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.
“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?”