Our midwifery school is 24 weeks in and 8 weeks away from the completion of our first run. This week's topic: Breast Feeding. During my apprenticeship and student years as a midwife I learned a lot about breastfeeding, but this week our teacher, Amy Hall, CLC, rocked my mind. One of the first statements she made was this, "We must stop saying breast is best."
Whaaaat?!? My head jerked up from the work I was secretly doing in the back of the class and she had my full attention. I had attended her breastfeeding class during a trip to Kansas City back in the spring, and immediately knew she was the one I wanted to invite to teach the girls in the midwifery school about breastfeeding. Sure, she knew her stuff. Scientific facts roll off her tongue with the best of them, but even more exciting was her belief and simplification of a topic surrounded by struggle and so many questions. Her way was easy, and after all my years of learning techniques and facts about breastfeeding, the night I sat in the living room and listened to her was revolutionary. I learned more valuable information with which to better serve my mothers and came to a greater understanding that night than I had in a long time. She continued, "We need to stop saying breast is best; we need to begin saying breast is normal." This made so much sense. Breast is normal. When we say breast is best we are saying it is the better choice, but formula feeding is still good. This is a controversial subject and I in no way want to mommy-bash the ones who choose to bottle feed, but it needs to be said that formula is not normal; it is not second best. Feeding babies from the breast is the perfect design.
It has been interesting to me, as I have traveled to so many places around the world, just how normal breastfeeding is outside of America. Women in many cultures without access to the healthcare system we have here do not have the same struggles, complications or failures when it comes to breastfeeding. It is normal, and because it is normal, it is not complicated. They do not have fancy pumps or creams, but what they do have is both an understanding and a baby skin-to-skin. Women in poorer nations often are richer in many ways than we are here, because they have nursed their babies without doubt, shame or a back up plan.
What I have noticed too is that these women are in community. From childhood they have watched their mothers, sisters, aunties, and neighbors nurse their babes. They have seen the babies and toddlers wrapped in beautiful material tied to their mothers where at all times of the day the babe is face to face with nourishment, has access to the mother, her breath and her breasts. They have come to understand it is a normal function and so when they graduate into motherhood there is no doubt that this is how they too will nourish their child.
We have lost community in our country. We do not do life together. We are disconnected and we are broken because of it. We doubt ourselves as birth givers, nursers and mother's. Because we have not seen normal, we become persuaded by that which is not.
I cannot be who I am and not equate this spiritually. We are all too often willing to settle for the lie, for the nourishment wrapped in a package and provided by man, when in fact we should be tucked in and nourished face to face by El-Shaddai.
Breastfeeding is a gift, and it's time comes to an end all too quickly. I am the mother of a 17, 13 and 9 year old. I will always be their mother, but I only had a moment in time to nurse them. Breastfeeding is a gift, both to mother and child. It is the gift of health: physical, mental and emotional. Breastfeeding is normal and as Amy Hall said, "It is about time we get our ducts in a row."
How can we begin to normalize breastfeeding in America? This video gives us a few tips!
Picture Credit: Babe in Sling Whitney Willett, CD, CBE, Midwifery Student with Kona Birth & Midwifery Services