We celebrate World Breastfeeding Week (WBW)  every year during the first week of August. But we work on supporting, promoting and protecting breastfeeding every day of the year. The theme for this year’s WBW is Breastfeeding: Scoring the Winning Goal for Life!  Here on Baby Steps we’re going to take a look at the eight United Nations Millennial Development Goals and see how breastfeeding can help to achieve them.

 Goal # 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

It’s ironic that, during the 1950’s and 1960’s, breastfeeding was something viewed here in the United States as “something poor people do because they can’t afford to feed their babies properly.”

Then in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the tables turned – the higher your education and income level, the more likely your baby was getting Mom’s Own Milk. Higher IQ’s, better bonding, fewer allergies, fewer ear infections – and moms who could afford to stay home and breastfeed. And these days, over 70% of US mothers say they would like to breastfeed their babies “as long as possible.” So – the fight is over, right?

No way. Our now-outdated view of breastfeeding has been exported to many countries around the world. A breastfeeding counselor in Philadelphia told me she had a complaint lodged against her while working with an immigrant family. She was talking up breastfeeding – and the father was irate. “I can afford to give my children formula! Why are you insulting me in this way?” So there is work to be done.

I don’t often think about breastmilk as a commodity. But setting aside the lives of 741 babies and the 10.5 billion healthcare dollars we could save annually (at 80% breastfeeding) – the cost of giving your baby manufactured milks for a year comes to well over $1000. Sometimes moms will tell me, “It won’t cost me anything – I’m on WIC.”  WIC is a great program – but it is designed as a supplemental program, so you get enough formula to feed a ten pound baby. And they don’t stay that small for long!

bs_group of babies

So whether you live here in Vermont, or in Namibia or Tajikstan, your baby is most likely to be well-nourished and well-fed when he or she is breastfed, and the cost of feeding the baby is not a burden on the household budget when compared to artificial feeding. Your baby gets the highest quality of nutrition and energy with mother’s own milk.

What are some of the things we can do here in Windham County to help eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by helping with breastfeeding?

  1. Let moms know that babies cry for lots of reasons besides hunger. The main reason new moms quit breastfeeding? Crying on the first night home from the hospital! So help moms understand reasons why babies cry (it’s not only hunger – we know that!).
  2. Help moms get some sleep. It’s just not fair that we go from the hospital (where hardly anybody ever gets a good night’s sleep!) to home with a new baby who seems to think the best time of day to be up is 9 PM – 3 AM!  Could you stop by and have mom take a quick nap while you watch the baby?
  3. On the way to help mom sleep, why not pick up a gift certificate – for a pizza, or some Thai, or Subway? On the other hand, you could bring some cheese and crackers or fresh fruit, or even make a meal. 
  4. If you realize when you get there that things are not okay – help mom get help. If she has a home visitor, make sure she knows that mom and baby are home. Help with a call to the pediatrician. Or call The Birthing Center and help mom get here for help from one of our International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC). Our specialty is making sure breastfeeding is going right for both mom and baby.

 Next time: MDG #2: Achieve Universal Primary Education

Leave a Comment