The Wonderful World of Breastfeeding
This week we are celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with a look at how it works, some interesting facts about breastfeeding, and a short discussion on the misconceptions about breastfeeding that cause some people and groups to attack the very natural, beautiful practice.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Breastfeeding is an unequaled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants; it is also an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of mothers.” Breast milk is the natural first food for babies. Look all around the earth’s spacious landscape and you’ll see that most babies, calves and kittens alike, are nourished first by their mothers.
Experts say that breastmilk should be the exclusive nourishment for babies in their first six months of life. After that, they should receive complementary foods and continue breastfeeding until two years of age or older. Outside of nourishment, breastmilk provides children with antibodies to protect them from common childhood illnesses like pneumonia and diarrhea. Long-term benefits include a lower likelihood of obesity and better intelligence test results. Not only that, it also helps moms! It reduces breast and ovarian cancer, type II diabetes, and postpartum depression. When they say, “Breast is best,” they mean it’s best for everyone.
Quirky Facts about Breastfeeding
Here are a few of my favorite (weirder) facts about breastfeeding:
- TaTa CrossFit. Consistent breastfeeding throughout the day burns 500 calories.
- Holy Holes! There are anywhere from 10-20 holes in your nipple.
- Finally, Idaho. The last state to protect a mother’s right to breastfeed in any public places was Idaho and it was as recent as July of this year.
- Lazy Lefty. The usually right breast produces about 70% percent of the milk supply.
- Bloodhound Bumps. Ever wondered what those bumps on your nipple are? Turns out they are Montgomery glands, kind of like scratch and sniff stickers for your baby. They expel an oil that smells like amniotic fluid that attracts the baby to your breast.
Here are a few fun historical facts about breastfeeding:
- King Tut built a luxurious tomb to honor his wet nurse (since Queen’s back in the day didn’t breastfeed). That’s a big thank you for the mammaries!
- Wet-nursing is said to be the second oldest female profession. In fact, some women became pregnant, so they could wet-nurse for wealthy families.
- In addition to breastfeeding, Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians fed babies wine and honey.
Why the Breastfeeding Backlash?
So, if it’s natural and healthy for everyone involved, why is there such a backlash in the United States when it comes to breastfeeding? Is it our Puritan roots or is it misinterpreted as a new kind of exhibitionism as some critics suggest? It’s important to note that breastfeeding doesn’t magically just happen and can be a lengthy, exhausting, and body-busting activity. Mothers need to be thoroughly educated on breastfeeding, especially when it comes to monitoring baby and watching their own hydration levels. Some critics like to misuse those facts to discourage from breastfeeding, but let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
In a country obsessed with the continuously flouted taboo of nudity and sex, we’re somehow uncomfortable with breasts being exposed for the purpose of feeding a baby. When used for feeding, they’re desexualized, and we have no idea what to do with that.
The good news is all 50 states now have laws that protect breastfeeding mothers from any legal recourse from breastfeeding in a public space, and 28 states have laws that offer workplace protection.
As for the modesty question, there was an exchange between Republican Representative Curt Webb and a Salt Lake Tribune columnist, Marina Gomberg, that puts the debate in perspective. During a hearing, Webb said, ““This seems to say you don’t have to cover up at all. I’m not comfortable with that, I’m just not. It’s really in your face.” Gomberg countered with the astute observation later that, “Some might say that it’s not in your face, Mr. Webb, it’s in the baby’s face.”
Photo courtesy of Gap