We always want the best for our children. Like many new mums, from the day I found out I was expecting a baby, I was searching baby websites reading about the development in the womb, buying books on what to eat and what not to eat while pregnant. I made lists of things we needed to buy and we went to Parentcraft classes in the hospital. Preparing for the arrival of your baby is an exciting but also a daunting time. One of the main pieces of advice I was given was that breastfeeding was the best source of nutrients for my baby.
Scientific fact shows that breastfeeding protects a baby from many illnesses and also decreases the mothers risk of contracting certain cancers. The evidence for this is clear and cannot be argued against. So why do statistics show that a very small percentage of babies are breastfeed in UK? In comparison to many other European countries, we should be ashamed!
The Office for National Statistics performs its Infant Feeding survey every five years. In 2008, the figures for the survey in 2005 were published. Although the data is now a little dated, it gives us a general picture of the situation and we can assume that the statistics won’t have changed dramatically since then. They recorded “only 35 per cent of UK babies are being exclusively breastfed at one week, 21 per cent at six weeks, 7 per cent at four months and 3 per cent at five months”.
As a breastfeeding mother, I feel that the reason for these low figures can be found in societal attitudes towards breastfeeding. I believe that the corrupt and sinful way in which a woman’s body is objectified in the media and through other sources, has distorted and sidelined the original intention of a woman being formed in the way she is. The ability to give birth and being able to feed her baby are the reason that women have a different type of body to that of men, this is how God created us. I think that if more people in society were to remember this, then there would be a much greater acceptance of breastfeeding rather than a stigma attached to it.
Although it is a very natural thing, we should never assume that this makes it easy! Learning how to breastfeed is one of the most difficult challenges for new mums, which is exactly why we should be as supportive as possible! There should not be a fear of going out in public just because we worry that the baby may get hungry. A baby has just as much right to eat as everyone else does and a mother quickly learns how to do it discretely so as to save the embarrassment of others. By talking about it and making it a normal part of having a baby, we are making it easier for mothers to feel comfortable about doing it in public.
The World Cancer Research Fund lists breastfeeding as a PREVENTION for breast cancer. Imagine how many cases of breast cancer could be avoided if every baby in Northern Ireland were to be breastfed up to six months? We all have a responsibility to make this happen and it is within our power. Its all about our attitudes. Are we encouraging or judgmental? Accepting or narrow-minded? Each one of us needs to make a choice, and make a stand. Don’t sit on the fence.