Breastfeeding as a culture - it starts with you

I shared this link on my wall a couple of weeks ago and have thought about it constantly (as I tend to do sometimes), so I thought I’d write about what I’m feeling just to get it off my chest. For those who are TL;DR, basically the article is about one lady’s experience being an expat in Mongolia, and how the openness and matter-of-fact culture of breastfeeding there, shaped her own breastfeeding experience. The Mongolians breastfeed anytime, anywhere, for however long the child wants to breastfeed. They believe that breastmilk makes for better wrestlers…which really isn’t that far from the truth, since breastmilk does make for “stronger” children ;)

The article touched me in a way because it made me realize that not everyone will have had the opportunity to grow up witnessing the beauty and normalcy of breastfeeding. There are people who still see formula feeding as a default method of feeding their children, simply because breastfeeding is not the norm to them or their family culture.

I grew up watching my aunts and older cousins breastfeed. It is a common thing for there to be a “breastfeeding circle” when we have family gatherings. One memory comes to mind from when I was just a teenager – I was talking about nipple piercings (no, I don’t have one, I was just talking about piercings in general and somehow ended up on that), and the first thing my female relatives exclaimed was, “Imagine having so many holes in your nipple – milk would be flying everywhere!” *LOL* I still giggle at that! But it just illustrates the prevalence of breastfeeding in our family.

As with the Mongolians, my breastfeeding family members all breastfeed anytime, anywhere. There’s no question about it. Recently, at a cousin’s wedding solemnization ceremony, we ended up having a “breastfeeding line” where there were three mothers (myself, and two of my cousins), breastfeeding our babies, one behind the other.  And though we have mastered the art of discreet breastfeeding when the occasion calls for it (such as when male relatives are present), most of the time we breastfeed openly, bare breasts and all. Our aunts and uncles are all also incredibly supportive and enthusiastic about breastfeeding. A child starts crying? Oh, it needs a breast. Notice I said A breast, not necessarily their mom’s breast ;) So far we haven’t had any milk siblings in our generation (that I know of), because most of the breastfeeding mothers in our family are also WAHM/SAHM, but I would not hesitate for one second to breastfeed my little nieces or nephews if it is needed.

My family also practices extended breastfeeding. Now, one thing about my family, regardless of our socio-economic status (my mother had 11 siblings, so the income range in our family is pretty vast), my relatives and I are well-read. We know that breastfeeding till age 2 is normal, healthy and recommended. And we know that breastfeeding past that age does not involve “poisonous milk”, “over-coddling” or “holding back” our children. Like the Mongolians, we believe that milk makes for stronger and smarter children. I have cousins who were breastfed till they were 6, and who are now happily breastfeeding their pre-schoolers. Tandem nursing is also the norm in our family – we currently have two mamas tandem nursing our children.

Where am I going with this? It is simple really – children who are breastfed, will likely breastfed (I can't seem to find the source for this but I could've sworn I read it somewhere...if you have it, please share). But, more importantly, children who witness breastfeeding, will likely see it as a normal thing to do when they have children, and will likely breastfeed too, even though they were not breastfed themselves (this was the case with me). That is why I believe all mothers should make the effort to portray breastfeeding as a normal, everyday thing for the children around them. Don’t use a nursing cover in your own home (I wouldn’t use it outside even, although I completely understand if a mother feels more comfortable using it when nursing in public. Want to know more about nursing discreetly in public? Check out this link). Don’t go to another room to breastfeed. Breastfeed your child in full view of the children and family members around you. Rope in other mothers to breastfeed, just by supporting them in their breastfeeding journey. Make breastfeeding normal in your family, and eventually it will be normal in your community, your town, your country and hopefully, eventually, the world.

I hope I’m doing my part for the generation after me – my 5-year-old cousin frequently offers to breastfeed everyone, and confidently nurses her dolls in public ;)

18 comments:

  1. My mom breastfed 5 of us for more than 2 years each :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh wow! That's a total of more than ten years breastfeeding! Really admire your mom :D

    ReplyDelete
  3. I agree. I nurse my almost 4 yr. old everywhere too. The more people see it, the more normal it will become.
    Thanks for the reminder.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have 5 children and I have nursed everyone of them. #1 for one week shy of 36 months, #2 for 35 months, #3 for 23 months, #4 for 18 months (self weaned while I was pregnant with #5), and #5 still going strong at almost 14 months. I hope to one day become an LC.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I support ya all!!! I am still breastfeeding my 21/2 yr old...she doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon!!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Yasmel: Yep, exactly - the more people see it, the more normal it will become again :D Kudos to you for breastfeeding for so long!

    Crystal: Wow, that's a whole lot of time spent breastfeeding! I can't think of anyone with more personal experience to become an LC ;)

    Anon: Good for you! And good for your lil girl as well!

    ReplyDelete
  7. yeah. im currently bfding both my 2 year and 4months..
    my mum breastfeed all 11 of us (im first out of 11, 2 pairs of twin) continuously, just bout 3 years ago she stopped (my little sis is 6 now). ive been seing my mom bfeed, for my entire life, so now its my turn to continue the journey.. ;p

    ReplyDelete
  8. fathinz md nor: Your mother deserves a medal.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I brestfed all of my children althought because I had 3 in a 28 month span I had lactation issues needing medication my milk did dry up while pregnant so I didn't get to as long as I would have liked. However it was so natural for me to do it whenever when my 2.5yr old hit me in the chest with a toy yesterday my 4 year old said "don't hit her there, you'll make the milk go bad!" hahahaha
    Kudos to you longtime BF'ers and tandem nursers! :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi there Glam Mama and other posters,

    I work for a global radio discussion programme on the BBC and we're talking about breastfeeding today. It would be great to speak to some of you on today's show. For more info - please email me at claudia.bradshaw@bbc.co.uk as soon as possible. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  11. alhamdulilah, i got the honour of breast feeding all my 3 kids for at least 2 years. the youngest one until she is 4.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I love this. It is inspiring and uplifting. Thank you for sharing it. I hope that I'm passing on breastfeeding as the norm to my children - and positively influencing those around me everyday.

    ReplyDelete
  13. in Islam, all goodness begins at home. start with yourself, your family, neighbors & community. Thats how you can make changes.

    Similar to your point. We breastfeed, we influence our relatives, our friends and soon the community will join the bandwagon.

    its pretty hard to fight against formula feeding by just debating using your brain, on all scientific findings & bla bla bla.. but i believe its pretty easy to breastfeed, if its the "in thing" for you social network. right right?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Ohh, and I forgot to tell u one special remedy from the breast milk.

    Dulu dulu, waktu kami kecil, my siblings selalu berjangkit sakit mata (conjunctivitis). Duduk nursery so memang easily got affected la kan. So, what my mom did was titiskan breast milk into our eyes. In just ONE night, mata jadi sihat semula.

    I think it's a miracle :) Hehe! Tak payah membazir duit pergi jumpa doktor :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Nisa, same with me. masa tgh exam SPM, the whole school dapat sakit mata. i pakai speck and kena jawab kat belakang dewan with the rest yang sakit mata. mom yang baru lepas pantang came and perahkan susuibu, suh letak kat mata. i bagi2 kat other friends yang kena sekali. what a memory.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Fathinz: Wow, your mom really DOES deserve a medal! My late grandmother had 11 children too...I wonder now whether she breastfed them all...I can't imagine she didn't, considering they were all born in the 50s...

    Julie: LOL @ Dylan's logic! Well technically that's not wrong...remember how I had mastitis after Afraz hit me in the boob with a phone? *shudder*

    Claudia: Thanks again for the opportunity!

    Marty: It really is just a wonderful incidental bonus when we breastfeed the world - changing the world one nursing session at a time ;)

    Mama-Miya: Breastfeeding is definitely muuuuuuch easier when you have a support system and its a norm within your social network!

    Nisa and Fathinz: Haha, I used it on myself once! I've heard that breastmilk is a good remedy for lots of things. When I had injured nipples in the first few weeks of BFing my eldest, I put breastmilk on my nipples and allowed them to air-dry - its like a miracle cream or something. Oh, and Fathinz, your friends sporting gila!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm agreed with your post. Breastfeeding come from the culture. My mom was SAHM and BFing 5 of us and I'm the shortest have been BFing. I also has been influenced by my office culture where almost half of my colleague have been BFing their babies until 2 or more. I has witness them pumping everyday at 'surau' and try to learned and got knowledge. I determined if I have baby i will definitely BFing them. Now my baby is 4 months and successfully BFing and I'm happy with the result when my baby healthy and strong.

    I'm supporting NIP and have done it but cover with the nursing cover because in term of 'aurat' in Islam. Among family member and relatives I'm openly nursing without the nursing cover.

    Kudos to your great support and determination in BFing!!...

    ReplyDelete

Thoughts, questions, suggestions? Leave a comment here!