In honor of World Breastfeeding Week next week, I’d like to talk about the issue of feeding a baby. You’ve probably heard the statistics on the benefits of breastfeeding but, I’d like to talk about the history of breastfeeding, how formula fits in, and tolerance.
Over the last century or more, women have been searching for an alternative means to feed their babies, rather than breastfeed. We’re too busy or we want our Independence. Unfortunately, maybe the mother died during childbirth or the baby was adopted. Then there’s the sexualization of the female breasts which has caused some people to turn away from breastfeeding or to persecute those who choose to breastfeed.
Prior to 1867, there were limited ways for a baby to be fed. The mother could breastfeed, family members or a ‘wet nurse’ (a breastfeeding surrogate nanny), or there was the milk from a nonhuman mammal such as a cow or goat. The latter two options did not prove very successful because of the difficulties for the baby to digest the milk.
A ‘formula’ developed in 1915 based on nonfat cow’s milk, lactose, oleo oils and vegetable oils became the basis for modern, commercially prepared infant formula. Although there have been improvements to infant formula over the years.
As parents, we make 100’s of decisions everyday. There are some that are easier than others, like whether we want to wear pants or a skirt, high heels or flats. We get so used to making decisions that oftentimes we don’t even realize we’re doing it.
Some decisions carry more weight. Should we buy a house or rent, have another baby or not, maybe wait a while. If we decide to have a baby, then we get to make even more weighty decisions. Pain medication during labor or not. Cry it out or hold the baby. Circumcision or not. Breastfeeding or not.
These are personal decisions. No one should ever be judged because they made a decision that was right for them. (As long as the child is safe, loved, and cared for)
I have heard from mothers who wanted to breastfeed and couldn’t or didn’t get to breastfeed for as long as they had hoped. They say that people judged them when they would use a bottle for feeding the baby. People would outright come up to them and say things like, “Don’t you know breastfeeding is better?”. How awful.
I had a neighbor who was pregnant with her second child. She was asking me about breastfeeding because I was currently feeding one of my boys. She was nervous about it because she hadn’t breastfed her son but was going to attempt it with her daughter. She was nervous because although her husband said it was fine, her sister wouldn’t talk to her because she was “going to do that gross thing”. How awful.
In both cases, the parents were being judged for their decisions. I’ll say it again, How awful.
Ignorance breeds intolerance and misinformation. Education is important. I believe when we are educated about the pros and cons of a topic we are more likely to make good decisions.
It is time to get educated on the benefits of breastfeeding. It is time to respect moms who breastfeed. It is time to respect moms who don’t. It is just time to respect moms. Period.