I learned a few things about female breasts from a new book by Florence Williams, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History.
First, when it comes to infant nutrition, breast milk contains 100% of all the nutrients a growing baby requires and furthermore it contains various antibodies passed on from the mother which protect the baby during its earliest days of growth. Add to that the strong bond between mother and child that breast feeding develops and it sounds like a pretty great thing. My own daughter was breast fed exclusively for her first year and it continued until she was around two (I think it was the baby teeth that eventually made breastfeeding problematic).
Williams gives a rather detailed list of ingredients for breast milk:
- 4 percent fat
- vitamins A, C, E, and K
- oxytocin ( love hormone)
You might notice that the last nine items are definitely not nutritious. Williams continues:
When we nurse our babies, we feed them not only the fats and sugars that fire their immune systems, cellular metabolisms, and cerebral synapses. We also feed them, in albeit miniscule amounts, paint thinners, dry-cleaning fluids, wood preservatives, toilet deodorizers, cosmetic additives, gasoline by-products, rocket fuel, termite poisons, fungicides, and flame-retardants.
It’s actually scary. It seems that breast milk is like a magnet for all of these toxins. Some of the chemicals in breast milk are actually accumulated in the child’s body and a little girl could grow up and pass those same chemicals on to her own children. According to Williams, even if we completely cleaned up the earth’s environment today, it would take three generations to begin to eliminate the toxins contained in our bodies.
It’s amazing how poorly humans have managed this planet.