As the title mentions, I'll be touching on Family and Social Networks, Healthcare Systems, and Response to Crisis or Emergency. The reason I decided to group these together (apart from running out of time during World Breastfeeding week) is that I feel they are so closely linked together.
When one decides to breastfeed, your family really does make up a huge part of your decision. You might not think about this, but subconsciously one does wonder about their reaction to breastfeeding, whether or not they are pro-breast milk or pro-formula OR pro-whatever-makes-your-baby-grow! One also tends to wonder how they will react to you breastfeeding in front of them. Be it with or without a breastfeeding cover. From personal experience I can tell you that I am very at ease to feed without my cover, but I always ask whether the person with me is comfortable with it. That being said, I choose to only feed without a cover in front of other women, girls or my husband. For the rest I use a breastfeeding cover, simply because I am also private in that way. BUT I don't exclude myself from conversations, and that's why I am at ease to breastfeed (with a cover) in mixed company. Breastfeeding is not an illness or disease that has to be isolated. The sooner we accept this truth, the sooner we'll be more at ease to share this time with others. I read a very nice article by Nicki Hesken from BellaOnline regarding Family and Criticism while Breastfeeding in which she explains how you can prepare for family gatherings and also basically 'desensitize' family to you breastfeeding in their presence. A good read, I'd say.
Furthermore, people's reaction to learning that you're breastfeeding through social media may also either encourage or discourage you. I have been fortunate enough to be part of an amazing group on Facebook that one of my friends started to encourage support between mothers. We're a mixed group of new-mothers and mothers who're on their 2nd or 3rd child. There I found a platform where I could openly ask questions about breastfeeding and get honest answers from women in the know. My doula and friend, Melissa Jacobs, is also a great advocate for breastfeeding. I often check out links that she posts on her Facebook profile regarding breastfeeding. Just another way that Social Networking allows me to stay connected with current trends. So, in this day and age, where we've got the internet and social media literally at our fingertips, shouldn't this be a place to look for support? As well as a place to voice concerns and advocate breastfeeding in public? An article on momzelle.com grabbed my attention, titled "My Favourite Online Breastfeeding Lifelines" - go check it out for some pointers in the right direction.
At times I feel like Healthcare Systems are to blame for poor breastfeeding performance amongst new moms. I have a friend who is very much pro-breastfeeding and made her husband follow their baby everywhere in the hospital after her birth to make sure she was not fed a single drop of formula. Yet, she told me that at that very same hospital her baby was born at, she did not really receive support with regards to breastfeeding, latching and all the other intricacies thereof. I found that so, so sad! I was very fortunate that at Genesis Clinic the staff are pro-breastfeeding and are more than willing to sit with you and help you until your baby latches well. I found that so encouraging and motivating, just knowing that I could ask for help and they'd come running. My husband called one of the midwives at 03h00 AM to help me with breastfeeding. She sat with us for nearly an hour, if I recall correctly, guiding me and encouraging me, never putting me down or making me feel stupid. I also know that at the Witbank Hospital (Public Sector), they are adamant in the Neonatal / Paediatric wards that babies that are born prematurely or cannot yet (for whatever reason) breastfeed, be fed ONLY using a cup, NOT bottles. How wonderful! Plus, they have a breast milk bank with donated breast milk to provide for their in-hospital babies in need. WOW for the public sector, now when will the private sector catch onto best practice? I really feel that nursing staff and other health care providers should be careful in what they say, lest they discourage mommies from breastfeeding! Please, provide a bridge, not a hurdle! I read about the Cayuga County Women, Infants and Children Program, where they encourage breastfeeding as well as education to mommies-to-be and other healthcare professionals. THIS is how you get breastfeeding rates up! With proper support!
Finally, Response to Crisis or Emergency. It is so important to make sure that there are support structures in place in the case of an emergency. I remember my sister-in-law telling me about how a whole community of nursing mothers provided breast milk to a new born baby whose mother had died during / after childbirth due to complications. They did this in an effort to ensure that this baby would get the best advantage in life, even though he no longer had his mother. This community supported the baby, but also, by proxy, his father, who had to deal with the death of his wife, mother to his 7 children, and having to take her body to Israel for burial. These women stood by the husband, his other children and his new born baby. How many communities can tell these stories? Are we supporting women / families in crisis? We really have to think about this! It's not a good time to set protocols in place when emergencies become reality. We have to be proactive!
I am passionate about breastfeeding, I will always be! I didn't take to it like a duck to water, I had to learn through trial and error, enduring pain for a very long time (or so it felt at the time). I didn't stop breastfeeding just because Linmari cut her first tooth and bit me (it was inevitable!) or because she started eating solids? I am in emotional turmoil with regards to when she should be weaned, and as long as I am in this state, I will not stop breastfeeding. I want to shout it from the rooftops: "Get the necessary support to see you through breastfeeding, pledge that you won't give up before at LEAST six weeks of nursing, be proud of the fact that you are breastfeeding!". Mommies, and Daddies, it truly is VERY important to continue for as long as possible! Daddies, you are there to support the mother of your children in her breastfeeding ventures! Don't give up, PLEASE! Go read this post on the 10 things you were never told regarding breastfeeding.
To every single woman out there, breastfeeding or not, NOW is your chance to make your decision that could influence the rest of your life, but also your child's life! Breastfeeding creates a wonderful bond and is the best source of nutrition for your child! Believe in your body's ability to provide in your child's nutritional needs. GOD designed a woman's body to produce this liquid gold. Now go out and be an advocate for breastfeeding!
Until we meet again for World Breastfeeding Week 2014!