This article by NPR is very encouraging for any mother who has struggled with breastfeeding. In Secrets Of Breast-Feeding From Global Moms In The Know, we discover that even in cultures and societies that seem — on the surface — to have great breastfeeding success, mothers experience the same challenges: poor latch, low milk supply, pain, soreness, fear, doubts, etc.
So what is the difference between their apparent success and our struggles? Many of these more traditional societies still provide mothers, especially new mothers, with a lot of support and guidance from grandmothers, sisters, neighbors, etc. There is also little stigma when a mother is struggling or a baby needs supplementing. It is viewed as a normal part of life.
Here is an excerpt:
“I think that there’s enormous pressure to succeed with breast-feeding in the U.S. and that you feel like if you can’t do it that this is a huge failing as a mother,” Scelza says. But Himba women didn’t seem to think the problems related to breast-feeding were a big deal.
“When [the baby] had trouble latching, they were just like, ‘Yeah, this is part of what you have to learn if you’re going to breast-feed,” she says. “They didn’t stigmatize the failing.”
Here in America, perhaps our zeal to claim “breast is best” has unintentionally added even more pressure on mothers, especially new mothers, and so when women do experience difficulties, they feel like a failure when difficulties are actually quite normal.
Even with the support of my husband, my mother, and my older sister, I still felt like a failure when my son could not breastfeed, even though there were physical reasons why he was unable to latch. We should not demonize bottle-feeding, because you never know if what is in the bottle is expressed breastmilk or formula. Nor should the use of formula be looked down upon, because there are many reasons why a mother may need or decide to use formula. You and I looking in from the outside do not know that mother and baby’s circumstances.
So let us encourage one another instead of discourage. Let us share our stories and words of encouragement! If you have not already, you can read all about the challenge that is Our Breasting Journey with our first son and round two with our second son.