Breastfeeding is magical. It's not only a physical act of providing vitamins and nutrients but a divine proof that our bodies are amazing. What's more, breastfeeding creates a miraculous bond between the mom and her baby, showing that Nature is perfect.
At the same time, breastfeeding is exhausting, difficult and painful. What's more, not everyone can breastfeed and sometimes pressure is just ridiculous. Some women cannot breastfeed, others pump, and there are women who do not want to breastfeed. In the end, formula combined with love is all babies need. On top of that, breastfeeding is a controversial topic: is there such a thing as introducing solids too early or too late?
Oh, and let's not forget about all mom-shaming trends! There are even places that ban breastfeeding in public.
However, breastfeeding with all its pros and cons is beautiful. Let's have a look at the wonders of breastfeeding throughout the world. Different cultures, colorful traditions, unusual birth practices... And one thing in common: breastfeeding.
From the jungles of Peru to the skyscrapers of the US, let's see why people say that 'breast is the best.'
In the warm embrace of the Andes Mountains, Peruvian mothers try to breastfeed as long as possible. For instance, Yocelin, a mother of two, breastfed her first child until he was two and a half, and is planning to breastfeed her daughter. “Elard doesn’t get sick because I gave him only my breast milk. Now, with my second baby, I’ll breastfeed until she is two or three years old,” she says.
The World Health Organization encourages extended breastfeeding and suggest breastfeeding within one hour after birth, exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months, and continued breastfeeding up to two years. Simply because breastfeeding provides the best source of nutrients and calories for the baby. In fact, experts claim that kids who were breastfed are less likely to be overweight and suffer from diabetes.
And the good news is that in Peru, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding increased dramatically during the 1990s and is still above the average.
Exotic South Africa is among the countries where breastfeeding is a controversial topic. In fact, only 39% of mothers breastfeed for 14 weeks after birth and even less (8%) - for six months. Many are forced to stop because of work and other responsibilities. Dr. Sunita Potgieter, a dietitian and head of the Wellness Committee at Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), says that authorities and employers should consider this before forcing mothers to go back to work.
At the same time, due to the high HIV rates, charities promote and distribute formula. Although such practices are great, especially for people who can't afford formula, many people agree that breastfeeding should be a priority.
What's more, breastfeeding helps moms and babies create a special emotional bond that could last forever.
The Solomon Islands floating peacefully in the Pacific Ocean reveal some warning facts: 75% of child deaths in the Solomon Islands occur in the first year of life. The most common causes of childhood deaths, experts say, are pneumonia, malaria, and even meningitis, which are complicated by malnutrition. As access to medical care is difficult in the Solomon Islands ill children are at risk. Authorities reveal that more child health nurses are needed as they could improve the quality of child health services there.
Thus, breastfeeding is often seen as a natural way to provide all the vitamins and nutrients kids need. As one of the main Millennium Development Goals, set by authorities and governments, is to reduce child mortality rates across the Solomon Islands, mothers are encouraged to breastfeed.
So let's hope that breastfeeding can save lives.
While breastfeeding is a unique and personal experience that strengthens the emotional relationship between the baby and the mother, breastfeeding can be a fun event. With all the shaming and places that ban breastfeeding, the Philippines came up with a great idea: around 2,000 women came together to breastfeed their babies to promote the health benefits of breast milk.
Such events organized by mothers and charities are highly effective in raising awareness and may also stop people blaming or laughing at mothers who breastfeed in public. It also helps pregnant mothers overcome their fears regarding breastfeeding.
In the end, why is it okay for people to eat out, but not for babies? And why is it fine to sexualize women but when it comes to natural processes, to be disgusted by them?
This beautiful photo of an Israeli mom breastfeeding shows that breastfeeding is rewarding and joyful. While it's true that it's hard, painful, and exhausting, we should admit that witnessing how amazing our bodies are is miraculous.
But now let's have a look at another photo, which also shows how amazing the world we are living in is. We all know about the terrifying Israel-Palestine conflict that keeps taking the lives of many kids.
However, people are people regardless of their race, age or faith. Ula Ostrowski-Zak, a Jewish nurse, helped an injured woman from Palestine and her baby boy who were brought into the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Israel after a car accident. The nine-month-old baby refused to eat from a bottle, so the nurse decided to feed the infant herself.
China is so diverse, so we shouldn't be surprised that breastfeeding is also a controversial topic. Although there are major differences between rural areas and cosmopolitan cities, statistics show that breastfeeding rates across China are higher than Europe and the US.
Still, Chinese mothers report having less support. Some parents report that hospital staff force people to use formula. Did you know that even breastfeeding classes are held by formula companies?
Thus, the World Health Organization and UNICEF’s Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative prohibits formula promotion. Unfortunately, in many parts of the world doctors and other 'professionals' abuse, threaten or simply ignore expectant women and new mothers. And pictures like the one above simply show us that pressuring mothers is not needed. Breastfeeding is a natural process – just like breathing.
Tibet and its high-spirited people encourage breastfeeding. Most of the babies are breastfed, with a median duration of 26 months. Factors, such as education, age, and introduction of milk powder were highly associated with the duration of breastfeeding.
At the same time, it's interesting to mention that porridge was offered at around one month after birth. However, data shows that by 6th months, only 25% of babies were fed proteins and less than 20% fresh vegetables, while fish and chicken were rarely offered. Although breastfeeding is crucial, experts agree that poor diet and introducing solids too late is not good for the baby. Usually, experts suggest introducing solid food around 4-6 months.
At the same time, governments and authorities worldwide should provide additional financial support to families, so parents and babies would have everything they need.
Malawi is a country where the levels of HIV and anemia among mothers are high. Many campaigns try to fund and support families so mothers can give birth safely.
For new moms, another problem occurs. They do not always breastfeed. Experts say that “for the optimal nutrition of children under 2 years of age, it is considered important that they are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months before being given complementary food.”
Still, due to HIV or not being able to get formula, many kids are exposed to risks of infections, diseases, and death. Experts are trying to encourage not only breastfeeding and healthy lifestyle for babies but their parents (mothers, in particular). Because the life expectancy for people is scary: only 48.3 and 51.4 for men and women, respectively.
Beautiful Thailand also encourages breastfeeding. Note that people say that modesty is required.
However, let's focus on the famous Giraffe women of Thailand. The Kayan tribe is known for its scary practice of using brass coils around women's neck, giving them the name giraffe women. Note that the tribe lives in the north-west part of the Mae Hong Son province. It's interesting to mention that necks stay normal size but the illusion comes from the fact that the brass coils push the ribs down causing some painful and dangerous consequences. If someone removes the rings, the victim may die. We say victims because rings can weigh up to 10 kilos.
However, as we can see, motherhood around the world does not differ much and moms everywhere breastfeed. Isn't this colorful world beautiful? And aren't mother all over the globe amazing?
Among the lush fields and jungles of Cambodia, there's one fact that makes this exotic country stand out. As a result of a campaign that addressed family and communities, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding increased from 11% to 74% (2000-2010). With the establishment of Mother Support Groups, mothers were encouraged to breastfeed, which resulted in healthy children and a reduction in the infant mortality rate.
Srey Aun, a mother of two, says, “I had no problem breastfeeding my babies. We started talking about it as soon as I found out that I was pregnant. The village ‘Model Mother’ and my mother told me what to expect so that when each of my babies was born, we got started right away.”
Roasting or the practice of keeping mothers warm in a small room on a bed over hot coals is not a norm anymore, and mothers can freely breastfeed.
Colorful India shows us another side of breastfeeding. India is the country that has the worlds' youngest population. Nearly two-thirds of its 1.2 billion population is below 35 years of age. The problem of breastfeeding in public is a serious concern among mothers, and experts try to help.
Still, in modern India mothers are expected to be modest and showing a breast even to breastfeed is 'wrong.' When we take into consideration the fact that some families there can't afford formula, the thought of not being able to feed your child in public is terrifying. A mother shares how she had to let her baby cry for awhile because she couldn't find an area where she could feed her.
In fact, India often blames its victims. For instance, women who are harmed and violated are often accused of being dressed inappropriately.
Afghanistan is another country where women experience unequal practices. However, mothers are being supported by The Ministry of Public Health. In 2015, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and charities celebrated World Breastfeeding Week in Kabul. In fact, the World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year during the first week of August in more than 170 countries.
“During the last decade, Afghanistan has gained significant achievements with respect to children’s health and nutrition. However, these achievements are not enough and there is much more to be done for the improvement of health services and prosperity of the country. We should do our best to increase the awareness of mothers and families on the importance of breastfeeding for the health, growth, and well-being of their children. We are going to work together with other relevant partners to increase public awareness in this regard,” says Dr. Firozuddin Feroz, Minister of Public Health.
In fact, women are even encouraged to work and breastfeed at the same time.
Compared to the rest of the world, figures about breastfeeding in the U.S. fluctuate. About 81% of moms across the U.S. reported breastfeeding at some point, but that number decreases to 22% when we look at exclusive breastfeeding (for over six months), which is a practice recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. In fact, the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for two years and even working moms are encouraged to breastfeed.
Breast milk has many benefits: it improves immunity and lowers the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Some studies even suggest that breast milk improves the child's cognitive functioning. As breastfeeding is something important, women - regardless of their social status - try to breastfeed.
This photo showing two moms breastfeeding proves how amazing devotion to the country and the family is. Is the motto 'breast is the best' true?
Sunny Greece may surprise us. According to the International Baby Food Action Network, Greek law provides breastfeeding mothers a form of "breastfeeding leave.” Moms can choose from: 1) Work one hour less daily for the same pay for the first 30 months after the end of maternity leave; 2) Work two hours less daily for the same pay for the first 12 months after the end of maternity leave and one hour less for the following six months, or; 3) Three and a half months extension of maternity leave instead of working less daily.
What's more, in a world full of busy schedules, a breastfeeding mother has “the right not to serve night duty until her child turns 12 months of age or she has a right to a leave with full pay.”
In Namibia, mothers try to breastfeed until their kid turns six months. However, when moms start introducing complementary food, women stop breastfeeding. Lea Nampala, a registered nurse at the Onyaanya Health Centre, said: “What we mostly see is that mothers with children six months and younger breastfeed exclusively.”
However, many women need to go to work and as a consequence, they can't continue breastfeeding. Still, breast milk provides nutrients and protects the baby. Therefore, experts work towards encouraging exclusive breastfeeding. As Nampala says, “We work together with the mothers by giving them health education on different topics, including breastfeeding.”
So in our colorful world full of traditions related to pregnancy and rituals around birth, we can see one thing in common: breastfeeding is the same. Just amazing!
Sources: iamnotthebabysitter.com, nytimes.com, who.int