On encouraging breast feeding
Breastfeeding is not just a personal issue for moms, but a community and social issue. That was the message Pam Hahn and Cristabel Encinas-Rodriguez brought to Chamber of Commerce members at the Slave Lake Chamber’s May 28 meeting.
“We all get a little uncomfortable around women who are breastfeeding, even sometimes in their own homes,” Hahn said.
Hahn is a birth doula and Encinas-Rodriguez is with Healthy Choices for Moms and Babes. Hahn said she probably didn’t need to go into detail on the decades of social mindset and sexualization of women in our society of women’s breasts specifically, but this is at the root of the campaign.
The breast is really just an organ, Hahn said, that can and does exclusively nourish a baby for at least the first six months of their lives.
Typically mothers are encouraged to do so by doctors, community health nurses, midwives, doulas and organizations like Healthy Choices.
However, Hahn told Chamber members, “the reality is I have had conversations with women in our community who don’t feel comfortable publicly breastfeeding, who have been asked to leave, use the washroom or who have been asked to cover up completely. Let’s be honest. I’m sure we have all seen a lot more breast on a Friday or Saturday evening in our community than you will ever see with a woman breastfeeding in public.”
Hahn was asked why people take out their uncomfortable feeling on a child, and what other individual do you ask to go to the bathroom to eat.
Hahn explained because of other people’s association and mindset towards breasts it is turned into a problem which restricts mothers and takes a positive natural experience away from their babies. She said people unknowingly undermine the best possible start a mother and her baby can get in this world.
Financially, the cost of not breastfeeding can be huge, Hahn continued; not just with the actual cost of formula, but there are medical costs involved because children who are not breastfed tend to get respiratory illnesses and ear infections in the first couple of years of life.
Hahn said Health Canada recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months and for up to two years or longer with appropriate complementary feeding. This, they say, is important for the nutrition, immunological protection and growth and development of infants and toddlers.
“It really is the perfect food,” Hahn said. “No formula company has ever come close to what a mom’s breast milk can do.”
A lot of people don’t know there are benefits to mothers as well. Improved post-partum hormonal balance, less depression and anxiety, lower risk of breast, ovarian and other cancers, lower cardiovascular disease and lower rates of diabetes later in life as well.
Hahn cautioned that the current culture of breastfeeding has developed over decades, and it’s not going to change overnight. She encouraged Chamber members, as business owners and respected members of the community, to welcome and support moms. By which she means have their business be breastfeeding-friendly. She said the proponents would be doing some advertising with this campaign over the next couple of months; businesses can advertise as being a breast-friendly location with a sticker to display.