KIMBERLY SEALS ALLERS SAYS THAT ITalt39S TIME TO LOOK PAST THE SIMPLISTIC MARKETING AND EXAMINE THE BIG PICTURE, WHICH INCLUDES THE ENTIRE BREAST- FEEDING CULTURE AND ALL ITS INSIDIOUS PLAYERS. alt39 BREAST IS BESTalt39 IS JUST NOT ENOUGH
It was National Breast- feeding Awareness Month in the US in August. But rather than celebrating, Ialt39m in questioning mode. Ialt39m questioning why our natural instincts to nurse have gone askew and why our views about feeding our young are less instinctive and more socially and culturally constructed.
Ialt39m questioning why what should be one of the most natural experiences of motherhood is under cultural fire and even being used as fodder for political grandstanding. But mostly, Ialt39m questioning why with all the awareness, information and a preponderance of evidence on the benefits of breast- feeding, breastfeeding education has been essentially ineffectual.
Our unimpressive breast- feeding rates show the full picture. In the United States, only about 13 per cent of babies are exclusively breast- fed for six months, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC), based in Atlanta. Meanwhile in South Asia, 44 per cent of babies are exclusively breast- fed for six months, according to UNICEF. The solution isnalt39t in more pamphlets or brochures. Or more awareness months, for that matter. The problem is in the invisible external forces not mentioned in those glossy materials that markedly affect a womans decision to breast- feed and her experience thereafter.
These many forces include: the competitive mommy culture, the media who always love a good fight, aggressive infant formula marketing, the Internet and social media outlets, where the battle between breast- feeders and formula feeders has reached World Wrestling Entertainment proportions, and capitalist interests – because, lets face it, breastfeeding is bad for big business.
Perhaps the biggest culprit though is closed- door deals between the pharmaceutical industry and hospitals that wind up with women going home with formula in their goody bags. That sends a deep message that health authorities think formula is really ” just as good”. All of these factors create a muddled environment that prevents a woman from clearly choosing based on fact alone. The biggest losers against this ” machine” of forces are newborns, who donalt39t get the best first food possible, and mothers, who lose out on the many health benefits of breast- feeding.
As a mother who breast- fed both of my children for at least 12 months, I know that breast- feeding is marketed as a simple decision. Breast is best, end of story.
But breast- feeding is actually more complicated and nuanced than that, and that is where we are losing many women.
The conversation must include existential matters like how connected women are to the experience and how breastfeeding works in the actual context of our lives. We need to address and name the psychological, sociological, economic, political and cultural forces that are undermining our breast- feeding experience.
We must speak to the tremendous pressure mothers are under to optimise every dimension of our childs life. And how that pressure can be polarising, and then exploited by others, robbing many women of the joy of breast- feeding and deterring others to never even try it.
For decades, moms- to- be and new mothers have fantasised, and at times even romanticised, the act of breastfeeding.
From the days when La Leche League Internationals book alt39 The Womanly Art of Breast- feedingalt39 made us believe that nursing our children was the deepest expression of womanliness to the power of the pump – which allowed us to breast- feed without being tethered to an infant – giving our newborns human milk as their first food has been inextricably linked to our mothering values… But loving your baby and loving the act of breast- feeding is not the same thing.
As mothers, breast- feeding contains all of our a