Welcome to a slightly different Carnival of Breastfeeding. This month we are taking part in Blog Action Day, the theme of which is poverty. I've decided to concentrate on how poverty in terms of a lack of knowledge and understanding about breastfeeding affects society in general.
Whilst many of us are aware that breast is best, unfortunately where I come from, Ireland, has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding uptake in the world. Whereas in years gone by less wealthy women were more likely to breastfeed due to the fact that they simply couldn't afford formula, nowadays it isn't really about whether a mother can afford to buy formula or not. Even women who can't really afford formula would still, in general, rather not breastfeed. Why?
Well, in my opinion there are several important reasons:
Lack of Breastfeeding Information - New mothers and their families still don't know an awful lot about breastfeeding. At antenatal appointments mothers-to-be are routinely asked by an overstretched midwife if they will be breastfeeding and if not, do they want some information about it. This doesn't make women think about why they should maybe give breastfeeding some consideration; on the contrary, it makes them more adamant than ever not to breastfeed because they feel they are being undermined for choosing not to.
Oversupply of Formula Information - Formula companies have spent years and huge sums of money telling us all that formula is as close to breastmilk as it's possible to get. The advertisements they can afford on their huge budgets are pretty convincing. They always feature beautiful soft imagery and healthy plump babies with permanently smiling happy mothers! They've been adding pro-biotics to formula and telling us that these help build up a child's immune system, thereby taking away the idea that only breastmilk is really good for babies. What they don't tell us is that they will never be able to create a living product matching the exacting qualities of a mother's breastmilk - because it's just not possible. Every single mother's milk is specific to her baby's requirements. If a mother's body senses the baby needs extra immune protection, it creates it in her milk; if it's a hot day, the milk is more watery!
Public Response to Breastfeeding - Whilst many women will still not breastfeed even if they are provided with all the available information, another factor affecting uptake is that many women worry they will be alienated if they choose to breastfeed, particularly in public. Just in the last couple of weeks in my local newspaper there was a story about a mother who was verbally abused by a number of men and a woman because she chose to breastfeed her baby whilst waiting at a bus station. Mothers don't need to feel threatened because they are breastfeeding. All shops, restaurants, and public places should be encouraged to adopt a breastfeeding friendly attitude and to become intolerant of those who threaten, humiliate and abuse mothers who are breastfeeding.
At the end of the day, the real poverty surrounding breastfeeding lies in our education system, our society and our family life. Government, society and family need to work together to encourage all mothers to breastfeed. More money needs to be made available to encourage breastfeeding by creating educational reform in schools and within family. It's also important that more money be spent on providing breastfeeding support for those women who do choose to breastfeed but who give up prematurely because the support simply isn't there.
We will all be so much richer in terms of general health as a result if our babies and their mothers are to experience the myriad health benefits of breastfeeding.
Read more Carnival posts from the following bloggers (added as they become available):
Visit BreastfeedingMums.com to learn more about breastfeeding.