Not only is it suitable for all babies at all times, it adapts from one developmental phase to another, day to night, and even according to individual need! The health benefits are irreplaceable, and successful nursing markedly improves women’s mothering experience and babies’ long-term health. Basically, breast milk is the perfect drink for babies. Why would people choose not to breastfeed?
Formula wasn’t always breast milk’s nemesis; it actually started with babies’ well-being in mind. The idea wasn’t to replace breast milk, but to meet the special needs of a very small subset of women who really and truly couldn’t breastfeed. Then focus slipped off babies and onto financial gain, and ‘nursing’ was replaced with ‘feeding’. Then, baby formulas became a powerful global force, supported by doctors and midwives who should have babies’ best interests at heart.
While in recent years the ‘back to breast’ lobby has definitely grown, why hasn’t there been even more of a fight raised? Anyone who stands up for nursing is at risk of being labelled feminist, or accused of ‘spoiling’ babies, or being prejudiced against formula feeding mothers. I could argue that it is impossible to spoil a baby with love and list all of the irreplaceable emotional benefits provided by breastfeeding, but instead I’ll take the same approach that so many medical professionals and formula companies do: focus only on the economic facts and figures. Because the fact is, breastfeeding can benefit an entire country.
And the heart of the problem is… money
Breast milk is the most cost-effective and sustainable food ever created. Apart from moms’ accessories and supplements, breastfeeding has no cost whatsoever and supply is unlimited as long as babies suckle regularly. Having a newborn is a sensitive economic time for many young families, and the savings from breastfeeding could make a huge difference for low-income families.
There will also be fewer medical bills thanks to the health benefits of breastfeeding – for babies and moms. The longer babies breastfeed, the greater the benefits are and the less burden is placed on state health services.
Because the emotional aspects cannot be ignored, it must also be pointed out that breastfeeding can lead to a mentally, emotionally, and behaviourally healthy society. The effects of the oxytocin and prolactin from nursing can be linked to better bonding, emotional security, and less behavioural disorders later in life. This can greatly reduce the cost of social services such as assessments, therapies, and even the justice system.
The moral of the breastfeeding story
As midwives, we should focus on ensuring the best for moms and babies; but the whole world – men and women alike – should be rallying behind breastfeeding. It should get just as much support and attention as going green or eating organic, because it is just as beneficial for the planet.
When you look at it that way, breastfeeding women – and the midwives who give them good and correct nursing support and encouragement they need – are actually heroes; working to save society, the country, and, ultimately, the world.