World Breastfeeding Week
Did you know that the past week was World Breastfeeding Week? In fact, today is the last day of it. This time last year, I wrote a post linking out to my own breastfeeding story, and I hosted a series of guest posts in honour of the week. But this year, the week almost passed me by without acknowledgement. It’s not that I don’t think it’s important – I most certainly do! It’s just that as time passes, the breastfeeding memories fade, and new daily concerns like dropping naps, and moving up to the preschool room take precedence.
But breastfeeding was one of the most difficult and simultaneously most rewarding things I’ve ever done. It changed me in ways I never expected, and it opened my eyes to the issues that new mothers everywhere are facing. Here in Ireland, breastfeeding can be a contentious topic, from debates about formula versus breastfeeding, to people phoning daytime radio in horror that some woman dared to breastfeed her baby in public…
During antenatal classes, plenty of emphasis is put on “Breast is Best” and there’s lots of talk about baby-friendly hospitals and pro-breastfeeding policies. But unfortunately, due to a lack of resources, most of that talk is just hot air, because hospitals in general don’t have the staffing or the expertise to back up those policies. To hear it debated on the public airwaves, you’d swear that women were freely choosing whether to breastfeed or give formula. But in my experience, those who make that straightforward choice are the lucky ones, and they are in the minority. Whether or not you are breastfeeding leaving hospital is often more an issue of luck – meeting the right nurse, or having one of those amazing babies who latches no problem (I’m jealous!) – than of choice. And whether or not you can continue breastfeeding once you get home is influenced by a similar range of factors, many of which have very little to do with choice.
Ireland has been primarily a formula-feeding nation for so long, that we have lost a huge body of knowledge about breastfeeding. When we talk about what’s normal for babies, we’re generally talking about formula-fed babies, because that’s what our own mothers or grandmothers or sisters or aunts or neighbours or friends know about. But if we want to help those women who want to choose to breastfeed, and we want to provide them with knowledge and support that will actually help them achieve their goal or stick to their choice, then we need to share our stories and re-build the breastfeeding knowledge and culture in this country.
So even though I didn’t write about breastfeeding during World Breastfeeding Week, I think it’s too important to let it pass without pointing you in the direction of some of my favourite bloggers who did take the time this week to share stories and information, and in the case of Circus Queen, a beautiful selection of photographs.
Breastfeeding in Italy
Breastfeeding in Ireland
Breastfeeding in Australia