Alternative?

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Q. Why is breastfeeding “alternative”?

A. Good question! In a natural society, in which there were no bottles, pacifiers, or freely available formula, breastfeeding would, naturally, be the norm. Probably no one would even give it a second thought. Almost everyone would know how to do it because they grew up watching women breastfeed and they got lots of chances to ask questions and get a sense of how normal and natural breastfeeding is.

Almost every mother would have plenty of help and support, and almost every mother would have plenty of milk.

But we’re not in a natural world anymore. Far from it.

Now that babies can survive on formula and artificial feeding, the industries that make these products want to make lots of money by selling them to families and making them consumers of these products. They will market their products in any ways they can to draw in customers. New additions in their formulas, catchy slogans, new devices.

In an industrial culture that relies heavily on technology — and which has now produced a couple or three generations of pervasive bottle-feeding across all strata of society and in conjunction with deliberate misinformation from the industries that stand to profit tremendously from women NOT breastfeeding, that is, our modern culture — the decision to breastfeed, and to continue breastfeeding once it’s initiated — does not come so easily.

This is not to say that breastfeeding can’t be easy. For some women it IS easy or at least comes more easily. But we do not always have breastfeeding support. Whether the pressure not to breastfeed comes from heavy marketing by the formula/artificial feeding products industry or from the workplace or from well-meaning but misguided neighbours, sometimes it is hard to feel confident about breastfeeding and to have the information we need to trouble-shoot challenges. Some moms are able to breastfeed even without much support, which is great.

Luckily, for the rest of us, including for myself as a new mom, there are extremely valuable resources. Most breastfeeding challenges have breastfeeding solutions. But even if a mother is having a good breastfeeding experience, she will almost certainly, in an industrial setting — such as a modern city — encounter less than enthusiastic support at least somewhere along the line.

Breastfeeding women can all benefit from community and personal support. In fact, recent research has demonstrated that in many instances, the support of a close relative or friend can be particularly influential in a woman’s inclination to start or to continue breastfeeding, and that this support is much more critical than even information or assistance from a qualified health worker — such as a doctor, nurse, or lactation consultant (IBCLC). Therefore, mothers are empowered when ALL of us are informed and enthusiastically able to support breastfeeding.

One of the most powerful forms of support comes from other breastfeeding mothers. Mother-to-mother support groups such as La Leche League can be such a valuable way for women to find out about what worked for others, and to get good information — even starting during pregnancy — that might help them increase the odds of having a positive birth experience, and therefore, help get breastfeeding off to an easier start.

And in this virtual age, there are great online support forums for parents. Everything from Facebook groups to dialogue at kellymom.com or La Leche League’s international site. See our links for some of these.

It certainly seems to me that efforts to regain power in people’s lives, and control of our lives, are part of the “alternative” approach to living in an industrial/electronic world.

And what better place to start than with birth and breastfeeding?