Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Good better breast

I was horrified to hear on the radio today, that a mother breastfeeding her child on an airplane (due to fly from Vermont to New York) had been asked to leave after she had refused to stop breastfeeding or cover herself with a blanket while feeding her child. What century are we in? Has it occurred to people that breastfeeding is not actually a new or ‘trendy’ thing to do!? Mothers and babies do happen to be more mobile these days (as does the general public), so this wholly necessary act might be more apparent than it was years ago. Babies need to be fed every few hours and there is NO way to avoid this. Those offended by breastfeeding would undoubtedly be the same that would be annoyed by a hungry and crying child. There is no better way to settle a baby suffering from ear pain due to air pressure changes (during take-off and landing), than to feed it. I have done this numerous times on flights with both children. 

Breastfeeding is called ‘nursing’ here. This gives a completely different meaning to the statement “My father is elderly and I need to nurse him” (!) The mothers whom I know personally here, have all breastfed their children. However, the vast majority of young babies I see fed in public are fed formula. Illinois is a liberal state when it comes to breastfeeding, allowing a mother to breastfeed in any location that she would be legally permitted to be. It did seem a little awkward doing this when I first arrived, particularly as this had to occur inside (too cold outside!), often in crowded coffee shops where it obviously was not the ‘norm’. 

It makes my heart break seeing so many VERY new babies being fed formula as it is far inferior to breastmilk. There are SO many advantages of breastfeeding to both mother and baby and these far outweigh any disadvantages. Breastfeeding reduces likelihood of breast cancer for the mother (and ovarian and uterine cancers). It is free. No sterilising of bottles and accoutrements is required and no need to pre-boil water. It provides a close bond between mother and child. It is available immediately and on-demand. It is full of nutrients and protects babies against illness and infection and possible allergies and asthma. There is no argument. 

It is great to see that in Australia, the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) is a strong lobby group helping to make it more than acceptable to breastfeed a baby, particularly in public. Every shopping centre and large department store has a nursing room (mostly with curtained off rooms for the new baby – and mother – or the easily distracted child).  The mothers that I know that breastfed are definitely in the majority with a good proportion feeding until at least 12 months. In certain circles in Australia, more disapproving glances are thrown at parents formula-feeding than those breastfeeding! 

At eleven months of age, Nicolas decided to go cold turkey on breastfeeding. This did coincide with a period of illness but Paul thinks it may be part of the whole burgeoning competitive thing between the boys: after all, Luc is no longer breastfed! I had been hoping to keep Nic going until he was at least twelve months of age to enable a switch directly to cows milk. No. Nicolas decided otherwise. 

Photo: Breastfeeding a very new Nicolas after returning home from hospital (November 2005).

Note: My Australian spell-checker allowed breastfeeding as a word, while .Mac’s version picked it up as a misspelt word! 

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