Reasons to Breastfeed: Different World Views
On British television recently there was an interesting program presented by a young Doctor of Anthropology. The purpose of the program was to investigate the family, the role of each member and why as a race we live well beyond our reproductive years.
As part of the program she visited a tribe in the jungles of South America who were still living a hunter-gatherer existence. She focused on one family of a father, mother and grandmother. They also had several children ranging between newborn to about 10 years old.
As the father was often away with the other men hunting game for them to eat, for much of the time the family consisted of the mother, her children and the grandmother.
Their investigations showed that the young mother bore a child approximately every two years, her role was purely to look after the children and breastfeed each child until it was four years old. This of course meant that at times she would be nursing a newborn and also feeding an older child.
The grandmother's role was to go with the other older women and collect berries, fruits and greens for the family to eat while the men were away.
During the course of their conversations it emerged that the young anthropologist had also given birth to her first child some eleven moths before.
On hearing this the mother was extremely concerned “Who is feeding and nurturing your child?” she asked.
“Her father, my husband!” was the reply.
“Will she thrive?” asked the mother in amazement.
The young anthropologist at this point admitted to feeling a sense of shame, but quickly stated that she had breast fed her child until it was six moths old.
Reasons To Breastfeed: Past Generation Example
I was a sixties flower child, a feminist, a career woman, a single parent and now a grandmother. But I am beginning to worry about my generation's legacy! Did we make our daughters feel they could only be seen as valuable through their careers. Have we devalued parenthood?
We are amazed and seek to emulate celebrities who are able to deliver their babies and regain their pristine figures within weeks of the birth. How did she do it? How can I do it?
Surely the whole point of giving birth to a baby, which I presume was much wanted, is to enjoy it. The first few weeks are exhausting, the baby won't settle so your sleep is all over the place. Your body is going through huge hormonal changes, so you keep crying and your breasts hurt.
Why not just relax and follow what your body and heart are telling you, sleep when the baby sleeps and feed it when it cries.
It is normal for there to be a bit of pain at first with breastfeeding and your nipples may get sore. The number one remedy for sore nipples is to make sure the baby is latched on properly. You can ask your health professional to help you or a friend who has successfully breast fed.
But best of all why not ask your mother of even mother in law if they breast fed. This is the perfect opportunity for you to involve her in your beautiful new baby and create a new bond with her in her new role. There will be plenty of times when her advice is not wanted, but if you have a good relationship with your mother this is one time she can really help.
If the breasts are still sore, then you can always wear nipple shields which is what my daughter did for the whole six moths. What matters is the breast milk.
World Health Organisations Guidelines on Breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding should start within an hour of birth and should be on demand. Bottles and pacifiers should be avoided.
- Breast milk costs nothing and protects children from common childhood disease such as diarrhoea and pneumonia, the two primary causes of child mortality world wide.
- Breastfeeding when done exclusively is a natural though not fail safe method of birth control. 98% protection in the first six moths. (This is probably why the mother in the tribe only gave birth approximately every two years.)
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk to the mother of breast and ovarian cancer later in life.
- It helps women to return to their pre-pregnancy weight faster and lowers rates of obesity.
- Breastfeeding contributes to a lifetime of good health for the child.
- There is evidence that people who were breastfed perform better in intelligence tests.
Ending A Bad Day With A Smile
So if it's so good for both the mother and the child, it only seems logical to me to overcome any discomfort and difficulties early on. If that tribal mother gave up her baby would die.
Why then should six months be the ordained period, why not continue until the baby is ready to be weaned completely. Surely the added immunity it gives is worth keeping on.
Of course many young women have to return to work for financial reasons and this can make it difficult to maintain the exclusive breastfeeding routine.
I can only say that I fed my daughter until she was five years old. When she was two as a single parent I had to return to a very competitive career in main frame computer leasing.
When I got home exhausted at about seven thirty or eight in the evening, I laid down with her and we read a story and then she nursed and fell asleep in my arms. I often fell asleep to. But I cannot think of any better antidote to a demanding career in an office of back stabbers, than to wake up with my baby in my arms.
Christobel Edwards is a much travelled entrepreneur, who lives in London, England. Two years ago she became a doting grandmother to Eden Lila. She regularly buys her treats and recently bought her a wooden bunk beds with stairs, which will accommodate a sibling at a later date. She felt this was more relevant right now than the kids Captain's bed she has at home.