It seems like throughout history we have been learning, unlearning and learning again about the same things. Breastfeeding is one of them. In the past with the Roman empire for example, babies were breastfed at least until three years old. Wet nurses (someone else that breastfeeds your baby) were also very common. After World War II, many women had to enter the workforce and formula companies found their market. They pushed formula aggressively propagating the lie that infant formula was better than breast milk. It became so popular that women who used to breastfeed were seen as ignorant, and as a result baby boomers were the least breastfed babies in our lifetime. Now it seems that we are relearning that breast is best, but we still encounter many barriers to successfully breastfeed.
Women and advertisers
Marketers love us ladies. Cigarettes, polyester clothing, wine, formula were all successful products of great advertisers targeting women. They do so because we fall for it easily. Marketing companies usually use the feminist empowerment card like “formula feeding helps working independent mothers” and they know we eat it all up. Trust me on this one, they could care two shits about us, our health, and our babies. All they want is money and I can`t blame them, it is their business. However, we should know better.
What are the benefits of breastmilk?
Breastmilk has a unique combination of proteins, fats and carbs, vitamins, hormones, antibodies, enzymes and minerals that are perfect for human babies. Formula could never compare or even come close to it in terms of benefits for the baby and mother. The World Health Organization suggests that women breastfeed for at least 2 years for the full benefits.
The benefits of breastmilk for baby includes but are not limited to: improves brain development, boosts immune system, increases the benefits of vaccination, lowers risk of short and long term diseases, prevents SIDS, reduces cancer risk in children, helps fight infections, improves eyesight, balances digestive, stimulates bonding, etc.
The benefits for mothers include and are not limited to: less incidence of breast and ovarian cancers, weight loss, stronger bones, bonding, convenience, etc.
Why can`t women just cover with a blanket?
1.We can`t always remember to bring blankets: Adapting to a new baby is hard. We cannot always remember to bring a damn cover when we are sleep deprived.
2.Some babies will not accept being covered: My baby number one did not mind being covered most of the time. However, baby number two hated it. She would scream and kick until cover was off her face. And, don’t even think I could have reasoned with her. Try to explain to a six month old that she needs to be covered or people will judge us.
3. Some women just don`t give a damn: I love those women.
IT IS NEVER ABOUT THE WOMAN and always about feeding the baby when they want it or need it. Pumping is not always possible and in my case not successful.
The last thing in a woman`s mind when her baby needs to feed, is showing off their boobies. If you don`t know, there are things called bikinis and cleavage where you will see more skin than you will ever see when a mother is feeding their child. If that still bothers you, there is also “turn your head away”.
Lack of support is a killer:
About 70% of women breastfeed their babies from birth, but after 2 months the number goes down to 50% and it keeps dropping.
Society has made it difficult for breastfeeding mothers by shaming us when we need to breastfeed in public, by lack of support at home and at work, also by insufficient maternity leave, pressure to give baby formula, etc.
I breastfed baby number one for a year. I remember the nurses at the hospital pushing formula continuously. I went home with a case of samples. They also referred me to wick for formula. I said no to all of it. I didn`t even understand the concept of formula.
With baby number two I was the rebel mom at the hospital and lectured every nurse who offered me formula . When I decided to go back to the workforce a couple of days a week, I was told to pump in the bathroom when I asked for a private room. I tried it, but I couldn`t handle the smell and the unsanitary conditions. I was lucky that I did not have to work everyday.
My own mother kept telling me it was time to stop nursing when the baby turned one. Luckily, I have a supportive husband that has many times sacrificed his time with me, so the baby could nurse.
Baby number two is almost 4 years old now. She still nurses briefly at night and sometimes in the morning. It is not a big deal, seriously. We do it because she likes it and I don`t mind it. When will we stop? I have no idea.
How does society benefit when children are breastfed:
*Taxpayers save money – Lower incidence of diseases result in less healthcare costs for doctor visits, medication and hospitalization. If the mother is in some type of subsidized healthcare plan and wick, taxpayers save money.
* Families save money – Without having to spend money on formula and all the extra healthcare costs , families have more money to spend.
* More productivity at work – Mothers miss work less because their babies do not get sick as often and when they do, they recover faster.
*Breastfeeding helps the environment – Less bottles and accessories. Also, less use of resources and energy to produce, process, package and distribute formula.
* Breastfed babies become happier, healthier and smarter adults – Do the math.
Companies benefit too
In Brazil, companies are realizing the benefits of having a special room for pumping. Nothing fancy, they usually have a sink, a fridge to store the milk and a comfortable chair. Something so small that makes the difference to the new mothers. Mothers can go back to work and have the peace of mind that their babies will be getting the best nutrition. Companies win because these mothers will value their employers and work extra hard for them.
Does breastfeeding pass the four pillars of sustainability test?
Environmentally friendly? Yes. It takes zero resources to make and it produces zero pollution.
Economically feasible? Yes. Families and taxpayers save money by not having to pay for formula and extra healthcare costs.
Socially fair? Mothers and babies are not hurting anyone with breastfeeding. It is only unfair when mothers are not given the chance to breastfeed long enough.
Culturally acceptable? For the most part yes. However our society still has a hard time accepting it as second nature. We need to relearn what we have forgotten.
Education for mothers and support from society are key factors for the success of breastfeeding. No one should cover up unless they want to. Remember-women have boobies to feed babies.
Are you a supporter of breastfeeding? Were you breastfed? Are you breastfeeding or plan too?
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