World breastfeeding Week runs from 1-7 August, which aims to promote the benefits of breastfeeding and how it can help the growth of a child.
Breastfeeding is wonderful, easy and convenient. But for some women, it is frustrating, painful and draining. Society places such an emphasis on the benefits of breastfeeding, which makes the struggles so much worse.
Health experts believe breastfeeding to be the best choice for babies, helping defend against infections, prevent allergies, and protect against a number of chronic conditions. It is recommended that babies are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months. Beyond that, breastfeeding is encouraged until at least 12 months, and longer if both the mother and baby are willing.
Mothers are always under pressure by society to do everything, and to do it “right”. Breastfeeding especially, is a journey that can be so challenging and emotional. We are judged for deciding not to breastfeed, for stopping too soon or for giving up. It’s too long, or too short. Or our babies are picking up too much weight or not enough.
Breastfeeding your baby will, supposedly make your baby smarter, thinner, healthier and protect them from illness. But if you cannot breastfeed or simply choose not to – the shame can be immense.
There will be constant questions or remarks from family, friends or relatives about why you’re not breastfeeding, jokes about breastfeeding, or trying to tell you what YOUR child needs. At the end of the day, no one is in your shoes, no one knows your struggles, your lifestyle, or work demands.
When you research all the benefits of breastfeeding compared to formula, it’s hard not to wonder whether they are all true. Why is there such a prominence placed on breastfeeding? Does breastfeeding really matter that much where formula is a safe, clean option?
Breastfeeding may not be possible for all women, and more focus needs to be placed on this. It is not a shame if you cannot produce milk, or if you run dry for whatever reason. Many mothers feel they are not good enough or cannot give their babies the best, because the media tells them this, and because there is such stigma around breastfeeding and its importance.
This media manipulation dates back to ancient Greece, where the milk of a Greek goddess was thought to have special powers such as immortality. For instance, according to Greek mythology, Hera’s breast milk made Hercules invincible; it also formed the Milky Way.
These interpretations and conceptions have left the modern mother feeling disheartened, disconnected and unworthy. This needs to change. Let’s put a spin on World Breastfeeding Week - Every mother is worthy; every mother is ENOUGH!
For moms who can't breastfeed or who decide not to, infant formula is a healthy alternative. Formula provides babies with the nutrients they need to grow and thrive. For many, the decision to breastfeed or formula feed is also based on their comfort level, lifestyle, and specific medical situations.
Of course, there is a connection between breastfeeding and the various positive outcomes — but that doesn’t mean for an individual woman, breastfeeding her baby would improve the child’s life.
Is it really though? In any circumstance, fed is best – whichever option that might be. The complications arise in how we contextualise the size of the benefits of breastfeeding, considering the fact that breastfeeding is difficult and may not be practical for all.
Emily Oyster (The Guardian, 2019) says, “Many of the benefits women hear about are speculative, or do not show up in the best data. It can feel as if policy is centred around the idea that, if women just believe this is important enough, it will magically work for them. But many women don’t need the promotion, they need support. They need help figuring out how to get breastfeeding to work, they need help managing supply, they need help with cracked and bleeding nipples. When women return to work, they need help with pumping logistics and support”.
Breastfeeding is definitely encouraged, and is an incredible journey for both mother and baby - that comes with many benefits, but this doesn’t take away from the incredible journey a mother will have who doesn’t/can’t breastfeed her baby.
It’s YOUR journey
This week we celebrate every single mom out there and whatever YOUR breastfeeding journey looked like!
To the mom’s that couldn’t - we sympathise with you.
To the mom’s that chose not to - we respect and stand by you.
To the mom’s that are pushing through - we salute and congratulate you.
To all our warriors and super moms, YOU ARE ENOUGH!