Normalizing Breastfeeding

My attitudes about breast feeding have changed a lot in the last eight months since Adelaide has been born. I never questioned whether or not I would breastfeed. I just assumed I would if I could. Tim and I took a breastfeeding class at the hospital a few weeks before Adelaide was born. It was a one-night class that informed parents about the benefits of breastfeeding for both baby and mom – fewer ear infections and allergies for baby and lower risk for breast cancer for mom, just to name a few. Really? Bonus! The benefits I learned far exceeded my simple expectation of “good, natural nutrients for the newborn.”

 Breastfed babies have:

  • Less instances of gastrointestinal issues, respiratory infections, and ear infections
  • Less likelihood of developing allergies
  • Higher IQs
  • A decreased risk of obesity later in life
  • Lower rates of infant mortality
  • Less illness overall and less hospitalization

Check out page 12 of the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding for a complete list!

Breastfeeding helps mom:

  • Lose weight faster
  • Control post-partum bleeding
  • Reduce the risk for ovarian and breast cancer
  • Working parents of breastfed children have up to 6 times less absenteeism

I used to believe that when a baby is old enough to “ask for it,” they are too old to be breastfed. I saw photos of two-year-olds breastfeeding and cringed.  I’m not sure what I thought – that the children would somehow be irreparably damaged for being coddled by their overprotective mothers? There wasn’t one single event that changed my thinking.

It started with that breastfeeding class, and continued with the breastfeeding support group I attended at the hospital after Adelaide was born. The more I read and the more I became informed, the more I realized that my previous way of thinking is just part of what our society has told us to think. Although breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in the world, it’s not normalized in our American culture. Women are not supported to get through the early humps and hurdles of breastfeeding, they aren’t supported when breastfeeding in public, working moms aren’t supported to breastfeed and pump in the workplace, and they aren’t supported to breastfeed their children past some arbitrarily picked maximum age.

My attitudes surrounding breastfeeding are changing, and as Adelaide heads toward the nine-month mark of exclusive breastfeeding (she’s had some “solids,” but no formula), I’m starting to think about how long we might continue to do it. I’m becoming a breastfeeding advocate while still trying to be considerate of those who make different choices, or are somehow forced to make choices different from their intended goals. Normalizing breastfeeding in our society is not going to happen overnight. It starts and ends with education, with a lot of compassion, support and understanding in between.

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