The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), whose mission is “to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding worldwide,” holds World Breastfeeding Week every year in August. This year they are celebrating the 20th World Breastfeeding Week starting today (August 1st).
WABA is working on a number of projects, including a campaign to spread awareness about the environmental consequences of formula production and use: “Breastfeeding is a valuable natural resource that is under threat from formula companies.” Other initiatives include educating about the health risks of formula use for both mother and child (there are twenty one risks on their list), training disaster aid workers in breastfeeding support, and development of workshops and textbooks for medical students about infant feeding and nutrition.
|Original artwork by Chaz Maviyane-Davies, courtesy of WABA|
I chose to highlight the image above as a reminder that those of us who are committed to greener living should include breastfeeding as part of that commitment. Also, breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of life, and continuing to breastfeed long after other food is introduced provides natural and optimal nutrition for babies, and is an important element in Natural Family Planning, the subject of my last post. You can read WABA’s list of environmental concerns regarding formula here (in English y español). This list is included on the back of printed copies of the poster image above.
As I highlighted in last year’s WBW post, a crucial link in breastfeeding awareness is for women to talk to others about their breastfeeding experiences. Last year, I shared my story about breastfeeding my first child, an experience that was frustrating and difficult, partially because I was afraid to ask for help and to talk to other women about my problems. To continue the discussion and hopefully encourage other women to breastfeed, this year I will share my breastfeeding story about my second child.
Before my second child was born, I renewed my determination to breastfeed, and I decided there was no other option because I would not have time to pump (like with my first baby) with a four year old and a newborn to care for. I educated myself about my previous problems, I talked to my friends who had breastfed their babies, I looked up lactation consultants who did home visits, I explained to my family that I wanted to avoid bottles so the baby and I could learn what to do, and I visited a La Leche League meeting when I was pregnant so I would feel comfortable going and asking for help after the baby was born.
The second time around, I knew my baby would not starve while we learned to breastfeed, so I asked everyone to back off and let us learn instead of pressuring me to give her a bottle. Since my first birth, I had also changed doctors, and therefore delivered at a different hospital. The nurses there were much more supportive of my efforts to breastfeed, and the lactation consultants visited more often. I hired a consultant for a home visit right away and things were going pretty well. The baby wanted to nurse often, and I had plenty of milk, so she did not take any bottles.
But, like the first time, I was using a nipple shield to substitute for my flat nipples because the baby had too much trouble latching on without it. Once my supply was well established, I stopped using the nipple shield and that is when breastfeeding became painful. My baby had to learn how to nurse without the shield, and in the meantime she was fussy and I was hurting and frustrated. I e-mailed with the LLL leader a few times, and I attended meetings of two different LLL groups to get advice and help. I talked to my friends and sought advice from websites. I was exhausted, hardly left the house except to go to a LLL meeting, and cried a lot, but my baby was nursing, and she was growing, a fat happy little bundle with a mouth that wanted to suckle constantly, including cluster feedings in the evenings.
After two months, we finally got it right! My pain went away and I was still nursing her exclusively. While that may seem like a long time to keep trying to get breastfeeding right, the effort was worth every minute. My baby was growing well, developing well, healthy, and best of all, I did not have to spend my time between feedings cleaning bottles or pump parts like with my first child. While there is plenty more to this story, I’ll save that for another time.
Please note that my difficulties were not unusual, but my story is atypical. Most women who are determined to breastfeed can do so with less difficulty; however effort is often necessary, especially at the beginning. New mothers need to know that breastfeeding is not an automatic activity; there is a learning curve, but that is time well spent and worthwhile. That is why it is so important for women to talk about their breastfeeding experiences.
Now it’s your turn. Share your breastfeeding story, your efforts to promote breastfeeding, or your thoughts on societal attitudes toward breastfeeding. I look forward to our conversation.