As parents we can not protect our children from the whole world around us, though we often wish we could. There are some things that we can do to produce the best possible outcome for our children. The first week of August has been designated as World Breastfeeding Week, finally breasts are getting the global attention they deserve for all the right reasons. Breastfeeding is being recognized as an important building block to the global Sustainable Development Goals. Having spent nearly a decade either pregnant or breastfeeding my own four kids, I feel like an unofficial ambassador.
My personal commitment to nursing our babies all began with a trip to Turkey. Our first baby was going to be six months old when we would be traveling and with all of the accessories needed for travel with an infant I was feeling overwhelmed. I realized the easiest way to streamline feeding would be to continue to exclusively breastfeed until we returned home. In that way we were able to skip bottles that needed to be sanitized, glass jars of babyfood, and the quest for clean water on the go. The experience taught me how portable babies can be, and the ease that breastfeeding provided in being able to feed them whenever and wherever I needed. Recent research, which inspired the declaration of World Breastfeeding Week, has highlighted the benefits of breastfeeding beyond the convenience. Exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life has been shown to reduce the occurrence of ear infections, diarrhea, and respiratory problems in infants, and may even help to prevent obesity in later years. In 2011 the Surgeon General created a call to action to support breastfeeding resulting in the month of August being declared National Breastfeeding Awareness Month.
The First Thousand Days: A Crucial Time For Mothers and Children- and the World by Roger Thurow focuses on the importance of proper nutrition during the time period when a baby’s brain develops most rapidly, the 1,000 days from conception to the age of two years old. This is when the first breastmilk is so important because it contains colostrum which is rich in antibodies that boosts the newborn immune system. Breastmilk has been shown to contain all of the essential nutrients necessary to support a baby’s rapid development and in the book the American Academy of Pediatrics is quoted in 2012 as proclaiming:
“given the documented short and longterm medical and neuro-developmental advantages of breastfeeding, infant nutrition should be considered a public health issue not only a lifestyle choice.”
Breastfeeding on our travels kept our baby healthy throughout, but as we know we only have so much control. The 7.6 earthquake that hit on our second night in Turkey was a stark reminder of such. The next morning I thought of all the mothers who had crouched on their beds shielding their babies as I had while the earth shook, feeling the same fear, but who had not been as fortunate to survive. We can not always protect our children from everything, but by raising awareness with World Breastfeeding Week mothers will know that by initiating breastfeeding within the first couple of hours after birth a newborn baby is given the best possible start in life.
This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Elizabeth Atalay.
Did you find that you had support to breastfeed your baby?