The importance of breastfeeding support

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Today’s blog is from Anna Burbidge from La Leche League, shedding light on the vital importance of breastfeeding in giving children the best start in life.

During World Breastfeeding Week we’re sharing a guest blog each day to highlight some of the key issues around breastfeeding support, protection and promotion. Add your voice to Unicef UK’s Change the Conversation campaign, calling on UK governments to take urgent action to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. 

For the past 45 years La Leche League GBhas been passionate about offering mothers support and accurate information about breastfeeding. Our aim is to help all women to breastfeed for as long as they wish to do so.  While progress has been made in legislation to support women’s right to breastfeed, more work needs to be done.

Reactions to breastfeeding research

Breastfeeding is one of the few areas where positive discoveries and research showing its significance are not always greeted with out-and-out delight.  All too often positive research stories can be viewed negatively in media reporting.

It’s not uncommon to hear breastfeeding being referred to as a lifestyle choice and for women to be given the impression that these days there really is no difference between breastmilk and formula.  Women can be told that if breastfeeding isn’t going well then don’t stress, turn to formula.  The sadness and sense of loss this can cause to a mother is rarely acknowledged.

A reminder of the true significance of breastfeeding

For this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action has drawn attention to the fact that, far from being a life-style choice, breastfeeding is at the heart of human existence.

Being able to link breastfeeding to every one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals invoked at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit, shows the significance of human milk in the areas of poverty, the environment, health and prosperity.

Breastfeeding matters

From providing optimal nutrition to infants worldwide, to improving both the short and long-term health of babies and mothers, breastmilk helps to give all children the best start in life. It is a key way to reduce inequalities, contributing to mental, cognitive and physical development.

While there are those that like to argue that breastfeeding is a means of oppressing women, a true but seldom heard fact is that it can be immensely satisfying and empowering for a woman to be in control of nourishing her child. We need to work together to make sure that women are supported to breastfeed for as long as they wish.

The importance of breastfeeding in today’s world

In a world which has to be concerned about the environment and climate change, the difference between the sustainability of breastfeeding compared to the resources used, and waste created, by formula manufacture cannot be overlooked.

The importance of breastfeeding to human life should not be ignored or dismissed as no longer relevant in today’s world.  To dismiss its significance and fail to invest in support for mothers who want to breastfeed is doing a disservice to us all.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding was first published for La Leche League International in 1963. The information it contained has now come to be recognised as important, credible and accurate.  Ideas put forward all those years ago now form the basis for many of today’s breastfeeding strategies.

One simple quote sums up breastfeeding perfectly: “A better food for babies than breastmilk will not be discovered.” The continuing challenge for all those involved in breastfeeding support is to ensure that this is not forgotten.

The La Leche League is active in the UK and aims to offer all women who are breastfeeding support and encouragement to do so whenever and wherever they choose, for as long as they wish.