I haven't written a lot about breastfeeding on the blog. I've mentioned it in passing or in an update for Noah's month-by-month posts (I'm late for his 8 month update, by the way!), but I haven't talked much in detail about my experience or the topic in general.
What better week to do just that than during World Breastfeeding Week?! I'd like to preface this post by saying that this isn't a formula-bashing session. While I do believe that "breast is best", the fact is that it is not always a possible choice for everyone all of the time. That being said, I am one of breastfeeding's most enthusiastic rally girls, so I hope you won't mistake my passion as judgement.
This year's theme is all about SUPPORT. Through this journey of breastfeeding, I've come to realize that I had taken for granted the amount of support I received even before becoming a mama. For me, the obvious choice was breast. My mom breastfed my sister and I and it was open conversation from a very young age. I can remember pretend-breastfeeding my dolls when I was little. I've dreamed about being a mama for a very long time and it was a given that I would breastfeed my children. Even outside of family, I have felt support in breastfeeding from many different venues. From mommy groups and my midwives' patient page on Facebook to the abundance of information online, the experience has been, with the exception of a few, positive.
When Noah was born, I was so excited to begin breastfeeding. It just clicked with us. He latched on well, my milk came in on time and in abundance, and we've been at it ever since. Noah never had a drop of anything but breast milk until he was six months old. At that time, we began what some call "Baby-Led Solids" and slowly introduced solid, nutritious, whole foods (This deserves another post entirely, and one I'm working on!). Even now at eight months, regardless of what he gets to eat, nursing always comes first. He is doing wonderfully! He is still nursing five to seven times a day and a couple times during the night, as well as eating meals with us. He is healthy and thriving and I know this is due, in part, to breastfeeding. I plan to continue nursing until either he self-weans or I feel it is time. There is no timeline in my head and no pressure to stop.
All of that to say, I realize now just how much of a role the positive attitude I've observed towards breastfeeding has played in my success with nursing Noah. (I do realize that there are still struggles, even if the positive encouragement has been there from day one!) On the flip side, I know my journey would have been much more difficult had the support been absent or worse, negative and critical of breastfeeding.
This brings me back to the theme for this year- support. For some women, breastfeeding is not the norm in their family or community. Some women have been ridiculed by family and friends for wanting to do what they feel is best for their baby. Others have the lack of resources or education to know the amazing benefits to breastfeeding. Some don't know that they have a say.
The mommy wars don't help, do they? The mommy wars make the mom who resorted to formula after months of struggling with supply feel like a failure. The mommy wars make mamas feel like they need to choose sides. The mommy wars contribute to peer pressure and bullying.
There are women in third-world countries who, because of limited resources, have not been educated about the amazing benefits of breastfeeding. In a country ridden with poverty and disease, breastfeeding can SAVE THE LIVES of innocent and precious babies. If you have a moment, please read this post by an amazing woman who has worked first-hand with women in Haiti delivering their babies and educating them on the life-saving miracle of breastfeeding.
What if we, as women of the world, made an effort to make up for that lack- whatever it may be.
That's what World Breastfeeding Week is about. From Latch-On events in cities nationwide to spreading the word and engaging in positive dialogue, women are openly supporting and normalizing breastfeeding. That's the key, isn't it? - normalizing breastfeeding.
So to the mama whose family tells you it's "just weird" -You can do it, mama! To the mama who is struggling - We've got your back, mama! To the mama who wants to give up- Press on, mama! To the mamas who breastfeed for one week, one month, one year -Good job, mama! To the mama who is pumping at work to nourish her baby, Rock on, mama! To the mama who is ridiculed for nursing in public - Stay strong, mama!
I'm a visualizer, and all this week I've been imagining the mamas, wherever they may be, standing alone in this journey, either lost, confused, afraid, or struggling. And then I visualize an army of mamas joining ranks beside her, linking arms, and whispering words of kindness, support, and love. I'd like to imagine that is some of what World Breastfeeding Week accomplishes every year- rallying the troops, showing support, and educating not only current and soon-to-be mothers, but the support systems that surround them, as well.
What about you? Has your environment been one of positivity towards breastfeeding mamas? Have you had negative reactions from others concerning breastfeeding? Has there been a person or a group that has provided support and played a significant role in your view of breastfeeding or your personal nursing journey?