All an expectant mother wants for her unborn child is to be born healthy. The desire remains as the child is born, grows and develops. Mothers can go a long way to insure their children are healthy by breastfeeding. August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month.
Back in your great (maybe great-great)-grandmother’s time breastfeeding, or nursing, was the gold standard. If a new mother was unable to nurse or, tragically, died during childbirth there were wet nurses available. During WWII more women were needed to work fulltime in factories (Think Rosie the Riveter) while the men were serving overseas. Baby formula was used to free up mothers from the time-consuming chore of nursing. Another factor was the social stigma associated with breastfeeding…that it belonged to the lower classes. These issues combined saw the prevalence of breastfeeding decline.
After the war, men flooded the employment ranks and again took over as the main breadwinner for families. Most women returned to the home with the 50s giving the illusion of a two parent household with Mom serving as homemaker and caretaker (think Leave It To Beaver). Unfortunately, that did not mean the practice of breastfeeding resumed. There was a social stigma attached to breastfeeding. It was thought only the ignorant and poor breastfed; those that were educated and sophisticated used formula. There were great strides in medicine and understanding illness during this time. The polio vaccine was developed and antibiotics were viewed as miracle pills that ‘cured’ many from bacterial infections that could have easily taken their lives. Baby formula was touted as ‘better’ for your baby…all-knowing man, full of wisdom had created a substance that was better than Mother Nature.
During the 50s/early 60s the number of babies breastfed dropped towards 25%. The La Leche League has done a lot to turn that number around. The mission of the La Leche League is “to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother.” The benefits to both mother and baby of breastfeeding are better understood and the important need for breastfeeding better accepted. Among those benefits are:
1. Reducing the chance for many illnesses
2. Lowering the risk of SIDS
3. Decreasing the chance of developing allergies
4. Protection from developing obesity
5. May have a positive effect on intelligence
1. Reducing stress
2. Decreasing the risk for post-partum depression
3. Lowers the risk for developing some cancers (one of them breast cancer)
When babies are born now, new mothers are encouraged to breastfeed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies be nursed exclusively for the first six months. In fact, New York’s Mayor Bloomberg is pushing for hospitals to lock up their formula! The Mayor’s receiving some criticism for his stance, but I have to say I’m all for encouraging mothers to breastfeed and not making formula so readily available. Read more on Mayor Bloomberg’s pro-breastfeeding policy.
Being a mother is the best job I have ever had. However, being a mother (or parent really) carries with it an immense responsibility…you literally are making decisions that can affect your child’s life. Start them off right….breastfeed!
Health, Wellness & CURES!!