As a mother, breastfeeding is a topic that I have an interest in. Over the last few years, I have done much research on the topic along with the benefits of breastfeeding, social aspects, culture, and other breastfeeding related information. There are many factors that play into a mother’s decision on whether she chooses to breastfeed her child or not. There is no doubt that breast milk contains vital nutrients for an infant that cannot be put into an artificial substitute like formula. A mother transfers antibodies to her nursing infant that helps to fight off illnesses that they may have been exposed to but a child that is fed an artificial substitute will not get those antibodies. Because of breast milk containing the antibodies that formula lacks, there are claims that breastfed infants do not suffer from as many illnesses as formula fed infants. Not only are there benefits for the infant but there are benefits for the mother too. Mother’s who breastfeed recover from childbirth more quickly and easily. The hormone, Oxytocin that is released while nursing, can help the uterus return to its normal size more quickly (Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom).
Economic factors can affect a mother’s ability to successfully breastfeed. Many mothers in our culture have to return to work after the 6 to 8 week maternity leave from their jobs which make continuing to breastfeed difficult, and for some, impossible. When a mother is away from her infant, she must maintain her milk supply by using a breast pump and not every woman can take breaks from their job to pump. Other women may not respond well to a pump, causing the mother to not be able to keep up with the baby’s feeding demands so they are then left with no choice but to supplement feedings with formula or stop breastfeeding altogether. A lack in appropriate weight gain of an infant can lead to early weaning because the mother assumes that her infant is not getting adequate nutrition from her. Also pressure from family or friends to introduce “real” food too soon can promote an earlier than desired weaning.
Social aspects and the way that society views breastfeeding can affect a woman’s choice to breastfeed and for how long. In our society, breasts are seen as sexual, whereas in other cultures, it is viewed as a normal way of feeding an infant. Even though it is recommended that an infant continue to be nursed for at least a year, many women choose not to nurse for that long or longer due to negativity that they may get from their peers when seen nursing an older infant. In countries such as the poor urban neighborhoods in Cairo, Egypt, it was common for women to want to nurse their children well into their second year of life. Not all of those women believed that they had the ability to breastfeed and that it was not necessarily automatic. Like most cultures, the women believed that the ability to breastfeed required time, patience, a sense of responsibility, good luck, a healthy mental state and specific changes in behavior and diet (Helman, pg. 71). It is also common in other cultures to wet nurse other infants when their mothers are unable to breastfeed. In our culture, wet nursing is not as common; however, some women donate their breast milk to infants that are in need or to mothers that wish to give their infants breast milk and can’t give their infant their own milk. How a woman chooses to feed her child is determined mostly by her influences on the topic along with her physical ability to breastfeed. Do think a woman’s choice to breastfeed or not is primarily due to her influences such as family and friends? Do you think breastfeeding in our culture would increase if people were more educated on the topic?
“Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom.”HealthyChildren.org.N.p.,n.d.Web.24 Jan.2007
Helman, C. (2007). Culture, health, and illness. London: Hodder Arnold.