My Thoughts on World Breastfeeding Week
I’ve always had mixed feelings about World Breastfeeding Week.
On one side I feel like it’s a cool and easy way to normalize a human function and on the other side, it could be hard for mothers who have not chosen that path for them and their babies (shout-out to formula feeding parents for making a hard decision and doing what you feel is best for you and your baby!). It could be hard for the mom who wasn’t able to nurse for as long as she wanted, or the mom who pumps and doesn’t see this aspect of breastfeeding being represented, or the mom who desperately wanted to nurse but couldn’t because of various reasons, or the mom who does not enjoy breastfeeding, or feels like her specific circumstances aren’t being represented in the movement, or even the mom who feels regret because while she loved nursing she never got a photo taken as a keepsake.
With all of that said, I think making a big deal about world breastfeeding week needs to be something that sticks around.
For some bizarre reason, there are still people who have sexualized the breast and its primary function and they feel confident in shaming parents who are feeding their babies this way.
There are also moms (like me) who never really saw breastfeeding happen until they had their own baby. Research has been done and we know that the key difference in breastfeeding success is knowing people who have done it successfully.
This social media movement is helping normalize breastfeeding and make it a common sight. Even if you don’t personally have someone in your social circle that has nursed, you have someone in your social media circle who has.
This is valuable for first time mothers, their partners, people who still haven’t decided to have children, and teenagers or children who haven’t even reached that realm of life yet.
I’ve had several experiences in my life where someone has normalized breastfeeding for me or a family member and I am so grateful for those experiences.
I have 7 sister-in-laws that combined have about 30 children. They all freely nursed and conversed about nursing in front of my husband. Their example helped my husband to encourage me to breastfeed - he actually was the person that helped me get my first latch with our firstborn. He’s also the one who suggested breastfeeding until one year because that was about the length his sisters had - and he was supportive of nursing longer too.
My mom nursed all of my siblings and spoke fondly of this quiet bonding time.
When my husband was attending school, there was one time I was breastfeeding on the school campus and a five year old boy walked by with his dad and asked, “what’s that mom doing?” And the dad answered, “oh, she’s feeding her baby,” very nonchalantly.
Hugh likes to pretend to feed Vera or his dolls and I know it’s not just because he’s seen me nurse but also because he’s seen his cousins, friends, and animals “feeding from their mom’s body.”
Because I've nursed both of my children, my teenage sister didn't think anything of a lady feeding her 18-month-old in front of her.
When we were in the LAX airport waiting, there were two older ladies that came up to me as I was nursing and talked about how they loved breastfeeding their babies.
My friend came to visit and she nursed her daughter in front of us. At the end of the trip she said, “when we were at the beach, I was nursing and I think I flashed Ethan.” Later, I asked Ethan about it and he said, “Oh, I don’t remember. If I did see that, I wouldn’t have been weirded out because it's normal and I've seen a fair amount of boobs breastfeeding.”
My husband has posted several photos of me breastfeeding on his personal Instagram. They’ve just had the caption “pic of my family on our recent trip” but the fact that he’s done this normalizes breastfeeding and has helped me know that he supports me.
And last of all, the annual #worldbreastfeedingweek and the spontaneous #brelfie. They let me know that I’m not alone, that what I’m doing is normal, and that there’s a bigger movement to normalize this all over the world. There are currently 136,483 posts on Instagram using this hashtag. Every voice that shared their experiences with breastfeeding help bring to light the nuances and normality of nursing.
For every person that shames a parent for breastfeeding or says it makes them uncomfortable, there’s 50+ others who are grateful for those standing up and making breastfeeding normal again.
Long live #worldbreastfeedingweek.