World Breastfeeding Week: Reviving Our Breastfeeding Culture

August 1, 2010 at 12:00 5 comments

Only a few generations ago, and to this day in many parts of the world, most, if not all, of the information a young woman gets about breastfeeding, and most other aspects of motherhood, comes from her female relatives.

In this article by an LC for 60 second parent, Saray Hill, describes a culture where mothers cook and care for their daughters immediately following the birth of their grandchildren teaching them how to put their baby to breast. She describes how being exposed to women breastfeeding openly throughout her life gave her something to mimic and learn from when no such support was available to her in North America.

The biggest obstacle to successful full term breastfeeding in our culture is a lack of knowledge and support. When the use of infant formula became the norm a cultural chain was broken and in many cases the intergenerational knowledge & support that exists in other parts of the world failed to trickle down.

Many new mothers in Canada, The U.S. and other westernized countries, not only have very little to look to or remember by way of breastfeeding examples in their lives, but can no longer rely on only her mother’s knowledge. Chances are her mother does not possess the experience and knowledge that she needs.

Our mothers want to help us, they want to give us advice, and be supportive of us, and yet the only experience they have to draw on is their experiences raising us in a formula culture. The advice they have to pass on to us, advice of schedules and infant cereal, cribs in separate rooms, and pacifiers is derived from that formula culture because that is what worked for them and that’s what they were told by their doctors. They (and we) may not always know that much of this advice directly conflicts with successful full term breastfeeding.

Our mothers and maybe even grandmothers were robbed of the incredible experience that is breastfeeding a child and the effects will reach far into our future, and our children’s future.

The culture of formula isn’t only in the knowledge our mothers pass down to us, it is in our hospitals and doctor’s offices, our media and entertainment, it is in the employers who grant us leave and the laws that govern them.

Despite this formula culture, in various forms the mothers of the world have started rebuilding the support and community that has been lost. Despite the predominance of formula culture, the culture of breastfeeding has adapted to survive. The most obvious example of this is the creation of the Le Leche League but the most recent form of this mother to mother support lies in social networking.

Thanks to social networking sites, a mother who is exhausted, confused, worried, and ready to give up need only press a few buttons to find the encouragement and strength to continue. Through a network of women, our collective breastfeeding experiences are readily available to any new mother who cares to learn from them.

There is no longer any denying that breast is best for our babies. It is slowly becoming widely known and accepted that there is no perfect substitute for human breast milk. But without the support of previous generations, and with the formula companies still finding new and creative ways to promote their formula culture, too many women who want to breastfeed are finding themselves unable to meet their breastfeeding goals.

Yes it is important to change hearts and minds in the medical profession, and push for better lactation education for medical professionals. Absolutely it is important to rein in the companies who market and manufacture infant formula to prevent them from undermining mothers who want to breastfeed; and yes it is important to breakdown the stigma, taboo, and myths surrounding breastfeeding in our society.

But more so than that, it is important for us to keep making connections and weaving our network, to rebuild a foundation of knowledge and support freely exchanged between women so that our grandchildren can be born into a breastfeeding culture, and so that in the future we can pass on our love, support, and knowledge to our sons and daughters.

This week, World Breastfeeding Week, I want to not only recognize women who have inspired me, but to drop a few breadcrumbs. I want to create a ‘path’, a map that other women can follow to find breastfeeding support.

I have published this tweet:

It’s World #Breastfeeding Week & I think @theconnectedmom is an inspirational #bfing Mama! Plz RT & pass it on!

With the expectation that Jenn of @theconnectedmom will then recognize someone who inspires her, and so on and so on.

But please! Don’t wait to be tagged! Go right now and tag an inspirational breastfeeding mama who has helped or encouraged you to meet your breastfeeding goals.

If your inspirational breastfeeding mama isn’t available via social media, I still want to hear about her! Please comment with your stories!


Entry filed under: attachment parenting, breastfeeding, motherhood, Parenting, twitter. Tags: , , , , .

Mothers Hold Your Babies Close! Wordless Wednesday: Breastfeeding

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. motherwho  |  August 1, 2010 at 14:27

    It was only a few months ago when I was still pregnant and a friend of mine came over who had just had a baby. I didn’t have any friends with babies (that has quickly changed!) and when she began to breastfeed in my living room I literally did not know where to look. Now that I am breastfeeding myself I can see how desperately important it is for it to be supported, both at home and in the community. Even though I have had minimal issues so far, I never would have imagined the complexities of breastfeeding and the importance of a strong female mentor!

  • 2. pocketbuddha  |  August 1, 2010 at 20:24

    Thank you for sharing your story! I am so glad you had a good role model! remember to thank your friend for being such an inspiration to you, she may not know how much she’s helped you!

  • 3. Kathleen Bradley  |  August 1, 2010 at 20:46

    In the UK, breast-feeding is encouraged greatly by all. Whilst this is good, I feel that not enough information is given about bottle feeding, and when a woman cannot breastfeed, she is looked down upon and made to feel inadequate. Too many women fall into a state of depression because their baby won’t latch on, they don’t produce enough milk, etc. As good as breastfeeding is, I don’t think my son being on the bottle has hindered him in any way.

  • 4. pocketbuddha  |  August 1, 2010 at 21:08


    The whole point of this post, and world breastfeeding week, is to prevent that depression from happening by encouraging women and changing our formula culture to optimize the chances of breastfeeding success.

    I do not think that your son is hindered by being bottle fed if that was a choice that you made.

    But myths abound about how to latch a baby, how often to feed them to build supply, and what signs to look for that baby is getting enough.

    the facts are that latching can be difficult at first but with the right support and technique will become natural. Babies need to be cue fed and room in with their mothers after birth to build milk supply. and “not enough milk” is the case in less than 1% of mothers and is more often than not misdiagnosed.

    Women who want to breastfeed are being hindered by a lack of support in our culture. which is “breast is best” on the outside but then sets women up to fail with poor information from doctors and cutthroat marketing from formula companies.

    thank you for sharing your point of view with me. I hope that you can see that I am in no way looking down upon formula feeding mothers, and neither is anyone else who shares breastfeeding information or encouragement for mothers who may be struggling to meet their breastfeeding goals.

  • 5. Tori  |  August 3, 2010 at 14:18

    Hello daughter:
    I don’t even know if I’ve shared my breastfeeding story fully with you; you were too young to remember consciously of course; but unconsciously you’ve carried the scars of my failed breastfeeding attempt with you your while life. It’s so encouraging to see you keep at it with your first baby. You have the support I did not.

    Of all the people surrounding me when I had you at the tender age of 21: the doctor who delivered you and delivered postpartum care to me and you in your first weeks in that tiny Saskatchewan town, my mom, my grandparents, your father, the nurses at the hospital and our very newfound friends in the community (I had only lived there 9 months) – there was a grand total of ONE person who encouraged me not to give up breastfeeding after you couldn’t latch on properly. Why couldn’t you latch on properly? Because despite my instructions, they held you in the nursery for 12 hours after you were born and gave you a bottle, presumably to “let the mom rest.”

    I didn’t listen to that friend and I really wish I would have. It’s one of the biggest regrets of my life that I couldn’t bond with you properly from the start. She was a voice in the wilderness, amongst the overwhelming pressure to just give you another bottle. I was newly married, exhausted and overwhelmed.

    In our family the bottle feeding culture started with my grandmother. It wasn’t “scientific” to breastfeed in the mid-40’s when my mother was born, so yes indeed that valuable mother-knowledge was two generations lost by the time you came along. I do remember my grandmother warning me that your sister would be “spoiled” by so much holding and breastfeeding, but she was impressed by how well-adjusted she turned out. I think grandma saw the light later in her life.

    Of all the troubles you and I have had over the years, I trace the beginnings of it back to those first hours and weeks of your life when our culture conspired to keep me from mothering my baby in the way I wanted. Still, in the end the choice was mine. I hope you can forgive me.

    It is a testament to your own formidable inner strength and resilience that you turned out fantastic and you are a great mom. However you and I both know how hard it has been for us both to establish a close connection, in contrast to your brother (who I breastfed for 6 months) and especially your sister (who I breastfed for nearly three years).

    I’m so proud of you for figuring this parenting thing out from the very beginning with Oliver. He is a joy and a precious little man; the happiest baby in the world! I wish I lived closer, wish I could see you both more often.

    Love, Mom


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