These masses of adipose tissue that we’ve generated various names for such as; Breasts, busts, boobs, bosom, tits or as we refer to them in the scientific world, “mammary glands” are one of the most cardinal set of organs of a woman’s body. Not just to fulfil the sexual desires but primarily, for the nutritional desires of a new life! Staying steer clear of gender bias, I’d like to point out that, women are explicitly one of the utmost miraculous beings on earth. Once their body hits puberty, for years it goes through the monthly bouts of menstruation, making it sexually mature and preparing it for reproduction. Once that happens, they go through a debilitating period of hormonal turmoil that is pregnancy, followed by the marvel of life.
Thereafter, a woman lets that little neonate feed off of her for months. However, few of the most saddening facts surrounding this wondrous phenomenon are that; most women worldwide, don’t exclusively breastfeed their child more than 8 weeks due to the challenges such as; poor support from their partners, lack of information from healthcare providers, aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes, lack of breastfeeding friendly environment, problems with latching, exhaustion, amount of milk production, among a few others. These problems need to be approached proactively to render support that would help mothers breastfeed positively. Even our Ghanaian women lag behind in comparison to women belonging to other African countries, where breastfeeding rates are highest even after 12 months. For instance; Senegal (99.4%), The Gambia (98.7%), Malawi (98.3%), Guinea-Bissau (97.8%), Ethiopia (97.3%) and Ghana (52%).
Good for baby, good for mommy!
The benefits of breastfeeding are incalculable. It has been a part of human life-cycle since the evolution and is seen in our animal counterparts too. Breastmilk is agreeably an elixir of life for the infant, since it acts like a protective shield for the baby with the influx of antibodies, that boosts up the immune system and safeguards the baby from numerous infirmities. Babies who are breastfed exhibit better antibody response to vaccines than formula-fed babies. It also reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome by half and helps in building stronger bones. Knowingly, breastfeeding shapes a healthier baby, wherein, it protects the baby against pneumonia, obesity, allergies, diabetes, cancer and so on. It is easily digestible; therefore, it prevents diarrhea. It also enhances the IQ of a child as well as the weight by provision of necessary nutrients in right proportions.
More often than not, we relate breastfeeding to an infant’s health. Although, we miss out on the equivalent advantages of breastfeeding to a mother’s well-being. Nursing mothers reap the benefits of breastfeeding as it gets them back in shape relatively easily. It provides substantial nourishment in postdelivery healing, as the oxytocin hormone released whilst nursing contracts the uterus and prevents postdelivery blood loss. This contraction of uterus supports it in getting back to its normal shape, precisely 6 weeks postpartum in comparison to 10 weeks for the mothers who don’t breastfeed. Another splendid blessing of breastfeeding is that it is a vacation from menstruation! It causes the release of prolactin, which keeps estrogen and progesterone at bay so ovulation isn’t triggered, hence, no monstrous monthlies. It reduces the risk of developing breast cancer or type 2 diabetes and strengthens the bond between a mother and her child. Moreover, it is economical in contrast to formula and environmentally safe too. Although, one must keep in mind that breastfeeding should be initiated soon after birth and be done at a frequency of 8-10 times in a 24-hour period. It’d be best to avoid giving baby a pacifier or bottle until breastfeeding is well established.
The hypocrisy in the way society views breasts and talks about breastfeeding
Ironically, the most normal phenomenon is looked upon most abnormally. Seemingly, quite a few of us become oblivious to the reality that the healthier kick-start to life, the surviving & the thriving is made possible by breastfeeding! Many of us take breastmilk for granted and deem it to be an evolutionary ancient act. It is high time that we become comfortable with the conversation of breastfeeding. The mother-infant health needs to be optimized but not overlooked, which calls for a surge of awareness generation. The social stigma around breastfeeding is the chief cause for lower rates of mothers who nurse their infants. To combat any stigma acquaintanceship and familiarity is imperative. Therefore, friendliness with breastfeeding should be part of personal, health and social education in schools. Leading pediatricians recommend, every school pupil in the country should be taught and informed about breastfeeding to brush-off poor knowledge and the taint about feeding in public. To enhance the rates of breastfeeding mothers in the country their upliftment and empowerment is needed. This requires transformation in the societal attitudes, in addition to that of their peers and family members to feeding openly in public without being frowned upon. Breasts are a life source for newborns, but they’re also heavily sexualized in ads and pop culture, so it can be extremely difficult for mothers to feel comfortable with breastfeeding in public. Somehow, people don’t squint to see them in commercials and media, yet often become squeamish when moms try to feed their infants in public. When breasts are used to sell cars, lingerie etc. no one bats an eye but the visual of a mom feeding a baby, as nature intended them to be and everyone cringes. This objectification of breasts and awkwardness around the topic of breastfeeding, undeniably needs to be abolished for the brighter future of humankind!
The need for Breastfeeding Friendly Environment
World health organization recommends breastfeeding a baby exclusively for the first 6 months of life, with continued nursing combined with solid food (after 6 months) up to 2 years of age or more. There is a simple and natural way to spare tens of thousands of women from having heart attacks each year, yet hardly any hospitals are fully promoting this approach. A few indicators that hospitals need to emphasize on to become breastfeeding friendly are; having infants “room in” with their mothers, initiating breastfeeding immediately after birth and limiting what infants eat or drink in the hospital to only breastmilk. They need to curb the challenges that a new mother faces, by educating her on the issues of breast pain after feeding, problems in latching, perception of insufficient breastmilk and the concerns of infant not being well-fed at the breast.
There also lies a lack of vicarious learning which means that mothers don’t usually get to observe other mothers breastfeeding due to the lack of breastfeeding friendly culture in our society. It is important that mothers feel welcomed to breastfeed wherever they may go with their baby; whether be it at a restaurant, the park, the mall, etc. Workplaces can show their support to the child bearing mothers by giving them longer maternity leaves, by providing them with a separate lactation room and shunning any potential shaming. On the other hand, media also needs to get more responsible with its campaigning and suppress the aggressive advertisements of baby formulas. As the negative portrayal by the media has a profound effect on the initiation and continuance of breastfeeding. Specific laws that would protect a mother’s right to nurse in public will also prove to be very fruitful. A few necessary actions will prevent the mothers not just from abandoning breastfeeding but will also reduce the crisis among mothers new to breastfeeding.
A woman is an integral part of every story, you can’t have a story without a woman. The least we can do to build a healthier human race is protect and support our women in making informed decisions.
The writer is an Entrepreneurial Biotechnologist and passionate about creating awareness amongst the masses and steering a tangible change in the healthcare delivery systems.
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