Normalizing breastfeeding: what it means to me.

I didn’t start my breastfeeding journey with a head full of knowledge or a mind set on a particular aim. I dived in on a whim and a prayer. I went to several antenatal classes, but it was more from the angle of a newly pregnant mum many miles away from home trying to get a holistic glimpse on parenthood. I don’t think I thought of how the baby would be fed until I went to those classes. The choice to breastfeed for me started as a trial decision, if it works well if it doesn’t … two months into it and I wanted to quit, but thanks to the support I got from my sister, and Bambis, I carried on.

Breastfeeding Poster V2
Designed by Emma Devine

Through our journey and afterward I have come to learn a lot more about breastfeeding, its place in society and the importance of normalizing breastfeeding. Normalizing breastfeeding is a major public health campaign; the link between to health of a baby and well-being of the future adult makes it a very important topic. This write up will attempt to summarize my understanding of what it means to normalize breastfeeding:

  • To normalize breastfeeding is to welcome the different identities, social, and religious lattices that exist inside the folds of motherhood. Each phase of motherhood has a way of highlighting our abilities and shortcomings, however, it doesn’t change who we are; contemplative people or social butterflies, naturist or non-naturist and so forth. Each mother ought to be supported to breastfeed in the manner that suits her, publicly or privately.
  • To normalize breastfeeding is to acknowledge the effect a mother’s psychological well-being during pregnancy, baby blues and beyond has on breastfeeding. Everybody knows breastfeeding is a physical act; most do not know or acknowledge the emotional demands it places on the mother. The latter makes it twice as hard for a mother who has encountered or is encountering emotional issues to keep up long term breastfeeding. This is very important as we all know that a well-rested/balanced mother leads to a well-rested/balanced baby. (Rees, 2016)
  • To normalize breastfeeding is to eliminate one of the many divides that can exist in motherhood and parenting as a whole: at some point in history, infant formula was introduced as a status symbol, a commodity afforded only by the working class/wealthy mother. This relegated the breastfeeding mother to the place of an uneducated/common/unemployed mother (Nathoo & Ostry, 2009). The tides are slowly turning, but I fear it brings with it an alternate divide; nature mother vs. synthetic mother, confident mother vs. non-confident mother. These labels do more harm than good for the breastfeeding cause. The choice on how a baby is fed should be made with the optimal well-being of baby as the focus point. This in no way implies that moms wellbeing isn’t important (see point two), but if ever there was a relationship that demanded and tugged at the heartstrings of sacrifice motherhood is at the apex of such. This is a lesson that I am as yet learning.
  • Slide1To normalize breastfeeding is to accept that while the use of infant formula might not be an immoral act, the misuse or marketing of it might be considered unethical. This ranges from the aggressive marketing of formula to mothers in countries with poor sanitary conditions and limited access to clean water, to the distribution of formula samples to new mothers as they leave the hospital in developed countries. This has been proven to derail the breastfeeding journey for most mothers. (Bai, 2013) This point is very important to my breastfeeding journey as the first and the only bottle of formula my daughter had was a free sample from the hospital, thankfully she rejected it, I imagine if she hadn’t and I didn’t have the support network I had in place, I would probably have quit breastfeeding on another bad day.
  • To normalize breastfeeding is not to sexualize or to desexualize the breasts or nursing mother. Through the decades organizations standing on the back of a patriarchal society have made a sex symbol out of the woman’s breast; a tool for selling cars, luring the opposite sex and bolstering your feminine nature. On the other hand, several artworks, campaign groups, and activists have tried to desexualize the breast; I fear both sides haven’t done the nursing mother much good. She worries about feeding in public, she worries about their sexual appeal (which is changed more by pregnancy and less by breastfeeding), she worries about her own personal image, and for some, she worries about her modesty (see point 1). But at the end of the day, she just wants to feed her child in peace and sincerely she doesn’t care if they are sexual or not, those things are secondary. The breast is both a sexual and nurturing organ, it was designed to carry out both roles, and they are not mutually exclusive.
  • To normalize breastfeeding is to accept the previous methods of feeding in the past and align with the present research. This is especially important for people in the medical field, it is true that at some point in history formula was branded the perfect solution for feeding an infant (several reasons have being proffered as to how formula came to be so dominant: some attribute it to an increase in mothers joining the workforce making it necessary for a child-minder to have a ready supply of food, it has also being linked to the industrialization of milk production while others believe it was probably due to a need to have children grow up faster after the war, as breast milk was thought to be insufficient for quick growth), however present research refutes that claim. It is important that medical professionals embrace breastfeeding in its entity, as this will enable them to make sound decisions on how best to support a mother without feeling cajoled to say keep trying even when they can see whatever form of feeding isn’t helping mother or baby. The pressure shouldn’t be to promote either formula or breastfeeding, the demand should be to handle each case individually with the best outcome for both mother and baby in view, regardless of how they were fed or how they fed their own children.normalizing breastfeeding 2016
  • To normalize breastfeeding is to acknowledge the true history of breastfeeding and infant substitutes: finally, we must acknowledge that infant substitutes have always existed in the past, however, the ratio of children who needed it as against those who were breastfed either by their mothers or a wet nurse were few. Babies were fed using different instruments and substitutes including terracotta pots, donkey’s milk, pap, and soaked bread (Dailey, 2014). Formula probably became popular as it was the one substitute which could be transported around the world, had more sterilized equipment, and thus had a lower probability of causing food poisoning when compared to others.

       To normalize breastfeeding is to start baby on the best diet known to man.


Sorry for the mix-up, scheduled the post wrongly and had to repost it again. Breastfeeding week starts on the 18th of this month, I hope we all join in to celebrate it, if you’re new here (i.e. to livehomeandaway) I hope you find this part of my life as interesting as the rest.

Love and light.

Motherhood creed.

To birth and to hold,

To nurture and to succour,

In sickness and in health.

Through tantrums, glitter storms and super hero rescues,

may we bond beyond the placenta.

Motherhood creed.

Breastfeeding Poster V2
Designed by Emma Devine and I

Breastfeeding … helping you uphold the creed.

Share your thoughts on motherhood, parenting, and breastfeeding.

I will be putting up posts (not everyday though) to celebrate breastfeeding week between the 18th – 27th of June. Thanks to Liverpool BAMBIS, for supporting me through my breastfeeding journey and letting me volunteer.

 

Falling cradle

Wrap them in wool

and soothing cotton.

Gently lift with supple fingers

and lay them on silken sheets.

Wrap them in safety

and guard every step.

Gently ensure the path is broad

and lay them down in luxuries lap.

Wrap them in self

and public acceptance.

Gently erode all sense and reasoning

and drop them at the cross of secular opinion.

Wrap them in irrelevance

and lay them bare at the mercy of the relevant.

Baby, Sleeping Baby, Baby Girl

“You will never find the real truth among people that are insecure or have egos to protect. Truth over time becomes either guarded or twisted as their perspective changes; it changes with the seasons of their shame, love, hope or pride.”
― Shannon L. Alder


Daily prompt – drop.

Fatherhood (a three piece cord)

We’ll take a break today from the life is series to study and ruminate on the topic of fatherhood. I think to get fatherhood right there are three people who must work as a team God, a father and a child (obviously). In order  to get different perspective on the topic I interviewed three different guys living in different places with different family histories. Right let’s get into it then shall we, meet our lovely guests:


Guest number 1:

Chika Edeh: an academic researcher, married and a father to two beautiful children.

Guest number 2: 

Derek Nwafor: self employed, married and a father to three beautiful kids.

Guest number 3:

Aham Onyeneke: business developer, married and a father to two beautiful kids.

                                   ………………………….

What does it mean to be a father?

Chika: It means being a steward. A steward of the young lives committed to me as my offspring, to protect, nurture, develop and mould them after God’s purpose and desire.

Derek: I have adopted these words (they are not originally mine): source, sustainer, cover, foundation, shield, fence, wall, financier, coach, pastor, prophet,leader, instructor. In the words of a popular phrase; the God we can see (God miniaturised and within reach of my kids.) Slide2

Aham: The word ‘Father’ seems to encapsulate a number of other words including Progenitor, nourisher, upholder, source, sustainer, author, guardian, creator and role model. In my experience and leanings, the father is one who gives life and is committed to it.

Have you always wanted to be a father?

Chika: I think I have always wanted to be a father. The idea that I could have the privilege to RE-PRODUCE; to introduce someone to this life, and help guide his or her emergence into it, was something that tugged at my heart deeply. In fact, at some point before I met my wife, I stopped praying for a life partner, and started praying for my ‘seed’, blessing them and prophesying over them. That’s how deeply I seemed to have connected with that desire. Of course, I had to prayerfully find the right mum to be :-).

Derek: Well, when you say ‘always’ it sounds a bit funny… I’m not sure I was planning to be a father while I was in Primary school… :-). When I started praying and planning to be married, I expected to be a parent. Eventually I arrived at a point where I knew I would have at least three children.

Aham: Fatherhood for me has been a journey, one that started when I was only 9 years old. My dad had an illness that few believed he would survive. So one night he called me and charged me, “Take care of your mum and your siblings’’ and so fatherhood was thrust on me. At that time, fatherhood meant being a role model to my brothers and living up to the example set for me by my hero – my father.

When did it (fatherhood) become a reality to you?

Chika: I think it was just after my first child was born. You see the young lad stayed in for an extra 12 days post EDD, and had to come through CS. After he came out they rushed him to another room to clean him up, and because he had been distressed he hadn’t cried yet. I had been praying out loud (not shouting, but audibly throughout the whole thing. So I followed them to that room, they tried everything: shocks, suction, but his heart rate was dropping, and he still hadn’t cried. At this point my prayers ceased, I was more or less suspended somewhere I can’t quite describe. It seemed like a very long time and everyone was very quiet. Then, with a gut-wrenching scream, he let out his first cry! And almost simultaneously, but more silently, I wept. That’s when it hit me- YOU ARE A FATHER!

Slide1Derek: when my wife confirmed she was pregnant. I knew a life had started inside her and that was the life of our first child. Even though we had prayed and studied about (our) children in general before then, our prayers from that point were obviously focused on our daughter. I got a clear message that the baby was a girl. I guess you could say the ‘reality’ grew as she did, and with her birth obviously a whole new level of that reality started.

Aham: Maybe it was the day I read a write up of my brother saying I was the single most influential person in his life. Or maybe it was when I pastored some young people and found myself making significant inputs in their lives. What is undeniable is the burden of responsibility that was clear as daylight as I carried Pearl (our first daughter) in my hands for the first time, filled with wonder.

Were you at the birthing of your child/children? Please explain why?

Chika: I think the question’s been answered above.

Derek: yes I was at the birth of the first two of my three children. Why? I was there because I am their father and my wife was literally passing through a life and death situation, it was unimaginable to me that I should be anywhere else. My third child and second daughter was born outside the country so I was not able to be there for that. It hurt personally but I commended my wife and my daughter to God’s care. For the two births I was present at I stayed all through in/around the theatre and I prayed over them when they were delivered. For my third, I prayed over the phone.

Aham: till I read this question it never occurred to me that I could have Slide3been anywhere else but with Ogo during the birth of our girls. We had done everything together so it was only natural that we should go through that experience “hand–in–hand”. I actually cut the umbilical cord for our second daughter.

Do you think the above scenario influences your parenting style and love for your kids?

Chika: I think it mattered to me that I was there with my beloved, I felt it was the least I could do for her- after nine months of carrying our baby. But even more so, to be there at the first sight of my children was important. There are many things we would never know about our children as they grow older (the time literally flies) and that’s ok. As they grow they will begin to cultivate their own circle of friends that they prefer to hang out with and in those moments I will cherish the privilege and privacy of knowing that I was there when they first showed up. So yes, it does in a way. I think I would still love and parent my kids as I do even if I wasn’t there to see them come. However, that experience has given my something very personal and intimate in my relationship with and love towards them.

Derek: I guess you could say so. Actually the scenario or my approach to the birth of my children was a result of my love for my wife and children and even though I didn’t come to love them more because of the experience, my gratitude to God for their lives was taken to a higher dimension. My parenting approach is advised by the fact that there are things God expects us to get up and do by ourselves in raising our children and ensuring their survival and success.

Aham: No, my presence during the birth of our girls has nothing to do with my parenting approach nor my relationship with them. However, I do believe that it being a consciously shared experience between Ogo and I makes it is a testament to our strength, our victory, and a chord of unity tying up an episode of glory in our lives.

…. to be continued.

 

Well, I hope you have enjoyed being with us, stay tuned next week for more on fatherhood. See you next Saturday.

Don’t take your thoughts with you, share them.