Why I Support You

World Breastfeeding Week brings up a lot of thoughts for me. Last year was probably my most memorable year as our team was gearing up for our first trip to Ethiopia together.  It was an emotional year that validated what I already knew. Support is everything. There was a 24-hour period when I didn’t feel supported by my peers and I remember how terrified I was, thinking I may have lost them in the confusion.  Then, support. On my Facebook page, women (many who are now my friends I know pretty well) posted photos  breastfeeding their children in the same Time cover shot with the words, “We stand in support of you.” It wasn’t that they liked the cover, or the words that were written in the tagline, but they understood and wanted to encourage the idea of support  that was lost in the commotion. That bit of support saying, “We hear you and we are with you” gave one very scared mother the courage to continue on in pursuit of the real message that many desperately wanted to spread.

The very unlikely had happened. How often do you get a public platform that large to speak about what is important to you and so many others? How easily it could have been wasted if there was lack of support. Not only were we able to go on and speak about importance of normalizing breastfeeding and child-led weaning in our culture, but we were able to further it and speak about HIV/AIDS orphan support, nutritional deficits and famine in developing countries, and the global water crisis. There were a number of factors that help make this a success, but I keep going back to that moment when I felt supported by my peers. It is amazing what support can do. It can help you be your best.

That is why it was so appropriate to hear World Breastfeeding Week this year highlights peer counseling, and when my friend Suzanne from the Fearless Formula Feeder contacted me about her idea to really push that support further, I was excited to jump on board. I was then delighted to hear Kim from Mama by the Bay had also joined the I Support You campaign.  The three of us have such unique experiences that the partnership was fitting in the most unusual way.

Breastfeeding education is extremely important and we could be doing so much more to provide support who are or wish to breastfeed their babies for any length of time. The goal for breastfeeding education in the West should be providing research and empowering mothers to make their own informed decisions. What it should never do is  use scare tactics to try to guilt mothers who have made a well-thought out decision or physically could not breastfeed to feel vilified or that they are subpar mothers. Support and encouragement creates an environment that allows people, especially families, to thrive. When properly supported, we will be spending less time worrying about how we fed or are feeding our healthy children and will be able to focus on the fact that this is World Breastfeeding Week and in many developing countries around the world, the mortality rate for children under 5 who were not breastfed is high. We can also focus on the other reasons why the infant and childhood mortality rates are so much higher in these areas (*cough* contaminated water *cough* micronutrient deficiencies *cough*), address the issues, and hopefully work with local members of the communities to see if we can help find a solution for each problem being addressed.

I hope, by addressing this, we can also understand that support here is equally important,  and will directly relate to our success and well-being in other areas of our life and our efforts to make a difference in other people’s lives . We need to accept the fact that words do impact us as humans, and that is why it is important to have support. Disparaging words and negative judgment can be so harmful it has even been blamed for the silent genocide happening in our country right now, because acceptance for a social species means survival . That is why those anti-bullying campaigns and documentaries on the topic are relevant and important. The point is that we should not make decisions based on judgmental people, but rather, we need to have a large enough support system to go against the grain and do that is right for each of us. That is the whole point of this “I Support You” movement. We are the people who have your back. We are the women of the red tent…we are the quiet army that won’t let you fall. That is how we need to start viewing other women. Support…

For inspiration and tips on how you can help, visit:

Kim at Mama by the Bay

and

Suzanne at the Fearless Formula Feeder

 

 

18 comments

  1. When I first saw the Time Magazine article and all the negative publicity it brought on Attachment Parenting, I assumed that you were caught unawares. Now that you have incited this anti-World Breastfeeding Week, pro-Similac anti-bullying stance, I seriously have to wonder if the you posed for Time in order to disparage breastfeeding and attachment moms. Unbelievable.

    • I’d love to know how supporting other mothers is anti-breastfeeding in any way, or encouraging formula. But as far as the anti-bullying…Absolutely. It is unbelievable anyone would use that in an argument against someone.

    • Did you read the same blog I did? I in no way interpreted this post as anti-World breastfeeding. In fact, I saw this post as talking about ways to make women feel supported no matter what their feeding choices. In fact, Jami talked specifically about some of the reasons why breastfeeding can help reduce child mortality. I also fail to see how you can equate anti-bullying with disparagement of breastfeeding and attachment moms.

  2. FWIW- as a previous formula feeding mother who is and has been a normal term breastfeeding mother and breastfeeding advocate, I think it is incredibly important to support all mothers, no matter their feeding choices. There was a time that I never thought breastfeeding was an option for me and now not only am I one, I am incredibly passionate about it. I don’t think you can call yourself an advocate if you are not open to supporting all. You never know how your positivity will affect someones future and future children. Also, I can guarantee you Jamie is anything but pro-similac.

  3. Mykaela Zentgraft

    Your picture in time magazine is what inspired me to try and go for extended breastfeeding. I saw the picture when I was pregnant , at the time my husband’s aunt was talking about how mother’s who nursed that long only did it for them selves. But as I looked at the picture I was in awe, it was one of the most beautiful acts I had ever seen. I knew I wanted to breastfeed but because of you I am going to let my son decide when he wants to stop. It wasn’t until recently that I found out it was you on the cover and I have loved reading everything you wrote since. You literally changed my views and I thank you for that! I support YOU, Jamie and I for one love this new campaign! I think it will raise awareness when it comes to breastfeeding as well as help end shaming for formula feeding moms, many of whom only chose that route because they didn’t have SUPPORT. Again thank you!

  4. I am an adoptive mom, and so didn’t have the choice to breastfeed. Just wanted to say: I support you.

  5. Thanks for supporting us!:)

  6. Jamie, I was one of the women who wrote in support of you–a stranger- when I saw many people from all different “sides” disparaging you. I thought it was very brave of you to put yourself out there. We all know what it is to have our intentions misinterpreted and to have people comment so authoritatively about those intentions when they have no idea. But I must say that I don’t support the “I support you” movement. And so I sort of get where Anna G might be coming from. The best way I can try to — as gently as possible –to explain how I feel is that WBW is about supporting breastfeeding. It is not about supporting ALL mothers. Breastfeeding needs to be supported and formula feeding does not need to be supported in the same way—-perhaps in different ways —but certainly they are not interchangeable ways of feeding babies.

    • We are supporting mothers, not formula.

      “It is not about supporting ALL mothers.” But it is for me. By presenting breastfeeding research and facts in a way where you are thoughtfully attempting to support mothers, people will actually pay attention to the information. I think there is a lot of room for improvement in this area. It isn’t about sparing feelings, it is about having people pay attention to what we are saying. Breastfeeding can mean life or death for an infant in a developing nation, and in the West there are no doubt benefits, but it is different here, and formula is a legitimate feeding option. We need to have all mothers (really all people) care about this week, not just the ones who breastfed their babies. The way the information is being presented right now we are losing a key audience, and and breastfeeding rates are terrible, so I can’t say past efforts have been that effective. Success is low. I have received too many messages from mothers that felt hurt by the Time Cover, and many thoughtfully explained why (which was clear for me, but their individual takes still were extremely thought-provoking). It made me realize why breastfeeding messages are being ignored. There are barriers being put up by society because of the rift and we need to address the root cause in order to help take down this cultural proverbial wall. We need to give people hope. They need to feel supported. Not support of formula, but presenting facts in a way that keeps hope alive. We need to empower parents to make risk-benefit assessments without ever feeling their their child, regardless of their feeding choice, is going to be doomed. Understanding “higher risk” means exactly what it means. Right now we have bottles in caskets and formula feeding being compared to adultery- even if the statistics given were correct, the approach is off-putting.That is what supporting mothers means. Not stopping education, but giving it in a way that is actually supportive and helpful to the target audience- all mothers.

      So I want to be really clear. This isn’t an “I Support Formula” movement. This is an I support mothers message.

      • Thank you Jamie for clarifying your point and I do agree with much of what you have written. I think my difficulty in supporting the “I support you movement” is partially because I don’t like that it was launched in this week in particular. I feel that it takes away from breastfeeding in the same way that another discriminated against group might feel that sharing their platform with others is not appropriate at all times. Breastfeeding mothers experience an undue hardship in society in general that needs to be acknowledged. In many ways breastfeeding women are handicapped by their lactation in ways that formula feeding mothers are not.

        • Agreed Patrick’s mom. It’s very sneaky to launch this in breastfeeding week. I think it should be about supporting breastfeeders and respecting the decision to formula feed. I think we have lost sight about what’s best for the baby and we focus too much on the mother. In my opinion, formula shouldn’t be an option, it should be a last resort for genuine reasons. There should be a lot more education and debunking breastfeeding myths and I agree with Jamie’s points about it all being done in an effective manner.

          I was formula fed so if I insult a formula feeder, I’m insulting my own mother! Every mother should be respected even if we don’t agree with them, but they do not require the support that we do.

          • The mother or parent is the main one making these feeding decisions- so if your message is lost, you aren’t reaching babies. Supporting mothers is important. There is this false dichotomy of “us” vs. “them”. Saying all women don’t deserve as much support if they aren’t breastfeeding is wrong. It would be like telling me because I had a c-section I don’t deserve as much support as someone who had a natural birth.

            Also, ‘sneaky’ makes it sounds like it was some deliberate act to undermine WBW. I assure you, the goal was the compliment it. There is not some great conspiracy to take down breastfeeding (not by us). We honestly want more mothers supported. Support raises breastfeeding rates.

            Since this is a year-long message (and WBW 2013 is behind us), pretend it launched this week.

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