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More breast, less hypocrisy please

Australia does a pretty woeful job of making sure babies get the best start to life – mother’s milk. A new national strategy aims to boost the uptake of breast feeding recommendations so that far more babies are still being breast fed at six months.

But Ron Batagol, a pharmacy and drug information consultant, says this will require us to examine some of our somewhat hypocritical attitudes towards breasts.

He writes:

“A meeting of Health Ministers on 13th. November has endorsed the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-2015.

The Strategy recognises the biological, health, social, cultural, environmental and economic importance of breastfeeding and provides a framework for priorities and action for Australian governments at all levels to protect, promote, support and monitor breastfeeding throughout Australia.

Australia’s dietary guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding of infants until six months of age, with the introduction of solid foods at around six months and continued breastfeeding until the age of 12 months – and beyond if both mother and infant wish.

It is concerning that a longitudinal study of Australian children conducted in 2004 found that while 92 per cent of new borns were initially breastfed, by one week, only 80 per cent were fully breastfed. The study also indicated a steady decline each month with only 56 per cent fully breastfed at three months and 14 per cent at six months.

The new federal strategy would include increasing community acceptance of breastfeeding as a cultural and social norm, establishing breastfeeding support networks for pregnant women and improved breastfeeding training for health professionals.

But, since it has been estimated that over a quarter of Australians still think that breastfeeding in public is unacceptable, obviously there is still a long way to go!

And  I have to say that it’s quite paradoxical. In the post-modern world of the 21st century, when the fairer sex “frocks up”, as they call it these days, no one gives a second thought about exposed cleavage.  In fact, the dress designers have lead the charge to make the breasts the focal point of society’s attention when women’s attire is “out there” being critically scrutinised by all and sundry.

On the other hand, as we’ve seen in recent times, with unfortunate regular monotony, the sight of women, anywhere outside the confines of their own homes, trying to nourish their infants with the most natural of all beverages, mother’s milk, provokes an outcry of pompous indignation.

Oh, yes, excuse me, I forgot!  On a plane, with all those complete strangers sitting in close proximity? In the sacrosanct and hallowed corridoors of Parliament of all places!  And for God’s sake, worst of all, in a 5-star restaurant – a place where other people pay good money to sit down, quaff a fine wine or three and gourmandise their way through their mouth-watering degustation.

Suddenly, the notion of these mammary glands doing what they were actually created to do in a “public place” is deemed to be titillating, and breastfeeding is transmogrified into something wicked and evil.

Yet, 28 years ago, a worldwide Marketing Code was established for synthetic milk formulas, because millions of infants died in developing countries where well meaning mothers tried to copy their emancipated, more affluent counterparts by preparing formulas despite lack of clean water, refrigeration or education about how to make up the feeds.

So now, breast-milk  is “in” again- transported in  unbreakable packages, and satisfying consumer demand- all in all, the perfect 21st century product, with breast-fed babies having better immunity, and better long-term medical benefits than their bottle-fed buddies.

One can only live in hope that, as a society we may become a little less hypocritical and to try to remember why these mammary appendages were given to women in the first place.

Surely that’s not too much to ask, is it?”

Comments 2

  1. Louise says:

    aaaah finally a positive and common-sense approach regarding this recent new strategy – thank you! Ever since the release of the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy, we’ve been bombarded with negative articles on breastfeeding. Apparently, highlighting the vast benefits of breastfeeding is making mums who didn’t “feel bad”…. Apparently education is suddenly a bad thing? Mention breastfeeding in the media, and it must be followed by a huge BUT to appease the women who didn’t…….

    I don’t know how anybody could complain about a strategy designed to help women- nobody is going to force women who don’t want the help to get it, but surely if rates of breastfeeding can be improved that can’t be a bad thing. Complaining about this goverment initiative is akin to complaining about healthy eating campaigns because they might offend people with obesity.

    You are so right: The breast has become so sexualised that so many people cannot get their head around its primary purpose. And hopefully, with the help of the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy, more people will come to acknowledge the vast benefits to not just the child but the mother too…women need to be given all of the facts about breastfeeding outcomes compared to formula feeding, not the barrage of personal anecdotes from some media commentators writing blogs for the sunday news.
    Unfortunately I wait with bated breath for the comments posted on here from formula-feeding mums, angry that your common-sense post ‘makes’ them feel inadequate or guilty…..even the few positive articles I’ve read thus far has been inundated with the same.

  2. Cupcake says:

    So true… why do some people get so het up about a baby breastfeeding in public? Isn’t that what breasts are designed for? I think if we saw more mums & babies breastfeeding, we’d get more used to it and no-one would care. I think our breastfeeding rates would improve too, partly because we’d have more idea about how it’s done before we actually have to do it ourselves (!), and partly because it would make breastfeeding more a part of normal life.

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