Maternal Empowerment through Breastfeeding Protection, Promotion, and Support
Because breastfeeding is the biologically normal way for the human species to nurture their young, there's nothing extraordinary about it. But in a world where numerous social and cultural barriers to breastfeeding exist, not the least of which is the global undermining of breastfeeding through the unethical marketing practices of multinational formula companies, the reclaiming of breastfeeding by women around the world epitomizes maternal empowerment with a global impact. We often hear about the "benefits" of breastfeeding. But breastfeeding has benefits only when measured against the inferior health outcomes of formula feeding. Because these poor outcomes are culturally normal, we don't tend to recognize their inferiority. In fact, formula feeding is such an integral part of many cultures that disbelief, shock, confusion, anger, and even grief are common reactions to learning that formula feeding poses substantial risk to human health and development. If we can find a way to become comfortable with being uncomfortable as we are invited to undergo this paradigm shift, we can do much to encourage local and global change through the protection, promotion, and support of breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding matters to those concerned about the environment, because formula feeding negatively impacts the environment through the production of formula and its packaging and the discarding of that packaging. (See http://www.platypusmedia.com/docs/green.html for more information.)
Breastfeeding matters to those concerned about infant mortality from HIV/AIDS, because non-exclusive breastfeeding results in greater maternal-infant transmission as well as infant morbidity and mortality. (See www.anotherlook.org and http://www.usbreastfeeding.org/Position-Statements/Breastfeeding-and-HIV... for more information.)
Breastfeeding matters to those concerned about poverty, because formula feeding can cost a significant proportion of a family's income and clean water and facilties to clean bottles and teats may not be available. (See http://www.usbreastfeeding.org/Issue-Papers/Economics.pdf for more information.)
Breastfeeding matters to those concerned about education, because formula feeding increases the risk of lowered intelligence. (See http://www.usbreastfeeding.org/Issue-Papers/Economics.pdf for more information.)
Breastfeeding matters to those concerned with emergency relief, because formula donations undermine breastfeeding among vulnerable populations, with a concomittant increase in health risks for children. (See http://www.usbreastfeeding.org/Issue-Papers/Emergency.pdf for more information.)
If these issues speak to your heart, please consider learning more about the role that breastfeeding protection, promotion, and support can play in your work in the world. Through your efforts mothers can be empowered to change their lives, their children's lives, and the world through the extraordinary ordinary act of breastfeeding.