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
Suzanne at the Fearless Formula Feeder