The journey and experiences of my Nana and Mother, influenced my choice. My decision and duration were a commitment I made to myself!
When my Nana was a young mother (mid-late 1950s), breasts were viewed as objects for marketing, and therefore, breastfeeding was considered inappropriate.
In my Nana’s words –
“When I was a young mother, women didn’t nurse. My body was screaming to breastfeed. I remember reading how breastfeeding helps the body heal after having a baby, and I kept thinking to myself, ‘why I was forced not to breastfeed?’ And even when I had my second child, it had already been ingrained in me to not nurse.
In the 1980s, I was a regional manager in California, and I had a young mother on my staff who was nursing (I remember her; I can see her now). And I told her she could bring her baby to work because it was important for her to breastfeed. She would nurse about four times a day while at work, and I just made sure that she had a quiet place to do it, and close her office door. It didn’t last very long, well, only a few months. But those of us who were not able to breastfeed understand the importance.”
When my Mother had me (early 1980s), the view on breasts shifted to a natural one, because acceptance became more mainstream from the strides in feminism.
In a summary of my Mother’s words –
“Feminism was the ground zero platform for which deciding to have a natural birth and having the choice to breastfeed or use formula, was one my generation could make. Breastfeeding was a subcategory of teaching in my natural childbirth classes. My lactation educators were the nurses in the hospitals that also taught the Lamaze or Bradley methods of breathing during childbirth. We were told our breastmilk was a complete nutritional food and included all of our antibodies that would be passed to our baby. They also told me I had an opt-out option and encouraged me to at least nurse for 6 weeks, then if able try 3 months, then 6 months, etc. The struggle I had after stating I wanted to breastfeed, was how I was going to make this a routine once I got home, and how long I was committed to nursing my baby.”
My experience –
When I became a mother (2011), I received breastfeeding education from an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). What I learned from her, watching my Mother nurse my siblings, and my practice as an exercise physiologist with a Diabetes clinic and team, I chose to breastfeed and had the support of my family and the community. I even had the benefit of being able to take ‘pump breaks’ at work to express milk once I returned to my job after my oldest son was 3 months old!
I have a long family history of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and depression that has affected my loved ones. I felt a duty to those who have gone before me, to provide our future generations with the best shield against disease I could….breastmilk! After meeting Dr. Regina Benjamin (Surgeon General 2009-2013) and having the privilege of focusing on early disease prevention when working with the Native American communities of Riverside and San Bernardino counties, I decided to make a transition from working in the treatment of disease, to the prevention of disease at the foundation level…the roots.
In 3 generations time, the focus on breastfeeding went from Don’t Feed Your Baby with Breast – to – Breast is Best. The women before me knew what was right and innate, and when even forced not to breastfeed, encouraged others. Now my commitment for my sons’ generation, is to teach them that breasts, breastfeeding, and breastmilk is normal and nurturing! We are on the right path, but also need to continue to lift mothers up and encourage them whether they breastfeed for 2 weeks or 2 years. There are reasons that may hinder a woman from being able to breastfeed her bundle, and the acceptance of all situations will keep the mission of breastfeeding education and advocacy in the right direction.