This is why we need breastfeeding advocacy

/, Maternal health, Parenting/This is why we need breastfeeding advocacy

I rarely comment on the breastfeeding issue, mainly because a) I don’t see it as an issue, and b) I’m not a lactation expert.

However, I am a psychologist, which means I have a pretty solid understanding of human behaviour.

And, I’m a mum.

A breastfeeding mum, to be exact.

I remember in my early days of being a mum, I received a huge amount of support and assistance from midwives, nurse midwives, and lactation consultants.

And then beyond those first few days and weeks, things started changing.

I started to doubt myself and my abiliy to feed my child. And the response that I received from others had the potential to seriously undermine my breastfeeding relationship with my child.

I remember people telling me to feed on a three-hourly schedule, without exception.

I remember people suggesting that my sons’s cluster feeding was due to my “lack of milk”.

I remember people telling me that formula would help my son sleep through the night.

All of these suggestions prompted my own exploration of infant feeding behaviour.

And I quickly learned that babies regulate milk production through supply-and-demand, not by watching the clock.

I learned that cluster feeding and night-waking are both biologically normal and adaptive.

This is why we need breastfeeding advocacy.

If I hadn’t questioned the advice, and done my own research – I probably wouldn’t have persevered with breastfeeding.

If I’d listened to the incorrect (although probably well-intended) advice, I’d probably have chalked my breastmilk up as inadequate, and moved to formula.

As the weeks and months went by, I could see the non-nutritive effects of breastfeeding on my son. I witnessed, first hand, the immunity-boost that breastmilk provides. The pain-relief that breastfeeding provides. The feeling of safety and familiarity that breastfeeding provides.

This is why we need breastfeeding advocacy.

Because breastfeeding is about so much more than nutrition – but not all nursing mothers realise it. Breastfeeding promotes emotional wellbeing in both mother and child, and for many women, being “unable” to breastfeed can have a significant impact on their mental health and self-esteem.

I remember a child health nurse telling me that breastfeeding has no nutritional benefits beyond six months.

I remember various experts telling me that my baby needed to be more independent.

I remember dealing with recurrent bouts of mastitis, and being told by health professionals “why don’t you just use formula?”

This is why we need breastfeeding advocacy.

The ignorance and lack of support in the general medical community is astounding, when it comes to breastfeeding knowledge and infant development.

If I had been the type to take “expert” advice as gospel (which I’m not, as I describe here), then I would have nodded in wide-eyed naivety and made the switch to formula.

I’ve been told I was “disgusting” for breastfeeding my child in public.

I’ve had friends who’ve been ridiculed and harassed whilst breastfeeding in public.

I’ve had friends who’ve been told to cover up because breastfeeding is too tantalising for men.

This is why we need breastfeeding advocacy.

Because we live in a world where breastfeeding is mocked, ridiculed, and even shamed.

And yet, breastfeeding is one of the most instinctive and biologically appropriate behaviours in the parent-child relationship.

Some people think that advocating for breastfeeding equals castigating formula feeding.

That’s not the case – as formula certainly has its place.

I know that there are some parents who are unable to breastfeed or source donor milk (and as a side note, why isn’t donor milk advocated as much as formula?).

I know that there are some parents who return to work, and cannot express milk for their babies (as another side note, why don’t we have longer paid maternity leave and free child care so that women aren’t compelled to return to full time work for financial reasons?)

I won’t judge parents who formula feed, simply because it’s not my place to do so.

What I do judge, is a society that makes it extraordinarily difficult for women to breastfeed.

A society that deems it acceptable to give misinformation, especially around a subject that can be quite emotive for many women.

A society that has callous disregard for the emotional and biological desires of mothers (breastfeeding or not).

And that’s why we need breastfeeding advocacy.

By |2017-07-09T18:49:31+00:00January 14th, 2016|Categories: Breastfeeding, Maternal health, Parenting|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

About the Author:

Leave A Comment