Propagated by Liz Grapentine, from New Beginnings
When Western culture thinks about breastfeeding, it tends to think of it solely in terms of nutritional nourishment of a baby. As an official practitioner of Breastfeeding Propagandism, I know breastfeeding is that, and yet so much more! Read on to catch the musings of a Breastfeeding Propagandist, a Lactating Lunatic, and a Breastfeeding Zealot.
When you breastfeed your baby, of course you are nourishing her body with the best food possible. Food so beneficial to baby that artificial baby milk (promoted by those corporations as "formula") corporations spend millions of dollars unsucessfully trying to replicate those benefits . Food that carries antibodies against a variety of diseases, provides immediate heightened protection against ear and respiratory infections, diarhea, and other common childhood ailments, reduces or eliminates food allergies, and raises baby's IQ. Artificial baby milk (ABM) is able to provide simple nutritional nourishment alone. ABM use strips your baby of the health protection and enhancement breastmilk is uniquely designed to provide for her. According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, 1.5 million babies die because they are not breastfed. Most of these deaths occur in Third World countries, where poor water quality, illiteracy, and ignorance make ABM use dangerous. (Interested in boycotting ABM companies who push ABM? See this page for information. There is no acceptable substitute for breastmilk if you want to adequately maintain your baby's present and future health and well-being.
But breastfeeding also nourishes a baby's heart and soul. Snuggled warm in mother's arms, hearing the heartbeat she heard in the womb for 9 months, drinking in her mother's warm, sweet milk, baby is drinking in her mother's love, as well. Breastfeeding, of physical necessity, involves intimate physical and emotional bonding between mother and baby. Baby is held at just the right distance from mother's face to be able to really see her, and only her. Because breastmilk digests so quickly (every 1.5-3 hours), baby is held most of the time. When a mother must devote that much time to her baby, it certainly enhances the probability that she and her baby will truly emotionally connect with one another. Mother will be with baby enough to get acquainted with her baby's needs, and know how best to respond to them. When a baby's mother is able to do this, her baby will learn to trust her mother, thus forming a healthy base for her relationships with all others she will encounter throughout her lifetime. A breastfed baby knows that her needs will be met with love and concern, that she is valuable enough to come first to others who love her, and that she can trust others in the future to meet her needs, and she theirs. A breastfed baby knows how to find home.
At the same time, the breastfeeding relationship nourishes and grows mother, as well. She learns to mother by looking to the needs of her child, initially while breastfeeding. Then, she can apply that model of need parenting to the rest of her mothering experiences. In a very real sense, baby is growing the very mother she needs this process. This kind of child-led mothering--mothering through following the needs of the individual child--is often called attachment parenting.
There are other benefits that accrue to the breastfeeding mother. Women who have breastfed their babies have lower rates of breast, uterine, endometrial and ovarian cancers. Breastfeeding mothers reduce their chances of osteoporosis. And they lose weight more quickly in the early post-partum months. The breastfeeding mother is empowered by her decision to breastfeed, as she realizes that she alone is capable of providing the best food for her baby.
Breast milk, and the nursing experience, isn't just for babies! The age of weaning, world-wide, is over 4 years old. The World Health Organization recommends that children be breastfed AT LEAST 2 years. Breast milk continues to supply some protective value as long as it is available. And the comfort that a child receive in being allowed to wean on her timetable is considerable. Historically, breastfeeding continued well past the age of two in most cultures. But our Western cultural value of independence is not well-served by extended breastfeeding. We Westerners need our little ones to grow up as quickly as possible, so they do not disturb our busy lives any longer than necessary. We want to have our babies and families, not as the center of our lives, but as something we cram around the periphery of our "real lives". As weekend entertainment, one might say. Supporting this cultural value means ignoring the nature of children. Children need to grow at their own pace. To be able to do this, they need our time and attention. How else can a mother learn how and where her child is growing? If we do not give them our attention, our children will demand it in unpleasant ways. Extended breastfeeding allows mothers to give their time and complete attention to a child. By practicing extended breastfeeding, child-led weaning, and other attachment parenting practices, we tell our child that we respect her and her needs, that she matters more to us than our own preconceived notions of a timetable for her. Our child learns that we trust her, and that she can trust herself.
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