This modern western culture has come a long way away from the breast. Breasts have become more of a decoration than the highly revered, life sustaining miracle that they have always been! Since time immemorial, our ancestors nourished and grew their babies from their breasts and had healthy, strong, well-formed generations to show for it!
Breast milk is truly healing, a pure liquid gold. Not only does it grow healthy happy babies, it cures pinkeye, speeds healing of wounds and numerous other feats! The act of suckling activates, tones and forms the babies growing facial features. It also helps deepen the bond between mother and baby, tones the uterus after birth, and exponentially reduces the risk of breast cancer later in life. One could write a book on the benefits of breastfeeding: study after study has shown that human breast milk is best for human babies, yet so many women these days are not providing it for their babies.
I realize that there are occasional issues that could physically prevent breast feeding, but one must be very cautious and do your own research so as not to confuse legitimate reasons with those which can be worked around. If you cannot breast feed, my heart goes out to you, and I know it’s also sometimes a challenge to make it work when the mother has to work or a child is orphaned. Thankfully for these babies, all is not lost; we have the option of shared nursing (with a friend or family member) or hiring a trusted wet nurse. Also, more and more breast milk banks and milk sharing websites are coming onto the scene. Though none of these is the perfect solution, they are definitely the best of the alternatives. Obviously one must be very thorough in the screening process, but the benefits will be worthwhile.
You can never make in a lab what is created perfectly in your body. Infant formula is a highly processed junk food which people feed their babies exclusively for months on end. It is not a living and dynamically changing food. Did you know that the chemical composition of your breast milk changes according to your baby’s needs? So the milk that they receive is different at 3 weeks than it is at 3 months. It is different during times of sickness and growth, as well as changing flavor and nutrients with every meal!
We started to move away from the beautiful and natural way of breast feeding on a large scale less than 100 years ago, as commercial baby feeding formulas began to emerge. While potentially beneficial in acute emergency situations, these were and are grossly inadequate for long term baby health.
Infant formula companies are happy to profit at the expense of our children’s health. Formula is big business, since one is virtually dependent on the product daily for a good 5-6 months before solids are introduced, and even thereafter it still makes up a good portion of the baby’s diet. Formula companies generally have very little scruples, and descend on women who have just given birth like hungry vultures. All too often, new parents fall prey to the “gift sets” the formula companies put together and that the hospitals profit from pushing. As soon as babies are born in most hospitals, they are offered formula, or the mother is falsely led to believe her milk supply is “insufficient”. This unethical tampering with the nursing process early on leads to a much higher likelihood of nursing complications down the road, which in turn leads right back to the Formula company’s bank accounts.
One of the things I am most grateful for on my journey of motherhood is that I had children in an environment where breastfeeding was nourished and encouraged. Since I first became pregnant over 10 years ago, I knew that my children would be grown from the breast. At the birthing center, I was guided through my first few feedings, and I was given books on overcoming breastfeeding stumbling blocks. My first weaned herself around 30 months, and at 28 months, my second is still growing tall and strong with the aid of breast milk.
I feel we are at a point where we can bring back and normalize breast feeding. We can save money and our children’s health at the same time. This post is not meant to vilify those who have formula fed their babies. Surely we, as mothers, raise our children with the best of intentions, and it is never too late to bring positive change.
What can we do?
First and foremost, and this can not be overstated: let’s educate ourselves and our children. We can no longer rely on doctors and pediatricians with vested interests or high dollar, unethical Formula advertising campaigns for our information. Let’s learn the whys and the hows of breastfeeding, so that we do not fall victim to false information. Learn what legitimate reasons there may be for not physically being able to breastfeed, so that we do not let anyone falsely convince us that it will not work for us.
Let’s encourage those we love to give their babies the best possible start. Let’s gently and lovingly share the information we learn along the way. Lets provide positive and encouraging words, and give gifts of time and resources that show a community of support.
Mothers, let’s stay strong in those first few weeks when we as mothers are tired and our breasts are tender and sore. We must keep an eye on the end result and remember that virtually no change and growth can happen with out at least slight discomfort or pain.
Let’s remember that one day our breasts will sag whether or not we breastfeed (and that there are more important things in life than perky breasts).
Let’s proudly show the world that it is normal for a baby to eat – even when they are in public. We can no longer be ashamed and scared to feed our babies when children or other people’s husbands or fathers etc… are around. Conversely, if you see a woman providing for her child in this way, try sending her a warm smile and good vibes!
Let’s ask for help when we need it, there are so many resources out there that offer free breastfeeding troubleshooting and support.
Let’s get this ball rolling and take a step towards enjoying healthy, strong and well-formed generations to come. It’s not hopeless and we, the people, have the power!
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