The stigma surrounding breastfeeding

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Once upon a time, there wasn’t any breastfeeding…but that was a long time ago.

Since then, mammals have evolved. With all of their glands and secretions, the big debate started. Should we go hunting with the males of our species, or stay at home with our new offspring and nurture them with the milky white goodness? Well, if you study a pride of lions, it is usually the females that do the hunting and cub rearing, whereas the males wait around to be fed and only get involved when the prey is a bit larger than usual, and the male’s intervention is required.

Among us humans, the question of who provides for the family depends on a few factors. Was the mother working before the birth? Does the partner have the means to support the family if the mother chooses to remain at home post-partum? Does the couple have access to child-care? Who can potentially earn more? Does either of the partners want to stay at home?

In any case, whatever the situation may be, most doctors will recommend that the mother breast-feeds the child to help build up immunities and strength. A minimum period of 6 months is recommended. Breast-milk contains antibodies (our body’s natural protection force) for some illnesses. These parcels of goodness pass to our babies through the milk and give out little ones the advantage, especially in the early days, of a stronger immune system. Breast-milk is also proven to give added protection against gastroenteritis.

Statistics will be used to say breast-feeding, or formula milk feeding is best, but statistics are great for pushing one agenda ahead of another. The choice is yours if you want to read all the different viewpoints on whether you child will be overweight, underweight, have heightened IQ, or faster reactions, form a stronger close bond to you….or to the person holding a bottle. Arguing about it is irrelevant.

What is important is that women should be given the choice of whether they want to breastfeed or not. Whatever the decision, the support should be there in either case. Support saying to the mothers that what they have chosen is fine, and not to be judged by masses of people who don’t know you.

Breastfeeding will have its advocates and opponents, but generally, it can only be seen as a positive towards our baby’s health, development, and formation of the bond between baby and mother.

Thankfully, these days the act of breast-feeding in public is making its way towards normality. There are still many who are offended that women should perform this natural act, one that is second nature to all mammals (have they forgotten that they too once were being fed milk by their mothers?). The tide is changing, and it is being spoken about. Just a few months ago, we saw Mara Martin, the American catwalk model, promoting breast-feeding and pushing it forward as a normal act, as she walked down the runway with her 5-month old child suckling her breast. Miss Martin wasn’t wearing a breastfeeding gown or dress, oh no! She was strutting along wearing a gold colored bikini, not quite a normal outfit for the average mom, but hats off to you Mara for getting more people talking about breast-feeding positively.

Next up, hop across the Atlantic, and we have now got an Argentinian model at the London Fashion Week, promoting the future of being a working mother. Valeria Garcia, the mother of two children, was proudly walking down the catwalk, showing off some clothes, but LFW turned its head towards her, and more specifically her breasts as she simultaneously was pumping breast-milk to give to her 1-month old son.

The device in question is produced by the company Elvie, and the product-placement has been an excellent coup for them, you should probably buy shares in the company right now (please note I am not a financial advisor, just saying!).

All of these recent actions are leading women into a position where breastfeeding in public will become more accepted. It is still frowned upon by many, but we didn’t move from Victorian frigidity to where we are today in one small step. It has taken many years and lots of sacrifice from campaigners fighting for women’s rights.

What the future has in store for breastfeeding we will have to wait and see. Some of the freedoms may be lost as some societies become more conservative. Perhaps it becomes completely liberal where the working mother pumps the milk or feeds the infant child while hosting a board meeting.

I will undoubtedly be excited to see where the next catwalk models take us J

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