The first week of August has been designated World Breastfeeding Week since 1992. This year’s theme celebrates the 20th anniversary of the “Innocenti Declaration.” The conference that produced the declaration took place in Florence, Italy, 1990. The purpose of the conference was to encourage and support every nation to implement strategies to promote breastfeeding. It recognized that providing human milk to a human baby is the ideal situation for the growth and development of the human baby.
The promotion of breastfeeding as the ideal way to feed a baby has also had the support of the United States Surgeon General, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and numerous other esteemed groups.
Mothers instinctually know that their milk is what is best for their baby, yet some are not able to do so because of conditions out of their control. For those mothers there is a grieving period that they could not do what they had hoped to do for their baby. They need our support even more than the mother who has no problems with feeding her baby.
There are mothers who from the beginning decide not to feed their baby with their milk. Sometimes it is because someone told them it would hurt, the perception that bottle feeding is easier, or that they do not know where and how to get support.
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The role of a lactation consultant, which is what I do at Manatee Memorial Hospital, is to be a resource for the nurses in helping them promote breastfeeding and to be a resource for our patients to help them when they experience challenges with breastfeeding. The lactation consultant is also part of the world-wide promotion of assisting and supporting families and communities in their support of the breastfeeding family.
We are motivated by what we know is the right thing to do, what makes us feel good about ourselves, and how we are supported by our surrounding environment. Someone who sings in the shower or in the privacy of their home sings because it makes them feel good and happy. But when they sing for an audience whether it is solo or in a group, and the audience responds with praise and appreciation, they live for the next moment to sing.
It is the same with breastfeeding. A very wise mother once told me that I should not be always talking about how healthy the mother and baby are when the mother feeds her baby, but instead talk about how much fun it was. She was enjoying the special time she had with her baby, the baby’s delight at being close to momma, and watching her baby thrive and grow on her milk. At the same time she was being encouraged by others, praised by her pediatrician, and rejoicing in the money she was saving. She was being supported and encouraged by her own motivation as well as the support she received from others.
In the spirit of World Breastfeeding Week 2010, may we always be a community that surrounds every mother and baby with encouragement and support.
Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital’s Family BirthPlace. Her column appears every other week in Health & Fitness.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.