Saturday, January 15, 2011

Greek Gods and Cow's Milk

    Teaching The Odyssey was fun. Teaching it to ninth graders was hilarious. After background lessons about Greek mythology, some baby-faced kid would usually ask, "Did this stuff really happen?". If this question was asked in front of the rest of the class, you can imagine the response of the other kids. Partly to help the first kid save face and partly because it's true, I'd remind them that one day people will think some of our beliefs and practices were quaint and outlandish. The toddler sippy perpetually filled with cow's milk will be among those practices heaped in the odd pile.

   I told you in my January challenge post that I'm transitioning to veganism and am in the research stage of making a dietary decision for the babies. In the pro-vegan corner is my desire to save them from the ill-effects of animal protein. Even though there's no history of Type-1 diabetes in our family, I'm still afraid of them consuming the casein in cow's milk, which is linked to the onset of Type-1. In the pro-vegetarian corner was every pediatric dietary recommendation I've been handed at the doctor's office about the 16-24 oz. of cow's milk toddlers are supposed to be slurping down on a daily basis.

    But how does that work with extended breastfeeding? Was I supposed to be cutting feedings to make room for cow's milk? What did my breastmilk lack that they needed from cow's milk? How many times a day should I be nursing them, anyway? Turns out this information isn't as easy to find as you might think.

    Here's what I found out: There's absolutely NOTHING that cow's milk provides (except for added Vitamin D) that human breastmilk doesn't. In fact, human breastmilk is still the best choice for human toddlers. It's species-specific and is richer in the brain growth-friendly fats that humans need.

    So to break this down for you, our culture encourages:
  1. Weaning babies from human milk, the best nutritional choice for human babies and toddlers
  2. Replacing an ideal, species-specific nutrition source with one designed for baby cows
   This brings me back to a fun fact about human gestation. Why are human babies are born at 40 weeks? It's because our giant-brained heads get too big. Think about it. What's the hardest part to push out? The big 'ol head. Humans are kinda special like that. We also have such a long juvenile period because our brains are so complex that they need all of that extra time to develop.

    But we replace a nutrition source designed for advancing brain development in favor of one tailored to fast-tracking the growth of a four-legged critter to several hundred pounds within a matter of months. Huh. How... quaint.

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  1. Aren't we the only species to feed our mammalian children the milk of another species? And then, of course, we take that species and fill it full of growth hormones and other crap and then convince the public that somehow breast-feeding is "gross" and that this chemical-filled garbage is better than what Nature provides. It's outrageous. (If I weren't so outraged I'd probably try to come up with something about the Siren's Song of consumption or the Laestrygonian idea of eating dead flesh or the way ads can have the same effect as eating Lotus and making us forget what it is we're consuming--but I won't!)

  2. Very interesting! I'm still on the fence on when to quit b/f so please post more info as you find it. How long are you planning on b/f?

  3. We're on organic cow's milk now and I am done BFing. I am SUPER ok with being done pumping for 24-7 (and I made it a year, yay!) and I am also ok with using organic cows milk. I am super against pestisides and growth hormones, but do feel ok with cows milk. I think (and just my opinion, by the way, every mom has her way of doing things) that I am going to give them what they need, lots of different foods and choices, (that is if they EAT it, since they are ina refusing to eat stage) and won't deprive them of things, and if they choose to go another route once they get older (vegaterian, vegan, etc) they are 100% free to do so. I don't know. Its all so relative, and everywhere you read says something else!! I did find Caryn's comment about soy VERY intersting. I had NO idea of any of that. And after doing alot of research, I am taking soy out of their diets, and only giving it to them every once in a while. My nutiritonist friend basically confirmed what Caryn said, but was more lenient with it. And in talking to my nanny about it (she grew up on only soy products and soy milk, no cow's milk),her and her sister both started their periods and went through puberty at 9! And right now she is going through early meopause. She was floored when I asked her if she had heard anything about this coy stuff, and she told me thats all she had growing up.

  4. Chris, we're also the only species to drink the milk of another species as adults. I will admit that I'm going to miss ice cream, though.

    someday, I found out that 3-4 nursing session a day is enough. And now I'm also thinking about all of the money that we'll save by not having to buy milk. Ca-ching! I'm planning to continue bf'ing until they decide they're done. Ideally by that point, they'll be at an age where I'll feel comfortable saying, "Ok, we're done with milk altogether."

    Mandy, I applaud you for making it a year with pumping. Seriously, that took some dedication. I've got the same stance as you on soy. It's actually one of the biggest challenges I'm facing with the transition to veganism. Soooo many vegan (and vegetarian) recipes rely on soy!

  5. We started introducing organic cow's milk after a year of BFing. Isabella continued to BF (and drink some cow's milk) until 19 months. Now, we're transitioning from organic whole to organic 2%. The vitamin D is what I was concerned about -- that's why we started adding some cow's milk.

    She's only drinking about a cup of milk per day, but she LOVES yogurt and cheese. I guess she comes by this naturally as the daughter of a Wisconsinite.

    It's all so confusing. I say continue with BFing as long as the twins are interested in it. It was such a positive experience for us. I was sad when she stopped.

  6. As a vegetarian w/vegan tendancies, and a LO who is dairy intolerant, I struggled w/the milk issue. The pediatrician recommended hemp milk for the added nutrition. the brand I get is a good source of B12, Vitamin D, Calcium, Riboflavin and Phosphorus...and has less sugar than cow's milk. You have to watch the brand on the sugar though...I've seen as low as zero and as high as 16 grams of sugar!! I bought one w/16 grams of sugar by accident...based on behavior...that didn't happen again! I check very carefully if I get a different brand now! :)

    1. Hemp milk is pretty hard to find where we live, so we've settled on soy. Maybe when our Trader Joe's opens hemp will be more affordable/available. Funny thing, Veda turned out to be lactose intolerant, which makes me even more glad we didn't do cow's milk!


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