only accepted but expected in Central America has made nursing easier than ever.
When visiting a Mayan artisan store, the shopkeeper, draped in her traditional handmade textiles, pinched your arms and legs and said “mui fuerte” (very strong), then quickly looked at your mom and asked, “la leche materna” (mother’s milk)? Asher, it has not always been easy but your mother has worked hard to ensure that your body and mind are mui fuerte because like the signs read throughout Central America, whenever possible, breast is best.
We laid low for the day to keep you out of the 32C heat and the tuc tuc fumes and after an extra afternoon nap, you woke up looking much better.
The World Health Organization recommends:
1. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. At six months, solid foods, such as mashed fruits and vegetables, should be introduced to complement breastfeeding for up to two years or more.
2. Breastfeeding should begin within one hour of birth.
3. Breastfeeding should be “on demand,” as often as the child wants day and night.