Aaaaa, breastfeeding!! The topic that has been blowing up the internet lately for all the wrong reasons. There has been a lot of rumor lately about “how” women should breastfeed. Now I don’t know how difficult a baby would be when they want milk NOW, but there are some things we can keep in mind. Growing up in South-Africa it is pretty common to see a boob popping out now and then to feed a child. Not necessarily right next to me in a restaurant, but it was there. People would stare, say something rude and others would praise the mother.
All mothers and babies are different. Mothers who can breastfeed don’t always want to and mothers that can’t breastfeed, wish they could. Strange how the cycle of life always wants something different for us?
Before we get all serious about breastfeeding and the benefits (or disadvantages), I thought this mother’s reaction to this “note” was really funny:
Breast is Best
As seen in our Berger text (2016), infant mortality has plummeted worldwide in recent years for several reasons – one of those reasons: better nutrition.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding your baby?
Just like animals, mostly mammals, (yes, I did just compare us to animals 😉 breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for all babies. It has a perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat – everything your baby needs to grow. Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria. It lowers your baby’s risk of having asthma or allergies and decreases ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhea. BUT every baby is different.
One of the BEST advantages is the physical closeness, skin-to-skin touching and eye contact that can all help your baby bond with you and feel more secure.
Benefits for the mother?
Well apparently breastfeeding burns extra calories, so it can help with the extra pregnancy weight you picked up. It releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and since you don’t have to buy and measure formula, sterilize nipples, or warm bottles, it saves you time and money. It also most importantly gives you regular time to relax quietly with your newborn.
Why do some women choose not to breastfeed?
Some women don’t want to breastfeed in public, and it’s totally understandable. Everyone is not that comfortable, whipping out a boob for everyone to see. Some prefer the flexibility of knowing that a father or any caregiver can bottle-feed the baby anytime. Babies tend to digest formula more slowly than breast milk, so bottle feedings may not be as frequent as breastfeeding sessions.
The time commitment, and being “on-call” for feedings every few hours of a newborn’s life, isn’t feasible for every woman. Some women fear that breastfeeding will ruin the appearance of their breasts. But most breast surgeons would argue that age, gravity, genetics, and lifestyle factors like smoking all change the shape of a woman’s breasts more than breastfeeding does.
What is breastfeeding like in other countries?
Breastfeeding can be a polarizing topic. Though health organizations recommend exclusively breastfeeding for at least six months, there are many reasons women choose not to do so. Views vary not only from person to person but also country to country.
Yvette Menes, dug up some information and looked at six countries and breastfeeding. Her information was based on breastfeeding advocacy groups such as La Leche League International (LLLI).
Menes, Y. (September, 2016). What is Breastfeeding like in other countries. Retrieved from Romper – Yvette’s Blog
According to LLLI, 95 percent of mothers in India initiate breastfeeding, with 43 percent continuing to nurse for the first four to six months. However, UNICEF estimated that only 46 percent of these children are exclusively breastfed. There is a traditional perception that a mother’s colostrum (the nutrient-rich first milk) is “dirty” or “old milk,” and in the past was discarded for honey water. Medical professionals are educating Indian mothers on the importance of colostrum. – Honey and water doesn’t seem too bad to me =)
Believe it or not, 99 percent of mothers in Norway initiate breastfeeding, according to LLLI, and 70 percent are still exclusively breastfed at three months. This is likely due to the generous maternity leave laws available to them. Save The Children reported that mothers could take up to 36 weeks off work with 100 percent of their pay, or they may opt to take off 46 weeks with 80 percent pay. Additionally, 80 percent of Norwegian hospitals are considered “baby friendly” meaning that they do not accept free infant formula or bottle-feeding equipment from private companies and have trained staff to help and encourage mothers to breastfeed at birth, according to Public Radio International.
France has historically had one of the lowest percentages of breastfeeding moms. According to LLLI, in 2003 just 50 percent of French mothers initiated breastfeeding. A 2014 report by France’s Institute for Public Health Surveillance stated that less than 25 percent of French babies are breastfed at six months of age. “There is a significant movement in French society which says breastfeeding is tantamount to slavery and exploitation,” LLLI spokesperson Claude-Suzanne Didierjean-Jouveau said in an interview with The Local. “So to promote breastfeeding is to be against women’s liberation.” LLLI has been trying to change that perception. According to The Local, the number of French moms initiating breastfeeding today is closer to 70 percent.
In Peru, 97 percent of newborns are breastfed, according to LLLI. In Culture Parent reported that 69 percent of Peruvian children are breastfed exclusively from birth to five months, and out of these children, 95 percent breastfeed for an average of 20 months. In Peru, breastfeeding is common, and you can often find mothers nursing their children in public without shame or fear.
5. Sierre Leone
According to In Culture Parent, only 51 percent of infants in Sierra Leone are breastfed at birth, and just 11 percent are exclusively breastfed in the first five months of life. UNICEF reported that the long-held beliefs that breast milk is not enough food for a baby and that colostrum is poisonous have been a factor in these low numbers. Sierra Leone has among the highest infant mortality rates in the world and the lowest rates of exclusive breastfeeding. The country has even held “pageants” in which children who are exclusively breastfed for at at least six months can compete for “healthiest baby” to promote breastfeeding.
LLLI reported that 95 percent of moms in Morocco initiated breastfeeding, however, according to only 31 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed from birth to five months, and of those children, 57 percent continue to breastfeed to 12 to 15 months of age. Breastfeeding is highly regarded in Islam, in fact, children who breastfeed from the same wet-nurse are considered siblings (even if no blood relation exists) and are forbidden from marrying each other, according to Islamic Garden.