Friday, August 2, 2013

Celebrate World Breastfeeding Week Theme- Close to Mothers

This week is World Breastfeeding Week and the theme chosen by the WABA group this year is "Close to Mothers".  The theme relates to their 2013 mission to support mothers attempts to continue breastfeeding weeks after delivery.  As the weeks and especially as the months after deliver go by, there is a sharp decline in the rates of exclusively breastfed babies.  The site indicates that as the mother's visits to health care facilities and check-ups decrease, so to does the breastfeeding.  It is this time when new mothers need the support and guidance from a network of loving family and friends to help guide her on the path of continued breastfeeding.

WBW 2013 Objectives

1. To draw attention to the importance of Peer Support in helping mothers to establish and sustain breastfeeding.

2. To inform people of the highly effective benefits of Peer Counseling, and unite efforts to expand peer counseling programs.

3. To encourage breastfeeding supporters, regardless of their educational background, to step forward and be trained to support mothers and babies. 

4. To identify local community support contacts for breastfeeding mothers, that women can go to for help and support after giving birth.

5. To call on governments and maternity facilities globally to actively implement the Ten Steps, in particular Step 10, to improve duration and rates of exclusive breastfeeding.
Source:  Objectives from

Personally, I breastfed my oldest son up until a little past the two years mark.  It was one of the greatest things that I've done and I truly believe that this is the reason why he is such a healthy young man today.  Hopefully I will be blessed with the ability to breastfeed my youngest son for as long.  He's six months now and we are still going strong and I hope that it continues.

I do realize though that there are times when a mother is not able to breastfeed and I can't imagine how I would feel if I were in their shoes.  I can see how it would be easy to succumb to guilt and wonder if there was anything that I did wrong.  I think it's important to support these women too because this is a reality that some women have to face.  However, the number of women that truly fall in this category is pretty small.

In my own personal circle of experience, what I have seen as far as support is a bit different.  All too often what I've seen happen is moms (feeling that ever present guilt and worry) rush to quick decisions about supplementing with formula because someone in their "circle of support" tells her things like: "the baby is still hungry", "the baby's not getting enough food", "give him/her a little formula and he'll/she'll sleep better" or my favorite, "you must not be producing enough milk".  If that last one isn't a statement to get at a mother's guilt, I don't know what is.  Unfortunately for new mother's who feel like they don't know any better they listen to these comments.

When my son was born, I heard these comments from family.  I heard them from well-meaning friends too.  They meant well, they just want to see what's best for me and the baby, I realize that.  However, these comments are so disheartening and the very opposite of supportive.  These comments come from a basis of fear and worry, not true understanding.  That's why I am so excited that the WBW group chose this theme for 2013.

The reality is that breastfeeding is natural.  Yes, that is true.  It's also very difficult and if you don't realize that going into nursing and if your circle of family and friends do not realize that as well , the chances of continued breastfeeding are very slim.  I knew that the first few days were going to be tough.  I knew to stock up on Lansinoh Lanolin and nursing pads.  I remembered that my milk wouldn't come in right away and I reminded myself that babies cry...that is what they do and it's nothing to get all panicky about.  Most importantly I always remembered that one of the most important things that I can do for my baby is to nurse him for as long as possible.  I did not want to throw that knowledge away the first time he cried and someone told me that he was starving.

A mother's instincts are very powerful.  I believe that we all have a motherly instinct to nurse and we know deep down that what we are doing the right thing.  What has happened over the years is that instinct has be replaced with fear and self-doubt.  It's seen especially in the previous generations of mothers who were told by doctors and advertising that formula was superior to breast milk. Even if our mothers know now that they were told wrong all those years ago,  it's hard to keep those old beliefs from reappearing.

Fortunately, times are changing and it's becoming more acceptable to nurse and it's expected for at least the first few days after the baby is born.  We are moving in the right direction but there is still a long way to go.  There is still a strong reaction from people when I tell them that I breastfed my oldest son past two years even though The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months and The World Health Organization recommends continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.

I believe that what needs to change is the level of understanding people have about the benefits of breastfeeding.  Once the knowledge is gained, then the level of acceptance can increase and over time the circle of support women have will grow as more and more people understand what an important role they play in supporting new mothers.

I don't want to just talk the talk.  The next time someone that I know is pregnant, I am going to make it a goal to provide her with all of the information that I have (in a non-pushy) way so that she has the knowledge that she needs to make informed choices.  I want to really let her know that if she wants, I'm available to her.

A fun thing that is happening around the world is the "Big Latch On 2013".  On August 3 locations around the world will be hosting the event to advocate for breastfeeding. What a fun way to create a network of support!  There is one in my area, what about yours?