From the 1st to the 7th of August marks world breastfeeding week and this year’s message is a great one.
‘Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding’
There is no secret that becoming a parent is tough, especially in the beginning where you encounter many challenges as you navigate through the newborn days and beyond. It is recommended that all babies are breastfed exclusively up until they are six months of age, and for breastfeeding to continue, if possible, along with solid food intake until the child is two years old for optimal health and development. It is no surprise that breastfeeding is usually the one sitting right up the top of a mother’s challenge list. It can be tough there is no doubt about it.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that only 40% of infants are still exclusively breastfed at six months of age. That percentage above does not come at any surprise, considering we still have the major issue of mothers being ridiculed in public for feeding their baby. Umm hello do we frown upon you as you as you eat like a pig in front of us?? And I’m pretty sure if we were walking around in a bikini top there would be no frowning…
Not only do we have mother’s feeling ashamed to feed their baby in public, most women are finding they need/have no choice but to return to work before their infant is six months old. There are workplaces that simply still do not support breastfeeding mothers by providing a safe, comfortable and hygienic area for women to express and store their liquid gold.
As well as that it’s not only women who have the pressure on returning to work, successful breastfeeding comes down to the partners support as well. With many partner’s returning to work less than a couple of weeks post their baby being born leaving mothers navigating their breastfeeding journey alone at times. This is not a dig at fathers either as I am sure many if not all would love to stay at home and support their partner and baby as they navigate through the early first few weeks and months of newborn life and breastfeeding establishment.
We have come a long way to helping some of these issues however we still have a long way to go. There is lots of action still required from the government. Many large breastfeeding organisations and WHO are calling on all governments to make changes that ‘enables breastfeeding’
There are many ways in which you too can set yourself up for a successful breastfeeding journey at home and while in public.
1. Educate yourself, go to a breastfeeding class and learn as much as you can with good evidence-based information. DO NOT read forums!!!
2. Find a local lactation consultant. Some councils have free walk-in lactation consultants set up in local community venues for support. If you can afford a private one who can come to your home and support you in the early days then do yourself the favour and do it.
3. Ask those around you to encourage, empower and support you through your journey. Those who don’t wish to – tell them to back away and simply do not have them in your support circle.
4. Be kind with yourself. Breastfeeding requires learning, it is natural, but it doesn’t always come natural. Don’t put yourself down or doubt your body’s capability to nourish your child.
5. If someone gets offended when out in public – call them out!! Throw a blanket over their head and tell them to grow up.
6. Know there are support groups through the Australian Breastfeeding Association as well as use their helpline (1800mum2mum) they operate 24/7
I will always encourage breastfeeding first however I am a big advocate for ‘fed is best’ and I do believe you need to do what feels right for your baby and yourself. Remember that you can only do your best, there are circumstances where women cannot breastfeed, or the challenges are really impacting on the mother mentally and physically. Know that if any of these reasons occur to you that you are not a failure! You do have options and there is support for all circumstances.
To finish off I love this mentioned by WHO in their article. ‘Together, with the support of governments, employers and communities, we have the power to enable breastfeeding and support families in fostering a nurturing environment where all children thrive’.