Mothers have been shamed into having to breastfeed their babies in cold toilet cubicles and cramped cars in parking lots and the the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action is focusing on how we shift attitudes to be supportive of the optimal nutrition for babies.
Snickering, disparaging, denigrating and casting aspersions on breastfeeding; shaming moms who breastfeed, especially those who do so in public or who excuse themselves to express breast milk at work; raising doubts that a breastfeeding mom is producing enough milk to meet her baby’s needs; expecting a breastfeeding mom to place other priorities above her baby’s hunger.

These are some of the insidious ways that we, as society, disempower parents and ultimately discourage the best way to feed a baby for the first six months of its life, and beyond.

You may think: “It’s not my baby, it’s not my problem”; or “I am so uncomfortable, I have a right not to have a breastfeeding mom near me.”

You’d be wrong on both accounts. We all have a moral obligation to foster the care for our most vulnerable - children; as well as a vested interest in them turning into healthy, well-adjusted, contributing citizens.

Also, breastfeeding wherever, whenever a baby gets hungry is perfectly legal. Shaming moms into desperately breastfeeding their babies, or expressing breast-milk, in cold toilet cubicles and cramped cars in parking lots is the problem.

With its 2019 theme for World Breastfeeding Week this week being “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding”, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action is focusing on how we shift attitudes to be supportive of the optimal nutrition for babies.

In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week 2019, the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (Adsa) has brought together a panel of registered dietitians, who also happen to be past and current breastfeeding moms, to answer a burning question:

Breastfeeding is the best start you can give baby and deserved support.

What do you wish you’d known before you started breastfeeding?

Nsreen Jaffer: “I wish I knew that breastfeeding is a learned skill for mom and baby. No matter how much you read, the practical experience of breastfeeding is learned, so expect it to be something new and not something you have to master from day 1.”

Vanesas Clarke: “I wish I’d known that sometimes breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally and that everyone’s story is different - and that it’s okay to struggle.”

Maryke Gallagher: “I never knew how much I’d enjoy it and how much I’d miss it once I stopped! Feeding my first and second children was relatively easy. When my third child arrived I just assumed she’d feed easily. But this wasn’t the case, although with perseverance I’m still breastfeeding 15 months later. My advice is to get help from a lactation consultant if you’re struggling.”

Lisanne Du Plessis: “Before I had my children, I’d completed most training available on breastfeeding in the public sector at the time, so I had a good knowledge base. However, what training can’t instil is the vasbyt factor - the perseverance required to make breastfeeding work.

Thembekile Dhlamini: “I wish someone had warned me that I wouldn’t want to go to work at the end of my maternity leave because I wanted to keep breastfeeding. The pain of separation that I thought I would be ready for; well, when the time comes, it can’t be forgotten.”

For information on World Breastfeeding Week 2019 visit www.worldbreastfeedingweek.org

Busch is the spokesperson for Adsa.