World Breastfeeding Week: I’m a huge proponent of breastfeeding, but my favorite word in that phrase is “world.”
This observance brings the world together each year through a theme that is timely for all, from the wealthiest to the least developed nations. We are all in this together…promoting and protecting this sometimes-underestimated key to sustainable development: breastfeeding.
This fall, we ask you to join us in turning our attention to another component of sustainable and healthy societies — parenting — as Attachment Parenting International (API) gears up for our annual Attachment Parenting (AP) Month in October.
This is API’s 9th year of coordinating AP Month. Every year, API presents an equally timely theme in parenting, and this year — perhaps more than ever — we need October’s 31 days to concentrate on the role of parenting and family relationships in nurturing peace not only in our communities but also in fostering worldwide harmony.
Watch API over the next couple months as we reveal the many exciting activities and events — online and locally — in connection with AP Month 2016: “Nurturing Peace: Parenting for World Harmony.”
Editor’s note: Yesterday, we read 5 tips for breastfeeding mothers returning to work outside the home. For this day of World Breastfeeding Week, we share another breastfeeding mother’s story of working and child-led weaning:
My daughter recently weaned after 3 and 1/2 years of nursing. We did baby-led weaning, so there were no tears shed — on either side. That I was set for failure to begin with in so many ways makes me want to share my story with others, especially working moms.
A Hard Start
As an older parent, with a cesarean birth, I was faced with the same struggles so many new moms struggle with: no to little milk supply for the first few weeks…no milk reflex that every breastfeeding book and counselor tell you about, for weeks…advice about pumping, giving formula, different nursing positions, and so on. But I stayed determined to breastfeed my baby!
My daughter spent some time in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). We were given the option of giving her donated breastmilk instead of formula, which we chose. Later, I found out that the breastmilk came from the first milk bank in Oregon, started just 3 years earlier!
At home, I did have to supplement with formula, but before every formula-feeding, I nursed her until she wouldn’t take more. Eventually after a few weeks, my milk supply did improve.
Returning to Work
After 8 weeks of maternity leave, when I got back to work, initially I tried to get to my baby to nurse her once during the day, but it affected both of our day time routines so much that I started pumping while at work instead. Before you return to your work, make sure your child safe with the nurse. It has seen many times nurses, neglect the baby, or abuse them or make them starve while parents are not around. Make sure the nurse don’t abuse your kid or neglect your kid. If any kind of abuse or negligence happened, protect your kid by engaging with the nursing home abuse lawyer Boston MA.
This is usually the time that babies develop a nipple preference — the breast or the bottle. In order to mitigate that, we followed a persistent routine with another caregiver offering her pumped milk and I always breastfed her on demand when home after work and on weekends.
At work, I exchanged notes with other moms who had done this before me. Every bit of encouragement and advice went a long way in taking us through the first year.
Somewhere along the way, during the 4- to 5-month mark, I had more milk than my baby needed and I made sure I froze the extra.
Breastfeeding Beyond 1 Year
The cultural expectation to wean around 1 year was a huge shocker. Most moms, family, and friends I interacted with thought 1 year of breastfeeding was enough and sufficient. Breastfeeding a baby on demand, especially at night, does take a toll on moms and this, I heard, is a big reason why many decide to wean at around the 1-year mark. But the ignorance, for a lack of better word, on why one would breastfeed beyond infancy took me some time to understand.
I educated myself and my family about the benefits of breastfeeding beyond infancy. This was especially important since my own parents had brought me and my siblings up in India in the late 1970s and ’80’s when formula and bottle-feeding were marketed as the pathways to “better nutrition” and “women’s empowerment” for middle-class families. I have lost count of the number of arguments I had with my own mother about why it was so important for me to take breastfeeding into my daughter’s second year.
Nighttime Nursing & Workday Mornings
As a family, we transitioned our daughter from her bassinet to cosleeping as soon as she was done with swaddling and had figured out the night-day difference around 3 to 4 months old. Nighttime and early morning nursings became a lot easier as a result.
My workday mornings were playful, fun, and challenging at the same time, especially to get out of the house. Breastfeeding in the mornings is not easy and for obvious reasons not workable for many working families. My mornings had to start at least 2 to 3 hours before I had to leave for work, so I had enough time before my baby was up to take care of morning chores, not rush her through nursing, and get an early start to work.
During a critical phase of a project at work, for months I would use alarms to wake myself up in the middle of the night after few hours of sleep. In all those moments, I just had to remind myself that even this would pass, to stay determined on my breastfeeding goals, and to keep going.
At nights, nursing to put her to bed meant often that the dishwasher wasn’t loaded and the kitchen was a mess. Nursing on demand also meant that my husband had to pick up on chores where I left off. What resulted was a true partnership.
A Change in Jobs
When our daughter was born, my husband and I had jobs in different cities. We had figured our leave schedule so we were together the first year. After that, while we were still figuring out how to work it all out, there was an academic semester of my husband’s that I had to manage as a single mom with some domestic help and baby in daycare. It was one of the toughest times I had managing work and home and gave me a better appreciation of what was needed for my family.
At that point, I decided to change my job to one where the immediacy of deadlines was less intense. Leaving a project and team I loved dearly was not an easy decision, but something had to change.
Soon afterwards, as luck would have it, my husband was able to move his academic job to a branch campus much closer to home. All in all, it meant that it was only after her second birthday that we both could see her go to bed and get up in the morning every day of the week. Separation from her father for extended periods of time in the first 2 years also meant that our daughter grew much more attached to me then her father and her need for attachment and comfort with me would have made it very hard to wean her earlier.
Two years and counting, I wondered when I was going to get my full night uninterrupted sleep. This is when I reached out to other moms at work who had followed baby-led weaning to hear their stories and experiences. We have this amazing working moms network where members respond to questions on a variety of parenting topics. We also have a moms mentoring program. This is especially important in a workplace that operates around the clock and therefore is obviously fraught with challenges for young families. Hearing from others that every child does wean themselves with some support from the moms when they are ready made all the difference for me.
Another big change was I had a job that offered me much more flexibility in the hours I spent at work or doing weekend coverage. Once we made the decision about following baby-led weaning, I had to come to terms with our nursing routine. By this time, I had nursed her wherever we traveled in India and the United States, from trains to buses, flights and metros, and all kinds of public spaces. We had managed 2 tough winters of daycare infections coming home and the long night nursings that come with a sick baby. By the third winter, however, I could already see the benefits of stronger immunity that my daughter developed due to extended breastfeeding.
And here we are. My daughter has weaned. All in all, my breastfeeding and baby-led weaning experience has given me confidence in my parenting journey.
Editor’s note: Attachment Parenting International hopes you enjoy this throwback Thursday post, originally published August 7, 2015. It remains a great example of breastfeeding as part of sustainable development, the theme of World Breastfeeding Week this year:
It is often noted that part of what makes breastfeeding so challenging at times is that in our Western culture, we just don’t see breastfeeding happening on a regular basis.
Nursing in public is still a rare occurrence relatively, especially without a nursing cover. Breastfeeding mothers are still getting kicked out of restaurants and stores. A photo of a breastfeeding baby with more of the breast exposed than a tidbit between folds of fabric can result in an entire Facebook page being shut down. Children are still encouraged to feed their dolls with a bottle, rather than at the breast, in public places like childcare centers and preschool. Working mothers, at many places of employment, continue to be directed to broom closets and bathrooms to pump…if they are allowed adequate pump breaks at all. The working and breastfeeding law doesn’t cover everyone!
Even with all the advances our medical community has made in promoting and supporting breastfeeding, our culture remains woefully behind in some ways. What shame there is in strangers’ claims of indecency!
In May of 2015, I attended a portion of the Standing Bear Symposium in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA, to hear Camie Jae Goldhammer, MSW, LICSW, IBCLC, present “Mitakuye Oyasin: Health and Healing through Motherhood.”
Camie is a clinical social worker and lactation consultant, the founder and chair of the Native American Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington, a founding member of the Collaborative for Breastfeeding Action and Justice, and a member of the Native American Women’s Dialogue on Infant Mortality.
As a Native American herself — Sisseton-Wahpeton — she is intimately aware of the challenges of breastfeeding women among Native Americans. It helps put non-Native American cultural challenges surrounding breastfeeding into perspective and can give us understanding of why culture can seem to be so slow to change on the view of breastfeeding. Let’s look at the very critical factor of historical trauma.
What is Historical Trauma?
We understand what trauma is: something horrific that happened, that has lasting, often debilitating, effects collectively known as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Symptoms can include:
- Disturbing dreams of the traumatic event
- Emotional distress
- Avoidance of places, activities or people that remind of the traumatic event
- Becoming emotionally numb or inability to feel happiness
- Negativity toward self or others
- Amnesia about the traumatic event
- Difficulty in close relationships
- Irritability and aggression
- High anxiety, particularly a feeling to always be on guard for danger
- A sense of overwhelming guilt or shame; and others.
Historical trauma is when the same traumatic event happens to an entire generation of people. Because it happened to the entire generation, there was no guidance within that generation as to how to heal from the trauma so that the PTSD behavior is transferred inter-generationally through the the parents’ thinking and behavior. And the same PTSD behavior continues to be passed down through the family tree, when healing has not occurred, with the trauma showing up generations later in certain stereotypical mannerisms attributed to that particular culture.
Camie shared an example of the Jewish people, in whom traits like high anxiety, overprotectiveness, and extreme frugality are seen as the stereotypical traits of this culture. These traits are also documented byproducts of the Holocaust among survivors. Without knowing it, Holocaust survivors passed these PTSD behaviors as family values to their children in how they coped with their trauma. And their children passed them to their children as part of their lifestyle, and so on and so on…to a point in their family tree where people with no firsthand exposure to the Holocaust continue to display the same PTSD-like behavior generations later.
That’s historical trauma.
Camie gave other examples of culture suffering from historical trauma: the peoples of Cambodia, Russia and India as well as the Native Americans.
How Does Historical Trauma Relate to Breastfeeding?
Among Native Americans living on a reservation, breastfeeding rates are extremely low. Statistics depend on the exact location, but here are the breastfeeding hurdles common to most reservation, to give you the big picture:
- High teen pregnancy rates
- No local obstetrician services so most women do not receive any prenatal care and therefore no breastfeeding education
- Very few local lactation specialists, especially among peers
- Low pump-at-work support from employers
- Access to free formula through federal nutrition programs.
But these are surface symptoms of the real problem: The historical trauma of generations of oppression of native parenting, including breastfeeding.
Camie detailed 6 phases of unresolved grief through the generations of Native Americans:
- Colonization by white people – Besides introducing disease and alcohol, there was much death among native peoples at this time, including genocide.
- Economic competition – Native peoples began losing their ability to be self-sufficient, beginning to rely on trade with the white people for supplies.
- Invasion and war – White people begin exterminating native peoples, and those who don’t die become refugees.
- Subjugation through reservations – Native peoples are confined to locations often very different than their homelands and are forced to depend on their oppressors.
- Boarding schools – Native children are forcibly removed from their birth families to be educated in a foreign religion and customs, and were severely physically punished as they were forced to conform. This generation is called the “lost generation,” as 70% of native children were taken from their families and culture.
- Forced out of reservations – After the boarding schools were closed, white people resorted to forcing adolescent native youth to live off the reservations in what they called “red ghettos” in U.S. cities, away from their families and culture as an attempt to give them a better life than on the reservations.
From generation to generation — because each of these traumas were happening to all the peoples of each generation — there have been terrible, widespread effects on Native Americans, particularly those who live on reservations. The poorest areas in the United States — some without running water, even — are located on reservations. The generational response to this succession of historical trauma has resulted in:
- Clinical PTSD
- Unidentified/unsettled emotional trauma, which is displayed through mental illness, anxiety disorders and anger issues
- High mortality rates, including suicide and murder
- High rates of alcoholism, domestic violence and child abuse.
What’s more, there is also a prevalent discouragement from bettering oneself, because it feels like a betrayal of past generations that suffered and lost so much.
Women, specifically, have lost confidence in their bodies and their ability to mother, and have learned to defer their decision-making potential to a male-dominated culture. Native women see menstruation, childbirth and breastfeeding as shameful. The generational wounds of native women include:
- Loss of empowerment in the mother role
- Devaluation of native parenting, which embodies a feeling that parenting is a sacred responsibility, that children have wisdom, that children are the future of the Nation and therefore need to be raised with a sense of incredible value.
Because breastfeeding equals maternal power, how do we expect a native woman to breastfeed if this — disempowerment and devaluation — is what she feels like?
Breastfeeding Can Heal Generations
In her private practice, Camie works off the 7th Principle, meaning that whatever a person’s choices, that person’s actions have a ripple effect to the next 7 generations. Camie believes that breastfeeding can change everything…in how we view children, mothers, families, parenting, community, generations and humankind overall.
Breastfeeding is a statement: that a mother, family, community and culture is willing to give the best to their children. Breastfeeding is a protest to a culture that devalues children and families.
Breastfeeding is an act of power. The top causes of infant mortality among native peoples are Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), respiratory infection and influenza. The risk of each can be lowered through breastfeeding.
Camie’s great-great-great-grandmother was the last generation since Camie to breastfeed her children. This relative had 5 sons and all were forcibly removed one day by the U.S. government to grow up in boarding schools. How they each coped with this separation and loss of culture rippled through the generations until it seemed that the knowledge and art of breastfeeding, and mothering, had been lost.
But it was not lost on Camie. She breastfed her oldest for 4 years, and is currently breastfeeding her 3 1/2 year old. Camie seemed to be born with the desire to always question the status quo.
Camie talked about how trauma, historical or individual, will always be passed down through each generation until someone is able to step back and question why their family does things a certain way and is willing to look deeply into that family’s trauma to heal.
Cultural Changes Helping Mothers to Breastfeed, Too
The culture has changed its attitude toward native mothers, too. Western culture has worked to help heal the emotional wounds of Native Americans, though there is still so much work to do. Camie identified these needs among native mothers to improve breastfeeding rates, which are not so different than what we all — Native American or not — need from Western society:
- Support from peers, especially those trained as lactation specialists
- Prenatal education specific to breastfeeding and emotional barriers, such as not wanting baby to be physically close, a sign of unidentified trauma
- Targeted breastfeeding education to mother’s support persons, especially grandmothers, sisters, aunts and other women who the mother relies on for emotional support.
The Strength of a Breastfeeding Mother
After Camie’s talk ended, several native mothers shared their amazing stories of breastfeeding success against all odds. One woman told of how her boyfriend threatened to beat her if she continued to breastfeed past 6 months, so she would sneak the baby into the shower and other out-of-the-way places in the home to breastfeed until she was able to get out of that abusive relationship. It took months, but she is still breastfeeding — now tandem-nursing that older child alongside a newborn.
Another mom told of how she gave birth to her first child when she was still a high school student, but the school wouldn’t allow her to pump, so she hand-expressed breastmilk in the school bathroom. She talked about how she would leak breastmilk during the day and would have to put up with negative comments from peers and teachers about that.
The undercurrent through both of these and other stories is women finding their power as mothers, reclaiming their confidence as women.
White American Mothers, Historical Trauma and Breastfeeding
While Camie’s presentation was directly related to the Native America culture and breastfeeding, I think it can be easily applied to any population of women living in a culture struggling with supporting breastfeeding.
I am not Native American, but as the typical white American, I can look back in my family tree and see the history of breastfeeding is much the same as it was for my white American friends: After World War II, formula really took hold as the “best” way to feed babies, so much that the medical community was recommending formula over breastfeeding. The only families that were breastfeeding for any length of time typically were the poorest families, those who couldn’t afford the cost of formula. Formula also gave mothers the choice to be able to work outside the home, a freedom of choice that coincided with the feminism movement. At the same time, however, our white American mothers were losing the significance of breastfeeding — that is central to not only infant and child health, but also the mother-infant bond and the beginnings of secure family attachments.
I was discouraged as a new mother to my first child, by a nurse at the hospital, to exclusively pump unless I didn’t qualify for free formula through the federal nutrition program. I chose to listen to my instinct instead: Breastmilk was something I could give to my baby that no one else could.
Breastfeeding empowered me to embrace the role of mother, despite strong discouragement at times from Western culture. For me, as a white American who is overcoming historical trauma placed on generations of white American mothers who were discouraged from breastfeeding and Attachment Parenting, breastfeeding is a statement: that I, as the mother, know what was best for me and my children.
Mary White, Edwina Hearn Froehlich, Mary Anne Cahill, Betty Wagner Spandikow, Viola Brennan Lennon, Mary Ann Kerwin, Marian Leonard Tompson — while these 7 names may not ring a bell, what they did has influenced so many lives all around the world. These 7 ladies founded La Leche League International (LLLI).
It’s because of LLLI that we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week each year!
La Leche League International is an organization that promotes breastfeeding. Its mission is to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother.
Elaborating on their mission, LLLI’s philosophy is comprised of 10 statements:
- Mothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of understanding and satisfying the needs of the baby.
- Mother and baby need to be together early and often to establish a satisfying relationship and an adequate milk supply.
- In the early years, the baby has an intense need to be with his mother, which is as basic as his need for food.
- Human milk is the natural food for babies, uniquely meeting their changing needs.
- For the healthy, full-term baby, breast milk is the only food necessary until the baby shows signs of needing solids — about the middle of the first year after birth.
- Ideally the breastfeeding relationship will continue until the baby outgrows the need.
- Alert and active participation by the mother in childbirth is a help in getting breastfeeding off to a good start.
- Breastfeeding is enhanced and the nursing couple sustained by the loving support, help, and companionship of the baby’s father. A father’s unique relationship with his baby is an important element in the child’s development from early infancy.
- Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible.
- From infancy on, children need loving guidance which reflects acceptance of their capabilities and sensitivity to their feelings.
With a vision of what breastfeeding could and should be, a mission was created, principles stated, and an organization that would change the world of breastfeeding became: La Leche League.
With a decline in breastfeeding rates, the first La Leche League meeting took place in Franklin Park, Illinois, USA, at the home of cofounder Mary White in October 1956. As the organization began to grow, the founders set a clear purpose, and the first edition of book, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding was published.
In 1960, the first Canadian Le Leche League was established. Two years later, “chapters” were created with 5 groups in each. By 1963, the second edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding made an appearance. By 1964, the group changed its name to Le Leche League International as the organization has spread to Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand. This year also marked the first LLLI conference. From 1972-1979, more Le Leche League organizations were established throughout Europe, and breastfeeding rates were improving. In 1981, the 25th Anniversary LLLI Conference was held with a record number of attendees, and the third edition — revised and expanded — of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding was published. Throughout the 1980s, LLLI published various books. Then, in 1985, the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners — created through help from LLLI — began its certification program, and the first IBCLC exam took place.
Although breastfeeding rates had increased to 61.9% in the early ’80s, by 1990, the rate had dropped to 50%, and in 1991, LLLI and other organizations and individuals came together to create the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. The first World Breastfeeding Week took place in 1992. In 1994, LLLI moved its central office to Schaumburg, Illinois, USA, and the following year, the LLLI website was created. Breastfeeding rates increased to nearly 60%.
During the first decade of the 21st century, LLLI continued to grow, accrediting new leaders in various countries including Bulgaria and Ukraine. In 2006, the 50th Anniversary of LLLI was celebrated, and in 2009, LLLI created a Facebook page. In 2010, the 8th edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding was released not only in English but other languages. Since then, LLLI has continued to accredit leaders in countries, helping the organization grow and spread its important mission.
As we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, we acknowledge LLLI’s notable contribution to breastfeeding and also recognize the extraordinary women, the founders of LLLI, for their initiative and hard work making LLLI what it is today.
Sustainable development — that’s a mouthful. Breastfeeding isn’t usually what comes to mind when we think of sustainable development, but according to materials from the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action — which coordinates World Breastfeeding Week, August 1-6 — it should:
In September 2015, the world’s leaders committed to 17 goals aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity. Together, they form the Sustainable Development Goals.
We all have a part to play in achieving these goals by 2030.
The World Breastfeeding Week 2016 theme is about how breastfeeding is a key element in getting us to think about how to value our well-being from the start of life, how to respect each other, and how to care for the world we share.
Sustainable development is essentially about ecology, economy, and equity. Here are links between each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and breastfeeding:
- No poverty — Breastfeeding is a natural and low-cost way of feeding babies and children. It is affordable for everyone and does not burden household budgets compared to artificial feeding. Breastfeeding contributes to poverty reduction.
- No hunger — Exclusive breastfeeding and continued breastfeeding for 2 years and beyond provide high-quality nutrients and adequate energy and can help prevent hunger, under-nutrition, and obesity. Breastfeeding also means food security for infants.
- Good health and well-being — Breastfeeding significantly improves the health, development, and survival of infants and children. It also contributes to improved health and well-being of mothers, both in the short- and long-term.
- Quality education — Breastfeeding and adequate complementary feeding are fundamentals for readiness to learn. Breastfeeding and good quality complementary foods significantly contribute to mental and cognitive development and thus promote learning.
- Gender equality — Breastfeeding is the great equalizer, giving every child a fair and best start in life. Breastfeeding is uniquely a right of women, and they should be supported by society to breastfeed optimally. The breastfeeding experience can be satisfying and empowering for the mother as she is in control of how she feeds her baby.
- Clean water and sanitation — Breastfeeding on demand provides all the water a baby needs, even in hot water. On the other hand, formula feeding requires access to clean water, hygiene, and sanitation.
- Affordable and clean energy — Breastfeeding entails less energy when compared to formula production industries. It also reduces the need for water, firewood, and fossil fuels in the home.
- Decent work and economic growth — Breastfeeding women who are supported by their employers are more productive and loyal. Maternity protection and other workplace policies can enable women to combine breastfeeding and their other work or employment. Decent jobs should cater to the needs of breastfeeding women, especially those in precarious situations.
- Industry, innovation, and infrastructure — With industrialization and urbanization the time and space challenges become more prominent. Breastfeeding mothers who work outside the home need to manage these challenges and be supported by employers, their own families, and communities. Crèches near the workplace, lactation rooms, and breastfeeding breaks can make a big difference.
- Reduced inequalites — Breastfeeding practices differ across the globe. Breastfeeding needs to be protected, promoted, and supported among all, but in particular among poor and vulnerable groups. This will help to reduce inequalities.
- Sustainable cities and communities — In the bustle of big cities, breastfeeding mothers and their babies need to feel safe and welcome in all public spaces. When disaster and humanitarian crises strike, women and children are affected disproportionately. Pregnant and lactating women need particular support during such times.
- Responsible consumption and production — Breastfeeding provides a healthy, viable, non-polluting, non-resource intensive, sustainable, and natural source of nutrition and sustenance.
- Climate action — Breastfeeding safeguards infant health and nutrition in times of adversity and weather-related disasters due to global warming.
- Life below water — Breastfeeding entails less waste compared to formula feeding. Industrial formula production and distribution lead to waste that pollutes the seas and affects marine life.
- Life on land — Breastfeeding is ecological compared to formula feeding. Formula production implies dairy farming, which puts pressure on natural resources and contributes to carbon emissions and climate change.
- Strong peace and justice institutions — Breastfeeding is enshrined in many human rights frameworks and conventions. National legislation and policies to protect and support breastfeeding mothers and babies are needed to ensure that their rights are upheld.
- Partnerships for the goals — The Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding fosters multi-sectorial collaboration and can build upon various partnerships for support of development through breastfeeding programs and initiatives.
Looking for ways to spread the word? WABA provides downloadable materials through World Breastfeeding Week.
The 2016 theme of World Breastfeeding Week is “Breastfeeding: A Key to Sustainable Development” and centers on how breastfeeding is not only the cornerstone of a child’s healthy development, but also the foundation of a society’s healthy development. This annual observance is coordinated by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, which has granted permission to reprint the following post:
Many great things emerge from ideas born in basements.
Once upon a time, 25 years ago, in the basement of the UNICEF building in New York City, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action was formed. A year after the Innocenti Declaration of 1990 formally recognized the unique nature of breastfeeding, came the call for concerted global action. So in 1991, a consensus was reached on the need for a global secretariat to coordinate collective efforts.
WABA is now a global alliance with more than 300 organizational endorsers and works across the spectrum to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding — from United Nations institutions to mother support groups, with physicians, midwives, and healthcare professionals, to health ministries, from academics to activists. Over the years, the variety of actions at all levels — from global to local — has contributed to positive change in policy and practice.
WABA today strives to live up to our name:
- World — we are global in our ambitions and reach.
- Alliance — we work in cooperation with like-minded people and organizations.
- Breastfeeding — is basic to human well-being and sustainability and cuts across very many important issue. And finally,
- Action — because for change to happen, we need more than just the head and heart to engage in the process. We also need the hands.
Through the annual flagship program, World Breastfeeding Week, WABA has made a significant contribution to keeping breastfeeding on the global development agenda. WBW themes are always relevant and popular, involving established and new partners that make up this movement.
Global breastfeeding rates have stagnated for decades. But some countries and regions have made significant progress. Where coordinated action is at several levels, positive change is not only possible but remarkable.
Globalization and urbanization have brought not only positive effects, but also challenges. Inequities, unemployment, poverty, ill health, war and violence, humanitarian crises, climate change, and environmental degradation have accelerated and are exacerbated. Too many countries face the double burden of both under- and over-nutrition.
The 2016 Lancet series on a review of evidence about breastfeeding dispels any doubt that the key actions to promote, protect, and support breastfeeding are still valid. They are valid in all settings regardless of socioeconomic status. The UN-initiated Global Breastfeeding Advocacy Initiative is actively demanding a priority spot on the political agenda for breastfeeding. In celebrating our Silver Anniversary, WABA has a golden opportunity to galvanize more coordinated and innovative actions to deal with the changing landscape.
At the center of WABA’s work are the mother and child. They should be surrounded by a warm chain of support for breastfeeding from the husband or partner, extended family and friends, community, health care workers, employers and workplaces, policy makers, and institutions. Empowerment is essential.
Every mother and child should find themselves in an environment that is supportive and enabling toward breastfeeding. WABA believes this is possible, now and for the future of this planet on which we live.
Let’s work for this together!
Editor’s note: At some point in every breastfeeding relationship, the question of when and how to wean presents itself. Many parents breastfeed into the toddler years and beyond, choosing child-led weaning. Janell Robisch shares her weaning story below.
Attachment Parenting International (API) thanks Praeclarus Press for giving permission to reprint this except from To Three and Beyond: Stories of Breastfeeding Children and the Mothers Who Love Them, edited by Janell E. Robisch, published by Praeclarus Press, www.PraeclarusPress.com. Used with permission. Read more about the book through an upcoming API interview with Janell.
So, when I was feeling touched-out or just ready to quit nursing, I would test the waters, cut back a little or talk to [my son] A.J. about it, and see how he reacted. I felt that since I was the adult, I could be patient when I needed to. If his reaction was intense, I knew that he wasn’t ready, like the many short-lived occasions when I tried night weaning. If, however, he went on about his business without much reaction to what I was doing — or not doing — I knew that we could move forward.
The following excerpt from my personal journal, written in 2006, tells the rest of the story:
“When my son finally weaned in January 2006 at age 5 years 3 months, of course part of me wondered if I had done the right thing in nudging him along. I had been ready to end nursing for a while but was contented to let him continue to nurse until he was really ready to stop. To me, ‘ready to stop’ meant that he would not be traumatized by weaning and that, as a mother and child, we would be able to easily meet his needs in other ways.
About 4 months before he actually weaned, A.J. set a date for weaning. During the interval before that date, he continued to nurse in the same pattern, in the morning and before bed and sometimes in between. However, when the date actually came, he said that he was going to stop nursing for that day only. I smiled and waited a while longer to bring up the subject again. About a month later, he stopped nursing for six days but then went back to it.
It was the end of November when we talked about it again. He had just turned 5 in October. I suggested that it might be easier for him if he got used to the idea of weaning by slowing down a little at a time. He was amenable to the idea and set yet another date. This time, however, he did slow his nursing down right away; he suddenly went days without any nursies and showed no ill effects. In addition, prospects for a weaning party were suddenly more important than having milk.
The last day of nursies — January 1 — came and went, and we even took pictures of his last nurse. As things went, he came down with a stomach bug a few weeks later, and he did nurse one more time around January 18.
Now, as I write this, 5 months later in May 2006, I am confident that we did okay. He has not asked to nurse again since that day and has not shown any ill effects of weaning. We still have plenty of close cuddle time, especially every morning when he wakes up. If I am not nearby when he wakes, he seeks me out as he still likes to start his day with some close time with Mommy. Our bond is still there, still strong, even though our nursing relationship is over. I will be ever grateful for the bond that it created and am happy that we had that special time together.”
It has been 8 years since I wrote that journal entry. A.J. is now 13 years old and is still incredibly smart and exacting. He is not incredibly “touchy” with most people, but he always makes time for a hug for me when he first wakes up and before he goes to bed. Our relationship, like any mother-child relationship, is not perfect, but I feel that nursing — more than anything — laid down a foundation of love and connection for us that will last a lifetime.
Editor’s note: Thank you to the photographer, Allison Profeta, for the image of Janell E. Robisch included in this article.