We’ve been taking a look at the World Health Organization’s Millennial Goals and how our own feeding of our babies can help change the world, both locally and globally. This week’s challenge is: Promote gender equality and empower women.
I breastfed my baby because I wanted her to have all the wonderful benefits my milk would bring to her. One of my mantras was, “My daughter will know that when she speaks, the world will listen! I’m going to respond to her when she cries and she will never want for love and milk!”
I had no idea that what I was doing was a profoundly political act that would change my life and the way I interacted with others.
Years later, I saw this picture, and it broke my heart. This mother said, “Use my picture if it will help.” She had given birth to twins; her mother-in-law told her she would only have enough milk for one baby, and she should breastfeed the son.
“In a culture that idolizes sons and dreads the birth of a daughter, to be born female comes perilously close of being born less than human. Today the rejection of the unwanted girl can begin even before her birth: prenatal sex determination tests followed by quick abortions eliminate thousands of female fetuses before they can become daughters. Those girls who manage to survive till birth and beyond find that the dice is heavily loaded against them in a world that denies them equal access to food, health, care, education, employment and simple human dignity” says UNICEF of “The Lesser Child”.
My ferocity did not end with that first baby. Because you know what? It wasn’t just the breastfeeding and mothering that changed me. My births changed me too. I realized I was much stronger, much more capable both physically and spiritually, than I ever imagined.
By choosing to feed our babies from our own bodies, being in charge of our own quality assurance program for what goes into our baby’s mouths, we are changed. By researching the best and striving to do the best and not letting other people get us down when they ridicule us because we want to do it well – we change ourselves. I am not a doormat. I am a nice person, and I am going to treat you with respect – but I expect that respect back from you.
I have grown a baby with my own milk. Do not mess with me.
It’s very hard to talk about the emotions of breastfeeding. The science says that the oxytocin changes us, and not only for babies but also for mothers, breastfeeding is an all-five-senses experience. From the hairs on our head to the tips of our toes, we are involved with our babies. These are intimate experiences, intimate emotions. We don’t talk about them often – who is it safe to talk to? Will this person make fun of me? Did she ever feel this way? And yet when the night is dark and the baby is cooing, it sure would be nice for someone else to say – “Don’t you love it? Isn’t it the best?”
So as we strive for gender equality, strive for justice, wonder about our place in this world and how we can make a difference – let’s remember those moments of ferocity and love.
Step out and be willing to share what you’ve learned. At the grocery store, maybe by smiling at a mom with kids. By bringing a meal to a new mom who is looking bewildered. By buying a gas card for a family where mom is home on maternity leave. If you own or manage a business, by asking a pregnant employee, “will you breastfeed? How can we make that easier when you come back to work?”
How have you changed your world?