Who is Cloth Mother?
Cloth Mother has a PhD in Biological Anthropology. She does research on the weaning process in folivorous primates. She spent a year living in rural Nicaragua doing her dissertation research on two groups of wild mantled howler monkeys. (You can read all about that on Nicablogua). Afterwards, Cloth Mother came back to the US to write her dissertation. (And you can read all about that on Almost PhD).
Why Cloth Mother?
In the 1950’s and 1960’s, a psychologist named Harry Harlow did some really terrible and unethical studies on social development in primates. Harlow et al. took newborn rhesus macaques away from their mothers and placed them with “wire mothers” (monkey shaped things that were featureless and made out of wire) or “cloth mothers” (monkey-shaped things that had faces and bodies covered with a soft, warm cloth). Results demonstrated that even when the wire mothers were equipped with bottles of milk and the cloth mothers had none, the baby macaques preferred the soft cloth mothers. Especially when subjected to fear, stress, or unfamiliar situations, the poor dears clung to their cloth mothers for comfort.
When Cloth Mother was pregnant, she did everything possible to ensure that the baby would be 100%, exclusively breast-fed. Unfortunately, something went terribly wrong, and she did not produce enough milk. William was always hungry. Cloth Mother did everything imaginable to increase her milk supply, but nothing worked. She spent the first several months of William’s life feeding him, pumping milk, giving him the pumped milk in a bottle, and then feeding him again. With no breaks in between. It was all she did, all day and all night. She refused to give him formula. And she refused to listen to the advice of an idiot pediatrician who told her she had to. She had an excellent lactation consultant that got her through the whole thing. The lactation consultant ended up prescribing her a non-FDA approved drug called Domperidone, and after about 6 to 8 weeks on this medication, she finally had loads of milk for William. This whole experience (which you can read about here and here) damn near killed Cloth Mother. But she would do it all over again if she had to. William never had a drop of formula, not one drop, and it was worth it.
As she began to reflect on all she had been through during her pregnancy (which involved a mild yet horrific case of hyperemesis gravidarum), birth, and the first months of William’s life, she began to see herself as one of those cloth mothers in Harlow’s experiment. Warm and comfortable but, in the early days, without much milk. She decided to blog about it.