This year, World Breastfeeding Week took us in unimaginable circumstances. The whole world is struggling to adapt to a new reality.
I had big plans to celebrate this week. Cool campaigns to raise awareness, including gatherings, pictures, and videos. However, COVID-19 came to change our plans.
I can't deny that I was frustrated and off of ideas. But, then I thought about how much connected I've been with my family, my friends, and my clients, more than ever before. Maybe this is not a time to show and do, but to communicate and deliberate.
I decided to pick the strongest statements in the breastfeeding world and bring them to my platform to raise some thoughts and open discussions.
The WBW is a worldwide initiative to raise awareness of how essential is breastfeeding for the well-being of humanity. This year, the campaign focuses on Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet. Something that benefits so much a child and a mother can only build a better society and world.
If we want to advocate for that, we must support families to make it work. I believe in the following statements as the building blocks of breastfeeding. Everything a family must know and practice to make it a reality.
1. Your baby is a unique being.
I started with this statement; I believe this is our first lesson as parents. No matter what we do, your baby will always be a unique being. You'll start to realize it when she'll give you her first smile; when she'll do a trick that makes you feel you have the wisest baby in the whole world. As parents, we are the first to appreciate their uniqueness, the more we learn to communicate with them.
We've made our living surrounded by numbers. Minutes, hours, ounces, curves, percentiles. Since we're born, our life must fit into these numbers.
But at the same time, we celebrate our differences and call for tolerance and acceptance; we applaud and price originality, and we're willing to pay for uniqueness. But it all seems to be reserved for the adults.
Our babies are a different species. We urge them to fit into a pattern; we expect them to behave as the book says. Their uniqueness is considered "abnormal," and it scares us… WHY is that?
Maybe we don't fully understand them. We simply don't have enough studies on baby's behavior as we have on adults and teenagers. However, our desperate need for control took us to rely on numbers to make our life more predictable.
BUT YOUR BABY IS A UNIQUE BEING
And the key is communication! Your baby will try to communicate with you from the moment she comes out of your womb. And our job as parents is to be attentive to those little signs, observe them, and react. These signs might not be in books or might not follow a pattern, but they are there and should not be ignored.
After all, we're raising creative, unique, free, and extraordinary human beings.
2. Every mother CAN breastfeed.
We tent to ignore a single fact about our existence: We're mammals; and as every mammal in the animal reign, we bear our babies inside the womb, we deliver them after a certain amount of time, and then our body produces the food that will sustain that baby alive for the first months. That's what we supposed to do!
Every woman should be confident that her body will respond as it was designed. Of course, there're few exceptions to this rule, and there're rare cases when a mother can't breastfeed at all. But in those cases, Science figured out alternatives, so these moms can still provide breast milk to their babies.
The recipe is simple: a little bit of confidence and a bit of will.
3. Pain is NOT normal.
This is probably the biggest myth of all.
Because it's quite common, many moms believe that pain during breastfeeding is normal, and they should bear it until it's gone.
However, the pain only brings more pain. If your baby is causing you pain when he nurses, it's because he's not latching well, which results in sore nipples, and eventually cracks.
Unfortunately, that is just the beginning. A poor latch also means that your baby won't be able to remove enough milk. I'm sure you can imagine what does that mean… Not enough weight gain, engorgement, possible plugged ducts, and mastitis. I'm short on the list, but I believe I made the point here.
4. Together, WE are stronger.
Motherhood makes us feel vulnerable. But also more compassionate. It makes us more equal.
I believe in the strong power of the encouraging word of a mom to another mother. Never sub estimate the impact you can make in a mother in need.
I'm talking specifically here about women because breastfeeding is mainly a woman's choice, and a right. These days, this is a real fight. But to paddle upstream, we need more than two hands.
5. Paid maternity leave is crucial for the continuation of breastfeeding.
I must include this as one of the most powerful breastfeeding statements.
Paid maternity leave is one of my major flags as a breastfeeding advocate.
In this field, the horrendous policies in the U.S. are truly affecting not only breastfeeding but also motherhood in general.
The U.S. is currently the only country in the developed world that DON'T has a federal law to provide paid maternity leave. The only existing law is The Family and Medical Leave Act, which gives 12 weeks of UNPAID maternity leave only to mothers who work in companies of more than 50 employees. Can you believe this?
It leaves to the states the responsibility to rule in this matter. Currently, only six states have this kind of legislation: California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington, D.C, and Washington State. The last two only from this current year.
Some employers adopt policies to benefit their female employees, but they're not bound by law. This is unbelievable! How this affects mothers? How this affects children and the way they're raised? It basically puts women at a significant disadvantage just because of their reproductive capacity.
How does this affect the society where you live? How this affect you as an individual?
Women have the right to raise their children. But we cannot do it under these legal conditions. Paid maternity leave is a human right.
6. Prenatal breastfeeding education is essential for a successful start.
Recently, in an Instagram Live, a mom asked, "how should I prepare my breasts to breastfeed?"
The question comes from a popular belief that breasts should be cured before the baby arrives. Things like rubbing the nipples with a scrub, massages to evert the nipples, or using moisturizing products. These cultural practices have been around for a long time.
However, they ignore a little tiny detail: We are mammals. I think I said it before; and our body is equipped to produce that precious liquid that will sustain them alive for the first months of life: Milk.
We don't have to do anything to physically prepare our breasts to breastfeed.
Our body does all the work. We'll notice how our breasts change of size during pregnancy, and the areolas and nipples become darker. It is all part of the preparations of our body to receive our little one.
But there's one thing you can do. Educate yourself. Learn how breastfeeding works, and why it's so important that people dedicate entire books and blogs to talk about it. Take a class, read a book, talk to another breastfeeding mom. Know what to expect.
Believe it or not, breastfeeding is one of the few things in parenthood that is very much under your control. If you're taking the time to learn about birth, take some more to learn about what comes next.
If you don't believe me, ask a new mom.