Sunday, February 21, 2010

Markets in everything: Lactation edition

People, meet Freda Rosenfeld, the "breast whisperer".

Freda is a "certified lactation consultant" and for $200 she will come to your house and teach you how to nurse your baby.

How is it possible that someone could actually earn a living by consulting on what has been a fairly natural and instinctive act in mammals for millennia?

Because of people like this I guess:

“Once you go home from the hospital, you’re on your own with this little alien creature, and you have to figure out how to keep it alive,” Ms. Brill, 39, recalled of her daughter’s birth 16 months ago. “So you put it on your nipple and wait for it to eat, and hope all is right. But you really have no idea. Are they doing it right? Are they not doing it right? Are they eating enough? Are they starving?"



Carpe Web said...

Yes, we are unbelievably, fabulously wealthy, compared to 100 years ago.

We also have rice that you can microwave in 90 seconds, because the minute rice we had as children was just too damn inconvenient (and a lie! it took far longer than a minute!.

I love this country!

Best regards,

Anonymous said...

Angus: I'm guessing you've never breast-fed a baby. Neither have I, but I understand it is very easy for some and not so for others; it can be very painful and unsuccessful. Historically, I suppose either the baby died or maybe the grandmother or other relative helped. I think this is a lot more common than many people (men) realize.

Robert S. Porter said...

I would agree that breastfeeding isn't quite as easy as you've made seem, though it's probably not as complicated as others say.

The bigger issue is that the La Leche cult has been offering these services for free for half a century.

Angus said...

I fully recognize that I am male and thus bereft of personal experience, but I must repeat and insist that if there is one thing a newborn knows how to do it is suckle!!

"Learn from the animals, monkeys do, monkeys do"

Frannyo said...

That's really not necessarily the case. Some babies are really good eaters, some aren't. Some have trouble latching on, some sleep too much and get too weak to suckle effectively, it's real. We just don't hear about it much in the West unless we have a baby or one on the way.
Some babies and moms just have trouble working together to nurse at first. Older women, grandmothers, aunts, used to help out and get the new mom and baby working together more effectively, but since a lot of moms don't have access to that kind of informed assistant, they sometimes pay for it.

$200 seems like a lot, until you look at the cost of formula over the course of the baby's first year of life.

Anonymous said...

I have only three observations: 1 wife, and two sisters.

All three times, it was NOT easy. And easy to wonder if the baby is actually getting enough, since you can't tell. That's the "am I doing this right" part. Is the baby starving? They only nurse for ten minutes, and then fall asleep.

Part of it is that being a new mom is just nerve-wracking.

Yes, the baby reacts spontaneously and strongly. Just brush its cheek with your finger, and the little thing will turn and try to suckle. The baby doesn't need lessons.

But care of the nipple, trying to reduce pain, imflammation, cracking and even bleeding (in my sister's case, fairly significant bleeding) of the nipple and aureole may require some advice.

I have friends in La Leche League. But my sister had a pretty hard time with them. She had arranged for their "service," and the woman put enormous pressure on her to continue to breast feed, even though there was enough blood that the baby looked like a vampire. Some La Lechistas are in fact cultists, who place the ideology of breast-feeding ahead of the health or sanity of the mother.

Norman said...

Angus, I don't mean to join in on the bashing, but as a current father of a breast-fed baby I have to chime in on the side of the detractors here.

Just because something is completely natural and built into our genetic makeup doesn't mean humans don't have to learn how to do it (things like walking, talking, using hands, etc). And in order for breast feeding to work, the baby has to successfully latch and eat several times within the first 48 hours or so.

Now, why you would pay $200 for a special consultant on this when a well trained midwife will help with this as part of the whole birthing deal I have no idea. But a lot of mothers out there literally fail at breastfeeding early, get the kid on formula, and can't go back. And formula is pretty dang expensive.

Anonymous said...

Used to be women got pregnant at 22 and their 46 year old mothers remembered and could show them - or their mothers' younger sisters, etc. Now the woman in the story is in her late 30s, she has maybe one brother, her mother lives in L.A. and is 60 - there is something to learn, and this can be one way to learn it. dave.s.

Tom said...

Yesterday, I took an antihistamine for allergies. Wife warned me that it could dry up my milk. How would Angus know?

Wife has been a volunteer lactation consultant with La Leche League for decades and has actual facts. Angus has... very respected opinion on matters economic and not very good intuition about modern mothers' problems.

Anonymous said...

Although I do not wish to impugn the value of specialists, I think Angus' point has some validity from an outsider perspective. Case in point, I will be a father in about a month and I've been told I've already failed by not abiding by "pay whatever it costs" mentality.

It started out when I told my wife that I didn't think we should spend $2K, in addition to a large yearly storage fee, to save the umbilical cord for possible use as stem cells if our child is someday diagnosed with some incurable disease. After checking with friends who are actual doctors in the field, they said there is no technology that exists to use these cells and likely won't be in the next 10-20 years, besides there are no standards on how the cells are stored. So you don't even know if they'll be usable. But the companies that run these businesses have informed me that when my child dies due to my cheapness, it's my fault. Likewise for a "night nurse", which is all the rage in large East Coast cities. While I understand the convenience, the way I see it is that the kid will be inhibiting our sleep for the next 10-20 years, so might as well start now (besides the fact that it's our job, and it costs several thousands of $).

All of my cheapness is clearly detrimental, and have been told that we have to give out child every advantage, as the world is more competitive. If we (I mean she) does not breast feed due to problems or convenience, then combined with my other skimping, I'm already going to make it difficult for the kid to get into the right preschool. Without the right preschool, forget about the right kindergarten unless we hire a kindergarten consultant to help prepare the kid for the entrance tests (I'm NOT kidding about the importance people place on this in east cost metro areas), same with the right elementary school. At this point the Ivy league with be out of reach and we'll be looking at state schools, this is fine because I haven't opened up a 529 account, which apparently I should have done years ago. (Although, having got all my degrees from state schools, it does worry me that he too will become a gubmint drone).

So, to sum up, the baby industrial complex wants to make you feel guilty even before you are a parent, then more so once you are. I think Angus' point is that this article is part of it, holding aside the debate about breast feeding.