#NoShame Project - Challenging The Norm

The concept of 'the norm' when it comes to breastfeeding isn't as simple as you might expect.

I've mentioned before that there are two variants of this idea:  The social norm and the biological norm.  Yet unfortunately, these two variants often work directly against one another, as Rosie's story illustrates...

Mama Rosie says:

"I posted these two photos of my daughter feeding. After I posted the breastfeeding one, somebody expressed concern that people may think I was being inflammatory or too intimate. It really upset me, as I was just showing a beautiful photo of my daughter. I had no negative comments at all about the bottle feeding picture."

Inflammatory?? Too intimate?!

It's a sad world we live in when a mother is challenged for feeding her baby at her breast. Stories like this can create quite a reaction - anger, indignation, disbelief...but it is important that they are shared.

Because we need to first understand that there is a huge void between the cultural norm and the biological norm when it comes to feeding our children, if we are going to challenge this disconnect and create change. Once we are armed with that facts, the ignorance and criticism that are hurled our way become far easier to fend away.

So let me equip you further, with the facts. Both the WHO and UNICEF recommend:
  • early initiation of breastfeeding within 1 hour of birth; 
  • exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life; and
  • introduction of nutritionally-adequate and safe complementary (solid) foods at 6 months together with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.

Indeed, according to the WHO's Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding:

"Breastfeeding is an unequalled 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. As a global public health recommendation, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health."

Just to put that in perspective, the WHO concludes that "if every child was breastfed within an hour of birth, given only breast milk for their first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding up to the age of two years, about 800 000 child lives would be saved every year."

I am a big believer in the concept of being the change I want to see. If I want to live in a world that accepts the biological normal way of infant nutrition as being socially normal, I must treat it as such.

And so I nurse my daughter and I share these stories, in the hopes of reaching other moms who are being shamed for feeding their babies naturally.

Part of the #NoShame project has been to team together with Lansinoh to equip moms with the information and support they need to continue along their own breastfeeding paths.  If, like mama Rosie, you use a bottle from time to time, you may have struggled with nipple confusion. Lansinoh explain the concept of nipple confusion here, and has also developed a bottle to reduce the risk of this phenomenon from occurring. You can find all the information you need here.

Because for some of us, breastfeeding means directly nursing from the breast.

And for others, it means exclusive pumping from day one.

And yet for many more, it means a combination of direct nursing and bottle feeding, for a million different and unique reasons.

Mamas, our journeys are all individual - yet we walk side by side. Together, we can say no to the shaming, the criticism and the ignorance of those too ill-informed to form rational opinions.

There is strength in solidarity.

Nurse on, mamas, nurse on.

Thank you to mama Rosie for allowing me to feature her story in this piece.  For more glimpses into real life breastfeeding, join the Mama Bean village on Facebook!

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