Breastfeeding is not something I had ever put much thought into until I became a mother. However, three years ago I realized the challenges of a new baby went further than late nights and dirty diapers. Feeding my new son was much harder than I expected. I was naive to think that breastfeeding would come easy and natural, or to think that it would come without criticism.
Breastfeeding can often be a struggle and the difficulties do not end with milk supply, or a good latch. Surprisingly enough, nursing is not as accepted in modern western culture as it is in other places around the world. Many nursing mothers, myself included, have felt at some point or another that they are wrong for nursing, especially in public. It seems to make some people uncomfortable, in a society that promotes freedom of speech and freedom of expression so, a woman at times feels unable to feed her baby. In many cases, some women are asked to nurse elsewhere.
Since August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, we have the opportunity to reflect on the nursing mother. Whether currently breastfeeding or having done so in the past, for those who plan to in the future, and those who have tried and were not able to…these women need to be supported and accepted as they have provided and are providing a wonderful gift for their babies.
The benefits of breastfeeding cannot be summed up. Books have been written and endless studies show how good it is for both mother and baby. It is proven that breastmilk reduces infant diarrhea and vomiting, colds, flus, ear and chest infections, diabetes, obesity, sudden infant death syndrome, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Breastfeeding increases bonding, and reduces a mother’s risk for breast and ovarian cancers. Breastfed kids are healthier, thus reducing the impact on the health care system. Economically speaking, breastfeeding is free as opposed to the hundreds of dollars a month that infant formula costs. Breastfeeding leaves no impact on the environment, whereas formula feeding requires manufacturing, storage, trucking and waste. If you are an expecting mother or plan to have a baby in the future know that breastfeeding is a positive choice for you, your baby and our society.
In Agassiz, we are fortunate to have many resources available to nursing moms. We have two Public Health Nurses (PHN’s) with specialized training to offer breastfeeding counseling. When moms are discharged from the hospital, help is offered to them during the first 24-48 hours through the Best Beginnings Program either over the phone or with a home visit from a PHN.
Mothers can also have private counseling sessions at the health unit’s Breastfeeding Clinic on Tuesdays from 1:30-2:30. These are great options for moms who have had their first child or their fifth. Each baby is different and comes with a different set of problems.
Coming soon is a Prenatal Breastfeeding Class that will be available at the health unit. This will be a great class for all expecting moms to learn how to make their breastfeeding experience be the beautiful bonding and nurturing experience that it is meant to be.
At the Agassiz-Harrison Family Place a program called Better Beginnings is offered to expecting mothers and moms with babies up to six months of age. Also, on Thursdays, from 12:30-1:30, at Family Place, nursing moms meet for the Breastfeeding Café, which is a peer support group for nursing moms and expecting mothers. Bring a lunch if you like or just join us for a chat.
For all the nursing moms out there, keep up the good work and don’t give up if you are having a hard time. Support is here for you if you should need it and sometimes a small bit of advice can make all the difference in the world. Don’t struggle with yourself or outside influences. Learn to follow your instincts at the beginning of your babies’ lives; it is something you will always do.
For the community, remember that for the most part we are all welcome to eat wherever we want; let’s not make an exception for our babies.