BreastfeedingWeekBreastfeeding Week – Mother Support

Everyone agrees that breastfeeding is “the best choice” for feeding babies.  Most people can at least name a few reasons why it is “the perfect food”- natural, readily available, promotes bonding, contains all the relevant nutrients, babies are healthier, cleverer…or are they? 

Does it matter that much?  What are 4-9 IQ points worth anyway?  Children grow fine on formula, don’t they?  And then the debate rages on between mothers defending their right to formula feed with no ill effects for their babies, and those die-hard breastfeed-for-years ladies…

Why is this topic so emotional?  Why do so many women choose to formula feed?  Why do we feel so much guilt around our choices?  Is there perhaps a fear of failure, or feeling of failure?  Does breastfeeding define you – who you are as a woman? Does it limit and restrict you?

For me, breastfeeding is a description of selfless love. It is hard, lonely, confusing, painful and physically and emotionally draining, and yet brings such joy, compassion, peace, strength and intimacy.  It is more than nutrition, more than bonding, more than health for baby and mother. It gives each baby an equal chance of gentle love, undivided attention, and unique nutrients relevant for optimal growth and development. It gives each mother the opportunity to stretch beyond her perceived limits of self, and find resources within she knew nothing about.

Parenting does give those opportunities anyway, but breastfeeding starts the process from the very first moment.

I come back to the question – why do so many mothers give up, or not even start?

  • Maternity leave is short, and financially costly
  • There is no opportunity for breastfeeding in the workplace
  • We are a generation whose mothers did not breastfeed – formula was actively promoted to then - they cannot help us & we have not seen it done 
  • It was illegal to breastfeed in public – there is still strong opinion, and pressure to breastfeed “in private” which restricts a breastfeeding woman socially
  • We live far from our families – there is no-one close to help us, or they are only around for a short while
  • Hospital practices are such that they do not empower women to believe they are capable and in control of the situation, or perhaps they are merely not places for a new mother to relax and be comfortable
  • Women need support, and in my opinion “not enough milk” is really an unanswered cry for help.
  • This year the theme for national Breastfeeding Week is Mother Support.
  • What can you do to support a Breastfeeding Woman?
  • Encourage her – find something nice to say
  • Give her a meal / Do the shopping / Invite her over for tea / be a friend
  • Offer to look after her older kids for an afternoon
  • Give her a back massage
  • If you are an employer, give her a little more time – in later, longer lunch, out earlier, flexitime, job sharing opportunities – be creative!
  • Offer to look after her baby while she washes her hair / takes a nap / has some time to relax / gets an important job done
  • Ask her how you can help her – the possibilities are really endless

The only way we are going to improve breastfeeding stats is to realise that actually it is a community responsibility – where the community steps in to help mothers do the best they can to love and nourish their children, so that our children can grow up in an environment where care and respect for one another is part of what community stands for.

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