You Betta Reckanize (World Breastfeeding Week, that is)
Today marks the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week in the United States. Always celebrated from August 1-7, this is one of many tricks we have up our sleeves as moms and health professionals to publicly flaunt the awesomeness of nursing.
I can’t help feeling a little irritated though. Yes, I’ll take advantage of the Governor’s proclamation. Yes, I will take all the free promotional products you will hand me, Medela. Of course I’ll orchestrate a health fair in the middle of the week. But the truth is that I’m downright exasperated that I even need to do it.
All mammals provide milk for their young, whether it be from a teat, a slit, or a duct. Most of us learned this by the third grade or so–it’s THE defining trait for our animal class. Why then, with that being a basic fact, is it such a challenge to get people to understand or even acknowledge breastfeeding? Why does it take practically an international holiday to educate the general public about a natural function of their bodies? And why does it take federal, state, and local laws for a woman to keep from being labeled as ‘indecent’ for feeding her kid from the tap?
The answer is so multi-faceted, buried in not only our culture and social structure, but also our economy, our beliefs, technological advancements… so many things that there have been books upon books written showing who is most at fault or in cahoots with who. Basically, though, it comes down to a lack of education on a basic level and a lack of support.
I have met women who had no idea that they would make milk when their baby was born. They thought breasts were for sex and that’s it. (Put that in my baby’s mouth? Are you kidding? I’m not a pervert!) Women come to me that believe being angry or standing near a hot stove or microwave will spoil the milk inside their bodies. More myths and misconceptions about breastfeeding exist than you might think, and they are persistent and hard to dispel among believers. And when these myths, though proven untrue with evidence, are passed on by the nurses, doctors, friends, and family of a new mother, she can’t help but be skeptical of science. She can’t always tell wisdom from ignorance, and too often, nursing advice from trusted sources is more fiction than fact.
The answer? Educate the support people as well as the mom. Create a collective memory of breastfeeding information. Talk to everyone who comes in contact with that mom and baby so that when she has a question, she doesn’t look to the little package of ‘magic dust’ for help–she looks to her mom, her aunt, her brother, her husband, her friend, her healthcare provider–and knows that she has everything she needs to succeed.
So even though I’m irrationally bothered by the lack of basics booby brains in the US of A, the intelligence quotient and endurance of the human race is on the line… and I guess that’s reason enough for me to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week. Thanks.