This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Mama Simona from Cape Town, South Africa.
Photo credit to the author.
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Mama Simona from Cape Town, South Africa.
Photo credit to the author.
As part of World Moms Network’s collaboration with BabyCenter’s Mission Motherhood®, our World Moms are writing posts on maternal health around the world. In our most recent post, Elizabeth Atalay, writes,
“I recently had the opportunity to interview author Roger Thurow about his newly released book entitled, The First 1000 Days: A Crucial Time for Mothers and Children – and the World. He told me that it was the child of one of the farmers in his previous book, The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change in 2013, that led him to write about the importance of proper nutrition. Three out of four of the farmers he had written about were women, providing food for their communities, yet too often their children were suffering from malnutrition. ‘I realized the deepest misery of these farmers and these moms is to be unable to silence the cries of their children from hunger,” said Thurow. Seeing these children over the years, he wondered about the long-term impact malnutrition would have on their futures.'”…
Read the full post, “The magic of mother’s milk“, over at BabyCenter’s Mission Motherhood®!
Every woman has a breastfeeding story.
If you ask me, I’d tell you how I became a mother at the center of a lawsuit about the rights of women breastfeeding in the workplace, and why I turned down the financial compensation in my lawsuit.
If you ask my mother, she’d tell you why she never breastfed her children. That was before the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative took place, and the hospital staff gave her baby a bottle right after she gave birth.
If you ask my grandmother, she’d tell you how she breastfed her two toddler sons on a refugee boat and saved their lives.
It is because of my grandma’s experience, my mom’s experience, and my own experience that I am now part of my local breastfeeding coalition that works everyday to support moms reaching their breastfeeding goals and walk moms through it when breastfeeding becomes difficult.
We celebrate breastfeeding all year long, especially during the first week of August—it is World Breastfeeding Week!
A Sustainable Solution
In 2015, the world’s leaders commented to 17 goals aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity. Together, they formed the sustainable development goals. The theme of this year’s WBW is “a key to sustainable development.” It reminds people that breastfeeding is a key element in getting us to think about how to value our wellbeing from the start of life, how to respect each other and care for the world we share.
Breast milk is a secure source of nutrition, always ready and safe on a daily basis, and in any emergency or natural disaster. Breast milk is the ultimate sustainable resource. It requires no packaging or processing, is local and fresh, and costs the nursing mom only a few extra calories a day.
Multiple scientific studies reveal that breastfeeding has numerous lifelong health benefits for mom and baby. Breastfeeding lowers a mother’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Breastfed babies have lower risk of serious health conditions such as asthma, obesity, childhood leukemia and sudden infant death syndrome.
These benefits save health dollars, which shouldn’t be a surprise. That says breast is the best, not for the moms or the babies, but for the Earth and all mankind living on the planet.
Everyone has a part to play in achieving the sustainable development goals by 2030.
Everyone should care about the breastfeeding movement, even if you are not part of it.
A Human Right
The mention of “breastfeeding movement” might conjure up such images as a activist sit-in or a protester holding a “free the nipple” sign. But there’s more to the breastfeeding movement than its squeakiest wheels, and even women who have no intention of ever breastfeeding, or men who have no intention of ever having kids still have a personal stake in this issue.
On its face, the issue of breastfeeding rights might seem like a fight about what’s the best way to feed a baby. It is not. Surely it’s long been established that breastfeeding is beneficial, but that’s not the point here.
The fight for breastfeeding rights isn’t about the milk that’s in the breast; it’s about the woman who’s attached to them. Breastfeeding rights is something everyone should care about, even if you don’t breastfeed, and even if you are not a mom. Breastfeeding rights is a women’s rights issue, and women’s rights are human rights. It is something that concerns all women, and men with souls.
Breastfeeding is about choice. In the United States, more than 90 percent of women start breastfeeding their babies at birth. They know breastfeeding is best for their babies and themselves. Sadly, most women report not meeting their own breastfeeding goals and quit before they really wanted to. Many challenges, including not being supported to breastfeed after returning to work or being shamed for breastfeeding in public, make continuing to breastfeed harder.
What matters is that women have the right to choose to breastfeed, are legally allowed to do so in public, and are legally supported to do so at work. People who never intend to use their own breasts to feed a baby can and should still support the rights of women who do.
Support breastfeeding is support human rights and the global goals for sustainable development. So happy World Breastfeeding Week! Let’s work together to achieve the sustainable goals by making the annual WBW celebration more than a week-long effort.
Do you, or did you, breastfeed your kids? Is breastfeeding socially and legally supported where you live?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by To-Wen Tseng of California, USA. Photo credit: Ewa Samples Photography.
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?
Jennifer Grayson is an author, journalist, columnist, and a leading expert on environmental issues. UNLATCHED: The Evolution of Breastfeeding and the Making of a Controversy is her first book and her global exploration of the breastfeeding uproar and the bond that makes us human. #WorldMom To-wen Tseng is featured chapters six and seven of the book.
A conversation with Grayson:
What inspired you to write the book?
I had a few epiphanies that ultimately led me to write Unlatched, but the first one happened when I was pregnant with Izzy, my older daughter. One afternoon, I went to get the mail, and there was one of those maternity marketing “gift” packages waiting for me, with a large container of infant formula inside.
I had planned on breastfeeding, but like a lot of expecting moms I was nervous at the prospect of being my baby’s sole source of nourishment for the first six months. Could I really make it that long? So I went to the pantry to stash the formula, just “in case.” But before I could, my husband stopped me to look at the ingredients on the back of the package. I’m usually an obsessive label reader, so I was shocked when I turned over the container and saw corn syrup, soy oil, a plethora of unpronounceable ingredients… I had never even considered what was in this substitute that we so readily offer as an alternative to the breast. And then I realized: Hey, this is what I was exclusively fed as a baby! Those printed ingredients, on the back of that plastic package, were the building blocks of my life. I’ve struggled with chronic health issues since adolescence, and for the first time in my life I considered that there could be a connection.
The book is subtitled “The Evolution of Breastfeeding and the Making of a Controversy.” You explored some amazing and even shocking history about breastfeeding and bottle feeding. What impressed you the most?
One of the most surprising discoveries had to do with when, historically, the shift from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding first occurred. I had always thought it was during the 1940s and ’50s—the whole “better living through science,” post-war consumerism era where breasts became hypersexualized and Marilyn Monroe became an icon in a pointy bullet bra. But the shift actually began an entire half-century before, in the wake of America’s Industrial Revolution, in the late 1800s. For the first time in history, women were working in factories for long hours away from home, and they were living in big cities or even an ocean away from their own mothers and grandmothers who would have taught them how to breastfeed in generations past. It was these women—out of desperation—who first began experimenting with artificial breast milk substitutes, and to disastrous results. In fact, death by artificial feeding was one of the greatest public health issues of the early twentieth century.
And what’s really fueling the “mommy war” controversy?
I truly believe that the root of the current mommy wars is the utter lack of support for most mothers in American society. Nearly 80 percent of US mothers now start off breastfeeding, yet half give it up entirely or start supplementing with formula after just a few weeks. Why? Well, we’re one of pitifully few countries in the world without paid maternity leave, there is scant medical support for nursing mothers, and there are zero regulations on formula advertising in this country. Many governments around the world—like Taiwan’s, as you know—have taken dramatic steps to rectify this, in the name of public health. But more and more in the US, being able to exclusively breastfeed for the six months recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization boils down to a question of economic privilege. These are harsh truths, and I think it’s been easier to point fingers at each other than uncover and deal with the real issues.
Throughout the book we see that the benefits of breastfeeding have been well documented by many researchers. Do you feel, however, that breastfeeding is normalized in our society?
Well, I think that the very fact that we refer to it as the “benefits” of breastfeeding makes it very clear that breastfeeding is not normalized in our society. It seems more like formula is the norm and the natural elixir that our bodies have provided for eons is now seen as some sort of “boost”—like the one you might get from a pack of vitamins. But human milk is the human norm, and there are very real risks associated with not breastfeeding a child—including increased incidence of gastrointestinal and respiratory infection, obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, leukemia and SIDS.
As an environmental journalist and a mother who breastfed her oldest for four years, surely you’re aware of those benefits of breastfeeding in the first place. Did you learn anything new when writing this book?
One of the most profound things I learned was how little we truly know about breast milk—which is not merely a foodstuff but an extremely powerful human tissue packed with complex nutrients, hormones, bioactive molecules, ancient microorganisms, and thousands of other compounds that scientists have yet to understand or even discover. We finished sequencing the human genome more than a decade ago and yet we still don’t have a comprehensive library of what’s in breast milk!
As you point out in the last chapter, human milk is becoming a big business. Why is that unfortunate? What would breastfeeding be like in an ideal world?
As any nursing mother knows, breastfeeding is more than just the transfer of a “liquid gold” of nutrients; it enables a profound connection between mother and child—one that has persisted throughout human existence. So yes, as science continues to discover more exciting things about the compounds present in breast milk, hopefully society will be encouraged to prioritize breastfeeding. Still, we have to be careful not to fixate only on breast milk itself, which is already happening: Formula companies and biotech startups are racing to distill human milk down to its essence, and it is now one of the most valuable commodities in the world, worth four hundred times the cost of crude oil. But do we really want what is free and available to nearly all mothers to be sold back to us in a bottle one day? In an ideal world, alternatives to a mother’s own milk would always exist for those who need it, but mothers would have the critical support they need to be able to breastfeed their children as long as they want to.
Did you breastfeed you own babies? Where do you stand on the breastfeeding controversy?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by To-Wen Tseng.
Photo credit to Harper Collins Publishing.